August 2, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 2, 2019

News You Can Use


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.

October 28, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Elections National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” […]

Campaign Finance

Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN


National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” by Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension” by Mark Berman (Washington Post) for MSN

Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline” by Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico


National: “Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case” by Kyle Cheney for Politico

Colorado: “Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law” by Jeffrey Roberts for Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Tennessee: “Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover” by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean


New Hampshire: “Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line” by Josie Albertson-Grove for Manchester Union-Leader


Arizona: “Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List” by Bob Christie for Associated Press News

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October 27, 2020 •

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act Introduced to Amend FARA

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol - by Martin Falbisoner

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents. The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical […]

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents.

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical bills in both houses of Congress by Rep. Mike Gallagher and Sen. Tom Cotton, would repeal the exemption from registration for persons, acting as agents of a covered Chinese business organization, providing private and nonpolitical representation of trade and commercial interests.

House Bill 8663 and Senate Bill 4843 would also remove the exemption for persons filing disclosure reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 in connection with the representation of business organizations organized under the laws of, or having their principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China. The bill defines a covered Chinese business organization as an entity designated by the Attorney General as subject to the extrajudicial direction of the Chinese Communist Party or an entity organized under the laws of, or having its principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China (including any subsidiary or affiliate of such an entity).

The legislation would become effective 180 days after enactment.

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October 27, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic

Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” by Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN

Oregon: “Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign” by Rebecca Ellis for OPB


National: “Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads” by Mark Scott for Politico

California: “Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App” by Katy Murphy for Politico


Illinois: “Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say” by Tom Schuba for Chicago Sun-Times


National: “How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’” by Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

National: “Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico

Wyoming: “Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors” by Staff for Associated Press News

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October 26, 2020 •

American Samoa Governor Calls Additional Special Session

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget. The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 […]

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget.

The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 million in drastic cuts made by the Fono to the budgets for executive branch departments.

The Fono leaders had told the governor in an October 13th letter they are not confident with governor’s revenue projections.

They further urged the governor to act on the final fiscal year 2021 budget bill now in his control.

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October 26, 2020 •

Missouri’s Second Special Session Set for November 5

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly. The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state. This session is the second special session Parson has called this year. […]

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly.

The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state.

This session is the second special session Parson has called this year.

The session does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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October 26, 2020 •

Ohio Lobbyists Must Pay 2021 Registration Fees Electronically

Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees. The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019. […]

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees.

The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019.

Registrations fees for 2021 must be paid electronically by VISA, MasterCard, or ACH.

Lobbyists may begin renewing registrations for legislative, executive, and retirement system engagements in OLAC on December 1.

The renewal option closes January 15, 2021.

Any lobbyist who does not complete the renewal process by January 15 must file a new initial registration statement.

The registration statement requires a signature page.

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October 26, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune Elections National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested […]

Campaign Finance

California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune


National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote” by Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman for ABC News

National: “International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever” by Carol Morello for Washington Post

Alabama: “Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Pennsylvania: “Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says” by Marc Levy for Associated Press News


Connecticut: “FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up” by Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) for Connecticut Mirror


National: “COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Illinois: “Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall” by Heather Cherone for WTTW

Oregon: “Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape” by Chris May for Street Roots

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October 23, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 23, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020 A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a […]


Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020

A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a swift ruling in the legal battle over access to President Trump’s financial records The panel previously upheld the subpoena brought by the House but considered the case for the second time after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reevaluate the House’s subpoena power. Democrats had hoped to have Trump’s past financial statements for campaign leverage. For Judge David Tatel, however, the more prudent move would be to wait until after the next Congress convenes on January 3. The case is one of several ongoing legal battles over the president’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.

Ex-Interior Official Violated Trump Ethics Pledge by Meeting with Former Associates: Watchdog
The Hill – Rebecca Bietsch | Published: 10/21/2020

A former top Interior Department political appointee violated his ethics pledge by taking a meeting with an organization he previously volunteered for, according to a report from the department’s watchdog. Sources said the employee in question is Todd Wynn, the former head of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Wynn, now a lobbyist for a major Arizona utility, took a meeting with Rich Lindsey, an energy committee policy consultant from the Council of State Governments. Wynn previously was on the board of trustees for the Council of State Governments 21st Century Foundation.

Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge
Miami Herald – Ben Wieder | Published: 10/20/2020

Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, at the time, the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has agreed to forfeit $6.6 million he was paid for his work. The charge is related to his efforts to arrange meetings with top American officials to help quash a U.S. investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian embezzlement scheme and to push for the deportation of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Broidy agreed he acted as a foreign agent in his efforts.

Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 10/15/2020

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the House of Representatives’ attempt to enforce a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn but cautioned the case could go unresolved once this Congress’s term ends in January. The appeals court said it will revisit a three-judge panel decision to dismiss the House lawsuit, which came after the White House claimed key presidential aides are “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony to Congress. The panel found Congress has not passed a law expressly authorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.

How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller | Published: 10/20/2020

Some campaign aides for President Trump privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising, even though Trump’s political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy.

Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/15/2020

Lobbyists are preparing for the difficulty of virtually getting to know newly elected members of Congress when they come to Washington, D.C. for orientation in November. A victory by Joe Biden would make that task even harder given the influx of new aides and administration officials. In all, lobbyists could find themselves navigating the challenges of trying to meet new leadership, committee, agency, and administration staffers in a pandemic without in-person meetings or the fundraisers that typically populate K Street’s calendar shortly after a general election.

On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act
Bloomberg Law – Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff | Published: 10/14/2020

Under President Trump, allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, which clamps down on political activities of government employees while they are on the job, have come at a rate not seen in previous administrations, but there have been few consequences. Two agencies have a role in enforcing Hatch Act violations: the Justice Department, which handles criminal cases, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which takes on civil violations. But while the OSC sometimes makes Hatch Act findings, the Justice Department rarely does, said David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 10/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states. The court’s announcement teed up oral arguments in the case for November 30, an accelerated timeline that paves the way for a potential decision before the Census Bureau is set to deliver the population counts to Trump’s desk at the end of the year. In July, Trump issued a memorandum in July, asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment, the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years.

The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 10/20/2020

While Joe Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. As the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential bundlers. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months, about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time.

Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig | Published: 10/20/2020

President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there. But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. It turns out China is one of only three foreign nations where Trump maintains a bank account. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/15/2020

Twitter changed a rule about hacked materials that resulted in blocking a controversial New York Post story about the alleged emails of Joe Biden’s son. The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information. Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving “feedback” that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, Twitter will remove content only if it is directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.

U.S. Government Concludes Iran Was Behind Threatening Emails Sent to Democrats
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. officials accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election. The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump
MSN – Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2020

The intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent. When national security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation, Trump dismissed concern about Giuliani’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”


Canada Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds
CBC – Tara Carman | Published: 10/21/2020

A ban on union and corporate donations to British Columbia political parties and a cap on the amount individuals can give has hurt the provincial Liberals the most, a CBC News analysis found. The ban was introduced by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in November 2017. Even though British Columbia’s two largest parties both used to accept tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed donors – unions in the case of the NDP and businesses in the case of the Liberals, for the most part – the Liberals were more dependent on those contributions. Donations of $250 or less collectively form the biggest piece of the donation pie for all three parties. This was also true before the rule change, but the limits have made those types of contributions more important.

Canada Lobbyists Must Now Report Their Activities
Whitehorse Daily Star – Gabrielle Plonka | Published: 10/21/2020

Lobbyists are now required to report their activities in the Yukon Territory with the implementation of the Lobbyist Registration Act. Lobbyists are responsible for registering and entering their information online. A 90-day grace period from October 15 is in effect, to allow for lobbyists to learn and adhere to the new reporting requirements. All lobbyists must register by January 13, 2021. David Jones, the Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the Lobbyist Registry.

Canada Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case
CTV – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/15/2020

A new court ruling means the federal lobbying commissioner will not be taking a fresh look at whether the Aga Khan broke rules by giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal in the matter from Democracy Watch. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

California City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband
Patch – City News Service | Published: 10/21/2020

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $7,500 against Lorena Saucillo, a former city clerk who sent people’s credit card information to her incarcerated husband. On two occasions, Saucillo recorded credit card information provided by landlords who were paying city fees. Using her city email address, Lorena sent the credit card information to a personal email account accessible to her husband, whom she knew was intending to use the information for fraudulent purposes, the commission said.

California Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism
Los Angeles Times – Ben Brazil | Published: 10/20/2020

An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents. Some have called Irvine Community News & Views biased in favor of Larry Agran, the longstanding local politician who helped get the newspaper started. Agran said in an interview that the newspaper, which claims a circulation of 66,500, is legitimate and just like any other. Agran credited publisher and friend Frank Lunding with starting and running the paper. “I have written for it. I am proud of it. I help Frank wherever I can. I help recruit writers for him,” Agran said.

California Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures
San Diego Union Tribune – John Wilkens | Published: 10/18/2020

Election workers eyeballing the signatures of San Diego County voters are at the heart of a screening process that happens before mail ballots for the November 3 election are counted. Workers compare scanned images of voters’ return-envelope signatures with samples already on file at the county Registrar of Voters. It is how they verify the person returning a ballot is the person it was sent to, a safeguard against fraud. Exact matches are not required. Instead, the workers are checking similarities  in characteristics such as the slant of the letters, the spacing between the first and last names, and how the “I’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.

California Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty
San Jose Mercury News – Robert Salonga | Published: 10/19/2020

Former AS Solution security manager Martin Nielsen, the primary witness who implicated a sheriff’s captain and three others in an alleged bribery scheme to trade political donations supporting Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith for concealed-carry weapons permits, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for his role in the ploy. According to the indictment, Nielsen and two others conspired with the four main defendants to obtain up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits from the sheriff’s office in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith.

Colorado Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba | Published: 10/20/2020

In 2019, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold saw a tweet falsely claiming her state’s election system had been hacked. The flare-up was another reminder of how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election. To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos, and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado’s elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.

Florida Appeals Court Rejects NRA Lobbyist’s Case Over Graphic Parkland Massacre Emails
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/21/2020

A full federal appeals court rejected a request by National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer asked for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds. The request came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle and a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled against Hammer, who alleged Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida In Last-Minute Push, DeSantis Administration Urges Florida Election Officials to Remove Felons Who Owe Fines from Voting Rolls
Washington Post – Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa | Published: 10/20/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection. In a notice sent to local election officials, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day. A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

Florida Orlando Airport Leaders Will Review Their Lobbying Rules Following Sentinel Report
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/21/2020

The agency that runs Orlando International Airport will reexamine its lobbying rules after The Orlando Sentinel reported that a prominent lobbyist broke those rules over the summer but did not face any consequences. Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, called four board members in July on behalf of a client. The rules require lobbyists to report their contacts with board members within one week. Brodeur did not disclose her calls until nearly three months later.

Illinois Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2020

Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanged emails with lobbyist and Flossmoor Trustee Gyata Kimmons months after a law took effect banning elected public officials from lobbying Chicago City Hall. Kimmons emailed Lightfoot on behalf of a real estate company with tenants at O’Hare International Airport. The back-and-forth occurred after Lightfoot introduced a proposal that would have rolled back part of the ordinance that prohibited elected officials such as Kimmons from lobbying city officials while keeping his elected post. Alderman rejected Lightfoot’s plan but while it was pending, Kimmons continued to lobby the city. During that time, the Chicago Board of Ethics declined to enforce the restrictions against lobbying by elected officials on the grounds that if Lightfoot’s proposal passed, it would nullify them.

Illinois Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner
Chicago Tribune – Robert McCoppin | Published: 10/15/2020

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, who is a former Illinois cannabis regulator, said she is part owner of a company that is applying for cannabis licenses and she was paid to write the applications. The state’s “revolving door” law, meant to keep state workers from immediately switching from regulating an industry to participating in it, prohibits any regulatory worker from accepting compensation from any entity which that person “substantially” regulated, within one year of their state employment. Effective next year, the law will prohibit any state workers who participated substantially in awarding cannabis licenses from holding ownership in any cannabis license for two years after they leave their state jobs. Degnen said she was out of her state job for two years before she joined AmeriCanna Dream late last year.

Illinois Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/18/2020

The Illinois Democratic Party has been deluging potential voters in the general election with campaign mailers taking aim at Republican state Rep. Bradley Stephens for taking donations from one of the new bogeymen of Illinois politics: the red-light camera industry. But records also reveal House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs the state Democratic Party and has been bankrolling the campaign of Stephens’ opponent, has accepted generous campaign checks from red-light camera companies and people affiliated with them for many years. Madigan’s campaign funds have also accepted donations from officials tied to SafeSpeed, which has been swept up in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Kansas Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 10/19/2020

When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official, the mayor said he noticed the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him. The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty was arrested on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide.

Kentucky Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 10/14/2020

Dozens of Kentucky counties are failing to fully follow a law requiring financial disclosure by officials and having local boards to handle ethics issues, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office. Harmon said his office surveyed counties on the issue because it has referred findings about potential problems to county ethics boards, only to find there was no active board. In addition to violating the law, the widespread county shortcomings could undermine confidence in government, Harmon said.

