News You Can Use Digest – June 1, 2018

campaign finance, ethics, lobbying, News You Can Use

 

 


National:

Who’s Behind Those Political Ads on Facebook? Now, You Can Find Out.
San Antonio Express-News – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2018

Facebook and Twitter, said they are following through on promises to add verification, disclosures, and additional information to all political advertisements. For both companies, the stakes are high ahead of the 2018 midterm election, after Russian agents spread propaganda, through ads and other posts, on social media sites in a bid to create social and political unrest in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential race. On Facebook, political ads will include a marker at the top indicating who has paid for it. Clicking on the label will bring users to a new repository of all political ads that have run on the site. Twitter said it soon would require political advertisers to prove their identity before promoting tweets on the platform.

Federal:

F.B.I. Official Wrote Secret Memo Fearing Trump Got a Cover Story for Comey Firing
MSN – Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/30/2018

Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo last year recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of McCabe’s predecessor, James Comey. His dismissal is a central focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Trump tried to obstruct the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. McCabe described a conversation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played a key role in the firing, writing a memo that rebuked Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton. In a meeting with McCabe, Rosenstein said Trump originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo. To McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence Comey’s firing was actually related to the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton inquiry.

Former Drug Industry Lobbyist Helps Steer Trump Drug Plan
Politico – David Pittman | Published: 5/27/2018

Joe Grogan – a former drug industry lobbyist who has sweeping authority over drug pricing, entitlement programs, and other aspects of federal health policy at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – did not obtain a waiver from a directive President Trump issued during his first week in office that imposed a two-year waiting period between lobbying and regulating on the same “specific issue area.” Grogan was the top lobbyist for Gilead Sciences until he arrived at the OMB last March. The administration says Grogan did not need such a waiver because his government job does not overlap with what he did for Gilead. His new role, the OMB says, affects policy for an entire industry, not simply the one company he worked for.

How a Sanctioned Russian Bank Wooed Washington
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 5/31/2018

Foreign campaigns to influence American officials are supposed to be transparent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring detailed disclosure of foreign influence efforts. But few believe FARA has been working well. It is riddled with exemptions, enforcement is weak, and criminal penalties apply only to willful violations. And lobbyists’ filings are frequently late with few consequences, making available information less valuable to the public. Now, with accusations of foreign meddling gripping the nation’s capital, FARA is drawing more scrutiny. The case of VTB, a state-owned Russian bank, illuminates what Americans learn – or do not – under FARA.

Trump Says He Will Pardon Dinesh D’Souza, an Obama Critic Who Violated Campaign Limits
USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 5/31/2018

President Trump announced he would offer a pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws but later said he was targeted for his conservative views. Trump said he is also considering leniency in number of other cases, including those of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart. D’Souza’s pardon would continue Trump’s use of clemency power to correct what he perceives as politically motivated prosecutions. But they also come amid investigations into his own campaign and inner circle, including a probe into whether his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, violated the law when he illegally paid off an adult film actress who said she had a relationship with Trump.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Women Slam Don Shooter’s Campaign for Arizona Legislature After Harassment Expulsion
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardiner | Published: 5/30/2018

Don Shooter, the former Arizona lawmaker expelled from office for sexually harassing women, has qualified to appear on the ballot as a candidate for the state Senate. The Arizona House expelled Shooter after investigators concluded he sexually harassed at least seven women over many years, including fellow lawmakers, a lobbyist, and the former publisher of The Arizona Republic. One of those women, lobbyist Marilyn Rodriguez, immediately took to Twitter to protest his candidacy. “Don Shooter is a predator and serial harasser who disgraced the honor of elected office,” Rodriguez tweeted.

