News You Can Use Digest - December 4, 2020 - State and Federal Communications

December 4, 2020  •  

News You Can Use Digest – December 4, 2020

National/Federal

12 Votes Separated These House Candidates. Then 55 Ballots Were Found.
New York Times – Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jessie McKinley | Published: 12/2/2020

After all the votes had been counted in a heated U.S. House rematch in Central New York, only 12 votes separated Republican Claudia Tenney from U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat. But the razor-thin margin is far from the only reason the race is engulfed in chaos. There was the case of the missing Post-it notes, which had mysteriously fallen off a stack of disputed ballots, making it unclear whether they had been counted and why they had been challenged. The scandal has been christened “StickyGate” by local media. The other unresolved House race is an open seat in Iowa’s Second District, where Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, was recently certified the winner following a recount in which she led the Democrat, Rita Hart, by just six votes. Hart has indicated she intends to challenge the result.

2,596 Trades in One Term: Inside Senator Perdue’s stock portfolio
New York Times – Stephanie Saul, Kate Kelly, and Michael LaForgia | Published: 12/2/2020

Along with U.S. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Georgia Republican, David Perdue faces an unusual runoff election in January. With control of the Senate at stake, and amid renewed concern about the potential for conflicts-of-interest in stock trading by members of Congress, Perdue’s investment activity, and especially his numerous well-timed trades, has increasingly come into the public glare. Data from Senate Stock Watcher, a website that aggregates publicly available information on lawmakers’ trading, shows the breadth of trades Perdue made in companies that stood to benefit from policy and spending matters that came not just before the Senate as a whole, but before the committees and subcommittees on which he served.

20 Days of Fantasy and Failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election
MSN – Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/28/2020

However clear-eyed President Trump’s aides may have been about his loss to Joe Biden, many of them nonetheless indulged their boss and encouraged him to keep fighting with legal appeals. The result was an election aftermath without precedent in U.S. history. With his denial of the outcome, despite a string of courtroom defeats, Trump endangered America’s democracy, threatened to undermine national security and public health, and duped millions of his supporters into believing, perhaps permanently, that Biden was elected illegitimately.

Criticized by Moderates and Pressured by Their Base, Liberals Fight for a Voice in the Democratic Party
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 11/29/2020

The left is toiling to exert their influence on a Democratic Party led by President-elect Joe Biden, an avowed centrist, and his moderate allies on Capitol Hill. After an election in which the country opted for a reset, not a revolution, moderate Democrats hold the power in the party. Many blame the polarizing themes championed by the left for the party’s shrunken House majority and Senate losses. This recrimination from party leaders, along with skepticism from some Biden allies, could limit liberals’ influence. But liberals offer a different take, arguing their base won Biden the White House. The shifting dynamics in the party have thrust the movement to a crossroad on the eve of the Biden presidency.

Disputing Trump, Barr Says No Widespread Election Fraud
Associated Press News – Michael Balsamo | Published: 12/1/2020

Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. His comments come despite President Trump’s repeated baseless claims that the election was stolen, Trump’s effort to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election, and his refusal to concede his loss to Joe Biden. Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they have received, but they have uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

‘Mercenary’ Donor Sold Access for Millions in Foreign Money
Associated Press News – Alan Suderman and Jim Mustain | Published: 11/30/2020

Federal prosecutors say Imaad Zuberi’s life was built on a series of lies and the lucrative enterprise of funding American political campaigns and profiting from the resulting influence. They describe Zuberi as a “mercenary” campaign donor who gave to anyone, often using illegal straw donors, he thought could help him. “Pay-to-play,” he explained to clients, was just “how America work(s).” Zuberi’s story underscores how loosely regulated campaign finance and foreign lobbying laws are and raises an embarrassing question: how does such a cynical fraudster find favor with so many officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government? There are unanswered questions about Zuberi’s foreign entanglements and who benefited from his actions.

New Administration, House Turnover Raise Prospects for More Diversity on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/19/2020

Business groups in Washington, D.C. are hopeful the incoming Biden administration will prompt a round of hiring that will lead to more diversity on K Street. Diversity among lobbyists has been little changed over the past two years, but the arrival of a new administration and the departure of several House lawmakers increases the odds of more employment opportunities at trade associations, lobbying shops, and law firms. Congressional Democrats led the way on diversity in 2018, when a record number of women and minority lawmakers were elected to Congress. That was followed two years later by Republicans, with 17 GOP women elected to the House earlier this month. But those trends have not extended to K Street.

‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Hit Record in 2020, But May Face Uncertainty in 2022
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 12/2/2020

A record 155 incumbents and challengers vowed to reject corporate PAC money during the 2020 campaign for Congress. That stance helped attract small-dollar donations and generated enthusiasm among voters who favor a broad campaign finance overhaul. But many candidates lost anyway. Now, as Democrats face a 2022 midterm cycle in which, traditionally, the president’s party loses seats in the House, incumbents and future challengers are assessing whether the pledges pay off. On the other side, the PACs of companies continue to grapple with diminished clout partly due to contribution limits set long ago that do not budge for inflation. So, the future of such pledges, along with the influence of corporate PACs, remains uncertain.

NRA Reports Alleged Misspending by Current and Former Executives to IRS
MSN – Beth Reinhard and Carol Leonning (Washington Post) | Published: 11/26/2020

After years of denying allegations of lax financial oversight, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has made a stunning declaration in a new tax filing: current and former executives used the nonprofit group’s money for personal benefit and enrichment. The NRA said it continues to review the alleged abuse of funds, as the tax-exempt organization curtails services and runs up multimillion-dollar legal bills. The assertion of impropriety comes after the attorney general of New York state filed a lawsuit accusing NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre and other top executives of using NRA funds for decades to provide inflated salaries and expense accounts.

Supreme Court Wary of Quick Ruling on Trump Drive to Exclude Many Immigrants from Census
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 11/30/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed reluctant to issue an immediate, sweeping ruling on President Trump’s plans to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial census used to allocate House seats. During an oral argument session, there appeared to be few, if any, takers on the high court for Trump’s effort to leave all unlawful immigrants out of the critical count. Several of the court’s most conservative justices seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of the president’s move, but they expressed misgivings about ruling on that issue now when thorny questions about smaller groups of unlawful migrants could be just weeks away.

Trump Era Court Battles Weaken Congressional Power
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 12/1/2020

Congress will emerge from the Trump administration with weakened power to check a president or oversee the operation of the federal government, the most consequential fallout experts see for lawmakers after four years of nearly constant high-profile courtroom showdowns with a defiant president. Democratic lawmakers often had no other recourse than to go to court because of President Trump’s approach. Once there, lawmakers fell short or did not get what they sought, and it does not bode well for similar oversight efforts in administrations to come.

Trump Has Discussed with Advisers Pardons for His 3 Eldest Children and Giuliani
New York Times – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt | Published: 12/1/2020

President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law, and to his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and talked with Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter. Trump has told others he is concerned that a Justice Department under President-elect Joe Biden might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children – Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump – as well as Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser. The speculation about pardon activity at the White House is churning furiously, underscoring how much the Trump administration has been dominated by investigations and criminal prosecutions of people in the president’s orbit.

Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Who Pleaded Guilty to Lying to the FBI
Washington Post – Rosalind Helserman and Josh Dawsey | Published: 11/25/2020

President Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, ending a three-year legal saga that included Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI, his later effort to withdraw that plea, and then a controversial decision by Attorney General William Barr to try to drop the case altogether. Trump’s move marks a full embrace of the retired general he had ousted from the White House after only 22 days on the job, and a final salvo against the Russia investigation that shadowed the first half of his term in office. The pardon for Flynn underlines how Trump has used his clemency power to benefit allies and well-connected offenders.

Trump Raises More Than $150 Million Appealing to False Election Claims
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michelle Yee He Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2020

President Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day, using misleading appeals about the election to shatter fundraising records set during the campaign. The influx of political donations is one reason Trump and some allies are inclined to continue a legal onslaught and public affairs blitz focused on baseless claims of election fraud, even as their attempts have repeatedly failed in court and as key states continue to certify wins for President-elect Joe Biden. Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office.

Trump to Restart Foreign Deals, Breaking a Post-Presidency Norm
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 12/1/2020

President Trump’s namesake company plans to resume foreign real estate projects after he leaves office as it grapples with a tarnished brand in the United States and the need to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. The arrangement is already being criticized as one that could be used to pay back Trump for his policies as president or to influence U.S. policy through a former president – and possibly a future presidential candidate. Other former presidents have faced allegations they were monetizing the office with their post-presidency ventures, But Trump’s return to overseas deal-making as a private businessperson raises a new set of ethical issues no ex-president has ever confronted.

