August 2, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 2, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Ex-McConnell Staffers Lobbied on Russian-Backed Kentucky Project
Politico – Natasha Bertrand and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/31/2019

Two former top staffers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the development of a new Kentucky aluminum mill backed by the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The filing comes as Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to review Rusal’s $200 million investment in the Kentucky project – concerned that the mill will supply the Defense Department – and as McConnell weathers criticism for helping block a congressional effort to stop the investment. The Russian firm was only able to make the investment after it won sanctions relief from penalties the Treasury Department initially imposed in April 2018.

Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman, William Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and David Kirkpatrick (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2019

Federal prosecutors are investigating the role of Thomas Barrack, a top campaign fundraiser and close friend of President Trump, and his connections to the foreign lobby. Barrack has been investigated for potentially violating the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department. Questions about Barrack complying with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) arose during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election before being referred to the U.S, attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Three former Trump campaign aides charged by Mueller acknowledged violating FARA in their guilty pleas: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn.

Federal Judge Rules IRS Donor Guidance Is Unlawful
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 7/30/2019

A federal judge blocked an IRS policy change that stopped nonprofit groups from identifying their big donors on federal disclosure forms. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled the agency did not give proper public notice before it stopped requiring social-welfare groups, labor unions, and business associations to identify donors contributing more than $5,000. Republicans argue the guidance was important to protect taxpayers’ privacy and First Amendment rights. But Democrats have strongly opposed the guidance, arguing it could make it easier for foreign governments to influence U.S. elections through donations to “dark money” groups.

How Fundraisers Convinced Conservatives to Donate $10 Million – Then Kept Almost All of It.
ProPublica – Maggie Severns (Politico) and Derek Willis | Published: 7/26/2019

The Conservative Majority Fund has raised nearly $10 million since 2012 and continues to solicit funds, primarily from thousands of steadfast contributors to conservative causes. But it has made just $48,400 in political contributions to candidates and committees. Its main beneficiaries are the operative Kelley Rogers, who has a history of disputes over allegedly unethical fundraising, and one of the largest conservative fundraising companies, InfoCision, which charged millions of dollars in fundraising fees. The saga of how politically connected fundraisers used one of the nation’s leading conservative organizations as a springboard for fundraising that mainly benefited the fundraisers themselves sheds light on the growing problem of so-called scam PACs, organizations that take advantage of loosened campaign finance laws to reap windfalls for insiders while directing only a small portion of receipts to political advocacy.

It’s Not Just the Russians Anymore as Iranians and Others Turn Up Disinformation Efforts Ahead of 2020 Vote
MSN – Craig Timberg and Tony Romm (Washingtin Post) | Published: 7/25/2019

Twitter has shut down more than 7,000 phony accounts from Iran this year alone. Iran is far from the only nation that has the capacity to wage Russian-style influence operations in the U.S. ahead of next year’s election. That means American voters are likely to be targeted in the coming campaign season by more foreign disinformation than ever before, say those studying such operations. Researchers say it is not often clear exactly who runs these operations, whether it is the governments themselves or some other actors, but they typically echo the talking points of the ruling powers and back their geopolitical goals through tweets, posts, and online videos. The operations in all these countries, meanwhile, have the means and potentially the motives to seek to influence an American election shaping up as among the most hotly contested in decades.

Low in Cash and Polls, 2020 Democrats Get Creative with Accounting
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/30/2019

Staff members for a half dozen Democratic presidential candidates did not receive their final June paycheck that month. Instead, their campaigns nudged payday into July, an accounting maneuver that obscured payroll costs and temporarily made it look like candidates had more cash on hand than they did. That does not violate campaign laws, but it is a symptom of the high stakes of the 2020 money race and a crowded field with some candidates struggling to stay alive ahead of the second round of debates. In a presidential primary with many Democratic hopefuls competing for campaign money, a candidate’s viability is often judged by donors, the news media, and even rivals with a cursory look at campaign balance sheets.

Meet the Man Who Created the Fake Presidential Seal – a Former Republican Fed Up with Trump
MSN – Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2019

Graphic designer Charles Leazott used to be a proud Republican. But he felt Donald Trump’s GOP was no longer his party. So, he created a mock presidential seal to prove his point. He substituted the arrows in the eagle’s claw for a set of golf clubs, a nod to the new president’s favorite pastime. In the other set of talons, he swapped the olive branch for a wad of cash and replaced the United States’ Latin motto with a Spanish insult. Then is inserted a two-headed imperial bird lifted straight from the Russian coat of arms. The seal was not meant for a wide audience. But then, years later, it wound up stretched across a huge screen behind an unwitting President Trump as he spoke to a conference packed with hundreds of his young supporters.

Republicans Rattled After Surge of Retirements
Politico – Melanie Zanona | Published: 7/31/2019

The House GOP caucus has been hit by a wave of retirements over the past few weeks, but some Republicans fear the worst is yet to come. With the GOP relegated to the minority for the first time in eight years, a mix of veteran and vulnerable members have decided to call it quits instead of sticking around to see whether the party wins back power in 2020. Most of the seats being vacated thus far are in solidly red districts, which Republicans will have no problems keeping. But at least two of the races have become more competitive in the wake of the retirement announcements, and more vulnerable members could jump ship if they do not want to duke it out another term, especially if they are pessimistic about the GOP’s prospects.

Should Regulators Let Jet-Setting Tom Price Use Campaign Cash for Nonprofit Travel and Expenses?
Center for Public Integrity – Laura Zornosa | Published: 7/25/2019

Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in 2017 amid criticism of his taxpayer-funded private charter flights. Now, Price wants the FEC to allow his new nonprofit group to use $1.7 million worth of leftover campaign money from his old congressional committee, a move that would create a path for former congressional candidates to transfer surplus campaign cash to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups, a type of nonprofit that operates with fewer restrictions than charities, though Price’s lawyers promise the group would not pay salaries to Price or his family members or use the money for political purposes.

Socialism Goes Local: DSA candidates are winning in big cities
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 7/24/2019

Around the country this year, democratic socialists and other ultra-left candidates have met with success in city council races. Several such candidates have already won seats in Chicago and Denver, while others are running this fall in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Seattle, Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, which is a democratic socialist party, is seeking reelection to the city council against concerted opposition from business groups. These candidates do not all hold the same positions, but they are at the leading edge of a trend. As in national politics, local candidates on the left, including many mainstream Democrats, are moving further left.