California: Chairwoman of California’s State Campaign Watchdog Agency Resigns Amid Power Struggle
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/29/2018

Jodi Remke submitted her resignation as chairperson of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) amid turmoil as other members of its panel were moving to reduce her powers. The resignation comes after a majority of the FPPC supported the creation of two subcommittees to provide input on key decisions that previously have been made largely by Remke, who is the only member of the panel who has a full-time role. Remke is becoming the presiding administrative law judge for the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

Michigan: Feds: Ex-Detroit airport manager took bribes, ate evidence to cover up crime
Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas | Published: 5/23/2018

A former Detroit Metropolitan Airport official was indicted in federal court on charges he pocketed more than $5 million in bribes and tried to cover up the crime by eating evidence. Former airport utilities and infrastructure manager James Warner had the power to approve and extend maintenance projects funded through the Wayne County Airport Authority from 2010 to 2014. During one dinner, Warner and contactor Gary Tenaglia discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”

Missouri: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns, Ending Political Career Once Aimed at Presidency
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock and Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/29/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced he will resign amid personal and political scandals that marred his once-promising career. A woman with whom Greitens had an affair alleged he took a nude photograph without her consent to use as blackmail to keep her from talking about their relationship. He was indicted on a felony count of invasion of privacy stemming from the woman’s accusations. Greitens also faced charges he used a veterans charity donor list to raise money for his 2016 campaign for governor without the permission of the group. State lawmakers called a special session to consider impeaching Greitens. In stepping down, he presented himself as a victim of an unjust political attack, despite criticism he has received from across the political spectrum.

New Mexico: New Mexico Governor Candidate Profited from High-Risk Insurance Plans
Politico – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 5/30/2018

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democratic candidate for governor in New Mexico, profited from the state’s use of a high-priced health-insurance program for seriously ill patients, even after the Affordable Care Act made such programs virtually obsolete. As most states were shuttering their subsidized health-insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions because they could get coverage through Obamacare, a firm co-founded by Lujan Grisham and a close political ally received millions of dollars to run New Mexico’s program, even as she served in Congress. Lujan Grisham denied she exerted pressure on state officials to keep the program open because of their financial interests, although watchdogs suggest that influence would be difficult to detect, in part because of New Mexico’s porous conflict-of-interest rules.

Ohio: Payday Lenders Say Ex-Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger Threatened Them, Delayed Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jackie Borchardt | Published: 5/24/2018

Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger used strong-arm tactics to defeat a bill to regulate the payday loan industry, including threatening loan companies that were trying to work on a compromise with reform advocates, according to two payday loan executives and their lobbyists. The bill was introduced in March 2017 but languished in a House committee for over a year before advancing without a single change. Rosenberger resigned in April amid reports the FBI was asking questions about a trip he took to London in August, where he was accompanied by lobbyists for the short-term lending industry.

Pennsylvania: Judge Hits Ex-Pa. House Speaker John Perzel with New $1M Restitution Order on Corruption Convictions
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 5/30/2018

A year after the state Supreme Court tossed it out, a Dauphin County judge found an alternate way to reinstate a $1 million restitution order on former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel. Citing the loss to the state, President Judge Richard Lewis slapped the restitution back on Perzel as he resentenced him on his 2011 corruption convictions. Perzel was among several lawmakers who pleaded guilty or were convicted of diverting taxpayer funds to convert the House Republican Caucus’ information technology department into a high-tech campaign machine to benefit GOP candidates. The high court ruled Lewis’s 2012 restitution order was invalid because the state cannot be considered a victim for the purposes of restitution. Lewis imposed the new $1 million restitution figure under the state Pension Forfeiture Act.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Lawmakers Got $164,000 in Travel and Perks Last Year from Outside Groups
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Keegan Kyle and Patrick Marley | Published: 5/29/2018

A review shows fifty Wisconsin lawmakers last year had their meals, lodging, airfare, and other travel costs covered by outside groups, or they received payments for speaking or other services. The total amount was $164,000, with four legislators each receiving more than $10,000. Travel for lawmakers has drawn attention after former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned amid an FBI investigation into his trips. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos joined Rosenberger on some of those trips. Wisconsin law allows legislators to receive free travel if it is for official business or educational purposes. Lawmakers from both parties have long taken advantage of that opportunity.