December 13, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them. Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019 As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and […]
Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019
As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and disinformation on the platform. One of the most potentially powerful – limiting advertisers’ ability to target narrow slices of voters with political messages – struggled to find support and was abandoned. But today, as disinformation begins to spread ahead of the 2020 presidential vote, Facebook again is discussing “microtargeting” and weighing whether to restrict a set of advertising tools so powerful that, critics say, it may threaten democracy itself.
‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa
AP News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 12/6/2019
An outside group founded by top political aides to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with her to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign. And a condominium owned by a former aide, who was recently hired to lead the group, was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her. Documents not only make clear the group’s aim is securing an Ernst win in 2020, but they also show Ernst and her campaign worked in close concert with Iowa Values.
Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment from the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep
ProPublica – Jake Pearson and Anand Tumurtogoo | Published: 12/11/2019
Donald Trump Jr.’s hunting trip to Mongolia in August was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the trip. Trump Jr. shot and killed an argali, an endangered species of sheep. It thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting, a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by a permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections, and politics. The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a rare permit to slay the animal retroactively after he had left the region following his trip. It is unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay.
How the Mueller Investigation Changed K Street
Washingtonian Magazine – Luke Mullins | Published: 12/8/2019
Washington, D.C. has not been this terrified of foreign tampering with elections since World War II. All the same, another story about foreign interference is unfolding much more quietly. Instead of voting booths or electioneering, it features a corner of a local industry that has long catered to overseas actors: that swath of the influence business where foreigners go to hire their K Street problem-solver. Before Robert Mueller’s probe, few were even aware of this insider economy of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants representing foreign officials, corporations, and political parties. The business was so poorly regulated that lobbyists routinely agreed to conduct the work in secret, directly violating the law. Then the special counsel dusted off an obscure law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act and K Street found itself ensnared in the biggest criminal sweep since the Jack Abramoff scandal in the early 2000s.
Inspector General Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Investigate Trump Campaign’s Russia Ties but Finds Some Wrongdoing
Anchorage Daily News – Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
A long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia rebuts some of conservatives’ most sensational allegations about the case, including that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers, but finds faults in other areas. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into the Trump campaign and rejected the assertion the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules. It asserted, though, that as the probe went on, FBI officials repeatedly decided to emphasize damaging information they heard about Trump associates and play down exculpatory evidence they found.
Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren. Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events, and the South Bend mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” – those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns – within a week. The campaign also announced that McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm where Buttigieg used to work, would now allow him to disclose the identity of his clients from his stint there.
The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Katherine Rosman (New York Times) | Published: 10/6/2019
No matter the job title, the job of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative is shouldering the work alone. This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those by the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public. “There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper,” said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles.
Trump Asks Supreme Court to Review Decision Granting Congress Access to His Financial Records
Danbury News Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2019
A lower-court ruling giving a congressional committee access to President Trump’s financial records would usher in a new wave of political warfare in times of divided government, the president’s lawyers said in a brief. Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time to review rulings from lower courts that have said Congress and state prosecutors have a right to review his personal and business records. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a related case at its private conference December 13. If the high court decides to order full briefing and argument in both cases, it could lead to landmark decisions this term on the ability of prosecutors and Congress to investigate the president.
Trump Business Dealings Argued at Federal Appeals Court in Emoluments Case
Greenwich Times – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019
Appeals court judges expressed skepticism that members of Congress as individuals have a legal right to sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments without lawmakers’ consent. Even as the judges seemed troubled that Congress may have no other viable way to enforce the Constitution’s “emoluments” provision, they did not seem prepared to allow the lawsuit from more than 200 Democratic lawmakers to move forward, and suggested the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final word. The lawsuit is one of three similar cases pending in appeals courts and has the potential to reveal details about the president’s closely held business interests.
‘Trump Changed Everything’: Big cities break hard left in Dem primary
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 12/8/2019
From New York City to Los Angeles, many of the nation’s biggest cities have turned even harder to the left under President Trump, putting pressure on local officials to embrace the leading progressive presidential candidates, or withhold their endorsements entirely for fear of antagonizing newly energized activists. It is a drastic political shift in some places, where for decades entrenched party bosses crushed any signs of life on the left or tended to put the weight of big-city institutional support behind Democratic establishment-oriented candidates. Part of the leftward turn is the result of a surge of progressive candidates taking office in recent years. But not all of the shift can be explained by newly elected Democrats.
Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/10/2019
House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Trump, declaring he “abused the powers of the Presidency” and sought to cover up his misdeeds by obstructing a congressional investigation into his dealings with Ukraine. The two narrowly drawn articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress represented the most significant step in Democrats’ impeachment effort. Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of such a sanction for misconduct in office. Asserting that the president would “remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” the articles accuse Trump of engaging in a corrupt scheme to solicit foreign interference to help his 2020 reelection bid.
Watchdog: Interior official’s meetings broke ethics rule
AP News – Ellen Nickmeyer | Published: 12/10/2019
An assistant Interior secretary broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his old employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal tussles between the group and the agency. Douglas Domenech, the agency’s assistant secretary for insular and international affairs, convened the first of the two meetings in April 2017, three months after leaving his old job and beginning at the agency, the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office found. That violated federal ethics rules that restricted Domenech in dealing with his former employer for two years after taking the government job, the inspector general’s office concluded.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Former L.A. City Hall Aide Fined $37,500 for Failing to Report Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/10/2019
Gary Benjamin, a former planning deputy to Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell, formed his own consulting company after he left his city job and worked with Elizabeth Peterson Group, which is registered with the city as a lobbying firm. His firm, Alchemy, was paid more than $209,000 over a period of two years. Benjamin said he was surprised to hear his work was seen as lobbying, describing most of his duties as “research oriented and administrative.” Under city rules, “lobbying activities” can include research and providing advice to clients if that work is part of a paid effort to contact city officials and influence a decision. Now, Benjamin must pay a $37,500 fine after failing to report he was lobbying.
California – Glendale City Council Candidate Ordered to Return $10K in Donations
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 12/11/2019
A Glendale City Council candidate was ordered to return more than $10,000 in campaign donations after reportedly receiving incorrect information about the appropriate fundraising period from the city clerk’s office. Dan Brotman returned the online contributions he received and began cutting refund checks to donors, hours after he received an email from the Glendale city attorney’s office alerting him that the law prohibited him from accepting campaign donations before September 1. Brotman, a first-time candidate, said the email surprised him because the city clerk’s office had assured him it was acceptable to raise funds when he reached out to discuss the matter in July.
California – Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/6/2019
Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu called for full taxpayer financing of city election campaigns, resurrecting an idea that was proposed nearly three years ago but went nowhere. They want the city’s analysts to determine how much a “clean money” system would cost and where the money would come from. Under the proposal, candidates for 18 city offices would receive taxpayer funding for their campaigns as long as they collect a significant number of low-dollar donations from their constituents, refuse to collect “special interest” contributions, and decline to spend a significant amount of their own funds. The proposal was revived two days after the council voted to prohibit real estate developers who have projects pending before City Hall from giving to the campaigns of city candidates.
Colorado – Bruce Rau Is One of the Most Elected Men in Colorado but Doesn’t Live in Any of the Metro Districts He Represents
Denver Post – David Migoya | Published: 12/12/2019
Bruce Rau sits on at least three dozen metropolitan district boards. Unlike any other public official in the state, however, Rau does not actually live in any of the districts he represents. He wields some of the most broad-reaching taxing authority that impacts tens of thousands of people he has never met and has been elected by fewer than a dozen voters at a time, sometimes by none at all. All of that because Colorado’s Special District Act lets him. Rau, an executive with Oakwood Homes, is also one of the most conflicted men in Colorado, having registered more conflicts-of-interest in his elected capacity than any other official in the state.
Florida – Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to Be Reinstated After Acquittal in Corruption Case
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 12/11/2019
Almost two years after she was arrested on corruption charges and removed from her post as Hallandale Beach mayor, Joy Cooper will be reinstated by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Then-Gov. Rick Scott removed Cooper from office one day after her arrest in January 2018. She was accused of taking part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. A jury acquitted Cooper on all six counts against her following trial. Because Cooper was last elected in 2016 and her term was not slated to end until November 2020, she can now return to office at least until next November’s election.
Florida – Local Lobbyist Database Could Increase Ethics Board’s Workload
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 12/6/2019
A possible local government lobbyist database would significantly increase the state ethics panel’s responsibilities, said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Currently, the commission compiles publicly available lists of lobbyists at the federal and state levels. Streamlining local government lobbyist database would increase transparency and accountability, Rep. Anthony Sabatini said. Most jurisdictions keep their own record, but there is no state requirement that it be kept and made public. The package of bills would also consolidate registration fees by requiring local government lobbyists to register with the state and one annual fee instead of with each city or county.
Florida – Tampa City Council Member Went to Chicago on Nonprofit’s Dime, Later Paid for It
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 12/9/2019
In October, Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes took a four-day trip to Chicago for a community development conference hosted by Neighborworks America, a national nonprofit. That trip, also attended by the volunteer head of a city board, sparked cries of a conflict-of- interest. He went because the leader of a local nonprofit, CDC of Tampa, Inc., asked him. Gudes’ travel, lodging, and transportation would be covered. CDC of Tampa, Inc. was one of 10 bidders vying to redevelop 26 vacant lots in Gudes’ district. As a voting member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Gudes would have a say in the outcome.
Florida – ‘This Is Big’: City of Tallahassee ethics package passes amid challenging year, FBI probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/6/2019
City commissioners approved changes to Tallahassee’s ethics code, including expanding the Independent Ethics Board’s jurisdiction. The move came after more than two years of scandal at City Hall, including state ethics findings against former Mayor Andrew Gillum and former City Manager Rick Fernandez for accepting gifts from lobbyists and guilty pleas from former city Commissioner Scott Maddox in an ongoing corruption case. Under the new ordinance, a gift ban would apply to more people, including commissioner aides, employees who file financial disclosures, and those who work in procurement. The revised ordinance also includes fines up to $5,000 for lobbyists who repeatedly fail to register, among other provisions.
