News You Can Use Digest – May 18, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

These Women Mostly Ignored Politics. Now, Activism Is Their Job.
WRAL – Campbell Robertson (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2018

Since retiring eight years ago as a high school French teacher, Kathy Rentz was content to spend her time gardening, knitting, and spoiling her grandchildren. Now she is the kind of person who writes “Not For Trump’s Golf Trips” across her federal tax return. The grassroots activism on the left has been powered to a large degree by college-educated women in midcareer or retirement. They often have no prior interest or experience in politics. But with the election of Donald Trump, they were aghast at how they felt the political system, which most had taken for granted to the point of indifference, had allowed things to fly so far off the rails.

Trump, Schneiderman, Greitens and the Changing Shape of Sex Scandals
Chicago Tribune – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 5/13/2018

In politics, entertainment, sports, and other industries, the arc and impact of sex scandals are changing, and the difference centers on coercion and consent. Prominent cases have led the cultural wave, as allegations of abuse derailed the public careers of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who announced his resignation hours after he was accused of physically assaulting women. But even as politicians from both parties resign or pull away from re-election bids because of accusations they abused or coerced women, a two-year procession of allegations from women who accused President Trump of sexual improprieties has had no visible impact on his popularity.

Federal:

A Secret Mission, a Code Name and Anxiety: Inside the early days of the F.B.I.’s Trump investigation
Anchorage Daily News – Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2018

Days after they closed their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the FBI began scrutinizing Donald Trump’s campaign. The two cases have become inextricably linked in one of the most consequential periods in the history of the bureau. The FBI sent a pair of agents in 2016 to meet the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who had evidence one of Trump’s advisers, George Papadopoulos, knew in advance about Russian election meddling. The agents’ report on the interview helped provide the foundation for a case that became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of FBI officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

Ethics Chief Knocks Trump Over Stormy Daniels Payment
Politico – Louis Nelson, Matthew Nussbaum, and Lorraine Woellert | Published: 5/16/2018

President Trump formally disclosed he paid his attorney as much as $250,000 as reimbursements for expenses, which included a payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump. The disclosure came in the president’s annual financial disclosure report to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Trump said he was listing the reimbursements to Michael Cohen “in the interest of transparency,” even though he was not required to disclose them. OGE Director David Apol questioned why Trump did not include this in his previous year’s disclosure and passed along his concerns to federal prosecutors. “I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing,” Apol wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

FEC Allows Candidate to Use Campaign Funds for Child Care
The Hill – Aris Folley | Published: 5/10/2018

The FEC ruled a candidate can use campaign funds to pay for child care. Liuba Grechen Shirley had petitioned the FEC for permission to pay her babysitter out of money donated to her campaign. Grechen Shirley, who previously cared for her children full time, argued she needed the sitter only for her bid for office and that the payment therefore constituted a campaign expense. The FEC noted Grechen Shirley’s child care needs were a direct result of her run for Congress and essential to her continuing a bid. Therefore, the spending would not be considered a violation of rules that prohibit personal spending.

Thousands of Pages of Congressional Testimony Shed Light on 2016 Trump Tower Meeting
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2018

Thousands of pages of interview transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee offer the most detailed account to date of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who has admitted to being an “informant” to Moscow. The documents show a constellation of efforts over several years by two powerful Russian real estate developers, Aras and Emin Agalarov, to arrange meetings and provide assistance to Donald Trump. The efforts culminated in setting up the meeting with Trump Jr. on the promise to the president’s eldest son that it would deliver political dirt on Hillary Clinton. While the documents reveal the willingness of the Trump campaign to accept the Agalarovs’ help when it was convenient, they do not show the extent to which the president was aware of the meeting’s stated purpose.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Legislature Will Boot Ballot Measure If Governor Signs ‘Government Accountability’ Bill
Juneau Empire – James Brooks | Published: 5/14/2018

If signed into law by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, House Bill 44 will prohibit lawmakers from accepting per diem after Day 121 of the legislative session if a budget has not been approved. Lawmakers will also be required to disclose financial conflicts-of-interest in committee, not just on the floor, and lobbyists will be further restricted from providing meals and drinks to legislators. Amendments to the legislation make it “substantially similar” to an ethics reform ballot measure. Under the Alaska Constitution, an initiative may be removed from the ballot if the Legislature passes a bill that is “substantially the same” as the initiative.

