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 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.

October 22, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC Elections National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac […]

Campaign Finance

Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC

Elections

National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

North Carolina: “Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Ethics

National: “Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits” by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig for New York Times

California: “Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism” by Ben Brazil for Los Angeles Times

California: “City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband” by City News Service for Patch

Lobbying

National: “Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge” by Ben Wieder for Miami Herald

Illinois: “Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban” by John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) for MSN

Wyoming: “Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune

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October 21, 2020 •

Michigan Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds Published

Michigan Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol - By Brian Charles Watson

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds. This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit. The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other […]

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds.

This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit.

The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other employee increased from $2,525 to $2,575 for any 12-month period.

The financial transaction threshold between a registered lobbyist or lobbyist agent and a public official increased from $1,275 to $1,300.

Travel and lodging reimbursements increased from $825 to $850.

Food and beverage expenditures for a public official increased from $63 to $64 in any month.

Meanwhile, the $400 threshold for food and beverages purchased between January 1 and the end of the reporting period remains the same as last year.

Employee reimbursements increased from $25 to $26, and the general gift threshold also increased from $63 to $64.

Late filing fees increased from $25 a day up to a maximum of $750, to $26 and a $780 maximum.

The registration threshold of $650 for a lobbyist agent or a lobbyist’s expenditure on one public official during a 12-month period and exempt expenditures at $13, remain the same as last year.

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October 21, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New […]

Campaign Finance

National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News

National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times

Montana: “Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules” by Perrin Stein for Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Rhode Island: “What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case” by Kate Mulvaney for Providence Journal

Elections

Colorado: “Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It” by Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba for New York Times

Ohio: “Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges” by Farnoush Amiri for Associated Press News

Pennsylvania: “Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day” by Richard Wolf for USA Today

Ethics

National: “Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service

California: “Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty” by Robert Salonga for San Jose Mercury News

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October 20, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times Elections California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify […]

Campaign Finance

Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times

Elections

California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures” by John Wilkens for San Diego Union Tribune

Michigan: “Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues” by Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post

National: “Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants” by Steven Shepard for Politico

National: “On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act” by Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff for Bloomberg Law

Kansas: “Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say” by Timothy Bella for Washington Post

New Mexico: “NM Investment Scandal Winds Down” by Mike Gallagher for Albuquerque Journal

Ohio: “Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says” by Ben Peters for Athens News

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October 19, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature’s Fifth Special Session Ends

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

Gov Tim Walz, with Lt Gov Peggy Flanagan - by Lorie Shaull

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills. This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass. Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the […]

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills.

This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass.

Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by 30 days.

Walz is obligated by law to call a special session for lawmakers to approve the emergency declaration.

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October 19, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian Elections Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Elections

Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico

Ethics

National: “Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post

National: “White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump” by Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Illinois: “Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner” by Robert McCoppin for Chicago Tribune

Kentucky: “Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.” by Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) for MSN

Maryland: “Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout” by Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun

Lobbying

National: “Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Canada: “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case” by Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) for CTV

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October 16, 2020 •

Yukon Lobbyist Registry Accepting Registrations

Yukon Legislature

Yukon Legislature

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only […]

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only came into effect this year.

Consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists are required to register. Registration is required for individuals communicating with a public office holder, directly or through grassroots communications, in attempts to lobby. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is required to register when arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person for the purposes covered by the Act.

There are two revolving door provisions in the Act. For the six-month period after ceasing to be in office, a former public office-holder is prohibited from lobbying as a consultant lobbyist, but he or she is not prohibited from immediately lobbying as an in-house lobbyist. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is prohibited from becoming an employee of Yukon’s public service for six months after terminating her or her lobbyist registration. Penalties for violations of the Lobbyists Registration Act include fines up to $25,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.

As of October 16, the lobbyist registry does not have any registered lobbyists.

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October 16, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 16, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020 A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear […]

National/Federal

As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy
Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020

A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear of controversy ahead of the November 3 election, a new study found. While many American corporations donate to candidates and campaigns, some do not disclose it. This can put them in the crosshairs of customers and suppliers who can accuse them of a lack of transparency. The Center for Political Accountability found 332 companies in the S&P 500 prohibited some kind of political spending, like funding political committees, or disclosed some or all of their election-related spending in 2020, up roughly nine percent from 2016.

