March 29, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 29, 2019

 

 

 

Federal:

Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible
MSN – Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2019

Attorney General William Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving President Trump illegally obstructed the Russia inquiry was an extraordinary outcome to a narrative that spanned nearly two years. Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to remove the threat of political interference from an investigation involving the president, but he reached no conclusion on the key question of whether Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Barr stepped in to make the determination, bringing the specter of politics back into the case. Senior Justice Department officials defended his decision as prudent and within his purview, but it reignited a debate about the role of American law enforcement in politically charged federal investigations.

‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 3/21/2019

It is not just the number of members of Congress pledging not to accept money from PACs for corporations and trade groups (more than 50 so far) that is a problem, but their party affiliation – almost entirely Democratic. If the trend spreads into the 2020 campaign cycle, it could put companies and associations in a bind. Many of the top PACs connected to businesses and trade associations maintain roughly balanced giving ratios and some of them have enshrined such practices. “Most PACs pride themselves on being bipartisan and supporting candidates who are understanding of their issues, so they can engage in a policy conversation. There’s a real fear of just losing that balanced approach,” said Kristin Brackemyre of the Public Affairs Council.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: A State Lawmaker Borrowed Nearly a Half-Million Dollars to Buy a Home. You Might Have Voted for Her Lender.
CALmatters – Matt Levin | Published: 3/26/2019

To buy a house, a state legislator received a $430,000 personal loan from a former member of Congress from Orange County, an arrangement that some legal experts labeled unusual, but that both politicians said was not improper. State Assemblyperson Sharon Quirk-Silva borrowed the sum from former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, an unsuccessful 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, in the fall of 2017. Quirk-Silva and her husband repaid Sanchez with interest. While California law bans state and local elected officials from borrowing money from each other, nothing appears to prohibit the arrangement Quirk-Silva struck with Sanchez, who did not hold elected office at the time. In late 2018, Sanchez would announce her candidacy for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, going on to lose.

Colorado: Lawmakers Take Aim at Disclosure Loopholes in Colorado Lobbying Laws
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/25/2019

Colorado lawmakers have introduced a measure to eliminate loopholes in lobbying laws and require more disclosure to the public, part of an effort to address long-standing concerns about transparency. House Bill 1248 would require more frequent reporting by lobbyists what bills they were hired to follow, and the position taken by their clients. Lobbyists would need to file any changes in their positions on legislation within 48 hours during the session. Now, those updates are required only once a month. The legislation also aims to close loopholes that some lobbyists appear to use to avoid reporting income from clients.

Connecticut: Jon Lender: Lobbyists pay $13,000 in fines connected to tech schools controversy
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 3/22/2019

The Office of State Ethics collected $13,000 in fines from the lobbying and consulting firm Kozak & Salina and one of its owners. The firm had a contract with the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) from 2014 to 2016 to provide “external relations and strategic consulting services,” and a similar contract for 2015 with the lighting fixture company Penn Globe. Kozak & Salina relayed communications between Penn Globe and CTHSS and charged both for the same services. So, when the lobbying firm submitted invoices to the state to obtain payment, it was getting paid twice, said Carol Carson, executive director of the ethics office. In addition to a $10,000 fine against his firm, David Kozak paid $3,000 for failing to file required registration and disclosure statements about his work for Penn Globe.

District of Columbia: As D.C. Leaders Tout Reforms, Latest Ethics Scandal Evokes City’s History of Corruption
Washington Post – Paul Schwartzman | Published: 3/23/2019

District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans admitted he violated the council’s code of conduct when he repeatedly used his government email account to offer potential clients the benefit of his political connections and the influence he amassed as a lawmaker and chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Civic groups chided the council as being too lenient when it reprimanded Evans rather than strip him of powerful committee posts. Reform activist Bryan Weaver said Evans’ actions, and the council’s response, evoke the worst aspects of the city’s history of official misconduct, one that has triggered periodic crises engulfing mayors, council members, government appointees, and employees.

