News You Can Use Digest – July 13, 2018

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

 

 

 

Federal:

Atypical Lobbying Shop Targets Lawmakers from Poorest Districts
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/10/2018

A new lobbying shop, United By Interest, is so far a commercial flop, if judged solely by the number of clients it has attracted: zero. But the lobbyists behind the effort, all of whom have their own separate K Street businesses, have managed to move an infrastructure bill with support of lawmakers from the Freedom Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. In a time when gridlock dominates Congress, these lobbyists say they are searching for a model that can produce greater flow between left and right, and legislation that will pass. In their research about what might motivate members of Congress from the extremes of both parties, they stumbled on a common theme: the poorest congressional districts. Their idea is to push together the fringes by aligning them on economic development projects back home.

Ex-Lawmakers See Tough Job Market with Trade Groups
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 7/11/2018

Retiring lawmakers could find it harder than ever to find a job at trade groups next year. Headhunters who specialize in finding candidates for high-level K Street jobs said industry groups are no longer clamoring for the cachet of hiring a former elected official. Instead, they say hiring trends have changed and high-powered groups are looking for people with management skills, policy knowledge, and industry smarts. Snagging a marquee name years ago may have been the ideal choice for some groups, but headhunters say political gridlock in Washington and the expanded work of trade associations has ushered in the need for candidates with a larger skill set.

Giuliani Works for Foreign Clients While Serving as Trump’s Attorney
Chicago Tribune – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2018

Rudy Giuliani is reportedly still working on behalf of foreign clients at his security firm Giuliani Partners after joining President Trump’s legal team, which raises conflict-of-interest concerns and could violate federal ethics laws. Lobbying experts said Giuliani’s work at the firm more than likely requires registration under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. His decision to continue representing foreign entities also departs from standard practice for presidential attorneys, who in the past have generally sought to sever any ties that could create conflicts with their client in the White House. Giuliani told the Post that he never discusses his clients with the president and has turned away potential clients, including a Russian business.

Showdown on a Trump Subpoena Could Overshadow Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation
WRAL – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 7/10/2018

President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, has expressed strong support for executive power and gun rights, and hostility to administrative agencies. Those are conventional positions among conservative lawyers and judges. But there is one stance that sets Kavanaugh apart, and it could not be timelier: his deep skepticism of the wisdom of forcing a sitting president to answer questions in criminal cases. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump and his associates, raised the prospect of subpoenaing the president during a meeting with one of his lawyers. If Mueller goes down that road, the dispute could quickly reach the Supreme Court. And if Kavanaugh is on the court by then, it could thrust him into the middle of an issue he has been wrestling with for most of his professional life.

From the States and Municipalities:

Colorado: Denver Council Approves Ethics Exemption After Debate Over City-Provided Air Travel, Freebies
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 7/9/2018

The Denver City Council adopted new rules that will allow council members and the mayor to continue receiving gifts from other city employees. The council approved an amendment that exempts city officials and departments from being considered “donors” of gifts under restrictions in the ethics code. It also requires city officials to file new semi-annual public reports listing items received from city government that are worth more than $50. Council members acted after the Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion that questioned the providing of gifts by agencies or departments when they are seeking contract approvals or other favorable decisions.

Florida: Mayors Push to Strengthen Lobbying Laws in Broward
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Meryl Kornfield | Published: 7/9/2018

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Coconut Creek Mayor Josh Rydell want to strengthen their cities’ lobbying rules, saying Broward County’s ethics laws do not go far enough. By changing the laws in 2016, the county left it up to cities to craft penalties for any lobbyist who fails to submit logs of their exchanges with elected officials. Under the county’s ethics laws, it used to be up to the government officials to log their calls, meetings, and emails. But after April 2016, the responsibility of documenting those meetings shifted to lobbyists. County officials say no lobbyists have been investigated for failing to log meetings.

