$217 million spent in 20 years of Kentucky lobbying
This year, Kentucky is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the enactment of the Code of Legislative Ethics, one of the most comprehensive legislative ethics laws in the nation.
One aspect of the law requires reporting of spending by lobbyists and their employers, and since 1993, they have reported spending $217,365,343 on lobbying the General Assembly. Of that total, $189,681,615, or 87 percent, has been paid by employers as compensation to lobbyists.
In 1994, the first full year of reporting, $6.5 million was spent on lobbying. Over the next 19 years, annual spending almost tripled, hitting $17.8 million in 2012, the most recent year with a 60-day legislative session.
Lobbying spending in 2013 is on pace to exceed $16 million, which would be the highest ever recorded for an odd-numbered year, in which the regular legislative session lasts 30 days.
Special election financial statements posted
On December 10th, there will be two special elections to fill vacancies in the Kentucky General Assembly. The vacant seats are in the 13th Senate District and the 7th House District, and all five candidates have filed financial disclosure statements which are available on the Legislative Ethics Commission’s website: http://klec.ky.gov/reports/legislators.htm
Four more lobbying in Kentucky
Four organizations recently registered to lobby in Kentucky. They are: Brennan Center for Justice, which is lobbying on legislation concerning voting rights for people with criminal convictions; Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors, which is lobbying to change certification of counselors to licensing; Lloyd's America, which is lobbying “to allow authorized and eligible surplus lines insurers to recognize that certain insurers may have dual status as both an authorized insurer and as an eligible surplus lines insurer”; and Ohio Mills, a Cleveland-based textile recycling business which is lobbying on issues related to charitable organizations and collection bins.
Time to register for 2014-2015 Lobbying
Employers’ and legislative agents’ registration with the Legislative Ethics Commission will expire on December 31, 2013. Check the Ethics Commission’s website http://klec.ky.gov/ for the Initial Registration Statement for the two-year period beginning January 1, 2014 and ending on December 31, 2015.
Beginning December 1, 2013, the Commission will accept completed registrations. Initial registration forms CANNOT be filed online.
A registration fee of $250 must be paid by the employer of one or more legislative agents. This fee may be paid by cash, check, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. If the registration is mailed with a check, the check should be payable to Kentucky State Treasurer.
If paid by credit card, the registration may be faxed, or scanned and e-mailed, along with the completed credit card form which is attached. The Initial Registration Statement may be copied.
Please remember the employer must sign the registration form of each legislative agent. If more information is needed, please contact the Commission at (502) 573-2863, or e-mail Donnita.Crittenden@LRC.ky.gov
Local and National News You Can Use
Coal loses more ground to natural gas
The Courier-Journal – By James Bruggers – November 24, 2013
KENTUCKY - As an economic summit in Eastern Kentucky approaches, two new reports illustrate the continued downward slide of coal in the state and across the southeastern United States.
In the recent Today in Energy briefing, the U.S Energy Information Agency said the nation’s biggest shift from coal to natural gas for electricity generation was occurring in the Southeast.
“Lower natural gas prices, a concentration of highly efficient natural gas-fired generators, and the high cost of shipping coal from production regions (in the West) have all contributed to this shift,” the agency said.
Coal accounts for less than 40 percent of the southeast’s electricity generation, down from nearly 60 percent for much of the last decade. And the most recent quarterly coal report from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, covering July through September, found coal-mining employment was down 3.4 percent from three months earlier, with a loss of another 439 mining jobs, nearly all of them in eastern Kentucky.
Eastern Kentucky has lost about 6,000 coal mining jobs since July 2011, with the state’s overall coal employment at the lowest level since Kentucky began keeping mining employment statistics in 1927, state officials said.
The sobering economic news for coal comes as Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers plan for a Dec. 9 summit in Pikeville titled “S.O.A.R.: Shaping Our Appalachian Region.” Organizers expect participants to share ideas and recommendations about how to move Kentucky’s Appalachian region forward. More than 1,100 people have registered.
