October 30, 2015 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 30, 2015
Conservative PACs Turn Attack on G.O.P. Leaders into Fund-Raising Tool
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer | Published: 10/23/2015
Petitions to oust Republican leaders in Congress that started surfacing online over a year ago did not come from Democrats. They came from conservative websites and bloggers who have helped stoke a grassroots rebellion to make Congress more conservative, a continuation of the tea party movement. But these politically charged appeals to conservatives around the country were often accompanied by a solicitation for money, and the ultimate beneficiaries, records suggest, are the consultants who created the campaigns rather than the causes they are promoting.
Dennis Hastert, Ex-Speaker of House, Pleads Guilty
New York Times – Monica Davey and Mitch Smith | Published: 10/28/2015
Former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges connected to $1.7 million he paid to cover up what federal officials said was sexual misconduct dating back to his years as a high school teacher and coach. He pleaded guilty to one count of “structuring” – taking money out of the bank in amounts below $10,000 to evade reporting rules on large cash movements. When the FBI questioned Hastert on why he withdrew the money, he told agents he did not feel safe with the banking system. The plea allows Hastert to avoid an in-court airing of his past. Prosecutors are recommending up to a six-month prison sentence.
DNC Courts Lobbyist Cash with Promise of VIP Access at Convention
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 10/22/2015
Leaders from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) met with dozens of lobbyists to unveil plans for next year’s nominating convention in Philadelphia and kick off a bout of fundraising for the event. The national convention, still eight months away, will be an expensive party to throw, with early estimates putting the price tag at $85 million. Documents obtained by The Hill show the DNC handed out a menu of reward offerings in exchange for donations and bundled cash. Individuals are able to give a maximum of $100,200 to the DNC’s convention fund per year, but are encouraged to bundle together many times that figure.
FEC Overhauls Website to Make It Easier to Track Campaign Money
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 10/27/2015
The FEC is set to unveil a $2.5 million overhaul of the agency’s website that will make it easier for average citizens to follow the money themselves. Among the many changes is that the new version can be viewed on any size screen, allowing users to view campaign finance data on their mobile phones and tablets. The commission’s disclosure database contains more than 14 billion data elements, and FEC Chairperson Ann Ravel said she finds the current site so hard to navigate that she usually just asks a staffer to find the information she wants. She said the new site will be more intuitive.
Investing in Lobbying Pays Off
New York World – Masako Melissa Hirsch | Published: 10/28/2015
Motif Investing created an investment option for its clients consisting of the 20 companies that spend a larger share of their assets on lobbying than other firms. The Kings of K Street stock portfolio has outperformed the Standards & Poor’s 500 by a factor of two for the past two years, according to Motif. In each of the past seven years, businesses, advocacy groups, and others spent more than $3 billion on lobbying the federal government. Billions more were spent at the state and local levels. Some research has pointed to the benefits of lobbying. Studies have found companies that lobby have lower tax rates, for example.
Paul Ryan Is Elected House Speaker, Hoping to Manage Chaos
New York Times – Jennifer Steinhauer | Published: 10/29/2015
Lawmakers elected U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as the speaker of the House, putting an end to weeks of uncertainty over who would lead the raucous GOP conference after John Boehner’s surprise resignation. Ryan’s election gives House Republicans a chance to hit the reset button. Throughout Boehner’s nearly five years as speaker, centrist members and tea party conservatives were at war with each other over policy and tactics. The test for Ryan will be whether he can manage, perhaps even blunt, the hardline wing of the Republican conference, or if he too will fall to its members’ intransigence. He had warned members that while he would take their concerns about process seriously, he would not brook dissent that would undermine his ability to lead them.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Former SF Police Union President Fined for Illegally Lobbying Last Year
San Francisco Examiner – Jonah Owen Lamb | Published: 10/27/2015
Gary Delagnes, formerly the San Francisco Police Association’s head and sometime spokesperson, was fined $5,500 for not registering as a lobbyist and failing to file disclosure reports required in connection with an effort to defeat a resolution on police brutality last December. At the time he was a paid political consultant for the union. City law defines a lobbyist as anyone who makes one or more contacts with elected officials on behalf of their employer. Delagnes says he never registered because he did not think his actions qualified as lobbying. He simply emailed several supervisors about the issue.
Kansas – Kansas Legislation Is Most Anonymous in Nation
Topeka Capital-Journal – Celia Llopis-Jepson | Published: 10/26/2015
More than 90 percent of bills in Kansas’ 2015 legislative session did not bear the names of lawmakers involved in writing or introducing them. Over several decades, the state’s lawmaking system has evolved into one in which legislators introduce hundreds of bills yearly —but only put their names on a small number for which they want to take credit. Public efforts to explore the origin of bills face obstacles: lawmakers file proposals for each other, written meeting minutes are not user friendly, and legislators themselves say some are engaging in a cat-and-mouse game to conceal involvement in controversial bills.
Louisiana – Louisiana Primary’s Ugly Race
Bloomberg.com – Ben Kamisar | Published: 10/29/2015
In a race that made a late but convincing case for the enduring entertainment value of Louisiana politics, U.S. Sen. David Vitter barely squeaked out a second-place finish in the primary election for governor to make a runoff against John Bel Edwards, a Democratic state representative. For months, Vitter was seen as the front-runner, but over the summer his lead steadily disintegrated. Vitter’s opponents spent significant time and money rehashing Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal, including a claim by a local blogger that Vitter had fathered a child with a prostitute. A private investigator conducting opposition research for the Vitter campaign was arrested near New Orleans recently.
New Mexico – Dianna Duran Resigns, Pleads Guilty to Two Felonies
NewMexicoPolitics.net – Heath Haussamen | Published: 10/23/2015
New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who was charged with multiple counts of public corruption, pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and two low-level felonies in a plea deal that will likely spare her jail time and allow her to keep her pension. The agreement came just hours after she submitted her resignation. Duran was facing 65 criminal charges including embezzlement, money laundering, and fraud stemming from allegations she illegally transferred about $13,000 in campaign funds to her personal account. Prosecutors said Duran altered her campaign finance reports she filed with her own office to cover up the transfers that were part of an elaborate scheme to support a gambling habit.
New York – Albany’s Museum of Political Corruption No Longer Just a Funny Idea
Albany Business Review – Michael DeMasi | Published: 10/28/2015
Bruce Roter, a music professor at the College of St. Rose, wants to open a Museum of Political Corruption in Albany. The museum would be a place to explore, understand, and poke some fun at the fact New York’s past and present are filled with tales of politicians-gone-bad. New chapters in that long history are being written seemingly every day. The New York Board of Regents granted the museum a five-year provisional charter and it now has an eight-member board of trustees. “It’s funny, but it’s serious at the same time,” Roter said. “… If this can make the whole subject less complicated, if people feel empowered they can do something or have a say about the governance in our state, then I think they are doing a tremendous service to our community.”
New York – Oracle Sued by N.Y. Pension over Political-Giving Disclosure
Bloomberg.com – Freeman Klopott | Published: 10/28/2015
Oracle was sued by a New York pension fund over allegations the company is withholding information about its political donations. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has been using his position as the sole trustee of New York’s $184.5 billion pension fund to press corporations to make their donations public after the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United allowed companies to make political gifts without limitations. The fund owns about 10 million shares of Oracle. DiNapoli said the company did not live up to a 2007 agreement with the Sheet Metal Workers’ National Pension Fund to provide an annual report disclosing policies for political contributions. The company also did not respond to specific requests from the fund for those records, according to the lawsuit.
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