August 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020

When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to purge their influence from his future administration. Joe Biden does not appear to have the same concerns. The DNC started accepting checks from lobbyists again in 2016 and has continued to do so as Biden accepted the Democratic nomination. While the Biden campaign has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, it has dispatched top staffers to headline at least four Zoom fundraisers benefiting the DNC and hosted by prominent Democratic lobbyists.

‘Climate Donors’ Flock to Biden to Counter Trump’s Fossil Fuel Money
New York Times – Lisa Friedman | Published: 8/18/2020

The changing climate is now a core campaign issue and a focus for fundraising. Joe Biden has raised more than $15 million in contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause. That climate-specific fundraising may make up about five percent of the total he has raised so far. It is dwarfed by fossil fuel donations to President Trump, who took in $10 million from a single fundraiser held by oil billionaire Kelcy Warren. It is not known how much unregulated money is going to super PACs aligned with Democrats from other self-identified climate donors. But the hard money climate donations represent a growing counterweight to oil, gas, and coal money that has long warped the energy conversation in Washington. D.C.

Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl
NBC News – Ginger Gibson | Published: 8/17/2020

The absence of in-person nominating conventions this year means lobbyists have been effectively sidelined. Washington, D.C. lobbying has been turned upside because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventions are no exception, leaving the influence industry to assess how it will operate when life returns to normal. Much of the work of lobbying generally involves making the trek up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to explain a client’s point of view. But with the halls of Congress closed, meetings have shifted to Zoom calls. So, with this year’s conventions, lobbyists will be grappling not only with the inability to secure face time with decision makers but also with corporate clients trying to survive the pandemic-induced recession.

Democrats, Election Watchdogs See ‘Glaring Hole’ in Postal Service Pledge to Roll Back Recent Changes
Washington Post – Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, and Jacob Bogage | Published: 8/19/2020

The U.S. Postal Service will pause its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election. The about-face announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halted a series of cost-cutting measures, including the removal of machines that sort mail and the public boxes that collect it. But confusion persisted after the move. It is unclear whether Americans would receive their ballots on time, or if they would be able to return them easily. Nor was it clear whether DeJoy would promptly restore the sorting machines he had ordered removed from some postal facilities, or if the changes he has made across the agency under the watch of President Trump would introduce delays into one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history.

Ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged in Border Wall Scheme
Associated Press News – Larry Neumeister, Colleen Long, and Jill Colvin | Published: 8/20/2020

Federal prosecutors arrested Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and three other men they alleged defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors using a crowdfunding campaign that was advertised as raising money to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. But according to the criminal charges, very little of the wall was constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.

FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Lawmaker, Family in Corruption Probe
Associated Press News – Danica Coto | Published: 8/17/2020

FBI agents arrested Puerto Rico Rep. María Milagros Charbonier after the legislator who once presided over the island’s House Ethics Committee was charged in a public corruption case that officials say also involved her son, husband, and an assistant. U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said it was a simple scheme in which Charbonier allegedly received some $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks after increasing the pay of her assistant, Frances Acevedo, from $800 every two weeks to nearly $3,000, and then received between $1,000 to $1,500 in return for every paycheck.

Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say
CNN – Marshall Cohen | Published: 8/12/2020

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict-of-interest. Outside experts were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings. DeJoy and USPS have said he fully complied with the regulations. Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price. This could lead to a separate conflict, given President Donald Trump’s disdain for Amazon.

GAO Finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli Are Ineligible to Serve in Their Top DHS Roles
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/14/2020

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure. The GAO referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for further review and potential action. The office also urged the inspector general to consider the consequences of actions taken by invalidly appointed officials.

‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’
Politico – Eli Okun and John Harris | Published: 8/13/2020

Four years ago, after most journalists were caught surprised by Donald Trump’s victory, there was an almost universal critique about how the profession needed to do better next time. Reporters needed to get off Twitter and cable and get into the field. Journalists needed to liberate themselves from conventional wisdom and the distorting effects of their cultural bubbles and learn what is really happening in the country. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, journalists are spending more time in their own homes than ever, a phone in one hand and television remote in the other. The presidential campaign has gone remote in multiple senses of the word, the most dramatic shift in the rhythms and day-to-day logistics of newsgathering that political journalism has seen in decades.

Judge Balks at White House’s Executive Privilege Claim over Ukraine Emails
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/10/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold a batch of emails about a hold President Trump put on U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2019. Jackson said the government had failed to make a convincing case showing the messages between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey were eligible for protection under legal privileges protecting the development of presidential advice or decisions made by other government officials. The messages are considered key evidence about the event that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year: his decision to halt aid to Ukraine in what critics and even some administration officials said was an attempt to pressure that country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden.

Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker | Published: 8/16/2020

Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington, D.C. for federal help that could increase its profits. Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies, including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds, have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.

Senate Report Details Security Risk Posed by 2016 Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Karoun Demirjian, and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 8/18/2020

An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee portrays Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as posing counterintelligence risks through its contacts with Russia, eager to exploit assistance from the Kremlin and seemingly determined to conceal the extent of its conduct. The report contains new findings that appear to show more direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence, and it pierces the president’s attempts to dismiss the Kremlin’s intervention on his behalf as a hoax. Like the Mueller report, the Senate document does not explicitly accuse the Trump campaign of direct collusion with Russian intelligence. But it carries weight because it is the first major investigation of Russian interference in 2016 to be conducted by a Republican-controlled committee and endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.

Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC
The Fulcrom – Sarah Swann | Published: 8/18/2020

Sixty-six staff members, about one-fifth of the FEC workforce, sent a letter asking President Trump to nominate and the Senate to confirm at least one person of color for the three vacancies on the commission, which has been shut down for the past eight weeks for lack of a quorum. In its 45-year history, the FEC has had 31 commissioners – all but one of them white. The complaint from the nonpartisan civil servants suggests how beleaguered the agency is these days, and how the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism this year has taken root in most every corner of society. The letter was an outgrowth of a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion the agency staff held this summer.

Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 8/18/2020

Democrats’ biggest donors are used to being feted at the party’s national convention, breezing through a maze of tiered luxury suites and V.I.P. rooms with free-flowing appetizers, access, and alcohol. This year, though, even those who have given $500,000 and up were stuck watching the virtual event from home. Ahead of the virtual gathering, the party and the Biden campaign mailed along a care package to tide over any forlorn financiers: notebooks embossed with the number 46 (as in the potential for Biden to be the 46th president), hats, buttons, posters, and a bag of “Cup of Joe” coffee. Like nearly everything else in American life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the already cloistered world of political fundraising, as campaigns and contributors alike figure out how to raise tens of millions of dollars.

They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 8/14/2020

A grassroots fundraising group known as 31st Street Swing Left, a chapter of the national organization Swing Left, is focused on flipping red seats blue. It is one of countless such fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle. But the group also stands out for its evolution, growing from a Washington, D.C.-area assemblage of 30 political novices knocking on doors to support Democratic candidates in Virginia into a fundraising army of nearly 1,200 members in three years.

With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 8/16/2020

With Democrats wary of traditional door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic, and with the Biden-Harris campaign discouraging it, conservatives have less competition. The Americans for Prosperity’s operation started weeks ago, at an initial cost of nearly $900,000 across the country. Their targets included U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina. and Texas, as well as a few congressional races. Since kicking off, they had contacted 6 million voters, but unlike the GOP, they were not mentioning the president in their messaging or surveys.

Canada

Canada Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal
Politico – Lauren Gardner | Published: 8/17/2020

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will resign his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Commons amid an ethics controversy surrounding a charity with ties to his family and that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Morneau’s recent high-profile troubles are centered on his failure to recuse himself from a Cabinet decision awarding a no-bid contract to WE Charity to administer a student grant program as part of the Trudeau government’s Covid-19 response. He admitted to repaying the charity for costs incurred during a 2017 trip to Ecuador with his family just before testifying in front of a parliamentary committee.

Canada WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees
HuffPost Canada – Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/13/2020

WE Charity registered as a lobbyist of the federal government months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program. The controversy has triggered investigations into potential breaches of conflict-of-interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/16/2020

An Arizona city official making $107,000 a year resigned after an investigation found he used city workers for an outside job involving an attempt to secure irrigation water for farmers who paid him with a goat. The inquiry found the possibility of cash down the road also was discussed by Frank Stevens, the now-former former water resource portfolio manager for the city of Surprise. One of the farmers told an investigator they gave Stevens the goat because “he liked the animal and [Stevens said] it would keep his kids happy when they came home from school.”

California California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 8/17/2020

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed it is opening an investigation into two complaints regarding former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng. He resigned abruptly on August 5 after being on the job overseeing the pension fund’s $412 billion investment portfolio for less than two years. Meng’s departure followed an anonymous complaint to the FPPC that Meng had approved a $1 billion deal with Blackstone Group, a financial firm in which Meng was a shareholder.

California Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims
Sacramento Bee – Kim Bojorquez | Published: 8/19/2020

Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement to resolve a complaint charging it misused government funds to promote a 2017 sales tax increase, marking one of the largest-ever financial penalties considered by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The county’s potential penalties are even greater if the FPPC rejects the settlement. It faces up to $2.4 million in penalties stemming from money the county spent promoting Measure H without reporting it as a political contribution.

Colorado Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 8/12/2020

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes, a question the company helped write. Altria was part of the negotiations that led to House Bill 1427, which placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years. The question also would require retailers to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. The discount tobacco company Liggett Group is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.

Florida A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 8/14/2020

Darryl Daniels, the sheriff of Clay County, Florida, dialed his deputy while driving with an urgent plea for backup: He was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger.” But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: it was Cierra Smith, his former employee and mistress of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair. Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up behind bars. Following a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.

Florida Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/18/2020

A federal appeals court spent more than two hours weighing whether to overturn a contentious Florida law restricting felon voting rights, with one judge suggesting doing so would paradoxically require the court to strike down a public referendum that eliminated the state’s ban on felon voting. The judges, sitting the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered lawyers with questions about whether the state law constitutes an illegal poll tax because it requires people who have served time for a felony to pay off any court debts before they can register to vote. It remains unclear if the court will make a decision before the November election.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 8/14/2020

Proposed revisions to Cook County’s ethics ordinance, which the ethics board voted to recommend in January, include forbidding both nepotism in county hiring and county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs. They also would mandate lobbyists disclose if they have relatives who work for the county, introduce new rules to clamp down on sexual harassment, prohibit the state’s attorney from settling ethics lawsuits without the ethics board’s approval, and increase fines for certain violations. Now, three of the board members who crafted the reforms are gone, and their recommendations have not moved forward.

