News You Can Use Digest - September 16, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

September 16, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 16, 2016



How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat
New York Times – Anahad O’Connor | Published: 9/12/2016

In 1967, the Sugar Research Foundation, the precursor to the Sugar Association, paid Harvard scientists about $50,000 in today’s money to discredit a link now widely accepted among scientists, that consuming sugar can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Instead, the industry and the scientists pinned the blame squarely, and only, on saturated fat. Even though the influence-peddling revealed in the documents dates back nearly 50 years, more recent reports show the food industry has continued to influence nutrition science.

Real-Time Election Day Projections May Upend News Tradition
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/10/2016

Television networks and newspapers have traditionally agreed not to reveal the information they gather through exit polling to their audiences until polls close. Journalists keep that information to themselves, campaigns track the outcome with their own methodologies, and voters are left without access to information about how the election is going in real time. Now, a new company called VoteCastr is seeking to upend that reporting tradition, providing detailed projections of who is winning at any given time on Election Day in key swing states, and updating the information in real time. The plan is likely to cause a stir among those involved in reporting election results, who worry about both accuracy and an adverse effect on how people vote.


Congressman Offers Unusual Defense in Ethics Probe
Center for Public Integrity – John Dunbar | Published: 9/13/2016

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Texas Republican under investigation by the House ethics committee, says he did nothing wrong when he offered an amendment that would benefit car dealers, despite the fact that he himself is a car dealer. Members of Congress may not use their positions for personal financial benefit. But Williams asserted he did not profit from his actions. Instead, Williams revealed, he offered the amendment at the behest of a lobbyist. And the lobbyist – whose employer, the national Automobile Dealers Association, one of Williams’ top donors – sent along “proposed language” for the text of the amendment. There is no timetable for when the committee will rule. But regardless of what happens, Williams’ defense offers a rare glimpse at how business is often done in the Capitol.

How Donald Trump Retooled His Charity to Spend Other People’s Money
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold | Published: 9/10/2016

An investigation of the Donald J. Trump Foundation found it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner. For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money, an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation. Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression it is Trump’s own money. Foundation money has also been used for political purposes, which is against the law. Trump paid a penalty this year to the IRS for a 2013 donation in which the foundation gave $25,000 to a campaign group affiliated with Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi.

How These Powerful Women Learned to Love Fundraising
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 9/12/2016

Lawmakers frequently think fundraising is the worst part of their job, but it has become critical to their success as the cost of campaigns skyrockets. According to interviews with more than a dozen women in Congress, raising campaign funds poses unique challenges for women entering politics and seeking to rise through the ranks. Building a war chest is essential to female politicians as they work to get elected and to secure a seat at the leadership table, which involves both campaigning and fundraising for colleagues. Scholars have found women exhibit more negative attitudes toward fundraising and express more concern about attracting donors, to the point that it can deter some from running for office.

Lobbying Registrations Are Down, But The Influence Industry Is Flourishing
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 9/12/2016

This year, for the ninth consecutive time, the number of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. has fallen. The figure has dropped from about 14,800 in 2007 to 10,500 today. But ask virtually any member of K Street’s booming influence industry and they will tell you there are not fewer lobbyists, there are just fewer people labeling themselves as such. Eschewing the lobbyist label in favor of more palatable designations such as policy adviser, strategic counsel, or government relations adviser is not new. But it appears to have grown more prevalent during the two terms of President Obama, who put greater restrictions on lobbyists working in the executive branch than any other president.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Jury Finds Azano Guilty on 36 Counts in Foreign Money Case
San Diego Union-Tribune – Dana Littlefield and Greg Moran | Published: 9/9/2016

A Mexican businessperson accused of making illegal campaign donations to candidates in San Diego’s 2012 mayoral race was convicted of 36 counts, including conspiracy to make political contributions by a foreign national. José Susumo Azano Matsura also was found guilty in federal court of making contributions in other people’s names and falsifying records.  As a foreign citizen without legal status in the U.S., Azano was prohibited by law from donating to domestic campaigns. Although he lived in a Coronado Cays and both his wife and son were U.S. citizens, Azano did not have a green card or any immigration status that would allow him to financially support political campaigns in this country.

