December 18, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 18, 2020
Attorney General William Barr to Step Down
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 12/14/2020
Attorney General William Barr is leaving his position, a decision that follows months of complaints from President Trump about the administration’s top lawyer. The cordial tone of Trump’s tweet announcing Barr’s exit was in marked contrast to the president’s public scolding of the attorney general in recent weeks. In Trump’s telling, Barr had failed to make public a financial crimes investigation into Joe Biden’s son that was ongoing before the election and failed to muster the Justice Department in support of Trump’s legal campaign to upend the election results. Barr’s letter confirming his departure opened with an allusion to Trump’s insistent but baseless claims the election was stolen. The letter did not repeat or disavow Barr’s statement that he had seen no indication of “widespread” fraud.
Biden’s Inaugural Will Be Mostly Virtual, but Money from Donors Will Be Real
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 12/16/2020
President-elect Joe Biden’s allies have begun an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars from corporations and individuals by offering special “V.I.P. participation” in reimagined inaugural festivities that will be largely virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. The contrast between the constraints of putting on inaugural festivities during a public health crisis and fundraising as usual underscores how donations to an inaugural are not just about getting good seats for the swearing-in or tickets to black-tie balls. They are also a way for corporations and well-heeled individuals to curry favor with a new administration, a reality that prompted liberal groups to ask Biden’s inaugural committee to forgo corporate donations.
Electoral College Affirms Biden’s Victory on a Relatively Calm Day of a Chaotic Election
MSN – Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden, and Omar Sofradzija (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
President-elect Joe Biden achieved formal victory over President Trump, winning his 306 votes in the electoral college and advancing one more step toward inauguration even as die-hard Trump supporters redoubled their efforts to stop the normal transfer of power. Electors gathered in every state and the District of Columbia for a day-long series of votes that delivered no surprises for either Trump or Biden. The proceedings harked back to more typical presidential elections and stood in contrast with the unprecedented, though fruitless, six weeks of legal and procedural chaos triggered by Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.
EPA Can’t Claw Back Names of ‘Happy Hour’ Oil Lobbyists
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 12/9/2020
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot claw back documents it disclosed by mistake revealing the names of oil lobbyists who planned a “happy hour” outing with EPA officials, a federal judge ruled. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero found the EPA failed to show unveiling names and email addresses of lobbyists posed the kind of privacy or safety risk that would justify ordering the documents be returned. The EPA argued that disclosing those details could make the lobbyists targets of harassment by the media or “individual actors.” Spero found no evidence that unmasking other lobbyists’ names in Freedom of Information Act-requested documents led to the kind of harassment the EPA feared.
Forced to Take Networking Virtual by Pandemic, K Street May Never Go Back
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 12/10/2020
K Street lobbyists have embraced the virtual world for networking events, policy panels, and client conferences, in many cases nabbing big-name speakers, including members of Congress, government officials, and business executives. Though Zoom interactions may never fully replace in-person hobnobbing, most lobbyists expect virtual sessions to endure long after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Such events are free but ingratiate lobbyists with clients, potential clients, and Washington’s policymakers on whom they may rely for future decisions amid the political tumult of a new Congress and a new administration.
Judges May Reinstate Foreign Agent Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/12/2020
A federal appeals court panel is signaling it may reinstate criminal charges against a business partner of Michael Flynn over a consulting project Flynn’s firm did for Turkish interests, despite Flynn’s receipt of a pardon from President Trump that absolves the former national security adviser of criminal liability in the matter. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the government’s bid to revive a pair of guilty verdicts a federal court jury returned last year against Bijan Rafiekian, co-founder of Flynn’s short-lived firm, Flynn Intel Group.
Legislatures Across Country Plan Sweeping Election Reform Push
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 12/10/2020
State Legislatures across the country are contemplating sweeping changes to the way elections are administered after a tumultuous presidential contest, one that ended with both the highest voter turnout in American history and the outgoing president baselessly calling its integrity into question. In its wake, election rules have become the hottest topic for Legislatures, especially in presidential battleground states. In some states, lawmakers plan to make permanent access to absentee and mail-in voting that were temporarily expanded by the coronavirus pandemic, while others are looking to enact new restrictions on how people can vote.
Potential Family Conflicts Arise for Joe Biden and Aides as His Administration Drafts New Ethics Rules
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2020
Joe Biden is preparing to step back into the Oval Office with different expectations from his time as vice present about how to handle the relationship between his official power and his family’s private interests. After President Trump”s years of mixing family with governing and an election that highlighted the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter, the president-elect has promised to keep his family from being hired into his administration, and to prohibit family entanglements with “any foreign operation.” Lawyers for the presidential transition are drafting new rules for the Biden White House that are likely to be more restrictive than the rules that governed the Obama administration. Biden has made clear he wants a clean break from Trump, who employed his family and spent public funds at family businesses.