Texts, Sex, Lies and Corruption: Here’s what has forced governors out of office
New York Times – Adeel Hassan | Published: 7/25/2019

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced his resignation after an uprising and looming impeachment proceedings had derailed his administration. Though residents said they were fed up by years of corruption, the tipping point proved to be the publication of hundreds of pages of crass and often profane chat messages among Rosselló and 11 men in his inner circle. The texts confirmed what many Puerto Ricans thought, that they held disdain for the public. The vast majority of governors in the U.S. fulfill their terms, though many have resigned to take a cabinet position, or to join the Senate. Since World War II, two have left governor’s mansions to move to the White House. But a few have met ignominious ends in office.

The Job of Campaigning Is Extremely Family-Unfriendly
The Atlantic – Joe Pinsker | Published: 7/27/2019

The FEC ruled that M. J. Hegar, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas, can spend campaign funds on child care for her two kids while she is running for office. The ruling builds on the FEC’s determination that Liuba Grechen Shirley, who at the time was running for a House seat in New York, could do the same. Campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from drawing from their own political funds for “personal use,” and legally, it was not clear whether child-care expenses associated with campaigning fell under that category. Now, whether candidates have to take on child-care costs in order to run (as Grechen Shirley did) or keep paying for child care as they already had been (as is the case with Hegar), they can cover those expenses knowing they are not running afoul of federal regulations.

Top House Lawyer Takes Center Stage in Legal Battles Against Trump
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/31/2019

U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff are the public faces of the House Democrats’ battles with Donald Trump, appearing on television regularly to harangue the president for his resistance to their investigations. But the job of fighting the president in federal court – and, lately, winning – has been left to a lesser-known figure: House General Counsel Douglas Letter. Last year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked him to take on a new and unfamiliar role as the guardian of congressional power. What Letter may not have realized when he took the job was that he would find himself in the vanguard of an unprecedented constitutional power struggle between House Democrats, who are weighing whether to impeach Trump, and a litigious president blocking congressional oversight in an unprecedented way.

Trump Fundraiser Thomas Barrack Jr. Lobbied for Saudi Nuclear Deal, New Report Alleges
USA Today – Deirdre Shesgreen | Published: 7/29/2019

The Trump administration’s move to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia took shape even before the president took office and was championed by Trump’s longtime personal friend and fundraiser, Thomas Barrack Jr., according to a new report by congressional Democrats. The report details how Barrack used his personal connections to the president and other Trump administration officials to win support for the controversial Saudi nuclear deal, at the same time he was seeking funding from the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates for a bid to purchase Westinghouse Electric Company, the only U.S. manufacturer of large-scale nuclear reactors.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona State Senator Criticized for Remarks on Immigrants, Birthrates of Hispanic Women
Arizona Republic – Kyra Haas | Published: 7/26/2019

Arizona Sen. Sylvia Allen is facing criticism following recent comments she made about immigration, white birth rates, and the “browning” of America. During a speech to Republicans, Allen said America would “look like South American countries very quickly” and warned immigrants were “flooding” the United States at a rate that did not allow for them to “learn the principles of our country.” In her comments, Allen noted declining white birth rates compared to Hispanic birth rates, saying it was an issue “because of immigration.” She referred to a “browning of America,” a term she attributed to a well-known demographer, though he is not critical of immigration in his research.

California California Insurance Commissioner Met with CEO Who Has Cases Pending Before His Department
Sacramento Bee – Hannah Wylie | Published: 7/29/2019

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, under fire for accepting campaign contributions from insurance executives and their spouses, has yet to release his office calendars in response to public requests. But Lara acknowledged he did meet with an executive whose company has multiple complaints against it in cases before his department. Lara said he met with Steven Menzies, who heads Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation agency that the department formerly settled with for “bait and switch” marketing tactics in 2017. Berkshire Hathaway is in the process of selling the company, a sale Lara must approve. Lara, who was serving as his own campaign treasurer, accepted $46,500 in donations to his 2022 reelection campaign in April from out-of-state executives with ties to the company.

California Sitting Judge Who Promoted His Candidacy for Calif. Attorney General Barred from Bench
San Francisco Chronicle – Bob Egelko | Published: 7/31/2019

The California Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Steven Bailey, the former judge who ran for state attorney general last year and then was permanently barred from returning to the bench by a state commission because he used his judicial position to promote his political campaign. Bailey, a former Superior Court judge, argued the Commission on Judicial Performance violated his freedom of speech by enforcing rules that prohibit judges from using their positions to run for non-judicial office. The commission disagreed, and the state’s high court, which has the last word on judicial discipline in California, denied review of his appeal without comment.

California Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law
Los Angeles Times – John Myers | Published: 7/30/2019

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

Florida Ethics Complaint Filed Against CFO Jimmy Patronis for Releasing Harassment Allegation
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/26/2019

An activist is asking for an investigation into Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for releasing an ethics complaint in a possible violation of state law. Emma Collum, an attorney and president of Women’s March Florida, filed the complaint with the state Commission on Ethics. Patronis sent to the media a redacted copy of a woman’s sexual harassment complaint against former Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin, along with a request for Rubin to resign. The complaint form was marked “confidential and exempt” under state law, citing a statute that requires employee complaints to remain secret until they’re investigated. Breaking it is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

Florida Modified Sentences and ‘Rocket Dockets’ Aim to Ensure Felons Can Still Register to Vote
Washington Post – Lori Rozsa | Published: 7/30/2019

Florida judges and prosecutors are working with felons and public defenders to find ways to register former inmates to vote, a process approved by voters last year that Republican legislators have made more difficult. To work around a law passed in the spring, which requires individuals to pay all fines, fees, and restitution before they can register, court officials in cities such as Miami and Tampa are modifying sentences and making plans to allow some debts to be converted to community service. In smaller towns, volunteers are holding fundraisers to pay off penalties for residents. Voting rights activists applaud these efforts are worried a patchwork of changes may confound hundreds of thousands of potential voters in the months leading up to the state’s March 17 presidential primary.

Florida Suspended Commissioner Scott Maddox to Plead Guilty to Some Charges in Public Corruption Case
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 7/31/2019

Scott Maddox, whose long political career in Tallahassee came crashing down after his indictment on public corruption charges, is expected to plead guilty to some of the counts against him. Attorneys for the suspended city commissioner and former mayor filed a notice that both he and his close friend Paige Carter-Smith will change their pleas. It is a major development in the federal government’s long-running investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee and a possible signal that Maddox and Carter-Smith are cooperating with authorities to try to get their sentences reduced. If they are cooperating, it is possible the FBI and prosecutors are using their help to build cases against other prominent politicians and businesspeople.

Hawaii The Kealoha Corruption Case Cost These Two Investigators More Than Their Jobs
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/30/2019

Honolulu Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto and Letha DeCaires, a former police officer who was working for the commission, expected a backlash from their investigation of then-Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, who was a city prosecutor. They were a politically connected power couple that had access to every level of Honolulu law enforcement. There was outside pressure from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration, and Totto and DeCairs were ousted from their jobs after their commission, which was supposed to support their review of the Kealohas, turned on them. They also faced a lawsuit that targeted them both professionally and personally.

