August 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 18, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020 Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the […]

National/Federal

At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response
New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020

Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict, and other emergencies around the world. As President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed almost 200,000 lives nationwide, the USAID has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries, and disengaged the U.S. from the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response.

Barr Accuses Justice Department of Headhunting and Meddling with Politics
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/16/2020

Attorney General William Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. The attorney general directly addressed the criticism that has been building for months inside the department toward his heavy hand in politically sensitive cases, particularly those involving associates of President Trump. Barr’s comments were remarkable in that the head of the Justice Department catalogued all the ways in which he thought his agency had gone astray over the years, and in its current formulation harms the body politic.

Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 9/11/2020

A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case, called Attorney General William Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.” Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation September 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump advisor to plead guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/15/2020

A federal grand jury is investigating potential disclosures of classified information in the book former national security adviser John Bolton published over objections from the Trump administration. The development signals Bolton may face much more severe legal trouble than just the pending lawsuit that seeks to strip him of the proceeds from “The Room Where It Happened,” the tell-all account that generated a slew of critical press coverage for President Trump. The judge assigned to that suit rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block publication of the book, but said Bolton appeared to have deliberately violated nondisclosure agreements he signed and could face criminal jeopardy.

Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Wald | Published: 9/11/2020

Watchdogs are concerned with super PACs, which can accept donations of unlimited size but must reveal the names of their donors and regularly disclose their activity. But they are more worried about “dark money” groups: nonprofit organizations that cannot be as explicitly political as super PACs but can keep their donors secret forever and do not have to reveal much about activities before elections. While concerns about campaign finance reform that once animated Democratic voters have been eclipsed by the desire to oust President Trump, advocates are left to wonder if the party can really be trusted to follow through on its promises to dismantle a system that may help them get elected.

Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 9/14/2020

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has had little success in the battery of lawsuits he filed against media organizations and critics, but his efforts are running up legal bills for the groups he considers his adversaries. Altogether, Nunes has filed seven lawsuits against media organizations, anonymous online critics, and other political actors. The only case that has concluded is one his campaign filed and dropped against a retired farmer in Nunes’ congressional district who challenged the Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters. Judges have dismissed or greatly diminished three of the cases. Each time, Nunes appealed the decision or attempted to file an amended complaint to restart the case.

Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/14/2020

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has begun reviewing the controversial handling of the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump who was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s treatment has long drawn criticism from legal observers and lawmakers who said Attorney General William Barr seemed to be inappropriately affording favorable treatment to a friend of the president.  Earlier this year, when Stone was still awaiting his sentence, Barr personally intervened to overrule the sentencing recommendation career prosecutors had offered to the court, prompting all four of them to withdraw from the case.

Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 9/11/2020

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned, at least partly out of concern the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Postal Service and State Officials Feud Over Mail Voting as Election Looms
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Haley Fuchs, Nick Corasaniti, and Luke Broadwater | Published: 9/16/2020

The Postal Service postcard urging voters to “plan ahead” if they intended to vote by mail seemed innocuous enough. But not to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued the agency to halt its delivery, arguing the mailer was filled with misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Such is the toxic state of the relationship between some state and local election administrators in both parties and the Postal Service six weeks before Election Day, as officials throughout the country scramble to prepare for what is expected to be an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots in an extraordinary pandemic-era election. The feuding suggests a pre-emptive blame game between the nation’s mail-delivery agency and those charged with administering and counting the vote.

Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2020

Social media messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views, standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to people with independent knowledge of the effort.

Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says
Associated Press – Frank Bajack | Published: 9/10/2020

Microsoft said the same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants. The intrusion attempts reflect an increased effort to infiltrate the American political establishment, the company said. Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified. Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.

Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 9/11/2020

The Department of Health and Human Services’ politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained the agency’s reports would undermine President Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails.

Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/10/2020

Twitter announced it is expanding its policies against election-related misinformation, setting new rules that will likely force the platform to more aggressively fact-check President Trump during the final months of the 2020 campaign. Trump has more than 85 million Twitter followers, and the company has previously flagged misleading claims from the president, including the assertion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s expanded policies come as social media has become the central electoral information battlefield, as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning. The tech companies have heeded the advice of experts who predict the election result may not be settled quickly in part because of mail-in ballots this year, leading to potential confusion about who wins.

Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 9/15/2020

A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that said private-sector unions cannot charge non-members for costs related to lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions cannot force dissenting employees to contribute to them at all because this would violate the First Amendment. That decision overruled more than 40 years of precedent. But the First Amendment does not apply in the private sector, where a union-security agreement can force dissenters to pay for union activities that relate to collective bargaining, contract administration, or handling grievances. The First Circuit panel ruled lobbying does not fall into any of those categories.

Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/15/2020

A new assessment of congressional staffing, concludes that relatively low compensation, leading to high turnover among aides, fuels the dysfunction and diminished clout of today’s legislative branch. But with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil of this year’s elections, has the private sector lost some of its sheen for these aides? Is the revolving door from Congress to K Street still a viable option for congressional aides looking to cash in?

Canada

Canada Canada’s Ethics Czar Says Former Envoy to Washington Broke Conflict-of-Interest Law in His Work for Palantir
Politico – Angy Blatchford | Published: 9/16/2020

Canada’s ethics watchdog says former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton broke conflict-of-interest law and is ordering nine senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to cease all official dealings with him for one year. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion published the order following his investigation of MacNaughton, a close ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The probe was launched amid complaints about MacNaughton’s interactions with cabinet ministers and other key officials after leaving his ambassador’s job to take on a senior role last year with data analytics firm Palantir.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/15/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of misusing his campaign checking account and resign from the Senate, according to a plea deal. Burkette agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and to not run for or accept a public office for 10 years. The plea agreement says that when Burkette was a candidate for the Montgomery City Council he intentionally put $3,625 in campaign funds in his personal checking account.

California 13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants
San Bernardino Sun – Beau Yarbrough | Published: 9/11/2020

On September 4, 2007, San Bernardino County prosecutors indicted former Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt and California Charter Academy founder Charles Steven Cox on suspicion of misappropriating $5.5 million in state and federal funds. Thirteen years later, they have never been tried, have not taken a plea deal, and their case has never been dismissed. The case has faced years of delays, due in part to its complexity and Honeycutt’s political connections, and now complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, the prosecutor on the case.

California San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/10/2020

San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia vetoed legislation that on would have set a yearly $4,700 limit on how much someone can give a candidate for county or city office. The item is expected to be taken up again in October. Signed into law last fall, Assembly Bill 571 on January 1 will set the default contribution limit at $4,700 per year per individual for cities and counties without their own laws regulating campaign donations. Jurisdictions can adopt their own rules before then to avoid defaulting to the limits already in place for state Assembly and Senate candidates.

California San Diego Ethics Commission Taps Deputy City Attorney as New Chief
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 9/16/2020

San Diego’s Ethics Commission, which oversees the city’s campaign and election laws, selected a deputy city attorney with expertise in those areas to serve as the commission’s new executive director. Sharon Spivak, a former journalist and private sector attorney, will replace longtime Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst if the city council approves the selection. Fulhorst is scheduled to retire in February after more than 17 years leading the agency. Spivak is expected to start work in early November, which would allow for a three-month overlap and transition period.

Colorado A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 9/14/2020

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formed Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit organization that can accept unlimited personal and corporate contributions and not disclose its donors, after he won the 2018 election in order to help him recruit members of his administration and form the policy platform for his first term. Now, it has shifted its focus to support efforts to lower the cost of living in the state, including expanding access for early childhood education and addressing rising health care costs. The language echoes the governor’s policy priorities, and his ties to such a group raise concerns with watchdogs who suggest it amounts to a “shadow governance group.” The move comes as the governor campaigns for a key 2020 ballot initiative to achieve one of his campaign promises and two years before he faces reelection.

