April 24, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 24, 2020

News You Can Use


A Watchdog Out of Trump’s Grasp Unleashes Wave of Coronavirus Audits
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 4/20/2020

Lawmakers handed President Trump $2 trillion in coronavirus relief and then left town without activating any of the powerful new oversight tools meant to hold his administration accountable. But with little fanfare, Congress’ independent, in-house watchdog is preparing audits that will become the first wide-ranging check on Trump’s handling of the national rescue effort. Even as Trump has gone to war against internal watchdogs in his administration, the Government Accountability Office remains largely out of the president’s grasp because of its home in the legislative branch.

‘All of It Is Happening All at Once’: When Congress works from home
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 4/18/2020

With the Capitol shuttered until at least early May and the House now considering instituting remote voting to facilitate a more prolonged absence from Washington, D.C, members of Congress are sequestered at home like the rest of America, forced to reimagine how to do their jobs virtually. It is a singular challenge for lawmakers, whose tasks typically revolve around human contact with a rotating cast of constituents, staff, lobbyists, and fellow lawmakers. They have come up with creative (some more than others) solutions.

Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser | Published: 4/16/2020

Joe Biden’s campaign signaled to donors that Priorities USA would be its main big-money partner for the general election, a move that has alarmed some of Biden’s ardent backers, who fear the campaign has given outsize influence to a super PAC that many donors associate with the party’s loss in 2016. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in independent spending for Biden by super PACs and politically active nonprofits that can raise and spend unlimited sums to try to influence elections. Democrats are scrambling to build an operation to compete with President Trump, who has been fundraising for his reelection since 2017. But as they seek to put up a unified front, Democrats have been dogged by internal battles over how to avoid the mistakes of 2016.

Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage
MSN – Annie Linsky (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2020

Homebound at his estate in Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden’s quarantined campaign is adjusting to a new reality in which the prime-time television slots that would carry his rallies and speeches under normal conditions are now largely dedicated to subjects other than the 2020 presidential campaign. Making matters worse for Biden, President Trump dominates each evening with his coronavirus task force briefings, which mostly are carried live by cable and can have the feel of a daily campaign rally. That has left Biden with little choice but to spread his message around – bracketing the president by offering himself to local newscasts in battleground states that run his interviews. Biden’s appearances aim at groups of voters that he must attract to win in November, including suburbanites, younger voters, and nonwhite voters.

City Leaders to Trump: Help us fight the coronavirus by paying your bill
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Leventhal | Published: 4/16/2020

Fourteen municipal governments want President Trump’s campaign committee to clear a combined $1.82 million worth of public safety-related debt connected to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign rallies. Cities are girding for a coronavirus-induced financial disaster, with a new study indicating more than 2,100 U.S. cities are anticipating significant budget shortfalls and widespread cuts to local government programs and staff. These cuts are likely to fall hardest on low-income residents, people of color, the homeless, and the disabled, who are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. “… During this [Covid-19] crisis, that loss is even more pronounced – $150,000, for instance, could pay for emergency rental assistance for 100 Minneapolis families,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Cory Gardner Attended Pricey Champagne Party in Palm Beach. A Colorado Lawmaker Wants an Investigation.
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 4/19/2020

A February party in Palm Beach, whose gust list included U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, was put on by Krug Champagne, a French company owned by a multinational conglomerate of luxury brands called LVMH. For the past 20 years, LVMH has lobbied the Senate on a range of issues related to its brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Hennessy, and Krug Champagne. State Sen. Tom Sullivan says Gardner’s appearance at the party is an ethics violation. Sullivan claimed in a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee that Gardner violated a ban on gifts of more than $50, as well as a ban on gifts from companies that hire lobbyists.

Donna Shalala, Lone Democrat Overseeing $500B Virus Fund, Didn’t Disclose 2019 Stock Sales
Tampa Bay Times – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/22/2020

Rep. Donna Shalala, the lone U.S. House Democrat on the committee set up to oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses, violated federal law when she failed to disclose stock sales while serving in Congress. Shalala said she sold a variety of stocks throughout 2019 to eliminate any potential conflicts-of-interest after she was elected to Congress in November 2018. But the transactions were not publicly reported as required by the STOCK Act, which prohibits members of Congress and their employees from using private information gleaned from their official positions for personal benefit and requires them to report stock sales and purchases within 45 days. Shalala’s office said the she and her financial adviser made a mistake.

Ethics Guidance on Coronavirus Relief Package: Lawmakers may be able to apply for some loans
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/21/2020

The U.S. House ethics committee is recommending that lawmakers and their families exercise “caution” before applying for economic relief through the massive relief packages passed into law to quell the financial ruin caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies in which members of Congress or family members, such as a spouse or child own at least 20 percent equity interest cannot get any loans or other investments from the pool of funds to be disbursed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But those conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to other components of the law, including the Paycheck Protection Program.

House Democrats Retreat on Remote Voting as Republicans Clamor to Reopen
New York Times – Catie Edmonson and Emily Cochrane | Published: 4/22/2020

Democratic leaders backed away from a plan to change the rules of the U.S. House to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely for the first time in history, after Republicans who are clamoring to reopen Congress registered their opposition. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would no longer vote on a proposal to allow members to designate another lawmaker to cast votes for them by proxy. Instead, she said she and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would have a bipartisan group of lawmakers consider remote voting proposals and plans to reopen the House.

K Street Is Booming. But There’s a Creeping Sense of Dread.
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Elena Schneider | Published: 4/19/2020

Business is booming on K Street due to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but lobbyists are also dreading what might be on the horizon if the economy slumps into a protracted recession, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists. Several privately expressed worry that business could dry up if the companies with falling revenue move to cut expenses. Some lobbying firms could even go under. But for now, the chaos has been unmistakably good for business. Hospitals, casinos, Indian tribes, pharmaceutical interests, and private equity firms have all hired lobbyists for help, along with companies from 3M to Ticketmaster to Six Flags. with companies from 3M to Ticketmaster to Six Flags.

Matt Gaetz Rents Office Space from Longtime Friend and Donor – at Taxpayer Expense
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 4/17/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor, and legal client. Both men said Gaetz paid below market rent for the space, although Gaetz later shifted, saying the rent was “at or below market rate.” House rules explicitly state such arrangements are not allowed. The agreement between Gaetz and Collier Merrill highlights how a decades-long relationship can become intertwined with a lawmaker’s congressional duties. On top of being Merrill’s tenant, Gaetz attended fundraisers at Merrill’s restaurants and sought his counsel on policy matters.

Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 4/17/2020

President Trump’s official super PAC, America First Action, recently unveiled its first independent expenditures in the 2020 presidential election attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on his response to the coronavirus pandemic. But critical information about financial dealings of Trump’s re-election campaign remains hidden by shell companies, obscuring details critical to determine if the campaign is coordinating with his official super PAC. The FEC considers shared vendors when determining if communications constitute illegal coordination between a campaign and an outside group supporting it. The Trump campaign’s disclosure of payments through shell companies keeps the identities of sub-vendors it might share with its super PAC hidden.

Small Business Rescue Cash Isn’t for Lobbyists, Judge Rules
Washington Post – Erik Larson (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/23/2020

Political consulting and lobbying firms were rebuffed in an effort to tap coronavirus rescue money, as a federal judge ruled the funds for small businesses are essentially subsidies that lobbyists cannot receive from the government. The firms cannot tap Paycheck Protection Program loans disbursed by the Small Business Administration because a decades-old regulation bars the agency from subsidizing political speech, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said.

The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests
MSN – Kenneth Vogel, Jim Rutenberg, and Lisa Lerer (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2020

Among those fighting the state and local orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus are FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots. Also involved are a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials, a network of state-based conservative policy groups, and a coalition of conservative leaders known as Save Our Country that has advised the White House on strategies for a tiered reopening of the economy. The fight has emerged as a galvanizing cause for a vocal element of President Trump’s base and others on the political right. Organizers see it as unifying social conservatives, who view the orders as targeting religious groups; fiscal conservatives who chafe at the economic devastation wrought by the restrictions on businesses; and civil libertarians who contend the restrictions infringe on constitutional rights.

Trips to Ski Slopes, Beaches and Golf Courses Popular with House Leadership PACs
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/20/2020

U.S. Rep. K. Michael Conaway has spent $285,000 since 2011 from his leadership PAC, Conservative Opportunities for a New America PAC, on things such as golf, spring training tickets and meals in Florida, and stays at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Conaway is not alone in using leadership PAC money for luxuries that ethics experts consider questionable. Added together, he and six House colleagues spent nearly $800,000 over the past 11 years on elaborate expenditures. Ski trips to mountain resorts were popular. So were fishing, golf, whitewater rafting, and plenty of food and drink.

Trump Interior Official Helped Clear Way for Payments to Ex-Employer
Politico – Adam Cancryn | Published: 4/16/2020

An Interior Department official is under fire over her role in securing access to billions of dollars in coronavirus aid for a handful of wealthy Alaska corporations, including one that previously employed her as a lobbyist and top executive. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney is among a group of Interior officials advising the Treasury Department on how to distribute $8 billion in rescue funding Congress earmarked for Native American tribes, an allocation that some lawmakers now say they intended solely for the 574 federally recognized tribes hit hard by the economic shutdown. But the Trump administration indicated it also plans to include more than 200 for-profit Alaska Native corporations among the eligible recipients.

Trump Team’s Use of Big Insurer to Dispense Recovery Funds Comes Under Scrutiny
Politico – Maggie Severns and Daniel Lippman | Published: 4/18/2020

A senior economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, whose nomination to a post overseeing health insurance floundered in the wake of revelations of his financial ties to UnitedHealth Group, is now playing a key role overseeing a $30 billion recovery program being administered by UnitedHealth. The choice of UnitedHealth, a leading health insurer, to serve as a conduit in funneling billions of dollars to hospitals and other providers, surprised many in health care, including employees at the Department of Health and Human Services who had assumed their department would administer the program itself. Though UnitedHealth says it will make no profit off of the deal, its role in handing the money to hospitals could boost its relationships with the White House and the public during a tumultuous year and possibly provide it with valuable health care data, experts say.

Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting
Politico – Scott Bland | Published: 4/17/2020

The GOP online donation platform endorsed by President Trump is opening up to state legislative candidates and others outside federal office, hoping to drive a financial boost for Republicans in the states ahead of the 2020 elections and next year’s redistricting. WinRed, which launched last year, is partnering with the Republican State Leadership Committee to make the platform available to state-level candidates, another step in the group’s drive to get the entire Republican Party using one system for digital fundraising. While the presidential race will command the most attention in 2020, this election is also particularly consequential because state Legislatures will play a key role in the decennial redistricting process that starts next year, with the potential in some states to enact maps that favor one party for the next decade.

From the States and Municipalities

California Here’s Why L.A. County Plans In-Person Voting During Coronavirus Crisis While Riverside, Orange Went All-Mail
Los Angeles Daily News – Ryan Carter | Published: 4/22/2020

On May 12, Los Angeles County voters will decide who replaces former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill for her remaining term in Congress. Despite countywide “stay at home” orders spurred by the coronavirus outbreak, nine polling places will be available for residents to register and cast their ballots in person. Meanwhile, Riverside County plans its own May 12 special election in the 28th Senate District, but it will be mail-only with no in-person balloting. Orange County will stage a May 19 city council recall election in Santa Ana by mail only. In Los Angeles County, elections officials say it is one of 15 counties in California mandated under the Voter’s Choice Act to offer early-voting options by mail and by polling place. Those options include enabling voters to cast ballots in person at the voting center of their choice.

California San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 4/19/2020

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer solicited $35,000 in so-called behested payments so far this year for One San Diego, the tax-exempt organization he set up after he was elected mayor in 2014. In total he has raised more than $3 million in donations, with $1.6 million earmarked for One San Diego. State law requires they be disclosed so the public can see who is donating money to a public official’s favored cause. Many of the contributions have been made by people and companies with direct business interests before the city. Lani Lutar, a registered lobbyist who regularly meets with the mayor’s senior aides on behalf of her clients, has served as the One San Diego board chairperson for several years.

Connecticut Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to Coronavirus Concerns
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 4/17/2020

In a second delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Connecticut’s presidential primary will be pushed back to August 11. Gov. Ned Lamont made the announcement that he was acting in concert with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to postpone the date by an additional two months. The state has already set aside August 11 as the day for Republican and Democratic primaries for Congress, state Legislature, and local offices. As a result, towns will save money by opening polling places once, instead of twice. Since local conventions have not yet been held, the candidates for those primaries will not be settled until the coming weeks and months.

Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot Introduces Plan to Change Chicago’s City Ethics Rules, Again Allowing Some Elected Officials to Lobby City Government
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 4/22/2020

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a proposal to weaken rules against elected officials lobbying the city that was passed last year. Lightfoot’s amendment to the lobbying ordinance would allow elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. That change would partially walk back the stricter standards the council passed following an impassioned debate in December, which barred all elected officials in Illinois from lobbying the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Presidential Primary, Local Elections to Be Delayed Again Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 4/14/2020

Louisiana’s presidential primary and other local elections have been delayed again until late summer as state leaders offer up a plan that includes expanded access to early voting and mail-in ballots but is expected to still feature in-person voting for most people. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to delay the presidential primary election originally set for April 4th until July 11th to give Ardoin’s office more time to prepare. The subsequent general election for some local races was delayed until August 15th.

Michigan Brenda Jones Took Illegal Campaign Cash from Donors Doing Business with the City of Detroit
The Intercept – Matthew Cunningham-Cook | Published: 4/21/2020

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones accepted campaign contributions that violate Michigan’s “pay-to-play rules, according to a review of campaign finance records and interviews with ethics experts. During her 2017 bid for reelection to city council, Jones accepted $5,500 in campaign contributions from then-First Independence Bank Chief Executive Officer Barry Clay, and an additional $4,000 in political donations from First Independence Bank board member Douglas Diggs. The donations occurred as First Independence had a contract with the Detroit police and fire pension fund, of which Jones, as president of the council, is a trustee. First Independence runs a loan program for the pension fund.

Michigan Michigan Cancels Contract with Two Democratic-Linked Firms That Had Been Tapped to Track Coronavirus
Connecticut Post – Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2020

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration canceled a no-bid contract to help track the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan, a day after announcing the hiring of a state Democratic consultant and a national firm that has worked for prominent Democratic causes. The reversal comes amid complaints the governor tapped politically connected firms to collect health data on state residents and monitor sensitive medical information. The episode illustrates the political and ethical pitfalls involved in the large amounts of money suddenly being spent across the country to curb the pandemic and boost the economy. Companies receiving aid and contracts have been criticized in recent weeks for ties to one party or the other, and Democrats and Republicans have wrangled over the best way to oversee the process.

New Mexico Ex-Rio Arriba Official Faces Allegations
Albuquerque Journal – Edmund Carrillo | Published: 4/19/2020

Former Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo made over $100,000 from three contracts with Española Public Schools, yet did so without the proper business licenses, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office says. As a contract holder with the school district, he also never disclosed he contributed to the campaigns of two school board members, which is a violation of governmental conduct laws, according to the attorney general’s office. Trujillo faces three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and one count of failing to disclose campaign contributions. He could face up to six years in prison.

North Carolina Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit Over Allegedly Insecure North Carolina Voting Machines
The Hill – Maggie Miller | Published: 4/15/2020

A group of voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit alleging that voting machines used in almost two dozen North Carolina counties are not secure and could lead to voter disenfranchisement in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleges the use of the ExpressVote XL voting machine violates the constitutional right of individuals in the state to free and fair elections and has cyber vulnerabilities that could lead to election interference. The machines involve the voter inputting their choices digitally, with the machine then printing out a paper sheet with a barcode embedded with the voter’s choices. The voting rights advocates point to this system as making it impossible for the average voter to ensure their vote was not changed and was accurate.

Ohio Appeals Court Entertains Arguments on Whether Jimmy Dimora Should Receive New Trial
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Eric Heisig | Published: 4/16/2020

Federal appeals court judges grilled a prosecutor and a defense lawyer on whether former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora should get another chance to prove his innocence. Dimora has argued that errors in the instructions a judge gave to the jury that convicted him in 2012, as well as the judge’s decision to disallow the former commissioner to present his Ohio ethics reports, means he should get a new trial. Dimora is serving a 28-year prison sentence for corruption-related convictions.

Oregon Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 4/21/2020

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler broke new city election rules by not properly disclosing his largest campaign contributors on his reelection website or two campaign social media accounts, the city auditor’s office ruled. Rules that took effect with this election cycle require candidates to prominently list the top five donors who have given more than $1,000 on campaign communications, said Elections Officer Deborah Scroggin. Wheeler announces “Paid for by Friends of Ted Wheeler” on his campaign website, but the top contributors are not identified there or on his re-election Facebook page or Twitter account.

Texas More Than Half of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Coronavirus Panel on Reopening Texas Are Campaign Donors
Dallas Morning News – Allie Morris, Ariana Giorgi, and Robert Garrett | Published: 4/18/2020

Gov. Greg Abbott named 39 prominent Texans, most business and industry leaders, to a panel that will help guide a reopening of the state’s economy after the coronavirus. Many of them are also campaign donors. Thirty-one of the counci’’s 39 members have contributed to Abbott’s past runs for governor and attorney general, and since 2015, 25 have given Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign at least $5.8 million combined. The choices are drawing fire from government-transparency advocates, union officials, and Democratic leaders who fear that public health could be subordinated to profit motives as tough judgment calls are made in the coming weeks and months about easing isolation edicts.

Texas Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation
Austin American-Statesman – Ryan Autullo | Published: 4/16/2020

State Senate candidate Sarah Eckhardt, the acting county judge in Travis County, acknowledged accepting political contributions in violation of finance law. Candidates in statewide races are prohibited by the Texas Ethics Commission from knowingly accepting a contribution at a time when a campaign treasurer is not in place. The person who filed the complaint is University of Texas student Blake Beatty, who said he discovered Eckhardt’s impermissible fundraising, because “I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands during the quarantine.”

Washington Justices: $18M campaign finance penalty to be reconsidered
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 4/16/2020

A record fine levied against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing the identities of the food and beverage companies that spent $11 million to defeat a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013 was upheld by the Washington Supreme Court. In a five-to-four decision, justices overruled an appeals court and reinstated an $18 million fine against the trade group, now known as the Consumer Brands Association. The decision does not fully settle whether the penalty will stand. The court did not rule on whether the penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive punishment. The justices sent the case back to the appeals court to “scrutinize carefully” whether the fine is constitutional.