Hawaii – Honolulu City Council Voted on Company’s Project Then Let It Buy Lunch
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 12/10/2019
Right after Honolulu City Council members voted to advance a controversial rezoning measure, they broke for lunch paid for by a company representing the landowner in the case. That is despite guidance from the Honolulu Ethics Commission that government agencies should not accept gifts – defined as anything the government did not pay full value for – from companies with business before them. Ethics Commission guidelines address this very scenario, and city agencies received a reminder of how to handle these matters in the past week.
Kentucky – Bevin Pardons Include Convicted Killer Whose Brother Hosted Campaign Fundraiser for Him
Louisville Courier-Journal – Andrew Wolfson and Joe Sonka | Published: 12/11/2019
The family of a man pardoned by then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for a homicide and other crimes raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. The brother and sister-in-law of offender Patrick Baker also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, who prosecuted Baker, noted Baker served only two years of a 19-year sentence on his conviction for reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence. Steele also cited the fact that two of Baker’s co-defendants are still in prison. “What makes Mr. Baker any different than the other two?” Steele asked.
Kentucky – Kentucky House Changes Course on Ex-Speaker Investigation
Seattle Times – Bruce Schreiner (Associated Press) | Published: 12/10/2019
The Kentucky House changed course in the probe of former Speaker Jeff Hoover, voting to disband a special committee that was formed to investigate a sexual harassment settlement he secretly signed. The committee later voted itself out of existence. The sudden reversal means the inquiry shifts fully to the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission. Hoover was already under investigation by the commission, even before the House’s action. That inquiry focuses on whether Hoover violated state ethics laws, primarily if he used money from political donors or registered lobbyists to make the settlement payment.
Louisiana – Former LSU Employee Fined $111K Over Money Missing from School of Theatre, Invoices to His Company
New Orleans Advocate – Jacqueline DeRobertis and Andrea Gallo | Published: 12/5/2019
The Ethics Adjudicatory Board imposed a $111,000 fine on a former administrative coordinator at Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts after finding he violated multiple state ethics rules, including misappropriating funds. The board determined David Rodriguez misappropriated more than $60,000 over three years. A three-judge panel also found he broke three additional ethics rules when his side business assisted in catered events at the college. Prosecutors dropped criminal charges in 2017. The attorney who represented Rodriguez in the criminal case, Margaret Lagattuta, said the university’s lax oversight of the money involved in the case meant several people could have stolen it.
Maryland – Baltimore Approves More Than $13 Million Financed by Pugh Donor’s Firm Amid Call for Probe of His Deals
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Talia Richman | Published: 12/11/2019
A political donor who has drawn heat for his role in the “Healthy Holly” book scandal that took down former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is still making money from the city, despite concerns about his contracts from some officials in light of allegations by federal prosecutors that he made inappropriate contributions to Pugh. Baltimore’s spending panel approved an expenditure of more than $13 million for Motorola radio equipment under the city’s master lease, a long-standing financing agreement with Grant Capital Management, the firm of financier and big campaign donor J.P. Grant. The contract was not competitively bid, as is often allowed under the master lease. City Council President Brandon Scott abstained from the vote. He said the situation highlighted the need to reform the structure of the Board of Estimates, in which the mayor controls a majority of the votes.
Maryland – Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers
Baltimore Sun – Jeff Barker | Published: 12/9/2019
A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enactment of key provisions of Maryland’s Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act. The law’s disclosure requirements would apply to any online platform with 100,000 unique monthly visitors that receives money for political ads. The platforms would be required to display, within 48 hours of an ad being purchased, information such as the identity of the buyer and the amount paid. The outlets would need to retain the information for state inspection. “… While Maryland’s law tries to serve important aims, the state has gone about this task in too circuitous and burdensome a manner to satisfy constitutional scrutiny,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson.
Michigan – Before Losing Election, Clawson Mayor Sought Secret Deal to Hurt Opponent
Detroit Free Press – Bill Laitner | Published: 12/10/2019
With an election looming, then-Clawson, Michigan Mayor Deborah Wooley ordered the city manager to secretly hire a digital-detective firm, with an open purchase order for up to $5,000, and threatened to fire him if word got out. According to the city manager, Wooley’s goal was to dig up digital dirt on her political opponent, Reese Scripture, who had been a plague to Wooley throughout her two-year term, first filing an Open Meetings Act lawsuit, then running against Wooley for mayor. Wooley wanted to see whether Scripture had leaked embarrassing city emails. But the probe turned up nothing improper about Scripture’s email contacts with the city. Ultimately, they became part of a city council packet of public documents, for a meeting that exposed the scheme after the election.
Michigan – County Official Who Displayed, Wore Trump Hat During Meetings Focus of Complaint
MLive.com – Ben Solis | Published: 12/9/2019
Muskegon County Commissioner Zach Lahring’s “Trump 2020” hat is at the center of a complaint filed with the state. The complaint alleges Lahring made contributions to the re-election campaign of President Trump using public resources by displaying and then wearing the hat during public meetings. The formal complaint is among several informal ones lodged against Lahring for his decorum at public meetings and his behavior on social media. The complaint argues Lahring violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by using a public resource, in this case the Muskegon County building, to promote and endorse a federal candidate. It also says the law prohibits Lahring from campaigning while doing the public’s work.
Michigan – Inman Not Guilty of Lying to FBI; Hung Jury on Bribery and Extortion
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 12/10/2019
A Michigan lawmaker was found not guilty of lying to the FBI in connection with a bribery and extortion investigation. A federal jury could not reach a verdict on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe against state Rep. Larry Inman. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. A grand jury indicted Inman in May, alleging he sought campaign donations from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and other unions in return for “no” votes on a measure to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. Inman was expelled from the Republican caucus and lost his House office and staff after his indictment and after he admitted he sent the text messages to the unions. It is improper for a state representative to mix how he will vote with campaign finance issues, House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.
New York – $100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine Business Expense, Cor Says
Syracuse Post-Standard – Tim Knauss | Published: 12/4/2019
Along with paying for engineering, an asbestos survey, and legal fees, Cor Development listed $114,825 for campaign donations to two governors, a mayor, and a county executive among their expenses in a Syracuse development project. Cor officials wrote in a letter that their partner on the joint venture project was expected to share the costs, including the campaign money. It was an unusual acknowledgement – because it was in writing – that business executives viewed political contributions as a cost of doing business. Critics of New York’s campaign finance laws say businesses sometimes seem to approach campaign contributions as a “corruption tax” they have to pay to get things done.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Plans Rule-Making Process
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/11/2019
North Dakota’s Ethics Commission will begin its administrative rulemaking in the new year after mapping out an early process recently. Chairperson Ron Goodman distributed 18 pages of what he called “very rough” rules, modified from other states. He said he will draft a code of ethics for the commission based on other North Dakota agencies’ similar policies, for discussion at the board’s January meeting. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that created the Ethics Commission to oversee conduct of state officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, and candidates.
Oklahoma – Public Campaigns Being Conducted with Donations Kept Private
The Oklahoman – Chris Casteel | Published: 12/7/2019
Public campaigns being waged in Oklahoma City on local, state, and federal issues are being financed by donors who, so far, have remained anonymous. The campaigns for MAPS 4 and Medicaid expansion and against President Trump’s impeachment have all been conducted through mechanisms that do not require public disclosure of contributors, at least for now. Ashley Kemp, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said the commission in 2014 requested some changes to the campaign reporting laws for local governments to make standards and enforcement more uniform. “There was not a request by the commission to eliminate public disclosure for local ballot measures,” Kemp said.
Oklahoma – Tag Agency Standoff with Gov. Stitt Over Lobbying Is Settled – for Now
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 12/12/2019
An attempt to force privately owned tag agencies to stop their lobbying activities in Oklahoma has been dropped. The proposed ban on tag agency lobbying would extend executive orders signed earlier this year by Gov. Kevin Stitt to state government contractors – specifically, in this case, tag agents. It is not clear whether such a ban could include other state contractors or even state employees. Privately, some have questioned whether such a ban would survive a legal challenge. For now, tag agencies employing lobbyist Clayton Taylor may continue to do so for at least another year.
Pennsylvania – Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Staff | Published: 12/11/2019
Councilperson Darlene Harris sued the city, the mayor, and the ethics board, alleging Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and a fine levied against her should be set aside. The case stems from an effort by the city’s Ethics Hearing Board to collect a $4,150 fine from Harris, in relation to her refusal to file campaign filings with that body. The city ordinance charges the Ethics Hearing board with receiving candidates’ campaign finance reports and posting the data online. Those filings are also filed with Allegheny County, under state law.
Pennsylvania – He’s the FBI Agent Who Took Down Allentown’s Mayor. Now He’s Talking Publicly About the Case.
LehighValleyLive.com – Steve Novak | Published: 12/11/2019
As Scott Curtis tells it, he was sitting alone at a bar in Pittsburgh, buried in his phone. He could not leave yet. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was meeting people in the back of the restaurant, along with an FBI informant. Curtis was the special agent heading the corruption investigation into Palowski and other public officials. He had to observe the meeting and make sure that his wired-up witness, Mike Fleck, did not try anything. Curtis would go on to close the book on one of the Lehigh Valley’s most explosive corruption cases, one that led to a number of convictions. Among them was Pawlowski, who in 2018 was found guilty of 47 charges for rigging city contracts in favor of campaign donors. He was sentenced up to 15 years in prison.
