February 5, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen […]
Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen Klas for Tampa Bay Times
Oregon: “Why a Bill Intended to Avoid a Legally Messy Election Season Has One Campaign Finance Advocate Worried” by Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) for Blue Mountain Eagle
Wisconsin: “Democratic Convention Host Committee Leaders Put on Leave” by Scott Bauer for AP News
Canada: “RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC
National: “Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying” by Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo for AP News
National: “Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Florida: “Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd” by Douglas Hanks for Miami Herald
February 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election” by Matt O’Brien for AP News National: “Iowa Reports No Caucus Winner After ‘Inconsistencies’ Bedevil Count” by Tyler Pager, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, and Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg Ethics National: “Justice […]
National: “YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election” by Matt O’Brien for AP News
National: “Iowa Reports No Caucus Winner After ‘Inconsistencies’ Bedevil Count” by Tyler Pager, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, and Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg
National: “Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Lynn Beyak Facing Accusations of ‘Overtly Biased Views’ During Indigenous Racism Training” by Brett Forester for APTN News
Florida: “FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
New York: “JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme” by Bill Bush for Columbus Dispatch
Colorado: “New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators” by Scott Weiser for Complete Colorado
February 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom New Mexico: […]
National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News
National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom
New Mexico: “Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule” by Victpria Preiskop for Courthouse News Service
National: “Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN
Illinois: “Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation” by Peter Hancock for Southern Illinoisan
New Jersey: “Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics” by Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald for Bergen Record
Texas: “DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows” by Miles Moffeit for Dallas News
California: “Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist” by Matt Fountain for San Luis Obispo Tribune
January 31, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020 Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her […]
House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020
Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.
How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020
In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.
How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020
Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.
Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020
There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.
Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020
Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.
Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020
President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.
Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020
Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020
An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.
Arkansas – Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020
A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.
California – L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020
The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
California – Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020
San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.
California – Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020
Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.
Colorado – Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020
When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.
Florida – Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020
A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.
Florida – Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020
Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.
Florida – Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020
Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.
Illinois – Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020
The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.
Indiana – Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020
Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.
Kentucky – These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020
At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.
Louisiana – Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020
The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.
Maine – Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020
A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.
Maryland – After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020
With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government. Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.
Maryland – Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020
Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.
Massachusetts – Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020
A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.
Massachusetts – Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020
John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.
Michigan – Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020
When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.
Michigan – Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020
Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.
Missouri – Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020
Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.
Missouri – Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020
The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.
Missouri – Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020
Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.
New York – Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020
The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.
New York – Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020
The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.
North Carolina – Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020
Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.
Ohio – Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020
Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.
Oregon – Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020
Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.
Pennsylvania – Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020
Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.
Pennsylvania – Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.
Texas – Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020
San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.
Washington – Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020
There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.
Washington DC – Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020
Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.
January 30, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek […]
National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico
National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters
Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
National: “How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard” by Reid Epstein (New York Times) for Chicago Tribune
Massachusetts: “Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature” by Jo Goode for Fall River Herald News
California: “Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe” by Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez for San Francisco Chronicle
Kentucky: “These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors” by R.G. Dunlop for WFPL
Maryland: “After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws” by Ovetta Wiggins for Washington Post
January 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News Elections California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle […]
Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service
Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News
California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind” by Ben Christopher for CALmatters
Florida: “New Tallahassee Ethics Officer in Hot Seat After Politically Charged Tweets Surface” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
Texas: “Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial” by Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) for San Angelo Morning-Times
Washington DC: “Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
North Carolina: “Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation” by Nick Ochsner for WBTV
Maryland: “Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects” by Talia Richmond for Baltimore Sun
January 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” […]
Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star
Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” by Kavahn Mansouri for Belleville News-Democrat
National: “Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker for Washington Post
National: “Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN
Massachusetts: “Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery” by Milton Valencia for Boston Globe
Michigan: “Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say” by Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger for Detroit News
New York: “Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo” by Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Colorado: “Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
January 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill Elections National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison […]
National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill
National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison for Washington Post
Arizona: “David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says” by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic
Illinois: “Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair” by Lolly Bowean for Chicago Tribune
Pennsylvania: “Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail” by Julie Shaw for Philadelphia Inquirer
Michigan: “Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
New York: “Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist” by Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
California: “L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
January 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020 Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to […]
A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers
The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020
Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to victory can still be difficult for those who cannot afford to dedicate all their time to campaigning. Under federal guidelines, candidates running in a general election are permitted to use some of their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. But FEC members worried candidates would just game the system. A compromise was reached whereby candidates can pay themselves at a per-diem rate equal to the salary of the job they had before entering the race, or the salary of the office they are seeking, whichever is less. Another FEC restriction on candidates who draw salaries makes campaigning particularly tough for primary challengers.
Bloomberg’s Billions Stay Veiled While Funding 2020 Campaign
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/22/2020
Michael Bloomberg has bought his way into the 2020 presidential race with hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune. But he may not provide any details about where that money comes from until more than half of the Democratic primary is over. While his rivals have disclosed years of financial details on everything from book deals to vacation homes, Bloomberg has not released any financial information since launching a late campaign fueled entirely by his $60 billion in wealth. The former New York City mayor was granted an extension on filing mandatory financial disclosure forms until March 20, more than halfway through the delegate race and after Super Tuesday, when Bloomberg hopes to make his first splash in delegate-rich states like California and Texas.
Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates
Politico – Maya King | Published: 1/21/2020
Michael Bloomberg’s big television ad campaign has made politicking more expensive for everyone from his 2020 rivals to Senate, House, and state legislative candidates around the country. Eight weeks into his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has already spent more money on advertising, $248 million, than most candidates could spend in years. That amount has squeezed TV ad inventory in nearly every state, lowering supply and causing stations to raise ad prices at a time of high demand, as candidates around the country gear up for their primaries. On average in markets around the country, prices for political TV ads have risen by 20 percent since Bloomberg began his campaign. Meanwhile, some local politicians have already found difficulty trying to reach their own constituencies.
Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/17/2020
Hoping to bypass the paralyzed FEC, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit after the agency lost a quorum of at least four commissioners needed to vote on enforcement matters. It targets the FEC’s failure to act on alleged disclosure violations by two federal super PACs that funneled almost $6.4 million to aid the 2016 election of Eric Greitens as Missouri governor. If successful, the legal strategy could help CREW and other groups press for more transparency and enforcement of other rules in an election year expected to see record campaign spending, even if the FEC continues to be hobbled.
Dem Debates Are Magnet for Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/20/2020
Many of those flocking to the Democratic presidential debates are lobbyists with campaign experience, allowing them the chance to relieve their glory days on the trail and catch up with old friends. But it is also an opportunity to make connections and learn from the insiders working with each campaign. Clients want information about the primary including the inside scoop on who is gaining or losing steam, one Democratic consultant noted. “Clients care about how political the atmosphere is going to affect their business or their issue sets,” the consultant said. But attending the debates can also be a complicated decision for lobbyists as the industry face attacks from Democrats and progressive groups. With lobbyists and donations from special interest groups under scrutiny, campaigns also are careful to not appear too cozy with lobbyists.
Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/15/2020
Unprepared Democrats got bulldozed in 2010 by a $30 million Republican campaign to win state Legislatures, and the right to draw political maps that would help them hold power for the next decade. Now, Democrats are readying a massive $50 million effort of their own to shape the next 10 years of elections by flipping state legislative chambers in places as red as Texas and West Virginia. The plan represents a sea change for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a former backwater in Democratic politics that has transformed as the party grappled with the importance of redistricting. In 2020, the last election before states redraw their political boundaries using new Census data, the winners of many state Legislatures get the power to draw congressional lines that will last an entire decade.
Ethics Expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020
Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said. The experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairperson of the NRCC, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to Emmer facing an investigation by the House ethics committee. A complaint sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleges Emmer violated House rules when the NRCC repeatedly filmed Democrats in the halls of Congress, which are considered official resources, for campaign or political purposes and in violation of chamber rules and federal law.
Former Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Just Over Two Years in Federal Prison
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020
Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison for insider trading crimes he committed, ending a legal process that evolved from the New York Republican calling the charges “meritless” shortly after he was indicted to him pleading guilty and proclaiming embarrassment for his actions. Collins pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to commit insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal his illegal activity. He resigned from Congress the day before his guilty plea. The former lawmaker also must pay a $200,000 fine and will be under one year of supervised release.
High Court to Rule on ‘Faithless Electors’ in Presidential Vote
Yahoo News – Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/17/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else. Advocates for the court’s intervention say the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and the prospect of a close margin in a presidential election, although so-called faithless electors have been a footnote so far in American history. About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the popular vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. The Supreme Court accepted cases from Washington and Colorado in time to hold oral arguments this spring and decide the outcome by June.
K Street Firms Post Big Earnings Gains for 2019
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/21/2020
K Street’s top-tier firms posted sizable gains last year, fueled by technology, pharmaceutical, and big-business interests concerned with such policy matters as trade, health care, taxation, and government spending. Lobbyists say impeachment proceedings and the 2020 campaigns have not yet derailed the influence industry’s agenda this year.
Lev Is Talking. So Where Is Igor?
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Natalie Gryvnyak | Published: 1/21/2020
Lev Parnas, Rudolph Giuliani’s fixer in the Ukraine saga, has dominated the airwaves on the eve of President Trump’s impeachment trial, turning over text messages to House lawmakers and pointing the finger at the president in prime-time cable interviews. Meanwhile, his onetime sidekick and fellow Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, is nowhere to be seen. Under house arrest in Miami and facing federal campaign finance charges, Fruman has split with Parnas, retained counsel from Trump’s world, and stayed true to his reputation as the quiet partner in the duo who stumbled into a presidential impeachment scandal. Behind Fruman’s silence are many of the answers to how the two business executives cracked elite GOP donor circles, and possessed the right connections in Ukraine to connect Giuliani with high-level officials who offered to aid Trump and damage Democrats.
Park Strategies Execs Draw Ire of OFAC in Settlement
Compliance Week – Kyle Brassuer | Published: 1/22/2020
The lobbying firm Park Strategies paid $12,150 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. While the settlement amount is relatively minor compared to most enforcement actions, the penalty could have been much larger given the way in which the alleged violations were carried out. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Park Strategies entered a contract with Al-Barakaat Group of Companies Somalia in August 2017. Al-Barakaat was added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List in 2001 and characterized as a global terrorist organization.
Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/17/2020
A PAC operator whose company raised more than $20 million in recent years but spent almost no money on political activity was sentenced to three years in prison. Kelley Rogers, former president of the consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in one of the first cases of its kind, a sign federal authorities are beginning to crack down on “scam PACs” that raise money from donors in the name of political causes but keep most of those funds for profit. Often, Rogers and others at Strategic Campaign Group reinvested the money they raised into finding more donors, with the help of a circle of preferred vendors that received large sums for their services.
Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2020
Our Revolution is a nonprofit founded by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders that has caused some awkwardness for him in his second run for president. While the group is supporting Sanders’ candidacy, it accepts large donations without fully disclosing who made them, a practice at odds with his calls for greater transparency and stated desire to curtail the power of the wealthy in elections. Sanders said he would “have no problem” with the group opting to provide more information about its donors. But he suggested he would not call on its leaders to do so while his opponents continue to rely on similar organizations. Though barred by federal laws from coordinating with his campaign, the group has emerged as a potent part of Sanders’ grassroots army, with hundreds of thousands of members and activists working across the country to promote his presidential bid.
Tech Giants Led by Amazon, Facebook and Google Spent Nearly $500 Million on Lobbying in 10 Years, Data Show
San Francisco Chronicle – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020
Ten years ago, Google executives rarely spoke to Congress, Amazon employed just two of its own registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and Facebook had only recently graduated to a real office after running its Washington operation out of an employee’s living room. Since then, these companies have evolved into some of the most potent political forces in the nation’s capital, with just seven technology giants accounting for nearly $500 million in lobbying over the past decade. The data tell the story of a sector that increasingly has tapped its wealth to beat back regulatory threats and boost its bottom line. Despite scandals that exposed users’ personal information and left democratic elections in digital disarray, Congress has failed to adopt new laws to limit the industry, a reality some critics attribute in part to the Silicon Valley’s evolving lobbying prowess.
Trump Hotel’s Mix of GOP Insiders and Hangers-on Helped Give Rise to Impeachment Episodes
Anchorage Daily News – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020
For three years, President Trump’s hotel near the White House has been a relaxed hangout for Republicans. Candidates raise money in the ballrooms and members of Congress and lobbyists dine in the steakhouse. Hangers-on wait at the bar, taking selfies in “#americaslivingroom.” That arrangement worked for Republicans because it compressed a city’s worth of networking into one room. It worked for Trump because he converted political allies into private customers. But the hotel’s atmosphere of blurred lines – mixing the public interest with Trump’s private interests and mixing the GOP’s leaders and its wannabe fringes – helped give rise to a scandal that threatens to overshadow Trump’s presidency.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Agriculture Group Puts Arizona Lobbyist on Leave as Lawmaker Denies Romantic Relationship
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Published: 1/22/2020
A lobbyist was put on leave from her job with the Western Growers Association after questions were raised about a possible romantic relationship with an Arizona lawmaker. State Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr said in separate interviews that they are friends and their relationship did not cross ethical lines. The Arizona Republic received a batch of handwritten letters that portray a close relationship between Cook, a married rancher representing a rural Pinal County district, and Knorr, who works on legislation backed by the agricultural industry and is the daughter of an influential lobbyist.