Wisconsin After Losing Election, State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly Signals He Will Participate in Voter Rolls Case
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/16/2020

Days after learning he was losing his seat on the state Supreme Court, Justice Daniel Kelly signaled he would participate in a case over who should remain on Wisconsin’s voter rolls after earlier stepping away from the lawsuit. The case is expected to determine whether tens of thousands of voters who are suspected of having moved can stay on the state’s voter rolls. Kelly issued a court order saying it appears he no longer has a conflict in the case. He asked those involved in the case to file briefs on what they think he should do before he makes a final decision. Kelly had stayed away from the case because it could have affected who was a registered voter for the April 7 election, when he was on the ballot.

Wisconsin At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting
MSN – Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2020

Milwaukee health officials said they had identified at least seven people who contracted the coronavirus from participating in Election Day on April 7, which was held despite a stay-at-home order issued throughout the state. The officials say the number may be higher as they are still conducting testing. Other cities have not reported any cases tied to voting yet. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it would also be studying any voters or election workers who contracted the virus from voting.

Wisconsin Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/21/2020

The liberal candidate in the April 7 Wisconsin Supreme Court race prevailed in voting by mail by a significant margin, upending years of study showing little advantage to either party when a state transitions from in-person to mail voting. The gap suggests Democrats were more organized and proactive in their vote-by-mail efforts in an election conducted under extraordinary circumstances, with voters forced to weigh the health risks of voting in person against the sometimes unreliable option of requesting and mailing in their ballots. Still, it is likely to add to the skepticism President Trump and Republicans have expressed bout mail voting, which they worry would increase Democratic turnout at Republicans’ expense.

August 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020 Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end […]


Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020

Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end the decennial count a month earlier than expected will result in a dramatic undercount of Black and Latino communities across the country, which could have grave effects on federal funding and political representation in their neighborhoods. The census represents an important fault line in the battle over structural racism and equity, with high stakes. It dictates the allocation of federal dollars and influences everything from infrastructure investments to education programs like free and reduced lunch to public health-care spending. The data is also used when deciding the boundaries of legislative districts.

Appeals Court Rejects Key Argument Against McGahn Subpoena
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/10/2020

A federal appeals court dealt a setback to President Trump’s bid to prevent his former White House counsel Don McGahn from being forced to testify to a House committee. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the House has legal standing to use the courts to compel McGahn to appear in response to a Judiciary Committee subpoena. But the appeals court left open other legal arguments against the subpoena to McGahn, leaving it unclear when or if the former White House lawyer will appear before the panel. The ruling also left open the issue of what questions McGahn would have to answer.

Disinformation for Profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley Becker | Published: 8/11/2020

The reality curated by “The Bearded Patriot” and “The Wolf of Washington” is dismal. The websites tell of nonstop riots and “crazed leftists.” They warn of online censorship and the wiles of an “anarchist billionaire,” a reference to George Soros, the liberal investor and Holocaust survivor. The material is tailor-made to inflame right-wing passions. But its underlying purpose is to collect email addresses and other personal information from impassioned readers, whose inboxes then fill up with narrowly targeted ads. The effect is to monetize the anger stoked by misleading political content, for as much as $2,500 per list of contacts.

Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Dan Simmons | Published: 8/11/2020

If election officials in Georgia and Wisconsin wanted to prove one thing during primary and runoff elections on August 11, it was that they could do a better job managing lines, operating equipment, and counting mail ballots than they did in earlier contests this year. They appeared to succeed, with voters trickling into the polls with virtually no wait times and election workers processing a crush of absentee ballots with no major difficulties. The contests in both states, as well as in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Vermont, drew much lower turnout than previous elections this year, a contributor to the relative quiet. But state and local officials said the bigger factor was what they learned from their earlier stumbles and how they used the intervening weeks to avoid them this time.

Federal Appeals Court Skeptical of Michael Flynn’s Effort to Immediately Dismiss Criminal Charge
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/11/2020

A federal appeals court appears poised to block an effort by former national security adviser Michael Flynn to immediately dismiss the criminal charge against him, raising the specter that the politically explosive case could continue to make headlines in the lead-up to the November 3 election. The court sounded sharply skeptical about arguments by Flynn’s attorney and the Justice Department that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan abused his authority by scheduling a hearing on efforts to drop the case, which came despite Flynn’s pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and later reaffirming his plea.

Former Clients of Acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf Received Millions in Department Contracts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/5/2020

Several former lobbying clients of Chad Wolf, now the acting secretary of Homeland Security, have received millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts while he has held senior positions within the department. Wolf was a lobbyist for over a decade at Wexler & Walker before he took leadership roles with the department under President Trump. Wolf served as the acting chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration in 2017 and later became the chief of staff for former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Since then, several of Wolf’s former clients reaped a total of at least $160 million in contracts, according to a CNBC analysis of the public filings.

How Hotel Chains Got a Slice of Government Aid for Small Businesses
ProPublica – Isaac Arnsdorf | Published: 8/6/2020

In March, as lawmakers raced to put together a stimulus package to cope with the pandemic-related shutdowns sweeping the country, a company that invests in hotels deployed a Washington lobbyist for the first time. The lobbyist’s mission was to secure an exception in the emerging relief program for small businesses so hotel chains would become eligible. EOS Investors had more than 500 employees, putting it above the limit in the original proposal by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. The lobbyist whom EOS called on for help was Michael Bopp, a former longtime aide to Collins. One of the main criticisms of the relief been it ended up favoring well-connected businesses over mom-and-pop concerns with scarce access to other resources.

Postal Service Overhauls Leadership as Democrats Press for Investigation of Mail Delays
Anchorage Daily News – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2020

The Postal Service announced a reorganization meant to increase efficiency as Democratic lawmakers demanded an inquiry into whether changes by President Trump’s officials could threaten the effective use of mail-in ballots for the November election. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump’s campaigns, and de-emphasizes institutional knowledge. The reshuffling threatens to heighten tensions between postal officials and lawmakers, who are troubled by delivery delays and wary of the Trump administration’s influence on the Postal Service as the coronavirus pandemic rages and election draws near.