Coal isn’t going away but the industry recognizes the need for regional economic diversification, said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
“It’s important to remember that we are still mining millions of tons of coal in Eastern Kentucky,” he said. “We are kind of waiting to see where we are going to plateau.”
The state report showed 9.5 million tons were mined during the third quarter, roughly divided equally between surface and underground mining. Western Kentucky coal production was 10.3 million tons, about the same as the previous quarter. The large majority there is from underground mining.
Nonprofits tied to legislators collect cash out of public view
Los Angeles Times - By Patrick McGreevy - November 16, 2013
CALIFORNIA -- A federal allegation that state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon tried to hide a $25,000 bribe in a charity run by his brother has shed light on the use of nonprofits by California legislators to collect cash out of public view.
Some nonprofits, set up with the stated purpose of aiding a charitable or social cause, are also being used to benefit an elected official's career, public image or personal finances, say advocates for open government. Several current and former California politicians or their relatives have established nonprofits in recent years. Some spent more money on travel, meals or entertainment than on direct assistance to their causes, according to their tax filings.
Nonprofits like the one cited in the Calderon case allow politicians to collect contributions from special interests without having to abide by the $4,100 limit on campaign contributions in legislative races. And unlike political accounts, they are not required to identify their donors.
In addition, they can be vague in reporting on their tax returns how they spend their money. Nonprofits disclose expenditures in broad categories such as "travel," "meals" and "meetings" without noting the purpose of the expense or who benefited.
Calderon allegedly accepted $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a studio executive in exchange for pursuing legislation to expand tax breaks for film companies, according to a sealed FBI affidavit made public by a cable network. The agent agreed to pay $25,000 of the money to a nonprofit set up by the senator's brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, says the affidavit released by Al Jazeera America.
Some legislators have been more successful than others in setting up nonprofits. Dean Florez from the Central Valley left his state Senate seat in 2010 because of term limits. Before departing, he filed papers to register a new nonprofit called the Twenty Million Minds Foundation, with start-up funding of $1.7 million from billionaire medical inventor and co-founder Gary Michaelson.
Michaelson is the sole contributor to the nonprofit so far, a representative said. The nonprofit was formed based on Michaelson's idea to make some college textbooks available for free online, a representative said. Florez was paid $250,000 as president of the nonprofit and $30,000 in benefits in 2011, the last year for which a tax filing was available.
What a day for political ethics in California
Sacramento Bee – By Laurel Rosenhall – November 16, 2013
CALIFORNIA - Even for a political town where claims of wrongdoing are woven into the competitive fabric, Sacramento has seen an unusual burst of activity alleging ethical breaches by the powerful.
On a single day this week, a leader of the state Senate stood before the Capitol to address the latest allegations in an FBI corruption probe, a state senator took the witness stand to testify he had not engaged in money laundering, the state’s political watchdog handed down fines to two past lawmakers who admitted campaign finance violations, and three former government officials who were recently fined for not registering as lobbyists sat through a required ethics class.
“This is the part where I used to talk about what was known as ‘shrimp scam’ in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which was an FBI sting,” said instructor Cary Rudman, chief counsel to the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics.
He explained that the case involved undercover agents posing as the operators of a shrimping business, who offered bribes in exchange for beneficial legislation. The case eventually led to the convictions of several lawmakers, staff members and lobbyists, Rudman said.
The history lesson may no longer be necessary. “As most of you know, there has been some recent activity,” Rudman told the class. “Allegations of corruption are here.”
The high-profile FBI investigation of state Sen. Ron Calderon has roiled the Capitol since agents raided his offices in June. The case has taken dramatic turns in recent weeks as Al Jazeera America published a 124-page affidavit in which the FBI alleges Calderon accepted $88,000 in bribes from an undercover agent and a Long Beach hospital executive.
No charges have been filed. Calderon’s attorney has said his client has not done anything illegal. Still, the investigation has affected attitudes at the Capitol.