Colorado – Hickenlooper Faces Renewed Pressure and Questions About His Administration’s Spending in Final Months
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 1/17/2020
A little-noticed government account that is paying ongoing legal bills related to an ethics complaint against U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is facing renewed scrutiny even as his allies continue to block requests for an audit of the spending. In its final months, the former Colorado governor’s administration used federal funds from a 2003 account to cover a prominent attorney $525-an-hour fee and spent $13,385 for a legacy website designed to tell the story of how Hickenlooper and his team “paved the way for Colorado’s journey and growth.” Hickenlooper’s top rival in the Democratic primary is joining the call for the audit. And now a state lawmaker is pursuing legislation to get better answers about the off-budget spending by the executive branch.
Florida – Florida Lawmakers Want Same Privacy as Cops and Judges, But Why?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/22/2020
Senate Bill 832 would give Florida lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private. But while threats made against police and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Senate committee approved the bill along party lines that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers. Under the bill, the personal information and places of employment of their spouses and children would be exempt. So, too, would be information that lawmakers do not disclose when they run for office, such as the names and locations of the schools their children attend.
Florida – Florida Supreme Court Issues Setback for Amendment 4 Supporters
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/16/2020
The Florida Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers who have argued that felons must pay back all court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution before registering to vote. In a narrow opinion requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis, justices gave their answer on one of the questions at the heart of the historic ballot measure voters passed in 2018. Celebrated as one of the greatest expansions of voting rights in decades, it restored the right to vote to most non-violent felons who completed “all terms of sentence.” But the phrase “all terms of sentence” became a flash point in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers lined up behind Senate Bill 7066, which defined “all terms” to include all financial obligations.
Florida – Hillsborough’s Lobbying Rules Get Tweaked
Tampa Bay Times – Anastasia Dawson | Published: 1/19/2020
Hillsborough County was one of the first local governments in the nation to create its own lobbying ordinance, a measure meant to protect the public’s right to know when elected officials interact with people paid to influence them. But county officials say a loophole in the ordinance afforded prominent operative Ed Turanchik access to county commissioners that fell outside rules requiring public oversight – and later, got him an official warning from the county attorney’s office. Going forward, parties that contract with the county will be required to provide written justification for why retaining the services of a lobbyist is essential to the project. And lobbyists looking to work as consultants with the county will be scrutinized for possible or perceived conflicts of interest, Lobbyist Registration Manager Dave Couvertier said.
Florida – What’s a ‘Lobbyist’? Tallahassee Ethics Board May Recommend Broader Definition
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/22/2020
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is likely to make recommendations to ensure public officials are being transparent about who they are meeting with and what effect those meetings have on official action. Although the board does not have the power to regulate lobbyists, it could ask city officials to expand who falls under the definition. The board could also make recommendations on the calendars that elected officials keep and expand who needs to register to include developers, and public relations and communications firms. City commissioners ultimately would have to approve any changes to the ethics ordinance.
Iowa – Chaos Feared Despite Iowa Democrats’ Caucus Fixes
Fairfield Citizen – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020
With at least four Democratic candidates seemingly in contention to win Iowa’s presidential caucus, some in the party fear reforms put in place to prevent the disarray of 2016 may create an entirely new set of problems in 2020. It has been the tradition that voting plays out in school gyms and church basements, with multiple vote tabulations as supporters of candidates who do not reach a threshold on the initial vote scramble to make a second choice among the remaining contenders. This year, for the first time, the state party will release the initial raw vote totals as well as the final delegate allocation. The change will mean more transparency, but it also raises the possibility that multiple campaigns could claim a victory of sorts, with supporters of one candidate seeing another’s triumph as illegitimate.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges. Then She Hugs FBI Agents.
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/22/2020
Seven months after reaching a secret deal with federal prosecutors, and a month after suddenly resigning from the Maryland Legislature, former Del. Cheryl Glenn admitted taking bribes in exchange for political favors in court. In her plea, Glenn admitted she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company. She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license.
Michigan – Ballot Plan Bans Lobbyists from Buying Food for Michigan Lawmakers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020
Lobbyists in Michigan would no longer be able to buy meals or provide anything of value for state lawmakers under a ballot proposal by Progress Michigan. The initiative, which aims to amend the state constitution, would also create a two-year waiting period before former elected officials could become lobbyists and would require lobbyists to publicly log what topics they are discussing with lawmakers. In addition to buying food for lawmakers, lobbyists can now provide them with gifts as long as the gifts do not cost more than $63 and fund trips for them.
Missouri – Proposed Measures Tackle Initiative Petitions
Jefferson City News Tribune – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/23/2020
Two years after Missouri voters approved two constitutional amendments that began as initiative petitions, some state lawmakers are trying to make it harder to pass more in the future. Sen. David Sater proposed a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments by petition, and a bill that would change several parts of the initiative process, including adding a $500 fee to file a petition, among other provisions. Missouri is one of 16 states that allow voters to put proposed constitutional amendments directly on the ballot by initiative petition. Sater said he wants to keep that process intact but wants to make it harder to change the state constitution.
New Jersey – He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi | Published: 1/20/2020
A former member of the New Jersey Assembly named in two federal search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Orange, once collected more than $21,000 in campaign funds for a race he never ran for, and what happened with the money is unclear, records show. An NJ Advance Media review of campaign finance records show Willis Edwards III created an election fund more than 10 years ago in a bid for East Orange mayor. But Edwards never ran in the June 2009 primary or any other East Orange race. It is unknown what happened to the thousands of dollars in his campaign coffers. No expenditure reports were filed, as is required by law.
New Mexico – Report Flags ‘Outsized Influence’ of Lobbyists
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/17/2020
A report by New Mexico Ethics Watch describes a culture in which the lobbying ranks in the state are filled with relatives of legislators and even former lawmakers themselves. In the report, Ethics Watch recommended many measures to increase transparency and limit the influence of lobbyists. “Personal relationships and family ties between legislators and lobbyists are an important part of NM’s legislative culture,” the report says. “They are backed up by a formidable arsenal of campaign contributions, meals at fancy restaurants, and special events in Santa Fe and out-of-state cities where legislators gather for national conferences.”
New York – After Court Rulings, Unclear Future for Push to Restrict State Legislators’ Outside Income
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 1/21/2020
After two years of legislative negotiations, commission reports, and lawsuits, parts of a planned salary increase for state officials in New York remain up in the air, and the fate of long-sought restrictions on legislators’ outside income sits entirely with lawmakers themselves. With rulings in the second half of 2019 striking down the outside income limits before they could go into effect, and other pending court decisions throwing the pay hikes into uncertainty, good government advocates and others are calling on the Legislature to take up the restrictions through statute in the 2020 legislative session.
New York – Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Largely Upheld
Newsday – Yancey Roy | Published: 1/21/2020
A federal court dismissed some corruption counts against former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but upheld most of his 2018 conviction, meaning one of the most powerful New York lawmakers of the last generation is likely to serve prison time. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Silver on four counts of seven counts associated with allegations he pocketed money for doing political favors for people who had interests in Albany. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court for resentencing, giving Silver a chance to reduce the seven-year prison sentence a judge ordered two years ago. But the court’s affirmation of four charges means Silver would have to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the rest of the charges for him to go free altogether.