Florida: ‘As American as Apple Pie’: How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist
Miami Herald – David Smiley and Joey Flechas | Published: 3/26/2019

Some companies have chosen not to hire Barbara Hardemon as a lobbyist due to concerns about the perception of undue influence as she is the aunt of Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon. But in the years since his 2013 election, the commissioner’s aunt has emerged as a closer for some of Miami’s biggest businesses. Barbara Hardemon’s lobbying shop is allowed under state and local laws, which prohibit elected officials and their immediate family from profiting personally off the contracts they oversee but say nothing about their extended family. Her lucrative rise from occasional City Hall lobbyist to 11th-hour power broker has blurred the lines between negotiations and nepotism.

Florida: Ethics Board Aims to Put Teeth in Code, Seeks Greater Oversight of Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/23/2019

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is finalizing proposals that could expand its oversight of City Hall and strengthen an ethics code that has long been seen as weak and toothless. The board currently has jurisdiction over only nine people. But proposed changes would extend its jurisdiction to cover all employees who work in procurement or are required by state law to file financial disclosures. The proposals include giving the board the power to issue subpoenas and take sworn testimony, a ban on all gifts no matter their value, and higher fines for lobbyists who try to influence city officials without registering and disclosing their clients.

Iowa: Iowa Treasurers End Scholarships Amid Ethics Law Inquiries
AP News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/27/2019

County treasurers in Iowa canceled a scholarship program that benefited their relatives and employees amid criticism the vendor-funded awards were illegal gifts under state ethics law. The program consisted of four, $500 scholarships that were awarded each year to the college-bound children and grandchildren of county treasurers and their staffs. The money came from two companies that do extensive business with treasurers: GovTech Services, which runs the website that 88 counties use to collect property and motor vehicle taxes, and SRI Inc., which operates tax auctions for dozens of counties. Since the program’s inception, critics have worried the scholarships violated the gift law, which bars public employees and their immediate relatives from accepting money from contractors.

Maryland: Maryland House of Delegates Votes Unanimously to Reprimand Jalisi Over ‘Abusive’ Treatment of His Staff
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/27/2019

The Maryland House voted unanimously to publicly reprimand Del. Jay Jalisi for “an ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior.” The delegates voted after receiving a report outlining the investigation from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics that alleged Jalisi forced his staff to work overtime without pay, bullied others, got kicked out of a hotel, and made a staffer stand in the delegate’s office and repeat: “I am incompetent. I am incompetent.” This is not the first time Jalisi’s actions have been scrutinized. In 2015, a Baltimore County judge issued a protective order barring Jalisi from contact with his then-teenage daughter.

Massachusetts: House Proposal for Caucus Funding Left Out of Budget Bill – but Caucuses May Still Fundraise
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 3/25/2019

A controversial Massachusetts House proposal to let caucuses raise private money did not make it into the final version of a budget bill. But House leaders say that under their internal rules, caucuses will still be able to raise private money as long as they comply with ethics rules, which bar lobbyists from giving and require any gift of over $50 to be approved by House counsel to avoid conflicts-of-interest. When the House passed its rules in January, members approved a rule that would let caucuses raise money from public or private sources. But some advocates for open government worried this could create a legislative “slush fund” where special interests with business before the Legislature could donate to lawmakers with no transparency.

New Jersey: Dark Money Disclosure Bill Advanced to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Desk
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 3/26/2019

Legislation to require so-called dark money groups operating in New Jersey to reveal their donors was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill has undergone several changes after being approved by the Senate, but it would still mandate the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would also boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by “dark-money” groups in recent years.

Pennsylvania: GOP Legislator Prays to Jesus for Forgiveness Before State’s First Muslim Woman Swears In
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2019

Movita Johnson-Harrell brought 55 guests to her swearing in as the Pennsylvania Legislature’s first Muslim woman. Thirty-two of them were Muslim. She later for the General Assembly to censure State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, who delivered the opening prayer to begin the legislative session day. By the time she said “Amen,” Borowicz had invoked Jesus 13 times. She mentioned “Lord” and “God” another six times each and referenced “The Great I Am” and “the one who’s coming back again, the one who came, died, and rose again on the third day.” As the prayer reached a crescendo, at least one member shouted objections. Afterward, the protests only grew louder.