Pennsylvania – She’s the Force Behind Pa.’s Efforts to Treat Drug Addiction. Critics Say ‘There Is More to the Story.’
Philadelphia Inqirer – Aneri Pattani | Published: 12/12/2019
Deb Beck is a formidable power player in Harrisburg, influencing Pennsylvania’s response to a drug addiction epidemic that has led to thousands of deaths and spawned a multimillion-dollar treatment industry. She has been in the field since 1971, and whenever lawmakers want to draft addiction-related laws, or need to get a loved one into treatment, they go to her. Now, with the state spending huge sums of taxpayer money for treatment for opioid addiction and paying greater attention to how best to reverse the deadly trend, some are questioning if Beck is using her sway to help patients or the businesses providing care. Her advocacy for long-term residential care for those suffering from opioid addiction has prompted concerns she is pushing an outdated treatment model over approaches that medical professionals say are far more effective.
South Carolina – This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up.
Pro Publica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 12/5/2019
The Chester County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina accused a pair of lower court judges of unfairly blocking the sheriff’s requests for criminal warrants. A top deputy planned to file a complaint with the chief magistrate and the local state senator, who controls the county’s judicial appointments. But before doing so, the deputy turned to an unlikely ally to help craft his appeal: Magistrate Angel Underwood. The arrangement was unusual. Underwood was a sitting judge, sworn to remain impartial from those who brought matters before her. She was also the wife of the sheriff, Alex Underwood. Intermingling those two roles had recently brought her a yearlong suspension from the bench; the state’s judicial watchdog found she failed to disqualify herself in more than 100 cases brought by her husband’s department.
Texas – Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations
Houston Chronicle – Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks | Published: 12/6/2019
James Dannenbaum, the former head of a prominent Texas engineering firm and a major political donor, pleaded guilty to circumventing federal election laws by helping employees funnel illegal campaign contributions to congressional and U.S. Senate candidates. The company that he once led, Dannenbaum Engineering, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in November that hinged upon its former chief executive officer owning up to his role in the fraud scheme. The company agreed to a fine of $1.6 million after admitting being part in a broader scheme.
Virginia – A Congressman Could Go to Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds. What He Did Is Totally Legal in Virginia.
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 12/5/2019
After federal prosecutors gathered evidence showing U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his family members had taken $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal golf outings, vacations, meals, video games, and gas, Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Though federal campaign finance laws prohibit using political funds to cover unrelated expenses, Virginia has no such rule for candidates running for state and local offices. That means Virginia campaigns do not have to be meticulous about making sure candidates do not use their political account, often filled by business interests and wealthy donors, as a personal piggy bank. In another contrast with federal law, Virginia’s rules place no limits on contribution size.
Washington – How Much Money Did Tim Eyman Make Last Year: Depends what form you check
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 12/9/2019
How much money did Tim Eyman make in the last year? Eyman, the candidate for governor, says his income was less than $48,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman, the serial initiative promoter and conservative activist, says he made more than $297,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman’s newly filed statement with the state Public Disclosure Commission, now that he is announced a run for governor, appears to be in sharp contrast with his monthly reports in federal court, where he filed for bankruptcy one year ago. Eyman says there is a perfectly good explanation, but for almost his entire two-decade history as an anti-tax evangelist, his financial transparency has been called into question.
December 12, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money” by Amy Wang (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle Pennsylvania: “Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules” by Staff for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ethics National: “Watchdog: Interior […]
National: “Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money” by Amy Wang (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle
Pennsylvania: “Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules” by Staff for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
National: “Watchdog: Interior official’s meetings broke ethics rule” by Ellen Nickmeyer for AP News
Kentucky: “Kentucky House Changes Course on Ex-Speaker Investigation” by Bruce Schreiner (Associated Press) for Seattle Times
Maryland: “Baltimore Approves More Than $13 Million Financed by Pugh Donor’s Firm Amid Call for Probe of His Deals” by Kevin Rector and Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
Michigan: “Before Losing Election, Clawson Mayor Sought Secret Deal to Hurt Opponent” by Bill Laitner for Detroit Free Press
Michigan: “Inman Not Guilty of Lying to FBI; Hung Jury on Bribery and Extortion” by Paul Egan for Detroit Free Press
Pennsylvania: “He’s the FBI Agent Who Took Down Allentown’s Mayor. Now He’s Talking Publicly About the Case.” by Steve Novak for LehighValleyLive.com
December 11, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Maryland: “Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers” by Jeff Barker for Baltimore Sun Elections National: “Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.” by […]
Maryland: “Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers” by Jeff Barker for Baltimore Sun
National: “Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.” by Craig Timberg for Washington Post
National: “Trump Business Dealings Argued at Federal Appeals Court in Emoluments Case” by Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Greenwich Times
National: “Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles” by Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) for MSN
Florida: “Tampa City Council Member Went to Chicago on Nonprofit’s Dime, Later Paid for It” by Charlie Frago for Tampa Bay Times
Hawaii: “Honolulu City Council Voted on Company’s Project Then Let It Buy Lunch” by Cristina Jedra for Honolulu Civil Beat
Michigan: “County Official Who Displayed, Wore Trump Hat During Meetings Focus of Complaint” by Ben Solis for MLive.com
California: “Former L.A. City Hall Aide Fined $37,500 for Failing to Report Lobbying” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
December 10, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: “Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times New York: “$100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine […]
California: “Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
New York: “$100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine Business Expense, Cor Says” by Tim Knauss for Syracuse Post-Standard
Oklahoma: “Public Campaigns Being Conducted with Donations Kept Private” by Chris Casteel for The Oklahoman
National: “‘Trump Changed Everything’: Big cities break hard left in Dem primary” by Holly Otterbein for Politico
National: “Inspector General Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Investigate Trump Campaign’s Russia Ties but Finds Some Wrongdoing” by Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
South Carolina: “This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up.” by Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) for Pro Publica
Washington: “How Much Money Did Tim Eyman Make Last Year: Depends what form you check” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “How the Mueller Investigation Changed K Street” by Luke Mullins for Washingtonian Magazine
December 9, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa” by Brian Slodysko for AP News Texas: “Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations” by Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks for Houston Chronicle Virginia: “A Congressman […]
National: “‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa” by Brian Slodysko for AP News
Texas: “Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations” by Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks for Houston Chronicle
Virginia: “A Congressman Could Go to Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds. What He Did Is Totally Legal in Virginia.” by Graham Moomaw for Virginia Mercury
National: “Trump Asks Supreme Court to Review Decision Granting Congress Access to His Financial Records” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for Danbury News Times
National: “The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry” by Katherine Rosman for New York Times
Florida: “‘This Is Big’: City of Tallahassee ethics package passes amid challenging year, FBI probe” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat
Louisiana: “Former LSU Employee Fined $111K Over Money Missing from School of Theatre, Invoices to His Company” by Jacqueline DeRobertis and Andrea Gallo for New Orleans Advocate
Florida: “Local Lobbyist Database Could Increase Ethics Board’s Workload” by Renzo Downey for Florida Politics
December 6, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019 In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in […]
A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019
In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in April, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani was on the phone with the White House more than a dozen times. Phone records cited in the impeachment report released by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate the sprawling reach of Giuliani’s campaign first to remove the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, then to force Ukraine’s new government to announce criminal investigations for Trump’s political gain. He reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton; U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee; Fox News host Sean Hannity; a conservative columnist; and the owner of a mysterious number, “-1.”
Appeals Court Refuses to Block House Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Ann Marimow and Renae Merle (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2019
House Democrats can access President Trump’s private financial records from two banks, a federal appeals court ruled, finding a “public interest” in refusing to block congressional subpoenas. The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit came in the ongoing legal battle Trump has waged to shield his private business records from disclosure, including in two cases that have already reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information.
Democrats Take in Lobbying Industry Cash Despite Pledges
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/1/2019
The lobbying industry has contributed $545,173 to 2020 presidential campaigns with nearly 80 percent going to Democratic candidates, even as many of those hopefuls vow not to take donations from lobbyists. The numbers paint a complicated picture. Democratic candidates and their progressive allies in the current cycle have put new scrutiny on lobbyists as well as on taking money from other special interest or corporate groups. But that has not completely stopped the flow of money to candidates and campaigns. K Street’s top ranks are filled with former Democrats, many with ties to the candidates. And watchdog groups say that while the focus is on federally registered lobbyists, donations from others tied to the industry, such as state- and local-level lobbyists, often trickle through.
Facebook Has Floated Limiting Political Ads and Labeling That They Aren’t Fact-Checked, Riling 2020 Campaigns
Connecticut Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019
Facebook has weighed whether to label political ads to indicate they have not been fact-checked, rather than vetting what candidates say, one of a series of proposals the company has floated to Democratic and Republican operatives as it seeks to head off controversies in the 2020 election campaign. Some of the ideas have left campaign strategists in both parties uneasy, fearful that Facebook’s reforms might hamstring their ability to persuade and mobilize voters in a year when the White House is at stake. For Democrats, the possible changes also have done little to assuage concerns about ads they say contain falsehoods. Facebook has maintained it should not serve as the arbiter of truth, determining what elected officials can say to potential voters.
Ilhan Omar’s Opponent Barred by Twitter After Suggesting Congresswoman Should Be Hanged
Seattle Times – Marissa lati (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2019
Twitter shut down the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, after Stella twice tweeted about hanging Omar. The campaign account for Stella, a candidate in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, posted “If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.” The account later tweeted a link to a blog post about her comment and added an image of a stick-figure being hanged. The suspensions come as Twitter and other social media platform fight back against criticism that they have been too lackadaisical in policing themselves for hate speech, violence, extremism, and abuse on their platforms.