Canada

Canada Lobbying Watchdog Says Three Cases Have Been Sent to RCMP for Criminal Investigation Since Start of Pandemic
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 11/28/2020

The federal lobbying watchdog says she has referred three files to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for criminal investigation since the beginning of the pandemic in a year that has seen a significant uptick in lobbying. Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger was called to detail her office’s work as questions have swirled throughout the summer about the lobbying activities by WE Charity and the husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. Both have denied any wrongdoing. During her testimony, Bélanger said 2020 has been a busy year for lobbyists, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Mike Hubbard’s Prison Sentence Cut from 4 Years to 28 Months
AL.com – Associated Press | Published: 11/25/2020

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker slashed former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to 28 months, significantly reducing the time the once-powerful Republican will spend behind bars for an ethics conviction. Walker reduced Hubbard’s sentence at the request of defense attorneys after part of his conviction was overturned earlier this year. In his order, Walker noted Hubbard was convicted of 12 felonies when he handed down the four-year sentence, but that six counts were reversed on appeal.

Alaska Junior Staffer Says Top Alaska Official Told Her to Keep Allegations of Misconduct Secret
ProPublica – Kyle Hopkins (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 11/18/2020

Officials in the office of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, including his chief of staff, knew for months his appointed attorney general had sent unwelcome personal text messages to a staff member but told the woman to keep it quiet, the staffer said. The woman said Tara Fradley, the manager in the governor’s Anchorage office, helped her compose a text to then-Attorney General Kevin Clarkson asking him to stop inviting her to his home at night, something he had done at least 18 times. The woman also said Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Ben Stevens, became aware of the texts by April but no human resources investigators contacted her until two months later, after a whistleblower wrote an anonymous letter that was obtained by news organizations and by an attorney working on an effort to recall Dunleavy from office.

Alaska Lawsuit Challenges Alaska’s New Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot Measure
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 12/1/2020

The Alaskan Independence Party, its chairperson, and two Anchorage residents are suing to overturn Ballot Measure 2, a sweeping election reform initiative approved in November that would install ranked-choice voting in Alaska’s general elections. The plaintiffs claim the measure would violate their rights “to free political association, free speech, right to petition, right to due process” and other rights guaranteed by the Alaska and U.S. constitutions. In addition to making Alaska the only state other than Maine using ranked elections for almost all contests, the ballot measure imposes new campaign finance disclosure requirements for legislative and local races.

California Inglewood Caps Campaign Contributions at $100,000 to Avoid New State Law
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Jason Henry | Published: 11/24/2020

Inglewood will not follow a new state law limiting local campaign contributions to $4,700, instead opting for a cap 21 times higher than what a state senator can accept from a single source. The Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to set the city’s donation limit at $100,000, one of the highest caps in the state. The city of roughly 110,000 residents previously had no limit, but a new state law taking effect in January forces cities and counties to adhere to the limits set for state legislators unless they establish their own law first.

California Raymond Chan, Former L.A. Deputy Mayor, Charged in Federal City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Joel Rubin | Published: 11/30/2020

Raymond Chan, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor, is the latest figure to be accused of playing a part in a scheme allegedly run by ousted city Councilperson Jose Huizar. Prosecutors say both men were involved in shaking down developers who sought help pushing real estate projects through the city’s approval process. Prosecutors also announced corruption charges against Wei Huang, chairperson of a Chinese real estate company, and developer Dae Yong Lee. The superseding indictment added new allegations, signaling the government’s intention to prosecute Chan, Huizar, and the two developers as a group. Chan is accused of an array of illegal activities, including arranging “indirect bribe payments” to city officials by securing employment contracts for the officials’ relatives.

California San Francisco Public Utilities Commission GM Harlan Kelly Charged with Fraud as Part of Corruption Scheme
KPIX – Staff | Published: 11/30/2020

The FBI reportedly raided the home of Harlan Kelly, Jr. on the same day authorities announced he had been charged with honest services wire fraud. Following the charges, Kelly resigned from his post as general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Prosecutors say Kelly engaged in a long-running bribery scheme and corrupt partnership with construction executive and permit expediting consultant Walter Wong. Nine people have been charged in a corruption scheme allegedly involving the former head of the city’s Department of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru. The complaint alleges Wong provided Kelly with bribes in exchange for official acts by Kelly that benefited or attempted to benefit Wong’s business ventures.