Connecticut Report: Public financing has added women, minority legislators in CT
San Francisco Chronicle – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/14/2020

About 85 percent of candidates for the General Assembly used public funds to seek office in 2018, helping to make Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program a national model, according to a new analysis by Common Cause. The watchdog group said the law fostered competitive races, advanced progressive public policy, and landed more women and minorities in the Legislature. The report found that in the 2018 races, 99 percent of candidate funding came from individuals, with minuscule amounts from other sources. In 2006, nearly half of the $9.3 million raised by candidates came from lobbyists, PACs, and other entities.

Florida County Commissioners Move Forward with Changes to Lobbying Regulations
Tallahassee Reports – Lexie Pitzen | Published: 9/16/2020

The Leon County Commission approved an ordinance amending lobbying regulations. The ordinance clarifies definitions related to lobbying and who qualifies as a lobbyist. It also outlines new regulation enforcement models, including processes for filing and investigating complaints as well as guidelines for lobbying violation penalties. The ordinance modifies lobbyist exemptions.

Florida Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 9/11/2020

A federal appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that people with felony convictions do not have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not prove a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs included more than a dozen people with felony convictions who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers of imposing a “poll tax” by requiring them to pay off all court-ordered costs relating to their felony convictions before voting. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it virtually guarantees the estimated 800,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who owe fines, fees, or restitution to victims will not be allowed to vote in the November election.

Florida Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert
Washington Post – Jaclyn Pieser | Published: 9/16/2020

Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald, opened their papers recently to find a paid insert called “LIBRE.” In a column headlined, “American Jews and Israeli Jews” in the insert, an author claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The Herald apologized and promised to never again run the insert, which editors now say had included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Misinformation and racism are a growing concern in media targeting Florida’s Latino community. Radio Caracol, a news station in Miami, aired a 16-minute paid program claiming if Joe Biden won the election, the country would become a dictatorship run by “Jews and Blacks” and falsely saying he supports killing babies.

Georgia Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard Indicted for Fraud, Possessing Machine Guns and More
WXIA – Jonathan Raymond | Published: 9/16/2020

Jim Beard, the former chief financial officer for Atlanta, was indicted by the federal government under charges that include wire fraud, possessing a machine gun, and more. He is accused of defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars by using those funds in a range of inappropriate ways, including: personal purchases, “including two machine guns”; to pay for official travel which the host later reimbursed him for, which he then kept himself; and to pay for travel he then misrepresented in his tax filings.

Illinois Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 9/15/2020

After a four-month grace period, the Chicago Board of Ethics will start enforcing a ban on “cross-lobbying.” With federal investigators swarming around state and city government, the city council voted to prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and preventing their counterparts at those levels from doing the same at City Hall. Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin has said the board wanted to see if an amendment Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced this spring got passed. But board released a statement saying the mayor’s ordinance apparently will no proceed, and the new rules will be enforced starting October 1.

Illinois Former Chicago Firefighter Fined $2,000 for Violating City’s Ethics Ordinance
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 9/15/2020

A former Chicago firefighter was fined $2,000 for helping to draft bid documents for a $7.36 million fire training contract while negotiating a job with the company subsequently awarded the contract, then returning to work on the training in violation of the “revolving-door” provision. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the fine would have been higher if not for the extenuating circumstances. “… This guy only did it at the request of the Chicago Fire Department and only did it for the benefit of the city. While wrong, that mitigated the fine in our mind,” Conlon said.

Illinois Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/11/2020

A former top aide to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed secret bid information about a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders. Pedro Soto, who resigned as Jackson’s chief of staff before he was charged, admitted in a plea agreement he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.” Sources said it was an offshoot of the FBI’s investigation into then-Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis, who at the time had already been recorded on numerous wiretapped calls talking about exchanging favors for official action.

