August 28, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 28, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020

Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in Kenosha throughout the chaotic events that left two people dead and another wounded. This included the alleged shooter, who was captured on video running with an assault rifle near a gas station at the center of the unrest. Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed.

Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/21/2020

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found the FEC’s donor-disclosure regulations regarding groups that spend money on independent expenditures – ads that expressly support or oppose political candidates – were too weak to comply with federal law. While donors to super PACs are disclosed, even politically active nonprofits typically do not disclose their donors, creating the opportunity for some wealthy individuals to secretly spend tens of millions of dollars on political races. The appeals court decision appears to wipe out at least some of the methods groups and individuals have utilized to keep donations secret.

Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/25/2020

A battle is brewing on K Street over an effort by progressives to ensure a Biden administration is devoid of any former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. Black and Latino lobbyists say a ban of that sort would end up shutting out minorities and could make the administration less diverse if Democrats win back the White House. The tensions date back to April, when eight progressive groups wrote a letter calling on Joe Biden to vow not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, Cabinet, or as top aides. That demand did not sit well with some minority lobbyists, who argue corporate lobbyists should not be denied a spot in the administration.

Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials
Courthouse News Service – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Prominent Hawaii political fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis and several others are being accused of using their clout to thwart an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund. Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two fundraisers helped arrange a meeting between President Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars. Davis was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/19/2020

Democrats adopted a platform at their convention that calls for an overhaul of campaign finance laws, including forcing the disclosure of covert sources of political spending, money that right now is helping to boost the party’s candidates for the House, Senate, and White House.  Big donors, super PACs, and nonprofit groups that may shield their donors’ identities are going all in for the 2020 campaigns, funding ads and other efforts for candidates in both parties. Yet if Democrats hold the House and win control of the Senate and White House, activists say they plan to step up the pressure on the party to revamp the system, even though it would be that system that helped put them in charge.

Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns
Philadelphia Inquirer – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event violated federal law. The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said. While the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the law, they are subject to two criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act, said Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University.

Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider | Published: 8/25/2020

The Democratic Party is kicking off the most complicated get-out-the-vote campaign in history. The party’s virtual convention marked the unofficial start of a massive public education, voter contact, and legal strategy to make voting by mail a success in the fall. Record high numbers of people plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that group skews heavily Democratic, according to polling. But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party’s campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles.

Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family
Washington Post – Ashley Parker | Published: 8/23/2020

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving the White House at the end of August. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She and her husband became an object of fascination as George Conway ramped up his criticism of the president in 2018 while Kellyanne Conway remained a top adviser to Trump.

More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2020

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year, nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall, illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes, and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election. The stakes are high as the most chaotic presidential election in memory collides with a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has led 20 states to expand or ease access to voting by mail as a public health measure. The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.

New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows
Sludge – Donald Shaw | Published: 8/20/2020

U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ben Cline introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act of 2020, which would require companies, trade groups, and other entities that employ lobbyists to begin disclosing information about the “strategic lobbying services” they employ in support of their lobbyists. The bill would require reporting of individuals employed in strategic planning, polling, production of public communications, and encouraging people to take action to support or oppose a legislative or regulatory action through the formation of formal or informal coalitions. Requiring disclosure of strategic services will partially address “shadow lobbying” by former members of Congress who join lobbying firms without technically registering as lobbyists to comply with ethics laws.

The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 8/24/2020

Thousands of people are running for office this year, and while most made the decision well before the pandemic struck, a small crop of candidates have more recently jumped into political races after losing their jobs or dealing with other work-related fallout from the pandemic. These candidates have little political experience but have survived through the devastating economic fallout that caused more than 20 million workers to lose their jobs. There are no numbers on these candidates nor any guarantee of their chances to win, but they show how, increasingly, pandemic unemployment is becoming a major influence on politics.

Top U.S. Officials Told C.D.C. to Soften Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2020

Trump administration officials defended a new recommendation that people without Covid-19 symptoms abstain from testing, even as scientists warned the policy could hobble an already weak federal response as schools reopen and a potential autumn wave looms. The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump gave a boost to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he appreciated the support of its followers. At a briefing about the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, he claimed not to know anything about it other than the affection its adherents have for him. But when a reporter outlined the claims underlying the theory – “that you are secretly saving the world from this Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” – Trump seemed to embrace that role for himself. Though its followers have been heralding Trump for years, there is concern the philosophy is seeping into the mainstream as candidates who espouse its ideas are now competing in, and winning, congressional races.

Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 8/21/2020

More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, President Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color.

Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Julie Watson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Margaret Hunter, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. Prosecutors noted Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with the prosecution of her husband in arguing against putting her behind bars and for allowing her to serve the sentence at home. Duncan Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty.

Canada

Canada Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament
CBC – Kathleen Harris | Published: 8/19/2020

Conservative lawmakers are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a “coverup” by shutting down Parliament to dodge scrutiny of his government’s role in the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau announced Gov. Gen. Julie Payette granted his request to prorogue Parliament until September 23. He said the move will allow his government to present a long-term economic recovery plan for Canada after the Coronavirus pandemic and an opportunity for the House of Commons to vote on whether it has confidence in the government to move forward on that plan. WE Charity was awarded a $43.5 million contract to manage the $900 million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from talks on the deal, despite both having family ties to the organization.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/25/2020

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will not file charges after investigating allegations the husband of a state legislator sent explicit photographs of the lawmaker to a lobbyist, who believed the couple was trying to solicit her for sex. Records show state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and her now husband, former gubernatorial aide Brian Townsend, refused to speak with investigators about the photos. The records also show the lobbyist told investigators the images she received were unsolicited and unwanted and she believed the two were taking advantage of their positions of power. Rep. Anthony Kern raised questions about whether the incident involved violations of Arizona’s law against what is known as revenge pornography.

California Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy
Los Angeles Daily News – Chris Haire | Published: 8/20/2020

Los Angeles County will pay a $1.35 million settlement under an agreement approved by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to resolve claims that its board of supervisors misused taxpayer money when it hired a communication firm to promote a proposed sales tax hike. Supervisors hired TBWB Strategies to execute a public education campaign and advertising surrounding the ballot measure. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued the county spent money on what should be considered campaign-related activities. If that were the case, under state law, the county would have had to make various public disclosures, including having its name and “paid for by” on any advertisements.

California FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/25/2020

The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department inspector general’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet. Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food. Paul Delacourt was reassigned from his post overseeing the regional office. Delacourt disputed the report’s findings.

California Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 8/25/2020

Lobbyist and former :Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Federal prosecutors say Goldman was part of a bribery scheme in which one of his clients, a real estate developer, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a PAC in exchange for city Councilperson Jose Huizar taking steps to help a project. Prosecutors alleged Goldman pressured real estate developers to give to a committee that was set up to benefit a relative of Jose Huizar planning to run for his seat.

Connecticut Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 8/22/2020

At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s request, state utility regulators are investigating Eversource and United Illuminating over their failures in responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, to determine, among other things, whether civil penalties should be imposed on them. Yet at the same moment Lamont says he wants to hold the two big utility companies accountable, his chief of staff is Paul Mounds Jr., who three years ago had a $100,000 researcher’s job with Eversource, for which he registered as a company lobbyist in 2017 with the Office of State Ethics.

Florida Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carolini | Published: 8/18/2020

The referendum amends the city’s charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for Naples’ ethics code. Once formed, the commission will be provided the authority to receive and investigate complaints and impose penalties. The ethics office will be responsible for items such as keeping records, filing complaints, and offering training programs. The referendum results are the outcome of years of debate and a court case regarding the city’s ethics rules and the legality of the proposed referendum.

Illinois Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 8/21/2020

In the latest in a series of public-corruption cases filed in the Chicago area, federal prosecutors leveled two felony counts against Jeff Tobolski, a former Democratic Cook County commissioner and mayor of the village of McCook. The charges of extortion and lying on his income taxes came nearly a year after investigators raided the village’s Town Hall on the same day they searched a variety of sites across the state, including a state lawmaker’s office at the Illinois Capitol and the municipal offices of other Chicago suburbs.

Kansas With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 8/25/2020

Aaron Coleman acknowledged sordid behavior in middle school, when he threatened to share a girl’s nude photograph if she did not send other pictures to him. He posted caustic messages to social media earlier this year, saying he would “giggle” when a former Republican lawmaker died of the coronavirus. Then he upended the established political order, defeating a longtime Wyandotte County lawmaker in the Democratic primary election. Coleman, a 19-year-old college student and dishwasher, vowed to campaign on to November. Coleman’s candidacy is forcing Democrats to confront uncomfortable questions about what should happen when voters choose someone whose past behavior has been universally condemned.