Colorado Special Session Catches Secretary of State’s Office Off-Guard
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 12/1/2020

Colorado’s special legislative session has apparently caught the secretary of state’s office off-guard when it comes to how lobbyists report which bills they are working on. A lobbyist said the special session was not listed on the secretary of state’s lobbyist page, a full day after the session started. If someone entered one of the bills from the special session, the website would default to a 2020 bill from the regular session and could not recognize the nomenclature of the special session bills. And for at least the first 24 hours of the special session, lobbyists had no idea what they were supposed to do.

Delaware Wilmington Councilman Rebuked: ‘City employees must not be threatened for doing their jobs’
Wilmington News Journal – Jeanne Kuang | Published: 11/25/2020

Wilmington City Councilperson Vash Turner received a public reprimand from the city’s Ethics Commission, which found he violated city code when he threatened cutting an auditor’s salary during a public meeting. The Ethics Commission received a complaint from the auditor, Terence Williams, who refused to conduct a forensic audit of the insolvent nonprofit Wilmington Housing Partnership’s finances as requested by council members in a resolution, saying he believed it would be expensive and unnecessary in lieu of a traditional audit. Turner asked council staff in an email to “work on a resolution or ordinance to reduce the Auditor salary for insubordination of council legislation,” according to the commission.

Georgia ‘Someone’s Going to Get Killed’: GOP election official in Georgia blames President Trump for fostering violent threats
Anchorage Daily News – Amy Gardner and Keith Newell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/1/2020

A top Republican election official in Georgia lashed out at President Trump during a news conference, blaming him for a flood of threats that have besieged his office and calling on the president and other Republicans to condemn the behavior. Gabriel Sterling, a voting systems manager for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, was visibly angry and shaken as he approached a lectern in the Georgia Capitol. Sterling’s public chastisement represents one of the strongest rebukes yet of Trump’s baseless attacks on the election’s integrity by a member of his own party.

Hawaii Ex-Hawaii Prosecutor, Police Chief Get Prison for Corruption
Yahoo News – Jennifer Sinco Kelleher (Associated Press) | Published: 11/30/2020

A judge sentenced a former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor to 13 years in prison and her retired police chief husband to seven years, saying she stole money from her own grandmother and then used his law enforcement power to frame her uncle for a crime he did not commit – all to maintain the couple’s lavish lifestyle. Louis Kealoha agreed to retire amid a wide-ranging federal investigation. The judge described how Katherine Kealoha orchestrated a reverse mortgage scheme that forced her grandmother to sell her home, framed her uncle for stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox, stole money from children whose trusts she controlled as a lawyer, cheated her uncle out of his life savings, convinced her firefighter lover to lie about their affair, and used her position as a prosecutor to turn a drug investigation away from her brother.

Illinois City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin Denies Wrongly Firing Chief of Staff, Other Employees
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 11/23/2020

A former top aide to Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin alleged in an email to a city ethics official that she was fired after refusing to participate in unspecified “illegal and unethical conduct.” Conyears-Ervin said that is false. Conyears-Ervin’s former chief of staff, Tiffany Harper, was fired along with three colleagues. Conyears-Ervin said she pushed the workers out as part of an office shake-up designed to move her office in a different direction. But in an email to Steve Berlin, executive director of the city’s ethics board, Harper said she believes she and two other officials were let go “without cause or reason.”

Illinois New Cache of ComEd Documents Shows Indicted Madigan Confidant Pressing Utility for Jobs and Contracts
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/26/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) released a trove of documents in an Illinois House committee probe into Speaker Michael Madigan’s actions. ComEd has admitted to operating a scheme to influence Madigan. Federal prosecutors say the company hired Madigan’s political allies to win favorable legislation, including electricity rate hikes. They allege those payments were arranged by ComEd executives and lobbyists and funneled to subcontractors who often performed little or no actual work. The developments broaden what is known about the indirect but ethically questionable interactions between Madigan and ComEd at a time when the utility had major legislative business pending at the statehouse that depended on the speaker’s blessing.