Illinois Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes
Chicago Tribune – Jamie Munks | Published: 8/13/2020

A group of Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois issued a series of ethics proposals ahead of the fall veto session, including term limits for legislative leaders and a process for temporarily removing members from leadership posts if they are caught up in a criminal investigation. The Democrats also want to prohibit lawmakers from lobbying at other levels of government and an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist :revolving door”; a requirement for more comprehensive disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income; and a more robust Legislative Inspector General’s office. They also noted the ongoing federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several legislators makes this an opportune time to pass a large-scale ethics package.

Illinois State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/13/2020

Illinois Sen. Terry Link was charged with a federal count of income tax evasion, the third Democratic state senator to face felony charges in a little more than a year. The criminal information accused Link of failing to report income on his 2016 tax return to the IRS. Defendants are typically charged via an information if they intend to eventually plead guilty. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Link wore a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Federal prosecutors alleged Arroyo had sought an unnamed state senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.

Missouri Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading
Associated Press News – David Lieb | Published: 8/17/2020

A judge rewrote the summary for a legislative redistricting measure that will appear on the November ballot, ruling Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature tried to misleadingly entice voters into repealing an anti-gerrymandering reform that voters approved two years ago. The decision by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the Legislature’s ballot summary for Amendment 3 as insufficient, unfair, and partly false. She replaced it with a ballot summary suggested by a group that sponsored the successful 2018 measure and is opposed to this year’s revision. Like the 2018 measure, the Legislature’s revision combines the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.

Nevada Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 8/18/2020

Former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter agreed to pay $24,406 in ethics fines for violating state laws prohibiting him from using his longtime public position to enrich himself. The fines stem from Ralenkotter’s use of LVCVA-bought airline gift cards on personal travel and his negotiation of a consulting contract with the tax-funded agency before he retired, according to a proposed agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

New Jersey Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash
Bergen Record – Steve Janoski | Published: 8/14/2020

Five more people have been charged in a years-long corruption investigation that already ensnared a former state Assembly  member and a Jersey City school board president. The new defendants allegedly gave a total of $239,000 to political parties and candidates before being secretly reimbursed by a law firm, the attorney general’s office said. The firm then claimed it had made no reportable contributions in towns where it sought lucrative contracts. New Jersey law prohibits political donations on behalf of others.

New Jersey Trump Campaign Sues New Jersey Over Mail-In Voting
The Hill – Morgan Gstalter | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring every voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot, in addition to being allowed to vote in-person if desired, as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign claims Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey Legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.

New York Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 8/20/2020

A federal judge rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, dismissing Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith. The ruling marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has been seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.

North Dakota North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes
Ballotpedia – Jackie Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

North Dakota voters will decide on three constitutional amendments in November. One would amend the state constitution to make multiple changes to election and redistricting procedures. The measure would establish top-four open primaries for all statewide, legislative, and congressional races. The measure would also make the state’s ethics commission, which was created by voters through a 2018 citizen initiative, responsible for state legislative redistricting. Another provision would require a paper record for all ballots and audits of each election within 120 days by the secretary of state.

Ohio Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff | Published: 8/13/2020

Although indicted in a criminal case and removed as House speaker, state Rep. Larry Householder is still a member of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), the body that investigates and rules on ethics and lobbying matters for the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp removed Householder as vice chairperson of JLEC, but state law prohibits removal of a member from the ethics panel. Householder was arrested in July by FBI agents and charged with racketeering.

Ohio Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/14/2020

The Ohio House turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena but withheld 30 documents, claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege. The House released some of the records in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many involve routine constituent correspondence, various versions of the nuclear power-plant bailout bill, and proposed amendments to the measure at the heart of a $60 million public corruption scandal. Federal authorities have charged former Speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering in a scheme to pass and protect House Bill 6 from repeal and advance his political power.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic
National Public Radio – Laura Wamsley | Published: 8/13/2020

An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it. The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2. The court said in this case, state officials were defending what is already the status quo from the last election, “and many Rhode Island voters may well hold that belief.”

South Dakota Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules
Sioux Faslls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics recommended the city council review and update their policies after an investigation found third parties are paying for councilors’ travel expenses and it was an “apparent common practice.” In their investigation of a councilperson, the board said the accused council member “acknowledges attendance at a seminar for which travel and other expenses were paid by third parties,” noting it was hosted by “a group with an acknowledged political agenda” and there were “multiple settings for attendees to be potentially influenced by commercial or political interests.”

Tennessee Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2020

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will sign a bill that toughens penalties on some protests in response to continued demonstrations in the state and nationwide over racial injustice. Lee also said he would have crafted some components differently than the Legislature, including the increased penalty on those who illegally camp on state property to a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee additionally result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote. The governor said the requirement that law enforcement offer an initial warning on camping violations strengthened the bill. He also cited the discretion of district attorneys and judges.