Impeachment Report Alleges Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference
MSN – Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019
House Democrats asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing an impeachment report that found the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.” The report by the Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding he sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security, then worked to conceal his actions from Congress. Democrats left it to the Judiciary Committee to decide whether to recommend Trump’s impeachment, but their report presented what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House votes to formally charge him.
Judge Denies DOJ Request for Stay on Don McGahn Testimony
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/2/2019
House Democrats notched another legal victory in their pursuit of critical testimony tied to their impeachment efforts, though the ruling may be short-lived because the case is already on temporary hold while it works its way toward an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s request to put a long-term stay on her earlier opinion requiring Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to appear before the Judiciary Committee. Jackson also decided to lift an earlier administrative stay she had issued that had put her decision briefly on ice while the case moved up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election
Philadelphia Inquirer – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019
A key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was indicted with seven others on charges of conspiring to funnel more than $3 million in illegal campaign contributions. George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who acted as an intermediary for members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seeking to forge contacts in the Middle East, was charged with conspiring to make conduit campaign contributions and related offenses. Prosecutors also charged Ahmad Khawaja, a Lebanese American businessperson, with 35 counts related to allegations he conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions directed to political committees associated with presidential candidates.
‘One of the Hardest Decisions of My Life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 12/3/2019
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is ending her presidential campaign after months of failing to lift her candidacy from the bottom of the field, a premature departure for someone once heralded as a top-tier contender for the nomination. While Harris had qualified for the December debate, she was running dangerously low on cash – lacking the resources to air television ads in Iowa – and her staff was gripped by long-running internal turmoil. Voters complained they were unable to pin Harris down on a host of issues. What could have been one of her greatest strengths, her time spent as the top prosecutor in California, became a liability with a Democratic base that has turned left on issues of criminal justice.
Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’
San Diego Union-Tribune – Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald | Published: 12/3/2019
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a charge of misusing campaign money. Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 counts related to their use of $200,000 in contributions for family expenses. Margaret Hunter has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. The couple relied for years on campaign donations to pay for things like dental bills, private school tuition, and plane tickets for Margaret Hunter’s mother to travel to and from Poland. Their joint bank account was overdrawn more than 1,100 times over six years and they incurred about $36,000 in penalties – fees they paid using campaign contributions. As the case progressed, it became clear that Duncan Hunter had extramarital affairs with five different women and used campaign money to facilitate meetings.
Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock
The Fulcrum – Sarah Swann | Published: 12/2/2019
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate focused mainly on achieving a top goal of democracy reformers, ended his campaign. When Bullock entered the already crowded field in May, he vowed to make his bid for the White House about ending the influence of big money in politics as a prerequisite for addressing the nation’s other big problems, from health care coverage to climate change. Six months later, his fundraising and statistically insignificant standing in the polls remained lackluster enough that he had only been invited to one debate and had little prospect of being asked to another.
State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-for-All
MSN – Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2019
Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that warned against the dangers of Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care. Montana Rep. Kathy Kelker and Sen. Jen Gross acknowledged editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant. Gross said MacDonald contacted her on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group funded by hospitals, private insurers, drug companies, and other private health-care firms. An aide to Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman confirmed the lawmaker’s op-ed criticizing Medicare-for-all was written with the help of Kathleen DeLand, an Ohio-based lobbyist. None of the lawmakers’ columns disclose that they were written with the help of a lobbyist.
Trump Campaign Denies Press Credentials to Bloomberg News, Claiming ‘Bias’ Against the President
San Francisco Chronicle – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2019
The Trump campaign said it would no longer credential journalists with Bloomberg News for campaign events, accusing the news organization of “bias” against the president. Bloomberg News faced a journalistic quandary when its owner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, decided to jump into the 2020 Democratic primary. In a widely criticized decision, editor-and-chief John Micklethwait announced the newsroom would continue its tradition of not investigating the personal life and finances of Bloomberg and would extend the same policy to his Democratic opponents. But Micklethwait noted Bloomberg News would continue to investigate the Trump administration. The news outlet’s decision was intended to avoid conflicts-of-interest in the Democratic primary.
Canada – Sask. Changing Lobbyist, Conflict of Interest Rules
CBC – Staff | Published: 11/25/2019
The Saskatchewan government introduced legislation to “promote transparency and enhance accountability among provincially-elected officials,” via amendments to the Lobbyists Act and the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act. The Lobbyists Act changes include a new provision prohibiting in-house lobbyists or consultant lobbyists from providing gifts, favors, or other benefits to public office holders, and reducing the threshold for registration as an in-house lobbyist from 100 hours to 30 hours per year. The Members Conflict of Interest Act changes include adding a definition of “gift or personal benefit.”
From the States and Municipalities
California – California Campaign Watchdog Suspends Donation Rules After a Member Gives to Sanders
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 12/4/2019
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) suspended a longstanding policy banning its members from contributing to federal candidates after one commissioner donated to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. The decision by the FPPC, which is responsible for policing campaign finance in California, is drawing criticism from some reform advocates and former state officials who say the policy was put in place to avoid an appearance of bias in favor of candidates whose campaigns are scrutinized by the state agency. The FPPC also asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the legality and scope of the rules, which some members say violates their First Amendment rights.
California – DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict
San Francisco Chronicle – Sarah Ravani | Published: 12/3/2019
The Alameda County district attorney filed criminal charges against the former head of the special agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum complex for allegedly violating state conflict-of-interest laws while negotiating the naming rights of the stadium. Scott McKibben was charged with a felony and misdemeanor count of violating conflict-of-interest laws by seeking a $50,000 payment for helping negotiate a settlement for the Coliseum naming rights with RingCentral, according to charging documents.
California – L.A. Limits Campaign Donations from Real Estate Developers. Critics Say It Falls Short
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 12/4/2019
The Los Angeles City Council voted to prevent developers who have project applications pending at City Hall from making campaign donations to elected officials or candidates for municipal office, although some members expressed concern over the effectiveness of the ordinance. The idea, first proposed nearly three years ago, had languished until an FBI raid at City Hall cast a fresh spotlight on concerns about developer contributions. The law does not prohibit developers from hosting fundraisers or raising money from other donors and it does not apply to major subcontractors on a development project. The law will not take effect for more than two years, a delay officials said was needed to first set up a database tracking who is prohibited from contributing.
California – New LADWP Commissioner Works for a Company That Markets Water and Power
Los Angeles Times – Sammy Roth and Dakota Smith | Published: 11/27/2019
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) board of commissioners is a top executive at a company that markets water and power and has a history of trying to make deals with government agencies in Southern California, including LADWP. Nicole Neeman Brady serves as chief operating officer at Renewable Resources Group, which develops solar energy facilities and has bought and sold lands with valuable water rights. The board of commissioners oversees the country’s largest municipal utility, helping guide purchases of energy and water for Los Angeles. Renewable Resources Group is in the business of developing energy and water projects, raising the potential for conflicts-of-interest if the company seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on the board.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: It’s audit time after $33M in influence efforts so far in 2019 by lobbyists who cram Capitol, form ‘gauntlet’ by restrooms
Hartford Courant – Jon Lester | Published: 12/2/2019
The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board randomly drew the names of 10 companies and groups that have used lobbyists to audit during the coming year for compliance with state law. Those chosen ranged from corporate giants such as Apple to an individually owned insurance consulting outfit in Branford. These examinations will determine if Capitol lobbyists, and the interest groups that hire them, are obeying state restrictions and filing financial disclosure reports aimed at combating the potential corrupting power of tens of millions of dollars spent each year on influencing state government.
Florida – Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper Cleared of Corruption Charges
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 11/26/2019
A jury acquitted former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper on all six counts related to allegations she took part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. During closing arguments, Catherine Maus, the state’s lead prosecutor on the case, leaned on a series of audio and video recordings taken by the undercover agents to support the argument that Cooper knew exactly how the scheme would play out in 2012. But Cooper’s attorney, Larry Davis, said Maus was jumping to conclusions that the evidence did not support.
Georgia – Georgia Campaign Ethics Panel Fines Lawmakers, Investigates Abrams
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 12/5/2019
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission handed out fines to state legislators, made public an investigation into the finances for the 2017 campaign for Atlanta mayor, and advanced an investigation into a voting rights nonprofit connected to former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Commission Executive Secretary David Emadi told commissioners of new allegations that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood accepted excessive contributions during their 2017 campaigns. The ethics panel is continuing an investigation into a voting rights group and a political committee connected to Abrams, who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.
Georgia – Georgia Gov. Kemp Taps Business Executive Kelly Loeffler for Senate Seat, with An Emphasis on Boosting Trump
Washington Post – Robert Costa and Max Blau | Published: 12/4/2019
Republican business executive Kelly Loeffler was named to a soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat in Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp following days of debate among some leading conservatives about the political novice’s expected selection, her values, and her loyalty to President Trump. In a nod toward those concerns, both Kemp and Loeffler sought to underscore her support for Trump, illustrating how most Republicans remain wary of upsetting the president or his core voters even as Trump faces a House impeachment inquiry and a possible Senate trial. She will replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year for health reasons.
Illinois – Gov. J.B. Pritzker Signs Law Requiring Additional Disclosure from Lobbyists
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 12/4/2019
Lobbyists will have to disclose additional information to the public under a measure Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. When the General Assembly approved the measure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described it as a small step toward fixing state government ethics laws amid an ongoing federal corruption probe that has ensnared Democratic politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. The law, effective immediately, also requires the secretary of state to create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest.
Illinois – Plan to Bar Chicago Alderman from Lobbying, Other New Limits Advances in City Council
Chicago Tribune – John Bryne | Published: 12/4/2019
With federal investigators probing lobbying activities at the state level, the Chicago City Council moved a step closer to banning aldermen from acting as lobbyists and stopping other elected officials from lobbying them. Under the proposed rules, aldermen would not be allowed to lobby the city council, the county, the state, or any other local government unit, nor would any other elected officials in the state be able to lobby the council or other units of city government. A handful of aldermen voiced concerns about the ordinance, citing examples of registered lobbyists who might serve on low-paid suburban bodies like library boards and would need to give up those posts to keep lobbying Chicago government.