“It makes everybody much more cognizant of their conduct,” former Senate leader Don Perata said as he came out of the lobbyist ethics class on Thursday. “I think people probably begin to second-guess a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t have to.”
Perata was in the class because he registered as a lobbyist earlier this year, and the two-hour ethics training is required as part of registration. But he has a unique view of the Calderon investigation: As president pro tem of the state Senate from 2004 to 2009, Perata was the focus of a five-year FBI investigation that never resulted in any charges.
The latest FBI investigation comes as the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has beefed up its prosecution of politicians, lobbyists and campaign donors who violate California’s political ethics law.
The commission recently fined former state Sen. Dean Florez $60,000 for misusing campaign funds; fined former Assemblyman Mike Roos $3,000 for breaking state law by making political contributions while he was a registered lobbyist; and finalized a settlement with current Assemblyman Luis Alejo, in which he was required to return $21,000 to an independent group that had illegally coordinated with his campaign.
Maui’s beaches await California lawmakers
Sacramento Bee - By Jeremy White – November 12, 2013
CALIFORNIA - The weather is cooling in Sacramento, but a warmer climate beckons for a group of California lawmakers headed to Hawaii this week.
At least 16 California lawmakers and their legislative counterparts from Illinois, Hawaii and Texas will fly to Maui for a policy conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, a group that draws donations from organized labor and corporations.
Sponsors who have plunked down $7,000 apiece for the privilege of participating will preside over a series of panels on topics like health care, economic development and public safety. Independent Voter Project board member Dan Howle declined to divulge the identities of donors or legislators attending but cited safeguards in place to protect against sponsors lobbying lawmakers during the policy discussions.
“We have some specific rules about what you can do in the panels,” Howle said. “You cannot have any discussion about specific legislation or pending legislation.”
Legislators can have their hotel and airfare covered, although Howle said not all of the attendees accept reimbursements. Howle said that no legislative leaders are attending and noted that some members have backed out in the aftermath of a leaked affidavit alleging that Sen. Ron Calderon accepted bribes from an undercover FBI agent. Calderon, who attended in past years and had expressed interest to Howle in this year’s conference, also decided not to attend.
“I don’t think it’s wise for me to go,” Howle said, paraphrasing lawmakers who have dropped out. “There’s too much scrutiny.”
Founded by former state lawmaker Steve Peace and others, the Independent Voter Project’s declared mission is to guide voters by providing nonpartisan civic information. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit it does not have to disclose the identity of its donors, but filings show that its backers have included the state’s powerful correctional officers union. Its website lists pharmaceutical titan Eli Lilly and benefactor Charles Munger as prominent backers.
Howle currently works for Eli Lilly, and he said that the conference will feature a presentation on a Lilly-backed website that addresses counterfeit medications.
A separate group of California lawmakers – sponsored by the Pacific Policy Research Foundation – is also meeting in Hawaii this week, Howle said. Travels abroad during the legislative recess are commonplace for legislators. This year, the globetrotting has included a trip to Switzerland that lawmakers paid for themselves and a Scandinavian jaunt subsidized by a union-and-corporate-funded nonprofit.
That doesn’t sit well with government transparency advocates, who say such trips expose elected officials to undue influence.
“It’s become an unwelcome tradition for California voters,” Phillip Ung of Common Cause said of the annual Maui pilgrimage. “Every year they read about it and every year they’re sickened by it.”
Ethics complaint against Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ lobbyist dismissed
Denver Post - By Lynn Bartels - November 19, 2013
COLORADO - The legislature’s executive committee unanimously decided today to dismiss an ethics complaint filed against Rocky Mountain Gun Owners lobbyist Joe Neville, who last month sued the legislature in federal court because of the complaint.
Legislative leaders said because Neville refused to participate in the investigation against him, they couldn’t determine whether he had violated Capitol rules, according to Fox’s Eli Stokols.
Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen filed the complaint in February after saying Neville threatened her with political retribution during a House debate on gun bills. Neville initially appeared before a specially called ethics committee, but later walked out and refused to return, saying he would no longer participate in an “unconstitutional tribunal.”
“It’s a good step, allowing gun owners all over Colorado to have their free speech rights represented at the Capitol,” Neville said after the complaint was dismissed. But the lobbyist still faces potential penalties, although it is unclear what. “If you want to register as a lobbyist and be a lobbyist, which means you are under a code of conduct… you have to live up to those standards,” House Speaker Mark Ferrandino told the Denver Post. “I think there is a desire to see if there is another way to deal with this, but right now it is too early to say what are the next steps.”
Neville and Gerou spoke on Feb. 15, the same day the House met in an epic session to debate four gun bills. Gerou said she confronted the lobbyist, and told him to quit “scaring her constituents” by falsely claiming she planned to support the four gun bills. She voted against all four.
Gerou admitted she told Neville to “(beep) off.” She said he replied, “You just earned yourself another round of mailers in your district.” She said she asked the sergeants to remove Neville from the building that day because she believed he had violated Rule 36, which states, in part, that lobbyists can’t try to influence legislators “by means of deceit or threat … or political reprisal.”
Neville said at the time he didn’t believe he threatened anyone, and was taken aback when Gerou started poking him in the chest. He said the mailers simply asked her constituents to call her and ask her where she stood on the gun bills. He also was surprised she later filed a complaint.
Asked about the action by the Executive Committee, Gerou said, “I let go of that one a long time ago. This has more to do with the legislative process than it does with me,” she said. “What happens does set a precedent.”
Associated Press – By Kate Brumback – November 13, 2013
GEORGIA - Gov. Nathan Deal followed a panel's recommendation to suspend a state lawmaker accused of illegally claiming state pay.
Deal told reporters he signed an order suspending state Sen. Don Balfour of Snellville. The governor said it was "a sad occasion" but that he was required by law to sign the order after the review commission made its recommendation.
A grand jury indicted Balfour in September on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.
Senate leaders reacted swiftly. The Senate Committee on Assignments removed Balfour as chairman of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, as vice-chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, and as an ex-officio member of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. The president of the Senate also removed him from the Senate State Fair Tax Study Committee.
Balfour has been under legal scrutiny for payments that he received for his work in the General Assembly. He previously agreed to pay a $5,000 fine issued by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting pay for in-state work and travel on days when he was elsewhere. Lawmakers can only claim that pay if they are conducting official business inside Georgia. They can collect expenses while traveling outside the state if they are part of an approved delegation.
According to the indictment, Balfour sought legislative expense pay on May 7, 2009, for an expense that was also reimbursed by his employer, Waffle House Inc.
The grand jury accused Balfour of falsely filing paperwork to claim legislative expense pay on Aug. 8-9, 2011. Lobbyist reports show that Balfour was attending a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Texas during that period. On Aug. 9, a Georgia Municipal Association lobbyist bought Balfour's lunch at a San Antonio restaurant. The following day, another lobbyist bought Balfour a meal there.
Prosecutors said Balfour also claimed expense pay on Nov. 30, 2011, a period when lobbyist reports suggest that Balfour was in Florida. A lobbyist bought Balfour dinner in Orlando on Nov. 29. Another lobbyist purchased him a ticket to Disney's Epcot Center on Dec. 1.
State House for sale: Big businesses pay off in jobs, political contributions
The State - By Jeff Wilkinson - November 2, 2013
SOUTH CAROLINA - Hugh Leatherman, the chairman of the powerful S.C. Senate Finance Committee, has embraced the label “Senator Boeing.”
Brian White, chairman of the equally powerful S.C. House Ways and Means Committee, poses with the Michelin man on his website.
Gov. Nikki Haley, who says she gives corporate executives her personal cell phone number, has a former BMW executive as her Commerce secretary, driving what she says is the No. 1 priority of her administration – job creation.