New Jersey Christie’s 2013 Campaign Hasn’t Paid Off $1M in Debt to 2 Firms
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 12/1/2020

Seven years after his 2013 reelection, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaign still owes $1 million in debt stemming from the Bridgegate scandal. But the moribund campaign may be allowed to stop filing campaign finance reports this year. And there’s no sign that the campaign has sought to pay back its debts, or that either of the companies that are owed the money – a prominent law firm and a cybersecurity firm that billed large monthly amounts to taxpayers during the Christie administration – have made an effort to collect.

New Jersey NJ Attorney General’s Probe Seeks Records Connected to Democratic Power Broker
Bergen Record – Terrence McDonald | Published: 11/23/2020

An investigation by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal into public health brokerage contracts and potential “pay-to-play” violations appears to go beyond Bergen County, with investigators now probing Plainfield’s work with a firm run by a Democratic power broker out of Middlesex County. Plainfield received a subpoena seeking contracts and related documents to be reviewed by a state grand jury, five days after the office subpoenaed Bergen County for similar records. The subpoena demands the city hand over a host of documents going back to 2015 related to its employee health insurance broker. The subpoena does not name the firm, but Plainfield’s broker is Acrisure.

North Carolina Court Upholds North Carolina’s Voter Identification Law
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 12/1/2020

A federal appeals court upheld North Carolina’s law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, even as it acknowledged the state’s “long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression.” A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said North Carolina’s past practice does not indefinitely prevent the state from enacting new voting restrictions. The panel said a lower-court judge had improperly considered the state’s “past conduct to bear so heavily on its later acts that it was virtually impossible for it to pass a voter-ID law that meets constitutional muster,” according to the opinion from Judge Julius Richardson.

Ohio Bankruptcy Judge Orders Lobbyists to Testify About Any Ties to Householder Bribery Case
Akron Beacon Journal – Jim Mackinnon | Published: 11/25/2020

A bankruptcy judge is ordering four Ohio lobbyists who work for the top law firm in the FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy to answer questions under oath about any possible ties to a bribery case. Bankruptcy Court Judge Alan Koshchik told the four lobbyists, known as the “Ohio statehouse team” with law firm Akin Gump, to answer his questions in writing by January 8. The four lobbyists “were the timekeepers involved who interacted with currently-indicted individuals or entities …,” according to the court filing. The judge said about $2.8 million is being sought by Akin Gump related to state government lobbying, including work tied to the passage of House Bill 6. The bill, now law, is at the center of the $61 million federal bribery investigation.

Ohio Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/19/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested and charged with bribery and attempted extortion. The complaint says Sittenfeld solicited and accepted $40,000 donations, made to a PAC supporting his bid for mayor, from a city developer and two undercover FBI agents posing as the developer’s business partners. In exchange, Sittenfeld in December 2018 promised to “deliver the votes” on city council for a development project, according to the complaint. The arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile corruption cases federal officials have undertaken in Ohio this year.

Ohio Councilman Mann Seeks Independent Commission to Audit City Council Development Deals Saying the City Is in a ‘Crisis Unlike I Have Seen’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge | Published: 11/30/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson David Mann is putting forward a plan to create a commission that will do an independent assessment of past city development deals. He is calling it the Commission to Clean Up City Council. It comes in the wake of three sitting Cincinnati City Council members being arrested this year on charges that allege they participated in “pay-to-play” schemes. None of the three arrests are related to each other. The commission would review links between campaign contributions and development contracts with the city. In addition to the review, Mann said it would also be tasked with making recommendations to keep corruption out of city deals and recommend any needed changes to the charter.

Ohio Former Ohio Senate President Admits Ethics Violation for Not Disclosing Lobbying Clients
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 11/30/2020

Former Ohio Sen. Tom Niehaus admitted an ethics violation after turning himself in for failing to disclose lobbying clients while serving on the board of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. Niehaus, who served as Senate president from 2011 through 2013, reached a settlement approved by the Ohio Ethics Commission in which he received a reprimand for violating ethics laws. The investigation uncovered no evidence that Niehaus’ actions benefited any of his lobbying clients while he served on the authority’s board.