Illinois How Will Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Ethics Rules Affect Aldermen Like Edward Burke? It’s Not Entirely Clear.
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt, John Byrne, and Juan Perez, Jr. | Published: 7/26/2019

The ethics ordinance passed by the city council recently that further restricts the outside work aldermen can do was seen as a signature win for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reform agenda. But it is not yet clear how the ordinance will play out or how the new limits on private employment will affect aldermen like Edward Burke, who has long had a lucrative sideline as a property tax attorney. One question that might need to be addressed is whether council members like Burke, whose involvement with a law firm largely prompted the provision, need to fully divest themselves of their ownership stake in their firm, or whether they could comply with the law by not working on cases that create conflicts with the city and also refrain from taking money from the firm’s work on those cases.

Illinois Politically Connected Ex-Teamsters Boss Pleads Guilty to Extorting Chicago Film Studio, Agrees to Cooperate
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/30/2019

Longtime Chicago union boss John Coli Sr. does not seem like the type to cooperate with authorities. A politically connected fixture in the Teamsters, has dodged controversy for years, from suspicious appointments to state boards to allegations of organized crime ties, often accusing his accusers of using overzealous investigative tactics. But In pleading guilty to corruption charges stemming from an extortion scheme, Coli agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in any ongoing investigations, including “complete and truthful testimony’ in any criminal or civil proceeding. Coli for years used his national position with the Teamsters to hold sway with some of the city and state’s most powerful elected officials.

Iowa Iowa Restrictions on Lawmaker-to-Lobbyist Revolving Door Praised
The Gazette – James Lynch | Published: 7/25/2019

Iowa is being praised for its restrictions to prevent former state lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office. Overall, Iowa has the best “revolving-door” policy, with a two-year cooling off period that applies to both legislative and executive officials and staff, and broadly prohibits both “lobbying activity” as well as “lobbying contacts” during the waiting period, according to an analysis of state ethics laws by Public Integrity. The restriction on the lawmaker-to-lobbyist transformation was among ethics changes the state Legislature enacted following a 1990s scandal involving the deposit of local government property tax receipts in an investment scheme known as Iowa Trust.

Minnesota Complaint: Corrections official lobbied for husband’s group on state time
Minnesota Public Radio – Briana Bierschbach, Brian Bakst, and Nina Moini | Published: 7/25/2019

A top Minnesota prison official who resigned recently had been under investigation for weeks for allegedly lobbying on behalf of her husband’s nonprofit and for leaking private, internal data, according to newly released records. The redacted investigative documents were released by the Department of Corrections after former Deputy Commissioner Sarah Walker suddenly departed from her post to seek “unique opportunities” at the local and national level. Allegations against Walker include leaking of information about a co-worker’s sexual assault by a corrections employee. Investigators were also looking into concerns that Walker lobbied privately for legislation related to her husband’s nonprofit while on state time.

Missouri Former Missouri Public Safety Director Abused State Contracting Process, Audit Says
Kansas City Star – Crystal Thomas | Published: 7/31/2019

The director of Missouri’s Department of Public Safety under former Gov. Eric Greitens abused the state’s contracting process to award an organization that he was previously affiliated with, according to a state audit. It also found Charles Juden, who served as director from the beginning of 2017 to August of last year, did not claim leave when taking personal trips to Florida to watch the Daytona 500. Before Juden became director, the Missouri Highway Patrol managed fingerprinting technology for local law enforcement agencies at no cost to the state. After he took over, the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation was selected to manage the $1.25 million technology contract, at a cost of $58,000. Prior to his appointment, Juden was the foundation’s chairperson, which the audit said posed a “conflict-o- interest.”

Missouri Northwest Plaza Owners Ask Court to Quash Subpoenas in St. Louis County Council Inquiry
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 7/31/2019

The owners of the former Northwest Plaza shopping center in St. Louis filed a lawsuit seeking to block subpoenas issued to them in an inquiry into the county’s lease for office space at their complex. Robert and P. David Glarner, who own the complex, claimed they should not be forced to defend themselves to the county council at a time when federal prosecutors are investigating whether crimes were committed in their dealings with former County Executive Steve Stenger that resulted in a 20-year lease. If the court does not quash the county subpoena outright, the Glarners claimed, it should wait until the conclusion of the federal investigation. The Glarners’ lawsuit also claims the council’s ethics committee lacked authority to compel their cooperation.

Nebraska Nebraska Lets Legislators Shift from Lawmaking to Lobbying
AP News – Grant Schulte | Published: 7/28/2019

State officials in Nebraska who want to profit off their government experience and connections after leaving office face virtually no obstacles in becoming lobbyists, unlike most other states that bar their leaders from immediately switching role. Nebraska is among seven states with no restrictions on former lawmakers, governors, or other elected officials working to influence their former colleagues, according to the analysis by Public Citizen. The result is clear during the legislative session, when on most days a dozen or so senators-turned-lobbyists gather outside the chamber, ready to talk with lawmakers about bills that could help or hurt their clients.

New Mexico Legislative Leaders Take Command of Campaign Resources
AP News – Morgan Lee | Published: 7/29/2019

New rules for funneling resources toward political races in New Mexico may provide legislative leaders and political parties with a stronger hand in influencing the outcomes of elections, as Democrats assert their control over the Legislature and key statewide elected offices. The Democratic House speaker and Republican minority leader registered specialized political committees that can command vast resources and make unlimited non-cash contributions to campaigns. The so-called “legislative caucus committees” can collect five times as much cash per donor as other New Mexico political committees.

New York A Luxury Box at Citi Field, an M.T.A. Contract and $188,000 for Cuomo
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons, J. David Goodman, and Augustin Armendarez | Published: 7/28/2019

Since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, his campaigns have received more than $3 million from Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) contractors and industry groups that represent them. New York does not limit contributions from contractors that do business with state entities. Donors with ties to the MTA, including board members, their employers, and transit unions, have given another $1.5 million. There is no evidence the MTA awarded contracts as a reward to Cuomo’s donors, but people in the industry see political contributions as important for their business.

New York Abuse Victim’s 3 Billboards Called for Stronger Laws. Then the State Showed Up.
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 7/31/2019

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating Kat Sullivan, a sexual abuse survivor, for allegedly lobbying while she was not registered. She took out a billboard ad near the Capitol urging lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act and set up a website on the issue. Sullivan believed she was using her own time and money to make her voice as an abuse survivor heard. She was shocked when JCOPE afterward told her she faced a fine of more than $40,000 if she did not register. Sullivan’s case is unusual; few unpaid advocates spend more than $5,000 on an issue, the annual threshold for registering in the state. It also illuminates a larger dilemma facing lawmakers across the country: who counts as a lobbyist in the age of social media and renewed grassroots involvement, when it is easier than ever for people to make themselves heard?