West Virginia: Governor Signs Bills Raising Campaign Contribution Limits, Cutting Coal Tax
Beckley Register-Herald – Erin Beck | Published: 3/27/2019

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill that increases the limits on campaign contributions by individuals. Senate Bill 622 increases the limits to $2,800 for candidates, $5,000 for PACs, and up to $10,000 per year for party committees. Current limits for each category are set at $1,000. Julie Archer of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group said bill does nothing about “dark money.” She said Democrats attempted to amend the bill at least twice to require disclosures by donors that “funnel” money through groups.

Wisconsin: Judge Bocks GOP Lame-Duck Laws Limiting Tony Evers’ Powers; Evers Seeks to Remove Wisconsin from Obamacare Challenge
madison.com – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 3/21/2019

A judge blocked several actions by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to limit the power of its incoming governor, Democrat Tony Evers, and preserve policies implemented by his predecessor, Scott Walker. The Legislature acted in what is known as an “extraordinary session,” called with little notice. It lasted two days and one night and sparked heated protests. The three bills enacted during the sessions were extraordinary in breadth. One of them gave the Legislature powers usually and exclusively reserved for the attorney general, such as approving legal actions by the state. At the time of the session, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated its purpose plainly: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” Vos said.

April 3, 2020 •

Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Legislative Session

Oklahoma Capitol Building

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19. Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but […]

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19.

Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but they cleared out of the state Capitol as the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on May 29.

Legislators have not yet set a date to return to pass a state budget and any other legislative priorities.

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April 3, 2020 •

Lawsuit Challenges New Ohio Presidential, State Primary Election Date and Procedures

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.

The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.

In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.

Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.

The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.

Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.

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April 3, 2020 •

North Carolina Secretary of State to Allow Late Filing of First Quarter Reports

North Carolina State Legislative Building

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22. This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing, Penalties for failure […]

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing,

Penalties for failure to timely file will not be levied if report is filed on or before July 22; is accompanied by a sworn and notarized statement that a notary could not be obtained prior to the date the report was filed; and all other reports due by July 22 are timely filed.

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April 3, 2020 •

Idaho’s May Primary Election Won’t Be Delayed, Deadline for Absentee Ballots Pushed Back

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2. […]

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2.

Idahoans will be able register to vote and request an absentee ballot up until 8 p.m. on May 19.

The extension pushes back voters’ deadline to submit ballots to county clerks to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Normally that deadline would have been 8 p.m. May 19.

The Office of the Secretary of State will be sending out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter who has not already requested one.

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April 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020 President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part […]

National/Federal

A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop
Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020

President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part to his belief, stoked by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that the media was using the pandemic as yet another way to attack him, according to four Trump advisers. The administration’s anti-media antagonism can manifest like an organized crusade in some cases but also more like a culture, a vernacular shared by the president and his allies on the right. Their battles are waged in the courts, on social media, and at rallies where Trump’s rants against the journalists who cover him goad his fans into taunting the camera crews and booing the press pens.

Bernie Sanders Says He’s Staying in the Presidential Race. Many Democrats Fear a Reprise of Their 2016 Defeat.
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer, and David Weigel | Published: 3/30/2020

Behind the growing fear among many Democrats that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential race could spell doom in November is the belief they have seen it happen before – in the 2016 campaign. To some Democrats in that campaign, it was a lesson learned the hard way about the limitations of Sanders’ promises of support and the ferocity of his backers. Four years later, with the senator still running against former Vice President Joe Biden despite almost impossible odds of victory, some party leaders are increasingly worried about a reprise of the bitter divisions that many Democrats blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Biden Faces a Cash Gap with Trump. He Has to Close It Virtually.
Salt Lake Tribune – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden’s finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming. Top Biden fundraisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC, and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. they expressed deepening concern the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs. President Trump and Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their shared committees. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million.

