October 31, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 31, 2014
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 10/29/2014
Democrats in the closest U.S. Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington. The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. And their source is surprising. The effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations – not, in most instances, by the shadowy and often untraceable PACs that typically employ such provocative messages.
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 10/28/2014
State attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences, and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements, or pressure federal regulators, found an investigation by The New York Times. A robust industry of lobbyists and lawyers has blossomed as attorneys general have joined to conduct multistate investigations and pushed into areas as diverse as securities fraud and Internet crimes. But unlike the lobbying rules covering other elected officials, there are few “revolving-door” restrictions or disclosure requirements governing state attorneys general.
Washington Times – Stephan Dineen | Published: 10/26/2014
Democrats on the FEC want to extend the agency’s reach to online political ads, a change in policy that critics fear could lead to tough new limits on speech. The FEC deadlocked on whether to investigate Checks and Balances for Economic Growth, a group that ran a pair of online advertisements attacking President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. While the organization may have spent close to a million dollars on the ads, it did not file any disclosure reports with the FEC, as it would have if the ads were run on television or radio. The carve-out for online-only communications has existed for more than eight years, but FEC Vice Chairperson Ann Ravel said the rules have not kept pace with the changing times.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Rob O’Dell | Published: 10/26/2014
Arizona gubernatorial candidates Fred DuVal and Doug Ducey have each relied heavily on the state’s lobbying corps for advice and to finance their campaigns. Combined, the candidates have collected at least $435,000 from donors who have registered as lobbyists and many of whom hope to have access to the next governor and his administration. “Lobbyists are premier players on both sides, and these lobbyists represent big interests that have large stakes in the outcome of the election; they do what comes naturally – they try to influence the results,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
District of Columbia – Ethics Reforms Shepherded by Bowser Look Better in Hindsight, Some Say
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis | Published: 10/28/2014
When the District of Columbia Council passed an ethics reform bill more than two years ago, Councilperson Tommy Wells said the bill’s lack of teeth was “embarrassing.” Now, Wells supports the legislation, which was shepherded through the council by Muriel Bowser, who is running for mayor. It is an indication of how Bowser’s much-criticized ethics package looks considerably better in hindsight. Observers say they have seen a marked improvement in the city government’s handling of ethics matters, even if there is more room for improvement.
Atlanta Magazine – Jim Walls | Published: 10/23/2014
During this year’s election season, questions about ethics allegations filed against Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal four years ago have grown stronger. His opponent, Jason Carter, returns to them almost daily. Technically speaking, all the complaints against Deal were resolved in 2012, when he paid $3,350 in administrative fees for filing defective campaign and personal finance disclosures. But a review of the state ethics commission’s files shows the investigation leading to that settlement was never really completed. Commission staffers abandoned inquiries into tens of thousands of dollars spent on air travel and credit card charges, and questioned no one but lawyers for the campaign accused of wrongdoing.
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 10/23/2014
A federal grand jury indicted Kentucky Rep. Keith Hall on bribery charges, alleging he paid a state inspector more than $46,000 to ignore environmental violations at his Pike County coal mines. The indictment also charged the inspector, Kelly Shortridge, who resigned in February from his job in the Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement. The indictment alleges Hall paid bribes to Shortridge as bogus consulting fees, most of them from a company owned by Hall through a shell corporation.
New York – Mayor’s Old Pal Wins New Biz as Lobbyist
Crain’s New York Business – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/26/2014
Soon after vetting administration hires as a member of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, Harold Ickes opened a New York branch of his K Street lobbying firm, the Ickes & Enright Group. He and his employees have since lobbied a dozen de Blasio administration officials for a rapidly growing number of clients. In recent months, the Ickes & Enright Group has signed a number of clients seeking to influence local government. At the same time, Ickes remains a key de Blasio political adviser.
Columbus Dispatch – Jim Siegel | Published: 10/29/2014
Ohio Rep. Dale Mallory pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor ethics law violations related to taking Cincinnati Bengals tickets from lobbyists then failing to properly report them on required disclosure forms. The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee referred Mallory for prosecution after finding he improperly accepted tickets from payday lending industry lobbyists in 2009 and 2013 that exceeded the $75 gift limit. Lawmakers also must disclose any gift valued at over $25. A pair of lobbyists connected to the matter have already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
The Oklahoman – Rick Green | Published: 10/27/2014
Current rules limit to $100 the amount a lobbyist can spend on an Oklahoma lawmaker, but that amount can be multiplied by the number of clients the lobbyist represents. Under new rules that take effect next year, lobbyists will be limited to spending $500 on a particular lawmaker, no matter how many clients they represent. The net effect will be that some lobbyists, particularly those with fewer clients, could see an increase in the amount of money they can spend per legislator, and some, particularly those with numerous clients, could see a decrease.
Harrisburg Patriot-News – Christian Alexandersen | Published: 10/23/2014
The Independent Regulatory Review Committee voted to increase Pennsylvania’s lobbyist registration fee from $200 to $300. The increase will go to offset the cost of maintaining the department of state’s online disclosure database. The state attorney general’s office must review the committee’s decision in the next 30 days before the fee increase can be implemented for the 2015-2016 legislative session. The attorney general is expected to approve the increase.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Justice in Porn Email Scandal Retires
Greenfield Reporter – Mark Scolforo and Marc Levy (Associated Press) | Published: 10/27/2014
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, embroiled in an email pornography scandal and accused of other workplace misconduct, retired days after he was suspended from his job. McCaffery, who served for nearly seven years, was named in a review by the court’s chief justice as exchanging hundreds of pornographic emails with lawyers in the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. McCaffery also was accused of authorizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral payments by personal injury law firms to his wife, helping fix a traffic ticket she received, and improperly attempting to influence the assignment of judges in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
South Carolina – Bobby Harrell: A quick rise to power, and a quicker fall
Charleston Post & Courier – Jeremy Borden and Schuyler Knopf | Published: 10/24/2014
When Bobby Harrell first entered the South Carolina Legislature in 1993, he quickly proved adept at moving up the ranks. When he became House speaker in 2005, some members expected the gregarious leader with an open-door policy would usher in a new era of inclusion. Harrell’s charm remained as strong as ever, but he did not shy away from flexing the considerable power of the speaker’s office when he felt he needed to. Harrell’s resignation due to ethics violations has generated sympathy in Columbia, but observers also see a cautionary tale. His critics have said Harrell had begun to feel “bulletproof,” becoming more focused on the trappings of his leadership position than legislative agendas and policy.
Austin American-Statesman – David Saleh Rauf (San Antonio Express-News) | Published: 10/29/2014
The Texas Ethics Commission approved a new rule that requires so-called dark money groups to reveal their donors. At the heart of the commission’s regulation is an attempt to determine when a nonprofit’s political activity crosses the line to qualify it as a bona fide PAC that is required under state law to disclose donors. Under the new rule, a nonprofit would have to start disclosing donors if 25 percent or more of its expenditures can be classified as politically motivated. It also would require disclosure if political contributions account for more than 25 percent of the group’s total donations in a calendar year.
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 10/27/2014
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s ethics reform commission is poised to recommend a tightening of gift and travel rules for state leaders, but consensus proved more difficult on other points during the panel’s first meeting. The Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government plans to have recommendations ready by December 1. It will be up to the General Assembly to write the actual rules. The commission also decided to move redistricting reform to the front burner after a federal judicial panel ruled the state’s Third Congressional District lines are unconstitutional.
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