Kansas D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices
Kansas City Star – Matthew Kelly | Published: 9/14/2020

When Cynthia Herron received a mail-in ballot application from the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in August, she thought it seemed official enough. The request form, sent from a Post Office box in Springfield, Missouri, had Herron’s name and address already typed out. So, she signed and returned it in a prepaid envelope addressed to the Johnson County Election Office. Herron was confused when, three weeks later, she opened her mailbox to find a vote-by-mail request form from the county. Worried her initial request had not been accepted, Herron sent that one back too. When a third ballot application showed up in the mail, this one again from CVI, Herron began to suspect she was being intentionally misled.

New Jersey These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles
Newark Star Ledger – Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/13/2020

A review by NJ Advance Media revealed more than a dozen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans went to companies that have been sued or paid settlements over alleged fraudulent business practices in New Jersey. They included construction contractors, technology companies, and car dealerships that ran afoul of federal or state prosecutors, among them a builder once accused of cheating its workers and covering it up by falsifying payroll records, a key component of how lenders calculated PPP awards. Those businesses likely represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering the companies that received loans of less than $150,000, which number more than 65,000 in the Garden State alone, have never been named by the Treasury Department.

New York Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Graig | Published: 9/16/2020

Former lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft of $1,500 in government money, while agreeing to cooperate with investigations into “campaign finance matters.” Gaddy’s plea deal said he was approached by an FBI informant in September 2017 and was given cash to try to induce a New York Assembly member to introduce legislation that could impede a proposed development in Rochester. Gaddy recommended that Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo be approached. He assisted Errigo, who died earlier this year, with introducing legislation. Gaddy said he claimed he “greased the skids” with the late Assemblyperson David Gantt, but Gaddy had not done so. Instead, Gaddy kept $1,500 of the””intended bribe” for himself.

New York Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 9/14/2020

Just months after progressives in New York concluded one of their most successful primary seasons in history, a political party representing their interests is fighting for its survival. Because of rules backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning third parties, the Working Families Party must garner at least 130,000 votes or two percent of the total vote, whichever is higher, on its party line for the presidential election in November, or it will lose its automatic ballot line in New York. The rules present an unusual challenge for small parties in the state; the parties must encourage New Yorkers to vote for a presidential candidate on their line, even if that candidate is also running on the line of a mainstream party. So, the Working Families Party must persuade voters to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its column, not on that of the Democratic Party.

North Carolina Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going
Charlotte Observer – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 9/12/2020

A cascade of formal ethics complaints has flooded the city clerk’s office in Charlotte in recent weeks. It started with scrutiny on one Republican city council member and his nonprofit, which was poised to run a taxpayer-backed jobs training program, using COVID-19 relief funds. Soon after that, two Democrats on council who raised questions about the arrangement found themselves the target of ethics accusations. All council members, including the mayor, are facing at least one ethics complaint. The allegations range from elected officials luring campaign donations from developers to making racially charged comments during closed-door meetings, and to using city business for private business gain.

Ohio Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/15/2020

Prosecutors say they have a text message sent from then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder seeking to pressure a fellow lawmaker to vote for a bill at the center of a criminal “pay-to-play” scheme, a text an ally allegedly sought to get deleted. But the House said in response to a records request that the text could not be located from Householder’s phone as it was a “transient document” that did not need to be preserved. Householder, according to an FBI investigation, texted a male House Republican (only identified as “Representative 7”) on May 28, 2019, and pressured him to support House Bill 6, the beating heart of what prosecutors have called the largest bribery scheme in the state’s political history.