New York Potential Conflicts of Interest the Real Reason Lhota Left the MTA
Politico – Dana Rubenstein | Published: 7/30/2019

When Joe Lhota, the embattled chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, resigned last fall, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo omitted the real reason for the departure. While Cuomo and Lhota painted the resignation as a natural development in what was always intended to be a limited engagement, Lhota actually quit because the Joint Commission on Public Ethics had deemed him too burdened by potential conflicts-of-interest to continue serving as the head of the country’s biggest transit network. The cause of Lhota’s departure emerged in his resignation letter, which the governor’s office initially declined to provide under the state’s public information law.

North Carolina Bladen County Political Operative Faces New Perjury, Obstruction of Justice Charges
Raleigh News and Observer – Carli Brosseau, Josh Shaffer, Dan Kane, and Will Doran | Published: 7/30/2019

Leslie McCrae Dowless, a Republican political operative who worked for former congressional candidate Mark Harris, faces felony charges in connection with the 2018 general election in North Carolina. Dowless was previously indicted on charges related to an absentee ballot harvesting operation he allegedly ran in 2016 and during the 2018 primary. North Carolina law allows volunteers and campaign workers to collect absentee ballot request forms, but not the ballots themselves. According to the most recent indictment, Dowless directed his workers to pick up ballots and sometimes to indicate falsely with a signature that they had watched the person cast their vote.

North Carolina NC Elections Board Chairman Resigns, Apologizes Following Sexist Joke at Convention
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 7/30/2019

State Board of Elections Chairperson Bob Cordle resigned following reports about a joke he made at a conference with hundreds of elections officials from across North Carolina. Cordle told a lengthy joke about women, sex, and cows that many in the audience found inappropriate. His current tenure on the board has been short but eventful, as it faced issues involving election fraud and voting machines. The board also dismissed the elections director and replaced her.

Oklahoma Lawmaker’s Firm Reaps Payment to Help Throw Speaker’s Ball
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 7/26/2019

A company headed by a Republican House member was paid tens of thousands of dollars to help throw a lavish party in honor of Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, raising conflict-of-interest questions. An Oklahoma Ethics Commission filing shows Poligram, an event planning and management firm founded and run by state Rep. Mike Osburn, was paid $40,000 in operating expenses related to planning the 2019 Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball. The event traditionally attracts lawmakers, lobbyists, business leaders and advocates as they prepare to kick off the legislative session each year. Minority Floor Leader David Perryman said privately funded events that benefit politicians are “rife with the potential for political favor and influence.”

Pennsylvania Longest-Serving Philly Sheriff Is Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for $675K Bribery Scheme
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy | Published: 8/1/2019

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to selling his office for more than $675,000 in benefits, ranging from a secret job for his wife to a renovated and price-reduced home to hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors, who brought a sweeping indictment against Green in 2015, said he essentially had sold the office to secret benefactor James Davis, who Green rewarded with $35 million in contracts to advertise and run the office’s foreclosed property sales, often with nothing in writing. In return, Davis plied the sheriff with bribes and illegal campaign contributions.

Rhode Island Aponte Pleads No Contest to Embezzlement, Must Resign from City Council
Providence Journal – Katie Mulvaney | Published: 7/29/2019

Providence City Councilperson Luis Aponte admitted to embezzling $13,942 from his campaign account and, in doing so, agreed to resign. He must also file outstanding campaign finance reports within 60 days. Prosecutors said Aponte used the money to pay for personal expenses such as Netflix and XBox Live, iTunes, and cable bills. Councilperson David Salvatore called on his colleagues to pass an ordinance tightening ethics requirements and prohibiting indicted people from holding leadership positions. He noted that Aponte ran for reelection in 2018 while under indictment.

Texas ‘They Will Have to Resign’: Texas lawmakers allege House Speaker said he’d pull credentials from media outlet
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughy and James Barragan | Published: 8/1/2019

State lawmakers who listened to a conversation that a conservative activist secretly recorded with top GOP leadership said Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen suggested he would take floor access away from a credentialed media outlet. Reps. Jonathan Stickland, Steve Toth, and Travis Clardy said they listened to the audio of the meeting between Bonnen, House Republican Caucus Chairperson Dustin Burrows, and Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, a group that targets GOP lawmakers it deems not conservative enough. Bonnen said he could strip media credentials from Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report, and give media access to Empower Texans’ writers at its website, the lawmakers said. Sullivan had previously alleged the credentials were offered if Empower Texans agreed to target a list of 10 Republicans the speaker wanted ousted.

Wisconsin A Wisconsin Lawmaker Who’s Paralyzed Isn’t Allowed to Call into Meetings; He Says That Keeps Him from Doing His Job
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 7/29/2019

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Assembly will not allow a paralyzed Democratic lawmaker who is in a wheelchair to phone into committee meetings. Rep. Jimmy Anderson said enforcing the rule keeps him from performing his job as well as he should. He said the rule discriminates against him because he has difficulty getting to some meetings because of health reasons. “I think it’s disrespectful for someone to be asking questions over a microphone or a speakerphone when individuals are actually taking the time out of their day to come and testify in person,” Speaker Robin Vos said. Anderson said he is considering suing if Assembly leaders do not change their stance. He is researching whether he would qualify as an employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act since he is a lawmaker, not an employee.

August 7, 2020 •

Governor Allows Counties to Hold All-Mail Election in November

Hand dropping ballot

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail. If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9. Return postage will be provided. Voters […]

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail.

If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9.

Return postage will be provided.

Voters will still be able to vote in-person if they choose.

Gov. Bullock allowed counties to hold a mail-in ballot primary election in June.

Ultimately, all 56 counties used mail ballots for the primary, which had record turnout.

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August 7, 2020 •

Legislature to Return to Address Governor’s Vetoes

Mississippi Capitol

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

The Mississippi Legislature plans to reconvene its session on August 10. The legislature’s return will focus on the recent vetoes by Gov. Tate Reeves, as well as legislation concerning the Department of Marine Resources and education budgets.

The Mississippi Legislature plans to reconvene its session on August 10.

The legislature’s return will focus on the recent vetoes by Gov. Tate Reeves, as well as legislation concerning the Department of Marine Resources and education budgets.

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August 7, 2020 •

Georgia Special Election Announced to Fill Vacant Seat

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis. The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, […]

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis.

The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, if necessary.

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August 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020 Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the […]

National/Federal

As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020

Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing President Trump describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.” As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. Through mailers and Facebook ads, they are racing to promote absentee balloting among their own.