Virginia Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Served with Arrest Warrant over Confederate Statue Protest as Some Decry Charges
Washington Post – Emily Davies, Laura Vozzella, and Gregory Schneider | Published: 8/18/2020

Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was charged with damaging a Confederate monument during protests in Portsmouth. She faces two felonies: conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument causing more than $1,000 in damage. Lucas, who is the first African American president pro tempore in the Virginia Senate, is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. Legal experts say the way the Portsmouth police went about pursuing felony charges against Lucas and others is highly unusual given the political nature of the incident.

Washington DC Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 8/15/2020

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university. Rashad Young abruptly left his position as city administrator after running day-to-day government operations since the mayor took office in 2015. He told on July 31 that he was in talks for a job at Howard University and sought ethics guidance. The mayor wrote that she directed her general counsel to review the circumstances of the job offer and the city ethics board’s opinion on the matter.

Washington DC Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short
Patch – Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) | Published: 8/17/2020

Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side job. The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long hearing process. The agreement also states if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the city ethics board could seek maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000.

October 30, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 30, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020 After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump […]

National/Federal

Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020

After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump administration said it planned to nominate a bipartisan pair to the hobbled agency. President Donald Trump’s picks are Republican Sean Cooksey, who serves as general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley, and Shana Broussard, who currently serves as counsel to FEC member Steven Walther. Broussard, if confirmed, would be the first Black commissioner in the agency’s 45-year history.

Ballrooms, Candles and Luxury Cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020

Since his first month in office, President Trump has used his power to direct millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and from his political supporters, into his own businesses. The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He has visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency. Documents show visits by Trump, his family, and his supporters have turned the government and the Republican Party into regular customers for the family business. In the case of the government, Trump’s visits turned it into a captive customer. What the government needed from Trump’s properties, it had to buy from Trump’s company.

Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020

Texas is one of five red states that emerged as conspicuous holdouts this year as the rest of the country rushed to loosen voting rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the roughly 30 million registered voters who live there, and in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have no choice but to cast ballots in person this fall, even as the rate of coronavirus in the U.S. approaches its third peak. The situation underscores how the nation’s decentralized election systems and Republican opposition to mail voting this year are translating into vastly different voting experiences for Americans, depending on where they live. Legal challenges to the voting limits have foundered in some courts, rejected by a federal judiciary that has shifted rightward under President Trump.

COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/21/2020

Negotiations over the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis have fueled the lobbying sector this year, as K Street firms and corporate representatives now turn their attention to the coming tumult after the November elections. Some of the nation’s biggest spenders on federal lobbying, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Facebook, and Amazon, reported shelling out more money on influence campaigns so far this year than they did during the first three quarters of 2019. The biggest lobbying firms, such as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, also reported increasing revenue this year.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina Claim Key Wins at Supreme Court Ahead of Election
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

Democrats won two significant U.S. Supreme Court victories involving voting deadlines in key battleground states, as the justices allowed extended periods for receiving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They declined to disturb decisions that allow Pennsylvania officials to receive ballots cast by Election Day and received within three days, and a ruling by North Carolina’s elections board that set a grace period of nine days. In both cases, the Republican Party and GOP legislators had opposed the extensions, and President Trump has railed on the campaign trail about the mail-in vote.

Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 10/23/2020

Facebook told researchers at New York University (NYU) to stop using a digital tool that tracks how people are targeted with political ads ahead of the November 3 election. The demand centers on the academics’ use of a web browser plug-in that gives Facebook users a way to share specific political ads they are seeing on the site. Political advertisers primarily target their ads to specific demographic groups, so the NYU tool, which collects roughly 16,000 ads each week, allows researchers to see how campaigns and other groups are crafting messages to voters based on race, age, location, or other criteria.

Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension
MSN – Mark Berman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020

As tensions mount ahead of Election Day, a legal battle in Michigan is highlighting fears some officials and civil rights groups have about what will happen when people show up at polling sites with guns – which is legal in numerous jurisdictions across the U.S. Many Americans will be able to show up at their polling locations with guns, something that has unnerved law enforcement officials and experts nationwide at time of anxiety over whether clashes or violence could break out before, on, or after Election Day. Gun rights supporters argue law-abiding gun owners should be able to continue carrying their weapons where doing so is allowed. Exactly where that is allowed varies widely, echoing the way the country’s election processes vary from state to state.

How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’
Anchorage Daily News – Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2020

In the closing weeks of the 2016 election, Donald Trump led cheering supporters in chants of “drain the swamp,” promising he would completely disrupt the culture of Washington, D.C. He warned of the power of lobbyists and political donors who he said effectively bought off elected officials. He told voters he was uniquely prepared to take on the issue, because he knew personally as a donor how the system worked. But during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government.

