News You Can Use Digest - October 7, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

October 7, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 7, 2016



Drinks, Dinners, Junkets and Jobs: How the insurance industry courts state commissioners
Center for Public Integrity – Michael Mishak | Published: 10/2/2016

An investigation by the Center for the Public Integrity found half of the 109 state insurance commissioners who have left their posts in the last decade have gone on to work for the industry they used to regulate, many leaving before their terms expire. Just two moved into consumer advocacy. The “revolving door” also swings in the other direction. For almost a year, Connecticut’s insurance commissioner was overseeing a merger involving a company where she had been a lobbyist. She recused herself recently amid a state ethics review. Consumer advocates and some commissioners say the tight bond between regulators and industry – reinforced by campaign contributions, lavish dinners, and the prospect of future employment – diminishes consumers’ voices.

How Donald Trump Set Off a Civil War Within the Right-Wing Media
New York Times Magazine – Robert Draper | Published: 9/29/2016

The conservative media has always been a playground for outsize personalities with even more outsize political ambitions. Alongside the institution-builders like William F. Buckley, the landscape has also produced a class of rowdy entrepreneurs who wield their influence in more personal ways. If these figures defied the stuffy ceremony of think tanks, opinion journals, and columnists who traditionally defined the conservative intelligentsia, they rarely challenged the ideological principles of conservatism as they had existed since the Reagan era. What they mostly did was provide the Republican Party with a set of exceptionally loud megaphones, which liberals have often envied and tried unsuccessfully to emulate. Then came Donald Trump. In a sense, the divide that Trump has opened among conservative media figures is simply a function of the heartburn his ascent has caused among Republicans more generally.


Democrats Rake in Money, Thanks to Suit by Republicans
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Rachel Shorey | Published: 9/30/2016

Democrats denounced it as an assault on democracy and a sop to billionaires when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling two years ago that loosened limits on campaign giving. But Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party leaders are now exploiting the decision, funneling tens of millions of dollars from their wealthiest donors into a handful of presidential swing states. The money followed a legal but circuitous route turbocharged by the 2014 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down limits on the combined amount one person could donate at all federal candidates and parties in an election cycle.

Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found
New York Times – David Barstow, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner, and Megan Twohey | Published: 10/1/2016

Donald Trump reported a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns and could therefore have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years. Trump’s refusal to release any tax returns has been one of the larger clouds hanging over his campaign and one that Hillary Clinton has sought to exploit. It now appears as though the GOP nominee’s failure to come clean has backfired, with The New York Times article drawing one of the same conclusions that Clinton offered as a possible explanation for Trump’s secrecy in the first presidential debate – that he has paid little or no federal income tax for some time.

How Hillary Clinton Grappled with Bill Clinton’s Infidelity, and His Accusers
New York Times – Megan Twohey | Published: 10/2/2016

Donald Trump has criticized Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s affairs and her response to them, and said he might talk more about the issue in the final weeks before the election. That could be a treacherous strategy for Trump, given his own past infidelity and questionable treatment of women. Many voters, particularly women, might see Hillary Clinton being blamed for her husband’s conduct. It could also remind voters of a searing period in American history, and in Mrs. Clinton’s life. Outwardly, she remained stoic and defiant, defending her husband. But privately, she embraced the Clinton campaign’s aggressive strategy of counterattack: women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Bill Clinton would become targets of investigation and discrediting, tactics that women’s rights advocates frequently denounce.

Want to be a ‘Foreign Agent’? Serve in US Congress First
Politico – Joseph Schatz and Benjamin Oreskes | Published: 10/2/2016

Of the 1,009 members of Congress who have left Capitol Hill since 1990, 114 of them lobbied for or otherwise represented a foreign government, foreign-owned company, or think tank. The favorable treatment these former lawmakers seek for their clients often bumps against U.S. foreign policy or the interests of the constituents they once served, and, in some cases, they are putting foreign companies over American businesses. While a former lawmaker’s relationships do not always yield concrete results, they can open doors for foreign leaders looking to burnish their country’s reputation – or their own.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida – Two Years Later, Curbelo Still Keeps List of Past Clients Secret
Miami Herald – Patricia Mazzei | Published: 10/3/2016

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo shut down his government and public affairs consulting company after he won a seat in Congress. He closed the office to comply with a rule that bans federal lawmakers from holding outside employment. That rule, however, does not require former private consultants like Curbelo to disclose who hired them in the past. A loophole in federal disclosure requirements exempted Curbelo from listing his private clients because his firm, Capitol Gains, had been registered under the name of his wife, though she had stopped working there in 2009. Curbelo was always the firm’s principal, drawing a six-figure salary.