Florida – Judge Orders Campaign-Finance Question Put on Miami-Dade Ballot
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 9/9/2016

Circuit Court Judge William Thomas ordered that Miami-Dade voters get a chance to decide on new rules for campaign contributions, reversing a decision by county commissioners to keep the measure off the November ballot because of alleged legal flaws. The judge ruled the union-backed group behind the proposal to ban county contractors and their lobbyists from donating to county candidates followed all the required steps to secure a ballot slot. County lawyers appealed Thomas’ decision.

Michigan – House Candidate Steve Marino Retracts Claims from Secret Recordings
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 9/11/2016

Michigan House candidate Steve Marino disavowed ever picking up bar tabs for state lawmakers as a lobbyist after Democrats released audio recordings showing him making the claims. Marino, a Macomb County commissioner who was a registered lobbyist from 2013 to 2015, said that despite the way he described the events, they did not involve him personally. Instead, he said the stories were composites patched together from events he had witnessed or heard about over the years.

Missouri – Court: Missouri voters can decide if they want to bring back limits on campaign contributions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 9/13/2016

A state appeals court ruled that a measure re-imposing campaign contribution limits in Missouri can be placed on the November ballot. The initiative would ask voters whether they want to cap donations to individual candidates to $2,600 and limit contributions to a political party to $25,000. The referendum would ban the current practice of funneling money through different committees to hide the source of the money. Opponents say the initiative unfairly limits some classes of businesses and associations from giving money to campaigns. They vowed to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania – Gas-Dealing Pa. Game Commission Official Ordered to Pay $75K Fine
Philadelphia Inquirer – Andrew Maykuth | Published: 9/13/2016

William Capouillez, a retired Pennsylvania Game Commission official, will pay a $75,000 fine over his side business. While he was director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, Capouillez negotiated gas leases with drilling companies on behalf of private landowners while overseeing Game Commission leases with the same companies. He agreed to the fine in exchange for no further action by the state Ethics Commission, but the head of the ethics panel said Capouillez still faced possible criminal charges. The Ethics Commission said the $75,000 penalty represented just a portion of the amount Capouillez earned since 1996, when he began operating his business. But it said most of the alleged violations occurred before the agency’s five-year statute of limitations expired.

Tennessee – Jeremy Durham Expelled from Tennessee House in 70-2 Vote
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert and Dave Boucher | Published: 9/13/2016

The Tennessee House voted to expel state Rep. Jeremy Durham following allegations of widespread sexual harassment. The vote followed an attorney general’s investigation that detailed allegations of improper sexual contact with at least 22 women over the course of his four years in office. House Speaker Beth Harwell effectively quarantined Durham from other lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists in April, moving his office across the street and barring him from entering the main legislative area other than for official business. The move came after state Attorney General Herbert Slatery said Durham could pose a risk to “unsuspecting women” at the Capitol complex.

Virginia – Prosecutors Will Drop Case Against Former Va. Governor Robert McDonnell
Washington Post – Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/8/2016

The Justice Department decided to drop all charges against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that vacated his original conviction on corruption charges. As a result, McDonnell’s legal ordeal effectively ends. The justices ruled McDonnell, convicted in 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison for helping a personal donor navigate the state bureaucracy, had not performed any official acts on the donor’s behalf. For federal prosecutors, the case carries grave implications. It likely will make it more difficult for them to use federal bribery, extortion, and fraud statutes against public officials.

Wisconsin – Report: Lead paint makers helped Gov. Walker
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein and Patrick Marley | Published: 9/14/2016

A new report sheds new light on the relationships between Gov. Scott Walker and donors to the Wisconsin Club for Growth during the governor’s 2012 recall election. The Guardian U.S. sifted through 1,500 leaked documents from a probe into Walker’s campaign. The documents show $750,000 in donations to Wisconsin Club for Growth from Harold Simmons, the owner of one of the leading producers of lead used in paint until it was banned. Walked signed into law changes passed by the Republican-led Legislature that would have made companies like NL Industries effectively immune from compensation claims for lead paint poisoning. One document shows a lobbyist for NL Industries suggested the language that should be used to make the effective immunity retroactive. The phrase suggested by the lobbyist is the one that was added to an amendment, which was signed into law but later blocked by a federal court.

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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