News You Can Use Digest - September 12, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

September 12, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 12, 2014



FEC Strikes Deal to Revise Campaign Finance Regulations

The Hill – Benjamin Goad | Published: 9/11/2014

The FEC agreed to amend its campaign spending regulations in response to a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Commissioners plan to formally approve the new guidelines during an October 9 meeting. One rule would further clarify the parameters of the court’s Citizens United decision and codify them into law. A second rule is meant to reconcile the agency’s regulations with the ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, which scrapped aggregate contribution limits for individual donors in an election cycle. The FEC will also solicit public comment on various implications of the McCutcheon ruling.

State of Political Consulting: Rapid growth, long hours, new approaches

Politico – Tarini Parti | Published: 9/10/2014

Whether it is polling, media relations, fundraising, direct mail, or digital outreach, political consultants said the permanent nature of campaigns, the growing number of outside groups involved in races, and the different ways voters are now consuming information have transformed the industry, making it not just more profitable than ever but also more challenging. There is a survival-of-the-fittest mind-set within the industry, where consultants are quickly adapting to the evolving political landscape – expanding their staff and capabilities at a rapid pace to stay competitive.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Clean Elections Commission Determines Horne Used $300,000 Worth of State Employee Time for Campaign

East Valley Tribune – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 9/9/2014

Citizens Clean Elections Commission Executive Officer Thomas Collins recommended the commission officially rule that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne violated campaign finance laws by failing to report more than $300,000 worth of state employee time and office space he used for his re-election as contributions to his campaign. If the commission adopts the recommendation, Horne has the chance to explain why Collins was wrong, repay the money, or negotiate a settlement. The commission may initiate enforcement action if the case is not settled. That could include civil penalties and, at worst, the removal of Horne from office.

Connecticut – Case Dismissed, Even Though It’s Likely You’re Guilty – Ethics Agency Played It Both Ways

Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 9/7/2014

The Connecticut Office of State Ethics has at times sent a letter to some suspected of violating the ethics law saying the case is being dismissed even though the official likely violated the code, a practice known as a “loud dismissal.” Though the process at this level is confidential, the letter goes into the individual’s personnel file and could reappear in a background check. But now, that action has been curtailed. A lawyer representing an unnamed state employee who received a ‘loud dismissal” sent a letter earlier this year to the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, which advises the ethics office, questioning whether the agency had the statutory authority to issue such a penalty.

Florida – Was Miami-Dade Lobbyist a ‘Patriot’ or ‘Snitch’ in FBI Sting of Local Politicians?

Miami Herald – Jay Weaver | Published: 9/6/2014

When the FBI mounted a sting operation targeting corruption in South Florida – dubbed “Miami Hustle” – it recruited lobbyist Michael Kesti as a key player. Kesti was willing to break ranks with his lobbying brethren, unheard of in Miami-Dade County, which has a long history of insider deals and graft. Kesti said he agreed to play the part as his “patriotic duty” to root out what he sees as systemic corruption in local government. Others, including one of the mayors he helped get indicted last year, describe him in less flattering terms, starting with “paid snitch.”

Georgia – Georgia Ethics Commission Fires Director

Rome News-Tribune – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 9/8/2014

Holly LaBerge, the head of the Georgia ethics commission, has been fired. A Superior Court judge had fined LaBerge and the state attorney general’s office $10,000 each for not disclosing documents as part of a lawsuit filed by former commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman, who said she was forced out of her job for investigating complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal. Commission Chairperson Hillary Stringfellow said the judge’s order shows LaBerge’s conduct “fundamentally conflicts with the specific mission and purpose of this commission and therefore with her own duties and responsibilities as executive secretary.”