Sen. David Perdue Sold His Home to a Finance Industry Official Whose Organization Was Lobbying the Senate
ProPublica – Robert Faterechi | Published: 12/10/2020
U.S. Sen. Dave Perdue sold his Washington, D.C., home last year to a brokerage industry official whose organization is under the purview of a committee Perdue sits on. The deal was made off market, without the home being listed for sale publicly. Though an appraisal by the buyer found Perdue sold for slightly under market value, four local real estate experts disagreed, saying the almost $1.8 million sale price Perdue garnered seemed high. A fifth expert said the price was squarely fair market value. Ultimately, congressional ethics experts said, their concern was Perdue sold privately and to someone whose organization that he oversaw as a senator.
Trump and His GOP Allies Vow to ‘Fight On’ after Supreme Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Overturn Election Results
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2020
President Trump amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and Republican governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the U.S. Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote. Many of Trump’s GOP allies in Congress were not swayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia – and toss out Biden’s win.
U.S. SEC Relaxes Rules on Company ‘Resource Extraction’ Disclosures
Reuters – Katanga Johnson | Published: 12/16/2020
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed requirements on oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments, completing a rule created by Congress. The agency voting to adopt industry-friendly changes to its “resources extraction” disclosure rule follows a 10-year industry fight to water down the measure, mandated by the 2010 Dodd Frank law passed to battle corporate corruption. It was the third version of the rule. SEC member Allison Lee said the rule does not demand the “detail” that would enable regulators to spot potential corruption. It also applies to fewer companies and raises the value threshold for disclosure, among other weaknesses, Lee said.
VA Watchdog Told Prosecutors His Probe of Secretary Wilkie’s Effort to Discredit House Staffer Turned Up Possible Criminal Conduct
MSN – Lisa Rein ansd Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
Confronted with a sexual assault allegation at a veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie repeatedly sought to discredit the congressional aide who made the complaint and his staff worked to spread negative information about her while ignoring known problems of harassment at the facility, according to a report. The VA’s internal watchdog paints a portrait of a department led by senior officials who were indifferent, if not hostile, to the issues at the department’s flagship medical center in the nation’s capital. It found Wilkie acted unprofessionally if not unethically, in the case of the Navy veteran who is a policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, chairperson of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Gavin Newsom Bans His Paid Consultants from Lobbying in New ‘Ethics Memo’
MSN – Linda Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 12/11/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is barring any paid campaign or political consultant from directly communicating on behalf of a client with the governor, members of his staff, or the agencies under his control for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action. He is barring any registered lobbyists from serving as paid campaign or political consultants. Newsom also directed his legal affairs secretary to appoint a chief ethics advisor to advise him and his team on all ethics matters. It is unclear whether the new ban applies to lobbyists who advise the governor but are not currently on his payroll.
California – With ‘a Lot to Lose,’ Dialysis Firms Spend Big, Become California Power Players
Yahoo News – Samantha Young (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 12/9/2020
The nation’s dialysis industry has poured $233 million into California campaigns over the past four years, establishing its leading companies as a formidable political force eager to protect their bottom line and influence state policy. Most of the money the industry spent funded the defeat of two union-backed ballot measures that would have regulated dialysis clinics and cut into their profits. But the companies and their trade association also stepped up their offense, dedicating about $16.4 million to lobbying and political contributions during the same period, an analysis shows.
Florida – DeSantis Wants ‘Normal’ Government Meetings. This Village Is Meeting at a Dog Park
Yahoo News – Aaron Leibowitz (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/9/2020
As temperatures dipped into the low 50s, a frigid night by Florida standards, officials in North Bay Village gathered under a small open tent on a waterfront grassy knoll behind a local dog park for a meeting. A handful of residents stood or sat on lawn chairs outside the tent, gravitating toward heat lamps for warmth. The strange scene reflected one local effort to protect against the spread of COVID-19, at a time when the tools to do so in Florida are limited. North Bay Village has now held two meetings next to the dog park to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ demand that local governments return to in-person meetings.
Florida – Ethics Board Lobbying Ordinances Taking Shape Aim to Close Loopholes at Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/16/2020
Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board is continuing its work to develop additions to the city’s lobbying ordinances, floating three proposals that would strengthen its oversight over those trying to influence government. For the new measures, the board is looking to expand its purview to include oversight over lobbying, clearly defining who is a lobbyist and who would be subject to registering with the city, and requiring detailed logs of all lobbyist contacts with government officials. The proposed definition would include all who seek to influence any decision or recommendation “that foreseeably will be heard or reviewed by the City Commission or decision-making body.”