Campaigning in the Age of Pandemic: Biden and Sanders as amateur video hosts
MSN – Annie Linskey and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden is hosting a podcast from his Wilmington, Delaware, home, while Bernie Sanders is emceeing a live-streamed talk show from the first floor of his house in Burlington, Vermont. Welcome to campaigning in the age of pandemic. For Americans accustomed to candidates delivering lofty speeches before crowds of thousands or embracing voters in emotional moments, this new era of campaigning is yet another example of traditions upended, and expectations disrupted. But is what campaigning will look like for the foreseeable future, as candidates who spent years honing a sense of spectacle and rhetoric are reduced to amateur-style programs in their homes. Without studios or large event staffs, the programs do not so much resemble political events as they do, at best, local-access cable shows.

Campaigns Hit Up Lobbyists for Cash with In-Person Events Ending
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/27/2020

The regular scramble for congressional campaigns to quickly amass funds before the March 31 reporting deadline has been hindered by anti-gathering rules put in place to slow the coronavirus outbreak or put aside because of the legislative rush to stop the bleeding in the economy. But it has not stopped completely. Money from wealthier donors and lobbyists, in addition to small-dollar grassroots contributors, are likely to fall as the country faces a recession and unemployment rises to historic levels. It could also impact the amount of money contributed to the PACs run by corporations, trade associations, unions, and lobbying firms, which are funded by employees to donate.

Democrats Postpone Convention Until August Because of Coronavirus
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/2/2020

The Democratic National Committee postponed its national convention because of the coronavirus, moving it from mid-July to mid-August. It is the largest political event to be moved so far because of the public health crisis, which has already led to the cancellation of hundreds of state and local conventions from both parties. The convention will still be held in Milwaukee, as planned, the week of August 17, officials said, a week before Republicans plan to gather in Charlotte to renominate President Trump. An August convention is likely to be smaller than the planned July event. One senior Democratic official said the event would probably be a “bare minimum” convention, with scores of people who had planned to come staying away either because of health concerns.

Forget Washington – Corporate America Is Focused on Governors Right Now
Politico – Sam Sutton | Published: 3/30/2020

With the Trump administration taking a backseat to state leaders on coronavirus mitigation, companies and trade associations that traditionally rely on relationships with Washington, D.C. power brokers are instead being forced to reckon with newly emboldened statehouse executives to deal with the crisis. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. and other business groups wrote to the National Governors Association asking governors take a uniform approach on stay-at-home orders that designate which “essential business” and “critical infrastructure” can operate. The sudden emergence of executive orders shutting down large components of the economy forced lobbying organizations, or their local affiliates, to play “whack-a-mole” as governors readied similar directives, said Jason Straczewski 0f the National Retail Federation.

Frustrated Gamblers Turn to Politics as the Only Game in Town
Politico – Tony Rehgan | Published: 3/30/2020

Gamblers have been sidelined as the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down sports in the U.S. But they have found an outlet for their need to wager – politics. Some savvy gamblers are finding they can chase shifting odds on the 2020 U.S. presidential election or turn a quick buck wagering on incidental proposition bets like whether Joe Biden will pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, and also a host of adjacent bets on the price of oil and the stock market. Interestingly, the surge in political betting has exposed a gray area in the law.

Georgia Senator Discloses Additional Stock Sales Worth Millions During Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Examiner – Madison Dibble (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2020

Sen. Kelly Loeffler reported millions of dollars in stock sales this year as Covid-19 swept through the United States. Financial disclosures show the Georgia Republican, one of several senators accused of insider trading after reports showed they dumped stocks prior to the market plunge earlier this year, had even more stocks sold on her behalf. The latest transactions included $18.7 million in sales of stocks owned by her husband’s company Intercontinental Exchange in three separate dumps. The senator used to work for the same firm before taking office. These sales took place from mid-February through mid-March, when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy were already being felt.