Iowa – Former Iowa Senate Secretary Named Ethics Board Executive
AP News – Staff | Published: 11/26/2019
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board named Mike Marshall as its new executive director. The board said Marshall will provide leadership and serve as legal counsel succeeding Megan Tooker, who is leaving the job after nine years. Marshal previously served as secretary of the state Senate.
Louisiana – Ex-Louisiana Racing Commissioner Fined $50,000 for Ethical Conflict from Bobby Jindal Era
New Orleans Advocate – John Simerman | Published: 11/29/2019
A state administrative court leveled $50,000 in penalties against a Louisiana horseman who served for nearly three years on the State Racing Commission at the same time he was leasing stall space to racehorse owners and trainers regulated by the commission. The fines against Neal Cormier and his NBC Stables came more than 11 years after former Gov. Bobby Jindal named Cormier among a new crop of appointees to the commission. Jindal’s appointments to the Racing Commission included Cormier and two other men who would later be called out for possible conflicts in a May 2011 report from state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office. The state Board of Ethics followed with charges against all three men in 2012.
Maryland – ‘Healthy Holly’ Fallout: City Council president seeks review of Baltimore contracts with financier J.P. Grant
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Luke Broadwater | Published: 12/4/2019
City Council President Brandon Scott asked Baltimore’s inspector general to review the last five years of city contracts with financier and “Healthy Holly” book purchaser J.P. Grant. The request comes in response to federal prosecutors’ contention that Grant knew he was improperly funding former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s political campaign by writing checks for her self-published children’s books. Pugh pleaded guilty to corruption charges related to a scheme in which she sold her “Healthy Holly” books to organizations and individuals with business before the state and the city when she was, respectively, state senator and then mayor.
Massachusetts – State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 11/27/2019
House, Senate, and mayoral candidates will transition to a more accurate method of tracking their campaign finances under a law signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The new law will require all state and mayoral candidates to use the “depository system” for banking their campaign accounts. Under this system, banks automatically submit reports to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) each month itemizing all expenditures from a campaign account and summarizing all receipts. OCPF then reconciles the reports and posts the data online. If there are discrepancies between the information filed by the bank and the candidate, OCPF auditors can quickly identify them and work with the candidate to fix the problem.
Michigan – Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/2/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is set to stand trial on federal corruption charges for doing what many incumbent lawmakers do: asking a special-interest group to donate for re-election. But federal prosecutors contend Inman broke the law with his solicitations to union officials by offering to sell his vote on a controversial measure to oppose the state’s prevailing wage repeal law for construction workers. For jurors, the case could come down to a question that has become familiar in politics: was there a quid pro quo? Courts have spent decades wrestling over how to distinguish illegal bribes from legal campaign contributions by groups seeking to influence political decisions.
New Jersey – Sue Altman, George Norcross, and the ‘Whodunit’ Roiling New Jersey Politics
Phialdelphia Inquirer – Pranshu Verma | Published: 12/5/2019
Progressive activist Sue Altman was forcibly ejected from a Capitol hearing room for an unknown reason. The incident started when George Norcross III, an influential New Jersey powerbroker, testified about a controversial tax incentive program he has been accused of manipulating. After the hearing started, a chorus of boos rang out, and the committee chairperson ordered state police to “clear the back row.” They instead went straight to Altman, who was standing in a different part of the room. Altman said she was not making noise before she was dragged out. The confrontation quickly hit social media, with many calling it an abuse of power. It also became a defining moment for Altman and her campaign to remake state politics. Activists have used the images to bolster their position that unelected people like Norcross, an insurance executive, hold outsized control in the state.
New Jersey – Top Democrat Wants to Unmask Who Is Being Paid to Sway Lawmakers
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Matt Arco (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/5/2019
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeny is set to introduce a proposal to publicly reveal politically connected consultants that lobbyists hire to help sway legislators and top officials who craft laws and decide how to spend taxpayer money. Sweeny’s bill takes aim at “shadow lobbying,” a controversial but common practice in politics across the country in which consultants are paid to help influence policy but are not required by law to be identified. State law requires lobbyists to register, obtain a license, and disclose how much they spend, who they are lobbying, and what subject they are lobbying. But lobbyists and government-regulated entities do not have to reveal if they hire outside consultants that help them with advising, legal work, public relations, advertising, research, and more.
New Mexico – Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks
Albuquerque Journal – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 11/26/2019
New Mexico election regulators have not completed required spot checks for campaign finance compliance amid escalating private spending on political campaigns and a shifting enforcement landscape. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attributed some of the delay to scarce resources at the agency she oversees. Discrepancies or apparent violations that cannot be resolved readily are eventually forwarded to the state attorney general for possible investigation. Starting in 2020, some referrals will be made to the newly created state Ethics Commission. State Elections Director Mandy Vigil said Toulouse Oliver’s office is trying to hire additional staff to assist with the reviews.
New York – Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/2/2019
The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption slammed the state Board of Elections for its allegedly non-existent enforcement of election laws. The commission’s preliminary report resulted in the creation of a new, independent election law enforcement office that since its creation has been overseen by attorney Risa Sugarman. Over the past five years, Sugarman’s office has seemed to change the board’s formerly lackluster dynamic by pursuing high-profile cases. But as a result of a report issued by a newer commission to implement a publicly funded campaign system in New York, a significant amount of the enforcement work appears headed away from the independent enforcement counsel’s office and back to the state Board of Elections. That has some government reform advocates concerned.
New York – Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/4/2019
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) dropped its investigation of a rape survivor who advocated for a law protecting victims of child sex abuse. Kat Sullivan spent a portion of a settlement to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act. That effort included posting advertisements – on billboards and a banner towed behind a small plane that flew over the Capitol – that urged lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the legislation. In a letter to Sullivan laying out what the agency says is substantial evidence that Sullivan exceeded the $5,000 spending threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist in New York, JCOPE General Counsel Monica Stamm wrote that the panel would not take further action.
New York – Heastie Contacted JCOPE Commissioner Following January Meeting
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/4/2019
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie contacted Jim Yeats, a member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), last January after the speaker had a heated conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that included discussion of the ethics panel. Both the governor and Heastie have declined to say what they talked about. Heastie’s response to questions about his contact with Yates came after he confirmed he had asked the Assembly majority counsel’s office to “review” why his own executive counsel, Howard Vargas, had called JCOPE Commissioner Julie Garcia that same afternoon. Vargas allegedly told her the governor had told Heastie he was upset with how some of the commissioners had voted on a matter that day. State laws make it a crime to leak details of JCOPE’s closed-door deliberations, including whether a vote was taken.
New York – L+M to Pay $25,000 Penalty for Unregistered Lobbying
The Real Deal – Georgia Kromrei | Published: 12/4/2019
L+M Development Partners settled with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which had accused the housing developer of unregistered lobbying. L+M agreed to pay $25,000 as punishment for meeting with elected officials to influence government decisions on real estate and land use matters, activity that was not reported as required. According to JCOPE, L+M sought to procure amendments to zoning laws and tax credits as well as government actions on other land-use matters. L+M will file retroactive disclosure reports for 2018 as part of the settlement.
North Carolina – Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020
AP News – Gary Robertson | Published: 12/2/2019
North Carolina judges ordered a new U.S. House district map that Republican state legislators drew in November be used in the 2020 elections, deciding there was not time to scrutinize the boundaries further for any left-over extreme partisan bias. The three-judge panel agreed it was too late in the election cycle to receive evidence and testimony that would be necessary to consider detailed redistricting arguments from the lawmakers and from Democratic and independent voters who challenged the latest congressional maps. While 10 of the 13 current U.S. House members are Republicans in a state considered a presidential battleground, the new map would appear to give Democrats a good chance of picking up two more seats in 2020.
Pennsylvania – A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns
MSN – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/30/2019
It was a few minutes after the polls closed in Easton, Pennsylvania on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Democrat Abe Kassis, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137. The snafu did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations, and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/4/2019
Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was charged with perjury, theft, tampering with public records, and related crimes. Johnson-Harrell used her nonprofit to enrich herself, stealing more than $500,000 from the organization to spend on real estate, vacations, luxury clothing, and her bid for the Legislature, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, adding that Johnson-Harrell agreed to resign her seat and plead guilty. Prosecutors say Johnson-Harrell used Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, which she established more than a decade ago to assist poor people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness, for extravagant spending and personal gain. Over several years, she tried to cover up her crimes through an elaborate scheme involving several properties and false financial statements.
Washington – Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/3/2019
The city council should update Seattle’s lobbying laws to better spotlight how special interests try to exert influence at City Hall, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has recommended. The commission voted to send the council a set of proposed changes, including a new requirement that lobbyists report their work for political campaigns. Commissioners stopped short of suggesting Seattle ban lobbying by campaign consultants and chose not to extend the city’s definition of lobbying from communications about legislation to advocacy on regulations. But the commissioners did recommend a new law requiring registration and reporting by “grassroots lobbying campaigns.” In addition, lobbyists would for the first time be required to disclose the names of the people they lobby and the dates of their lobbying.
Washington DC – D.C. Council Votes to Recommend Expelling Jack Evans Over Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 12/3/2019
The District of Columbia Council unanimously voted to recommend Jack Evans be expelled for ethical violations. It the first time that lawmakers ever moved to eject one of their own. The vote was the first step in a lengthy process for expulsion. Officials say the council needs to meet twice more and hold a hearing before casting a formal vote to remove Evans, which could stretch out the timeline until January. The Washington Post reported Evans repeatedly used his government email to solicit business from law firms that had lobbied city government, offering to use the influence and connections he amassed as the city’s longest-serving council member and as chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to help their clients.
