Posts Tagged ‘state government affairs’

The State AG Formula for Success

March 6, 2014

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

As my colleagues noted last week in their blog, the National Governors Association met in DC and it was more partisan than usual, especially at a press briefing at the White House after a meeting with the President. But as the Governors were wrapping up their meeting, the states’ Attorneys General were arriving for their own Winter meeting. Although, several of the arriving Attorneys General were hoping their official travel schedules will move them up a few days next year.

Five Attorneys General are running for Governor this year, and at least three others are running when their Governor’s Office comes up in 2015 or 2016. This reinforces the old joke that NAAG actually stands for National Association of Aspiring Governors. With six sitting Governors previously having served as their state’s Attorney General, there is good reason to look to the Attorneys General for possible future candidates.

This year’s sitting Attorneys General that are also candidates in Governors races include Doug Gansler (D-Maryland), Martha Coakley (D-Massachusetts), Jon Bruning (R-Nebraska), Gary King (D-New Mexico) and Greg Abbott (R-Texas). While being AG may provide an opportunity to run for Governor, it doesn’t clear the field. General Abbott faced only token opposition, but the rest of his AG colleagues are facing competitive primaries. And it may be for that reason that Jack Conway (D-Kentucky) has all but announced his run in 2015, and Roy Cooper (D-North Carolina) and Chris Koster (D-Missouri) have made it pretty clear they will be running for their state’s highest office in 2016.

Even with eight Attorneys General running for Governor, and most of their colleagues gearing up for re-election, the role of the Attorney General forces them to work together much more often than Governors. Issues such as monitoring the tobacco settlement, prosecuting Medicaid fraud and combating human trafficking keep the AGs and their offices in close touch. Even as they can disagree on some very big issues such as the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, they continue to work together on plenty of other issues.

The closeness of these relationships leads to moments that we see too infrequently with most other elected officials. The night before the NAAG meeting officially began both the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General Association held separate dinners. But later that night back at the hotel, Attorneys General and their staffs could be seen sitting at the same tables as their colleagues from the other party having the same sorts of casual conversations we all have with our friends at the end of the evening. Even the group of 2014 gubernatorial candidates was represented.

With hyper-partisanship continuing to rule Washington, D.C., the Attorneys General can serve as an example for other elected officials. Whether the office interactions make the social interactions easier or the social interaction makes working together professionally more tolerable, it is possible to disagree strongly on policy issues without it being personal.

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Steve Arthur is Vice President and brings more than 20 years of public policy experience in both the public and private sector to his work at Stateside Associates. Mr. Arthur provides clients with hands on state government relations support from strategic planning and issue management to lobbyist management and direct lobbying. He is one of the leaders of Stateside’s Attorneys General practice, guiding clients through the process of working with, and lobbying, state Attorneys General.

Partisan Debate Roils NGA Winter Meeting

February 27, 2014

By Mark Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President and Patrick Stone, Manager State Issues and Information

Dueling partisan messages became a surprising theme at the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, held February 21-24 in Washington D.C. Governors traditionally use the politically-neutral NGA events to produce press opportunities and swap governance tips with their counterparts from around the nation. The partisan tack become noticeable shortly after NGA Chair, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R), unveiled her initiative, America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.  Republicans seized on the subject matter opportunity to steer the discussion toward traditional GOP concerns about the economic effects of over-regulation. Federal government “meddling” in issues like healthcare, transportation, and education was a popular Republican refrain.

The Economic Development and Commerce Committee’s meeting was lively, but still featured a productive dialogue between committee members and invited guests including former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Peters, former Under Secretary of Policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation Roy Kienitz and Jim Tymon, Director of Program Finance and Management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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The panel disputed a number of issues, but members agreed that Congress would likely extend MAP-21 funding, a major federal transportation initiative, only beyond the mid-term elections. Panel members encouraged Governors to push Congress for a long term transportation funding plan to ease state uncertainties about investing in infrastructure. Mr. Kienitz suggested that a standalone transportation bill with a funding mechanism is not likely to pass, but that a larger bill with tax reform and funding might make it to President Obama’s desk.

Governors discussed innovation in early childhood education at the Education and Workforce Committee meeting. The speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery and Alabama Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Affairs Jeana Ross. The two educators gave presentations on two different approaches, arguably driven by ideology, to early childhood education. Partisan tensions heightened the education dialogue when Vice Chair Nevada Governor Sandoval (R) and Secretary Duncan sparred over the administration’s method of distributing early education funding.

