SuperPACs Spending Heavily in State & Local Elections

New York Times: “But a look at the activity of super PACs in the 2014 election cycle shows that they have expanded their activities far beyond the original model. In what is a perfectly legal maneuver in many states, they are at work in state elections, provide a foundation for future elections and serve as a source of money for other political committees. Sixteen super PACs that spent at least $1 million during the cycle spent nothing on trying to elect or defeat federal candidates, and 24 others spent less than half of their money that way.

“Combined, those 40 committees spent $287 million during the election, with $49 million of that on direct independent expenditures in federal races. This is the latest demonstration of what has become a predictable pattern in federal election regulation: Methods or vehicles created at the federal level typically find their way into state elections. While federal and state elections have different rules and regulators, money passes between them, and super PACs are no exception to that rule.”

Anti-Fracking Law with Large Support Failed after International Oil Giants Invested in Campaign

This piece ties the two trends of relaxing campaign finance limits and disclosure laws and tightening voter id laws and explores potential solutions from various government entities

Salon: “An expensive battle was fought here, in Santa Barbara, over Measure P, which would have banned fracking. The measure was seen as a litmus test, since Santa Barbara rose to national prominence in 1969 after a massive offshore oil rig blew and spilled into the ocean. For eight days, 100,000 barrels of a dark oleaginous substance leaked into hundreds of square miles of water, tarring 100 miles of coastline and killing thousands of fish and fowl. The tragedy drew network news cameras that showed graphic images of oil-caked pelicans and dead otters. “It was heartbreaking,” said activist Pat Robertson. The national outcry spawned the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and the modern-day environmental movement.

“So, the passage of an anti-fracking law in the birthplace of the environmental movement seemed like a slam dunk. Yet, international oil giants funneled money into a misleading anti-Measure P effort, according to Lauren Hanson, vice president of the Goleta Water Board. And the measure failed.

“At least we know why, thanks to California’s solid political cash disclosure law. Now, voters everywhere are rising up to urge their state legislatures to follow suit so they can learn who’s stuffing their ballot boxes, metaphorically speaking. What if Washington, D.C., adopted a comprehensive disclosure law? In 2010, Congress came within one vote of overcoming a party-line filibuster to pass the DISCLOSE Act. Since then, the need for improved transparency has only grown more urgent and it’d be nice if the Republican Congress would adopt a donor ID law. (Don’t hold your breath, said Demos’Liz Kennedy.)”

Local Official Admits Taking Gifts, Cash from Contractors; Claims He Lacked Authority to Help Them

Native Times: “‘Yes, I accepted the gifts, but they didn’t influence my decision-making process,” Jason Merida said. ‘I didn’t have the authority to make decisions on which vendors we would use, so they couldn’t.'”

“Among the gifts Merida testified to receiving Wednesday were $20,000 in cash, more than $40,000 in Kohler home fixtures, three all expenses paid hunting trips to Missouri and New Mexico, multiple firearms, a weekend golf trip to Pebble Beach, Calif., two freezers, architectural consultations on a home he and his wife planned to build, two Kawasaki Mule All Terrain Vehicles, a 2009 Cadillac Escalade, tickets to a 2010 Dallas Cowboys playoff game and two trips to Dallas via private plane.

“The former executive and his wife also accepted a birthday trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that he described as within the parameters of their personal relationship with Lauri and Brent Parsons, the owners of Builders Steel. The Parsons were among six individuals who pleaded guilty last year in connection with the case and both testified that they counted the trip as part of the cost of doing business with the Choctaw Nation.

“Choctaw Nation law does not prohibit employees from accepting gifts from vendors while in their official capacity as long as those gifts do not impact how they make decisions on the job.”

City Hall Endorses Awarding Contract to Ambulance Company that Contributed $25,000 to Campaign Supporting Mayor

Daily Breeze: “The City Council is expected to decide Tuesday night whether McCormick Ambulance should replace Gerber Ambulance Service beginning in December. The city has the option of extending that contract for four additional years.

The city contracts with an ambulance service to transport patients to the hospital after they have been treated by paramedics, allowing paramedic vans to return to service sooner. Additionally, the city’s ambulance provider handles customer billing for paramedic service.

In a staff report recommending McCormick be awarded the city’s business, Fire Chief William Racowschi said it scored the most points among five companies responding to the city’s request for contract proposals. Those bids were analyzed by a four-person evaluation committee.”

Local Business Leaders Coordinated $26K in Small Town School Board Elections

Shreveport Times: “Citizens for a Better Caddo, its supporters and others linked to the PAC’s members collectively donated to the campaigns of Susannah Walter Poljak, Dawn Denee Locke, Kacee Hargrave Kirschvink, Dottie Bell and Carl Pierson Sr.

“It donated $1,000 to each candidate and spent an extra $16,089.60 on consultant fees to Ashland Partners of Louisiana, LLC, which is registered to Timothy Magner a former candidate for Caddo Parish Schools superintendent, and his wife, Johnette Magner .”

“[John Schmidt, Citizens for a Better Caddo treasurer,] insists the group is not attempting to have an undue influence in the school system.

‘”Before they endorsed any candidates, they vetted them. They interviewed each candidate and made sure they met the criteria they were looking for in a candidate. And that’s who they supported,’ he said.

“Schmidt couldn’t explain the criteria the PAC sought in school board candidates.” [Brackets added]