Kentucky – Democratic Party Insider Sentenced to 70 Months in Prison for Role in Kickback Scheme
Lexington Herald-Leader – Bill Estep | Published: 9/29/2016

Rebuked for further eroding public confidence in government, a former high-ranking official in Kentucky government was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for orchestrating a kickback scheme. Tim Longmeyer’s sentencing came after he pleaded guilty to a bribery charge for using his influence as head of the Personnel Cabinet to steer contracts to a consulting firm in 2014 and 2015. He admitted to receiving more than $200,000 in kickbacks from the firm. The judge also ordered Longmeyer to pay $203,500 in restitution.

Maryland – Top Lobbyist Represents Winner of Controversial Medical Marijuana License
Baltimore Sun – Michael Dresser | Published: 10/3/2016

The top-earning lobbyist in Annapolis, Gerald Evans, represents a company that was awarded a lucrative marijuana-growing license after a state commission pulled it from the ranks of losers and gave it a winning slot. As a result of the controversial switch, Evans’ son-in-law stands to make a lot of money. Evans represents Holistic Industries LLC, which counts Evans’ son-in-law Richard Polansky among its equity investors. Polansky is married to Evans’ daughter and lobbying partner, Hayley Evans. The commission has stressed it used a process in which evaluators did not know the identities of any of the applicants. The head of the State Ethics Commission said the law does not require a lobbyist to disclose a spouse’s stake in a business the lobbyist represents.

New York – Ethics Panel Investigating de Blasio’s Nonprofit Is Said to Issue Broad Subpoena
New York Times – William Rashbaum | Published: 10/5/2016

A state ethics panel investigating New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political nonprofit organization has served a sweeping subpoena on City Hall seeking communications among the mayor, his aides, the nonprofit, its donors, and consulting firms that worked for it, people with knowledge of the matter said. The scope of the subpoena suggests a widening of the investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has been focused on whether the group, the Campaign for One New York, illegally lobbied the city in 2015. At the same time, several lawyers representing donors to the group who have been contacted by the panel said the inquiry also appeared to be focused on whether some donations from lobbyists or their clients who have business before the city actually constituted undisclosed gifts to the mayor. Any such undisclosed gifts would violate state lobbying laws.

Ohio – Ohio, Long a Bellwether, Is Fading on the Electoral Map
New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 9/29/2016

After decades as one of America’s most reliable political bellwethers, an inevitable presidential battleground that closely mirrored the mood and makeup of the country, Ohio is suddenly fading in importance this year. Ohio has failed to keep up with the demographic changes transforming the U.S., growing older, whiter, and less educated than the nation at large. And the two parties have made different wagers about how to win the White House in this election: Donald Trump is relying on a demographic coalition that, while well-tailored for Ohio even in the state’s Democratic strongholds, leaves him vulnerable in the more diverse parts of the country where Hillary Clinton is spending most of her time.

Pennsylvania – State Rep. Sims’ Travel, Speaking Fees Raise Questions
City & State Pennsylvania – Ryan Briggs | Published: 10/3/2016

An investigation found Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims failed to properly report thousands of dollars in travel reimbursements last year while collecting more than $53,000 in speaking fees since his election in 2012. State lawmakers are banned from collecting speaking fees or other honoraria. In some cases, Sims appears to have belatedly compensated for free trips by paying for his excursions with campaign funds well after the fact, which experts say also skirts an ethical gray area. A spokesperson for Sims, Dan Siegel, defended the numerous paid speaking engagements, asserting they do not violate the state’s honorarium ban because Sims’ “speeches do not address his legislative role.”

Tennessee – Ex-Lobbyist Paid for Private Plane for Beth Harwell, Karl Dean
WBIR – Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 9/29/2016

On the heels of news that voucher advocate Mark Gill took a group of Tennessee lawmakers on a beach trip, a different voucher advocate, attorney and former lobbyist Lee Barfield, flew legislators and politicians – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick – to North Carolina on a private plane in 2015. Barfield is on the board of directors for the American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher advocacy group. He has registered as a lobbyist in the past, but he was not registered at the time he paid for Harwell and Dean to go on the trip. “My understanding of the law, and the rules at the time, is that as a citizen, I am permitted to take these officials if they want to go on a fact-finding trip,” Barfield said.

Wisconsin – U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Take Up Walker Case
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 10/3/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away without comment an appeal in a case arising from an investigation into campaign spending in Wisconsin. Last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shut down a secret probe into spending to oppose an effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. The Guardian recently disclosed about 1,500 pages of the documents which seemed to show substantial coordination between candidates and ostensibly independent groups. The public version of the prosecutors’ request for a U.S. Supreme Court review was redacted but appeared to address two main questions: whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court had been too lax in policing coordination between candidates and independent groups, and whether two state Supreme Court justices who had benefited from campaign spending should have recused themselves.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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