News You Can Use – September 28, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

For Women on the 2018 Campaign Trail, ‘Sexism’ Is No Longer a Forbidden Word
Connecticut Post – Avi Selk (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2018

Several women in high-profile national races this year have broken from decades-old conventional wisdom that cautioned female candidates against complaining of sexism, lest they be painted as weak or angry or to being accused of playing what Donald Trump called “the woman card” during his presidential campaign. Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, conducted a survey in 2012 that found fears of a backlash against speaking up were unfounded. But not until this cycle – after Trump’s win and the subsequent #MeToo movement to out powerful men accused of sexual assault – has she seen female candidates do so in numbers.

Federal:

‘Can You Do This?’: Russia probe conflicts rampant among Rosenstein replacements
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/27/2018

President Trump may think he is getting rid of a problem if he pushes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein out of the Justice Department. But cleaning house will hardly end the president’s headaches from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Several administration appointees in line for Rosenstein’s role overseeing Mueller’s probe come with their own baggage, from direct involvement in the investigation to recent work at law firms with clients mired in the inquiry.

Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig Under Scrutiny by Prosecutors in Offshoot of Mueller Probe
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/23/2018

Federal prosecutors have stepped up their investigation of prominent Washington, D.C. attorney Gregory Craig for work he conducted at his former law firm on behalf of the Ukrainian government in 2012, an effort coordinated by Paul Manafort. Craig’s case, and that of two Washington lobbyists who worked with Manafort on Ukrainian matters, were referred to federal prosecutors in New York, who appear to be focused on whether the three failed to register as foreign agents while working with Manafort’s Ukrainian clients. The investigation of Craig, along with lobbyists Vin Weber and Tony Podesta, has shaken K Street’s lobbying and legal community, which until recently had faced little scrutiny of its representation of foreign clients.

Political Nonprofits Seek Answers After Court Decision Targeting ‘Dark Money’
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/21/2018

Nonprofit advocacy groups historically have not been required to publicly disclose their donors, as political committees must. But a federal judge threw out a rule that allowed the groups to withhold donors’ identities, broadening the type of donors who would now be subject to disclosure. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. The decision will no doubt shed more light on the contributors to politically active nonprofits, although exactly how much is uncertain as groups and federal officials take stock of the decision. In the absence of new regulation, nonprofit groups are left in a gray area, which could lead to new methods of avoiding disclosure and maintaining donor privacy.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Reform Panel to Vote on Changes to Alabama Ethics Law
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/20/2018

The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission will vote on proposals to amend the state ethics law at its next meeting in October, which will be sent to lawmakers. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals recommended the Legislature clarify the definition of a lobbying “principal” in its ruling upholding ethics convictions against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. The court said it believed the law was applied correctly in Hubbard’s case but could envision other cases where the definition was problematic. The definition is important because the law places restrictions on principals like it does on lobbyists, such as prohibitions on giving money or gifts to public officials.

Florida: NRA Sway: For Florida officials, it’s always Hammer time
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 9/21/2018

Those who work in the Florida agency that oversees gun permits never know when National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer will command their attention, or what about. Nights, weekends, and even holidays, she sends messages to senior department officials with complaints and demands. They often respond within minutes. Hammer’s singular power over Florida lawmakers, especially Republicans, is the stuff of Tallahassee legend. Yet according to a review of hundreds of Hammer’s emails with the state Department of Agriculture, her sphere of influence stretches far beyond gun legislation. Emails from 2014 to 2017 show the lobbyist involves herself in a wide array of day-to-day tasks of an agency that was accused five years ago in a lawsuit of being run by the NRA.

Illinois: Cook County OK to Restrict Campaign Cash from Lawyers, Others Seeking ‘Official Action,’ Appeals Court Says
Cook County Report – Jason Bilyk | Published: 9/25/2018

A state appellate court ruled Cook County has the power to make ethics rules that apply to county officers, finding the board of commissioners did not overstep in prohibiting real estate lawyers and others from contributing to the campaigns of county officials when they are seeking “official action” from the county.  While the county has for decades used its ethics ordinance to place limits on who can give money to county officials, and how much they can donate to their campaigns, the ordinance was amended in 2016 to extend restrictions which had been applied previously to lobbyists and contractors, now to reach “persons seeking official action from the county.”