There is good reason for S.C. politicians to feel an affinity for Boeing, Michelin and BMW. The three companies and tire maker Bridgestone have created – or promised to create – almost 8,000 jobs in work-starved South Carolina since 2008. In return, the four also have received – or stand to get – more than $800 million in state incentives and tax breaks.
But that’s not all. Since 2008, the four companies also have contributed almost $600,000 to the campaign coffers of S.C. politicians, political action committees, political parties and caucuses, S.C. Ethics Commission records show.
The four companies also have given another $228,000 to the operating funds of the four Republican and Democratic caucuses in the S.C. House and Senate. Unlike contributions to political campaigns, which are capped by state law, there is no limit on donations to the caucus operating funds, which use the donations to hire staff, pay for travel and hire consultants to support political campaigns and drive legislative issues.
Scores of other companies – from public utilities to drug companies and the liquor industry – also contribute to the campaigns of individual S.C. candidates in a melding of corporate money and public policy that is banned in 21 states and in federal elections.
“The influence of that money is outrageous,” said Lynn Teague, advocacy director of the S.C. Chapter of the League of Women Voters, which has been fighting for ethics reform in South Carolina for years. “It gets lawmakers to return their calls when regular citizens can’t.”
Lewis Gossett, president of the S.C. Manufacturers Association, which represents about 5,400 manufacturers statewide that employ about 350,000 workers, says those corporate contributions are not an effort to buy legislative votes on a particular issue.
“I don’t think campaign contributions, when done properly, have any quid pro quo or should they,” Gossett said. “It’s illegal. It’s unethical, and you don’t want to go there. (Instead,) we look at folks and their general support for manufacturing and the people who work in the manufacturing plant.”
Ethics reform advocates don’t buy that. They insist the corporate contributions reported to the State Ethics Commission are just the tip of the iceberg in a political system that favors big business over others. Beyond their reported contributions, those critics say, companies can:
• Give unlimited money to “super PACs” that then spend it to support or oppose candidates or issues;
• Enter into unreported contracts with politicians or their companies;
• Make contributions through limited liability corporations that don’t bear a company’s name, making the donor’s identity nearly undetectable in South Carolina;
• Give money through board members, executives, employees and their families, a practice that obscures the donation’s business tie;
• Pay lawmakers by hiring them as consultants, as the Columbia-based Wilbur Smith engineering firm did with then-state Rep. Haley.
South Carolina is the only state in the nation that doesn’t require lawmakers and local officials to disclose the sources of their private income.
“There is no limit to the amount you can give a lawmaker or local official,” said former state Sen. Mike Rose of Dorchester. “You just hire him.”
The amount of state incentives that companies can get for locating and expanding in South Carolina – estimates place Boeings’ incentives and tax breaks at $570 million over the next decade – raises the stakes in the marriage of corporate money and state and local government, critics charge.
The incentive packages are brokered in secret, actual amounts are rarely fully disclosed and the public is never told if the companies deliver the number of jobs promised, those critics say.
“The danger is the secrecy itself,” said Ashley Landess, executive director of the libertarian-leaning S.C. Policy Council. “It’s what you can’t see that’s important. You won’t see the quid pro quo.”
State officials say the incentives work and are a good deal for taxpayers.
“Authorized by the General Assembly, incentives are just one part of a very successful economic development strategy in South Carolina that has brought 39,000 new jobs and $9.5 billion in new investment to our state since 2011,” the state Commerce Department said in a statement.
Companies do not play so large a role in the politics of other states. Twenty-one states ban direct corporate-to-candidate campaign contributions, including North Carolina, Texas and Michigan, according to an ongoing study by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The federal government has banned direct corporate contributions to candidates since 1906.
Six states – Alabama, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Oregon – allow unlimited corporate contributions. South Carolina, like 15 other states, allows corporations to give to politicians at the same level as voters.
“In South Carolina, corporations are people,” said state Sen. Luke Rankin of Horry, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.