Indiana: Attorney General Curtis Hill Under Investigation Following Calls by Top Indiana Republicans
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Ryan Martin | Published: 7/5/2018

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and legislative leaders called for state Attorney General Curtis Hill to resign amid what they say are credible claims that Hill drunkenly groped four women, including a lawmaker, at an Indianapolis bar. They also called for an investigation by Inspector General Lori Torres, which Torres would occur. Hill has denied the groping allegations and said he had no plans to step down. Criminal investigations into statewide office holders are not unprecedented for the inspector general’s office.

Kentucky: Andy Beshear’s ‘Tainted’ Donations May Be More Than What’s in His Fund
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 7/11/2018

When Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s top deputy was arrested for using kickbacks and bribes for political contributions, Beshear vowed to donate all the tainted money from his 2015 campaign account to charity. That was two years ago and the money is still there. But now Beshear is running for governor, bringing more scrutiny to his campaign. He has cooperated with authorities, and federal officials have said he had no knowledge of the scheme. Beshear again vowed to donate any tainted contributions to Common Cause, a government watchdog group, but only after the Registry of Election Finance completes an audit of his 2015 account.

Missouri: KC Mayoral Candidate Proposes Limiting Gifts to $5: Ethical move or political ploy?
Kansas City Star – Bill Turque | Published: 7/9/2018

A proposed ordinance sponsored by Kansas City Councilperson Scott Taylor would cut the maximum permissible value of gifts from $1,000 to five dollars. It would also restrict city-funded council travel and extend from one to two years the period ex-officials must stay away from city government before lobbying or working as a contractor. The measure was drafted to mirror portions of “Clean Missouri,” the November ballot issue aimed at reforming state government. Taylor’s council colleagues dismiss the idea that their vote can be bought for a meal or a ticket. They describe the ordinance as election-season pandering.

New York: Cuomo Campaign Amends ‘All-You-Can-Drink’ Fundraiser Invite
Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 7/9/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign amended the language of a fundraiser invitation that initially offered an “all-you-can-drink happy hour” – a pitch that appears to violate state law. The invitation to the fundraiser now touts “happy hour drinks.” State Alcohol Beverage Control law prohibits “selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price.”

Oklahoma: Rule Change Conceals Statewide Candidates’ Personal Finances
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 7/6/2018

Unlike the federal government and nearly three dozen states, Oklahoma does not require candidates to reveal even the most basic details of their finances before Election Day. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission, citing privacy concerns and the burden of added paperwork, stopped requiring candidates to file a financial disclosure statement before the 2016 elections. State ethics rules now require only elected officials to file those statements months after taking office and then annually. The form contains less information than what is required for disclosure by the federal government and many other states.

Virginia: Dominion Claims Lobbying Costs Soared to Fight ‘Fake News’
The News-Leader – Alan Sunderman (Associated Press) | Published: 7/11/2018

Dominion Energy’s tenfold increase in spending to influence Virginia politicians was prompted by the spread of “fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups,” a company spokesperson said. Disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals, and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000.

West Virginia: Justice Ketchum Steps Away from the Supreme Court
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 7/11/2018

Menis Ketchum, one of two justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals under fire for spending practices, resigned less than 24 hours before House members consider articles of impeachment against one or more justices. Ketchum, along with Justice Allen Loughry, were singled out by a legislative audit for possibly violating the Ethics Act by using vehicles owned by the court for their personal use. The report specifically criticizes Ketchum for using the court’s vehicles for golf outings. When brought to his attention, he reimbursed the state and amended his tax forms. Ketchum also received criticism for the cost of office renovations and for taking a $2,500 grandfather clock owned by the court.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Treasurer Candidate Says He Was Fired from Banking Job After Mounting Campaign
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck and Max Bayer | Published: 7/9/2018

Travis Hartwig, who is running for state treasurer in Wisconsin, said he was fired from his job as a mutual fund administrator at U.S. Bank because he would not drop out of the race. Hartwig’s campaign was considered by bank officials to be a conflict-of-interest because the bank does work with state agencies and it is currently seeking a $10 million contract with Wisconsin. According to emails, the bank determined “there is substantial risk to [U.S. Bank] if you are allowed to continue in your campaign … while employed at [the bank].”