In Campaign’s Closing Days, Disinformation Arrives Via Text Message and Email
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

A video sent to voters falsely claimed Joe Biden wants to give “sex changes to second-graders.” A menacing directive advised Democrats to vote for Trump “or else.” And a years-old photograph newly circulated with erroneous instructions for how to blow past a purported poll watcher on Election Day. These deceptive, 11th-hour messages are not finding their way to Americans via the now well-trodden paths of Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they are arriving in waves of text messages and emails, making use of a more intimate and less heavily scrutinized vector of disinformation than the social networking services manipulated four years ago as part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever
Washington Post – Carol Morello | Published: 10/22/2020

If legal controversy engulfs the 2020 elections, state Supreme Courts may be thrust into the prominent role of referee for the presidential race for the first time in two decades, placing new focus on judicial appointees that have increasingly shown partisan leanings. The Brennan Center found more than $500 million has been poured into state Supreme Court elections since 2000, reinventing the one-time “sleepy low-dollar contests,” as Douglas Keith of the Brennan Center put it, into an arena for dark money and political dogfights. And while both sides of the partisan divide have sought to gain an edge in the judicial arms race, conservative groups have prioritized efforts to tip the balance of these crucial courts.

Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/23/2020

The federal judge presiding over the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an unusual review of its filings in the case and certify whether any have been manipulated. The order is a signal of intense distrust between the judge, Emmet Sullivan, and the DOJ, whose filings are typically accepted at face value. In this case, the DOJ has acknowledged two documents it previously filed – handwritten notes taken by former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – were altered “inadvertently” to include inaccurate dates. Sullivan’s demand will force the DOJ to confront tricky interpretations of handwritten notes that the department and Flynn’s legal team have relied on to seek the dismissal of the prosecution.

Judge Rejects Justice Dept. Bid to Short Circuit Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Trump of Rape
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs | Published: 10/27/2020

A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her several years ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote Trump did not qualify as an “employee” under federal law, nor was he acting “within the scope of his employment” when he denied during interviews that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll sued Trump over that denial. The Justice Department argued Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he disputed Carroll’s allegations.

Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/23/2020

The lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs scrapped its $1 million contract Turkish government following a pressure campaign by Armenian-American activists incensed by Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in ongoing hostilities with Armenia. The effort recalls the push to convince K Street firms representing Saudi Arabia’s government to cut ties with the kingdom in 2018 after Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Washington Post, where Khashoggi had been a contributing opinion writer, threatened to bar two lobbyists from writing columns for the paper unless their firms stopped working for Saudi Arabia. The pressure ultimately led five lobbying firms to sever ties with the kingdom.

Miles Taylor Revealed as ‘Anonymous’ Writer of Insider Warnings About Trump
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

Miles Taylor, the ex-chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security who has spent the past two months building a case against reelecting President Trump, revealed himself to be the presidential critic from inside the administration known only as “Anonymous.” Taylor, who served in the administration for two years, wrote in a post revealing his identity that his criticisms of Trump were “widely held among officials at the highest levels of the federal government. In other words, Trump’s own lieutenants were alarmed by his instability.” Using the nom de plume, Taylor first wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2018 purporting to be among a group of people inside the administration working to protect the country from the president’s worst instincts.

Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote
ABC News – Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman | Published: 10/22/2020

As the eyes of the world focus on the U.S. election, teams of international observers are heading out across the United States amid concerns about the vote’s integrity. For the ninth time, observers affiliated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have come to the United States to watch over an election and recommend improvements, a mission little-noticed by most Americans. But the 2020 campaign is different. As fears rise about voter suppression, violence, and a potentially contested outcome, the Europeans say they hope their efforts will help assure Americans the vote is legitimate.

Trump’s Attacks on Political Adversaries Are Often Followed by Threats to Their Safety
MSN – Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

The CIA’s Security Protective Service monitors thousands of threats to public officials across social media and Internet chat rooms. Over time, a pattern has emerged: violent messages surged each time the analyst was targeted in tweets or public remarks by President Trump. Targets encompass nearly every category of government service: mayors, governors, and members of Congress, as well as officials Trump has turned against within his own administration. The dynamic appears to be without precedent – government agencies taking extraordinary measures to protect their people from strains of hostility stoked by a sitting president.

Twitter Launches ‘Pre-Bunks’ to Get Ahead of Voting Misinformation
NBC News – David Ingram | Published: 10/28/2020

Twitter said it would begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results, an escalation of the company’s battle against misinformation. Twitter is calling the messages a “pre-bunk,” something it says it has never done, because the debunking is not a reaction to an existing tweet with misinformation. Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are racing to make last-minute changes to prepare their services for an expected rise in misinformation, election interference or even civil unrest as officials prepare to begin counting votes November 3.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a state-ordered ban on curbside voting in Alabama, despite claims from disabled and at-risk voters that making them vote inside polling places puts them in danger of contracting the coronavirus. The justices stayed a lower-court injunction that lifted the prohibition on drive-through voting that was issued by Alabama’s secretary of state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that allowing curbside voting was a “modest” accommodation to those at greatest risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19.

Arizona Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings
Arizona Republic – Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez | Published: 10/24/2020

Among the dozens of donors listed as contributing to Tim Seay’s campaign for Phoenix mayor is Marvin Cox, a former fire chief in Maywood, Illinois. Cox is listed as contributing $5,000 on July 3. But he died more than a year earlier, in May 2019. His is one of several contributions on Seay’s campaign finance reports that raise questions, including others that came from people who said had not donated to his campaign. In an email, Seay said generally he knows he has “made some mistakes” on his campaign finance reports. He said that was due to his lack of experience as a candidate and inability to find an experienced campaign manager.