‘Make our views known’ Some corporate political contributions, including contributions by some of the state’s biggest job creators who also receive large General Assembly-approved incentives, are fully disclosed.
BMW, which in January 2012 announced a $900 million, 300-job expansion of its Spartanburg County plant, has given nearly $241,587 to political causes since 2008, when the State Ethics Commission started listing contributions on its website. BMW also has donated $137,000 to the operating funds of the legislative caucuses.
State incentives for BMW’s 2012 expansion have not been fully calculated. But a $400 million, 400-employee expansion in 2002 drew $103 million in incentives, including a new $40 million interchange on Interstate 85. That figure did not include tax credits or job-development credits.
The S.C. Policy Council, using county cost-benefit assessment reports, calculated the cost to taxpayers in incentives and tax credits for Michelin’s Anderson plant alone was more than $78 million.
Michelin’s biggest group contributions went to the Republican and Democratic parties at $25,000 and $20,000 respectively, the Palmetto Leadership Council at $18,500 and the S.C. Manufacturers Association Good Government Fund at $17,500.
Bridgestone Americas, which, in 2011, announced a $1.2 billion new plant in Aiken County creating 850 new jobs, has given more than $172,050 to 26 individual politicians – mostly those in leadership positions and the Aiken County delegation – and six groups since 2008. It also has given $64,500 to the legislative caucuses’ operating funds.
The Policy Council, using Aiken County’s cost-benefit assessment reports, calculated Bridgestone’s incentives package as being worth $57 million.
South Carolina’s biggest recent job creators and biggest recipients of incentives – Boeing and Continental – lag the other companies in direct political giving, records show.
Continental, which received an estimated $237 million in incentives including a direct $35 million grant from the state for its Sumter tire-making plant that will open early next year and eventually employ 1,600, reports no political contributions. A spokeswoman said the company has a policy of not contributing to campaigns.
Corporations have almost unlimited avenues to get cash to S.C. politicians through PACs, parties, caucuses and committees, said John Crangle, head of S.C. Common Cause, a good-government advocacy group.
“The big corporations and the PACs dominate,” Crangle said. “They have an undue influence on who can afford to run. They have an undue influence on who gets elected. And they have an undue influence on legislation.”
“It’s all implicit,” he added. “Nobody is violating the Hobbs Act (a federal law outlawing extortion). It’s a political system that pays off the big corporations with huge incentive and tax breaks and free land. At the same time, their policies fail low-income children, women and teachers because they don’t have the money to buy the public policy.”
Former state Sen. Phil Leventis of Sumter, now a member of Common Cause, is highly critical of the state’s ethics laws. South Carolina needs to require disclosure of lawmakers’ personal income and tighten the laws governing how parties, caucuses, committees and leadership PACS raise money.
But, Leventis added, the mega-corporations that create the most jobs and get the biggest state incentives – the BMWs, Boeings, Bridgestones and Michelins of the world – are probably the least likely companies to misuse the system. Their dealings with government are simply too big and too visible for them to take chances.
More likely, Leventis said, it is the smaller industries, flying under the public’s radar, whose donations can have the most influence – fighting regulation, for example. “It’s the low-profile things,” he said. “They don’t get the scrutiny that the Bridgestones and the Continentals get. It takes more effort to ferret it out. You look for prints.”
“(Former state Sen.) Tommy Moore was the guru for the title-loan industry. Then, he got a job with them. (Then-state Rep.) Haley went to work for Lexington Medical Center and Wilbur Smith. “The list goes on and on.”
Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/11/02/3073953/sc-state-house-for-sale-big-businesses.html#storylink=cpy Political practices commissioner widens investigation of ‘dark money’
helena Independent Record – By Mike Dennison – November 14, 2013
MONTANA - Montana’s top political cop widened his investigation and enforcement of so-called “dark money” in state politics, filing 10 new or revised complaints against four 2010 legislative candidates and groups he says may have improperly helped their campaign.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said the complaints stem from his October decision alleging several nonprofit groups and former state Rep. Dan Kennedy of Laurel broke campaign laws by not fully reporting their spending and donations in 2010.