Georgia – Rule Changes Proposed From State Ethics Commission

Peach Pundit; Staff –   | Published: 9/9/2014

The Georgia ethics commission proposed new rules that would affect the state’s campaign finance and lobbying laws. Commissioners will discuss those possible changes at a September 30 meeting. The rules would, among other provisions, clarify that contributions to political parties and PACs do not count towards the $25,000 annual threshold that triggers registration and reporting. They also would allow one or more lobbyists to split an expenditure provided a single lobbyist does not exceed the limit of $75.

Montana – Nonprofit Wants Montana Campaign Finance Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

Greenfield Daily Reporter – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 9/5/2014

Montanans for Community Development filed a lawsuit asked a federal judge to strike down as unconstitutional major provisions of the state’s campaign finance law. The nonprofit group also wants to prevent the state from enforcing those laws before this year’s elections. The lawsuit argues the definitions of campaign contributions and expenditures are too vague, and the definition of a political committee is overly broad.

Nebraska – Lt. Gov. Lavon L. Heidemann of Nebraska Steps Down

New York Times – Mitch Smith | Published: 9/9/2014

Nebraska Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann resigned from office and ended his candidacy, one day after a judge granted a protection order to keep him away from his sister, who accused him of assault. But because the deadline for being dropped from the ballot has passed, his name might still be listed on the November ballot. Heidemann’s sister, Lois Bohling, said in a sworn statement her brother grabbed her wrists and pushed her out of their mother’s bedroom during a dispute involving farmland and their 84-year-old mother’s care.

New Jersey – ELEC Analysis: Top 25 NJ special interest groups spent $311 million on campaign contributions, lobbying and independent spending over 15 years

PolitickerNJ; Staff –   | Published: 9/10/2014

Labor unions, trade associations, political committees, and other special-interest groups have spent a combined $311 million over the last 15 years in New Jersey trying to influence elections and lawmaking, according to a report released by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. Labor unions, with $171 million in expenditures, were responsible for much of the overall spending since 1999, the year the state started maintaining the records online. The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, spent a combined $57 million.

New York – Just Don’t Call These Consultants Lobbyists

Crain’s New York Business – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/7/2014

There is a growing industry of strategic consultants who do not register as lobbyists yet nonetheless have close ties with New York politicians and represent clients with interests before government. These non-lobbyists get many of the lucrative paychecks accorded their registered peers without the scrutiny that comes with mandatory disclosure reports, and it is legal. “It’s a very fine line to walk; you end up having to trust that person, and you put your trust in how they are representing themselves,” said Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics.

North Carolina – Ethics Disclosure Statements Offline after Privacy Complaints

WRAL – Mark Binker | Published: 9/9/2014

A North Carolina law requires both elected officials and certain appointed policymakers to file forms with the state disclosing their financial interest as a way of avoiding, or at least exposing, potential conflicts between private and public actions. Paper and electronic copies of those forms have long been available upon request, but the state ethics commission’s staff began making them available online July 1. But now, the commission has temporarily shut down the Internet portal due largely to complaints from some of those who have to file the disclosures.

South Carolina – House Speaker Bobby Harrell Indicted on Nine Counts in Corruption Probe

Charleston Post & Courier – Jeremy Borden and Schuyler Kropf | Published: 9/10/2014

South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted on a slate of campaign finance violations, including allegedly claiming reimbursement for private flights he did not take and using campaign donations to hire an employee for his private insurance business. Harrell faces nine counts, including misconduct in office, false reporting on campaign disclosures, and using campaign funds for personal expenses. The charges endanger Harrell’s reign as speaker, which is among the most powerful roles in a state like South Carolina, where the legislative branch has more power to spend money and set the agenda than the executive branch.

Wisconsin – Judge Orders State Not to Enforce PAC Limits Law

Wisconsin Law Journal – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 9/8/2014

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa ordered the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board not enforce the law limiting how much money candidates can collect from PACs. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the CRG Network, a PAC that works to elect conservative candidates. The group argued the limits were a violation of its free speech rights. Randa, in issuing the preliminary injunction, said the group was likely to succeed on that claim.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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