As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off
New York Times – Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti | Published: 10/14/2020

On the day President Trump declared the coronavirus was “very much under control,” senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas Philipson, an economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than administration advisers were signaling in public. A hedge fund consultant’s assessment of the meeting spread through parts of the investment world and traders spotted the immediate significance: the president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Trump was publicly insisting the threat was nonexistent.

Court Tells FEC to Take Action on Complaint Against Dark Money Group Tied to Joni Ernst
The Gazete – James Lynch | Published: 10/14/2020

A U.S. District Court judge entered a default judgment against the FEC, ordering it to act on a complaint involving a so-called dark money group tied to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign. The complaint was brought by the Campaign Legal Center, which told the court the FEC had failed to take action on its complaint that Ernst’s campaign had illegally coordinated with Iowa Values, a political nonprofit backing the senator. Candidates and outside groups are prohibited from coordinating their political activities. The FEC generally has not enforced coordination rules, allowing for the proliferation of super PACs and nonprofit groups tied to party leaders and individual candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facebook to Temporarily Halt Political Ads in U.S. After Polls Close Nov. 3, Broadening Earlier Restrictions
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/7/2020

Facebook said it plans to temporarily suspend all political and issue-based advertising after polls close November 3, a move the company said was intended to limit confusion, misinformation, and abuse of its services in the days after the presidential election. Facebook also said it would remove calls for people to watch the polls when those posts use militaristic or intimidating language. Executives said the policy applies to anyone, including President Trump and other officials. Trump has made calls for people to engage in poll-watching, and Donald Trump Jr. appeared in an ad urging people to “defend your ballot” and join an “army” to protect the polls.

Fake Twitter Accounts Posing as Black Trump Supporters Appear, Reach Thousands, Then Vanish
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 10/13/2020

An account featuring the image of a Black police officer, President Trump, and the words “VOTE REPUBLICAN” had a brief but spectacular run on Twitter. In six days after it became active, it tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers, with its most popular tweet being liked 75,000 times. Then, on days later, the account was suspended by Twitter for breaking its rules against platform manipulation. The reach of @CopJrCliff and other fake accounts from supposed Black Trump supporters highlights how an account can be effective at pushing misleading narratives in just a few days – faster than Twitter can take it down.

Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Charged with Acting as a Foreign Agent, Is Likely to Plead Guilty
Seattle Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/8/2020

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy was charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him. Prosecutors outlined how they believe he took millions of dollars in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into Malaysian corruption and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. Prosecutors said Broidy and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

New Justice Dept. Election Fraud Guidance Could Allow Boosting of Trump’s Exaggerated Claims, Legal Observers Say
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2020

The Justice Department issued guidance giving federal prosecutors more leeway to take public action on suspected election fraud before ballots are in, a move some legal analysts worry could foreshadow an effort to bolster President Trump’s exaggerated claims of fraud via mail-in voting. The guidance detailed what it called an “exception to the general non-interference with elections policy,” which discourages prosecutors from taking overt steps in fraud investigations until all ballots are counted and certified. Critics say Trump and Attorney General William Barr seem to be working in concert to undermine public confidence in the election result, and the newly issued guidance could aid in that effort – allowing prosecutors to publicize cases of suspected fraud they previously would have been barred from discussing.

NYT: Vegas connections helped Trump engineer $21M windfall during 2016 race
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump’s tax records reveal he engineered a windfall of more than $21 million during his 2016 presidential run, The New York Times reported. A hotel Trump owns with casino mogul Phil Ruffin in Las Vegas made payments to several companies Trump controlled, and that money then flowed to the president himself. The hotel wrote off the payments as a business expense, The Times said. The newspaper reported that the payments came at a time when Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign needed funds and many of his businesses were losing money. The tax records do not indicate whether the payments helped Trump’s campaign, his businesses, or both, the newspaper said.

Sonny Perdue Faces Ethics Questions Over His Business Holdings
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/15/2020

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pledged in 2017 to separate himself from his multimillion-dollar business holdings that could pose conflicts-of-interest in his public duties. But last year, he disclosed he had become trustee of a newly formed fund that includes many of the same assets as his original family trust. Watchdog organizations are now calling for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Perdue has run afoul of the ethics agreement he signed as a nominee for the job early in the Trump administration. The commitments entailed moving his holdings into a new trust and agreeing not to serve as a trustee or beneficiary of the fund.