Rep. Tlaib Directed to Reimburse Campaign for $10,800 in Postelection Paychecks
Roll Call – Niels Lesniewski | Published: 8/7/2020

The House ethics committee directed U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib to repay her campaign for salary she drew after Election Day 2018. Congressional candidates are allowed to draw paychecks from their campaigns, but as the committee explained in a report, the payments are only allowed during an active candidacy. Tlaib continued to be paid after the election was over. The ethics panel said no further action was necessary.

Taking Protest to the Streets, and the Mayor’s Front Door
MSN – Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (New York Times) | Published: 8/10/2020

Public protests this year have most often featured marches and rallies through public gathering places, sometimes escalating into broken shop windows, torched cars, and clashes with the police. But as the nation navigates the triple turmoil of a pandemic, a ravaged economy, and a civil rights movement, civic activism is at times becoming more direct, more personal, and for some of its targets, more frightening. Some of these demonstrations have led to thoughtful conversations between public officials and the protesters who arrived at their doors. But others insist their front yards are inappropriate venues for boisterous public debate.

The Kamala Harris Pick: Geographic balance takes back seat to gender, race
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher, Adam Nagourney, and Jennifer Medina | Published: 8/12/2020

Joe Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate marks the latest evidence that gender and race have now surpassed geographic balance when it comes to building a ticket for the White House. Ever since Black voters resurrected his candidacy in South Carolina, Biden and his campaign team have made the pursuit of Black voters a centerpiece of his bid for the White House. And he had said from the start of the process he would choose a woman as the Democratic nominee for vice president. If Harris does not put any particular new state into play, strategists and Biden allies were hoping her spot on the ticket could increase turnout and Biden’s margins across the map and strengthen his position in states Hillary Clinton lost, in no small part because of a drop in votes in African-American communities.

There’s Been a Big Gray Area When It Comes to Cable News Contributors Dabbling in Political Campaigns
Washington Post – Jeremy Barr | Published: 8/8/2020

So-called contributors on cable news networks are essentially paid guests who sign contracts to appear exclusively on one network, generally agreeing to go on-air as frequently as the news cycle demands. But as former politicians and political consultants, they exist in a sort of gray zone between full-time employees and unpaid interviewees, which makes discerning what they are allowed to say and do off-camera challenging. That is especially so when network contributors step on the campaign trail. Some of the most in-demand contributors are often those who are still active in the political arena or harbor future campaign aspirations, creating potential conflicts-of-interest.

Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 8/8/2020

When President Trump talked recently with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the only person in the party who can cut a nine-figure check to aid his reelection, the phone call unexpectedly turned contentious. Adelson reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he was not doing more to bolster his reelection. A person familiar with the call said it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him. GOP officials were alarmed the president had antagonized one of his biggest benefactors at a precarious moment in his campaign.

Trump Long Has Relied on Nondisclosure Deals to Prevent Criticism. That Strategy May Be Unraveling
Washington Post – Michael Kranish | Published: 8/7/2020

For decades, Donald Trump has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements as a powerful weapon against anyone who would say something critical of him. Among those who have signed agreements are two ex-wives, contestants on “Th Apprentice,” campaign workers, and business associates. But this key element of Trump’s corporate and political strategy has shown signs of unraveling, even as his campaign spends heavily to enforce such agreements. Now, in one of the most sweeping efforts by a former associate to undo nondisclosure agreements, the Trump campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts.

Trump Teases a Gettysburg Convention Speech. Experts Say It’s an Ethics Breach.
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni | Published: 8/10/2020

After repeatedly throwing a wrench into plans for the Republican National Convention this summer, President Trump tried to offer something tantalizing about the upcoming gathering, saying his renomination speech would take place either at the White House or the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg. The battlefield, where Trump gave an indoor campaign speech in 2016, is federal property run by the National Park Service. This presents the same ethical conundrums his re-election team will face if the president delivers the speech from the South Lawn of the White House.

Trump’s Scottish and Irish Golf Resorts Spur a New Round of Scrutiny on His Businesses
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 8/11/2020

President Trump claimed his resorts in Scotland and Ireland brought in a total of about $179 million in revenue on U.S. documents where he is supposed to list his personal income. Records in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland indicate the revenues were millions of dollars less and they lost $77 million after accounting for expenses. Trump claimed the Scottish resorts alone were worth at least $100 million total in 2018 but the UK records indicate the resorts are not worth anywhere near that. The American Democracy Legal Fund is asking Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to probe whether Trump violated the law by filing false documents with the U.S. government to hide the financial health of himself and his company.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Two PSPRS Trustees Claim Ethics Allegations Hurt Their Businesses, Seek $624,999 from State
Arizona Republic – Craig Harris | Published: 8/6/2020

Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) board members Will Buividas and Mike Scheidt are seeking $624,999 from the state, claiming their businesses were damaged after the pension board’s chairperson publicly questioned their ethics for making commissions on real estate deals with agency staff. The notices of claim from Buividas, a Phoenix police officer, and Scheidt, a Tempe firefighter, against the PSPRS and Chairperson Scott McCarty allege defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with business relations.

California CalPERS Chief’s Abrupt Resignation Preceded by Conflict of Interest Questions
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 8/6/2020

Questions regarding conflict-of-interest disclosures preceded the abrupt resignation of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng, according to the pension fund’s board members. The announcement came three days after financial blogger Susan Webber published a post alleging Meng filed incomplete and inconsistent conflict-of-interest disclosures, known as Form 700s, with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The forms show Meng has held investments in private equity firms and Chinese companies, two areas of investment in which his decisions have drawn scrutiny since his hiring in January 2019.

California Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Jeff Horseman | Published: 8/5/2020

A new California law would limit campaign contributions from individual donors to those running for supervisor or countywide offices such as sheriff and district attorney in Riverside County. Right now, there is no donation cap, although contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported online within 24 hours during election season. Assembly Bill 571 limits donors to giving a maximum of $4,700 per election to a candidate for county office. The new law allows counties to set their own limits if they do so before January 1. To that end, the board of supervisors voted to start working on county-set limits, an ordinance setting those restrictions is expected to come back to the board before December 31.