North Carolina – State Lawmaker’s Failure to Disclose Business Ties Highlights Broader Ethics Enforcement Problem
NC Policy Watch – Joe Killian | Published: 1/15/2020
State Rep. Holly Grange failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years. In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest. Kathleen Edwards, interim director of the State Ethics Commission, said cases like Grange’s and others point to a larger problem. “We only have eight employees now, the entire commission,” said Edwards. She said the SEI unit will investigate complaints of non-disclosure, Edwards said. But beyond executive branch officials, which it is statutorily required to evaluate, it does not perform audits.
North Dakota – New Director Aims to Help North Dakota Ethics Commission Make Rules
Fargo Forum – Jason Turley | Published: 1/22/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission has a new executive director who says he will try to help navigate the board through the choppy waters ahead. David Thiele once worked as a judge advocate for the U.S. Army before returning to his home state and joining the North Dakota National Guard, where he served as a lawyer and top administrator. Thiel said he will use his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard to help the commission create rules and procedures for handling complaints of ethical misconduct. The rules could also establish if certain topics, like campaign finance disclosures, fall under the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission does not yet have a detailed process for handling complaints or punishing those deemed guilty of violations.
Oklahoma – Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules
Seattle Times – Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020
Oklahoma Sens. Nathan Dahm and Marty Quinn proposed specialty license plates that, if approved by the Legislature, would display two of President Trump’s campaign slogans, “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.” The plates would be added to a list of 98 other specialty designs that Oklahoma drivers can choose to purchase for $35. Of that amount, $20 goes to the designated organization that matches the theme of the vanity plate. Although the money collected from purchases of the plates would go to veteran groups and not Trump’s reelection campaign, the proposal could still violate campaign finance laws if the state uses taxpayer dollars or resources to make the plates.
Oregon – Big Out-Of-State Donations Have Oregon Lawmakers Mulling ‘Pay-To-Play’ Law
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/22/2020
State lawmakers looking into campaign finance regulations say Oregon should consider limiting how much public officials can accept from people or firms seeking state contracts. Such “pay-to-play” laws are designed to limit influence companies or individuals seeking work with a public agency can wield over officials with a say on who gets that work. Oregon is one of a handful of states that currently have no campaign finance limits whatsoever. That has created a situation in which out-of-state law firms are pouring cash into campaigns of incumbent of incumbent state treasurers and attorneys general, the two officials whose departments choose which firms receive potentially lucrative contracts representing the state in class-action suits.
Oregon – Campaign Donation Limits? Not This Year, Oregon Governor Says
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/20/2020
State lawmakers should not pass campaign contribution limits this year, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing on the upcoming short legislative session. As a result, voters will likely have to decide in November on a state constitutional amendment that would allow donation limits without knowing what those caps might be. Last year, the Oregon House passed a bill that would have capped contributions to legislative candidates at $1,000 and $1,500, and statewide candidates at $2,800. It died in the Senate and there was talk that lawmakers might pass a similar plan this year, to give voters a clear idea of the impact they could have if they pass a constitutional amendment to allow the limits.
Oregon – Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 1/21/2020
Portland’s elections office will not be penalizing candidates in upcoming races for defying local campaign finance limits, which remain in legal limbo until the Oregon Supreme Court weighs in. The decision closes the first chapter on a push by Honest Elections, a local campaign finance reform group, to force candidates to cap the individual contributions they receive at $500. The group had filed three complaints with the city auditor accusing Mayor Ted Wheeler, city council candidate Jack Kerfoot, and mayoral candidate Ozzie Gonzalez of flouting the contribution limits passed by voters last year.
Texas – Texas Lobbyists and Politicians Dodged $800k in Fines, Thanks to Weak Campaign Finance Laws
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldenstein and Allie Morris | Published: 1/23/2020
There are about a hundred candidates, lobbyists, and PAC treasurers in Texas each year who fail to file mandatory disclosures of their donors and expenses, racking up thousands of dollars in fines as a result. Candidates with unpaid fines can continue to run for office and the committees can go on operating, thanks to a weak enforcement system that allows them to dodge their responsibility to the state. The state attorney general’s office, which handles collections for the Texas Ethics Commission, since 2005 has won the right in court to collect $1.1 million from late filers, but the office has then written off $800,000 as uncollectible, effectively ending attempts to financially penalize candidates and political committees.
Utah – Special Interests Provided 93.5% of Donations to Utah Legislators Last Year
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/20/2020
Utah lawmakers did not need to raise much campaign money in 2019, since it was not an election year for them. They still amassed plenty, and special interest groups supplied 93.5% of it. Academics say that is unusual because in most states, studies say lawmakers raise about half of their money from individual voters and half from special interests. Utah’s big disparity raises questions about what those special interests receive for their money. Some academics and donors say it purchases better access to the political process. Meanwhile, legislative leaders and other donors say it buys nothing and merely shows how some donors support politicians who tend to vote in ways they like.
Vermont – Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults the Ethics Panel That Let Him Off the Hook
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 1/22/2020
Vermont’s House Ethics Panel had to wrestle with some unusual questions last year as it considered a wide-ranging complaint against state Rep. Chris Bates. Is it unethical for a Vermont lawmaker to have an outstanding felony arrest warrant from another state, or to misstate one’s criminal background during a radio call-in show? Critics of the first-term lawmaker and outdoor enthusiast, aka “The Fishin’ Politician,” paint Bates as a felon who won election in 2018 only after eluding justice and concealing his criminal past from voters. Bates admits he has made mistakes but says he started a new life in Vermont only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign by some of the same online trolls who harassed former Rep. Kiah Morris out of office.
Washington DC – D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over $1 Million Booking at President’s Hotel
Anchorage Daily News – Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020
The District of Columbia is suing President Trump’s inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel. The committee has maintained its finances were independently audited and all money was spent in accordance with the law. It is the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves, part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. District of Columbia law requires that nonprofit organizations not operate for the purpose of generating profits for private individuals.
Wisconsin – After Rejection, Conservatives Try Again to Get Voter Purge Case to Supreme Court
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/20/2020
Conservatives suing over Wisconsin’s voter rolls tried to get their case before the state Supreme Court, even though the justices told them recently they would not take it. Those bringing the lawsuit effectively asked the justices to change their minds after they declined the case because of a deadlock. To gain footing, they would need at least one of the three justices who opposed taking up the matter to take a new view. That puts renewed attention on Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who sided with two liberal justices in saying the court should not consider the case. At issue is whether more than 200,000 people should be taken off the voter rolls because they have been identified as having likely moved. Both sides see the case as important because Wisconsin was so closely decided in the 2016 election.