Supreme Court Halts Census in Latest Twist of 2020 Count
Associated Press News – Mike Schneider | Published: 10/14/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can end census field operations early, in a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts. But the ruling increased the chances of the administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets, and by extension how much voting power each state has.

Supreme Court Won’t Revive Congressional Emoluments Case Against Trump
Washington Post – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow | Published: 10/13/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an attempt by Democratic members of Congress to sue President Trump over his private businesses accepting payments from foreign governments. Without comment, the justices let stand a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 215 members of Congress. Their novel lawsuit sought to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. A unanimous panel of the appeals court said the individual members did not have legal standing to take the president to court.

The Mystery of a GOP Congressman’s Seemingly Rent-Free Campaign Office
Politico – Daniel Newhauser | Published: 10/9/2020

For at least seven years, U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn appears to have enjoyed rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor, which would be a clear violation of federal election law that comes amid mounting scrutiny of his finances. In dozens of filings with the FEC, Hagedorn has listed a basement suite in a downtown Mankato, Minnesota, building as his campaign’s headquarters. But election spending records show Hagedorn has reported no payments for the use of that space over the course of the past four elections he has run to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional District, including his current race. Ethics experts expressed skepticism with Hagedorn’s actions.

Trump Taps U.S. Marine Band for White House Event and Raises Questions About Employing the Military for Political Purposes
Washington Post – Paul Sonne | Published: 10/11/2020

When President Trump, recovering from COVID-19, welcomed hundreds of people to what resembled a campaign rally on the White House grounds, the guests filed onto the South Lawn past a military band in resplendent red, its horns blasting the tune “America” from “West Side Story.” The use of the United States Marine Band for a de facto political rally marked another instance of the president pushing the boundaries of U.S. law and the military tradition of political neutrality. Federal regulations bar the use of government resources for, and the coercion of federal employees into, political activities aimed at a candidate’s reelection, and taxpayer-funded military bands cannot be used for campaign events.

Trump’s Children Brought Secret Service Money to the Family Business with Their Visits, Records Show
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2020

President Trump’s adult children and their families have caused the U.S. government to spend at least $238,000 at Trump properties so far, according to Secret Service records. Government ethics experts say nothing is wrong with Trump’s children seeking protection from the Secret Service. But, they said, the Trump Organization’s decision to charge for the agents’ rooms created a situation in which, just by traveling, Trump’s children could bring taxpayer money to their family’s business. That, ethics experts said, could create the appearance that Trump family members were exploiting their publicly funded protection for private financial gain.

‘Unmasking’ Probe Commissioned by Barr Concludes Without Charges or Any Public Report
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2020

The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing. The Justice Department has so far declined to release the results of U.S. Attorney John Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names, a common practice in government to help understand classified documents, as a political conspiracy.

With Election Day Looming, Twitter Imposes New Limits on U.S. Politicians – and Ordinary Users, Too
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Twitter will impose new warnings on politicians’ lies, restrict premature declarations of victory, and block calls for polling violence or other disruptions, the company announced as it rolled out wide-ranging changes designed to harden the platform against abuse related to the U.S. election on November 3. The moves also will temporarily alter the look and feel of Twitter. Retweeting others, for example, will require an extra step designed to encourage users to add their own thoughts before posting. Recommendations and trends will get new curbs intended to prevent abuse. The policy changes are the culmination of years of revisions intended to prevent a repeat of 2016’s electoral debacle on social media, when disinformation, false news reports, and Russian interference rampaged virtually unchecked across all major platforms.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Absentee Witness Requirements Scrapped for Election
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 10/13/2020

The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling eliminating witness requirements for absentee ballots for the general election. Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby had ruled enforcement of the witness requirements during the coronavirus pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote.” She waited to put the order into effect, to allow the Supreme Court to weigh in. The case was brought by the Arctic Village Council, League of Women Voters of Alaska, and two individuals. Their attorneys have argued the witness requirement is unconstitutional during the pandemic and a bar to voting for those who do not live with someone who is at least 18 and able to serve as a witness.

California Arcadia Subsidiary of Chinese Company to Pay $1 Million Fine in LA City Hall Bribery Scandal
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 10/7/2020

The subsidiary of a China-based real estate company agreed to pay $1.05 million to resolve a probe into its involvement in the Los Angeles City Hall corruption scandal. Jia Yuan USA Co. will pay the penalty and continue cooperating with the federal government in its probe of city Councilperson Jose Huizar and other figures. A Jia Yuan employee provided Huizar with Katy Perry concert tickets after he and former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan helped resolve an issue involving compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jia Yuan also admitted providing in-kind campaign contributions to several U.S. political candidates by hosting reduced-cost fundraising events. Some of those events took place at the direction of a foreign national barred from participating in American elections, investigators said.