Florida – GOP Lawyer Appointed by Florida Governor Resigns State Panel in Protest Over Raid on Ousted Data Scientist’s Home
MSN – Teo Armus and Marisa Iati (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2020
A Republican lawyer resigned from a Florida judicial panel to object to police raiding the home of a data scientist who has alleged the state health department ousted her for resisting unethical pandemic-related requests. Ron Filipkowski, who served on a nominating commission for the state’s 12th Circuit, wrote in a resignation letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s general counsel that he considered the search warrant executed on Rebekah Jones’s home “unconscionable.” He also said it was indicative of the state’s “reckless and irresponsible” handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida – Mar-a-Lago Neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 12/16/2020
Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach he has called his Winter White House, do not want Trump as a resident when he leaves the presidency. They assert Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president. For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town.
Florida – Secret Donor Name in Florida Senate Races Wiped from Records, Replaced
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 12/14/2020
The name of the mystery donor behind a $550,000 effort that helped promote no-party candidates in three key Florida Senate races, including one that is under investigation, was changed in campaign finance reports. While making changes to fix errors in campaign finance reports is common, election attorneys say it is unusual to see political committees change the name of their sole donor two months after the fact. If it is determined the committees intentionally changed the name to conceal the donor, or to make the contribution in the name of another, fines or criminal penalties could be involved, said Natalie Kato, an elections and campaign finance attorney.
Georgia – Georgia Runoffs Become High-Stakes GOP Fundraising Experiment
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 12/14/2020
Top Republicans are using the expensive U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia to sell their party on a deeper investment in digital fundraising, pointing to the surge in donations for the contests as an example of what GOP candidates could reap in 2022 and beyond, if they put the right infrastructure in place early. The effort is introducing some senators to online fundraising tactics that have been popular among Democrats for years but are not nearly as prevalent among Republicans. Thirty-one Republicans, including 17 who are up for reelection in 2022, are tapping into their donor lists in “tandem” email efforts benefiting themselves and the Georgia candidates, raising nearly $10 million online.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Ald. Brookins $5,000 For Violating Ethics Ordinance
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Chicago Board of Ethics voted to fine Ald. Howard Brookins $5,000 for violating a city ordinance by defending clients, including former Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, in criminal cases involving the Chicago Police Department. The fine levied by the board is the maximum allowed. The Ethics Board ruled in September 2019 that aldermen face “diverging interests” when they represent a client charged with a crime based on evidence developed by Chicago police officers.
Illinois – Illinois House Panel Ends Probe of Powerful Speaker Madigan
Associated Press News – John O’Connor | Published: 12/15/2020
An Illinois House committee ended its consideration of a breach of trust claim against Speaker Michael Madigan, voting down further proceedings that could have led to discipline against the powerful Democrat. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin last summer filed documents seeking a charge of conduct unbecoming a legislator against Madigan after federal prosecutors implicated the longtime leader in a bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison. Madigan has been speaker for all but two of the past 37 years and is the longest-serving leader of any legislative body in American history.
Kansas – Supreme Court Won’t Revive Kansas Voter Registration ID Law
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 12/14/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. A federal appeals court had declared the law unconstitutional. Kansas had been the only state to require people to show a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport when applying to register to vote. The issue is distinct from state laws that call for people to produce driver licenses or other photo IDs to cast a vote in person. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was a leading source for Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.
Kentucky – Executive Gets One Year in State Prison for Campaign Case Linked to Lexington Council
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 12/14/2020
A former real estate executive was sentenced to a year in state prison after pleading guilty to 16 counts of campaign finance violations related to the May 2018 Lexington council primary. Timothy Wellman, a former CRM Companies executive, pleaded guilty in October. Federal prosecutors say Wellman circumvented Kentucky campaign finance limits prohibiting individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by using more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. During the federal trial, Wellman was accused of asking those straw contributors to lie to the FBI or a federal grand jury about those campaign donations.
Maine – A Maine Legislature Changed by the Pandemic Could Challenge Lobbyists in 2021
Bangor Daily News – Caitlin Andrews | Published: 12/10/2020
Lobbyists in Maine always try to get to know lawmakers when a new legislative session starts, but the coronavirus pandemic may alter how relationships are built and negotiations handled as the 2021 session set to begin in earnest this January looks like it will take place more on Zoom and less in the statehouse. Details are still being worked out, but the Augusta Civic Center is likely to serve as the main site of business. The statehouse has been closed to anyone who is not a lawmaker, staffer, delivery or contract worker, or reporter since the pandemic hit. Lawmakers approved an order allowing committees to cast votes and the public to participate in meetings electronically, giving them more flexibility.
