News You Can Use Digest – June 15, 2018

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

 

 

 

Federal:

Meet the Guys Who Tape Trump’s Papers Back Together
Politico – Annie Karni | Published: 6/10/2018

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails, and papers the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records. But President Trump has an odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he is done with them – what some people described as his unofficial “filing system.” White House aides realized early on they were unable to stop Trump. Instead, staffers have the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office, as well as the private residence, and send it to the records management office to reassemble. “We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” said Solomon Lartey, a records management analyst. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.”

US Lifts Secrecy on Foreign Lobbying Opinions
Talking Points Memo – Chad Day and Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 6/8/2018

For the first time, the U.S. Justice Department began releasing advisory opinions about the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law requires lobbyists to detail their involvement in advocating for foreign governments. The release included memos issued since 2010. The department had kept the opinions secret for decades, a point of contention for transparency advocates and lawyers who specialize in advising clients on complying with the law. The opinions provide an unprecedented view into the thinking of a specialized Justice Department unit whose influence has grown in recent years, propelled by more aggressive enforcement and a special counsel investigation focused on foreign influence operations inside the U.S.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: John Merrill Questions Alabama Ethics Commission’s Waivers of Fines
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 6/8/2018

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is questioning the state Ethics Commission’s decision to waive fines for violations of campaign finance law. The penalties are in force for the first time with the 2018 elections. The commission voted to waive civil fines levied against 33 candidates and political committees by Merrill’s office. The fines were for late filing of campaign finance reports, which are required by the Fair Campaign Practices Act to show who contributes to campaigns and how that money is spent. The filing requirements are not new. But a 2015 law aimed to step up enforcement, giving the secretary of state the authority to levy fines and the Ethics Commission the authority to investigate campaign finance violations.

Arkansas: Former Arkansas Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
WRAL – Kelly Kissell (Associated Press) | Published: 6/7/2018

Former lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford pleaded guilty to bribing elected officials in Arkansas. Cranford admitted paying bribes to former state Sen. Jon Woods, former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV, and a legislator identified only as “Arkansas Senator A.” According to federal prosecutors, the lawmakers diverted state funds and performed legislative favors for Cranford and companies he represented, at times holding up state agency budgets. Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, matches the description of “Senator A.”

California: Radical Plan to Split California Into Three States Earns Spot on November Ballot
Los Angeles Times – John Myers | Published: 6/12/2018

A proposal to partition California into three separate states earned enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative calls for splitting the Golden State into northern and southern regions, as well as the central coast and Los Angeles Basin. “Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education, and lower taxes,” said Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who sponsored the ballot measure. The proposal faces an uphill battle. If Californians vote for the separation, the state Legislature would have to approve it, and then Congress would still have to ratify the measure. If approved, it would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since West Virginia was formed out of a part of Virginia in 1863.

Colorado: Federal Judge Finds Portions of Colorado’s Campaign Finance Complaint Process Are Unconstitutional in Ruling Likely to Prompt Big Change
Denver Post – Jesse Paul | Published: 6/13/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore ruled that Colorado’s procedure for bringing campaign finance complaints is unconstitutional. The law allows anyone in the public to file a complaint that is automatically forwarded, without review for merit by the secretary of state’s office, to an administrative law judge. Moore’s ruling essentially means there now has to be some kind of screening mechanism put in place to prevent frivolous cases that can leave defendants facing high attorney fees. Colorado’s deputy secretary of state, Suzanne Staiert, said the decision now means her office has to find a way to satisfy the vetting requirements.

Florida: Ethics Commission: Fernandez misused position to get FSU tickets, catering discount
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 6/13/2018

The Florida Commission on Ethics said former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez violated the state’s ethics laws when he accepted Florida State University football tickets from a local lobbyist and a four-figure catering discount from the city-backed Edison restaurant. The panel said Fernandez solicited the football tickets and catering discount in violation of Florida’s gift law, and he either knew or should have known the gifts were given to influence his official action as city manager. The commission did not find probable cause on several other allegations involving a former Edison employee who was given a job at City Hall after Fernandez got the catering discount.

Florida: Lobbyists Face New Requirements at Citizens
WPEC – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/13/2018

Lobbyists who represent clients at the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will have to comply with a new registration process. A registration website will be available August 1, with lobbyists expected to comply with the policy starting September 1, said Citizens President Barry Gilway. All lobbyists currently registered with the executive branch will receive a letter advising them of the changes, Gilway said. The rules would apply to anyone that wants to sway Citizens policy or contracting and who contacts Citizens staff or board members. The rules will not apply to attorneys, agents, adjusters, or other people representing clients in insurance claims or judicial proceedings.

Montana: Governor Signs Executive Order Targeting Dark Money
Montana Public Radio – Corine Cates-Carney | Published: 6/8/2018

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order that aims to shine more light on political donations. Contractors will have to disclose if they have made campaign contributions in excess of $2,500 in the last two years to so-called dark money organizations. Those are groups that are not legally required to make their donor lists public. Any state contractor selling more than $25,000 in services, or $50,000 worth of goods to the state will have to report dark money contributions. According to the governor’s office, there are roughly 500 to 600 state contractors who would fall under the new disclosure requirements.

New York
IDC-Independence Party Campaign Finance Deal Declared Illegal
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 6/7/2018

A fundraising agreement between a statewide third party and the New York Senate’s now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference has been deemed invalid by a state Supreme Court justice. The arrangement with the Independence Party boosted then-party leader Jeff Klein’s ability to raise and spend campaign money, as the new account was able to accept six-figure donations and transfer unlimited amounts to candidates. The increased fundraising muscle was flexed in 2016 and had been expected to play a pivotal role in September, when the eight former members of the conference may face Democratic primaries.

New York: New York Files Suit Against President Trump, Alleging His Charity Engaged in ‘Illegal Conduct’
Chicago Tribune – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2018

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against President Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and members of the Trump family, alleging the charity violated federal and state law. The complaint alleges the foundation provided illegal support to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid by using public funding to promote his candidacy, and raised more than $2.8 million to support the campaign. The lawsuit also says Trump used the foundation to cover legal fees and to promote his properties and businesses. Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the foundation and sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC for possible further action.

Ohio: Court: States can purge voters who don’t vote or respond to warnings
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 6/11/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states can clean up their voting rolls by targeting people who have not cast ballots in a while. The justices rejected arguments in a case from Ohio that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls. Ohio asks people who have not voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing in dissent, said the 1993 law prohibits removing someone from the voting rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote. In my view, Ohio’s program does just that.”

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Raises Fees to Stay in Operation
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 6/9/2018

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to raise its registration fees from $150 to $250. The change goes into effect July 1. Commissioners acted after they learned the agency could run out of money next fiscal year. They already voted in May to sue over the lack of funding the commission got from the state Legislature. Lawmakers are making the ethics agency use its revolving fund to operate. The fund is made up of the fees collected from lobbyists, candidates, political parties, and PACs.

Washington: Why Google Won’t Run Political Ads in Washington State for Now
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner and Christine Clarridge | Published: 6/7/2018

Google stopped accepting political ads in Washington, the same day that changes to the state’s campaign finance reporting requirements and enforcement procedures took effect. Google acted days after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company, along with Facebook, saying the firms are not obeying state law on political ad transparency. The Public Disclosure Commission issued guidelines related to the new law and passed an emergency rule that clarified that digital ad companies like Google are subject to state law requiring them to maintain publicly available information about political ads, just like television stations and other media.