California Huizar’s Relatives Not Expected to Face Charges in Corruption Probe, Prosecutor Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/5/2020

A federal prosecutor said his office does not intend to charge family members of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar, identifying them as witnesses rather than targets of the ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Three members of the Huizar family – his wife Richelle, hi mother Isidra, and his brother Salvador – are mentioned repeatedly in the 113-page indictment against the council member, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery, money laundering, racketeering, and other charges. Prosecutors have alleged Huizar family members laundered his bribe proceeds, receiving cash from the councilperson and then paying his bills.

California LA Leaders Want to Bar Themselves from Voting on Matters Affecting Their Campaign Donors
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Elizabeth Chou (Los Angeles Daily News) | Published: 8/12/2020

Los Angeles city officials would be barred from voting on any issue affecting individuals or organizations donating to their campaigns under an ethics proposal advanced by a handful of council members. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently expressed support for such a measure, which would be similar to the recusal rule he and others adhere to as board members of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The measure is being proposed as city leaders seek to restore public trust of City Hall amid an FBI probe into “pay-to-play” real estate development schemes involving public officials.

Florida Florida NRA Lobbyist Loses in Latest Court Fight over Emails
Tampa Bay Times – Jim Saunders | Published: 8/11/2020

A federal appeals court rejected arguments by prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer in a lawsuit centered on graphic emails she received from an attorney after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court judge’s decision to dismiss Hammer’s lawsuit against Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to the lobbyist that included photos of gunshot wounds. Hammer raised a series of arguments in the case, including that Sorensen had violated Florida laws about cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida Payments to Florida Lobbyist Flagged in Lawsuit Against NRA
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/6/2020

Marion Hammer, one of Tallahassee’s most well-known lobbyists, received payments from the National Rifle Association under contracts that were improperly handled, according to a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James is seeking to dissolve the gun rights group, which has been a major political force nationally and in Florida, where it successfully swayed the state Legislature to pass the state’s “stand your ground” law. without trying to retreat. The complaint describes payments made to “Board Member No. 5,” a person identified as the executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida. Records list Hammer as executive director of the group.

Georgia QAnon Supporter, with Georgia Primary Victory, Is Poised to Bring Far-Right Conspiracy Theory to Congress
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2020

Republicans came a step closer to welcoming into their ranks a promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has endorsed the baseless theory and made a slew of other racist remarks on video, won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Her victory, in a swath of the state that has favored Republicans by wide margins, sets her up to become QAnon’s first devotee in Congress.

Illinois Former City Official Signals He Will Plead Guilty in Bribery Case as Federal Corruption Probe Widens
Chicago Tribune – David Heinzmann | Published: 8/9/2020

A longtime Chicago political operative who was charged in March with bribing a state lawmaker in the ongoing federal probe of Illinois political corruption signaled he may make a plea deal in the case, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors have alleged William Helm, a former deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, paid at least $5,000 to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2018 to influence the development of a road project near land owned by a construction company who employed him as a lobbyist. At the time, Sandoval was head of the Senate Transportation Committee and held significant influence over the approval of state road projects and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Illinois South Suburban Mayor Charged in Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Joe Mahr | Published: 8/7/2020

According to federal prosecutors, Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta was caught on a March 2018 recording accepting an envelope with $5,000 cash from a representative of the red-light camera firm SafeSpeed, and then lied to the FBI and IRS when asked about it that September. Prosecutors say Presta sought and received benefits from SafeSpeed representatives while company sought to expand its services in the Chicago suburb.  SafeSpeed has denied doing anything wrong and portrayed any misdeeds as the work of a rogue partner, Omar Maani, who is now believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.

Iowa Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Executive Order Restoring Felon Voting Rights, Removing State’s Last-in-the-Nation Status
USA Today – Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson (Des Moines Register) | Published: 8/6/2020

Thousands of Iowans with felony convictions who have served their sentences can now participate in November’s presidential election after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring their voting rights. Iowa was the last state in the nation that still banned all people with felony convictions from voting, even after the completion of their sentences, unless they applied individually to the governor’s office to have their rights restored. The issue received heightened attention this summer as protests for racial justice swept across the country after the death of George Floyd. Activists with Des Moines Black Lives Matter made the voting rights issue one of their top demands for the governor.

Maryland Maryland Gov. Hogan OKs Plan for Just 360 Voting Centers Statewide for November Election Amid Lack of Poll Workers
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood | Published: 8/10/2020

Gov. Larry Hogan has approved a plan to offer just 360 voting centers across Maryland for the November election despite what he said were “serious concerns” about the proposal. Hogan’s decision gives the State Board of Elections authority to proceed with the voting center plan as an alternative to opening about 1,600 polling places this fall. The voting centers, unlike polling places, could be used by any voter in a county, and would be placed primarily at public high schools across the state. The board voted to recommend the plan in response to lobbying from local election directors, who said they would not be able to staff a full complement of polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland Top Montgomery County Aide Resigns After Being Cited for Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 8/12/2020

Montgomery County’s chief administrative officer, Andrew Kleine, resigned after being cited for ethics violations. Kleine admitted in July to promoting his book while attending conferences paid for by the county and to having relationships with two private companies that landed county contracts after he assumed his role. Kleine did not receive financial compensation for connecting the companies with the county, but his actions still violated ethics law. He agreed to pay the county $5,000 for the ethics violations, but lawmakers said the punishment was insufficient. At least five county council members questioned whether Kleine should be allowed to continue in his position.

Michigan Michigan Official to Resign After Defending Racist Slur
Associated Press News – John Flesher | Published: 8/9/2020

An elected official in northern Michigan who used a racist slur prior to a public meeting will resign. Tom Eckerle, a member of the Leelanau County road commission, will step down after receiving criticism from across the U.S. A local road commission meeting started with one commissioner asking Eckerle why he was not wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit,” Eckerle said. Despite the backlash, Eckerle later doubled down on his comments, defending his position in an interview with the local public radio station. “I don’t regret calling it a n—-r,” Eckerle said. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

Montana Helena Judge Again Takes Green Party Off Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 8/7/2020

The Montana Green Party will not be on the ballot this year after an order from Helena District Court Judge James Reynolds. Enough people asked for their signatures to be removed from petitions qualifying the Green Party for the ballot that the effort no longer met the necessary threshold, Reynolds found. More than 560 people submitted signature withdrawal requests following news reports the state Republican Party paid for the petitioning that qualified the Green Party. In a separate matter, the state Commissioner of Political Practices has found the Montana GOP’s actions broke state campaign finance laws.

