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The News for June 7, 2018 – Coal industry influence, campaign cash from long-distance donors

June 7, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

Coal baron and big donor Bob Murray gave $1 million to Trump’s super PAC and things have been looking up for him ever since. Documents obtained by E&E News show the extent of an effort by the coal industry to influence Trump on wishlist items like exiting the Paris accord and loosening industry regulations: “Coal executive Bob Murray last year presented Trump administration officials with half a dozen draft executive orders aimed at exiting the Paris climate accord and peeling back coal regulations.”

As USA Today reports, “All the president had to do was sign them.”

And Murray Energy Corp is not alone in seeking influence with the Trump administration: “The chain of emails shows that Michael Dowling, senior vice president for external affairs at FirstEnergy Corp., sought a meeting with [Energy Secretary Rick] Perry for FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones on March 6… The emails raise new questions about FirstEnergy’s efforts to influence policymakers at the Department of Energy.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Kansas City: Missouri House drops effort to get documents from Greitens’ secretive nonprofit
Mark Pedroli, one of the attorneys who sued the governor’s office: “Ending their fledgling investigation into dark money is disheartening. It begs the question, was the investigation about reforming the system or changing personnel?”

American Prospect: Dark Money and the Downfall of Eric Greitens
“As this latest Greitens scandal continues to unravel, the lesson for constituents and legislators alike is clear: ‘Just trust me’ does not work as the guiding principle for officeholder-controlled nonprofits because they are a direct route to official power for a few wealthy donors.”

Seattle Times: Facebook and Google are not above election-ad law
Editorial: “When it comes to protecting the integrity of our elections, everyone has an equal obligation to follow the law. That includes online behemoths such as Google and Facebook, which are becoming increasingly big players in political advertising, both nationally and in Washington state.”

GeekWire: Google will pause election ads in Washington state in unprecedented response to new law
“Google says it will stop running state and local election ads in Washington state, citing new rules that require what amounts to real-time disclosure of detailed information about election ads in response to public records requests.”

WVIK: Money Machines: How Big Donors Dominate Campaign Funding In Illinois
A new NPR series explores the impact of money in politics in Illinois race for governor which could be the most expensive in U.S. history.

The Nation: Artificial Persons: The long road to Citizens United.
David Cole of the ACLU reviews Adam Winkler’s new book on corporate civil rights and details the long road Citizens United, one of the Supreme Court’s most unpopular decisions. I can’t adequately summarize everything here, yet it’s a worthwhile read because as Cole states “To understand more precisely what is wrong with Citizens United is critical to any effort to reverse or modify the decision.”

Slate: Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Surprising Breadth
And here’s Adam Winkler on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to grant constitutional religious liberty to corporations in the same-sex wedding cake case: “As cases like Citizens United remind us, business corporations have won an ever-larger number of individual rights under the Constitution… Over and over again, corporations have won rights through Supreme Court decisions that, like Masterpiece Cakeshop, provide little or no justification for why corporations as such should be able to claim those rights.”

Congress/Administration

CNBC: Campaign cash from long-distance donors floods competitive House primaries
A look at midterm campaign contributions: “Much of the money so far has come from large contributions from long-distance donors who are hoping to shape the outcome of the midterm election. In this year’s 435 House races, nearly three-quarters of direct contributions larger than $200 so far have come from donors outside the candidate’s district, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

Letter to the editor in California: “I don’t want votes about my health care, our environment, our schools, or rules for businesses decided by corporations or dubious PACs, especially those outside of our district.”

Washington Post: Scott Pruitt may have just dug his hole quite a bit deeper
Scott Pruitt laughed off questions of whether he used is public office to try and secure his wife a Chick-fil-A job: “Pruitt’s response to Smith was not contrition or denial. His response was to talk about how great Chick-fil-A is.” As Larry Noble points out, it’s no laughing matter: “These are serious violations. But what’s most disturbing is they are serial violations. It’s not like he made one mistake one time. What we see here is a pattern of either complete ignorance of the ethics rules or a complete disregard of them. There’s just an almost pathological pattern here of just doing whatever he wants to do.”

