News You Can Use Digest – January 18th, 2019

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

 

 

 

Federal:

At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service
MSN – Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Benn Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/14/2019

President Trump’s inaugural committee spent roughly $100 million for an abundance of expenses, including more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The expansive spending reflected Trump’s desire to make a grand entrance, with roughly 20 events around Washington. Disclosure of the spending details comes at a time when the inaugural committee is facing legal scrutiny over the donations that funded it. There is no indication of any investigation into the inaugural committee’s spending. For the most part, inaugural committees are free to spend the money they raise from private donations as they wish. But millions of dollars for Trump’s inauguration were written off in lost revenue.

New Members, Meet the ‘Slush Fund’
Roll Call – Stephanie Aikin | Published: 1/14/2019

More than two dozen new members of the U.S. House and Senate, many of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate money in politics, have established so-called leadership PACs. They are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to collect money for their colleagues and candidates. The vast majority of members have one, and many say they can be helpful tools to support other politicians and the issues they care about. But the PACs are not subject to the same restrictions on personal spending as individual campaign committees, leading to numerous examples of alleged misuse. Critics say they also allow politicians to evade campaign contribution limits and obscure donations from corporations and other powerful groups.

T-Mobile Execs Seeking Trump Approval for Deal Stayed Repeatedly at His D.C. Hotel
Chicago Tribune – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2019

Top executives from T-Mobile booked reservations at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. one day after it was announced that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would require the administration’s approval. T-Mobile executives stayed at the hotel for at least 38 nights during 2018. The Washington Post obtained about a dozen 2018 VIP Arrivals lists which are provided to hotel staff when foreign officials, executives, and Trump family friends are customers at the hotel. Countries, interest groups, and companies like T-Mobile – whose future will be shaped by the administration’s choices – are free to stop at both and pay the president’s company while also meeting with officials in his government. Such visits raise questions about whether patronizing Trump’s private business is viewed as a way to influence public policy.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Downtown L.A. Development Is a Focus of FBI Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 1/14/2019

The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on the city’s real estate boom. Now, some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering, and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall. Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures. The investigation became public in November, when FBI agents raided the home and offices and offices of city Councilperson Jose Huizar.

Colorado: Judge: State ethics panel has no jurisdiction over many Colorado cities
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 1/10/2019

A judge said the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) no longer has jurisdiction over the ethics rules of home-rule cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs. Part of Amendment 41, the voter-approved ethics law, deals with ethics codes set up by home-rule cities and counties. It says Amendment 41 does not apply to “home rule cities or counties that have adopted charters, ordinance or resolutions that address the matters covered” under the amendment. Shortly after the passage of Amendment 41, the city of Glendale adopted its own code of ethics. But the IEC, in deciding it had jurisdiction over Glendale, decided the city’s code did not contain every provision laid out in Amendment 41.

Kentucky: How Much Is Spent Lobbying Kentucky’s Executive Branch? This Bill Demands an Answer.
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 1/15/2019

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers introduced legislation to give the public more information about those lobbying the state’s executive branch. Businesses often spend more than $20 million-a-year lobbying Kentucky lawmakers, but no similar number is counted for executive branch lobbyists, who are far more numerous. Under Senate Bill 6, executive branch lobbyists would have to file with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission their payment and could not work for any type of contingency fee.

Montana: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Montana Campaign Finance Case
Montana Standard; Associated Press –   | Published: 1/14/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging Montana’s campaign contribution limits, likely ending a legal challenge that has lasted more than seven years. Opponents of the caps, which are among the lowest in the country, said they are unconstitutional under the First Amendment and prevent candidates from waging effective campaigns. In declining to take up the case, the high court upheld the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the limits are a reasonable way to prevent corruption and still allow candidates to raise enough money. Since the lawsuit was filed, a federal judge has ruled twice that those limits are unconstitutional, only to be reversed upon appeal.

New York: Legislature Passes Sweeping Electoral Reforms
Albany Times Union – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 1/14/2019

New York lawmakers passed several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail, and limits on the influence of money in elections. The reforms make state primary elections the same day as federal primary elections. One bill amends the law to hold limited liability companies (LLCs) to the same aggregate contribution limit of $5,000 that applies to corporations. The legislation includes a constitutional amendment that requires the disclosure of the identity and proportion of ownership of all direct and indirect owners of the membership interests in the LLC and may go into effect as soon as 2021.

