News You Can Use Digest – August 10, 2018

campaign finance, elections, ethics, legislative issues, lobbying, News You Can Use

 

 

 

National:

Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box
MSN – Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2018

Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, more than a dozen politicians who have been accused of misconduct and are running for state legislative seats again anyway. Some candidates hope voters will accept their apologies. Others believe constituents will dismiss the allegations as untrue or deem them unimportant at a time when state Legislatures could play crucial roles either in advancing the Trump administration’s agenda or forming bulwarks against it. Apologies alone do not satisfy some of those who are working to ensure candidates accused of harassment do not retain political power.

Federal:

GOP Rep. Chris Collins Charged with Securities Fraud
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Jimmy Vielkind, and Laura Nahmias | Published: 8/8/2018

U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins was indicted on charges he used inside information about a biotechnology company to make illicit stock trades. The indictment charges Collins and his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, who is the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, with conspiracy, wire fraud, and other counts. Rep. Collins was Innate Immunotherapeutics’ largest shareholder and served on its board. He received an email from Innate’s chief executive alerting him the company’s highly touted drug had failed in clinical trials. Rep. Collins is alleged to have passed that information to his son, who notified Zarsky. Prosecutors say the three avoided about $768,000 in losses because of the information.

Judge’s Ruling Invalidates FEC Regulation Allowing Anonymous Donations to ‘Dark Money’ Groups
Politico – Brent Griffiths | Published: 8/4/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell struck down an FEC rule that allowed for anonymous donations to “dark money” groups. Howell ruled the FEC regulation allowing for those donors to remain anonymous fell below the standard that Congress meant to set when it passed laws on disclosing the sources of political donations. The ruling, which is likely to be appealed, means nonprofits could be required to reveal the identities of donors who give $200 or more toward affecting federal elections. The FEC has 45 days to issue temporary regulations that would require the so-called dark money groups to reveal more about their donors.

On Appeals Court, Kavanaugh Helped to Loosen Political Money Laws
National Public Radio – Peter Overby | Published: 8/8/2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, a frequent destination for cases involving the FEC. His decisions have effectively pulled the campaign finance system rightward, letting in more money with less regulation. He is been roughly in sync with Anthony Kennedy, the justice he once clerked for and now might succeed. “I think his record on money and politics should be right up there alongside the likelihood that he’ll overturn Roe or strike down the [Affordable Care Act],” said Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies for the progressive advocacy group Demos.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Prosecutors Drop Bribery, Fraud Charges Against Former Utility Regulator, Others
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2018

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona filed a motion to dismiss the indictment of a former utility regulator and others who were charged in a bribery case that ended in a mistrial. Jurors could not agree whether former utility regulator Gary Pierce, his wife, Sherry, lobbyist Jim Norton, and water company owner George Johnson had participated in a bribery scheme, as prosecutors alleged. Taryn Jeffries served as the jury foreperson. She said she was not surprised the government decided not to retry the case, which she considered “weak.” Jeffries said the jurors deadlocked at seven-to-five with those believing the defendants were guilty in the minority.

Florida: Panel Finds ‘Probable Cause’ That Five Municipal Officials, Five Lobbyists Violated State Ethics Laws
Florida Watchdog – John Haughey | Published: 8/3/2018

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that five lobbying firms filed inaccurate financial disclosure reports for 2016. The evidence turned up in random audits of executive branch lobbying firms. Among the commission’s notable actions was finding probable cause that former Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford “accepted prohibited gifts from lobbyists, or alternatively, failed to report discounts valued at more than $100 as gifts.”

Kansas: ‘That Is a Conflict’: Kobach should recuse himself from a recount, experts say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry, Steve Vockrodt, Jonathan Shorman, and Hunter Woodall | Published: 8/8/2018

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he does not plan to recuse himself from a potential recount effort in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, despite being a candidate in the race. He said while his office oversees recounts, it does not directly participate in vote-counting, which is done at the county level. Kobach is leading Gov. Jeff Colyer by fewer than 200 votes in the closely watched race. If Colyer requests a hand recount after all provisional and mail-in ballots are counted, the secretary of state’s office will decide how much the governor’s campaign would have to pay for a recount. Kobach is not required by law to recuse himself, but legal and political experts said it would be in his best interest to do so.