Arizona Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List
Associated Press News – Bob Christie | Published: 10/23/2020

Democratic leaders of the Arizona Legislature say two of five independents chosen by a judicial panel as potential chairpersons of a commission that will redraw political district boundaries next year are not legally eligible for the post. They want the nominees replaced with qualified people. The lawsuit alleges utility company executive and attorney Thomas Loquvam is not qualified because he is registered as a lobbyist. They also are challenging Robert Wilson, a gun store owner who is registered as an independent but has held rallies for President Trump and other Republicans. They say that shows he is not truly an independent as the constitution requires.

California Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 10/26/2020

Rideshare and delivery companies are not only spending record sums, they are wielding their own platforms and using customer data to win on Proposition 22, a November ballot measure that would exempt some gig companies from a California law that classifies many freelance workers as full-time employees. The moves by Uber, Lyft, and others show what is possible, technologists and legal experts say, when tech companies brush past norms and consumer expectations, leveraging their influence and everything they know about the public for their political advantage. Given how much data is stored on their servers, data privacy experts fear the companies themselves could influence the electorate when they face an existential threat like the gig companies do in California.

California SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Lindsay Holden | Published: 10/21/2020

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors directed staff members to prepare an ordinance to cap political donations at $25,000 per person, an amount that is five times the statewide limit that will go into effect next year. Assembly Bill 571 will limit campaign contributions at $4,700 starting in January 2021 in all cities and counties that do not already have their own election finance laws.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition – Jeffrey Roberts | Published: 10/27/2020

Neither the Colorado Open Records Act nor the Open Meetings Law applies to the constitutionally created state commission that investigates allegations of ethical misconduct involving public officials, the state Court of Appeals ruled. Rejecting the Glendale mayor’s argument that a District Court has jurisdiction to review the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s denial of his records requests, a three-judge appellate panel determined the commission is not a state agency or public body subject to the open-government laws.

Colorado Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund
Westworld – Connor McCormick-Cavanagh | Published: 10/26/2020

The Denver City Council voted against pulling money from a municipal campaign finance fund and putting it toward other priorities in the 2021 budget. Denver voters passed a measure creating the Fair Elections Fund, which began collecting an annual allocation of approximately $2 million from the city budget starting in 2020. The fund can hold no more than $8 million per election cycle; candidates will have access to it for the first time during the 2023 Denver municipal elections. During the comment period, many speakers talked about the importance of the fund to encourage grassroots candidacies.

Connecticut FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up
Connecticut Mirror – Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) | Published: 10/21/2020

Then-New Haven Mayor Toni Harp walked out of Jack’s Steakhouse in 20109 with an envelope filled with thousands of dollars of cash handed to her by an accused money launderer. A city contract followed and a federal grand jury investigation. But it is unclear who was up to what. Harp had dinner that night with her top aide, Andrea Scott; city Controller Daryl Jones; and entrepreneur Derek Bluford, who is under federal indictment for financial fraud and was looking for a way to lessen his prison sentence. The group had been discussing a contract Bluford wanted the city to give a company with which he was involved. And they discussed his help in raising money for Harp’s reelection campaign. Bluford handed Harp an envelope as they left. Harp and Scott said they did not open the envelope until later, when they were shocked to find $7,000 in cash rather than legitimate individual campaign contribution checks.

Florida A ‘Dark Money’-Funded Ballot Measure in Florida Could Make It Harder to Pass Future Amendments
MSN – Jonah Goldman Kay (Business Insider) | Published: 10/29/2020

In the next election cycle after 2020, Florida voters might not pass any constitutional amendments. If passed, an initiative on the ballot this year, Amendment 4, would require any future amendments to be passed in two consecutive elections. Only one other state, Nevada, has a similar requirement in its constitution. The “Are You Sure” measure was sponsored by Keep Our Constitution Clean, a secretive nonprofit with ties to a major business advocacy organization in Florida. Opponents of the amendment say it is another attempt from the Republican-led Legislature to suppress the vote by making it more difficult to get amendments on the ballot.

Georgia In Georgia, Democrats Target the True Silent Majority: People who don’t vote
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/28/2020

Over 100 million eligible, voting-age Americans did not vote in 2016, more than the number who voted for either presidential candidate. In traditional swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, most observers believe turnout is largely fixed and campaigns succeed based on their ability to persuade a set of voters. But in the new set of battleground states in the South, as well as Arizona, the priority is converting nonvoters into voters. The thinking is that If the Democratic Party can reshape the electorate with new arrivals to the state, well as greater participation from Black residents and immigrants, a red state becomes a blue one. But experts who study nonvoting populations warn the work of changing electorates is hard and complicated. There is no such thing, they say, as an inevitable demographic destiny.

Illinois Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/22/2020

Chicago lobbyist Gyata Kimmons resigned his elected position as a Flossmoor village trustee, citing rules that took effect months ago prohibiting elected officials from lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city departments. The village announced Kimmons’ resignation the same day The Chicago Tribune published a report detailing how after aldermen banned elected officials from lobbying city government, he on two occasions exchanged emails directly with Lightfoot on behalf of UnibailRodamcoWestfield, a real estate company he lobbies City Hall on behalf of tenants at O’Hare International Airport. Kimmons was notified by Chicago that he had to immediately decide between lobbying the city professionally or holding public office.

