News You Can Use Digest – June 30, 2017

campaign finance, elections, ethics, legislative sessions, lobbying, News You Can Use
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Federal:

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Files as Foreign Agent for Ukraine Work
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 6/27/2017

Paul Manafort, who was forced out as President Trump’s campaign chairperson last summer after infighting and criticism about his business dealings with pro-Russian interests, disclosed his consulting firm had received more than $17 million over two years from a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin. The filing serves as a retroactive admission that Manafort performed work in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign power, Ukraine’s Party of Regions, without disclosing it at the time, as required by law. The disclosure hints at the vast fortunes available to top American political consultants plying their trade in other countries.

Jack Abramoff Registers as a Foreign Agent
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 6/23/2017

Jack Abramoff is a registered lobbyist again. Abramoff retroactively registered after he attempted to set up a meeting between then-President-elect Donald Trump and the president of the Republic of Congo. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people to register with the Justice Department if they do any consulting, lobbying, or public relations work for a foreign government. They must register within 10 days of agreeing to act as a foreign agent and provide updates every six months. The scandal surrounding Abramoff led to the overhaul of federal lobbying laws in 2007 and 20 convictions or guilty pleas, including from former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney.

Lawmakers Want Trump’s Tax Returns, but Won’t Release Their Own
Roll Call – Stephanie Akin | Published: 6/26/2017

Roll Call sent a request to all U.S. senators and representatives to release their tax returns. Only 37 responded, and of those, six provided the documents. Roll Call also reviewed public documents and media reports to determine lawmakers’ positions on the release of President Trump’s tax returns. At least 237 lawmakers have called on the president to produce his returns. The reluctance among members of Congress to release their own returns prevents voters from learning more about members’ personal financial decisions that could affect how they vote.

President Trump Angrily Lashes Out at ‘Morning Joe’ Hosts on Twitter
Washington Post – Jenna Johnson | Published: 6/29/2017

President Trump faced a swift and bipartisan backlash after he assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media. Trump has fumed for weeks about his coverage on “Morning Joe,” where Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have been increasingly blistering in their commentary about the Trump administration. They have openly questioned Trump’s mental state, comments that particularly upset the president, according to a senior administration official.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas – Arkansas Panel Advises Limit to Pot Lobbyists’ Pay
Arkansas Online – Brian Fanney | Published: 6/24/2017

An applicant for a license to operate a medical-marijuana facility cannot hire a lobbyist on a contingency basis, the Arkansas Ethics Commission said in an advisory opinion. Attorney Brandon Lacy represents a business that wants licenses from the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to grow or sell medical marijuana. He asked two questions: Can a lobbyist agree to be compensated with a percentage of a medical marijuana business’s revenue if it successfully gains a license? Can a lobbyist be compensated with ownership in the business regardless of whether it is licensed?

Connecticut – Ethics Commissioner Charged in Prostitute Mixup
Connecticut Post – Daniel Tepfer | Published: 6/27/2017

An ethics commissioner in Connecticut has been charged with patronizing a prostitute after he was pepper-sprayed during what police say was a mix-up with the wrong woman. Police said Noel Kayo, an ethics commissioner in Bridgeport, had arranged to meet a woman at a hotel in Stratford. Police say another woman was waiting at the hotel at the same time for payment for photographs for which she previously posed. Police say the woman got into Kayo’s car, demanding her money while he argued for his services. The woman and her boyfriend both used pepper spray on Kayo, who denies the prostitution charge, saying he was a victim of attempted robbery. He said he will not resign.

District of Columbia – ‘It’s the End of Small Talk in Washington’
Politico Magazine – Daniel Lippman and John Harris | Published: 6/30/2017

If Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House has torn at the social fabric across the country, it has interrupted the rhythms and culture of daily life nowhere as much as the city where he now lives. Like many politicians, he ran against Washington, but far more than any president in memory, that outsider rhetoric has translated into outsider governance, a disdain for the capital that seems to translate into genuine disconnection from its existing networks. For Trump’s supporters, this amounts to a promise kept, a disruption of America’s permanent governing class. But it also risks impeding his agenda by cutting him off from some of the levers that can help a new president govern, or at least navigate the unwritten rules and networks of the capital to get things done.

