April 19, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – April 19, 2019
Analysis: The many reasons to run for president when you probably don’t stand a chance
MSN – Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 4/14/2019
Presidential primaries tend to produce one nominee but many winners. Beyond the long-shot candidates effectively auditioning for cabinet positions or building a profile (and donor base) for future races, there are prospective books to sell and television contracts to sign, corporate boards to join, and paid speeches to make. Any setback is temporary. “There’s just absolutely no downside and only upside,” Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier said of quixotic presidential runs. “It is an industry of self-promotion. What better way to self-promote than run for president?”
Mueller Whacks Trump with Evidence of Obstruction
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 4/18/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed President Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller’s removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president. On numerous occasions, Trump’s impulses to stymie the investigators were only halted by staffers’ refusal to carry out orders. While the document confirms Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, it contains numerous unfavorable observations regarding potential obstruction of justice and sheds light on why the special counsel chose to neither exonerate Trump nor conclude he committed a crime.
Political Consultant Patten Sentenced to Probation After Steering Ukrainian Money to Trump Inaugural
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2019
An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced to probation by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with prosecutors. W. Samuel Patten admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort. U.S. District Court Judge Amy noted no federal sentencing guideline directly applies to his offense of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Prosecution of Former White House Counsel Sets K Street on Edge – Again
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/11/2019
The Justice Department’s indictment of Gregory Craig, who served as White House counsel under President Obama, sent a signal to K Street that lobbyists who work for foreign interests without registering have reason to be afraid. Some lobbyists have been on edge since Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, was indicted on charges of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, previously a rarely enforced law requiring lobbyists and others who work on behalf of foreign governments and political parties to disclose their activity. Some said Craig’s indictment is likely to reverberate on K Street as the crackdown continues. A letter from the FARA enforcement unit now “has to be taken as seriously as a heart attack,” said Matthew Sanderson, an attorney who advises clients on the law.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Lawmakers Pass Bill Saying Economic Developers Are Not Lobbyists
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 4/16/2019
A bill exempting economic developers from a requirement to register as lobbyists under the Alabama ethics law won final passage in the Legislature and could be signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. Lawmakers and the state’s industrial recruiters say the bill was needed to protect the confidentiality of site selection efforts by representatives of companies interested in coming to Alabama. Lobbyists are required to report to the Ethics Commission who they represent and information about their activities, reports that are available to the public. The bill proved controversial last year, with critics saying it would create two classes of individuals under the ethics law and open loopholes.
California: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Santa Clara Mayor in Conflict-of-Interest Case
San Jose Mercury News – Thy Vo | Published: 4/15/2019
Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce threw out a lawsuit that accused Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor of failing to divulge at least $180,000 in income on conflict-of-interest forms, ruling the documents are “political works” exempt from disclosure requirements. The forms require elected and appointed officials to report all their financial interests. But Gillmor’s attorney argued the lawsuit was hatched by political opponents and should be dismissed under a provision in the law concerning a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) that protects people against suits filed to intimidate them or silence their free speech rights. Pierce ruled Gillmor’s conflict-of-interest forms are related to her role as a politician and thereby qualify as “political works” that are protected speech under the anti-SLAPP statute.
Colorado: Denver’s Big 3 Lobbyists Have Deep Relationships with City Government and Mayor Michael Hancock
Colorado Public Radio – Ben Markus | Published: 4/11/2019
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking a third term this year, and on the campaign trail he is often criticized for his close ties to the business community, particularly developers. Even critics say there is nothing wrong with the mayor and his staff being in close quarters with the business community. But a Colorado Public Radio investigation found several lobbying groups that travel with the mayor also have contracts to work for the city. At the same time, they are actively lobbying the city on behalf of corporate clients. Lobbyists often stock their firms with former city workers, who sometimes go back to work for Denver, perpetuating the “revolving door,” which is legal under city rules. The lobbying firms are also among the largest donors to city campaigns.
Florida: Internet Intrigue: Blitz of lobbyists, consultants worked behind scenes before broadband vote
Tallahassse Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 4/16/2019
When talk of a city-owned broadband internet utility surfaced at the same time an out-of-town fiber-optic firm eyed Tallahassee as a potential new market, lobbyists, public relations people and industry consultants streamed into action. The debate during city commission meetings in March was contentious enough. But there was intrigue behind the curtain. By the time the dust settled, the commission reversed course on plans to explore creation of a new utility, something MetroNet, an Indiana-based company still considering coming to town, opposed. The drama that unfolded came after years of high-profile controversy involving lobbyists and consultants at City Hall. Watchdogs say it highlights the kind of murky dealings that undermine confidence in the city’s ability to police lobbying.