California California Officials Say GOP’s Ballot Boxes Are Illegal. Republicans May Expand the Practice
Los Angeles Times – Stephanie Lai and Sarah Parvini | Published: 10/13/2020

In recent weeks, gray metal containers labeled as ballot drop boxes have been placed at various locations – including gun shops, shooting ranges, churches, and Republican Party offices – in several California counties. State GOP officials acknowledged responsibility for the boxes and have rejected allegations of wrongdoing, in defiance of what the state’s top election official and attorney general say is an illegal practice. At the center of the battle are questions of whether it is legal to collect ballots through third party boxes and what constitutes an “official” ballot drop box.

California Ex-Director of Coliseum Authority Takes Plea Deal in Stadium Naming Rights Case; Avoids Jail Time
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 10/13/2020

Former Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, who was criminally charged with violating state law by seeking payment from RingCentral for negotiating a stadium naming rights contract, took a plea deal and by doing so avoided trial and possible jail time. Prosecutors alleged McKibben violated the law because he sought a $50,000 payment from RingCentral as part of a $3 million deal to rename the ballpark “RingCentral Coliseum.” The law prohibits public officials from having a financial interest in contracts made by them in their official capacity. McKibben will serve three years’ probation and take an ethics course. Judge Kevin Murphy will decide how much McKibben should pay the stadium authority.

Colorado Colorado Voters to Decide Whether to Pull Out of National Popular Vote Effort
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 10/11/2020

State lawmakers decided last year that Colorado should join 14 other state and Washington, D.C. in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which pledges their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most raw votes nationwide. On November 3, Coloradans will get the chance to affirm or reject that decision when they vote on Proposition 113, which was put on the ballot by opponents of the movement. A “yes” vote keeps the state in the compact, while a “no” vote maintains the system Colorado has used for decades to choose a president, in which the candidate with the most statewide support gets its nine Electoral College votes.

Florida Federal Judge Denies Request to Extend Florida Voter Registration Deadline
Tampa Bay Times – Allison Ross | Published: 10/9/2020

A federal judge rejected calls by several voting rights groups that Florida should further extend its voter registration deadline following repeated outages to the state’s online on the last day people could sign up to vote in the November 3 election. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious and perennially chaotic election” outweighed the concern of potentially thousands of Floridians being unable to cast ballots in the general election. The state had argued reopening the voter registration deadline could mean Floridians who registered during that later time may have to cast provisional ballots if counties cannot update their voter rolls in time, and extending the deadline could cause voter confusion and other issues.

Florida Prominent Lobbyist Didn’t Disclose Calls to Orlando Airport Board Members, Violating Policy
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/14/2020

Under the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s policies, lobbyists are supposed to publicly disclose meetings with board members within seven days. But Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, did not reveal she called four members of the board that runs Orlando International Airport on behalf of a client until nearly three months later, after The Orlando Sentinel requested records related to the firm’s work at the airport. Authority leaders, however, say they do not plan to act. “… She self-reported and became compliant and … there’s nothing further we can do,” said Dan Gerber, the authority’s general counsel. Some government-transparency advocates criticized the lack of consequences.

Georgia Common Cause Calls for Investigation of Georgia Ethics Commission’s Conflict of Interest Policies
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 10/9/2020

A good government group is calling on Georgia’s ethics commission to investigate its own policies regarding how commission members handle potential conflicts-of-interest. The rules for deciding when a member should recuse themselves are confusing. Commission Chairperson Jake Evans says a commission policy gives him the authority to order a member to recuse themselves. But he follows a state attorney general’s opinion from 1989 to let members decide for themselves whether they have a conflict.

Hawaii Ballot Questions Could Bolster Ethics Watchdog’s Staffing and Spending
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/11/2020

The Honolulu Ethics Commission could enjoy greater autonomy over its budget should voters grant them that ability in November. Voters are also being asked whether the commission should also be granted more flexibility to hire and retain staff. Commission Chairperson Victoria Marks said passage of the charter amendments would give the agency greater flexibility to describe positions, and hire and retain the specialized staff that she said it needs “to grow and strengthen the city’s ethics and lobbyist programs.” Marks said the amendments would provide the commission “with budget flexibility and greater autonomy” from the city administration.