New Mexico Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose Donors, and Suggests Connection to Prominent Lobbyist
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 8/8/2020

Over the course of May and early June this year, a new group called the Council for a Competitive New Mexico (CCNM) spent over $130,000 on a media campaign supporting a group of incumbent state senators, most of whom would go on to lose as part of a progressive wave in June’s Democratic primary. The media campaign included several negative mailers and automated phone calls against candidates opposing the incumbents while the public was left in the dark about who organized the group and who funded the media campaign. Now, an ethics complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office alleges CCNM broke New Mexico’s election code by not disclosing its donors.

New York JCOPE Commissioner: Non-Cuomo appointees left out of loop
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/11/2020

State ethics commissioners appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are privy to information not available to others on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), a commissioner charged. The allegation was made by Commissioner Gary Lavine, a Senate Republican appointee to JCOPE. From 2011 through 2018, Lavine had served on the ethics panel as an appointee of the governor. There are six Cuomo appointees on the commission and eight legislative appointees. Lavine said there was a “super commission” made up of the Cuomo appointees, a “two-tier hierarchy” of JCOPE. Lavine said he was echoing remarks to that effect made years ago by Ravi Batra, a former Senate Democratic appointee to the panel who resigned in 2012. But Batra’s sentiment is still true, Lavine said.

New York New York Attorney General Seeks to Dissolve NRA
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak, Larry Neumeister, and Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 8/6/2020

New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) following an 18-month investigation that found evidence the gun rights organization is “fraught with fraud and abuse.” The lawsuit alleges top NRA executives misused charitable funds for personal gain, awarded contracts to friends and family members, and provided contracts to former employees to ensure loyalty. Simultaneously, the Washington, D.C. attorney general sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by its top executives.

New York Trump Moves to Force Manhattan D.A. to Reveal Details of Inquiry
New York Times – Nicole Hong, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 8/10/2020

President Trump, seeking to block a subpoena for his tax returns, plans to ask a federal judge to order the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., to disclose details about his investigation into the president’s business practices. The letter, which Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan, was in response to a filing from prosecutors in Vance’s office, who argued they had wide legal basis to subpoena eight years of the president’s tax records and other financial documents. The office suggested it was investigating the president and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than prosecutors had acknowledged in the past.

North Carolina New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/11/2020

North Carolina legislators can no longer spend campaign committee money toward buying or renting homes or condominiums that they or family members own, a practice that powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger used for years. An administrative rule from the State Board of Elections that took effect recently bars such transactions for all state candidates or their campaign committees. The prohibition applies even if the residence is used as the result of holding office or if the payments are made to a business that the politician or officeholder owns. The Legislative Ethics Committee also approved new guidance in May that makes it “unethical” for a legislator to receive a daily expense check to cover lodging expenses while serving in Raleigh if the lawmaker gets them covered through another source.

Ohio Householder Case: ‘Company C’ CEO Wayne Boich gave cash to HB 6 ‘dark money’ groups
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/5/2020

The leader of a Columbus-based firm that made its family fortune in Ohio coal provided $25,000 of the money used to open bank accounts for the “dark-money” nonprofit at the center of the House Bill 6 scandal. Wayne Boich, chief executive officer of Boich Companies, also later gave $100,000 to a for-profit company that spent nearly $1.5 million to support former House Speaker Larry Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. Boich is the chief executive of “Company C,” listed in a federal court criminal complaint charging Householder and four others with racketeering, The Columbus Dispatch confirmed with a source close to the investigation.

Ohio New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/10/2020

After the House speaker was indicted for taking bribes from energy companies in what a U.S. Attorney called “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio,” a new speaker with deep financial ties to the same energy companies has been appointed. Republicans elected Rep. Bob Cupp to replace indicted Larry Householder as the House leader. The energy companies accused of bribing Householder and funneling “dark money” to Generation Now, a Householder-controlled 501(c)(4) group, have been major donors to Cupp over his career. Cupp has faced his share of ethics allegations stemming from his energy industry contributions.

Ohio Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose: No extra ballot drop boxes for November election
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/12/2020

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Wednesday he is banning county boards of elections from offering more than one drop box for completed absentee ballots this November, saying it is grown too late to make changes to how the state will administer this year’s presidential election. LaRose, a Republican, more than three weeks ago formally asked state Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, for a legal opinion on whether the extra drop boxes were allowed under Ohio law. Democrats accused LaRose of voter suppression, saying the request of Yost was just a charade that would allow LaRose to eventually run out the clock.

Oregon Supreme Court Puts a Halt to Oregon Redistricting Ballot Measure
OPB News – Dirk VanderHart and Jeff Mapes | Published: 8/11/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court stopped an effort to alter how Oregon draws its legislative and congressional districts. The court granted an emergency stay that will halt, for now, a push to land a measure on the November ballot placing authority for those districts in the hands of a nonpartisan commission. In July, a coalition successfully argued that due to the coronavirus pandemic, it faced an undue burden in collecting enough signatures to place its redistricting measure on the ballot. Even though it had too few signatures to qualify, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled the group should face a lower standard. But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling.

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August 13, 2020 •

Group Seeks to Block Measure 3 from November Ballot in North Dakota


North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger confirmed a third measure to be on the November ballot. Measure 3, a constitutional amendment put forth by Fargo-based North Dakota Voters First, makes several changes to election procedures. This amendment creates paper […]

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger confirmed a third measure to be on the November ballot.

Measure 3, a constitutional amendment put forth by Fargo-based North Dakota Voters First, makes several changes to election procedures.

This amendment creates paper record and audit requirements for ballots; requires ballots to be sent to military and overseas voters at least 61 days before an election; and makes the Ethics Commission responsible for state legislative redistricting procedures.

The amendment would also introduce an open primary system in which all candidates, regardless of party, would appear on a single ballot.

This would also have the top four candidates advancing to the general election.

A ranked-choice vote would decide the winner.

Additionally, if implemented, North Dakota would become only the second state in the country, after Maine, to employ a statewide ranked-choice system.

A North Dakota-based 501(c)(4) called Brighter Future Alliance is challenging the measure’s eligibility for the ballot.