Partisan divides and even the occasional heated argument are not unusual at NGA meetings. The subtle jabs at the Administration and boasting about individual state accomplishments, however, took on an unusually confrontational flavor when likely Presidential contender, Louisiana Governor Jindal (R) took the microphone outside the West Wing. Governor Jindal criticized President Obama’s stance on the minimum wage issue during a press conference immediately following a bi-partisan meeting between the Governors and the President. Connecticut Governor Malloy (D) quickly criticized Governor Jindal’s opportunistic use of the situation stating, “Here’s a guy [Jindal] who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone, ten feet from the West Wing.”

The NGA, as always, is tackling substantive issues critical to the success of state governments. That overarching political pressures brought out the partisanship at its Winter Meeting this year is good reminder that the organization is, at times, beholden to the politics – and ambitions – of its membership.

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Mark Anderson is Senior Vice President working at Stateside Associates managing the Regulatory Services Division. He advises clients on engagement strategy and directs educational and “grasstops” campaigns directed at governors and regulatory officials. Mr. Anderson also has created issue advocacy coalitions and facilitates work group meetings of state and federal stakeholders addressing environmental issues.

Patrick Stone is Manager of Issues and Information at Stateside Associates managing the Legislative Information Division. He began his career as a legislative aide in the Maryland State Senate and has worked on state and local political campaigns before joining the firm.

No Good Gift Goes Unreported: 130 New Campaign Finance Laws Since 2012

February 11, 2014

By Sarah E. Hunt, Esq., Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer

Thirty-nine (39) states have enacted 130 new campaign finance laws since the completion of the 2012 election cycle. If you have not yet done so for the current cycle, please review your political giving program with your legal counsel to ensure it remains compliant.

The campaign finance law changes of most import to political donors are modifications to contribution limits. Nine (9) states, Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Wyoming, adjusted contribution limits in 2013. These cap increases are all substantial, often more than double the previous limits. In some cases, the legislature removed the caps altogether.

Note that a contribution cap increase does not imply that a state is now taking a more relaxed approach to campaign finance regulation. Oftentimes these increases came hand-in-hand with expanded disclosure requirements or new limitations on corporate donations.  States more frequently increased contribution caps for donations to political and party committees than for individual candidate committees. When planning your giving in states that have just increased their contribution cap limits, carefully consider whether or not you are better served donating to leadership committees versus individual candidates.

Arizona’s legislature passed the most controversial contribution limit increase when it raised its limit to $2500. The previous limit was set by the people at the ballot box. Campaign finance reform advocates challenged the legal authority of the legislature to change the cap. The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately upheld the contribution cap increase, opening the door for more legislative changes to Arizona’s campaign finance law.

The judiciary was involved in Nebraska’s campaign finance law changes as well. The Nebraska Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the state’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act. The unicameral legislature responded by lowering from $250 to $100 the threshold for the required reporting of corporate campaign contributions. This change applies even to corporate contributors who make small in-kind donations of goods or services. If, for example, a local coffee house provides coffee and pastries for a candidate meet-and-greet in Nebraska, the value of the donated refreshments is now much more likely to exceed the reporting threshold.

Corporate contributions also continue to be a popular state legislative topic. Arkansas enacted H.J.R. 1009 (2013), which will ban corporate contributions to candidates if it is passed by the people at the ballot box in November 2014. Alabama went the opposite direction, and repealed its $500 limit on corporate contributions to candidates. Maryland and Maine redefined “business entity” for contribution limit purposes, and will now count as one entity multiple business entities that are controlled or owned by the same member or members.

The landmark United States Supreme Court case Citizens United continues to spark state level campaign finance legislation. Connecticut, North Dakota and South Dakota, citing Citizens United as a motivator, all enacted significant changes requiring more disclosures by political action committees or corporate donors. Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia passed resolutions expressing their philosophical opposition to the Citizens United ruling.

Almost all of the 39 states that recently amended their campaign finance laws made updates to disclosure requirements and penalty policies. Washington and Connecticut have engaged in rulemakings or passed legislation that explicitly regulate internet advocacy and on-line electioneering. States are also commissioning campaign finance working groups, so more legislative proposals are likely.

Active donors who play in multiple states must be vigilant in the oft-changing world of state campaign finance law. If you have questions or thoughts about creating an effective, compliant, multiple-state giving program, I would be happy to hear from you at seh@stateside.com.

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Sarah E. Hunt, Esq. is Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer at Stateside Associates. She works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues. Sarah also helps Stateside and its clients navigate lobbying ethics, comply with campaign finance laws, and develop political giving strategies. She practiced campaign finance, election law, and non-profit management with a boutique political law firm for several years before her work at Stateside Associates.


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