Illinois Aldermen Reject Lightfoot’s Proposal to Ease Ban on Lobbying by Elected Officials
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/13/2020

Aldermen rejected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ordinance that would have rolled back part of tougher City Hall lobbying rules for elected officials the city council passed last year. It would have once again allowed elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the mayor, aldermen, and other city government agencies on behalf of private clients, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. With federal investigators probing lobbying practices in Springfield and past City Hall scandals tied to lobbying infractions, aldermen said it was not the time to walk back the stricter requirements.

Minnesota Federal Judge Upholds Minnesota’s Deadline Extension for Counting Ballots
National Public Radio – Jason Slotkin | Published: 10/12/2020

A federal judge upheld Minnesota’s seven-day deadline extension for counting mail-in ballots after it was challenged by a pair of Republicans. Minnesota extended its deadline for receiving mail-in ballots after voting rights groups raised concerns the state’s previous deadline could disenfranchise voters as the state receives an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots. In past elections, absentee ballots would only be counted if received by eight p.m. on Election Day. A state court agreement reached with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received within seven days.

New York Trump Again Asks Supreme Court to Block Subpoena for His Tax Records
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 10/13/2020

Personal lawyers for President Trump, seeking to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year, asked the justices to delay a ruling that would allow Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. To obtain Trump’s financial records. In an “emergency” application, Trump’s legal team told the court that a U.S. District Court judge was wrong to rule Vance had a legal right to subpoena the materials and an appeals court panel in New York was wrong to uphold that decision. The request for intervention marks a return for the case. In July, the high court ruled the fact that Trump was the sitting president did not make him absolutely immune from criminal investigation, as his legal team had argued.

New York Trump Got a $21 Million Tax Break for Saving the Forest Outside His N.Y. Mansion. Now the Deal Is Under Investigation.
MSN – Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump received a tax break of $21.1 million five years ago after promising to preserve 150 acres of woodlands in New York state. The amount of the tax break was set by a 2016 appraisal that valued Seven Springs at $56.6 million, more than double the value assessed by the three Westchester County towns that each contained a piece of the property. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of the land. The appraisal appears to have relied on unsupported assertions and misleading conclusions that boosted the value of Trump’s charitable gift and his tax break. The appraisal was written by Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm that has worked with Trump over many years and whose headquarters are in a building co-owned by Trump.

North Carolina A Legal Fight Over How to Fix Ballot Errors in North Carolina Has Left Thousands of Voters in Limbo – Nearly Half People of Color
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 10/12/2020

A dispute over how North Carolina voters should correct problems with their mail ballots remains unresolved, leaving at least 6,800 votes – including more than 3,300 ballots from people of color – in limbo across a key presidential battleground state. The legal fight intensified after the state Board of Elections said in September it would allow voters to “cure,” or fix, deficiencies in their mail ballots by completing and returning an affidavit to county election officials. The affidavit would neutralize a range of voter errors that could lead to ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. But a federal judge put the plan on hold October 3, arguing it changed the rules too close to Election Day.

Oregon City of Portland Lawyers Won’t Defend Auditor in Legal Appeals of Mayor’s Campaign Violations, City Council Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 10/14/2020

The Portland City Council refused a request from the city auditor for city lawyers to represent her in lawsuits filed by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign, citing the city attorney’s assertion it would be an ethical violation and a conflict-of-interest. Auditor Mary Hull Caballero argued before the vote that Wheeler’s campaign is not a client of the city attorney’s office and she fined the campaign through her capacity as a Portland elected official who oversees the city elections process. She noted city lawyers already represent her in other elections-related lawsuits, including one filed on behalf of mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone about Wheeler’s campaign.

Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/10/2020

A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed by Trump, also poured cold water on the president’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud. Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee Chairwoman Reaps Big Harvest of Campaign Contributions from Insurance Industry
Allentown Morning Call – Ford Turner | Published: 10/9/2020

State Rep. Tina Pickett, whose position in Harrisburg gives her enormous authority over what happens to proposed insurance laws, has more cash in her political campaign account than any of her 201 colleagues in the Pennsylvania House, thanks in large part to the insurance industry. A review of hundreds of campaign finance reports showed Pickett’s $268,546.49 cash balance in late May was inflated by a years-long influx of insurance industry cash that began when Pickett became chairperson of the House Insurance Committee in 2013. Experts say the contributions are made to curry favor.

