News You Can Use Digest - January 16, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

January 16, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 16, 2015



How Campaigns Are Courting 16-Year-Olds
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 1/11/2015

Presidential campaigns are looking to target teenagers who are not yet 18 but will be by Election Day 2016. More than eight million people will become legal adults eligible to vote for the first time by the next general election. Campaigns are eager to find ways to get through to these 16- and 17-year-olds who are still minors and, in most cases, more likely to be concerned with making it to class on time than who should be elected president. Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans are desperate for any edge at the polls, and they say they will be employing data mining techniques in search of supporters from this ripe demographic that has little or no track record in politics.


Rating 2016 Candidates by Donors Busts Conventional Wisdom
CNN – Chris Moody | Published: 1/14/2015

Crowdpac uses public campaign finance records, along with other data, to plot where potential White House contenders fall on the political spectrum. Crowdpac’s algorithm displays the contenders on a liberal–conservative spectrum, and rates each person on 15 issues. The third piece of the algorithm, which includes the ideology of donors and examines how the politicians spend their own money, makes Crowdpac’s analysis unusual, and helps provide a clearer picture of how those seeking the White House compare to their peers.  The results can confound commonly held perceptions.

Who Needs Lobbyists? See What Big Business Spends to Win American Minds
The Center for Public Integrity – Erin Quinn | Published: 1/15/2015

When Washington, D.C.’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put more of their money into advertising and public relations. The Center for Public Integrity attempted to review spending by the nation’s most “politically active” trade groups, ones that spent more than $1 million on lobbying in 2012. The IRS requires the groups to report their top five contractors. Of $3.4 billion in contracts reported by trade groups from 2008 through 2012, more than $1.2 billion, or 37 percent, went toward advertising, public relations, and marketing services, more than any other category.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – L.A. Alliance for a New Economy Confirms Failure to Report Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/9/2015

The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), an influential group that successfully advocated for hiking the minimum wage for hotel workers, confirmed it left off information on reports filed with the city about how much it had paid to employees who act as lobbyists. Between 2009 and 2014, LAANE did not report any payments to its registered in-house lobbyists or any related expenses, despite the fact that emails and calendars for city officials show those lobbyists met regularly with lawmakers and their aides and helped suggest wording to city lawyers for the hotel wage ordinance. The group also did not list any matters its representatives lobbied on.

Florida – Ethics Deadbeats: Debt collectors seek $500K in outstanding fines from Florida public servants
Miami Herald – Christina Veiga | Published: 1/12/2015

The Florida Commission on Ethics has hired debt collectors to chase $487,549.96 in late fees from public officials and employees that have accumulated, in some cases, for more than a decade. Financial disclosure forms, which list net worth, sources of income, real estate holdings, and debts have been the repeated source of trouble or controversy for politicians over the years. Scofflaws are fined $25 a day until they file or they hit the cap of $1,500 per year. After 60 days, unpaid debts get sent to collections. If the person is still in public office, and receives a salary, then the commission can garnish paychecks, a new power that was given to the agency last year.

Illinois – Illinois Inauguration Raises Questions of Corporate Influence
Reuters – Mark Guarino | Published: 1/11/2015

Watchdog groups say activities surrounding Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s inauguration are among the priciest of any incoming governor and take advantage of a loophole in campaign finance that allows wealthy special interests to gain access to those who hold political power. These groups say Rauner’s inauguration festival, with a total tab estimated to reach $10 million, is emblematic of a trend in other states. Critics say the costly celebrations, funded by private donors, skirt ethics laws and open conflicts-of-interest for elected officials.

Illinois – Rauner Spends 1st Full Day as Governor on Ethics, Reversal of Quinn Actions
Chicago Tribune – Monique Garcia, Rick Pearson, and Ray Long | Published: 1/13/2015

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order banning some state employees from negotiating for a lobbying job while working for the state. The order also prohibits employees in state agencies and the executive branch from taking lobbying positions for one year after they leave their public sector job. The new rules prevent state employees from receiving any free meals, beverages, or gifts from lobbyists and government business interests, or have travel expenses covered to discuss state business. State workers could still receive food and beverages served at business meetings or receptions in the course of their official duties, subject to approval from the governor’s office or agency.

Kansas – Grand Jury Investigates Loans to the Re-Election Campaign of Gov. Sam Brownback
Kansas City Star – Roxana Hegeman (Associated Press) | Published: 1/8/2015

Federal grand jurors are scheduled to hear testimony about loans made to the re-election campaign of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer made three $500,000 loans to the campaign in 2013 and 2014 and was repaid for two of them in days. Such large loans by candidates to campaigns are uncommon in Kansas, and the pattern of repaying one within days is a highly unusual move that has generated unanswered questions about where Colyer obtained such a large amount of cash.  Brownback and his wife also lent the campaign $200,000 last year. No other loans are listed in public reports.