Maryland Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 10/15/2020

State lawmakers issued subpoenas for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), to appear before a committee investigating McGrath’s six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency. McGrath left his position as Hogan’s top aide four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the MES. It was also reported The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for travel, meetings, and meals after he left the agency.

Michigan Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser | Published: 10/17/2020

A state appeals court in Michigan moved up the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots, reimposing a cutoff favored by Republicans during a continuing surge in early and mail-in voting around the country. A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country. Voters in the state now must return their mail-in ballots by eight p.m. on November 3.

Montana Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Perrin Stein | Published: 10/19/2020

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is running for governor against U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, failed to properly report in-kind contributions from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and also accepted donations beyond the state limit from the group. The Cooney campaign and the DGA worked on a statewide advertising campaign criticizing Gianforte for his alleged support of a sales tax. Mangan said the Cooney campaign failed to disclose the costs associated with a website that was a component of the advertising campaign as an in-kind contribution from the DGA.

New Mexico NM Investment Scandal Winds Down
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 10/17/2020

The New Mexico Supreme Court effectively closed the books on state investment scandals involving “pay-to-play” schemes beginning in 2004 that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that went south. The court upheld earlier rulings that rejected a challenge to a $24.5 million settlement reached between lawyers for the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and State Investment Council with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors. The state lost more than $100 million on its Vanderbilt investments, and the settlement had been challenged as inadequate by Frank Foy, former chief investment officer at the ERB.

North Carolina Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided federal appeals court denied an attempt by Republicans to block an agreement by North Carolina officials allowing absentee ballots in the November election to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later. North Caolina typically counts absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after the election, but the State Board of Elections agreed to extend that window to nine days due to the increased ballot requests related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well concerns about mail delays due to recent Postal Service changes.

Ohio Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges
Associated Press News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 10/17/2020

Ohio Rep. Larry Householder is likely to win reelection this year despite being indicted on racketeering charges in the alleged bribery scheme to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants. House members considered removing Householder from the chamber immediately but, if they did so before November 3, voters would be able to reelect him and a lawmaker cannot be expelled twice. The only option now for both parties is to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider expelling or impeaching him. If reelected, Householder would be automatically removed from office if he is convicted as state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or bribery charges from holding public office.

Ohio Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says
Athens News – Ben Peters | Published: 10/16/2020

Neil Clark, a longtime Columbus lobbyist who was indicted in a corruption probe, said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is “Representative 8” in the federal affidavit connected to the House Bill 6 scandal. Clark said he, Edwards, then-House Speaker Larry Householder, an aide, and two clients – who Clark reportedly believed to be working undercover with the FBI – met in September 2019 at the Aubergine Club, where they discussed the importance of defeating the ballot initiative campaign that aimed to repeal House Bill 6. Edwards, who served as majority whip, said he does not recall attending the meeting, but he never explicitly denied it occurred.

Oregon Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/15/2020

Oregon voters who go online to search for information about the election are likely to find a website called the “2020 Oregon voter guide” at the top of their search results. Thanks to paid search engine ads, that website shows up before the state’s official voters’ guide. It looks neutral and informational, but it endorses only Democrats and urges a “yes” vote on all four statewide ballot measures. Campaign finance data shows at least one candidate and some state and local ballot measures endorsed by the guide are paying the PAC that produced it. That information is not listed on the website, nor on political mailers.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 10/19/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well. The justices’ order establishes the ground rules for mail-in voting in one of the nation’s key battleground states. The ruling could have an impact in other states where the deadline for mail-in ballots has been the subject of court battles. Those include Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, and Montana.

Rhode Island What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case
MSN – Kate Mulvaney (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/19/2020

Final written arguments were submitted in the trial of Jeremy Britt, a campaign operative for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The arguments did not focus solely on Britt’s guilt or innocence on the most serious charge he faces – allegedly funneling money through a once-rival Republican’s campaign to hide his own role in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello. At the judge’s request, they also addressed the significance of the punctuation in the state’s money-laundering law. More specifically, whether placement of commas and semicolons should determine Britt’s fate.

Wyoming Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 10/20/2020

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office ordered a pro-gun lobbying organization to reveal its donors after a summer in which the group flooded Wyoming with dozens of ads disparaging a number of sitting lawmakers in competitive races. The office said Wyoming Gun Owners failed to comply with state campaign finance law by not reporting the electioneering communications. The gun owners group now has until November 4 to release the names of its donors or face a $500 fine. If the group refuses to comply, the case will then go to the state attorney general.

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