Biden Faces Pressure from Left Over Influence Industry Ties
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Glenn Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2020

Advisers, operatives, fundraisers, and allies involved with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have deep connections to Washington, D.C.’s lucrative lobbying, communications, and strategic consulting industry. That puts Biden at odds with powerful elements of his party’s liberal base. Increasingly, they are expressing concern the military contractors, Wall Street banks, and other major corporations that paid members of the former vice president’s inner circle while they were out of government could hold disproportionate power in a Biden administration. Politically, it could limit Biden’s ability to cast himself as the antidote to the access peddling that has proliferated in President Trump’s administration.

Corporate Lobbyists Vote to Keep Corporate Lobbyists in the DNC
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/5/2020

A resolution that would have changed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) charter to permanently bar corporate PAC donations and ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the party organization was rejected by the DNC’s Rules Committee. Several of the committee appointees who voted against the resolution have backgrounds in corporate lobbying. At least ten current corporate lobbyists and one major former lobbyist – as well as three corporate consultants, four corporate lawyers, and five corporate executives – were among the members who voted against the proposal. Brent Welder, who introduced the resolution, said he was approached by the Biden campaign and pressured to withdraw the measure.

Demeaned, Overlooked, Fighting Back: What it’s like to be a woman in Congress
Roll Call – Kathryn Lyons | Published: 8/5/2020

When U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark first came to Congress in 2013, someone manning the House chamber tried to stop her from setting foot inside. They did not recognize her. The second time it happened, she was not even all that new. “I was walking in with a male colleague; they just looked at us together, assumed we were a couple, and he was the congressman and that I was a spouse going onto the floor when it wasn’t permitted,” the Massachusetts Democrat recalls. Clark is one of several congresswomen The Hill spoke to in recent weeks, after a vulgar comment by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho on the Capitol steps in July touched off a new round of questions about exactly how far women have come.

DHS Compiled ‘Intelligence Reports’ on Journalists Who Published Leaked Documents
MSN – Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 7/30/2020

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis disseminated intelligence reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists, a reporter for The New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about department operations in Portland. Such reports are traditionally used for sharing the department’s analysis with federal law enforcement, state and local officials, and some foreign governments. They are not intended to disseminate information about American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment, officials said.

Facebook’s Fact Checkers Have Ruled Claims in Trump Ads Are False – But No One Is Telling Facebook’s Users
Anchorage Daily News – Craig Timberg and Andrew Ba Tran (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2020

Judgements on the veracity of President Trump’s campaign ads by fact checking organizations that are part of Facebook’s independent network for policing falsehoods on the platform were not shared with Facebook’s users. That is because the company specifically exempts politicians from its rules against deception. Ads containing the falsehoods continue to run freely on the Facebook, without any kind of warning or label. When Facebook’s fact checkers deem non-political ads false, the company removes them from its platform, though they remain in the publicly available Ad Library for research purposes. In the case of the Trump ads, the only public presentation of the factcheckers’ conclusions have been on their own websites.

FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid
KSL – Dennis Romboy | Published: 8/3/2020

Convicted businessperson Jeremy Johnson agreed to not challenge allegations he made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Johnson used straw donors to give $50,000 to Lee’s Senate campaign and $20,000 to Reid’s reelection campaign in the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to a consent judgement. The FEC, which filed a civil complaint against Johnson in 2015, fined him $840,000. But recognizing Johnson owes the federal government millions of dollars in connection with other cases and is limited in earning a living, the FEC agreed to forgo the penalty. Johnson agreed not to contest a list of allegations describing how he came to make the campaign contributions, several of which involve former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.

Fresno Congressman TJ Cox Used His Office to Skirt Yosemite’s Lottery for Car Passes, Emails Show
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 8/4/2020

U.S. Rep. TJ Cox tried to bypass Yosemite National Park’s lottery for vehicle permits over a holiday weekend, and when he was not selected, he used his office to push the National Park Service to grant him tickets, according to internal National Park Service emails. Cox requested, and eventually received, tickets for two cars to enter Yosemite on July 4. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, who heads the House Western Caucus, is asking the Department of the Interior to provide evidence that Cox was at Yosemite in an official capacity and not for personal reasons.

Full Appeals Court Agrees to Wade into Michael Flynn Case
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 7/31/2020

The entire Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court is stepping into the legal dispute over former national security adviser Michael Flynn as it weighs whether a judge can be forced to dismiss a case the U.S. Justice Department no longer wants to pursue. The action by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacates a decision from a three-judge panel that ordered the case dropped. The move also prolongs the fight over Flynn’s fate and represents one more dramatic development in a case that has taken unexpected twists and turns over the past year. The court did not offer an explanation for its decision in a brief order but did say “the parties should be prepared to address whether there are ‘no other adequate means to attain the relief’ desired.”

House Committee Subpoenas 4 Top Pompeo Aides
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/3/2020

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Eliot Engel subpoenaed four senior aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of resisting interviews in an investigation of President Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Engel issued the subpoenas to Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String, and senior adviser Toni Porter. The subpoenas are an escalation in the committee’s confrontation with the State Department, which has resisted repeated oversight attempts by the committee since Democrats’ impeachment investigation last year.

How the Trump Campaign Came to Court QAnon, the Online Conspiracy Movement Identified by the FBI as a Violent Threat
Philadelphia Inquirer – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2020

President Trump and his campaign have courted and legitimized QAnon adherents. The viral online movement, which took root on Internet message boards with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider identified as “Q,” has triggered violent acts and occasional criminal cases. Its effects were catalogued last year in an FBI intelligence bulletin listing QAnon among the “anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories” that “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.” As the worldview took shape online, its followers flocked to Trump rallies with QAnon apparel and placards. Recently, as the election has drawn closer, actions by the president and his associates have brought them more directly into the fold.

‘If Not Now, When?’: Black women seize political spotlight
Associated Press News – Claire Galofaro and Kat Stafford | Published: 8/3/2020

Black women have long been the heart of the Democratic Party, but for decades that allegiance did not translate to their own political rise. There have been no Black female governors, just two U.S. senators, and several dozen congresswomen. The people representing them instead have not met their needs: disparities in education and opportunity resulted in Black women making on average 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Now Black women are mobilized and demanding a return on their investment. Over the last several years, Black women ran and won elections in historic numbers, from Congress to county school boards. This transformation is taking place in once unlikely places, such as suburban counties in the South.