January 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates” by Maya King for Politico Oregon: “Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed” by Rebecca Ellis for Oregon Public Broadcasting Elections Vermont: “Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults […]
National: “Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates” by Maya King for Politico
Oregon: “Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed” by Rebecca Ellis for Oregon Public Broadcasting
Vermont: “Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults the Ethics Panel That Let Him Off the Hook” by Kevin McCallum for Seven Days
Arizona: “Agriculture Group Puts Arizona Lobbyist on Leave as Lawmaker Denies Romantic Relationship” by Andrew Oxford and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez for Arizona Republic
Florida: “Florida Lawmakers Want Same Privacy as Cops and Judges, But Why?” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
Washington DC: “D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over $1 Million Booking at President’s Hotel” by Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
National: “K Street Firms Post Big Earnings Gains for 2019” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “Tech Giants Led by Amazon, Facebook and Google Spent Nearly $500 Million on Lobbying in 10 Years, Data Show” by Tony Romm (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle
National: “Park Strategies Execs Draw Ire of OFAC in Settlement” by Kyle Brassuer for Compliance Week
January 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud” by Maggie Severns for Politico National: “Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors” by Sean Sullivan […]
National: “Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud” by Maggie Severns for Politico
National: “Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors” by Sean Sullivan and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Campaign Donation Limits? Not This Year, Oregon Governor Says” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
National: “Lev Is Talking. So Where Is Igor?” by Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Natalie Gryvnyak for Washington Post
New York: “After Court Rulings, Unclear Future for Push to Restrict State Legislators’ Outside Income” by Ethan Geringer-Sameth for Gotham Gazette
New York: “Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Largely Upheld” by Yancey Roy for Newsday
January 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.” by Karen Yi for Newark Star Ledger Oklahoma: “Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules” by Katie […]
New Jersey: “He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.” by Karen Yi for Newark Star Ledger
Oklahoma: “Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules” by Katie Mettler (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Utah: “Special Interests Provided 93.5% of Donations to Utah Legislators Last Year” by Lee Davidson for Salt Lake Tribune
National: “Justices to Consider Faithless Electors, Ahead of 2020 Vote” by Mark Sherman for AP News
Iowa: “Chaos Feared Despite Iowa Democrats’ Caucus Fixes” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Fairfield Citizen
National: “Former Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Just Over Two Years in Federal Prison” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “Dem Debates Are Magnet for Lobbyists” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
Florida: “Hillsborough’s Lobbying Rules Get Tweaked” by Anastasia Dawson for Tampa Bay Times
January 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting” by Maggie Severns for Politico National: “Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government Elections Florida: “Florida Supreme Court […]
National: “Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting” by Maggie Severns for Politico
National: “Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government
Florida: “Florida Supreme Court Issues Setback for Amendment 4 Supporters” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
National: “Trump Hotel’s Mix of GOP Insiders and Hangers-on Helped Give Rise to Impeachment Episodes” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
National: “Ethics Expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
Colorado: “Hickenlooper Faces Renewed Pressure and Questions About His Administration’s Spending in Final Months” by John Frank for Colorado Sun
North Carolina: “State Lawmaker’s Failure to Disclose Business Ties Highlights Broader Ethics Enforcement Problem” by Joe Killian for NC Policy Watch
New Mexico: “Report Flags ‘Outsized Influence’ of Lobbyists” by Dan McKay for Albuquerque Journal
January 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Court Debates Using Shell Companies to Mask Political Donations Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/10/2020 A federal appeals court panel heard arguments over the use of shell companies to hide donations in a case that could affect super […]
Court Debates Using Shell Companies to Mask Political Donations
Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/10/2020
A federal appeals court panel heard arguments over the use of shell companies to hide donations in a case that could affect super PAC disclosure in the 2020 election. Utah businessperson Steven Lund is helping the FEC defend the dismissal of allegations that Lund and other wealthy donors used shell companies to illegally hide their donations to super PACs. Lund was among several donors accused of violating campaign finance laws by funneling millions of dollars to super PACs that supported Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. Obscure corporations were listed as the donors in reports filed with the FEC, prompting watchdog groups to complain the true donors were being hidden.
Did You Get a Text from an Unknown Number? It Might Be Bernie Sanders’ Campaign
McClatchyDC – Emily Cadei | Published: 1/8/2020
Democrats and Republicans alike are spending millions of dollars and deploying thousands of staffers and volunteers focused on texting with committed and potential supporters in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an early adopter of the tactic, has already sent nearly nine times as many text messages to voters as it did during the entire 2016 primary. Political candidates’ and groups’ use of text messaging has skyrocketed over the past several years thanks to new software and the ease and efficiency of reaching voters across the country. “Everyone reads their text messages,” said Daniel Souweine, who ran Sanders’ text message program in 2016. “It’s quickly moved from, ‘hey, what is this thing?’, to the point where you can’t run a modern political campaign without it.”
Doctored Images Have Become a Fact of Life for Political Campaigns. When They’re Disproved, Believers ‘Just Don’t Care.’
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 1/14/2020
For ginning up political resentment and accentuating a rivals’ flaws, nothing quite compares to a doctored image. It can help anyone turn a political opponent into a caricature – inventing gaffes, undercutting wins, and erasing nuance – leaving only the emotion behind. Sharing doctored images of an electoral rival is a timeworn strategy of modern politics: in campaign mailers and television ads, shadowy lighting, sinister music, and unflattering facial expressions are so expected as to be cliché. But those tactics are increasingly playing out on the Internet, the most powerful visual medium in history, where they do not require a campaign’s backing or resources to get attention.
House Votes to Send Trump Impeachment to Senate for Trial
AP News – Linda Mascaro | Published: 1/15/2020
The U.S. House voted to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate and approve House prosecutors for only the third impeachment trial in American history. The nearly party-line vote moved Trump’s impeachment from the Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate, where Trump expects acquittal, even as new evidence is raising fresh questions about his Ukraine dealings. The president is charged with abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
IRS May Be Unaware of 9,774 Political Nonprofits, Watchdog Says
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 1/9/2020
The IRS has not done enough to identify noncompliant political organizations, despite having various sources of data that would enable it to do so, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said. There are 9,774 politically active tax-exempt organizations that may have failed to notify the IRS of their existence or submit the paperwork to operate tax-free. The groups are required to notify the IRS within 60 days of forming that they intend to operate as a “social welfare” group organized under tax code Section 501(c)4. The IRS could also be failing to collect millions of dollars in penalties and fees owed by these social welfare groups, the report said. The revelation comes as the IRS is seeking to finish regulations that would allow the groups to keep their donor lists secret unless they are requested by the agency.
Lev Parnas: Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on’ in Ukraine
Politico – Matthew Choi, Kyle Cheney, and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 1/15/2020
Lev Parnas said President Trump and Rudy Giuliani directed him to urge Ukrainian officials to publicly open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Parnas asserted that the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was entirely motivated by her interference in their efforts to start a Biden investigation. Parnas said Trump was fully aware of his actions and added that Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and former national security adviser John Bolton were all aware of or involved in parts of the scheme. Elements of his story are backed up by a trove of contemporaneous documents he provided to lawmakers in recent days, files that were initially seized by law enforcement officials following his indictment on campaign finance charges and released to him only recently.