Michigan – Michigan AG Reviewing Whether Lawmakers Can Lobby Out of State
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 12/9/2020
The Michigan attorney general’s office is reviewing whether legislators serving in the state can legally be registered lobbyists outside its borders. It was reported in November that Rep. Rebekah Warren had been hired by the interest group National Popular Vote and filed a lobbying disclosure on behalf of the organization in Pennsylvania. She is also registered to lobby in North Carolina. State law bans lawmakers and other state officials from accepting pay for “personally engaging in lobbying.” But it is unclear whether that prohibition refers specifically to only lobbying in Michigan, which is what the rest of the law is focused on.
New Mexico – Ethics Panel Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Group’s Donors
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 12/11/2020
The New Mexico Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a group that spent more than $130,000 on political advertisements in Democratic legislative primary election races to disclose its donors. The lawsuit, the first of its kind filed by the commission since its creation this year, could be a test case for a law amended in 2019 that requires more “dark money” disclosure for election-related expenditures. The Council for a Competitive New Mexico has argued its donors do not have to be disclosed since their donations do not meet the state’s definition of a contribution.
New York – First Ruling Goes Against Ranked-Choice Voting Opponents
City and State – Rebecca Lewis | Published: 12/16/2020
A lawsuit to delay ranked-choice voting in New York City hit its first roadblock: the state judge in the case has denied a request for a temporary restraining order. The ruling could be a death knell for the lawsuit, which would result in ranked-choice voting proceeding unimpeded next year, even as the plaintiffs continue to fight. Judge Carol Edmead denied a request from a half-dozen city council members and several community groups seeking a temporary restraining order to stop ranked-choice voting from being used in the upcoming special election to replace former council Member Rory Lancman. Scheduled for February 2, it would be the first election in the city to use the new system approved by voters in 2019.
New York – Judge Orders Trump Organization to Give More Records to N.Y. Attorney General
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 12/15/2020
A state judge dealt a loss to the Trump Organization, ordering the president’s company to turn over records related to a controversial property that is the subject of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general’s office. The documents and communications at issue could help investigators answer questions about a conservation easement that was granted several years ago at the Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester Country, a move that netted President Trump’s company a $21 million tax deduction. The materials, which Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield, include messages exchanged between an engineer and a land-use lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf.
New York – Many New York Judges Spend Their Way Toward Seats on the Bench. And It’s Perfectly Legal
The City – Sam Mellins (New York Focus) | Published: 12/10/2020
Of the 24 judges elected to the New York Supreme Court this year, 20 have donated to the county party organizations that nominated them or to the politicians who lead those organizations. The contributions reflect a political climate in which party leaders, far more than voters, determine who obtains Supreme Court seats, a nominally elected position. By the time voters select Supreme Court judges in November, the real decisions have usually already been made the previous summer, when county Democratic Party organizations select the nominees.
New York – ‘Simply No Truth to These Claims’: Gov. Cuomo’s office denies former aide’s sexual harassment allegation
USA Today – Matthew Brown | Published: 12/13/2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former development aide who is now running for office in New York City. Lindsey Boylan wrote on Twitter that Cuomo “sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” Boylan is currently running to be Manhattan borough president. Personnel memos written in 2018 indicate Boylan resigned from Cuomo’s administration after she was confronted about complaints about her own office behavior.
Ohio – Councilwoman Sundermann Proposes Charter Amendment, Says ‘We Must Rebuild Trust in Our City Government.’
MSN – Sharon Coolidge (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 12/15/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Betsy Sundermann put forward a charter amendment that would allow the city to suspend a council member if that person is indicted and to remove them if convicted. The current charter does not address what should happen in the event a council member gets in trouble, as happened this year with the arrest of three members on federal bribery charges. It was Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost who sought and won temporary suspensions of Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld. Both accepted suspensions and are fighting charges brought against them.
Ohio – Governor Was Warned of Would-Be Regulator’s Ties to Utility
Associated Press News – Mark Gillespie and Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 12/9/2020
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine disregarded cries of alarm in 2019 from consumer and environmental advocates, concerns echoed in a previously undisclosed last-minute plea from GOP insiders, when he was selecting the state’s top utility regulator, a man now under scrutiny as a wide-ranging bribery and corruption investigation roils the state. Nearly two years later, the Republican governor continues to defend his choice of Samuel Randazzo as the powerful chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and many of those early critics insist it was a mistake to dismiss their concerns.