Kobach and Clay Go Down: Takeaways from a big primary night
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 8/5/2020

Republicans went into the August 4 primaries with problems lurking all over the ballot, but they ended the night thanking their voters for cleaning up a potential mess. Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas in more than 80 years, but Kris Kobach as the GOP nominee threatened to make the state an improbable toss-up. Instead, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall won the primary, giving the GOP a much more electable candidate to go up against a strong Democratic recruit. Meanwhile, Democrat Cori Bush’s primary win over U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay in St. Louis signaled the battle between the Democratic establishment and liberal outsiders has reached a new level: one in which even popular, progressive Black leaders are not immune from challenge.

Misuse of Taxpayer Funds Leads Ethics Committee to Reprimand and Fine Rep. Schweikert
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/30/2020

The House Committee on Ethics ordered that U.S. Rep. David Schweikert be fined $50,000 and reprimanded on the House floor for violating federal law and chamber rules by allowing his office to misuse taxpayer money, skirting FEC reporting requirements, using campaign money for personal use, and pressuring his staff to engage in campaign work. The ethics investigative subcommittee, which looked into Schweikert, decided to recommend a reprimand, a lesser sanction than censure, largely because he accepted responsibility and agreed to pay the fine.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Allegedly Misused More Than $90,000 in Campaign and Official Funds
Politico – John Bresnahan | Published: 7/31/2020

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia allegedly spent more than $90,000 in official funds and campaign money on personal expenses, including “fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment,” according to the Office of Congressional Ethics. (OCE). The agency said much of the total went to paying expenses at golf clubs where Bishop is a member. More than $16,000 in congressional funds were reportedly spent at annual holiday parties at one club for the staffs of Bishop and his wife, Vivian Creighton Bishop, a Georgia municipal judge. The OCE recommended the House ethics committee launch a full-scale investigation into Bishop.

Republicans Consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s Convention Speech
Washington Post – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/4/2020

Republican National Convention planners are considering the White House South Lawn as the site of President Trump’s nationally televised nomination acceptance speech. The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events. Under federal law, government employees and property are generally barred from being used for political purposes, with notable exceptions. The Hatch Act, which prevents federal officials from certain forms of political activity at work, exempts both the president and the vice president from any restrictions.

Trump’s Campaign in Crisis as Aides Attempt August Reset Before Time Runs Out
MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2020

Signs that President Trump’s reelection bid is in crisis grew steadily in recent days, one of the most tumultuous moments of a presidency increasingly operating with an air of desperation. Campaign officials pulled television ads off the air amid a late-stage review of strategy and messaging. At the same time, Trump publicly mused about delaying the November election, airing widely debunked allegations about fraud. As the campaign aims to mount a more aggressive defense of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president has reverted to touting unproven miracle cures and attacking public health officials. With Trump unable to hold traditional rallies and his central economic message no longer relevant, campaign officials are scrambling to assemble a fresh case for his candidacy on the fly.

Vaccine Project Contract Raises Transparency Questions
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 7/31/2020

The Trump administration is hiring consultants with drug industry ties to steer its effort to find a coronavirus vaccine under a contract that allows them to avoid disclosing potential conflicts-of-interest. The arrangement, which is covered through a contract for “Operation Warp Speed,” raises more questions about the transparency of the pandemic response and the roles of outside contractors, including top coronavirus vaccine adviser Moncef Slaoui, who are helping steer the government’s $10 billion development program. Democrats have raised persistent questions about why the Trump administration brought in Slaoui as a contractor and not as a special government employee, which would open him up to additional disclosures and ethics requirements.

Canada

Canada Trudeau Defends Work on Contract Now Engulfing His Government
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/30/2020

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aired regrets as he was criticized over a program that has him tangled in his third self-inflicted ethics controversy. The prime minister defended himself before a parliamentary committee over a sole-source contract his government awarded to a powerful charity with close ties to his family. The problems for Trudeau erupted after the contract was signed with WE Charity to administer a student grant program that is part of Canada’s coronavirus pandemic response. Trudeau has already been found guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws since becoming minister twice before and the latest ruckus kicked off a probe by the ethics commissioner, an investigation that encompasses his finance minister and spurred calls for his resignation.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Politician Resigns as a Southern Baptist Pastor After KKK Leader’s Birthday Celebration
Washington Post – Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Published: 7/30/2020

Alabama Rep. Will Dismukes said he has no plans to resign from his legislative seat amid national calls for him to step down after he attended a private celebration of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He did resign from his job as a Southern Baptist pastor of a rural church. The national uproar began after Dismukes posted on Facebook he took part in a celebration of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest the same weekend as ceremonies honoring the life of civil rights leader and member of Congress John Lewis in Alabama. Lewis led protesters in a 1965 March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

California Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K
gvwire.com – David Taub | Published: 8/4/2020

The days of unlimited campaign contributions for candidates running for Fresno County offices are over. The board of supervisors approved a limit of $30,000 per election cycle. The cap not only applies to individual donors but also to PACs. State legislators last year passed Assembly Bill 571, requiring counties and cities to set political contribution limits if none had been there before. If a jurisdiction fails to set limits by the January 1 deadline, maximum contributions revert to the caps for state legislative candidates of $4,700 in an election cycle.

California Charges Added to LA City Councilman in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 7/30/2020

A federal grand jury added 34 additional criminal charges against Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing corruption probe into a massive “pay-to-play” developer scheme. Huizar was arrested and charged in June with federal racketeering according to a criminal complaint that detailed bribes paid to the council member for favorable votes on committees he sat on that would allow for developer projects to be built in his district. Cash bribes were delivered to Huizar in liquor boxes, while $800,000 from an unnamed wealthy developer was used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for Huizar with a former aide in his council office.

Florida Ethics Referendum on Ballot in Naples Could Create New Ethics Commission, Office
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carloni | Published: 8/4/2020

Voters in the city of Naples, Florida, will decide on possible changes to the city’s ethics procedure. A referendum on the August ballot allows voters to say yes or no to amending the city charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for the city’s ethics code. The current code has weaknesses, said Councilperson Ray Christman. “The city doesn’t even have a designated chief ethics officer,” Christman said. “There’s nobody in the city designated on point and responsible for fielding ethics complaints.”

Florida Florida Commission on Ethics Lifts NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Off the Hook
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/29/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause” to believe National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer did not adhere to state lobbyist registration requirements, and it also dismissed a second allegation that she failed to properly file lobbyist compensation reports. The decision marks the second time Hammer has been cleared of wrongdoing despite failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to her from the NRA dating to at least 2007 on quarterly lobbyist compensation reports required by the Legislature.