Justice Department Reviews Stock Trades by Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings
CNN – David Shortell, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, and Kara Scannell | Published: 3/30/2020

The Justice Department has started to investigate a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus. The inquiry, which is being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the pandemic. The sales have come under fire after senators received closed-door briefings about the virus over the past several weeks, before the market began trending downward.

Tech Giants Prepared for 2016-Style Meddling. But the Threat Has Changed.
New York Times – Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth | Published: 3/29/2020

Big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The companies have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems, and developing new policies to prevent election meddling. Although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference that they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020. Their difficulties reflect how much online threats have evolved since the 2016 election. More problematic, partisan groups in the U.S. have borrowed Russia’s playbook to create their own propaganda and disinformation campaigns, forcing the tech companies to make tough calls about restricting the speech of American citizens.

The Race for Virus Money Is On. Lobbyists Are Standing By.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2020

The federal government is open for coronavirus business, and the scramble to get some of it is on. Across the country, companies see a chance to cash in, do some good for the country or both, making virus outbreak response one of the few thriving sectors of the economy. And because so much of the business runs through Washington, D.C., the rush has created new opportunities for those who can offer access, influence, and expertise in navigating bureaucratic hurdles and securing chunks of the relief package that President Trump signed into law. The law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight set up an entire “Covid-19 Response Team,” which is expected to grow to include as many as 60 lawyers.

Trump Administration Rules Gun Shops ‘Essential’ Amid Virus
AP News – Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 3/30/2020

The Trump administration ruled gun shops are considered “essential” businesses that should remain open as other businesses are closed to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Gun control groups are balking, calling it a policy that puts profits over public health after intense lobbying by the firearms industry. After days of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other gun groups, the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory declaring firearms dealers should be considered essential services — just like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals – and allowed to remain open. The agency said its ruling was not a mandate but merely guidance for cities, towns, and states as they weigh how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump Won the Internet. Democrats Are Scrambling to Take It Back.
MSN – Jim Rutenberg and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/30/2020

Since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, Democrats have been scrambling to reorder the digital campaign equation, an effort that has drawn a range of new donors, progressive activists, and operatives together with veterans of the Obama campaigns and the old-line contributors and party regulars of the Bill Clinton era. So far, Democrats and their allies have produced new apps to organize volunteers and register voters, new media outlets to pump out anti-President Trump content, and a major new data initiative to drive what the party hopes will be the biggest voter-mobilization effort in its history. But while Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, have brought conservatives together to build a technological juggernaut for 2020, the Democratic effort has been slowed by the party’s rivalries and divisions.

Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Mississippi Congressman’s Campaign Spending
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/27/2020

The Campaign Legal Center is asking ethics officials to investigate campaign spending by U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo after the group found he channeled six figures of donors’ money to family-owned businesses. Palazzo used campaign funds to pay over $60,000 in rent to his own farm, according to FEC filings. His campaign also spent nearly $128,000 with his now ex-wife’s accounting firm. Federal election law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. But candidates can justify funneling contributions to themselves or family members if they make the case the spending is campaign related. The Campaign Legal Center argues Palazzo had an existing accounting firm and his campaign did not need the services of Palazzo & Co.

Canada

Canada New B.C. Lobbying Laws Come into Force in May
Business in Vancouver – Haley Woodin | Published: 3/31/2020

In just over a month, new legislation to make government lobbying in British Columbia more transparent will come into force. As of May 4, all government lobbyists will be required to register and begin reporting their monthly lobbying activities. The changes are part of the new Lobbyists Transparency Act, which replaces the Lobbyists Registration Act, and includes amendments already passed by the provincial government.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Campaign Finance Initiative Campaign Suspends Signature Gathering
Ballotpedia.com – Ryan Byrne | Published: 3/30/2020