Rhode Island – R.I. Political Operative Jeff Britt Cleared of Charges in Money Laundering Trial
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick and Dan McGowan (Boston Globe) | Published: 12/16/2020
Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini found Jeffrey Britt not guilty of money laundering or violating campaign finance laws. The decision capped off the high-profile trial tied to outgoing Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign, which he won by 85 votes over Steve Frias. Britt worked for Mattiello as a political adviser. Britt was accused of illegally paying for a pro-Mattiello campaign mailer from Frias’s one-time Republican opponent Shawna Lawton by funneling money through two other people. Procaccini called Rhode Island’s money laundering law “constitutionally deficient,” and questioned the credibility of the witnesses who testified against Britt.
Tennessee – Knox County Won’t Kill Ethics Committee, But Could Change Its Rules to Prevent Smears
Knoxville News Sentinel – Tyler Whetstone | Published: 12/14/2020
The Knox County Ethics Committee will not be eliminated, though some of its bylaws could be changed. A group of commissioners had discussed the possibility of doing away with the ethics committee. Any chance of that happening, however, was dismissed during a meeting of the newly formed committee on committees, which was created to determine whether the county commission needs each of its committees. Instead, the committee asked the ethics panel, which is made up of appointed volunteers and a single commissioner, to discuss whether to require statute of limitations of 90 to 180 days on infractions, and whether to shield people running for office from complaints during the election.
Texas – Limited Capacity at Texas Capitol During 2021 Session Raises Transparency Concerns
KTAB – Maggie Glynn | Published: 12/15/2020
Texas still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming legislative session will operate during the pandemic. But the House of Representatives has outlined a framework for the opening ceremony, offering the first glimpse of how lawmakers will balance transparency with COVID-19 precautions. The House Administrative Committee’s plan will limit media and some guests to the galley, which sparked some concern about transparency if that process should continue through the session.
Washington – On the Legal Hot Seat, Tim Eyman Admits He Fibbed to Donors
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 12/17/2020
Washington’s ubiquitous initiative promoter Tim Eyman got his chance to tell his version of events that are threatening his political career. Then, the state’s attorney set about taking apart his story and elicited a confession from Eyman that he does not always tell the truth when asking supporters for money. Eyman stands accused of using his initiative campaigns to enrich himself and violating state campaign finance laws. The civil trial stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleging Eyman failed to report shifting money donated for Initiative 1185, a tax-limiting measure, into the campaign for Initiative 517, which sought to modify the initiative and referendum process. Eyman served as an officer of committees for both initiatives.
Washington – Seattle City Council Votes to Require Registration, Disclosure by Public Lobbying Groups
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/14/2020
The Seattle City Council voted to require certain groups that spend money to build public pressure on politicians to register and disclose their finances. Recommended by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the new rules approved would apply to groups that spend at least $750 in a month (or $1,500 in three months) on “presenting a program to the public” to affect legislation. The individuals behind a group would need to identify themselves and their contractors, and the group would be required to identify its donors (for contributions of $25 or more). The organization also would be required to describe its purpose and would need to record its spending in monthly reports.
Washington DC – In First D.C. Election with Public Financing, Candidates and Donors Bumped Up Against Rules
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 12/15/2020
In the first year of public campaign financing in the District of Columbia, Washingtonians made enough small-dollar donations to generate $3.4?million in taxpayer funding, fueling campaigns for several well-known politicians and many newcomers. The candidates, in turn, spent that money on everything from takeout food to branded masks and more. To participate in the Fair Elections Program, candidates had to follow more-stringent rules on donations and expenditures than their competitors who opted out of public financing. One requirement is candidates not pay themselves or any family members, except for reimbursing themselves for out-of-pocket campaign expenditures.
Wisconsin – Path from Legislature to Lobbyist Well Traveled
Beloit Daily News – Steven Walters (WisconsinEye) | Published: 12/15/2020
Of the 708 registered lobbyists in Wisconsin, about 100 are former state legislators or Capitol aides. Why does the Legislature-to-lobbying door swing so often? Lawmakers, especially those who had leadership positions, sell the personal relationships they built up in the Capitol to prospective clients or statewide trade and industry organizations. Legislators, now paid $52,000 a year, can make many times that as lobbyists or corporate executives.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Tosses Trump Election Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 12/14/2020
A narrowly divided Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his election loss in the battleground state about an hour before the Electoral College cast Wisconsin’s 10 votes for Joe Biden. In the ruling, the court’s three liberal justices were joined by conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn who said three of Trump’s four claims were filed too late and the other was without merit. The ruling ends Trump’s legal challenges in state court. The president sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. Those were the only counties where Trump sought a recount, even though he lost statewide by about 21,000 votes.
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