Hawaii Alleged Oahu Crime Boss’ Nightclub Was a Popular Place for Political Fundraisers
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Nick Grube | Published: 7/30/2020

For years, the M Nightclub, owned and operated in Honolulu by alleged organized crime boss Michael Miske, was known as a den of debauchery and violence. A recent indictment that accuses Miske and his associates of a series of crimes, including murder, murder-for-hire, armed robbery, and the deployment of potentially deadly pesticides on their dance club patrons, only adds to the reputation. Yet in recent years, before the nightclub was closed down, records show some of Hawaii’s most recognizable politicians – including Gov. David Ige, state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, and former Honolulu City Councilperson Trevor Ozawa – used the club to hold lucrative political fundraisers.

Idaho Supreme Court Halts Idaho Online Signatures for Initiative
Jacksonville Journal Courier – Keith Ridler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/30/2020

The U.S Supreme Court ruled an Idaho group must stop collecting online signatures for an education funding initiative for the November ballot. The court ruled in favor of Gov. Brad Little’s request that a District Court’s order allowing online signatures be stayed until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a ruling. Arguments before that court are scheduled for the middle of August in the expedited case. Reclaim Idaho had argued Little’s statewide stay-at-home order in March because of the pandemic did not include exceptions for ballot initiative signature-gathering. Idaho does not allow online signatures for ballot initiatives. The state has argued in court documents that it undermines the election process.

Illinois ComEd Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Bribery Case; Prosecution to Be Deferred for Three Years
Chicago Tribune – Megan Crispeau and Jason Meisner | Published: 8/5/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) pleaded not guilty to an expansive federal bribery charge during what will likely be its final court hearing until 2023. The plea was a formality since the company has entered an agreement to defer prosecution. ComEd will pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate in the ongoing probe of its lobbying practices in Springfield in exchange for the charges being dropped at the end of the agreement period. But while the charges against ComEd will likely sink into the background after the arraignment, the case is far from over. In announcing the case, U.S. Attorney John Lausch said the investigation is “vibrant, and it will continue.”

Louisiana Judges Disqualify Brian Pope from Running for Lafayette City Marshal
New Orleans Advocate – Kate Gagliano | Published: 8/4/2020

Two judges disqualified suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope from running for re-election. In one hearing, the Louisiana Board of Ethics argued Pope signed an affidavit when he filed his candidacy form and attested that he did not have any outstanding fines owed to the board. The ethics agency said he currently owes $5,000 in fines and late fees and had been mailed several notice letters about the outstanding balances. In the second hearing, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Landry argued Pope is not qualified to run for re-election because he is barred from registering to vote due to his felony convictions. Status as a registered voter is required to qualify as a candidate. Pope was suspended without pay in 2018 when he was convicted of several felony counts of malfeasance.

Maryland Judge Sentences Former Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn to 2 Years, Says She ‘Sold Her Office to Pay the Bills’
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/30/2020

Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn was sentenced to two years in prison for taking bribes for legislative favors. The grand jury indictment of Glenn said she accepted five bribes during an 11-month period in 2018 and 2019 to introduce legislation favorable to people and groups giving her the money. She took $5,000 to commit to legislation that would help a business seeking a medical marijuana license, according to prosecutors. Glenn accepted another $5,000 to file a bill to lower the number of years of experience required for a medical director of an opioid clinic. Prosecutors said Glenn actively sought these payments, including telling an associate about her outstanding tax debt as a hint that someone should pay it if they wanted her help.

Michigan Ex-Chamber Attorney Challenges Mystery Funding of Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Power
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/3/2020

An attorney who spent decades advising the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is challenging a nonprofit’s use of money from undisclosed sources to back the campaign to limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers. Bob LaBrant, who helped write some of the state’s campaign finance laws, argues the Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, a group tied to Republican consultants, should have to file its own fundraising disclosures after making a series of contributions to the Unlock Michigan petition drive. Unlock Michigan is the effort to repeal a 1945 law that allows a governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without the Legislature’s input.

Michigan Michigan Senator Sponsors Bills to Help Pawn Shops, Which Support His Campaigns
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 7/30/2020

No Michigan lawmaker has sponsored more bills helpful to the pawn shop industry than state Sen. Peter Lucido. And no Michigan lawmaker has collected more campaign cash from pawn brokers, who are not ranked among the state’s major political donors than Lucido, who is now running for Macomb County prosecutor. Lucido, who in 2018 got pawn brokers what he said was their first rate increase in 100 years and this year is working on getting them a second one amid near-record unemployment resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, said there is no quid pro, only mutual respect.

Minnesota New Appointments Relieve Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Hamstrung by Vacancies
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 7/31/2020

Gov. Tim Walz named four new members to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, filling vacancies that threatened to paralyze the agency’s watchdog work in an election year. The six-member board, which investigates and responds to potential violations of state campaign finance law, was down to just two active members in July after several appointments expired without action by the governor and state legislators. Without a quorum of four members, the board was unable to meet, authorize investigations into complaints, or vote on fines and other enforcement actions, Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said.

Missouri Parson PAC Fined for Reporting Lapses Connected to Super Bowl, D.C. Trips
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 8/3/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission fined a PAC supporting Gov. Mike Parson $2,000 for reporting lapses connected to a pair of flights for the governor the group chartered. The commission said there was probable cause to believe the Uniting Missouri PAC violated state ethics laws by “failing to report the fair market value of two flights within forty-eight hours of receiving the contributions.” Uniting Missouri will only have to pay $200 if the commission does not uncover any other violations within the next two years.

Nevada Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Mail-In Election Bill
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Rory Appelton | Published: 8/4/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske over changes to the state’s general election plan passed by the Legislature. The lawsuit alleges several provisions of Assembly Bill 4, “lack clear standards to guide the actions of county and city officials administering certain parts of Nevada’s elections.” It includes many of the Republican attacks leveled against enhanced voting by mail and the collection of another’s ballot with permission of the voter, commonly referred to as ballot harvesting. Specifically, the Republicans allege compromised election integrity and increased risk of fraud.

New York Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry
MSN – David Enrich, Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2020

The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, seeking financial records he and his company provided to the bank. The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Trump. But in a recent court filing, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

Ohio Coal Giant Murray Energy Is $100K Dark Money Donor ‘Company B’ in Federal Probe
MSN – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) and Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/31/2020

Coal company and House Bill 6 supporter Murray Energy provided $100,000 in “dark money” involved in the alleged racketeering and bribery scheme that ensnared former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others. The criminal complaint states “Dark Money Group 1,” previously identified by The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer as the for-profit company Hardworking Ohioans Inc., spent nearly $1.5 million to support Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. A bankruptcy filing by Murray Energy shows the company gave $100,000 to Hardworking Ohioans amid its flurry of media buys backing Householder-blessed candidates as he angled to be elected speaker.