Arizona: Arizona Lawsuit Says Measure Undermines Clean Elections
KNAU; Associated Press –   | Published: 5/16/2018

A lawsuit claims a ballot referendum eviscerates the authority of the state’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The agency administers public financing of elections. A ballot referendum that passed earlier this year would ask voters if they want to put the commission’s rulemakings under the oversight of the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, which is staffed by gubernatorial appointees. The suit says the commission has independent rulemaking authority by design, since it regulates politicians.

Arkansas: Arkansas Judge Who Blocked TV Ads Removing Himself from Case
Sacramento Bee – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 5/16/2018

Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin, who ordered that negative political ads against Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson be pulled off the airwaves recused himself from further involvement in the case. The temporary restraining order by Martin still stands, however. Martin had reported receiving income through his wife from the law firm of Goodson’s husband. Justice Goodson is fighting a legal battle in Arkansas’ largest media markets against what she says are “defamatory” ads being run by an out-of-state group that does not disclose its donors.

Florida: It Was Supposed to Show Who Profited from Public Money. But the Rule Wasn’t Enforced
Miami Herald – Elizabeth Koh | Published: 5/10/2018

Records show despite an ethics rule that requires lobbyists for taxpayer-funded entities to submit lobbying contracts to the Florida House, the rule has not been enforced. The House’s much vaunted web page was not updated for a year and some lobbyists neglected for months to comply with the required disclosures. Today, the web page still includes outdated data on lobbying expenditures made by local governments and remains incomplete. At one point, the backlog left hundreds of documents off the books in the last two years.

Maryland: Mayor Pugh Seeks Broad Ethics Exemption to Raise Private Money to Fund Baltimore Programs
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 5/15/2018

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh wants to be exempted from city ethics rules that require officials to obtain approvals before soliciting private funds for community programs and events. Calling Baltimore “a poor city,” City Solicitor Andre Davis questioned the constraints on the mayor’s ability to solicit monetary assistance. The ethics rules are designed to ensure transparency around gifts and charitable support that officials receive from individuals and businesses they may wield influence over in the course of their duties. In addition to seeking approval up front, officials are required to submit reports detailing fundraising activities.

Missouri: Case Against Greitens Is Dropped, for Now. Legislative Leaders Say Nothing’s Changed
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry, Jason Hancock, Kelsey Landis, Allison Kite, and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 5/14/2018

Prosecutors dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens but still hope to pursue a case against him for allegedly taking a revealing photograph of a woman with whom he was having an affair. The move came after the judge granted a request by Greitens’ lawyers to call the case’s prosecutor, Kim Gardner, as a witness for the defense. The defense team has criticized Gardner’s handling of the case. “The court’s order places the circuit attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination, [including by her own subordinates],” a Gardner spokesperson said. Greitens remains charged for allegedly using a donor list from a charity in his gubernatorial campaign. The Legislature will convene a special session to consider whether to initiate impeachment proceedings against Greitens.

Missouri: Donors Behind Political Cash Cannot Be Concealed, Ethics Watchdog Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Sky Chadde | Published: 5/10/2018

The Missouri Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion stating nonprofits that contribute to campaigns cannot conceal the identities of their donors. The opinion targets so-called dark money groups, who do not have to disclose their donors, making the origin of the funds nearly impossible to determine. Their use has increased in recent years and one prominent organization that has employed the tactic is A New Missouri, a nonprofit created to promote Gov. Eric Greitens’ agenda.

New York: Jury Finds Silver Guilty
Albany Times Union – Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 5/11/2018

For a second time, a jury convicted former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. Prosecutors accused him of a scheme in which a physician referred possible asbestos lawsuit plaintiffs to him in exchange for $500,000 in state grants. Silver passed on the clients to a law firm, which paid him more than $3 million in referral fees. He was also convicted of accepting $700,000 in fees from a real estate law firm after he steered business to the firm from two developers who benefited from his activities at the statehouse. Silver’s initial conviction was among a number of cases that were overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the activity that could constitute corruption.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Votes to Sue Over Budget
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 5/12/2018

Unhappy with its appropriation, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to pursue a lawsuit over the matter. Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp would not say if the suit was related to concerns over funding or who would be named as defendant. But the commission has been vocal about its dissatisfaction on how the Legislature handled its funding. Kemp said the agency was upset about its appropriation. The Legislature swept the agency’s revolving funds, which include fees assessed by the commission, rather than making an appropriation from the general revenue fund.