Texas redistricting negotiations "dead for now"

Corruption news for Texas, from the Austin American-Statesman:

A panel of three federal judges in San Antonio asked Friday that lawyers for the nine plaintiff groups, which are made up mostly of minority groups, get together with lawyers for the State of Texas to see if they could agree on a new set of maps for the U.S. House, the Texas House and the state Senate. But it didn't take long for the negotiations to fall apart, as hopes for an April primary grow more remote, said Luis Vera, the lawyer for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"Negotiations went really, really bad yesterday," he said Monday. "They are dead for now."

Read the rest of the story at the Austin American-Statesman.

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West Virginia public pension loopholes allow "double-dipping"

Corruption news for West Virginia, from the Charleston Gazette:

State law prohibits retirees from earning more than $15,000 a year in post-retirement employment with the state, but a legislative audit released earlier this month found that retired state Personnel Director Joe Smith had used a loophole to collect more than $750,000 in state compensation over six years.

"Mr. Smith had all the trappings of a state employee: A parking space, keys to the governor's office," Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred said. "He actually signed off on state documents, which we believe is illegal, since he was not a state employee."

Read the rest of the story at the Charleston Gazette.

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Mississippi website lets citizens track public spending

Corruption news for Mississippi, from the Clarion Ledger:

A user-friendly Internet website that reveals how county and state agency tax dollars are spent is getting kudos from the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information.The site, www.seethespending.org, a creation of the Jackson-based Mississippi Center for Public Policy, was recognized Thursday in Jackson during a "roast" of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to benefit the Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation.

The site is proving its worth to many as a transparency tool and source for comparing prices and spending, said Jason Anderson, the Jackson-based center's vice president for operations.

Read the rest of the story at the Clarion Ledger.

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Accusations, party politics cloud ethics hire in Montana

Corruption news for Montana, from the Great Falls Tribune:

Even as Republicans sought the high ground in the ongoing battle over Montana's troubled political practices office, inadvertently released emails show GOP leaders maneuvering to fill the ethics chief post with an ally. Montana Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, took the podium at the hearing to accuse Gov. Brian Schweitzer's administration of possibly erasing computer evidence that Peterson alleged could demonstrate that former commissioner Dave Gallik was doing work for his private law practice from a state computer.

The email, which Peterson said he accidentally attached to application documents, shows a Republican lawmaker discussing ways to trick the governor into unknowingly picking an applicant the GOP views as a secret conservative ally.

Read the rest of the story at the Great Falls Tribune.

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New Jersey officials used campaign funds for meals, golf, cigars

Corruption news for New Jersey, from The Star-Ledger:

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo used campaign funds to pay for hundreds of meals, dozens of golf games, a flight to Puerto Rico and even repairs to his bicycle after taking a spill in a county park.And Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), even after leaving his post as Gloucester County freeholder director, used leftover money from that campaign account for expensive meals and spent $756 of it on fancy cigars for supporters.

Good government watchdogs say there’s a reason why politicians regularly tap cash from the tills their donors fill: State and federal laws overseeing campaigns are riddled with loopholes — and enforcement is lax.

Read the rest of the story at The Star-Ledger.

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New Mexico legislators party on lobbyists' tabs

Corruption news for New Mexico, from the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Thanks to lobbyists dropping thousands of dollars on behalf of their clients, legislators and frequently their staff, spouses and other state officials get invited to a lot of parties, meals and receptions during a session in Santa Fe. Gov. Susana Martinez has called for legislation prohibiting legislators from becoming lobbyists for at least two years after leaving office. However, when asked by The New Mexican on Wednesday, she said she didn't think there should be stricter limits on what lobbyists are allowed to spend on legislators.

"You just have to make sure that a legislator isn't influenced by the fact that they might have a free meal in front of them or a glass of wine or a beer, whatever it is," Martinez said.

Read the rest of the story at the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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South Dakota house panel votes for strict campaign finance law

Corruption news for South Dakota, from the Rapid City Journal:

A measure aimed at ensuring that candidates for public office file their required campaign finance reports won support Wednesday from a South Dakota legislative panel. The State Affairs Committee voted 9-4 to endorse a bill that would prevent anyone who fails to file a campaign finance report from running for office in a later election.

The proposal would prevent people from being certified as candidates if they had failed to file any campaign finance report, amendment or correction in a previous campaign.

Read the rest of the story at the Rapid City Journal.

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California bill would open records, close revolving door on utilities agency

Corruption news for California, from the Orange County Register:

Once, Michael Peevey was president of Edison International and Southern California Edison Company.Today, he is president of the California Public Utilities Commission, where he regulates his former company. Is that a problem? State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, thinks so.

This week the senator introduced legislation that would put an end to the “revolving door” between the California Public Utilities Commission and utility companies.Yee (pictured, right) said he has also introduced legislation that would make the California Public Utilities Commission subject to the state’s Public Records Act.

Read the rest of the story at the Orange County Register.

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Arkansas legislator, citizens sue over redistricting map

Corruption news for Arkansas, from Arkansas News:

A state senator is among 24 plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed Monday alleging Arkansas’ new legislative redistricting plan dilutes black votes in the eastern Arkansas senate district he represents.The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sen. Jack Crumbly, D-Widener, and 23 other residents of District 16, said the new boundaries for the Senate district are discriminatory because they lower the percentage of voting-age blacks from 58 percent to 53 percent.

The lawsuit, assigned to U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes, seeks an injunction that would force the state to redraw the district lines.

Read the rest of the story at Arkansas News.

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Audit: Kansas bioscience agency head misspent, destroyed documents

Corruption news for Kansas, from the Wichita Eagle:

The former head of the Kansas Bioscience Authority misspent agency funds and destroyed documents on his computer that had been subpoenaed by a prosecutor investigating the agency, according to an in-depth audit of the state-funded authority. The 203-page audit questioned some of the agency’s contracting practices.

“Our analysis found 301 payments without a contract, including 102 payments that violated KBA’s Contract Policy,” the audit said. “The total contract cost involved totaled $1,219,271.81 in payments without a contract, including $571,828.20 in payments which violated Contract Policy.”

Read the rest of the story at the Wichita Eagle.

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