Motl said it’s his “mandatory duty” under the law to examine all potential campaign violations, related to the evidence he has uncovered.
He also said Wednesday he plans to file additional complaints against other candidates who appear to have been involved with the same groups in 2010. Motl said he hopes the complaints will help clearly define what’s allowed and prohibited for the 2014 elections, regarding nonprofit groups that spend money to influence elections in Montana.
“These complaints moving through the process should provide some caution and instruction for 2014 candidates: Be careful when you’re dealing with nonprofit corporations that want to help you,” Motl said.
The groups used political mailers to attack various Montana legislative candidates in the 2010 primary elections.
In his October decision, Motl said the groups failed to properly report their spending or donors - thus, unidentified “dark money” - and appeared to make illegal corporate contributions and illegally coordinate their efforts with their favored candidate, who was Kennedy.
Motl said he’ll look at similar accusations in four other 2010 legislative races: House District 84 near Helena, HD68 in Broadwater County, HD69 west of Bozeman and HD61 in Park and Sweet Grass counties.
The complaints targeted three groups that sent the mailers - and four candidates who allegedly benefitted from the groups’ actions. Three of those candidates lost in the primary election, but one, Rep. Mike Miller of Helmville, won in 2010 and is still a legislator for HD84.
Rep. Ted Washburn of Bozeman - the target of the attack mailers in 2010 in the HD69 primary - said he’s glad Motl is pursuing the matter.
“There was a lot of dark money, a lot of mailers that went out just before the election,” Washburn said. “They were just vicious, ugly. . . . I think (this) will be a lesson to the people who are filing and running (for office) that they have to be factual and correct in what they send out.”
Washburn won his primary election in 2010 and has been re-elected twice since then.
When lobbyists literally write the bill
National Public Radio - by Ailsa Chang - November 11, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lobbyists for Citigroup, one of the country's largest banks, offered lawmakers draft language for a bill that was obtained by New York Times and Mother Jones reporters. And 70 of the 85 lines in the final House bill reflected Citigroup's recommendations.
Lobbyists for Citigroup, one of the country's largest banks, offered lawmakers draft language for a bill that was obtained by New York Times and Mother Jones reporters. And 70 of the 85 lines in the final House bill reflected Citigroup's recommendations.
It's taken for granted that lobbyists influence legislation. But perhaps less obvious is that they often write the actual bills — even word for word.
In a recent example, the House passed a measure that would roll back a portion of the 2010 financial reforms known as Dodd-Frank. And reports from The New York Times and Mother Jones revealed that language in the final legislation was nearly identical to language suggested by lobbyists.
It's been a long-accepted truth in Washington that lobbyists write the actual laws, but that raises two questions: Why does it happen so much, and is it a bad thing?
The House bill passed on Oct. 30 essentially sought to wipe out a financial overhaul known as the "push-out rule." The rule prevents banks from using your deposits to trade in derivatives — risky securities that many believe contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform says the regulation was a way to protect taxpayer money. "The purpose of this part of Dodd-Frank was to basically say that Wall Street derivatives activities should be funded by private money and shouldn't get a public subsidy, and this bill kind of reversed that," Stanley says.
What the bill would do is exempt broad categories of trades from this rule. And here's what really ticked off consumer advocates like Stanley. The New York Times and Mother Jones obtained draft language that lobbyists for Citigroup — one of the largest banks in country - offered to lawmakers. And it turns out that 70 of the 85 lines in the final House bill reflected Citigroup's recommendations. In fact, as The Times reports, two paragraphs were copied almost word for word - except lawmakers had changed two words to make them plural.
'A Closer Look'
"It shouldn't be as a result of an investigative report by a newspaper that members of Congress find out that a bill put before them was actually written by one of the interests affected by it," says Rep. Daniel Kildee of Michigan.