Maine: After Court Battle, Maine’s Clean Elections Candidates to Get $1 Million In Campaign Funds
New England Public Radio – Steve Mistler | Published: 8/8/2018

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has complied with a court order that he release about $1.4 million in public campaign funding he had held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders. The move means about 120 candidates for the Legislature and one for governor will be getting money soon to help run their campaigns under the Maine Clean Election Act. Seven candidates and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections sued LePage because he refused to release the funds, which would come from unspent money from the 2016 election cycle.

Missouri: Lawsuit Seeks to Knock Gerrymandering Issue Off Missouri’s November Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 8/6/2018

An attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. The referendum asks whether voters want to tighten campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts, institute a two-year waiting period for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists, start a new redistricting system in 2020, and require lawmakers to adhere to the Sunshine Law.

Missouri: Slay’s Role as Lobbyist Raises Questions Over Conflict of Interest in Quest to Privatize Airport
St. Louis Public Radio – Melody Walker | Published: 8/6/2018

Francis Slay, just weeks before leaving office as mayor in April of last year, initiated the process that could lead to the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. In June of this year, Slay was hired by Ferrovial Airports, a company with experience in managing airports in Europe, and considered one of three top contenders in the bidding process for Lambert. Slay registered as a lobbyist in June “to lobby local elected officials.” His role as a lobbyist for a company seeking to lease the city’s largest asset through a process he initiated while mayor has raised some eyebrows, and some serious questions about a conflict-of-interest.

New York: BOE Approves Regulations That Could Hinder Independent Investigations
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 8/8/2018

The New York State Board of Elections is moving to weaken the powers of an independent watchdog. The board voted to require the state’s independent enforcement counsel to justify in writing each subpoena they want to issue when investigating alleged campaign finance and election law cases. The board already had control over whether subpoenas could be issued in specific cases, but the new rule means the counsel must get approval on a subpoena-by-subpoena basis. Good-government groups criticized the move, which state Attorney General Barbara Underwood said will “gut” the counsel’s independence and lead to more corruption.

Texas: Dwaine Caraway Resigns from Dallas City Council, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges
Dallas News – Robert Wilonsky, Holly Hacker, and Miles Moffeit | Published: 8/9/2018

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty to federal charges of receiving $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks and resigned from the city council. Caraway admitted taking the payments exchange for votes in favor of a camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS), which sought contract work with Dallas County Schools. At times, Robert Leonard, the owner of FXS, would pay Caraway in checks that he would cash at liquor stores and pawn shops. Leonard also admitted to paying Rick Sorrells, a former Dallas County school superintendent, more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks. Their actions, prosecutors said, helped FXS secure more than $70 million in contracts and agreements with Dallas County Schools.

Texas: Texas Court Revives Lawsuit to Strip Ethics Regulators of Campaign, Elections Oversight
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughey | Published: 8/3/2018

A conservative advocacy group’s legal challenge to the Texas Ethics Commission took a leap forward after the lawsuit, dismissed in 2016 by a District Court judge, was revived by an appeals court. The decision by the Third Court of Appeals is the latest in an ongoing series of blows between Empower Texans, an influential group led by Michael Quinn Sullivan, and the commission, which years ago investigated the organization for alleged campaign law violations. The lawsuit asks whether the ethics panel has the legal authority to carry out many of its core functions, including enforcement and oversight of campaign finance rules.

Vermont: This 14-Year-Old Is Running for Governor Before He Can Even Vote
Washington Post – Kayla Epstein | Published: 8/8/2018

Unlike most states, Vermont has no age requirement for gubernatorial candidates, only a residency requirement. So, Ethan Sonneborn, who has lived in Bristol for 14 years – his entire life – makes the cut. Sonneborn declared his candidacy for governor back in August 2017, and then told his parents about it. After the secretary of state consulted with the attorney general, it was decided he would be allowed to run, but his parents would have to sign a form acknowledging they knew he was running and did not oppose him doing so.