More Money, Less Transparency: A decade under Citizens United
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/14/2020
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the longstanding prohibition on independent expenditures by corporations violated the First Amendment. With its decision, the court allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose candidates. The majority made the case that political spending from independent actors, even from powerful companies, was not a corrupting influence on those in office. The decade that followed was by far the most expensive in the history of American elections. The explosion of big money and secret spending was not spurred on by Citizens United alone. It was enabled by a number of court decisions that surgically removed several restrictions in campaign finance law and emboldened by inaction from Congress and gridlock within the FEC.
Ocasio-Cortez Creates PAC to Push Back on the Democratic Party’s ‘Blacklisting’ Rule
MSN – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2020
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she had formed a PAC to help raise funds for progressive primary candidates. She has been a vocal opponent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy to “blacklist” vendors and firms that work with candidates mounting primary challenges against Democratic incumbents. Ocasio-Cortez was one such candidate, having run a successful primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in 2018. Democratic leadership sees the rule as necessary to protect seats and win elections, but critics say it prevents fresh voices from reaching Congress and could encumber efforts to increase diversity at the Capitol.
Robert Hyde, Erratic Ex-Landscaper, Is Unlikely New Impeachment Figure
TheWorldNews.net – Michael Rothfeld, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/15/2020
Even in an impeachment drama brimming with improbable characters, Robert Hyde stands out. Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut, was thrust into the proceedings to remove President Trump from office when the House released a series of encrypted messages that he exchanged last year with an associate of Rudolph Giuliani. The messages suggest Hyde had been secretly tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time. The conversations drew alarm from Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post on Trump’s orders, and calls from a member of Congress for an investigation. It was only the latest in a series of erratic episodes for Hyde, whose congressional campaign has been marked by inflammatory comments.
Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment
MSN – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 1/13/2020
Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian gas company that is a major focus of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, according to a cybersecurity firm that says it discovered the attacks on Burisma Holdings. The Russian military hackers began an attack in November on the firm, where Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s son had served on the board. It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens, the same kind of information that Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.
Sen. Cory Booker Exits the Democratic Presidential Primary, Making the Field Less Diverse
MSN – Amy Wang and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2020
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker announced he is dropping out of the Democratic presidential race. Booker said his operation would not have the money “to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win,” particularly with a Senate impeachment trial looming and because he would be absent from the most recent debate. As a presidential candidate, Booker was often stuck, unable to convince left-wing voters that he was on their side while turning down donations and initially rejecting super PAC support that could have helped him. Democrats who watched the candidates were often surprised by Booker’s lack of traction.
Supreme Court Won’t Hear Fight Over SEC’s Pay-To-Play Rule
law360.com – Reenat Sinay | Published: 1/13/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a state Republican Party’s challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) power to implement a rule preventing “pay-to-play” practices by investment advisers who make political contributions, leaving in place a lower court ruling in the SEC’s favor. The rule at issue, approved by the SEC in 2016, prevents brokers from seeking government business within two years of a campaign donation. It was intended to complement the SEC’s existing rule covering investment advisers, given concerns that investment advisers might sidestep the rule by relying on brokers acting as placement agents to make the political contributions instead.
These Emails Show a Trump Official Helping Her Former Chemical Industry Colleagues
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz | Published: 1/14/2020
In 2017, Dow Chemical scored a long-sought-after victory: after a push from the U.S. government, China approved the import of the company’s genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn seeds. A grateful Dow lobbyist emailed a senior Agriculture Department official whose support had been critical: “Thank you for your efforts in support of U.S. agriculture.” That official, Rebeckah Adcock, was no stranger to Dow. Before joining the Trump administration, Adcock was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group, of which Dow was a prominent member. Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about the seed issue.
Trump Labor Agencies Ease Up on Recusals
Politico – Ian Kullgren and Rebecca Rainey | Published: 1/15/2020
President Trump promised to drain the swamp in Washington, but under his administration several high-level Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials are dealing directly with cases they touched in the private sector, raising questions about conflicts-of-interest. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, in his previous capacity as a private attorney, won a Chamber of Commerce lawsuit two years ago against an Obama-era regulation governing retirement advice. But in October, the department’s ethics lawyers cleared Scalia to participate in crafting a new version of the rule. The NLRB issued a new recusal policy in November that, barring unlikely intervention by a president or an appellate court ruling, leaves all decisions about conflict of interest to the NLRB member in question.
Voting Machine Makers Face Questions from House Lawmakers – But More Remain
NBC News – Ben Popkin | Published: 1/9/2020
For decades, the companies that dominated the U.S. voting machine industry operated in relative anonymity. Now, lawmakers want answers and transparency. The chief executive officers of the three companies that make more than 80 percent of the country’s voting machines testified before Congress for the first time, marking a new and bipartisan effort to ensure the security of the 2020 election. Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hart InterCivic, are almost entirely unregulated. But in recent years, policymakers and election advocates have begun to question who owns the companies, how they make their machines, and whether they could be susceptible to remote hacking.
Wealthy Donors Now Allowed to Give Over Half a Million Dollars Each to Support Trump’s Reelection
San Francisco Chronicle – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2020
Donors to President Trump’s reelection are now permitted to give nearly $600,000 per year, boosting the president’s ability to raise money from wealthy supporters. Under an agreement announced by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC), a single donor can give as much as $580,600 this year to support Trump’s reelection – higher than the committee’s previous caps on contributions. That means the RNC’s biggest contributors could end up having shelled out as much as $1.6 million to support Trump’s reelection over the course of the four-year election cycle. It is the latest example of the expanding fundraising power of national party committees, made possible through pivotal legal changes in 2014 that loosened restrictions on individual donations.
White House Hold on Ukraine Aid Violated Federal Law, Congressional Watchdog Says
MSN – Jeff Stein, Ellen Nakashima, and Erica Werner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020
The White House violated federal law in its hold on security aid to Ukraine last year, according to a decision by The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress The GAO found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress. White House budget officials have defended their power to stop the money from being given to the Defense Department, arguing both congressional lawmakers and executive branch officials routinely demand delays on funding already signed into law.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – APS Boss Promises No More Campaign Cash for Regulators
Arizona Capitol Times – Dillon Rosenblatt | Published: 1/14/2020
The new chief executive officer of Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) vowed the company, its parent company, Pinnacle West, and other known affiliates would not spend money on campaigns for utility regulators while he is in charge. Jeff Guldner’s statement came at a meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission in which he fielded questions, giving them what they waited months to hear: a promise to no longer allow the utility to contribute to the elections of the regulators who will have to regulate them. Three of the current commissioners, Lea Marques Peterson, Boyd Dunn, and Bob Burns, have all accepted contributions from APS and other utilities and now have to disclose it before any vote relating to those companies under a new code of ethics.
