Gov. Nikki Haley has been cleared for the second time of possible ethics violations by a House Ethics Committee that was loaded with Republicans. Haley’s exoneration by her former House members on two occasions creates a strong case for moving on from these charges.
The Legislature’s focus going forward should be on closing loopholes in the state ethics law and bringing greater transparency to the important issue of how state lawmakers earn money.
Read the rest of the story at the Greenville Times.
On June 25 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its controversial Citizens United decision would apply to state campaign finance laws. In a 5-4 finding, the court affirmed the rights of corporations to finance political activity in the states, rejecting a December 2011 judgment from the Montana Supreme Court, which had invoked a 1912 law that banned corporate expenditures state politics.
By the time the case reached the highest court, 22 states had signed on to challenge Citizens United. The Supreme Court's decision paves the way for an increased role for corporations in state campaigns, with new SuperPACs allowing companies to spend -- and spend, and spend -- to either support or attack candidates for state elected office.
But even before the court's decision, the State Integrity Investigation had uncovered institutional and functional flaws in political financing laws across the country, giving free reign to corporations and political action committes to wield undue influence in election campaigns.
The Missouri Legislature's failure to replace an ethics reform law tossed out by the state Supreme Court earlier this year has left some wondering whether there will be a spike in questionable gifts and donations to elected officials as the campaign season heats up.
A month after the court threw out Missouri's ethics law, the state received a C rating on a project dubbed the "State Integrity Investigation."
Read the rest of the story at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Aggressive fund-raising by lame-duck officeholders is controversial because a major donor motive -- helping an officeholder get re-elected -- no longer exists. "It really makes it a more direct connection between money and policy," said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a Lansing-based watchdog group.
It's not surprising that Michigan's two top lame-duck fund-raisers are the appropriations committee chairmen in the Senate and House, he said.
Read the rest of the story at the Detroit Free Press.
A website debuting today will make it easier for the public to see some of the economic incentives the state has given to companies doing business here.
But the move is only a first step toward full transparency regarding the jobs actually created by those firms at a time when economic pressures are making elected officials especially willing to use incentives and subsidies, according to an accountability group that advised state officials as they developed the site.
Read the rest of the story at the Tennesseean.
Government entities can't charge the public for time spent deleting confidential information from records, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The decision marks a major victory for open government advocates and the media amid an intense debate over whether taxpayers or requesters should foot the bill for redaction costs, which can sometimes stretch into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Read the rest of the story at the LaCrosse Tribune.
On Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater unveiled a new web site that details most of the state's contracts so the public can determine if they are being held accountable for the services they are offering. The goal, he said, is to put the heat on the flawed contracting system by turning the public into watchdogs and inviting more competitors to the table.
The hope is "this improves accountability because there's no place to hide," Atwater said at a news conference in Tallahassee.
Read the rest of the story at the Tampa Bay Times.
Gov. Scott Walker survived his recall election. The same cannot be said for the integrity of campaign finance laws in Wisconsin.
Incumbents targeted for recall are freed from Wisconsin's normal fundraising limits, and can collect unlimited contributions from individual donors. With the election between Walker and his Democratic opponent, former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, seen as a battleground for national partisan politics, money poured in on both sides. But Walker exploited the seemingly infinite loophole to tremendous advantage: By election day, Walker's campaign had received more than $30 million in donations, a total that approached the $37.5 million spent by both sides during the 2010 election, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Wisconsin received a grade of 'C-' from the State Integrity Investigation for its political financing laws and practices, with reporter Kate Golden finding proper measures on limits, enforcement, and transparency, while also documenting numerous exemptions and back-channels, including the recall election loophole. But in other states, the potentially polluting influence of unlimited, and sometimes unsupervised campaign financing is constant and permanent, borne out of state laws and practices -- or their absence.
It’s still more than four months to the general election, but not too soon for all the state government candidates to get specific about where they stand on open access to public records.
By an overwhelming majority in 1972 – a 72 percent yes vote – Washington state voters approved an initiative that created the state Public Records Act.
Read the rest of the story at The Olympian.
Frustrated with Albany’s tepid reaction to the idea of publicly financed elections, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and his fiancé are financing a new campaign to press the issue in coordination with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The group has also enlisted two former Cuomo aides to help plot its strategy. The campaign, Protect Our Democracy, will include a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and a political action committee.
Read the rest of of the story at the New York Times.