News You Can Use Digest - September 30, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

September 30, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 30, 2016



Big Business Continues Trend Toward Political Transparency
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 9/28/2016

About one-in-10 of the nation’s largest companies volunteer almost no information about their political activity, according to a new study on corporate transparency. Across 24 categories, the study awards points to companies that, for example, voluntarily disclose contributions to certain nonprofit groups, publish policies that govern political expenditures from its corporate treasury, and reveal money spent to influence state-level ballot initiatives. The authors say there is a trend toward increased corporate political transparency, despite calls from prominent business groups for corporations to not reveal more information than what is legally required of them. But plenty of companies show little interest in revealing more about how they are attempting to influence politics.

For Cuomo and Christie, Parallel Paths to the Top, and Trouble When They Got There
New York Times – Vivian Yee | Published: 9/25/2016

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were once lionized for relentlessly prosecuting bad behavior in government. Cuomo is now reeling after the arrest of one of his closest friends, confidants, and former aides, as well as the arrests of several other close advisers and donors in a bribery scheme, while a former top aide and a former political ally to Christie are on trial over their roles in the scandal that elevated a traffic jam on access lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge into a symbol of political payback. Neither governor is accused of breaking the law. But for two men who once prided themselves on managing spick-and-span administrations, claiming to have been blind to alleged acts of petty revenge and bribery at the highest levels of state government seems bad enough.

Republican Lawmakers Under Fire for Racially Insensitive Comments after Charlotte Unrest
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 9/24/2016

Republican lawmakers are under increasing fire for racially insensitive comments after the fatal police shootings of black men sparked unrest in two states. Remarks by U.S. Reps. Robert Pittenger, Tim Huelskamp, and Steve King, along with the GOP nominee for vice president, Mike Pence, underscored to some observers Republicans’ tone-deafness on issues of race in a year of unprecedented attention to police bias against African-Americans. With the November elections barely six weeks away, the responses also seemed a sign of Republicans deepening alienation from black voters. The GOP rhetoric could help mobilize African Americans to oppose Republicans in a year when Hillary Clinton is relying on heavy black turnout to win the White House.


D.C. Circuit Decision Limiting Political Ad Disclosure Will Stand
Bloomberg BNA – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 9/28/2016

A federal appellate panel ruling that limits disclosure requirements for groups sponsoring political ads will stand, as the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it will not review the decision. The long-running litigation challenged as too lax current FEC disclosure rules for ‘electioneering communications” – targeted television and radio ads that refer to a federal candidate in the final weeks before an election. The FEC rules in most circumstances do not require disclosure of those funding such ads. A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling that contended a broader FEC disclosure rule would violate free speech rights. The panel acknowledged previous court decisions supporting disclosure but suggested such rulings conflicted with other precedents giving broad First Amendment protection to political speech.

New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, practice, practice
New York Times – Patrick Healy, Ashley Parker, and Maggie Haberman | Published: 9/28/2016

Even as Donald Trump’s advisers publicly backed him after the first presidential debate and praised his performance, they were privately awash in second-guessing about why he stopped attacking Hillary Clinton on trade and character issues and instead grew erratic, impatient, and subdued as the night went on. In interviews, seven campaign aides and advisers to Trump expressed frustration and discouragement over their candidate’s performance. Advisors plan to more rigorously prepare him for the next debate; whether he is open to practicing meticulously is a major concern, however, according to some of these advisers and others close to Trump.

Will ‘Saturday Night Live’ Take Down Trump?
Politico – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 9/29/2016

While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton argue over who won the first presidential debate, inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the winner in the all-important satirical showdown is still being scripted. That is where the cast and crew of “Saturday Night Live” gathered to watch the debate, and it is where they are still sketching out portrayals that will shape how Americans see their presidential candidates. Historically, SNL’s political satire has penetrated the national consciousness. It was Will Ferrell as George W. Bush who coined “strategery,” and it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin who claimed, “I can see Russia from my house.” The skewering tradition dates all the way back to Chevy Chase’s 1976 portrayal of President Gerald Ford as a klutz. In 2000, Al Gore’s own advisers made him watch Darrell Hammond’s stilted impersonation of his debate performances to show Gore how poorly he was coming off to others.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Ala. PAC-to-PAC Transfer Ban Upheld by Appeals Court
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 9/28/2016

A federal appeals court upheld Alabama’s ban on money transfers between PACs. The three-judge panel ruled the law did not prevent the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), which sued to overturn it, from raising the funds to support its activities. State lawmakers passed the ban in order to restrict donors’ ability to hide contributions by shuffling them through multiple PACs. After the law passed, the ADC created two separate bank accounts, one dealing with independent expenditures and the other for political contributions. Attorneys for the state argued Alabama’s interests were promoting transparency and preventing corruption. The ADC said because it kept its expenditures in separate bank accounts, and because the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision said independent expenditures do not create the appearance of corruption, the state had no compelling interest in its accounts tied to campaign expenditures.