Maryland MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 8/25/2020

Members of the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors told a legislative committee the agency’s director, as he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, assured them the governor was on board with a proposal to give him a year’s salary as severance. Three members of the board told legislators they feel misled by Roy McGrath about his severance. They testified at an oversight hearing that McGrath assured them Hogan supported the plan to pay McGrath about $238,000. The governor said he had no role in the board’s decisions involving McGrath as he prepared to join his team.

Missouri GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 8/19/2020

Republican lawmakers asking voters to repeal changes they made to the state’s redistricting process on the 2020 ballot are not giving up on framing the question their way. The day after a Cole County judge called the way they summarized a proposal they put on for the November ballot as “misleading” and “unfair”
and wrote a new summary, the state attorney general’s office filed notice that lawmakers plan to appeal. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce tore into Republican legislators in a ruling, saying they failed “to even allude to” the main point of their plan in the language meant to describe it to voters on the ballot.

Missouri Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 8/20/2020

Weak oversight by the St. Louis County Council under then-Chairperson Sam Page and by County Auditor Mark Tucker contributed to the abuses of former County Executive Steve Stenger, according to a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office. The audit also found several instances, before and after Page succeeded Stenger as county executive, in which he and the council had shored up vulnerabilities Stenger had exploited. The audit said Stenger and his close advisers manipulated the county’s procurement process or meddled with contracts issued by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority.

Montana Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 8/25/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November, a move some argued would benefit Republicans by drawing votes away from Democrats. The decision follows a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state District Court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. More than 560 people asked for their names to be removed from ballot petitions after they learned the Republican Party funded the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and failed to disclose the spending in violation of campaign finance laws.

New Jersey N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/19/2020

Jeanmarie Zahore was indicted on public corruption charges after he allegedly made numerous cash payments to a city of Orange employee who helped the man’s company get a $350,000 contract with the city. According to authorities, Zahore allegedly “engaged in a scheme” starting in August 2015 to offer and give “corrupt cash payments” to an unnamed Orange public official in exchange for the city employee using their influence to reward Zahore’s computer consulting business, JZ Nettech, with a lucrative city contract to install a computer networking system at the municipal complex that houses the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.

New York N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim | Published: 8/24/2020

The New York attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months. The filings come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. State Attorney General Letitia James started the civil inquiry after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes.

New York Sheldon Silver Begins Prison Sentence in Corruption Case
Associated Press News – Tom Hayes and Michael Balsamo | Published: 8/26/2020

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, started his prison sentence after years of fending off going behind bars. He was sentenced earlier this year to six-and-one-half years in a corruption case. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and convicted later that year, but appeals had kept him out of prison. “His time has come,” District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said. “He needs to go to jail.”

North Carolina N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/19/2020

A federal judge sentenced North Carolina’s largest political donor to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme unearthed by an FBI sting. Businessperson Greg Lindberg was sentenced after the judge gave probation to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes for lying to FBI agents during the government’s investigation. Hayes and Lindberg were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give over $1.5 million to help state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s 2020 campaign, in exchange for Causey removing an official in his department. The third person convicted in the case, John Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

North Carolina Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 8/20/2020

One of the most powerful Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature was charged with federal financial crimes in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take money from his political donors for personal use. State Rep. David Lewis for the last several years has been chairperson of the influential House Rules Committee. The charges outline $65,000 he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018. Lewis had filed to run for re-election this year, but then in July surprised the political world with an announcement he would retire at the end of his term this year.

North Dakota North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 8/25/2020

The North Dakota Supreme Court sided with opponents who sued to keep off the November ballot a measure that would write many new election processes in the state constitution. The measure is a constitutional initiative that would enact new processes for military-overseas voting, election audits, open primaries, instant runoffs, subdivided state House districts, and new legislative districts drawn by the state’s Ethics Commission, which voters approved in 2018. Opponents disputed the petition’s title and cited the omission of the full text of a statute mentioned in the measure’s petition.