Ohio Meet ‘Representative 3,’ Who Benefited from Larry Householder’s Cover Campaign
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/30/2020

Following passage of Ohio House Bill 6, a group of lawmakers gathered to celebrate with Speaker Larry Householder. Among the celebrants, according to a federal criminal complaint, was “Representative 3,” whom The Columbus Dispatch has identified as state Rep. Jamie Callender of Lake County. He was one of the measure’s two sponsors. Before the vote, a media campaign financed by “dark money” urged voters to contact their representatives and tell them to support the $1 billion bailout of two nuclear plants. Callender’s district includes the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. A complaint by Secretary of State Frank LaRose accuses “Representative 3” of accepting corporate contributions and failing to deposit the money.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Backing Bipartisan Legislative Push Cracking Down on ‘Dark Money’ in Ohio Following Corruption Scandal
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/3/2020

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is joining a bipartisan call to crack down on anonymous political spending in the state, in the aftermath of the recent arrest of former House Speaker Larry Householder. A proposal by some lawmakers would require mandatory donor disclosures for all political spending in Ohio, even if a group is organized as a non-profit, which under federal law do not have to disclose their donors. They also want to require more frequent disclosures – once every other month, instead of the common practice of quarterly reports – and to give the secretary of state’s office subpoena power to force organizations to share records if they do not file them willingly.

Oregon How a Public Institute in Oregon Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry
ProPublica – Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (OPB) | Published: 8/4/2020

A media investigation found the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, created in the 1990s to educate residents about forestry, has acted as a public-relations agency and lobbying arm for the timber industry, in some cases skirting legal constraints that forbid it from doing so. The timber industry has maintained outsized influence in the state, thwarting attempts to restrict logging with the help of a decades-long public opinion campaign. Through the institute, the timber industry executed that campaign from behind the veneer of the state government.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Unlikely to Appeal Overturned $200 Violation Against Supreme Court Justice
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 7/29/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is keeping its legal options open after a judge overturned a $200 ethics violation against a state Supreme Court justice, but Executive Director Jason Gramitt said an appeal for further review is unlikely. Superior Court Judge Brian Stern vacated the commission’s ruling against Associate Justice Francis Flaherty. The violation stemmed from a 2016 complaint accusing Flaherty of repeatedly failing to disclose his leadership position in a Catholic nonprofit while also ruling on a priest abuse case. Gramitt described the decision as “narrow and limited,” meaning it would be more challenging to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal.

Tennessee Tennessee State Senator Charged with Stealing Federal Funds
Associated Press News – Adrian Sainz | Published: 7/30/2020

Tennessee Sen. Katrina Robinson was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds received by a health care company she directed and using the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses. Robinson is director of The Healthcare Institute, which provides training for jobs in the health care field. The school received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2015 through 2019, Robinson stole more than $600,000 and used it to pay for her wedding and honeymoon, a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, travel and entertainment for her family, and an event for her state Senate campaign, prosecutors said.

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August 6, 2020 •

Lawmakers Introduce The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act Bill to Amend Campaign Finance Law

Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Lawmakers have introduced identical House and Senate bills to increase transparency in corporate campaign contributions. House Bill 0739 and Senate Bill 0349, named the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, require 501(c)(4)s and limited liability companies to disclose contributions and expenditures made […]

Ohio Lawmakers have introduced identical House and Senate bills to increase transparency in corporate campaign contributions.

House Bill 0739 and Senate Bill 0349, named the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, require 501(c)(4)s and limited liability companies to disclose contributions and expenditures made to influence elections.

The bills eliminate the category of continuing association and expand the definition of “political contributing entity” to include partnerships and unincorporated business organizations or associations.

The bills also require political contributing entities to disclose the name of each officer, director, principal shareholder, partner, owner, or member of the corporation or unincorporated business.

In an effort to strengthen restrictions against foreign interests influencing Ohio elections, the bills also expand the definition of “foreign national.”

The definition will now include a corporation that is owned twenty percent or more by persons or entities from outside of the United States and a corporation that is owned five percent or more by any one person or entity from outside of the United States.

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August 6, 2020 •

Nevada Special Session Ends After Passing COVID-19 Liability Bill

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

The 32nd Special Legislative Session adjourned shortly after midnight and the final bills have gone to Gov. Steve Sisolak for his signature. Lawmakers wrapped up the state’s latest special session with a deeply divisive amendment. This amendment cuts schools and […]

The 32nd Special Legislative Session adjourned shortly after midnight and the final bills have gone to Gov. Steve Sisolak for his signature.

Lawmakers wrapped up the state’s latest special session with a deeply divisive amendment.

This amendment cuts schools and hospitals out of a bill to protect business owners from coronavirus related employee lawsuits.

Other issues were also addressed such as police reform, voting rights, more flexibility with Nevada’s unemployment benefits, alternative dispute resolution for rental evictions and a dire budget shortfall as a result of the pandemic.

Legislators appropriated $410,000 from the general fund to pay for the six day session.

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August 6, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid” by Dennis Romboy for KSL California: “Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K” by David Taub for gvwire.com Michigan: “Ex-Chamber […]

Campaign Finance

National: “FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid” by Dennis Romboy for KSL

California: “Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K” by David Taub for gvwire.com

Michigan: “Ex-Chamber Attorney Challenges Mystery Funding of Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Power” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News

Ohio: “Secretary of State Frank LaRose Backing Bipartisan Legislative Push Cracking Down on ‘Dark Money’ in Ohio Following Corruption Scandal” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Elections

National: “Kobach and Clay Go Down: Takeaways from a big primary night” by Steven Shepard for Politico

National: “Republicans Consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s Convention Speech” by Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

Nevada: “Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Mail-In Election Bill” by Rory Appelton for Las Vegas Review-Journal

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Fact Checkers Have Ruled Claims in Trump Ads Are False – But No One Is Telling Facebook’s Users” by Craig Timberg and Andrew Ba Tran for Washington Post

National: “Demeaned, Overlooked, Fighting Back: What it’s like to be a woman in Congress” by Kathryn Lyons for Roll Call

Illinois: “ComEd Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Bribery Case; Prosecution to Be Deferred for Three Years” by Megan Crispeau and Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

Lobbying

Oregon: “How a Public Institute in Oregon Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry” by Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (OPB) for ProPublica

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August 5, 2020 •

Idaho Governor to Call Special Session Amid Pandemic

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Gov. Brad Little stated Wednesday he will call the part-time Legislature back into a special session during the week of August 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The special session could include how to conduct the November general election amid […]

Gov. Brad Little stated Wednesday he will call the part-time Legislature back into a special session during the week of August 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The special session could include how to conduct the November general election amid the pandemic.

Also a topic of discussion is legislation creating a liability shield for protection against lawsuits during declared emergencies such as the pandemic.

How a special session would work during the pandemic and how much it would cost is unclear.

Lawmakers would have to be in the Statehouse in Boise for their votes to count.

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