December 5, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrum National: “Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions […]
National: “Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrum
National: “Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election” by Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for Philadelphia Inquirer
California: “L.A. Is Planning to Limit Campaign Money from Developers. But First, More Fundraising” by David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times
National: “A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine” by Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) for MSN
California: “DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict” by Sarah Ravani for San Francisco Chronicle
Pennsylvania: “Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says” by Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis for Philadelphia Inquirer
New York: “Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Washington: “Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
North Carolina: “Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020” by Gary Robertson for AP News
December 4, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’” by Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union-Tribune New York: “Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers” […]
National: “Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’” by Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union-Tribune
New York: “Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “Trump Campaign Denies Press Credentials to Bloomberg News, Claiming ‘Bias’ Against the President” by Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle
National: “‘One of the Hardest Decisions of My Life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign” by Christopher Cadelago and Caitlin Oprysko for Politico
National: “Appeals Court Refuses to Block House Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records” by Ann Marimow and Renae Merle (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Judge Denies DOJ Request for Stay on Don McGahn Testimony” by Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “Impeachment Report Alleges Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference” by Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) for MSN
Washington DC: “D.C. Council Votes to Recommend Expelling Jack Evans Over Ethics Violations” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
December 3, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Abrams Campaign Seeks Dismissal of Request for Additional Documents in Ethics Probe” by Stephen Fowler for Georgia Public Broadcasting New Mexico: “Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks” by Morgan Lee (Associated Press) for Albuquerque Journal Elections Pennsylvania: […]
Georgia: “Abrams Campaign Seeks Dismissal of Request for Additional Documents in Ethics Probe” by Stephen Fowler for Georgia Public Broadcasting
New Mexico: “Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks” by Morgan Lee (Associated Press) for Albuquerque Journal
Pennsylvania: “A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns” by Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Ilhan Omar’s Opponent Barred by Twitter After Suggesting Congresswoman Should Be Hanged” by Marissa lati (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
National: “Justice’s Election-Year Conundrum: How to probe team Trump” by Darren Samuelsohn for Politico
California: “New LADWP Commissioner Works for a Company That Markets Water and Power” by Sammy Roth and Dakota Smith for Los Angeles Times
Illinois: “Dorothy Brown Eluded Criminal Charges Because of Top Aide’s Perjury, Court Filing Reveals” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
National: “State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-for-All” by Jeff Stein for Washington Post
December 2, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com Michigan: “Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations” by Jonathan Oosting for Bridge Michigan Ethics […]
Massachusetts: “State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com
Michigan: “Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations” by Jonathan Oosting for Bridge Michigan
Florida: “Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper Cleared of Corruption Charges” by Aaron Leibowitz for Miami Herald
Iowa: “Former Iowa Senate Secretary Named Ethics Board Executive” by Staff for AP News
Louisiana: “Ex-Louisiana Racing Commissioner Fined $50,000 for Ethical Conflict from Bobby Jindal Era” by John Simerman for New Orleans Advocate
New York: “Inspector General Releases Letter on Ethics Leak Probe” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
National: “Democrats Take in Lobbying Industry Cash Despite Pledges” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
Connecticut: “Jon Lender: It’s audit time after $33M in influence efforts so far in 2019 by lobbyists who cram Capitol, form ‘gauntlet’ by restrooms” by Jon Lester for Hartford Courant
November 27, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Investigators Scrutinize Rudy Giuliani’s Firm and Donations to Trump Super PAC” by Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Boston Globe Missouri: “PAC Donations to Independence Mayor, Days Before Vote on Project, […]
National: “Investigators Scrutinize Rudy Giuliani’s Firm and Donations to Trump Super PAC” by Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Boston Globe
Missouri: “PAC Donations to Independence Mayor, Days Before Vote on Project, Draw FBI Interest” by Jason Hancock, Steve Vockrodt, and Kevin Hardy for Kansas City Star
National: “That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It” by Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren for Rolling Stone
National: “Supreme Court Blocks House Committee from Immediately Reviewing Trump’s Financial Records” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules; Administration Will Appeal” by Charlie Savage (New York Times) for MSN
Arkansas: “Cranford Gets 7-Year Sentence for Corruption” by Doug Thompson for Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Nevada: “Former Lawmaker Still Owes Nevada More Than $120K in Restitution” by Jeff German for Las Vegas Review-Journal
Massachusetts: “DiMasi Says He Deserves ‘Second Chance’ to Lobby after Federal Conviction” by Matt Stout for Boston Globe
Michigan: “Michigan Lawmakers’ New Gig: Consulting, not lobbying” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
November 26, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “How the Small-Donor Revolution Became a $200 Million Payday for Middlemen” by Tik Root, Mark Fahey, and Rosie Cima for Politico Alaska: “Supreme Court Re-Enters Debate on Money in Politics by Vacating Decision on Alaska Contribution Limits” […]
National: “How the Small-Donor Revolution Became a $200 Million Payday for Middlemen” by Tik Root, Mark Fahey, and Rosie Cima for Politico
Alaska: “Supreme Court Re-Enters Debate on Money in Politics by Vacating Decision on Alaska Contribution Limits” by Richard Wolf for USA Today
New York: “Campaign Panel’s Proposal Threatens New York’s Minor Parties” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “Bloomberg News Won’t Investigate Candidate Bloomberg” by Associated Press for Courthouse News Service
National: “Kentucky Governor’s Stay at Trump Hotel Could Carry Legal Implications for President” by Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate
National: “Top House Democrat Says Ethics Probe of Nunes is Likely Over Alleged Meeting with Ukrainian About Bidens” by Rosalind Helderman and Colby Itkowitz for Washington Post
New Hampshire: “Greater Scrutiny on Ethics Likely Coming for NH Lawmakers” by Gary Drayno for Seacoastonline.com
National: “As Members of Congress Head for the Exits, Loosely Regulated Gravy Train Beckons” by Ben Wieder for McClatchy DC
Minnesota: “Minnesota House GOP Leader Joins D.C. Area Lobbying Firm” by Torey Van Oot for Minneapolis Star Tribune
November 25, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Campaign Finance Websites Still Broken as Election 2020 Nears” by Andrew Nicla for Arizona Capitol Times California: “‘A Spectacular Fall from Grace’: State commission levies big fine on Contra Costa elections chief who pocketed campaign funds” by […]
Arizona: “Campaign Finance Websites Still Broken as Election 2020 Nears” by Andrew Nicla for Arizona Capitol Times
California: “‘A Spectacular Fall from Grace’: State commission levies big fine on Contra Costa elections chief who pocketed campaign funds” by Annie Sciacca for San Jose Mercury News
Rhode Island: “Conservative Groups Sue R.I. Elections Board Over Disclosure Rules” by Patrick Anderson for Providence Journal
National: “Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says” by Julian Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) for MSN
California: “Trump May Withhold Tax Returns and Appear on Ballot, California Supreme Court Rules” by Maura Dolan and John Myers for Los Angeles Times
Massachusetts: “Secretary of State William Galvin Benefited Politically from Voter Info Booklet and Voting Signs, Massachusetts Ethics Commission Says” by Katie Lannan (State House News Service) for MassLive.com
National: “Secret Service Spent Quarter of a Million Dollars at President Trump’s Properties in First Five Months of His Term, Records Show” by David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scheme” by Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector for Baltimore Sun
National: “Amid Impeachment, Groups Press for Limits on Foreign Influence” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
November 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019 President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to […]
Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to prosecutors in New York City. The case, the first concerning Trump’s personal conduct and business dealings to reach the court, could yield a major ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from criminal investigations. In their petition urging the high court to hear their appeal, Trump’s lawyers argued he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct.
Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches
Yahoo News – Chris Strohm and Jordan Fabian (Bloomberg) | Published: 11/15/2019
Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated by federal prosecutors for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings, according to three U.S. officials. The probe could also include possible charges on violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy. Giuliani is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, which focuses on an effort led by the former New York City mayor to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate the president’s political rivals. If Giuliani is charged or indicted, he could expose Trump to a new level of legal and political jeopardy, especially if he is accused of committing a crime on the president’s behalf.
Google Announces New Political-Ads Policies That Limit Targeting but Not All Lies
Seattle Times – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Google announced new restrictions on political advertisers around the world, among them rules that bar candidates, including President Trump, from targeting narrow categories of Web users based on their political affiliation. The updates come as Google and its tech industry peers continue to face criticism for allowing politicians to lie in ads, a practice Google did not entirely outlaw as it pledged that “trust in electoral processes” outweighed the “cost or impact to spending” on political ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers now may target their ads in search and on Google-owned YouTube only down to the postal code level. These campaigns may also target people on the basis of gender or age, but they cannot do so based on voters’ political affiliations or public voter records, Google said, breaking with past policies.
How a CIA Analyst, Alarmed by Trump’s Shadow Foreign Policy, Triggered an Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Paul Sonne (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2019
The outlines of the impeachment case have been established: President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and two diplomats are alleged to have collaborated to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and damage the prospects of Joe Biden. To advance this hidden agenda, Trump and his allies orchestrated the ouster of a U.S. ambassador, the withholding of an Oval Office meeting from Ukraine’s new president, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid. It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the actions of a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and efforts to make his identity public.
Multiple Lawmakers Under Investigation Over Ethical Misconduct
MSN – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
The House ethics committee announced it was investigating whether U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings violated the chamber’s rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff or accepting inappropriate gifts. Hastings has made no secret of his relationship with an employee in his congressional office. The announcement came on the same day the committee disclosed the Justice Department was investigating U.S. Rep. Ross Spano over accusations of campaign finance violations. The ethics panel also said it would continue investigations into allegations against U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Bill Huizenga.
