VT SoS Launches Electronic Disclosure Systems for Campaigns, Lobbying, Pushes Tighter Laws

Montpelier Bridge; “Secretary of State Jim “Condos explained ‘the new system not only makes lobbyist registration and disclosure simple and intuitive to use for anyone – from lobbying firms to local small businesses and nonprofits – that needs to register their activities with our office, it also provides the public with immediate access to more consistent and accurate information through a variety of search options.”

The Lobbyist Disclosure System is the second system in the new Elections Platform to go live. It follows the new Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) that went live in August and becomes mandatory for all campaign finance reporting this month. CFIS allows candidates, PACs, and political parties to enter financial transactions (contributions and expenditures) and file reports on the relevant filing deadlines. The system also tracks Mass Media expenditures. Information contained in any reports filed by candidates, PACs, and political parties is immediately searchable using the database search functions.”

Condos in an interview with Burlington Free Press: “My office implemented an on-line Campaign Finance Information System in July 2014. As of January 2015, all candidates, political action committees and parties are required to utilize this new on-line system which will provide real time access to accurate and consistent campaign finance reports.”

“Here are some of the relatively easy steps we could take to make our lobbying more transparent that I will propose to the Legislature: more frequent disclosure — monthly during the legislative session; mass media intended to influence legislation should be reported within 24 hours; and the value and summary of any contracts those entities have with legislators”

US Senator Seeks MO Ballot Measure to Limit Contributions, Reduce Impact of Mega-Donor

News Leader: “But for Sen. Claire McCaskill, the real campaign-finance boogeyman is Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s own mega-donor.

“And in a showdown that could upend Missouri’s electoral system, McCaskill is now at the center of a new effort to counter Sinquefield’s growing political influence. The Missouri Democrat is quietly working with others in the state to put campaign finance limits on the ballot in 2016, a move that also raises fresh questions about her own plans for the next election.

“McCaskill shrugged off queries about whether the ballot initiative is a way to elevate her profile for a possible gubernatorial run. Instead, she said, it’s aimed squarely at stopping Sinquefield from writing five- and six-figure checks to state legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

“‘I don’t think (Missourians) realize the extent to which he is putting huge numbers of elected officials ‘on his payroll,” McCaskill told the News-Leader. ‘The amount of money that’s being passed around from him, through a variety of sources, is stunning and unprecedented.'”

NJ State Senator Pushes Plan to Limit Contributions from Contractors, Local Parties

Politicker NJ: “Senator Tom Kean, R-21, has announced that pursuant to Senate Rule 12:6, he has filed a 24-hour notice to remove Senate Bill 287, which would limit campaign contributions by contractors and political parties, from the State Government Committee for a vote in the full Senate.”

“S-287 restricts contributions from public contractors, and county and municipal political party committees.”

How Fortune 500 Companies Fund, Drive Gerrymandering

Mother Jones: “In North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, to name just three, GOPers have recast state and congressional districts to consolidate black voters into what the political pros call “majority-minority districts” to diminish the influence of these voters. North Carolina is an especially glaring example: GOP-redistricting after the 2010 elections led to half the state’s black population—1.1 million people—being corralled into one-fifth of the state legislative and congressional districts. “The districts here take us back to a day of segregation that most of us thought we’d moved away from,” State Sen. Dan Blue Jr., who was previously North Carolina’s first black House speaker, told the Nation in 2012.

A major driving force behind this political resegregation is the Republican State Leadership Committee, a deep-pocketed yet under-the-radar group that calls itself the “lead Republican redistricting organization.” The RSLC is funded largely by Fortune 500 corporations, including Reynolds American, Las Vegas Sands, Walmart, Devon Energy, Citigroup, AT&T, Pfizer, Altria Group, Honeywell International, Hewlett-Packard. Other heavyweight donors not on the Fortune 500 list include Koch Industries, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the US Chamber of Commerce. At the same time these big-name firms underwrite the RSLC’s efforts to dilute the power of black voters, many of them preach the values of diversity and inclusion on their websites and in corporate reports.

As part of its Redistricting Majority Project—which, tellingly, is nicknamed REDMAP—the RSLC, starting in 2010, poured tens of millions of dollars into legislative races around the country to elect new GOP majorities. Next it provided money and expertise to state officials redrawing political boundary lines to favor the Republican Party—and to shrink the clout of blacks, Hispanics, and other traditionally Democratic voters. Unlike its Democratic equivalent, the RSLC has vast sums at its disposal, spending $30 million during the 2010 elections, $40 million in 2012, and $22 million in 2014.”

Investigator from 2011 DE Scandal Calls for Stricter Limits, More Disclosure, Ban on Gifts

This piece is worth a read for its recounting of the scandal as well, which involved employee contributions reimbursed by the employer.

Delawareonline: “Our recommendation is a simple and clean one – ban all direct contributions by entities to individual candidates.”

“Second, there is the need for legislation requiring disclosure of a contributor’s employer and occupation.”

“Third – and I think most important – gifts to public officers should be stopped.”

MO AG Limits Contributions from Interested Party, Bans From Employees in Response to Criticism

St.LouisPublicRadio:

  • “No donations from individuals or entities involved in cases “currently pending” before the attorney general’s office, or that “have been been resolved in the past 90 days.”
  • No donations “from lobbyists, attorneys and their law firms’’ who represent those individuals or entities.
  • No donations from anyone employed by Koster’s office, either as staff or as a contract worker.

“Koster said in a statement that he also will ‘no longer accept gifts of any value from registered lobbyists.’

“Koster is not imposing any limits on the size of his campaign contributions; he maintains that campaign-donation limits don’t work.”

This comes on the heels of a piece from the New York Times detailing a close relationship between Koster and lobbyists with gifts:

“A result is that the routine lobbying and deal-making occur largely out of view. But the extent of the cause and effect is laid bare in The Times’s review of more than 6,000 emails obtained through open records laws in more than two dozen states, interviews with dozens of participants in cases and attendance at several conferences where corporate representatives had easy access to attorneys general.

“Often, the corporate representative is a former colleague. Four months after leaving office as chief deputy attorney general in Washington State, Brian T. Moran wrote to his replacement on behalf of a client, T-Mobile, which was pressing federal officials to prevent competitors from grabbing too much of the available wireless spectrum.

“’As promised when we met the A.G. last week, I am attaching a draft letter for Bob to consider circulating to the other states,’ he wrote late last year, referring to the attorney general, Bob Ferguson.

“A short while later, Mr. Moran wrote again to his replacement, David Horn. “Dave: Anything you can tell me about that letter?” he said.

“’Working on it sir,’ came the answer. ‘Stay tuned.’ By January, the letter was issued by the attorney general largely as drafted by the industry lawyers.

“The exchange was not unusual. Emails obtained from more than 20 states reveal a level of lobbying by representatives of private interests that had been more typical with lawmakers than with attorneys general.”

MA Editorial Joins Gov’s Call for Capping Contributions by Campaign, Calls for Further Limits on Money

Enterprise News: “There’s a reason Massachusetts campaigns begin 14 months before Election Day. Unlike federal laws, which limit donations by election cycle, state law goes by the calendar year. That encourages campaigns to get donors to give the maximum amount the year before the election, then go after them again the next year. It also means that, for incumbents especially, the pursuit of campaign contributions goes on year in and year out.

“Baker has proposed removing the incentive to squeeze campaign donors early and often. He has called for capping individual contributions at $1,000 for the primary campaign and $1,000 for the general election.”

Editorial also supports Baker’s proposal to change the primary calendar and calls for changing municipal election days to the general election.