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, co-chair of Outlaw Dirty Money, announced the campaign was suspending signature gathering efforts for its ballot initiative due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign needs to gather at least 356,467 signatures by the July 2 deadline. The ballot initiative would add language to the state constitution providing people with a right to know the identity of the original source of an aggregate contribution of $5,000 or more used for campaign media spending. Goddard called on the Legislature to allow for signatures to be gathered online.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Dakota Smith, and Joel Rubin | Published: 3/27/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander, accused of obstructing a public corruption investigation, agreed to plead guilty to scheming to falsify facts. He has been investigated for allegedly accepting gifts from a businessperson. According to the plea agreement, he schemed to cover up cash payments, meals, escort services, and other gifts. He admitted to accepting a total of $15,000 in cash from the businessperson among other things during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017. “Businessman A” worked for local companies related to major development projects while Englander was on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees most of the significant development projects in the city.

California ‘They’re All Tainted by It.’ Federal Corruption Cases Deal New Blow to Trust in City Hall
Yahoo News – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/1/2020

As city leaders face urgent pleas for help from Los Angeles residents reeling from the ripple effects of a global pandemic, they are also confronting distrust and revulsion over the alleged bribe and other “pay to play” activities that are at the heart of a widespread corruption investigation. Even those who are doing good work at have been tarnished by the scandals, said former Councilperson Greig Smith. Corruption probes are not new to City Hall. What makes the ongoing federal investigations so unusual, and potentially damning for city government, is that they touch on so many politicians at once.

California Watchdog to Review Rules Letting California Politicians Raise Money for Charity
Calmatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/31/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is preparing to update the regulations and laws that govern “behested payments” – donations made to charities at a politician’s request. Such donations have become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. FPPC Chairperson Richard Miadich cited Calmatters’ recent “Sweet Charity Series,” which revealed the amount of money flowing to nonprofits controlled by California lawmakers or their staff has skyrocketed over the last decade to $2.9 million in 2019 and showed much of the money comes from corporations and unions that lobby the Legislature.

Florida Council Committee Plans to Subpoena Bidders, Investment Banks in JEA Probe
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/30/2020

A Jacksonville City Council committee investigating JEA will subpoena the private companies that bid in the city utility’s failed invitation to negotiate. It also will subpoena the investment banks that advised JEA senior leaders in the sale attempt. Special Investigatory Committee Chairperson Rory Diamond said the panel will issue subpoenas for the names of the lobbying firms hired by nine private companies.

Illinois Pandemic Derails Illinois’ Lobbying Reform Commission Ahead of Key Deadline
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 3/31/2020

Unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reforms missed its March 31 deadline to provide recommendations to clean up some questionable practices in Springfield, but a member of the commission said it will get back to business. The commission, made up of state lawmakers and members appointed by the offices of the Illinois governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, was created in the fall amid a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that included allegations of bribery involving lawmakers, lobbyists, and business leaders.

Massachusetts Sen. Dean Tran Stripped of Leadership Position After Committee Report Says He Used Public Staff for Campaign Work
MassLive.com – Steph Solis | Published: 3/26/2020

Massachusetts lawmakers voted to strip state Sen. Dean Tran of his leadership role after a committee report found he used his Senate staff for work related to his 2018 and 2020 re-election campaigns during business hours. Tran is also banned from interacting with his staff except for written communications, The Senate Committee on Ethics report states that Tran “received repeated advice” that it was inappropriate for his staff to do campaign work during regular business hours, funded at the taxpayer’s expense, and for staff to participate in most fundraising activities. But Tran did not heed the advice and his current campaign manager threatened at least one staffer with termination if the person did not work on the 2020 campaign.

Michigan Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith Resigns Amid Criminal Charges Against Him
Detroit Free Press – Christina Hall | Published: 3/30/2020

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, accused of embezzlement and misconduct in office over how drug and alcohol forfeiture funds were spent, resigned from office. The announcement came less than week after the longtime prosecutor was charged with 10 criminal counts by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in a nearly yearlong probe of how his office spent the funds. Investigators found Smith and other defendants used the money to buy flowers and makeup for select secretaries, a security system for Smith’s residence, garden benches for staffers’ homes, country club catering for parties, campaign expenditures, and more.