Ohio Watchdog Group Aims to Turn Lights Back on with Open Records
The Record-Herald – Farnoush Amiri (Associated Press) | Published: 11/30/2020

A watchdog group is hoping to turn the lights back on at the Ohio Statehouse by opening long-closed records to see who is influencing the legislative process after a $1.3 billion nuclear plant bailout that is now under federal investigation. A proposal from Common Cause Ohio hopes to persuade lawmakers to once again bring transparency and accountability to the process behind a bill becoming a law. The records surround discussions and decisions at the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan agency that assists lawmakers with drafting and researching legislation. The records, also called bill files, include memos from a bill’s sponsor and material provided by lobbyists who asked the House or Senate sponsor to propose it.

Pennsylvania Ex-State Lawmaker Found Guilty in Bribery Case Loses Appeal of Her Convictions, Probation Sentence
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 11/30/2020

A Pennsylvania appeals court panel refused to overturn the convictions of former state Rep. Vanessa Brown on conflict-of-interest and bribery charges stemming from an undercover sting operation. The Superior Court judges reached that decision despite Vanessa Brown’s claims of racial bias and prosecutorial impropriety. Brown in 20108 was sentenced to 23 months of probation and ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution. Investigators said Brown took that amount of money in payoffs from an undercover agent with the state attorney general’s office who was posing as a lobbyist during an investigation into corruption in state government.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Looks to Tighten Campaign Finance Reports for PACs, Independent Expenditures
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Ashley Murray | Published: 11/24/2020

Pittsburgh’s Ethics Hearing Board wants to track so-called dark money in local political campaigns. A bill before the city council would allow the board to do that by requiring tighter reporting rules for PACs and allowing further tracking of funds that back direct political mailers and ads. As the city law stands now, residents seeking local elected office must file a financial disclosure report for their respective candidate committees on the first business day of each month for three months leading up to the election. The proposed legislation would require the same reporting rigor for independent groups of individuals funding a campaign for or against a candidate or a ballot question.

Tennessee Memphis City Council Votes Against Reforms to Bring Lobbying into the Light
MSN – Samuel Hardiman (Memphis Commercial Appeal) | Published: 12/1/2020

The Memphis City Council voted against adopting an ordinance that would require those lobbying the council to register and name their clients. The proposal would have required those paid to lobby council members to register with the city permits’ office, pay a $50 annual fee, and have their name on a list available to the public that includes who has hired them. Councilperson Martavius Jones called the ordinance “unnecessary.” Jones said the measure would not make council more transparent and there is nothing stopping council members from saying “no” to meetings with lobbyists.

Texas Lawyers for Nate Paul Gave AG Ken Paxton $25k After He Waded into Civil Suit
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldentein and Jay Root | Published: 12/1/2020

Several weeks after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made the unusual move of intervening in a civil lawsuit involving his friend and campaign donor Nate Paul, Paxton received a $25,000 donation from the law firm hired by Paul in the case, records show. Involving his office in the civil case was just one of a handful of apparent interventions by Paxton on behalf of Paul that troubled the attorney general’s top aides, leading seven of them to report Paxton to law enforcement for potential corruption charges in October, including bribery and abuse of office. Those accusations are now being investigated by the FBI.

Virginia As Virginia Democrats Rein Themselves In with Bill Limits, Some Legislators See Lost Opportunities
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 11/29/2020

Because the coronavirus has made the logistics of legislating more difficult, Virginia’s House and Senate will strictly limit the number of bills that can be introduced for the General Assembly session that begins January 13. Delegates will be allowed to propose seven bills apiece, down from the usual 15. Senators – who have not had a hard limit in years, if ever – will be capped at 12 each. That is forcing Virginia’s 140 legislators to be especially selective about what bills they submit. The first casualty of that policy could be the handful of lighter and quirky bills that usually leaven each session. The second could be the Democrats’ agenda.

Washington DC Outgoing D.C. Council Member David Grosso Will Work as a Lobbyist for Arent Fox
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer | Published: 12/1/2020

Outgoing District of Columbia Councilperson David Grosso will take a job as a lobbyist for a firm representing clients with business before the council. Grosso (I-At Large), who decided not to seek reelection this year, said he will lobby his former colleagues on behalf of clients including hospitals and cannabis businesses, in addition to working on national issues, in his new role as a partner at Arent Fox. A critic during his time in office of too-cozy relationships between business interests and public officials, Grosso said he views his decision to go from lawmaker to lobbyist as different from the conduct of predecessors he has criticized.

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