Atlantic: Pruitt Aide Resigns Amid Scandals
Millan Hupp, a top aide to Scott Pruitt, who often did personal tasks for Pruitt like trying to purchase a used mattress from Trump’s hotel, resigned after getting entangled in his ethics scandals. Another senior EPA person, senior counsel Sarah Greenwalt, also resigned. And there’s this: “When reached by phone, Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesperson, would not comment. He said: ‘You have a great day, you’re a piece of trash.’

Politico: Another mess for Pruitt: Overstaying his White House welcome at lunch
lol: “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt loves eating at the White House mess, an exclusive U.S. Navy-run restaurant open only to White House officials, Cabinet members and other dignitaries. But apparently he liked it too much, and the White House asked him to please eat elsewhere sometimes.”

VPR: In Race For Vermont’s US House Seat, Link Between Money And Politics Takes Center Stage
A conversation that’s happening all over the country: “Dan Freilich, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, says incumbent Rep. Peter Welch has sponsored legislation that directly benefits companies that have contributed to Welch’s re-election campaign. But Welch counters by saying the charges aren’t true and that he’s working to change the current campaign finance system.”

Bangor Daily News: After years as a lobbyist, Betsy Sweet now runs as foe of ‘big money in politics’
In Maine: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet has a long money trail in Augusta, rivaling some of the most prolific and powerful lobbyists in the state…At the same time, she’s running with public funds to get the influence of big money out of politics.”

Dallas News: Trump lawyer payments fuel AT&T shareholders’ push to know more about political spending
“Long before Dallas-based AT&T found itself in the crosshairs for hiring President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, some of the telecom giant’s shareholders sent up a warning: Secrecy surrounding how it spends money in Washington could put the company’s reputation at risk.”

Politico: Ballard lobbied Trump on Kosovo
Looks like raising money for the President is a good way to get his ear: “Brian Ballard, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, personally lobbied Trump in April on behalf of the government of Kosovo.”

Washington Post: Schumer seeks Obama’s help for Senate Democrats in midterm elections
Will we see more of President Obama on the fundraising circuit? “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer proclaimed confidence Wednesday in Democrats’ prospects in the midterm elections, while disclosing he had reached out to a major party draw for help — former president Barack Obama.”

Huffington Post: The Future Of The Democratic Party Is Being Decided Right Now
Sean McElwee of Data for Progress: “The Democratic Party remains too white, male, old and centrist at the federal level, but there are rumblings underneath the surface. Across the country, centrist Democrats down ballot can’t rely on the big money influence of corporate donors, and they’re getting wiped out. It’s only a matter of time before the same forces hit the national scene.”

States/Other

Hartford Courant: The Ins And Outs Of Public Campaign Financing In Connecticut
wow: “The head of the agency in charge of Connecticut’s clean-elections program predicted that a record 300 candidates — from the governor’s race on down to legislative contests — could participate this year.”

Associated Press: 9 Massachusetts candidates agree to limit campaign spending
“Nine Massachusetts candidates running for statewide office are participating in the state’s public financing program.”

WWLP: Lawmakers looking at bill that would tighten state campaigning funds
In Massachusetts: “A committee is looking at legislation meant to tighten state campaign finance laws. The bill is called ‘An Act Enhancing Transparency in Campaign Finance.’ It’s an effort to close loopholes. The bill’s sponsor wants state political parties to only use state funds to support candidates.”

Arizona Capitol Times: Group gives update on push to put dark money question on ballot
A bipartisan effort in Arizona to ban dark money: “Republican Vernon Parker said Wednesday he supports an initiative to outlaw ‘dark money’ in political campaigns because he knows what it’s like to be the victim of it.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director

Every Voice and Every Voice Center have recently come under new leadership. We will be expanding and diversifying our efforts to promote a democracy that works for all of us and responds to the voices of everyday people. Watch this space for specifics later in 2019.