California – Slugfest at a California Conference Has Inspired a Politician to Propose a New Law
Los Angeles Times – Ruben Vives | Published: 1/13/2020
In May, two council members got into an argument at a conference in Indian Wells that turned into a brawl. The slugfest ended up involving four of the politicians from the city of Commerce and left one councilperson, Leonard Mendoza, lying on the ground unconscious. There were ripple effects: the California Contract Cities Association, the nonprofit advocacy group that hosted the conference, suspended Commerce’s membership and a local criminal investigation was launched, though no charges have been filed. Now, Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia, whose district includes Commerce, plans to introduce legislation aimed at giving the California auditor the authority to examine the finances of government lobbying organizations such as Contract Cities.
Florida – Despite ‘Cone-of-Silence’ Over JEA Sale, Top Mayoral Official Spoke to Florida Power and Light CEO During Private Party at Jaguars Game
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/9/2020
Brian Hughes, Tallahassee Mayor Lenny Curry’s top administrator, denied having a substantive conversation with Florida Power and Light Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy during a party the company hosted at the October 27 Jacksonville Jaguars game. Silagy recalled speaking with Hughes about several issues related to economic development but not about JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility that Florida Power and Light was competing to buy. City Hall attorneys told city officials that state law prohibited them from discussing JEA privatization efforts with any representatives of the entities who submitted bids to purchase the utility. while city officials and the bidders were allowed to discuss matters unrelated to JEA, city attorneys cautioned them to “consider the appearance of impropriety” before doing so.
Florida – Lobbyist or Neighborhood Advocate? ‘Strange’ Events at Zoning Meeting Puzzles County
Palm Beach Post – Hannah Morse | Published: 1/10/2020
Supporters of a RaceTrac gas station at a Palm Beach County zoning meeting are being examined. One Palm Beach County commissioner thought it was odd that a hearing on a gas station proposal drew supporters who made curious, sometimes repetitive arguments, like preferring RaceTrac’s food offerings to fast food and enjoying the service station’s access to Wi-Fi connections. Those who made the peculiar comments are being examined closer after an allegation that they may have been paid to speak in favor of the project. “Where do you view them from someone who’s advocating versus someone who is a flat-out lobbyist?” Assistant County Administrator Patrick Rutter said.
Florida – Public Policy, Secret Sway and ‘Schmoozing’ in Tallahassee, Leon County
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/9/2020
A review of Tallahassee and Lee County commissioner calendars from 2018 and the first half of 2019 found elected officials interacted with more than 30 lobbyists who were not registered with the respective local governments during some 60 meetings. The investigation illuminated how public business is conducted in a government town brimming with lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, where friendships, personal business, and public policy often are intertwined. While many of the lobbyist interactions may have been perfectly legal, watchdogs say they fall in a grey area of the law. In some cases, unregistered lobbyists and elected officials talked public business behind closed doors or otherwise out of the sunshine, making it impossible for constituents to know exactly what was discussed.
Illinois – City Hall Lobbyists Rewrite Their Playbook
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 1/10/2020
In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reforming crusade against aldermanic prerogative and a culture of “give to get” in City Hall, her first months have included changes that doubled fines for ethics violations and broadened the definition of lobbyist to include nonprofits. Her administration has also banned aldermen from lobbying other governments and banned other politicians from lobbying City Hall for private interests. Despite those changes – or perhaps because of them – the local lobbying business is on the upswing. Those who can navigate the changing landscape and guide their clients through it stand to benefit.
Illinois – Ethics Board Imposes Max $2,000 Fine Against Chicago Ald. Edward Burke Over Letter He Wrote in Matter Involving a Client
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 1/15/2020
The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Edward Burke $2,000 after determining the embattled alderman wrote a letter to another city official “in a matter involving a client of his law firm within 12 months of when the alderman’s law firm represented this client.” The board fined Burke the maximum it could for the violation, which was $2,000. Federal prosecutors filed a racketeering indictment against Burke in May. The 59-indictment outlined a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city.
Illinois – Illinois Ag Director Resigns Over Response to Rape Email
AP News – John O’Connor | Published: 1/14/2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture director has resigned after acknowledging he received, but did not act on, a lobbyist’s email seven years ago that referenced an alleged rape cover-up and illegal hiring practices. John Sullivan said he did not read the email thoroughly at the time but that “I accept responsibility for what was truly an unintentional oversight and the subsequent inaction.” The email from Michael McClain, formerly a powerful lobbyist and confidante of House Speaker Michael Madigan, was sent to aides of then-Gov. Pat Quinn. It sought leniency for a “loyal” state employee who “has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.” Pritzker referred the matter to the Office of the Executive Inspector General for review and the Illinois State Police have opened an investigation.
Illinois – Who’s a Lobbyist? Lawmakers Grapple with the Question as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Others Push for Ban on Public Officials Working in That Role
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 1/15/2020
With federal investigators scrutinizing the activities of lobbyists at Chicago City Hall and the Capitol, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the General Assembly to pass legislation banning public officials from working as lobbyists at other levels of government. But to do that, lawmakers will have to decide what, exactly, counts as lobbying and who would be required to register as a lobbyist. The difficulty lawmakers face in answering those questions became apparent at the second meeting of a state ethics commission created late last year in response to the issues raised during the ongoing federal investigation. Aside from state government, only a handful of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government have any kind of disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence decision-making by public officials.
Indiana – Former Lawmaker Won’t Face Lobbying Charges. Marion County Prosecutor Won’t Detail Why.
Indianapolis Star Tribune – Chris Sikich | Published: 1/13/2020
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to say specifically why former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face criminal charges that he violated Indiana’s lobbying law, leaving veterans advocates puzzled and frustrated. A media investigation revealed a secretive employment deal with a temporary agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist, as seemingly required by law, or tracking his hours and work product, as required by his contract. Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, has repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about why the prosecutor’s office reached a different conclusion than the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission. The office also will not make Prosecutor Ryan Mears, or any of his deputies or investigators, available for an interview about the matter.
Maine – Indirect Lobbying Can Fly Under the Radar. A Maine Ethics Commission Proposal Could Change That
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/9/2020
The agency overseeing Maine’s lobbying regulations wants to update a state law that has allowed some interest groups to influence legislation by spending big without having to disclose it to the public. The proposal deals with what is known as grassroots lobbying. Jonathan Wayne, director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, says it is inspired by an increase in advertising and “influence campaigns” that often do not get reported through traditional lobbying disclosures, and influenced by a shadowy group that is seeking to derail a controversial transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power. Wayne told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee his agency’s bill is designed to modernize grassroots lobbying requirements.
Maryland – After Corruption Scandal, Baltimore City Council Committee Will Consider Government Reform Measures
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 1/13/2020
Less than two months after former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges, the city council is pushing forward on a slate of government reform measures that include giving itself the power to oust a mayor for misconduct. Council members introduced a number of charter amendments in the wake of the wide-ranging “Healthy Holly” scandal, in which Pugh sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of self-published children’s books to companies that did business with the city. The amendments also would create a city administrator position and reduce the number of votes needed to overturn a mayor’s veto.