Ohio How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal
Akron Beacon Journal – Jesse Balmert (Concinnati Equirer) | Published: 8/24/2020

The man behind the scenes of Ohio’s largest bribery scheme might be the state’s most powerful political operative no one has ever heard of. Jeff Longstreth is called former Speaker Larry Householder’s “implementer” and “political guy” by federal investigators laying out detailed allegations of a nearly $61 million “pay-to-play” scheme. Longstreth was not a key player in Ohio politics until Householder needed someone to help him stage a political comeback. Together, they took control of the Ohio House, passed a $1.3 billion bailout for nuclear plants, and defended that law against a ballot initiative to block it, according to a complaint used to arrest the duo and three others.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/25/2020

The failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law now at the center of a federal corruption investigation, is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Elections Commission for not disclosing who funded the campaign. Commission members will consider a complaint against Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the well-financed political group that attempted to repeal the law through a citizen’s referendum. The group disbanded last year, shortly after it missed a deadline to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Commission staffers recommend the group be fined $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since January 31, the deadline to report for campaign groups that performed political work during 2019.

Ohio Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale Subject of Campaign-Finance Complaint from Secretary of State Frank LaRose
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/26/2020

Secretary of State Frank LaRose accused an outspoken state lawmaker of a series of campaign finance violations via a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. LaRose said the review began after Rep. Nino Vitale submitted a blank page on June 5, when the most recent campaign finance report was due. LaRose accuses Vitale of improperly using his campaign resources, including his website and social media account, to promote his personal concealed-carry firearms training business, and also alleges Vitale failed to properly report fundraising activity in his most recent report he filed in June.

Pennsylvania A Dark Money Mystery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 8/20/2020

Launched by Ray Zaborney, a political strategist who doubles as a lobbyist, the Growth and Opportunity Fund has been operating in Pennsylvania for six years. For those seeking to influence the agenda in Harrisburg without public scrutiny, such groups are particularly useful tools. They do not have to who bankrolls them and must only make public limited information on spending. Political operatives can move seamlessly and simultaneously between campaigns, dark money groups, and lobbying, capitalizing on a system with weak rules and little oversight.

South Dakota Asked by City Council to Clarify Report, Board of Ethics Says ‘Read It Again’
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/6/2020

Asked by the city council to clarify their report on a complaint against a councilor, a clearly frustrated Sioux Falls Board of Ethics added nothing to a report except a note saying the council should read it again. The complaint centers on a trip taken by Councilor Greg Neitzert to Dallas in October 2019 with Mayor Paul TenHaken. The two attended a conference of Republican municipal and county officials, hosted by the group Community Leaders of America. In a complaint against Neitzert, says he violated the city’s ethics policies when the group paid for his travel expenses.

Tennessee Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise | Published: 8/21/2020

A new Tennessee law makes it a felony for protesters to camp out overnight on state property. If convicted, they could lose their voting rights and face up to six years in prison. Although some states are moving towards restoring voting rights for felons, it remains illegal for felons to vote in Tennessee. Lawmakers advanced the bill amid nearly two months of frequent protests outside the Capitol. The mostly young Black activists who spearheaded the demonstration had been calling for racial justice reforms and for a meeting with Gov. Bill Lee. The governor and some lawmakers have defended the protest bill by pointing to a demonstration that resulted with some participants setting fires inside and outside a courthouse.

Wisconsin Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Alison Dirr | Published: 8/24/2020

Milwaukee’s Ethics Board voted to subpoena tax records from former Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Chairperson Steven DeVougas. He is still a member of the FPC but was replaced as chair. An ethics complaint brought by the Milwaukee Police Association raises concerns about DeVougas’ presence in the police interview of a powerful real estate developer accused of sexual assault. The complaint charges DeVougas’ presence with the developer, who was also his client, violated the public’s trust and was a misuse and abuse of his position at the FPC. The other counts allege DeVougas did not list his ties to the developer’s company on documents known as statements of economic interest.