Michigan Whitmer to Clerks: Send all new registrants an absentee ballot for May 5
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 3/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order temporarily changing state voting laws for jurisdictions with a May 5 election and allowing some May elections to be postponed to August 4 or later in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In those jurisdictions still holding elections, all clerks are required to send absentee ballots to new registrants under the order and absentee applications must be mailed to all currently registered voters in those areas. The order was opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who argued the May elections should be delayed instead.

New York Cuomo Pulls Back on Proposed Donor Disclosures for Nonprofits
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/31/2020

Changes to the state budget in New York ease reporting requirements for charities and nonprofits concerning their donors, though their financial reports may be made public. The latest budget language also includes new provisions expanding oversight of nonprofits through the Department of State. Certain nonprofits, such as those who have spent more than $10,000 in communication endorsing or opposing legislation, will have to submit annual financial disclosure reports to the agency. The department will then examine the relationship between charitable nonprofits and political advocacy organizations, filed as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofits, who share staff, office space, or supplies, among other provisions.

New York New York Delays Presidential Primary, Special Election to June
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/28/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s presidential primary and a special election in the 27th Congressional District will be postponed from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The elections will now coincide with the state’s primaries for congressional and state legislative races. The special election in the 27th District will replace former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned in September and was sentenced to prison for insider trading.

New York Organizing for Sanders in New York When the City’s on Lockdown and You Can’t Leave Your Apartment
Washington Post – Chelsea James | Published: 4/2/2020

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has spent two presidential cycles building a grassroots movement unparalleled among Democrats in reach and loyalty. For nearly eight years, that network has measured enthusiasm by doors knocked and rallies organized. Now though, as the coronavirus ravages the country, Sanders’ staffers and organizers have found themselves stuck in their homes, unable to hold, concertlike events that have become a staple of the campaign. Instead, they are reduced to connecting to people over Zoom, erasing a major advantage they had over Joe Biden, an ability to fill communities with volunteers and have thousands of conversations about their candidate.

New York Previously Struck Down in Court, New Campaign Finance System and Political Party Ballot Threshold Passed in Budget
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/1/2020

A new campaign finance system in New York, with public matching money for candidates who choose to participate and lower individual contribution limits, will be enshrined in law through inclusion in the new state budget. It is accompanied by controversial ballot-threshold requirements for political parties. The campaign finance system had been approved last year based on the recommendations of a state-created commission but was struck down in mid-March by a state Supreme Court judge who ruled such a commission could not be tasked with writing laws. The budget bill addressed that mistake and passed the same recommendations the commission made.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Moves Primaries to June 2 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/27/2020

Pennsylvania moved the state’s presidential and congressional primaries from April 28 to June 2. Gov. Tom Wolf made the move official by signing a bill moving the primary date into law. Pennsylvania, which President Trump narrowly won in 2016, will be a key state in the presidential race in November.

Washington Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle ‘Democracy Vouchers’
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/30/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” campaign finance program. Two local property owners said the vouchers violated their constitutional rights to free speech by forcing them through their tax dollars to support candidates they did not like. The Supreme Court has generally upheld the public financing of campaigns, within the limits of the First Amendment, saying “public financing as a means of eliminating the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest” of helping to eliminate corruption.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Goes It Alone, Holding Elections Next Week Amid Fears of Infection and Voting Chaos
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 4/1/2020

Across Wisconsin, voters, election officials, and civil rights leaders are angry the state Legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections even as the coronavirus continues its march across the country. The public-health risk is too high and asking voters to venture out of their homes directly contradicts state and local emergency orders to shelter in place, they say. Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature say moving the voting date so late in the process would sow confusion and create a leadership vacuum in cities and towns holding contests for municipal posts that will be vacant as early as mid-April.

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April 2, 2020 •

Mississippi Postpones House District 88 Special Election

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23. The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January. Due to the House leadership ruling members could not […]

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23.

The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January.

Due to the House leadership ruling members could not collect legislative pay while also receiving state retirement funds.

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