Massachusetts – In Novel Move, DiMasi Sues Secretary of State After Lobbyist Bid Denied
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 1/10/2020
Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi sued Secretary of State William Galvin as part of DiMasi’s bid to register as a state lobbyist, a novel legal move that could have wide ramifications for how Massachusetts lobbying and ethics laws are interpreted. DiMasi has said intended to challenge Galvin’s decision to reject his lobbying application after a state hearing officer denied DiMasi’s appeal. It is nevertheless unprecedented. First elected in 1994, Galvin has never been sued for denying a lobbyist application, and depending on how a judge rules, it could reshape how he enforces state law.
Michigan – Michigan Senator to Female Reporter: High school boys could ‘have a lot of fun’ with you
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray | Published: 1/15/2020
A state senator is facing widespread criticism and an investigation in the Michigan Legislature after telling a female reporter she should stick around at the Capitol because a group of high school students from an all-boys school, touring the building, could “have a lot of fun” with her. Sen. Peter Lucido made the comments outside the Senate chamber to Allison Donahue, a reporter from the Michigan Advance, while surrounded by a group of male high school students from De La Salle Collegiate. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate announced they have asked the Senate Business Office to investigate whether the incident violated Senate rules related to sexual harassment.
New Jersey – No Hard Alcohol Will Be Allowed on ‘Chamber Train’ Following NJ.com Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/9/2020
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has banned “hard alcohol” aboard its annual “Walk to Washington” lobbying event in response to a recent report that quoted women saying they do not feel safe attending the important affair for politicians and lobbyists. The Chamber also said it will hire more security officers and establish a direct phone line that would “immediately and discreetly” report an incident of harassment directly to security personnel and the organizers. A story published in The Newark Star Ledger included interviews with women who said they were groped, assaulted, or sexually propositioned over the years on the job in state politics. The women also identified the problems with the Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip, which includes crowded cars of people drinking and networking from Newark to Washington D.C.
New Jersey – Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Bridgegate Scandal
Northwest Indiana Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/14/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to overturn the convictions against two of former Gov. Chris Christie’s ex-political allies in the “Bridgegate” case, and the decision could have implications for how federal prosecutors pursue allegations of public corruption. The two former allies, Bridget Kelly and William Baroni Jr., argue the Justice Department reached too far in charging them with fraud for their roles in an alleged plot to back up traffic on the George Washington Bridge as retaliation against a local mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. They say while the conduct alleged might have been uncouth, it was not illegal, and declaring it so would criminalize routine political dealings. The Justice Department counters that Kelly and Baroni are misstating what occurred, and the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions.
New York – SAM Party Sues State Over Changes to Third Party Ballot Access
Albany Times Union – Amanda Fries | Published: 1/14/2020
A new state law in New York requiring political parties to offer a presidential candidate and garner nearly three times as many votes than previously needed to maintain their statewide ballot line is facing a legal challenge by the newest political party. The Serve America Movement (SAM) Party, which gained state ballot access in the 2018 gubernatorial race, is suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state legislators, and the state Board of Elections alleging the requirements are unconstitutional. The SAM Party complaint alleges that forcing the minor party to nominate a presidential candidate or otherwise lose party status is a “severe burden” and violates the First and Fourteenth amendments allowing citizens to create and develop new political parties.
Oregon – Pay to Play? Out-Of-State Law Firms Reap Rewards of Oregon Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/15/2020
Almost half of the money that Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read reported raising in 2019 came from big law firms headquartered in places like New York City and Washington, D.C. Nearly all are being made by lawyers who seek work from the state. A 2008 law gave firms a chance to make millions of dollars if they are picked to work one of the potentially lucrative lawsuits that Oregon files against powerful corporations. The result is a torrent of outside money to state candidates, much of it solicited by Oregon treasurers and attorneys general, the same elected officials whose offices decide which firms get the work. “Whether this corrupts their decision or not, they ought to be sensitive to the fact that it stinks,” said James Cox, a professor at Duke University School of Law.
Rhode Island – R.I. Ethics Commission, Known for Transparency, Talks About Keeping Complaints Secret Until Investigations Done
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 1/10/2020
Rhode Island has one of the most transparent ethics agencies in the nation, but a member of the state Ethics Commission floated an idea that would limit transparency by keeping ethics complaints under wraps until investigations are complete. Ethics complaints can be used as a “political tool,” said Dr. Robert Salk, who has been on the commission since 2012. “The problem is that the way we do it is hurting people that did nothing wrong.” When it began in 1986, the ethics panel used a “secret process,” the commission’s executive director, Jason Gramitt, said, but after court cases, hearings, and workshops, the commission opened up the complaint process.
South Dakota – Federal Judge Blocks South Dakota Petition Law
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 1/9/2020
A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a South Dakota law imposing burdensome regulations that would have made it much harder for the average citizen to get an initiative on the ballot. Gov. Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1094 into law in 2019, requiring petition circulators to wear name tags and register with the secretary of state. The law further mandates that circulators provide the state with their personal information, such as their home address and phone number to be included in a public directory, potentially exposing people to harassment. Aside from the unduly onerous disclosure requirements, political activist Cory Heidelberger said the law discriminates based on viewpoint, since it only applies to petition proponents.
Tennessee – Rep. Matthew Hill Facing Questions Over Last-Minute Legislation, Contributions
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 1/16/2020
Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill, who faced scrutiny for comments he made last year related to a little-known $4 million grant, sponsored another bill during the 2019 legislative session that will benefit several business owners who later gave him $45,000. The law would let the local government use a portion of sales tax revenue to provide incentives in the development of a taxpayer funded development district. The legislation was approved on the final day of the 2019 session. Less than a month later, the owners and employees of Face Amusement, a Johnson City-based company with land in the proposed development district, donated to a PAC used by Hill for his race for speaker.
Washington – Seattle City Council Bans ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies from Most Political Spending
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/13/2020
The Seattle City Council banned most political spending by “foreign-influenced corporations” to prevent international influence in city elections. The legislation would prevent corporations with a single non-U.S. investor holding at least one percent ownership, or two or more holding at least five percent ownership from contributing to directly to Seattle candidates or through PACs. Companies that have a non-U.S. investor making decisions on its American political activities will also be prevented from political spending. The council also passed a bill that requires commercial advertisers maintain public records on political ads related to legislative decisions, in addition to ads related to elections.
Wisconsin – Appeals Court Blocks Purge of Wisconsin Voter Rolls for the Time Being
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/14/2020
An appeals court ordered the state to keep more than 200,000 people on its voter rolls, a day after an Ozaukee County judge found Wisconsin election officials in contempt of court for not following his December decision to suspend voter registrations. In a separate order, one of the judges on the appeals court blocked the contempt finding, relieving the commission and three of its members of $800 in fines. The rulings are not final and were put in place temporarily while the appeals court considers whether anyone should be taken off the rolls. But for now, the decision is a victory for Democrats who hoped to prevent thousands of people from losing their voter registrations.