New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility
Idaho Press – Betsy Russell | Published: 11/19/2019
Civility has declined at the Idaho Legislature, but not as much as in other states or in Washington, D.C., according to a new study. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 lobbyists who work in state Legislatures in all 50 states and followed up on a survey three years earlier of lawmakers themselves. The study explored whether the gridlock that is emerged in Congress is beginning to infect state Legislatures. The lobbyists who were surveyed represent a wide array of interests, from contract lobbyists for private business interests to those representing agencies, non-profits, and public interest groups. The survey showed Idaho is not immune to a national trend toward less civility, less compromise, and more polarization in civic discourse, accompanied by declining trust in U.S. government institutions.
‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters worn out by a fog of political news
New York Times – Sabrina Tavernise and Aiden Gardiner | Published: 11/18/2019
In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself. Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake, and fact.
Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss
Connecticut Post – Renae Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Mick Mulvaney’s former chief of staff has been a key lobbyist for one of the country’s largest payday lenders, giving the industry access to the White House at a time it is fighting to roll back industry regulations. Al Simpson has met repeatedly with Mulvaney, whom he worked for on Capitol Hill until 2017. They have had dinner several times, and Simpson has been a frequent visitor to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The visits to the OMB overlap with the period Mulvaney was acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has oversight of the payday lending industry. While Mulvaney has served as Office of Management and Budget director, the White House has proposed cutting the bureau’s budget and curbing its enforcement powers.
Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassador Role in Trump Administration Uncovered by CBS News
CBS News – Staff | Published: 11/18/2019
An investigation has uncovered a possible “pay-for-play” scheme involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) and President Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate $500,000 as his confirmation in the U.S. Senate hung in the balance. Manchester contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. A relief trip to the Bahamas by Manchester caught the attention of the president, who tweeted his praise. Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”
RNC to Hold Winter Meetings at Trump Resort That Was Considered for G-7 Summit
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
The Republican National Committee will hold its winter meetings at President Trump’s Doral golf course in’Florida next year, awarding another of the party’s most lucrative events to the president’s private business. Trump briefly chose Doral to host a much larger event: next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders, effectively awarding a massive federal contract to himself. After bipartisan criticism, Trump canceled the event a few days later. No new site has yet been chosen for the summit. Still, this will be the second time in two years that the GOP will hold a major meeting at the resort, a key property for Trump that has suffered financial decline since he entered politics.
Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2019
Roger Stone, a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Trump. Stone was charged with lying to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. Stone was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.
SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change
Pensions and Investments – Bloomberg | Published: 11/19/2019
When Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairperson Jay Clayton handed a policy win to corporate executives recently, he pointed to a source of support: a mailbag full of encouragement from ordinary Americans. But a close look at the seven letters that Clayton highlighted, and about two dozen others submitted to the SEC by supposedly regular people, shows they are the product of a misleading, and clumsy, public relations campaign by corporate interests. At issue is the proxy process, the rules for how corporations conduct shareholder votes, such as when directors stand for re-election at annual meetings. Last year, the National Association of Manufacturers helped form the Main Street Investors Coalition to oppose what it calls the “politicization” of the investment process and to argue fund managers and boards should focus on maximizing profits. One of its priorities is changing shareholder voting rules.
Sondland Acknowledges Ukraine Quid Pro Quo, Implicates Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Others
Washington Post – Rachael Bade, Aaron Davis, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 11/21/2019
An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified he was following President’s Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.” The testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is the most damaging yet for Trump in the intensifying inquiry. Sondland declared the Trump administration would not give Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a chance to visit the White House unless Zelensky agreed to announce investigations that could help the president politically.
Trump Appointee Accused of Inflating Résumé, Faking a Time Cover Pushes Back in Resignation Letter
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
Mina Chang, the State Department official whose inflated resume and faked Timed magazine cover raised further questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process, has resigned. Chang defended herself and criticized the “toxic environment” at the agency, where she had served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, the erstwhile nominee for director of national intelligence, withdrew from consideration after reporting on his false claims about arresting undocumented immigrants. After Trump announced Ratcliffe would not be his nominee, the president defended the White House’s failure to scrutinize their pick’s background. “I give out a name to the press, and they vet for me,” Trump said. “We save a lot of money that way.”
Twitter Rolls Out Total Ban on Ads from Political Figures
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 11/15/2019
Twitter unveiled the details of a previously announced far-reaching global policy that bans campaign advertising as well as ads of any type from political figures and groups, and puts strict limits around other types of paid messaging that have a political dimension. The move comes as social platforms in the U.S. are under scrutiny over their handling of political ads, set against the 2020 presidential contest. Twitter is banning all ads that mention specific candidates, elections, or legislation. The prohibition on any advertising applies to campaigns, government officials, PACs, and 501(c)(4) groups. The total ban on political ads, however, does not extend to so-called issue ads. While those issue ads will be allowed from any advertisers not otherwise prohibited from buying ads, there are significant new restrictions on their messaging and reach.
Uncertain Times Could Bring New Lobbying Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/21/2019
The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. Still, lobbyists say they have no plans to zip up their campaign checkbooks, hide under their desks, or decamp from the capital. Instead, they are brewing alternative strategies, workarounds that include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia, and other institutions that can lend policy gravitas to shape major discussions over health care, immigration, trade, taxes, and other matters that will feature prominently on the campaign trail and beyond.
Canada – Alberta Government Firing Election Commissioner Who Was Investigating Leadership
Global News – Dean Bennett (Canadian Press) | Published: 11/18/2019
Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it is not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000. Finance Minister Travis Toews said the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money. Chief electoral officer Glen Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former New Democratic Party government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. The New Democrats then hired Gibson, whose highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney.
From the States and Municipalities
Connecticut – No Tolls CT: Crucial role or just another anti-tolls force?
Middletown Press – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 11/16/2019
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation infrastructure plan included 14 tolls on highway bridges and interchanges throughout the state, raising $320 million a year. But less than a week after he unveiled the proposal it was effectively dead as Senate Democrats expressed their reluctance to bring it to a vote. The fast result marks a win for the for No Tolls CT. Now, as the state searches for answers on how to fund transportation, the question remains as to how much influence the group ultimately had. Some have begun to question whether No Tolls CT is truly the small grassroots troupe of passionate volunteers they claim to be, or if there are larger, more organized and experienced political powers with deep pockets behind it.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan
The Guardian – Khushbu Shah | Published: 11/20/2019
Georgia’s ethics commission filed a lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign, insisting it had not received all relevant communications requested in April. Abrams’s former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, now the leader of Abrams’ national campaign against voter suppression, called the demand for the documents a “politically motivated investigation.” Months after Abrams lost the race, the commission launched the investigation around “unlawful coordination” between her gubernatorial campaign and several groups. For that reason, the lawsuit alleges, the commission needs to review not only financial records, but communications between the various organizations, including the New Georgia Voter Project and Fair Count, both launched by Abrams.
Illinois – Lawmakers Address Ethics Issues
State Journal-Register – Doug Finke | Published: 11/14/2019
The Illinois Legislature approved what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described as a small step toward fixing the state’s ethics laws amid an ongoing federal public corruption probe that has ensnared politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1693 that would require state lobbyists to disclose more information to the public and create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest. A companion measure, House Joint Resolution 93, that lawmakers also approved would create a 16-member commission to recommend additional changes to ethics laws.
Indiana – A ‘Tradition’ of Public Corruption: Mayors being arrested isn’t unusual for Indiana
Indianapolis Star – Crystal Hill | Published: 11/20/2019
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was arrested after being indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract. History shows Tyler’s arrest is hardly unusual. The allegations against Tyler are tame compared to what some previous Hoosier mayors have been accused, and convicted, of. Throughout the last century, The Indianapolis Star found at least a dozen mayors who were charged and/or convicted in local or federal cases, including now four mayors from Muncie alone. Tyler also is the fourth Indiana mayor arrested in the last five years. While many of the earlier charges point to a specific period in history, the offenses are not dissimilar from public corruption accusations that still make headlines today, according to a historian.
Indiana – McDermott Admits Family Is Repaying $50,000 Campaign Contribution from Wife’s Judicial Fund
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 11/16/2019
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and his wife, Lake Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott, are preparing to repay $50,000 in campaign contributions originally paid to her judicial campaign fund from his mayoral account after state officials deemed the amount excessive. There also are no legal limits on campaign donations or loans between a husband and wife in Indiana so long as they are reported. But Mayor McDermott said the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications viewed the loan as a potential violation of code of judicial conduct, which directs judicial candidates “to solicit and accept only such campaign contributions as are reasonable.”
Kansas – Cerner Must Guard Against Conflicts of Interest as Exec Runs for Congress, Experts Say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry and Jason Hancock | Published: 11/17/2019
When Cerner executive Amanda Adkins launched her congressional campaign in September, her website featured a photograph of her standing next to the corporate logo on the company’s Kansas City campus. The photo was cropped to remove the Cerner name shortly after the site went online. The change illustrates the ethical and optical challenges both the company and Adkins face as she seeks the Republican nomination in Kansas’ Third Congressional District, while continuing to work for the health care IT giant that holds billions of dollars in federal contracts. Federal law restricts government contractors from giving money to congressional candidates. Cerner will also have to protect against providing services to Adkins, which could be seen as in-kind contributions under FEC rules, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.
Louisiana – Walter Dumas, Ex-Southern Board Member, Owes $138K for Unpaid Stadium Suite Rental, Appeals Court Says
New Orleans Advocate – Joe Guyan Jr. | Published: 11/18/2019
Former Southern University Board of Supervisors member Walter Dumas and his now-defunct law firm must pay the Louisiana Board of Ethics $138,000 for using an A.W. Mumford Stadium suite for three years without paying the rental fee, an appeals court has ruled for the second time. The latest ruling came when the state First Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Dumas’ argument that the Ethics Adjudicatory Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it ordered Dumas and his firm to pay the money. The sum represents yearly rental payments of $13,800 for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 football seasons, plus a $96,600 donation to the Southern University System Foundation that was payable over three years.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector | Published: 11/20/2019
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and tax evasion over lucrative deals for her self-published children’s series of books. Prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career, and illegally fund her campaign for mayor. Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of her books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others, and took some to use for self-promotion. She used the profits to buy a house and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege. At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes.
