August 3, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August, 3, 2018

 

 

 

National:

As Midterm Elections Approach, a Growing Concern That the Nation Is Not Protected from Russian Interference
Washington Post – Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg | Published: 8/1/2018

Two years after Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign, the nation has done little to protect itself against a renewed effort to influence voters in the coming congressional midterm elections, according to lawmakers and independent analysts. They say voting systems are more secure against hackers, thanks to action at the federal and state levels, and the Russians have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016. But Russian efforts to manipulate American voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the U.S.

Campaigns Enter Texting Era with a Plea: Will U Vote 4 Me 🙏??
New York Times – Kevin Roos | Published: 8/1/2018

Candidates in this year’s midterm elections are still sending mailers, putting ads on television, and knocking on doors to drum up support. But they have added a new, hard-to-ignore tool to their arsenal: personalized text messages sent to voters’ phones. When TV ads are skipped and email inboxes automatically filter out junk and promotions, it is not surprising that campaigns are desperate for a tool that can reliably get voters’ attention. What is surprising is how influential the lowly SMS text message has remained. Both Democratic and Republican campaigns are relying on mass-texting apps that take advantage of a clever legal loophole to send huge numbers of texts per day without running afoul of anti-spam laws.

Federal:

At Prayer Breakfast, Guests Seek Access to a Different Higher Power
WRAL – Kenneth Vogel and Elizabeth Dias (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2018

The National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus. But the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats, and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power. The subculture around the breakfast was thrust into the spotlight with the indictment of Maria Butina, who was charged with conspiring to act as a Russian agent. Her goals, prosecutors said, included gaining access to the breakfast “to establish a back channel of communication” between influential Russians and Americans “to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation.”

Mueller’s Digging Exposes Culture of Foreign Lobbying and Its Big Paydays
WRAL – Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2018

The case against Paul Manafort is part of a broader inquiry into the lucrative work done on behalf of the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and special counsel Robert Mueller has handed some elements of the investigation to federal prosecutors in New York. Beyond Mueller’s office, the Justice Department has also recently been pursuing such cases with greater urgency under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and related to foreign influence operations more broadly. All of this has prompted lobbyists to hunt for advice about how to comply with laws governing that sphere. “The phone rings much more often with this question than it did two years ago,” said Tom Spulak, a partner at the King & Spalding law firm who advises on lobbying compliance.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Ethics Reform Bill Signed into Law
Cordova Times; Staff –   | Published: 7/27/2018

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed a bill into law that bars lobbyists from buying meals or alcoholic beverages for lawmakers. House Bill 44 also requires that when legislators vote on an issue they or their immediate family have a financial stake in they must disclose it, among other provisions.

California: Combatting Corruption: How effective is the political watchdog Jerry Brown helped create?
CALmatters – Laurel Rosenhall and Robbie Short | Published: 7/25/2018

California voters overwhelmingly approved the Political Reform Act, which also created the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the new ethics rules championed by Jerry Brown when he first ran for governor in 1974. Yet while Brown rose to power in the 1970s expressing a passion for cleaning up politics, he has not demonstrated the same zeal in the sunset of his career. The idealism of a young candidate has been replaced with the resignation of an experienced politician who seems to doubt how much the government can regulate human foibles.

Florida: Jack Latvala Cleared of Criminal Charges by State Prosecutor
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Bousquet, Mary Ellen Klas, and Emily Mahoney | Published: 7/26/2018

Tallahassee’s state attorney, Jack Campbell, said he could not find enough evidence to charge former Florida Sen. Jack Latvala following claims he engaged in a sex-for-vote scheme. Lobbyist Laura McLeod alleged Latvala intimated on multiple occasions if she had sex with him or let him touch her that he would lend his influential support to issues she was promoting. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) concluded Latvala did not unlawfully exert his influence. Campbell submitted a letter to FDLE concurring there was not enough evidence to support the claims of public corruption.

Georgia: In Georgia Governor’s Race, a Defining Moment for a Southern State
WRAL – Kevin Sack and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2018

Georgia’s gubernatorial race between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams has taken on the dimensions of a defining moment, one that will determine what the state represents and how it is perceived. That voters chose these two candidates reflects how Americans are embracing politicians on the basis of culture and identity, and how Georgia’s politics are catching up with its rapid demographic change. More starkly than in most midterm campaigns, the contest between Kemp, the two-term Republican secretary of state, and Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the state Legislature, has come to mirror the polarization of the Trump era and expose the consequences of a primary system that increasingly rewards those who appeal to the fringes.