Missouri: Clean Missouri Will Be on November Ballot After High Court Refuses to Hear Challenge
Kansas City Star – Alison Kite | Published: 9/24/2018

The Missouri Supreme Court will not reconsider a ruling allowing voters to decide on a ballot measure that would reform the state’s ethics laws. The decision reaffirms a state appeals court ruling letting the so-called Clean Missouri initiative appear on the November ballot as Constitutional Amendment 1. Opponents had claimed the initiative violates the state constitution by addressing too many topics. The measure would lower campaign contribution limits, eliminate nearly all lobbyist gifts, require a waiting period before lawmakers and their staffers can become lobbyists, and open legislative records. It also would turn the task of drawing legislative district maps over to a nonpartisan expert and reviewed by a citizen commission.

New York: Crystal Run Did Raise a Red Flag
WRAL – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/25/2018

In a meeting with The Albany Times Union editorial board, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphatically stated that Crystal Run Healthcare, had never warned his campaign of potential problems with its $400,000 in donations. Moreover, the governor said if the company had done so, Crystal Run would have effectively “admitted to a crime.” But in response to the newspaper’s questions about Cuomo’s statement, his campaign acknowledged what the governor said that day was not true: Crystal Run had indeed approached the campaign with concerns about its contributions. The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan have been investigating whether 10 separate $25,000 checks from Crystal Run officials to Cuomo in October 2013 were reimbursed by the company through bonuses. If that occurred, it could violate state election law.

New York: Percoco Sentenced to Six Years for Corruption
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 9/20/2018

A judge sentenced Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to six years in federal prison for accepting more than $320,000 in bribes from businesspeople looking to buy influence with state. The bulk of the bribes came in the form of a “low-show” job given to Percoco’s wife by an energy company that wanted to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. While prosecutors did not accuse Cuomo of any wrongdoing, the trial cast a shadow over his administration, especially in light of early campaign promises when he was first elected to clean up Albany.

North Carolina: NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s Legal Contract with Start-Up Raises Questions
Raleigh News and Observer – Dan Kane | Published: 9/25/2018

A short time into Anne Whitaker’s tenure as chief executive officer of KNOW Bio, a pharmaceutical start-up, she learned of a legal services contract given to an attorney she had never heard of for services she felt were of questionable value for a company that was barely a year old. The lawyer was North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. When she learned the details of his contract and his work, which struck her as federal lobbying, Whitaker said she terminated it with the support of company board members. Whitaker said KNOW Bio’s co-founder, Neal Hunter, had given Moore the contract. What Whitaker said she did not know is that Moore, as the powerful Rules Committee chairperson, had earlier helped Hunter with a controversial development that was in danger of failing.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Hit with Federal Lawsuit Over Gift Rules
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 9/26/2018

The Institute for Justice is asking a federal judge to find Oklahoma’s gift-giving restrictions do not apply to informational materials. Over the last few years, the state Ethics Commission has imposed stricter rules on what lobbyists and the organizations they represent can give to lawmakers and other state officials. Under the current rules, the institute could give a book to a state government official in recognition of a special occasion like election to office if the book costs $100 or less. It also could give a state official a $10 book once a year. In light of those limitations, it is “effectively impossible” for the organization to distribute a copy of the book “Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit,” which is valued at $15, to educate lawmakers, the institute’s attorneys said.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Supreme Court Rejects Ethics Commission Request for More Money
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 9/25/2018

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the state Ethics Commission’s request for more funding. The commission chairperson has accused legislators of cutting the agency’s appropriation because stricter rules had been imposed on their conduct. The commission asked the justices to take action to get it enough money to perform at least its basic duties. It complained lawmakers have underfunded it for years in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. To avoid running out of money, the commission is now charging candidates, lobbyists, PACs, and others more to register.

Tennessee: Nashville Judge Rules Against State in Lawsuit Over ‘Blackout Period’ for PACs
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison | Published: 9/27/2018

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle struck down a Tennessee law that prohibits nonpartisan PACs from giving campaign contributions within 10 days of an election. Under the law, only committees controlled by a political party have been able to donate to candidates 10 days out from an election. “Elected officials and political parties cannot lawfully censor disfavored political speakers while reserving special treatment in the political process for themselves,” said Daniel Horwitz, an attorney for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws. Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said the state intends to appeal the decision.