Kentucky – Draft of Report on Kentucky Legislature Remains Untouched, Unreleased after Nine Months
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 1/14/2015

In October 2013, the Kentucky Legislature faced a scandal: a lawmaker who resigned over accusations he sexually harassed women at the Legislative Research Commission (LRC); allegations that sexual misconduct and favoritism made the LRC a hostile workplace; and the abrupt departure of longtime Director Bobby Sherman, whom police investigated for shredding documents days after he quit. The Legislature gave a $42,410 contract to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to perform a performance audit of the LRC, the bureaucracy that runs the legislative branch of state government. NCSL submitted a draft report in April to Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. But the leaders never responded, and rank-and-file lawmakers said they have not seen the report.

Minnesota – Minnesota Sen. Tomassoni Takes Job with Group That Lobbies Legislature
Minneapolis Star Tribune – J. Patrick Coolican | Published: 1/12/2015

Minnesota Sen. David Tomassoni was hired as executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, an organization funded in part by public money that lobbies for those interests at the Capitol. His hiring immediately raised questions about whether the two roles would clash. Tomassoni said his role will be administrative, so he will not be lobbying his fellow lawmakers; the group will hire an independent lobbyist if it feels it needs to. He also promised to recuse himself from any votes where the association stands to benefit. Tomassoni’s work will not start until after the 2015 legislative session ends in late May, and he will take an unpaid leave of absence during every session.

North Carolina – Lobbyists, Not Just Lawmakers, Descend on Raleigh as New Session Begins
Raleigh News & Observer – Lynn Bonner | Published: 1/14/2015

North Carolina lawmakers filled the chambers of the Legislative Building for the start of a new session. But the day also launched the intense work of lobbyists. With 443 registered so far, lobbyists outnumber lawmakers by a ratio of more than two-to-one. While the state’s part-time legislators get much of the attention and cast the deciding votes, many ideas for new laws come from the lobbyists and their employers, which cover all sorts of interests. With permission from lawmakers, lobbyists can submit suggested bill language to legislative staffers.

Texas – House Panel Recommends Texas Legislature Take Action on Dark Money
Houston Chronicle – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 1/8/2015

Labeling “dark money” spending a corrupting force in the democratic process, the House Committee on State Affairs released a series of recommendations in a report that suggests the Texas Legislature take action to require disclosure of contributors to 501(c)(4) nonprofits. 501(c)(4)s are allowed to make independent expenditures to influence elections without having to disclose donors and have become a hot topic for state lawmakers after Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a dark money disclosure measure last session. The state Ethics Commission passed new rules intended to define when a 501(c)(4)’s political activity crosses the line and should have to disclose donors like a traditional PAC. The regulation is currently being challenged in court.

Texas – Judge Blocks City Campaign Fundraising Rule
Houston Chronicle – Theodore Schleifer | Published: 1/9/2015

A federal judge temporarily blocked a law limiting when candidates in Houston municipal elections can raise money. An ordinance prevented city candidates from raising money prior to February 1. The lawsuit against the city, filed by candidate Trebor Gordon, argued his First Amendment right to political expression authorized him to raise money for his campaigns whenever his contributors wished to donate.

Virginia – Jailed Lawmaker’s Return Brings Virginia Capitol More Unwanted Attention
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella | Published: 1/14/2015

A newly re-elected Virginia lawmaker hitched a ride from the jailhouse to the statehouse to be sworn in, even as legislative leaders discussed how to throw him out. Del. Joseph Morrissey, who spends his nights in jail because of a conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, resigned his seat when he was convicted but won it back in a January 13 special election. He was back in his familiar legislative arena as the session convened, but with a whole new set of circumstances: colleagues ignored him, he was stripped of committee assignments, he had to give up his old office, and his desk on the House floor was put in a far corner.

West Virginia – In Unusual Arrangement, W.Va. Party Chairmen Double as Lobbyists
Charleston Gazette – David Gutman | Published: 1/11/2015

Larry Puccio left then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s staff in early 2010 and became a lobbyist a week later. He was elected as state Democratic Party chairperson five months after that. Now, he is not alone in serving in the dual roles. West Virginia GOP Chairperson Conrad Lucas registered as a lobbyist with the state Ethics Commission in early December. While this might not be unusual in West Virginia – former Democratic Party Chairpersons Nick Casey, Chuck Smith, and Steve White all lobbied while they were leading the party – it is very unusual nationwide. Other than Puccio and Lucas, there are only two other party chairs anywhere in the country who are active registered lobbyists.

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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