The alliance is seeking a writ of injunction from the North Dakota Supreme Court prohibiting Jaeger from placing Measure 3 on the November 2020, general election ballot.

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August 13, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance North Carolina: “New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used” by Gary Robertson (Associated Press) for MSN Elections National: “Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests” by Amy […]

Campaign Finance

North Carolina: “New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used” by Gary Robertson (Associated Press) for MSN


National: “Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests” by Amy Gardner and Dan Simmons for Washington Post

Georgia: “QAnon Supporter, with Georgia Primary Victory, Is Poised to Bring Far-Right Conspiracy Theory to Congress” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) for MSN

Oregon: “Supreme Court Puts a Halt to Oregon Redistricting Ballot Measure” by Dirk VanderHart and Jeff Mapes for OPB News


National: “Trump’s Scottish and Irish Golf Resorts Spur a New Round of Scrutiny on His Businesses” by Anita Kumar for Politico

National: “Federal Appeals Court Skeptical of Michael Flynn’s Effort to Immediately Dismiss Criminal Charge” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

California: “CalPERS Chief’s Abrupt Resignation Preceded by Conflict of Interest Questions” by Wes Venteicher for Sacramento Bee

New York: “JCOPE Commissioner: Non-Cuomo appointees left out of loop” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union


Florida: “Florida NRA Lobbyist Loses in Latest Court Fight over Emails” by Jim Saunders for Tampa Bay Times

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August 12, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Ohio: “New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy” by David Moore for Sludge Elections National: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris Named as Joe Biden’s Running Mate” by Amanda Erickson for Washington Post Maryland: “Maryland Gov. Hogan […]

Campaign Finance

Ohio: “New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy” by David Moore for Sludge


National: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris Named as Joe Biden’s Running Mate” by Amanda Erickson for Washington Post

Maryland: “Maryland Gov. Hogan OKs Plan for Just 360 Voting Centers Statewide for November Election Amid Lack of Poll Workers” by Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun


National: “Taking Protest to the Streets, and the Mayor’s Front Door” by Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Disinformation for Profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash” by Isaac Stanley Becker for Washington Post

National: “Trump Teases a Gettysburg Convention Speech. Experts Say It’s an Ethics Breach.” by Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni for New York Times

National: “Appeals Court Rejects Key Argument Against McGahn Subpoena” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

Illinois: “Former City Official Signals He Will Plead Guilty in Bribery Case as Federal Corruption Probe Widens” by David Heinzmann for Chicago Tribune

Michigan: “Michigan Official to Resign After Defending Racist Slur” by John Flesher for Associated Press News

New York: “Trump Moves to Force Manhattan D.A. to Reveal Details of Inquiry” by Nicole Hong, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser for New York Times

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August 11, 2020 •

Oregon Special Legislative Session Wraps Up After a Single Day

Oregon State Capitol Building

Oregon Lawmakers worked past 11 p.m. Monday to conclude a special session growing tense and at times openly hostile in the Senate earlier in the evening. Lawmakers passed a dozen bills to patch a $1 billion hole in the state […]

Oregon Lawmakers worked past 11 p.m. Monday to conclude a special session growing tense and at times openly hostile in the Senate earlier in the evening.

Lawmakers passed a dozen bills to patch a $1 billion hole in the state budget, tighten restrictions on police and corrections officers’ use of force and help out-of-work and underemployed Oregonians.

The public was not allowed into the Capitol due to coronavirus concerns and lawmakers only accepted written testimony on the bills.

This was the second special session of the year.

Lawmakers spent three days at the Capitol in June focused on police reform laws and a handful of other proposals left over from the regular session abruptly ending when Republican lawmakers walked out.

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August 11, 2020 •

FEC Adjusts Penalty Amounts for Inflation

On August 7, the Federal Election Commission’s published its civil monetary penalty amounts adjusted for inflation in the Federal Register. The potential fine for civil violations of federal campaign finance laws now ranges from $6,069 to $70,973. The amounts are […]

On August 7, the Federal Election Commission’s published its civil monetary penalty amounts adjusted for inflation in the Federal Register.

The potential fine for civil violations of federal campaign finance laws now ranges from $6,069 to $70,973.

The amounts are calculated through a statutory formula applying the most recent “cost-of-living adjustment multiplier,” issued by the Office of Management and Budget, to the current amounts.

The amended civil monetary penalties took effect as of August 7, the publication date.

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August 11, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico California: “Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County” by Jeff Horseman for Riverside Press-Enterprise New Mexico: “Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico

California: “Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County” by Jeff Horseman for Riverside Press-Enterprise

New Mexico: “Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose Donors, and Suggests Connection to Prominent Lobbyist” by Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) for New Mexico Political Report


National: “Postal Service Overhauls Leadership as Democrats Press for Investigation of Mail Delays” by Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Montana: “Helena Judge Again Takes Green Party Off Ballot” by Holly Michels for Helena Independent Record


National: “There’s Been a Big Gray Area When It Comes to Cable News Contributors Dabbling in Political Campaigns” by Jeremy Barr for Washington Post

National: “Trump Long Has Relied on Nondisclosure Deals to Prevent Criticism. That Strategy May Be Unraveling” by Michael Kranish for Washington Post

Illinois: “South Suburban Mayor Charged in Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme” by Joe Mahr for Chicago Tribune


Florida: “Payments to Florida Lobbyist Flagged in Lawsuit Against NRA” by Gary Fineout for Politico

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August 10, 2020 •

October 5 Byelection for Seat on Ottawa Ontario Municipal Council

Ottawa City Hall

Ottawa City Hall - by Taxiarchos228

On October 5, the city of Ottawa will hold a byelection to fill the municipal council seat left vacant by Stephen Blais. The vacant Cumberland ward seat held by Blais, who left to serve as the Member of the Provincial […]

On October 5, the city of Ottawa will hold a byelection to fill the municipal council seat left vacant by Stephen Blais.

The vacant Cumberland ward seat held by Blais, who left to serve as the Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Orléans, could have been filled by an appointment made by the council itself.

While Blais was elected as MPP in February, the council held off deciding about whether to have an election or make an appointment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the Ottawa Council agreed to allow voters the choice to fill the seat.

For the first time, electors will be allowed to apply to vote by special mail-in ballot should they feel uncomfortable about voting in person or be unable to make it to a voting location.

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