Ohio: Columbus Council Appoints Shayla Favor, Approves Campaign Finance Reforms
WOSU – Gabe Rosenberg | Published: 1/15/2019

The Columbus City Council approved the city’s first ever campaign finance reforms. The measures set requirements for disclosing the sources of campaign advertisements and include a tax credit for small donations. But the most-discussed part of the reforms are the campaign contribution limits: $12,707.79 per year. The limit is higher than any other city in Ohio. Because the provision applies annually rather than by campaign period, city officials could raise more money than state officeholders serving for the same amount of time. It applies to all municipal candidates including mayor, council member, auditor, and city attorney. The contribution limits will take effect in time for this year’s elections.

Oklahoma: Stitt Inauguration Donors May Not Be Revealed Until Summer
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 1/10/2019

Hundreds of donors and supporters will welcome Kevin Stitt as Oklahoma’s new governor during four days of events. The pre-inaugural events are a lavish and at times controversial tradition shared by newly elected presidents and governors across the country. The events will be entirely funded by private money from Stitt’s backers or those looking to gain good will with the administration. If past inaugurations are a guide, Stitt will likely raise more than $1 million from wealthy individuals, companies, and special-interest groups that are allowed to contribute without limits. But those donors can be kept secret for up to six months, until well after this year’s legislative session is over.

South Carolina: SC Ethics Advocate Creates Ethics Dilemma by Gifting Corruption Book to Lawmakers
The State – Avery Wilkes | Published: 1/10/2019

Lobbyist John Crangle, a longtime ethics reform advocate, gave the South Carolina House and Senate more than 180 copies of his book on a corruption scandal to remind legislators of “Operation Lost Trust,” the 1990 investigation that found widespread vote-selling in the General Assembly and led to criminal charges against 18 lawmakers. The books were delivered to individual lawmakers as they returned to Columbia to begin the legislative session. House Ethics Committee Chairperson Murrell Smith said staffers contacted Crangle and the publisher to verify the book was worth less than the $25 and, thus, would not need to be reported as a gift. State Rep. Kirkman Finlay said Crangle’s gift highlights the awkward spot that legislators regularly find themselves in when a gift reaches their door.

Texas: Texas Republicans Rally Behind Muslim Official as Some Try to Oust Him Over Religion
MSN – Adeel Hassan (New York Times) | Published: 1/10/2019

Shahid Shafi will retain his role as vice-chairperson of the Tarrant County Republican Party despite a push to remove him from his post because he is Muslim. Those who were in favor of Shafi’s removal said he is unequipped to be vice-chair because he does not represent all Tarrant County Republicans due to his religion. They have also said Islamic ideologies run counter to the U.S. Constitution, an assertion many Texas GOP officials have called bigoted.

Vermont: A White Nationalist’s Harassment Helped Force a Black Female Lawmaker to Resign. He Won’t Face Charges.
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2019

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said he will not file charges in the reported racial harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, though he believes Morris and her family were victims. Donovan said he would not pursue a criminal case because the First Amendment protects free speech. Morris was the only black female lawmaker in the Legislature and she won the Democratic nomination this summer but withdrew, citing racially motivated threats and online harassment. The messages Max Misch, a self-described white nationalist, sent to Morris over a two-year period disrupted her life to the point that she sought, and was granted, a protective order against him. To Misch, the incidents were little more than a joke. “I like trolling people – it’s fun,” Misch said.

Washington: Split Court: Local initiatives subject to disclosure rule
KOMO – Gene Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 1/10/2019

The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state attorney general’s office can pursue a campaign finance disclosure case against the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation. The majority rejected the group’s assertion that the disclosure requirements did not apply to local initiatives before they are placed on the ballot. State law explicitly says that after a measure has been submitted to an elections official, donations to that campaign must be reported. That applies to statewide initiative measures, which must be reviewed by the secretary of state’s office before proponents can gather signatures. But for some local initiatives, supporters do not turn them in until after they have collected signatures.