Indiana: Casino-Investor Ties Led Speaker Bosma to Skip Gaming Bill Vote. Here’s Why Questions Linger.
Indianapolios Star – Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 4/18/2019
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is recusing himself from votes on legislation that would make some of the biggest changes to Indiana’s casino laws in years because of a potentially lucrative contract arranged by a casino owner. Bosma said his law firm is providing legal representation to the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board, a local entity that stands to benefit from the legislation, which would allow a casino in Terre Haute. The contract was arranged by businessperson Greg Gibson, one of two principal investors in Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle is lobbying lawmakers for permission to move two casinos in Gary to more lucrative locations. Heightening the concerns are Bosma’s private discussions about the legislation with other lawmakers and casino companies, despite his decision to avoid any public votes on the topic.
Louisiana: Proposed Law Would Bar Legislators from Giving Tulane Scholarships to Immediate Family
New Orleans Times Picayune – Wilborn Nobles | Published: 4/16/2019
A new bill in the Louisiana Senate would bar close relatives of certain state politicians from being eligible to receive free tuition at Tulane University. Senate Bill 183 would make Tulane’s Legislative Scholarship unavailable for the immediate family members of a Louisiana legislator, statewide elected official, or an elected Louisiana official in Congress. The advantage of wealth and privilege in gaining access to elite universities has emerged as a hot topic following recent allegations that wealthy parents bribed university administrators and coaches at top schools to gain admission for their children. While no such payments are alleged in Tulane’s case, some critics say the university’s Legislative Scholarship Program is a “source of political patronage.”
Massachusetts: For the First Time, Boston Municipal Lobbyists Are Required to Register Their Work with City Hall
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 4/17/2019
Lobbyists in Boston will now have to register with the city clerk’s office. Those who do not register could face a fine of up to $300, according to an ordinance that was passed last year. Under the ordinance, the city will set up a five-member commission that will be charged with reviewing an individual or entity’s work with the city, determining whether that work would be subject to the new law, and whether to hand out penalties, said City Clerk Maureen Feeney. She said her office was communicating the new requirements to lobbyists who had inquired about the process. Feeney also said an online portal system the city set up is similar to the one used by the state.
Mississippi: Public Universities Spend Millions Wining, Dining, Lobbying Mississippi Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth and Geoff Pender | Published: 4/10/2019
Seven of Mississippi’s eight public universities and their private foundations spent nearly $2 million on lobbying over the past four years, a Jackson Clarion Ledger analysis found. That amount includes money for staff lobbyists and private lobbying firms, plus entertaining lawmakers. These public universities lavish money on public officials in hopes of getting more public dollars. And they spend more than most any other special interest groups seeking influence in the Capitol. In Mississippi, it is all completely legal. The state’s lack of restrictions on gifts to public officials means elected officials, their families, and even friends can benefit from unlimited largesse without worry.
Missouri: After Controversial MSD Vote, Winners Donated More Than $150,000 to Stenger Campaign
St. Louis Post Dispatch – David Hunn and Jacob Barker | Published: 4/15/2019
A contract to build the Deer Creek tunnel was one of the largest the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) had awarded in years. MSD staff recommended awarding it to the low bidder, Jay Dee Contractors. The district board’s practice, almost without exception, was to approve the professional staff’s recommendation. But SAK Construction mounted a lobbying effort over the contract, and the company’s concerns reached St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s office, which appoints three of MSD’s six members on its Board of Trustees. A top aide to Stenger met with two key trustees to discuss the matter. After the meeting with Stenger’s aide, one of those two MSD trustees switched his vote, and SAK ultimately won the contract. Less than a month after the vote, SAK executives did something they had never done before: they began pouring money into Stenger’s campaign.
Nevada: Nevada Lawmaker Paid Her Sister Thousands for Campaign Work, But We Can’t See the Details
Reno Gazette-Journal – James DeHaven | Published: 4/15/2019
Nevada has routinely ranked at or near the bottom of nationwide political transparency surveys. But ex-state Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson’s downfall under a cloud of admitted election spending misdeeds has sparked renewed interest in strengthening anti-corruption statutes. Now, weeks after Atkinson’s resignation, a Reno Gazette Journal analysis reveals state Sen. Pat Spearman paid nearly $103,000 in campaign funds to a consulting firm with close ties to her sister. Reports show Donna Spearman-Davis and Crawford Management Group were the two largest recipients of Spearman’s campaign cash, accounting for about 30 percent of the nearly $500,000 the former congressional hopeful and longtime state senator spent between 2012 and 2018.
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