Rhode Island A Chaotic Campaign Helped Save Rhode Island’s House Speaker in 2016. Now It Threatens to End His Political Career
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan and Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/13/2020

The criminal trial of Jeffrey Britt, a former campaign consultant to Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $2,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witnesses detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Steven Frias. Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by an operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race. Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.

Texas Appeals Court OKs Texas Governor’s Order to Limit Drop Off Locations for Absentee Ballots
NBC News – Rachel Elbaum | Published: 10/13/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to shut down dozens of mail ballot drop-off sites weeks before November’s election. The ruling comes after a federal judge halted the order, which allowed for only one absentee ballot drop off location for every county, regardless of its size. The Texas secretary of state had argued Abbott’s order was part of a 40-day expansion of Texans’ absentee voting opportunities put in place because of Covid-19 that went beyond what state election rules normally permit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it agreed with her.

Virginia Inside the Utility Company Lobbying Blitz That Will Hike Electric Bills
ProPublica – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 10/9/2020

When Democrats campaigned for seats in the Virginia Legislature last year, they took aim at the state’s largest power broker: Dominion Energy. The electric utility’s clout was legendary at the Capitol, where it doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions and employed an army of lobbyists who helped write energy policy for decades. The result was soaring electricity bills and an energy grid heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Democrats vowed to change that. But Dominion fought back and ended up as a winner in a bill intended to diminish its influence. By doubling the size of its lobbying corps and tapping its long-standing relationships with legislative leaders and Gov. Ralph Northam, the utility secured the right to build its top priority – a massive offshore wind farm set to be the most expensive utility project in Virginia history.

Virginia Men in Alleged Kidnapping Plot Also Considered Targeting Virginia Governor, FBI Says
National Public Radio – Bill Chappell and Ryan Lucas | Published: 10/13/2020

Two of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took part in a discussions earlier this year with members of self-styled militia groups about potentially abducting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified. Special Agent Richard Trask did not say whether any of the attendees ultimately took any action toward potentially targeting Northam, and no one has been charged with any threats against him. Whitmer and Northam, both Democrats, have faced resistance in their respective states to measures they’ have taken to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Virginia Va. Congressional Candidate Reported No Assets. His Amended Disclosure Shows He Holds Dozens of Stocks.
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 10/9/2020

After previously disclosing owning zero financial assets, Virginia congressional candidate Bob Good filed an amended financial disclosure showing he holds dozens of stocks, including in two companies that had business before the Campbell County Board of Supervisors when Good served on the panel. He now reports between $213,000 and $1.65 million in assets and unearned income. Virginia law requires local and state lawmakers to disclose their personal economic interests in forms filed with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council.

Washington Port of Tacoma, Others Agree to Fine in Save Tacoma Water Campaign Finance Case
MSN – Alexid Krell (Tacoma News-Tribune) | Published: 10/12/2020

The Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County agreed to pay a civil penalty for violating campaign finance law while fighting initiatives that were trying to limit industrial development on the Tideflats. They will pay a $34,000 fine, with $17,000 suspended. The case stemmed from efforts by a group called Save Tacoma Water following citizen opposition to a proposed methanol plant. Activist Arthur West complained the three groups violated campaign finance law in their effort.

Washington Twitter to Pay $100k to Washington State in Settlement Over Political Ad Disclosure Violations
GeekWire – Todd Bishop | Published: 10/13/2020

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Twitter agreed to pay $100,000 for failing to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019, when Twitter banned political advertising. Companies are required to maintain records about who paid for ads, when they ran, how much they cost, and the name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed. Twitter failed to maintain the required records for at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that reported paying $194,550 for political advertising on its platform.

Wisconsin Federal Appeals Court Blocks Extension for Wisconsin Ballot Returns
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/8/2020

Federal judges blocked a lower court’s order extending the deadline for returning mail ballots in Wisconsin, requiring that absentee ballots be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on Election Day. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of staying the lower court’s order, which would have allowed for ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received by November 9, six days later, in order to be counted. The stay also suspended an order extending the deadline for online and mailed-in voter registration from October 14 to October 21, and it stopped potential electronic delivery of certain ballots.

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