October 1, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star Rhode Island: “Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal” by Patrick Anderson for Providence Journal […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star

Rhode Island: “Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal” by Patrick Anderson for Providence Journal

Ethics

Alaska: “Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians” by Juliet Eilperin for Washington Post

California: “Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Case” by City News Service for MyNewsLA.com

Georgia: “Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract” by Everett Catts for Rome News-Tribune

Maryland: “HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues” by Meredith Cohen for Baltimore Sun

New York: “City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King” by David Cruz for Gothamist

Lobbying

Europe: “Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials” by Jack Horgan-Jones for Irish Times

National: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks” by Tom Hamburger for Washington Post

Illinois: “Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

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September 30, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Indiana: “Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme” by John Davies for Associated Press News Elections National: “Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate” by Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie […]

Campaign Finance

Indiana: “Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme” by John Davies for Associated Press News

Elections

National: “Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate” by Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey for Washington Post

National: “Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting” by Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote” by Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger (New York Times) for MSN

Florida: “Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons” by John Pacenti for Palm Beach Post

Ohio: “Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say” by Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution” by Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow for Washington Post

Lobbying

Florida: “JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times Union

Massachusetts: “Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist” by Matt Murphy (State House News Service) for MSN

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September 29, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press California: “California […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post

National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press

California: “California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters

Elections

Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations” by Robert Barnes for Washington Post

Wisconsin: “Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension” by Todd Richmond for Associated Press News

Ethics

National: “Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Illinois: “Speaker Madigan And Several Former ComEd Lobbyists Decline to Appear Before House Committee” by Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold for WBEZ

New York: “Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

Lobbying

National: “Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash” by Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters for New York Times

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September 28, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune Elections Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader […]

Campaign Finance

Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune

Elections

Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader

Ethics

National: “Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right” by Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow for Washington Post

National: “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance” by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire for New York Times

Illinois: “3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune

Illinois: “Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff” by Gregory Pratt and John Byrne for Chicago Tribune

Tennessee: “Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote” by Mariah Timms for The Tennessean

Lobbying

National: “Women Rise on K Street – Slowly” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Florida: “NextEra Energy’s Failed Attempt to Purchase JEA Highlights Web of Murky Spending, Lobbying” by Daniel Tait for Energy and Policy Institute

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September 28, 2020 •

Connecticut Governor Announces Special Session

Connecticut State Capitol

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a special session to convene on Tuesday, September 29. The General Assembly will consider legislation for several policy issues including: performance-based regulation of the state’s electricity, gas, and water companies; securing absentee ballots for the […]

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a special session to convene on Tuesday, September 29.

The General Assembly will consider legislation for several policy issues including: performance-based regulation of the state’s electricity, gas, and water companies; securing absentee ballots for the general election; school construction projects; and opportunities for the state’s hemp program.

The Legislature will also consider four nominations announced by the governor in July to fill a vacancy in the state Supreme Court and three seats in the Appellate Court.

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September 28, 2020 •

Governor Signs Bill Restoring Non-Presidential Year Primaries to June

elections

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill moving non-presidential year primaries back to June. Senate Bill 970 will return California to the traditional midterm primary date. The bill becomes effective January 1, 2021.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill moving non-presidential year primaries back to June.

Senate Bill 970 will return California to the traditional midterm primary date.

The bill becomes effective January 1, 2021.

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September 28, 2020 •

South Dakota Governor Calls Special Session of Legislature

South Dakota Capitol Building

South Dakota Capitol Building

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced she is calling a special legislative session on Monday, October 5, 2020. The main purpose of this session is to consider legislation related to the use of federal stimulus relief funds, including the $1.25 […]

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced she is calling a special legislative session on Monday, October 5, 2020.

The main purpose of this session is to consider legislation related to the use of federal stimulus relief funds, including the $1.25 billion allocated to South Dakota in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF).

Unless an extension is granted, South Dakota has until December 30, 2020 to spend all CRF dollars.

The administration has spent about $114 million of the $1.25 billion in federal funds allocated to the state.

Noem has mapped out a plan to spend the bulk of the money, including up to $400 million in small business grants.

However, some House members said lawmakers should be included in the decision.

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September 25, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 25, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020 On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with […]

National/Federal

Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020

On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020

More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.

Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.

DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020

The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.

How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020

With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.

Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020

In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.

Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.

Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020

An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020

The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020

Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.

Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020

President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.

Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020

President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020

A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.

Alaska In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

California California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020

The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”

California CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.

California LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020

A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.

California San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020

San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.

Florida Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”

Illinois Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020

A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020

The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.

Illinois CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020

After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.

Illinois Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020

Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.

Kentucky Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020

As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.

Louisiana In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020

In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.

Maryland Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020

Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.

Minnesota Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020

Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020

Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.

New Jersey Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020

A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.

New York Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020

President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”

New York New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020

After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.

New York Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.

Ohio Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020

FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”

Pennsylvania Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020

Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.

South Carolina Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020

Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.

Virginia Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020

The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.

Washington DC D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020

A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.

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