Illinois Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Tom Schuba | Published: 10/21/2020

A Cook County commissioner and her chief of staff should be investigated for joining a fledgling marijuana company after serving as state cannabis regulators, government ethics experts said. Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen acknowledged she is working with Americanna Dream, a startup seeking licenses to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries. The Sun-Times has since learned her chief of staff and general counsel, Tara Meyer, is also partnered with the company, which is among 21 finalists. Susan Garrett, chairperson of the Center for Illinois Politics, said there are simply “too many missing pieces to this puzzle” and recommended the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General probe the matter.

New Hampshire Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line
Manchester Union-Leader – Josie Albertson-Grove | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas’ campaign confirmed he is dating a former lobbyist after his opponent brought up the relationship in a debate but said it has had no bearing on his votes. The campaign said Pappas and Vann Bentley are in a relationship. Bentley left a job as a lobbyist for Amazon in August 2019. Members of Congress are not barred from having and are not required to disclose romantic relationships with lobbyists.

New Jersey State Education Department Orders Suspension of Paterson BOE Member
Bergen Record – Joe Malinconio (Paterson Times) | Published: 10/26/2020

The New Jersey Department of Education ordered that Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers be suspended for six months for taking a free trip to an Arizona resort from a company looking for a contract from the district. The company, Woz U, eventually got a contract from Paterson Public Schools for online courses, but never received any payment from the district for its services. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer’s decision largely agrees with a state ethics commission ruling but softened the panel’s suggested penalty. The commission had called for Capers’ removal from office. Prior to the ethics panel decision, an administrative law judge had ruled in Capers’ favor.

Ohio Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees
MSN – Marc Kovac (Columbus Dsipatch) | Published: 10/22/2020

State Attorney General Dave Yost said he would file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission after it was disclosed that former House Speaker Larry Householder used campaign cash to cover legal fees since his July arrest on federal corruption charges. Yost said the spending was illegal and he directed staff in his office to pursue a formal complaint. Householder’s pre-general election campaign finance filing included seven expenditures since July totaling more than $1 million to three law firms. Federal prosecutors allege Householder used “dark money” from FirstEnergy and related entities to support the campaigns of his supporters and block referendum efforts to overturn 2019 nuclear bailout legislation.

Ohio Ohio’s Drop-Box Dispute Shows How Voting Rights Groups and Democrats Fear Trump’s Influence
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020

An alliance of voting and civil rights groups – noting federal recommendations call for one ballot drop box for every 15,000 to 20,000 voters – sued Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, declaring his decision to limit the boxes to one per county was the definition of voter suppression. At a time when many people do not want to go to the polls due to the pandemic, or do not trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots on time, the groups said drop boxes are vital. The battle in Ohio underscores the fears of Democrats and voting rights advocates about the influence President Trump’s false claims about fraud via mail-in ballots and drop boxes could have over voters’ ability to cast a ballot and the counting of ballots.

Ohio What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 10/23/2020

Newly released records show what actually happened with mysterious checks that FirstEnergy cut to Ohio politicians shortly before a massive bribery investigation came to light.  Between July 6 and July 16, FirstEnergy’s PAC issued checks worth $158,000 to Ohio Senate, House, and state Supreme Court candidates. But many candidates said they never received that money. FEC reports from the committee now show FirstEnergy canceled $103,000 in checks to 43 Ohio House candidates and state Supreme Court candidates Judi French and Sharon Kennedy on September 17. What happened to the remaining $55,000? FirstEnergy PAC sent that money to 20 Ohio Senate candidates. The checks, issued July 6, were not voided. But only one was cashed for certain.

Oregon Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 10/23/2020

A judge ruled the city auditor must examine a complaint into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 loan to his own re-election campaign. Voters approved strict campaign finance limits in 2018 including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. But City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero decided not to enforce the self-funding portion of the charter, saying it conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would inevitably be struck down by the court. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan ruled the auditor had to follow the rules in the charter and city code and look into the complaint that alleged Wheeler violated campaign finance rules with his loan.

Oregon Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape
Street Roots – Chris May | Published: 10/21/2020

After Oregon’s homebuilders lobby tried, but failed, to block regulations allowing local governments to implement their own wildfire safety standards in new construction, it is now relying on a secret agreement with Gov. Kate Brown to ensure those standards are not mandated statewide in fire-prone regions. Street Roots obtained secretly made recordings of this agreement being discussed at high-level meetings between Portland and Oregon Home Builders Association board members and top lobbyists. The audio provides a rare window into how one of the state’s most influential industries holds sway over critical public policy issues through lobbying, “revolving-doors,” and access to influential lawmakers.

Pennsylvania Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/23/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on a key concern surrounding an avalanche of mailed ballots, prohibiting counties from rejecting them if the voter’s signature on it does not resemble the signature on the voter’s registration form. Republican lawmakers and President Trump’s campaign had argued the law is clear election officials must compare the information on the mail-in ballot envelope, including a voter’s signature, to a voter’s information on file to determine a person’s qualifications to vote. But the justices disagreed, as did a federal judge in a separate case brought earlier the Trump campaign.

