TX Councilwoman Accepts $6,000 from Taxi PAC while Crafting Favorable Rules

Express News: “Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the taxi industry while she was crafting what would become the most restrictive policies in Texas for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, her campaign finance report shows.

“She accepted at least $6,000 from the Texas Taxi Political Action Committee, several top-level officials from Houston’s vehicles-for-hire industry and others associated with taxis and limos in San Antonio.”

“Viagran and a majority of the council adopted policies that they say protect public safety. Detractors, including some council members, say the regulations stifle innovation and don’t really address public safety.”

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Opinion: RI Gov’s Ethical Push Undermined by Fundraiser with Government Contractor

Go Local Prov: “Just four days after her inauguration, Rhode Island attorney Jon Savage, sent out a fundraising email stating that was hosting a luncheon at the prestigious University Club, located in; you guessed it, Providence’s East Side. The event took place last Thursday. Anyone and everyone were welcome, as long as they had a check for $1,000 written out to the Governor’s campaign account in hand.

“The email states that Governor Raimondo will go on to do great things as Governor, but to do so she needs the “continued support” of donors. Why does Raimondo need campaign contributions to do great things is beyond comprehension?

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Savage’s law firm, Shechtman Halperin Savage, have received state contracts in the past with entities such as the Commerce Corporation. Savage is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the RI Airport Corporation–an appointment that comes from the governor. By raising literally tens of thousands of dollars for the Governor, is it really that far of a stretch to call that pay to play?”

NJ Gov’s Closure of Stadium Benefits Donor, People with Close Ties to Administration

International Business Times: “Now another piece of business has emerged to explain the Cowboys owner’s eagerness to share the New Jersey governor’s company. [Chris] Christie administration’s move this week to shutter the Izod Center, the Meadowlands arena that holds sporting events and concerts, could boost prospects for Jones’ business at a competing New Jersey arena, the Prudential Center in Newark. That boost could simultaneously benefit the firm of Christie’s top stadium policy adviser. And the closing of the Izod Center appears also to be a financial boon to a big donor to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chaired and which backed Christie’s election campaigns.”

“The interwoven relationships begin with the Prudential Center. The private facility is owned by financial executive Josh Harris, who has made $50,000 worth of contributions to the RGA since 2010. Only a few months before the Christie administration shuttered the state-owned Izod Center, Harris hired Jim Leonard as a top Prudential Center executive. Leonard came to the job after serving as chief of staff of the Christie administration’s Treasury Department, which was consulted during the deliberations over the Izod Center.

“In mid-2014, Harris’ Prudential Center announced it had given a multiyear contract to Legends Hospitality LLC to run concession services at the facility. That means the more business that comes to the Prudential Center as a result of the Izod Center closure, the more potential revenues for Legends’ owners, including Jerry Jones and Yankee Global Enterprises.

“The Prudential Center’s connection to Yankee Global Enterprises through Legends is worth noting: The Christie stadium policy adviser who pushed the state to consider closing the Izod Center, Jon Hanson, currently serves as the director of Yankee Global Enterprises. Hanson also served from 2001 to 2011 on the board of Prudential Financial, which owns the naming rights to the Prudential Center. He also was Christie’s finance chairman on both of his campaigns for governor.”

82% of Donations to UT Legislators Came from Special Interests

St. Louis Tribune: “Maybe such easy, unsolicited giving is why 82 percent of the donations accepted in 2014 by incoming members of the Utah Legislature came from special interests, according to an analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune.

“In fact, 25 legislators — about a quarter of the total — received every penny of their 2014 donations from special interests such as lobbyists, corporations, business leaders, advocacy groups and political-action committees

“Meanwhile, 7 percent of all campaign donations came from regular constituents to their own senator or representative.”

Gov Inaugurals Dependent on Corporate Money, Lack Transparency

Sun Herald (1/3): “Eleven new governors are taking office this month, and nearly two dozen others are renewing their oaths for second, third or — in the case of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad — sixth terms. Many will celebrate with chart-topping bands and blowout balls, with much of the bill footed by the same supporters who bankrolled their victorious campaigns.

“In many states, corporate money that was banned before Election Day is allowed to cover the tab for inaugural parties.

“Critics see the events as another means for corporations and wealthy individuals to curry political favor with the state’s highest office, and in many cases without the transparency required by usual campaign finance laws.”

TX Tech Company Received No-Bid Contract Shortly after Making Thousands in Contributions

News Observer: “An Austin tech executive gave political contributions to Republican House Speaker Joe Straus and other lawmakers days before her company sought approval of a $90 million contract that is now the focus of a criminal investigation, a newspaper reported Saturday.

“Straus spokesman Jason Embry said the speaker’s campaign received and ‘quickly returned’ a $10,000 contribution from 21CT chief executive Irene Williams in early December. Republican state Rep. John Zerwas and Republican state Sen. Craig Estes also told the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1vHCHYb ) they also don’t want the money Williams gave them.”

“Campaign finance records also show that Robert Williams — 21CT’s chief financial officer and husband of Irene Williams — contributed $10,000 to incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in October. As lieutenant governor, Patrick will serve as co-chairman of the Legislative Budget Board.

“Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said the campaign doesn’t intend to return that contribution.”

Entertainment Industry Spends Big to Force Google to Monitor Results

NDTV Gadgets: “Google’s detractors complain about the search giant to everyone they can, from raising concerns about the company’s dominance with regulators in Brussels to antitrust officials in Washington. Now, they are taking the fight into states, often to push Google to censor illegal content and sites from search results.”

“Together, the emails show the extent of the efforts with state attorneys general. The messages detail how the Motion Picture Association of America, the Hollywood industry group, and an organization backed by Microsoft and others have aggressively lobbied attorneys general to build cases against Google in recent years, sometimes in complementary ways. The movie association and its member companies, the messages show, have assigned a team of lawyers to prepare draft subpoenas and legal briefs for the attorneys general.

“And the groups have delivered campaign contributions – with several movie studios sending checks – to Jon Bruning, the attorney general of Nebraska, who was helping push their cause, and who made an unsuccessful bid for governor this year.”