Michigan – Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/20/2019
Eight former Republican and Democratic lawmakers are suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over Michigan’s shortest-in-the-nation term limits, which they say are an “unconstitutional bar to their ballot access.” State lawmakers are limited to serving a total of 14 years across the two legislative chambers – three, two-year terms in the House and two, four-year terms in the Senate. Five of the lawmakers are now registered lobbyists. The 501(c)4 or social welfare group funding the lawsuit lists Rusty Merchant, a lobbyist, as its resident agent and the press conference announcing the lawsuit was held in a conference room belonging to lobbying firm McAlvey Merchant & Associates.
Montana – Montana Candidates Failed to Properly Disclose Facebook Ad Spending
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 11/20/2019
Political ads for Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial race have appeared on Facebook at least 760,000 times since the start of the year. Montana Public Radio (MTPR) found nearly all the candidates running for office did not follow state rules for disclosing details about those ads to the public. After MTPR reached out to Jeff Mangan, the commissioner of political practices, about the discrepancy in Facebook ad spending, he sent a memo to all candidates in Montana. Mangan reminded them “they have the responsibility and obligation to understand and comply with all Montana campaign finance laws.” It also requests candidates send amended disclosure forms that include all social media advertising expenditures.
Nevada – Nevada Licensing Boards Sometimes Lobby Against State’s Interests
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 11/15/2019
To the administrative and regulatory maze that is Nevada’s occupational licensing system, add this twist: more than half the state-appointed licensing boards employ lawyers or lobbyists at state expense, and occasionally they work against the state’s interests. For 2017 through 2021, the state is footing more than $2.6 million in legal and lobbying expenses for 21 licensing boards, according to a review requested by the state Board of Examiners. The board meets monthly to review and approve state spending. The boards are technically funded by fees from professional licensing, not from the state’s general fund. But the boards are state-created entities, their members are appointed by the governor, and their contractual expenses still come before the Board of Examiners for approval.
New York – De Blasio Donor Sues JCOPE, Arguing Inquiries Are Illegal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/17/2019
While the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has reached a series of settlements with donors to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lobbying charity, a target of the inquiry is fighting back, arguing the investigations are based on an illegal premise. Under state law, public officials are not allowed to accept gifts of more than “nominal” value from lobbyists or their clients. The types of gifts targeted by regulators have included items such as free plane trips for elected officials or tickets to sporting events. JCOPE in 2014 passed a regulation that also barred a lobbyist or their client from donating to a “charitable organization, on behalf of or at the direction of, a public official.” The lawsuit filed by Broadway Stages argues the regulation is illegal, since state lawmakers never passed a law empowering JCOPE to expand the definition of “gift.”
New York – Heastie’s Counsel Contacted Ethics Commissioner After Percoco Vote
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 11/20/2019
Howard Vargas, the executive counsel to New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is the person who contacted a commissioner with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in January and allegedly pressed her about a meeting earlier that day in which the panel voted whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The unusual call by Vargas took place not long after Cuomo had spoken with Heastie at the Capitol, and allegedly expressed concerns about the voting that day by the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE. The closed-door deliberations of the commission are not public, and any disclosure of that information may violate state law.
North Carolina – Cooper ‘Improperly’ Used Influence on Pipeline, Investigation Started by GOP Concludes
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan and Dan Kane | Published: 11/20/2019
An independent investigation started by Republican legislative leaders into North Carolina’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a “pay-to-play” or “pay-for-permit” after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.
North Carolina – North Carolina Lawmakers OK New 2020 Congressional Maps. Now It’s Up to the Courts
Raleigh News and Observer – Brian Murphy | Published: 11/15/2019
The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature approved a new congressional district map to be used in 2020 that is likely to shrink the GOP’s edge in the state’s congressional delegation. But Democrats plan to challenge the map in court again. Lawmakers drew the new map after a three-judge panel indicated it was likely to toss the previous map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. If a new map is not in place by December 2, the congressional primaries scheduled for March could be postponed. The maps will only be used in 2020 as they will have to be redrawn for the 2022 election using new Census data. That process should start in March 2021.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/19/2019
At a meeting of the Oregon Senate Campaign Finance Committee he chairs, Sen. Jeff Golden unveiled a proposal for new campaign finance regulations that contains elements he believes are “ideal.” Those elements could become a key starting point as the Legislature prepares to grapple with the issue early next year. Golden’s proposal would place ceilings on the amount of money individuals and various types of political committees could give to candidates, campaigns, and one another. Oregon is currently one of a handful of states with no limits on campaign contributions.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 11/15/2019
The Oregon Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether it will overturn one of its more notable rulings, the two-decade-old decision that struck down the state’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. After 90 minutes of spirited debate with the attorneys in the case, it seems clear the justices were animated by the issue of whether they should do exactly that. The court is considering the constitutionality of an ordinance passed by Multnomah County voters that places a $500-per-person limit on campaign donations. But the stakes are larger than that. If the justices revisit their 1997 ruling, it could also open the door to the imposition of strict limits at the state level.
Pennsylvania – Bill Limiting Gifts to Public Officials Moves in Pa. Legislature
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/19/2019
The House State Government Committee vote to advance new limits on gifts to Pennsylvania public officials, including an outright prohibition on taking cash, although the proposal includes numerous exceptions. The vote came after Republicans pushed through a party-line vote to add an exception to let lobbyists give birthday or wedding presents. Gifts generally would not be allowed if they total more than $50 from one person in a calendar year, or hospitality, transportation, or lodging worth $500 a year. Lobbyist gifts would not be covered if the lobbyist and public official have “a personal romantic relationship.”
Texas – The Inauguration of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick Cost Millions. But Much of It Went to Fundraising and Staff.
Texas Tribune – Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root | Published: 11/18/2019
The inauguration of the Texas governor and lieutenant governor – traditionally two days of parties, picnics, and parades – has been transformed into a giant payday for campaign staff and fundraisers. The money spent on personnel, including payroll and fundraising, has skyrocketed during Gov. Greg Abbott’s two swearing-in celebrations, dwarfing spending in those categories during the Rick Perry era, which spanned more than a decade. Gubernatorial spokesperson John Wittman has said no state dollars were spent on the festivities and that none of the $800,000 donated by the inaugural committee to charities, which he would not name which, benefited entities tied to Abbott or the government.
Virginia – Salacious Facebook Posts About a Former Virginia Beach City Council Candidate Lead to Defamation Lawsuit
The Viginian-Pilot – Jane Harper | Published: 11/14/2019
Dee Oliver was a favorite to win an at-large seat on the Virginia Beach City Council in the November election. But days before voters headed to the polls, a post published on a Facebook discussion group with thousands of members portrayed the candidate as a “woman of ill repute,” according to a lawsuit Oliver filed. The post suggested she had sex with a physical fitness trainer in a hospital bathroom while the man was there for heart surgery, the complaint says, and while his family was in the next room. Oliver ended up losing the election by just 347 votes after a recount. The case highlights the potential legal danger of posting on social media, especially if the information is false or is published with reckless disregard for the truth.
Washington – In Olympia, an Idea to Help Voters Easily Track Campaign Ad Money and Zero in on Who’s Being Targeted
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 11/20/2019
Election spending in Washington continues to break records. Meanwhile, micro-targeted online advertising, such as through Facebook and Google, has made it possible for campaigns to reach small slices of voters without the broader public being aware. So, state campaign finance officials discussed the idea of giving Washington’s disclosure system a boost: building a searchable digital archive that collects campaign ads and information related to them. Officials for the Public Disclosure Commission said a digital archive could shine sunlight on political ads bought through social-media companies. A searchable database could also help voters make sense of a dizzying amount of election messaging and the sources behind it.
Washington DC – D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/19/2019
A group of District of Columbia Council members introduced a bill designed to improve compliance with a law that requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses. The subcontracting law has been revised in prior years as lawmakers attempted to stop contractors from abusing it. The bill would prohibit contractors from subcontracting work to companies in which they have an ownership stake to fulfill the law’s requirements. It would also require more evidence from businesses that they are local, create a tip line for reporting violations, and increase the frequency of site inspections.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Sought Stock in Sign Company After Acknowledging Potential Conflict of Interest, Report Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 11/14/2019
The investigation into ethics allegations against District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans provided fresh details about his dealings with a digital sign company at the heart of several probes into whether Evans used his office to benefit his private clients and employers. Digi Outdoor Media and Evans negotiated a private consulting contract in 2016 while the sign company was clashing with the city over its regulation of outdoor advertising. Investigators hired by the city council concluded Evans and his staff took official actions to benefit the company against a “backdrop of benefits and intermittent financial entanglements.”
Wisconsin – ‘Much Too Divided’: Lobbyists, Capitol observers adjust to slower pace under split government
Madison.com – Briana Reilly | Published: 11/18/2019
Nearly a year into divided government in Wisconsin, many lobbyists and Capitol observers say they have adjusted to the new reality: things are moving slower and less is getting done. After a decade of one-party control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, a new Democratic face in the East Wing, coupled with Republicans holding onto their legislative majorities, has brought a change of pace to the legislative process. As Republicans and Democrats work to navigate the situation, lobbyists are also learning what they can expect to accomplish under the new order, which some described as a balancing act between the Republican Assembly speaker, GOP Senate majority leader, and Democratic governor.