Tennessee Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover
The Tennessean – Brett Kelman | Published: 10/26/2020

A lawyer for state Sen. Joey Hensley conceded the politician, a small-town doctor, prescribed opioids to family members and an employee with whom he was in a romantic relationship, in what the state contends is a violation of medical ethics. Attorney David Steed said it was well-intentioned, harmless, and all but unavoidable for Hensley to prescribe to relatives in a small Tennessee town where he is the only available physician. Francine Baca-Chavez, a state attorney prosecuting the case, asked the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to put Hensley on professional probation for three years and require him to attend classes on safe prescribing and medical ethics.

Utah Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 10/27/2020

Burgess Owens, the Republican nominee in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District, appears to be at the center of a campaign finance controversy with a week to go until Election Day. Owens’ campaign accepted more than $135,000 in illegal campaign contributions, which is approximately 40 percent of the money he has available for the stretch run to the election. All the donations in question have a notation on the report that the amounts are not permitted, and the campaign is waiting for written directions from the donors about what to do with the cash. FEC rules allow donors to reallocate excessive amounts to another member of the household, or to another election, so long as that person is not also over the limit. The other option is a refund. It is not clear whether the campaign has indeed remedied the disputed donations.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 10/26/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate a court-ordered extension of the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots in Wisconsin, siding with Republicans in a battle over election procedures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The high court brushed aside complaints from Democrats and civil rights groups that enforcing the usual deadline of Election Day could leave thousands of ballots uncounted due to postal service changes and the massive number of voters seeking to vote by mail instead of in person. A District Court judge in Wisconsin issued an order pushing back the state’s due date for mail ballots from the close of polls on Election Day to November 9, as long as they were postmarked by November 3. A three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the lower court’s ruling.

Wyoming Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 10/22/2020

An attorney for a gun rights advocacy group in Wyoming challenged a ruling by the secretary of state to disclose the group’s donors, arguing the ruling is an attempt to stifle political speech after the group was accused of running attack ads against Republican candidates. The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce filed the complaint against Wyoming Gun Owners over ads the group ran in the past year despite not being registered with the secretary of state’s office as required by law. The group must now register with the state and disclose its donors or face a $500 fine. Stephen Klein asked the state elections division to dismiss the complaint, saying there was a lack of documentation that showed the ads were against the law.

Wyoming Wyoming Is Using Dark Money to Help Keep Coal Plants in Other States Open
National Public Radio – Cooper McKim and Andrew Graham | Published: 10/28/2020

After years of lawsuits, the utility Entergy Arkansas agreed to shut down two coal plants. Weeks later, the Arkansas Attorney General and a local coalition called the Arkansas Affordable Energy Coalition intervened, asking a judge to stop the settlement. They argued other fuel sources would be more expensive and less reliable. Emails show the coalition represents more than just coal, gas, and steel businesses in Arkansas. It was created by the nonprofit Energy Policy Network, whose largest donor most years is the state of Wyoming, home to the coal mines that feed the two Arkansas plants slated for shut down. Several ethics experts say this is the first time they have heard of a state using “dark money” in this way. They said it raises questions about state officials backing a group that surreptitiously seeks to impact policy elsewhere.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

October 29, 2020 •

American Samoa Ends Special Session After Passing Funding Gap Appropriations Bill

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

The Senate and House gave final approval to the House version of a bill enacting a temporary funding gap appropriation for the government before ending the special session. The House version of the bill has been enrolled and transmitted to […]

The Senate and House gave final approval to the House version of a bill enacting a temporary funding gap appropriation for the government before ending the special session.

The House version of the bill has been enrolled and transmitted to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for his review and consideration.

The bill also provides consolidated appropriations and temporary funding to continue government operations until action on regular appropriations are completed.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 29, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Colorado: “Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund” by Connor McCormick-Cavanagh for Westworld Utah: “Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations” by Bryan Schott for Salt Lake Tribune […]

Campaign Finance

Colorado: “Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund” by Connor McCormick-Cavanagh for Westworld

Utah: “Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations” by Bryan Schott for Salt Lake Tribune

Wyoming: “Wyoming Is Using Dark Money to Help Keep Coal Plants in Other States Open” by Cooper McKim and Andrew Graham for National Public Radio

Elections

National: “In Campaign’s Closing Days, Disinformation Arrives Via Text Message and Email” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm (Washington Post) for MSN

Georgia: “In Georgia, Democrats Target the True Silent Majority: People who don’t vote” by Astead Herndon for New York Times

Ohio: “Ohio’s Drop-Box Dispute Shows How Voting Rights Groups and Democrats Fear Trump’s Influence” by Michael Kranish (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Political Adversaries Are Often Followed by Threats to Their Safety” by Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Judge Rejects Justice Dept. Bid to Short Circuit Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Trump of Rape” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs for Washington Post

National: “Ballrooms, Candles and Luxury Cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN

California: “L.A. Council Members Backtrack, Turning Against Request to Help a Hotel Developer” by David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times

New Jersey: “State Education Department Orders Suspension of Paterson BOE Member” by Joe Malinconio (Paterson Times) for Bergen Record

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

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

Elections

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

Ethics

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

Lobbying

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

Redistricting

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

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

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.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

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

Elections

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

Ethics

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

Lobbying

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

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

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.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

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.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close
Back to all posts