Illinois: Company Used Convicted Chicago Schools Chief in ‘Highly Unethical’ Work to Win Millions in CPS Business, Watchdog Finds
Chicago Tribune – Juan Perez Jr. | Published: 7/31/2018

A for-profit company that educates at-risk students won tens of millions of dollars from Chicago Public Schools with help from then-district Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennet and her co-conspirators. That “highly unethical conduct” was essential for Camelot Education to open four campuses several years ago, Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said in a report. Schuler’s office asked the Board of Education to disqualify Camelot and two unnamed company executives from future business. If the board concludes doing so would be too disruptive, Schuler recommended the board fine Camelot $6.7 million and appoint an independent monitor to review the company’s conduct for three years.

Maine: Judge Orders LePage to Release Clean Elections Cash
centralmaine.com – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/2/2018

A judge ordered Maine Gov. Paul LePage to release about $1.4 million in campaign funds for candidates running under the state’s clean elections law. The order would provide public funding for the campaigns of about 174 candidates for the Legislature and one candidate running in the governor’s race. The ruling does not affect an additional $4.8 million in clean elections funding that is tied up in a partisan dispute in the state House.

Missouri: Divided KC Council Defeats $5 Gift Proposal – ‘We’re Doing Fine’
Kansas City Star – Bill Turque | Published: 7/26/2018

The Kansas City Council voted down a bill that would limit lobbyists’ gifts and taxpayer-funded travel. The measure slashed the maximum value of gifts from $1,000 to five dollars. It restricted city-funded council and mayoral travel to two trips per four-year term, except when representing the city before the state or federal government. It also doubled from one to two years the time ex-officials must wait before lobbying the city or working as a contractor.

New York: Sheldon Silver, Ex-Assembly Speaker, Gets 7 Years in Prison for Corruption Conviction
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Jon Campbell | Published: 7/27/2018

Sheldon Silver, the former New York Assembly speaker who brokered legislative deals for two decades before corruption charges abruptly ended his career, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Silver’s initial conviction on the charges in 2015 was tossed out by an appeals court, but a jury once again found him guilty of taking nearly $4 million in return for legislative favors he performed for a cancer researcher and real estate developers. His sentencing comes 10 days after Dean Skelos, the former New York Senate leader, and his son, Adam, were convicted of extortion, wire fraud, and bribery at a retrial for each of them.

North Carolina
‘I Have Not Been Involved,’ NC Supreme Court Justice Says of Bill Targeting Opponent
Raleigh News and Observer – Wil Doran | Published: 7/26/2018

North Carolina legislators took another step that critics say amounted to meddling in this year’s election for a seat on the state Supreme Court. State lawmakers voted along almost entirely partisan lines, deciding that only one of the two Republicans running for the seat would have her party affiliation listed on the ballot. Republicans are worried the candidate the bill affected, Chris Anglin, is not truly a Republican but rather part of a Democratic plot to influence the election. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson said she did not ask for the bill targeting Anglin. Jackson said she hardly ever speaks with legislators about anything to avoid conflicts-of-interest.

Pennsylvania: Lehigh County Pay-to-Play Law Crimps Donations from Political Candidates’ Own Parties
Allentown Morning Call – Tom Shortell | Published: 7/30/2018

Lehigh County’s “pay-to-play” law has become a factor in one of this year’s most closely watched congressional races, with one candidate’s campaign saying it has impeded fundraising. Outside groups have pumped millions of dollars into the race, which they see as a critical swing district in a fight to control Congress. But all that money flowing toward Marty Nothstein’s campaign could create complications in Lehigh County. Because Nothstein is an elected member of the county Board of Commissioners, any donations he would receive from county vendors could trigger the “pay-to-play” provisions.

Vermont: Vermont Campaign-Finance Limits Survive Appeal
Courthouse News Service – Nick Rummell | Published: 7/31/2018

An appeals court ruled Vermont does not trample the First Amendment by hinging public financing of political candidates on their adherence to certain rules. The opinion upholds the dismissal of a lawsuit by a candidate for lieutenant governor who argued his receipt of public financing should not force him to curtail expenditures and contributions from private parties. “Given the free choice to accept the grants and restrictions that public financing entails or to engage in unlimited private fundraising, candidates cannot complain that electing the former course burdens their rights,” Judge Robert Katzmann wrote.

May 22, 2019 •

FEC Names Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General

On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency. Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position […]

On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency.

Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“We look forward to working with him and drawing upon his deep expertise,” said Chair Ellen L. Weintraub in the FEC’s press release.

His appointment with the FEC becomes effective on May 28.