California – Ex-LAPD Sergeant Defends Himself Against Ethics Charge Over Controversial Stop of ‘Django Unchained’ Actress
Los Angeles Times – Kate Mather | Published: 9/26/2016

A judge heard arguments over whether a Los Angeles police sergeant violated city ethics rules by leaking a recording of his controversial encounter with actress Daniele Watts to the media. No one questions whether Parker released the recording – he has admitted that in interviews with reporters, at a Police Commission meeting, and again while testifying in court. Instead, the case hinges on whether that recording was confidential and thus, whether Parker violated city rules by making it public. Ethics officials allege he did just that, accusing Parker of unlawfully sharing confidential information without authorization and doing so to “create a private advantage for himself.” Sergio Perez, the Ethics Commission’s director of enforcement, accused Parker of releasing the tape because he faced criticism over the encounter.

Illinois – Donation Lifts Fundraising Caps in Illinois Comptroller Race
State Journal-Register – Sophia Tareen (Associated Press) | Published: 9/26/2016

A $260,000 donation to Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger’s campaign has lifted the caps on political contributions and guarantees a big-money race between the incumbent and challenger Susana Mendoza. The loan is from Munger’s husband, attorney John Munger. State campaign finance law limits contributions, but it also says if a candidate or family member gives more than $250,000 to his or her own race, the limits come off for all candidates.

Mississippi – Hosemann Launches ‘Searchable’ Campaign Finance Reports
Hattiesburg American – Geoff Pender (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) | Published: 9/27/2016

Mississippi is becoming the last state to allow electronic filing of campaign finance reports, a step toward easier public access to information about who is spending money to influence elections. The National Institute on Money in State Politics says all 49 other states already had either mandatory or voluntary electronic filing of finance reports. The Mississippi secretary of state’s staff has scanned candidates’ paper forms and posted them online for years. But those documents are not searchable and it is burdensome to calculate, for example, how much money a group or person gives to multiple candidates. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he will ask the Legislature to make electronic filing mandatory for statewide and district candidates starting in 2020, after the current four-year term.

New York – Preet Bharara Wields Ax in Albany Corruption Scandal
Albany Times-Union – Chris Bragg and Mathhew Hamilton | Published: 9/22/2016

Federal corruption charges were levied against two former close aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a senior state official, and six other people, in a blow to the governor’s innermost circle and a repudiation of the way his prized upstate economic development programs were managed. The charges against the former aides, Joseph Percoco and Todd Howe, and the state official, Alain Kaloyeros, were the culmination of a long-running federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s efforts to lure jobs and businesses to upstate New York’s limping economy by furnishing billions of dollars in state funds to developers from Buffalo to Albany.

North Carolina – Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Accused of Money Laundering, Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud
Raleigh News & Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 9/27/2016

North Carolina Sen. Fletcher Hartsell was indicted on multiple counts related to fraudulent campaign fundraising and expenditures. The charges in federal court escalate the legal woes for Hartsell nearly three months after a county grand jury indicted him in state court on allegations he certified three campaign finance documents as correct, while knowing they were not. The federal indictment alleges he spent campaign money on a trip to South Carolina with his wife’s choir, on haircuts, tickets to the musical “Jersey Boys,” his granddaughter’s birthday party, and getting his driver’s license renewed, among other things.

Rhode Island – Councilman’s Proposal to Reform Providence Lobbying Ordinance Hits Roadblock
WPRI – Dan McGowan | Published: 9/26/2016

Providence Councilperson Sam Zurier wants to amend the city’s existing lobbying ordinance to force members of what he considers “financially active” organizations to register as lobbyists, a plan he acknowledges is designed to force members of the Providence Apartment Association to wear badges in City Hall and file quarterly reports with the clerk’s office. But several members of the Ordinance Committee said they are concerned the proposal would deter other community groups from participating in city government, even though the policy focuses on organizations whose members make campaign contributions to the mayor or city council.

Tennessee – Voucher Advocate Hosted Tennessee Lawmakers at Seaside Condo
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert and Dave Boucher | Published: 9/26/2016

In 2014, five state legislators went on an undisclosed vacation with Mark Gill, one of the leaders of the pro-voucher Tennessee Federation for Children. In 2016, all five lawmakers who went to Gill’s condominium co-sponsored legislation to allow vouchers in Tennessee. As Gill is not a registered lobbyist, he is legally allowed to host in this manner due to a loophole in the law. House Speaker Beth Harwell said such trips need to be disclosed, but she is likely to face pushback from legislators like Rep. Andy Holt, who attended the event, “There’s a time and a place for transparency, but my rights as a U.S. citizen didn’t end when I became a lawmaker,” said Holt.

Virginia – In Virginia’s Capital, a Political ‘Bad Boy’ Upends Race for Mayor
Washingtpn Post – Paul Schwartzman | Published: 9/28/2016

Everyone in Richmond knows about Joe Morrissey Myrna Watson, as do many across Virginia, having read salacious stories three years ago about the then-55-year-old state lawmaker who went to jail for cavorting with his 17-year-old receptionist. Warren is now Morrissey’s wife, and she has become a centerpiece of his unlikely quest to become Richmond’s next mayor. Morrissey’s career includes more than a few headline-grabbing stories, including an eight-year disbarment that prevented him from practicing law until 2011, two fistfights that resulted in jail time, and brandishing an unloaded AK-47 during a gun debate in the House of Delegates. Yet polls show Morrissey with an imposing lead over six opponents. One candidate dropped out recently, citing concern that the size of the field would split the vote and ensure Morrissey’s victory.

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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