October 3, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 3, 2014
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 9/28/2014
Disparities between the percentage of black residents and the number of black elected officials are facts of life in scores of American cities, particularly in the South. The unrest that followed the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has emphasized how much local elections can matter, and prompted a push there for increased black voter participation. The disparities result from many factors, but Ferguson has become a vivid example of the way a history of political disengagement and underrepresentation can finally turn toxic.
BusinessWeek – Pete Yost (Associated Press) | Published: 9/30/2014
In a dispute over a ban on political contributions by individual federal contractors, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit grappled with reconciling the restrictions and their purpose of preventing corruption with the First Amendment and the various ways contractors could get around the ban. There is no such prohibition for corporate federal contractors that set up political committees or individuals who serve as corporate officers. The challengers filing the lawsuit say the different treatment violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution because similarly situated groups of people are not subject to the ban.
The Hill – Julian Hattem | Published: 10/2/2014
From gun control to climate change to same-sex marriage, a number of Fortune 500 companies are succumbing to pressure campaigns and boycotts and are falling in line with liberal positions on issues that Democrats have been unable to move through Congress. The Internet has made corporations a more alluring target to Web-fluent activists trying to change the country’s culture. It has also made companies more responsive. Conservative activists have mounted pressure efforts of their own, but their campaigns are often reacting, staged in support of businesses that are under fire from the left.
Reuters – Sarah Lynch and Jonathan Stempel | Published: 9/30/2014
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission won dismissal of a lawsuit by state Republican parties in New York and Tennessee claiming its limits on some investment firm campaign contributions violate free-speech rights. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell said her court lacks jurisdiction over the matter and ordered her clerk to close the case. The SEC’s rule bars an investment firm from managing a state’s assets for two years if the company, or certain of its executives, make more than a nominal campaign donation to a state official with power over state contracts with investment advisers.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Jerry Brown Vetoes California Political Ethics Bills
Fresno Bee – David Siders (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/1/2014
California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed key bills that were passed in response to a series of scandals at the Capitol, saying they would further complicate gift and campaign rules without sufficient benefit to the public. Senate Bill 1443 would have reduced to $200 the value of gifts an official can receive from a single source each year, and banned all gifts from lobbyists. Senate Bill 1442 would have required campaign committees to file finance reports four times a year, doubling the current requirement of twice a year. One measure Brown signed was Senate Bill 1441, which bans campaign fundraisers at lobbyists’ homes.
Tampa Bay Times – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/2/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a Florida case that focuses on whether judicial candidates should be allowed to personally solicit campaign contributions. The Florida Supreme Court this year upheld a ban on such solicitations, reiterating an earlier position that the prohibition helps in “preserving the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary.” But attorneys for a former Hillsborough County judicial candidate, Lanell Williams-Yulee, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, contending the ban violates First Amendment rights.
Hawaii Reporter – Malia Zimmerman | Published: 9/27/2014
The Honolulu Ethics Commission fined state Rep. Romy Cachola, a former member of the city council, $50,000 for multiple alleged violations of city ethics laws, including accepting expensive meals and golf outings from lobbyists. The penalty is the largest civil fine ever approved by the commission, which said it was influenced by persistent violations occurring monthly during several years, as well as Cachola’s repeated disregard of a 2003 directive ordering him to not accept gifts from lobbyists in excess of $200.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jack Gillum (Associated Press) | Published: 9/29/2014
The city of Ferguson has demanded high fees to produce copies of records related to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown that, under Missouri law, it could give away free if it determined the material was in the public’s interest to see. Instead, in some cases, the city has demanded high fees with little explanation or cost breakdown. It billed The Associated Press $135 an hour – for nearly a day’s work – merely to retrieve a handful of email accounts since the shooting. Price-gouging for government files is one way that local, state, and federal agencies have responded to requests for potentially embarrassing information they may not want released.
New York – Lobbyist Ethics Training Is Up and Running
Albany Times Union – Rick Karlin | Published: 9/27/2014
Lobbyists in New York are now able to take an online ethics training course that was mandated in a 2011 law. Registered lobbyists are supposed to complete the course by the end of December. While there is not a clear-cut penalty for failing to do so, the Joint Committee on Public Ethics said it will monitor compliance.
Columbus Dispatch – Jim Siegel | Published: 10/1/2014
The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Commission recommended state Rep. Dale Mallory face charges for accepting Cincinnati Bengals tickets from lobbyists and failing to disclose the gifts. The commission found Mallory wrongfully accepted a $77 ticket in 2009 and nearly $284 worth of tickets in 2013. Two lobbyists have already pleaded guilty to not reporting that they gave Mallory the tickets. John Rabenold was fined $2,000 for not disclosing gifts to state lawmakers, including a ticket he gave Mallory for a Bengals game in December 2009. George Glover was fined $500 after he did not disclose or keep receipts for a 2013 Bengals ticket he gave to Mallory.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Aaron Aupperlee | Published: 9/29/2014
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Tribune said the municipal authority that oversees public sports and entertainment venues in Allegheny County routinely violates its policy to limit the number of free tickets it gives to public officials, and it often does not record who uses its seats or luxury suites at games. “People call and they need them for goodwill; I’ll get them and give them to them,” state Sen. Wayne Fontana, board chairperson of the Sports & Exhibition Authority.
Houston Chronicle – Lauren McGaughy | Published: 10/1/2014
Texas’ highest criminal court upheld a lower court’s ruling overturning former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s 2010 conviction for money laundering. DeLay had been found guilty of channeling $190,000 in corporate political donations to Republicans running for the Texas Legislature in 2002 as part of a push to redraw congressional district lines in the state. Texas election law prohibits corporate campaign contributions to state candidates. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled DeLay was not guilty because Travis County prosecutors could not prove he believed the corporate funds he was funneling to state candidates were “criminal proceeds.”
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