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May 22, 2019 •

OGE to Hold Virtual Hearing on Proposed Rule for Executive Branch Legal Expense Funds

On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds. The virtual public hearing will be […]

On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds.

The virtual public hearing will be recorded and a transcript of the hearing will be posted on OGE’s website.

The agency is seeking public comments even after the virtual hearing, with the comment period ending on June 14.

The OGE has also listed questions on its website for the public to consider in order to help the agency determine issues specifically related to legal expense funds.

Those questions include whether there should be contribution limits to legal expense funds; whether donations of pro bono legal services to legal expense funds should be permitted; and whether contributions should be subject to reporting requirements?

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May 22, 2019 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban” by Josh Gerstein for Politico Oklahoma: “Walkingstick Disqualified as Principal Chief Candidate” by Grant Crawford (Tahlequah Daily Press) for Muskogee Phoenix Ethics National: “Judge Rules Against Trump in Fight Over […]

Campaign Finance

National: “9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Oklahoma: “Walkingstick Disqualified as Principal Chief Candidate” by Grant Crawford (Tahlequah Daily Press) for Muskogee Phoenix

Ethics

National: “Judge Rules Against Trump in Fight Over President’s Financial Records” by Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

National: “Cohen Told Lawmakers Trump Attorney Jay Sekulow Encouraged Him to Falsely Claim Moscow Project Ended in January” by Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) for MSN

New Jersey: “Governor’s Feud with Party Boss Rocks New Jersey Politics” by Ryan Hutchins for Politico

Tennessee: “Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to Resign Position After Sexually Charged Texts” by Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison (The Tennessean) for USA Today

Lobbying

National: “NRA Helps Sheriffs Fight Gun Laws in Second Amendment ‘Sanctuaries’” by Nick Penzenstadler for USA Today

National: “Women Strive to Close Gender Gap at Biz Groups” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

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May 21, 2019 •

Colorado Lobbyist Transparency Act Becomes Law

Gov. Jared Polis signed the Lobbyist Transparency Act into law on May 20, shining new light on the disclosure requirements of lobbyists and their clients. House Bill 1248 increases transparency by stopping attorneys registered as professional lobbyists from asserting confidentiality […]

Gov. Jared Polis signed the Lobbyist Transparency Act into law on May 20, shining new light on the disclosure requirements of lobbyists and their clients.

House Bill 1248 increases transparency by stopping attorneys registered as professional lobbyists from asserting confidentiality in order to conceal client information and lobbying activity.

The bill provides that when the general assembly is in regular or special session, a professional lobbyist must notify the secretary of state within 72 hours of agreeing to lobby in connection with new legislation or taking a new position on a new or existing bill for a new or existing client.

Additionally, the bill instructs the secretary of state to form a working group to upgrade the electronic filing system in order to ease the use of data reported and to increase overall transparency.

The secretary of state must convene the working group no later than July 1, and the group must meet at least once before December 31.

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May 21, 2019 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Ethics National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a […]

Campaign Finance

Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive

New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Ethics

National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment” by Isaac Stanley-Baker for Washington Post

California: “Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort” by Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do for Los Angeles Times

Oregon: “Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Legislative Issues

Nevada: “Where Women Call the Shots” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for Washington Post

Lobbying

Mississippi: “How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers” by Giacomo Bologna for Jackson Clarion-Ledger

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May 20, 2019 •

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Corporate Contribution Case

United States Supreme Court Building

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law. The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial […]

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law.

The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the challenge, brought by 1A Auto Inc. and 126 Self Storage Inc., in September.

The suit claimed disparate treatment by banning for-profit corporate contributions while allowing significant contributions by unions and nonprofits.

After the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, state law was updated to allow corporate spending for independent expenditures but not political contributions.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded Monday’s decision not to hear the case for the integrity of state elections.

Opponents of the law are hopeful the Supreme Court will take up the issue in another case.

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May 20, 2019 •

NYCU Video Digest – May 20, 2019

As more legislatures work through their legislative sessions, more new lobbying, ethics and campaign finance laws are being passed. Find out which states made changes in this edition of NYCU Video Digest  

As more legislatures work through their legislative sessions, more new lobbying, ethics and campaign finance laws are being passed. Find out which states made changes in this edition of NYCU Video Digest

 

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May 20, 2019 •

North Dakota Officials Prepare to Appoint Ethics Commission Members

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum by Senior Master Sgt. David H Lipp

Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1. Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission […]

Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission through May 24 and hopes to have members selected by July 1.

The five commissioners will be chosen by consensus agreement of the governor and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders.

The state constitution bars certain people from serving on the commission including lobbyists, political party officials, and those who hold statewide elected or appointed office.

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