Florida – Using Ethics Loophole, Sen. Lauren Book Votes to Give Her Nonprofit $1.5 Million
FloridaBulldog.org – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 6/22/2017

Florida Sen. Lauren Book voted to approve a state appropriations bill that included $1.5 million for Lauren’s Kids, the nonprofit she founded and leads as its $135,000-a-year chief executive officer. A loophole in the Florida Senate’s ethics rules allowed Book to cast her vote despite her apparent conflict-of-interest. The same loophole also meant she did not have to disclose her conflict publicly. Lauren’s Kids, whose chairperson is prominent lobbyist Ron Book, the senator’s father, has in a just few years become one of the Legislature’s most favored private charities. Since 2012, Lauren’s Kids has bagged more than $10 million in taxpayer-funded grants.

Georgia – Judge Tosses Commissioner Tommy Hunter’s Legal Challenge to Ethics Punishment
Gwinnett Daily Post – Curt Yeomans | Published: 6/28/2017

The ongoing saga involving Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter and his comments on Facebook took a new turn when a judge threw out his legal challenge to the ethics board that recommended his reprimand. Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner’s ruling was a blow to the Hunter camp’s assertion that the ethics complaint filed against him by Atlanta resident Nancie Turner and, indeed, the county’s entire ethics process was unconstitutional. Hunter’s social media comments included calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” and referring to Democrats as “Demonrats” and “Libtards,” and quickly led to protests at commission meetings.

Illinois – Emanuel Hints at Ethics Law Rewrite After Lobbying Violations Found in His Emails
Chicago Tribune – Bill Ruthhart | Published: 6/28/2017

Mayor Rahm Emanuel accused the Chicago Board of Ethics of turning “average citizens” into lobbyists in its haste to bolster its image as a strong watchdog. Emanuel weighed in on the controversy after the board found that his close friend and campaign donor Jim Abrams, as well as the husband of Ald. Sophia King, were lobbying the mayor through his private emails but failed to register as lobbyists. “We cannot collapse a lobbyist and a citizen, and that’s what’s happened,” said Emanuel, who did not say whether he would seek to change the law himself. “What has happened here, in the interest of reform, we have lost our perspective.”

New Mexico – State Ethics Panel Is a Work in Progress
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 6/21/2017

New Mexico lawmakers approved the creation of an independent ethics commission during this year’s legislative session, but there is still much unsettled about how the body would function, even if it is approved by voters next year. That is because what lawmakers approved during the was essentially the framework for an ethics commission, with the assumption specific powers and procedures would be set at a later date. The approach has raised concern among some advocacy groups, who are pushing lawmakers to start talking details in interim legislative committee hearings this summer and fall.

Pennsylvania – Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Pleads Guilty in His Federal Corruption Trial
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 6/29/2017

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams pleaded guilty to a corruption charge, resigned from office, and was sent immediately to jail. Williams pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe from a businessperson in exchange for legal favors. The move came after weeks of damaging testimony against Williams at his federal trial. He was also charged with fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, misusing city vehicles, and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care. Before he was indicted, Williams was fined $62,000 by the city ethics board, its largest fine ever, for accepting improper gifts.

Vermont – Feds Looking into Jane Sanders Over Real Estate Deal
Burlington Free Press – Wilson Ring (Associated Press) | Published: 6/26/2017

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, have hired prominent defense attorneys amid an FBI investigation into a loan she obtained to expand Burlington College while she was its president. A complaint accuses Jane Sanders of distorting donor levels in a 2010 loan application for $10 million to purchase 33 acres of land for the institution. Prosecutors might also be looking into allegations that Sen. Sanders’ office inappropriately urged the bank to approve the loan.

Washington – Lawsuit Challenges Seattle Campaign-Contribution Vouchers
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Gene Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 6/28/2017

The Pacific Legal Foundation is suing Seattle over its new “democracy voucher” program for publicly funded political campaigns, which was passed by voters in 2015 and is being used for the first time in this year’s city council races. Under the program, Seattle’s voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in exchange for four $25 vouchers they can sign over to candidates. Supporters say it is a novel way to counter the effect of big money in politics and to help lesser-known candidates communicate their views. But the lawsuit says it forces people to pay taxes to support candidates they do not necessarily agree with in violation of their free-speech rights.

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.