Kildee says no one ever told him before he first voted for the bill as a member of the House Financial Services Committee that Citigroup had drafted so much of the language. So later on the House floor, he voted against the bill.
"It should have been made clear to all committee members as to where this was coming from," says Kildee, "and folks may have taken a different look, or a closer look, at the language if we had known it had been written by and for a particular interest."
Citigroup declined to comment on its lobbying efforts, but in a May 2013 blog post it said that what it advocated was good for the whole financial system.
"To me," says Lee Drutman of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group, "this is just another tick-tock on a story that's been developing for a long time - that Congress has basically outsourced its policy expertise to the private sector."
As outrageous as this story seems, Drutman says, it's now unfortunately business as usual on Capitol Hill.
"People on the Hill don't stay as long," he says. "You don't get as good people on the Hill. The expertise on policymaking more and more has moved to the private sector, and it's moved to represent those organizations and companies who can afford to pay for it, which generally isn't you and me. It's big banks and Big Oil and big companies."
Drutman worked as a banking policy staffer in 2009 and 2010 handling financial overhaul issues. And what he saw around the Capitol was that congressional staff members were stretched incredibly thin.
Lobbyists know this, says Drutman, so what they offer lawmakers is an all-in-one package - they'll help a lawmaker round up co-sponsors for the bill, even write talking points, as well as the specific bill language.
"Sometimes it's two words. . . . Sometimes you want to insert a 'not' or something," says Nick Allard, a longtime lobbyist at the firm Patton Boggs.
Allard says before you think lobbyists are running Washington, consider this: Word choices in a bill have to be vetted and approved by lots of eyeballs in a long lawmaking process. So it's the members of Congress who voted for the bill - not the lobbyists - who have to take ownership over the final language.
"So where it comes from - whether they see it on the back of a cereal box or on the Today show or on NPR or out of a lawyer who's acting as a lobbyist's word processor - doesn't matter, because if the member is proposing it, they are responsible for it and they have to make the case for why it's advisable," Allard says.
And as for Kildee's concerns about transparency? Lobbyists aren't under disclosure requirements, so consumer advocates like Stanley say the public can't see what lobbyists have drafted for lawmakers - unless someone leaks it.
"It's a little different when the American Cancer Society gives you some technical assistance on a cancer funding bill versus when one of the largest banks in the world, which was just recently bailed out by the public, writes you a bill that will give it access to public deposit insurance to fund its exotic financial activities," he says.
And Stanley says the public has a right to know where policy expertise is coming from.
Ethics in the News from Natl. Conf. of State Legislatures (NCSL)
ALASKA - After lengthy debate, the legislature approved certain legislative staff to use Facebook at work, as long as it is for business purposes. The proceedings of the Legislative Council, the body that approved the policy, cited NCSL recommendations that urge legislators and staff to think through the ethical dilemmas social media can pose. Alaska Dispatch, November 1, 2013. https://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20131101/alaska-legislature-likes-facebook-access-conditions
NEW HAMPSHIRE - The legislative ethics committee is examining a complaint that a member used public office for private gain. While serving as senate president, the member accepted a position at a controversial organization that at one time engaged in lobbying. He stepped down from the leadership position but remains in the legislature. The complaint alleges that the member was hired because of his political clout. He has denied that taking the job constitutes a conflict of interest in and of itself and that he will recuse himself from votes that relate to the position. Concord Patch, Oct. 29, 2013. http://concord-nh.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/bragdon-to-be-investigated-for-ethics-violation
UTAH - Ethics reform once again appears to be on the upcoming Utah legislative agenda. Among the bill drafts requested by legislators are measures that would address legislative subpoena powers, create an independent elections commission, and gift reporting. UtahPolicy.com, November 12, 2013. http://utahpolicy.com/index.php/features/today-at-utah-policy/1043-lawmakers-ready-bills-targeting-elections-and-ethics-in-2014