Ohio FirstEnergy’s PAC Reported Giving $158K to Ohio Politicians in July. They Say They Never Got the Money.
Akron Beacon Journal – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 9/16/2020

In the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians. FirstEnergy’s PAC reported giving the money to 65 politicians between July 6 and July 16, the same day a federal complaint was filed against Householder and four others in connection with what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers would call one of Ohio’s largest bribery schemes. To critics, the donations are an “insurance policy” as lawmakers now ponder repealing a scandal-scarred bailout, House Bill 6, that had helped FirstEnergy and its affiliates. The company says it is just working to help its customers and shareholders. But several Republicans and Democrats said their campaigns never received the money.

Ohio Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/15/2020

A judge ruled Ohio has no legal basis to limit drop boxes for completed absentee ballots to one per county, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose did in an order to county boards of election as they prepared for the November presidential election. Siding with arguments made by the Ohio Democratic Party, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye did not go so far as to block LaRose from enforcing the order. But Frye said he may do so, noting LaRose has said he would support allowing additional drop boxes if they were deemed legal.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 9/14/2020

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman tapped a lobbyist with a politically connected Harrisburg firm to serve as his new chief of staff, the latest example of the close relationship between elected officials in the Capitol and special interests trying to influence them. Corman, who is widely considered next in line to ascend to the chamber’s top leadership post, said he hired Krystjan Callahan, a partner at Maverick Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm run by Ray Zaborney, who also runs Corman’s campaigns. Callahan was once the top staffer to a Republican leader in the House. For the past five years, he has worked for Zaborney, who together with his wife runs a trio of companies known as The Mavericks.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs
Pennlive.com – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) | Published: 9/15/2020

The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign filed the suit seeking $6,070 from The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis. Scarnati’s campaign alleges the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.

South Dakota Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 9/11/2020

After a tense, and at times hostile, four-hour hearing, the Sioux Falls City Council dismissed an ethics complaint against Councilor Greg Neitzert, declaring there “is not clear and convincing evidence” he violated an ordinance when he made an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials last year. The hearing ended at least one leg of the saga, which has spanned two separate complaints, numerous public hearings and, finally, the transformation of Carnegie Town Hall into a sort of jury-rigged courtroom.

South Dakota State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says
Rapid City Journal – Arielle Zionts | Published: 9/15/2020

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will release its investigation into the state attorney general fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer but realized he killed a man when he searched the site the next morning while on his way to return the car he borrowed from the local sheriff. The Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS, is leading the investigation, DPS Secretary Craig Price said. He said the Highway Patrol often asks the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to help investigate fatal crashes but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this case since DCI is under Ravnsborg’s office.

Washington A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.
Washington Post – Jaclyn Peiser | Published: 9/15/2020

Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington Rep. Jenny Graham on August 27. The journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons. When Walters called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults. Walters and his editor tried calling Graham back a few times, asking what about his story was inaccurate. He also texted her, offering to talk off the record. But the representative did not respond. Instead, she turned to her Facebook page, where she posted about Walters about 15 times, he said. She called the reporter “pathetic,” “hateful,” “disgusting,” and a “lying piece of dung.”

Wisconsin GOP Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Advised Green Party
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 9/15/2020

A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state. The commission deadlocked on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.

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September 17, 2020 •

County Commissioners Approve Changes to Lobbying Regulations

Tallahassee City Hall

Leon County, Florida commissioners have approved an ordinance updating the county’s lobbying regulations. The new ordinance updates the registration and reporting process by removing the notary requirement and developing an online registration form. The ordinance also defines a clear process […]

Leon County, Florida commissioners have approved an ordinance updating the county’s lobbying regulations.

The new ordinance updates the registration and reporting process by removing the notary requirement and developing an online registration form.

The ordinance also defines a clear process for enforcement and adds new penalties for violations of the lobbyist regulations.

A public hearing will be held on the new ordinance on October 13.

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September 17, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Ohio: “Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer Ethics National: “Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to […]

Elections

Ohio: “Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ethics

National: “Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Florida: “Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert” by Jaclyn Pieser for Washington Post

New York: “Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren” by Gary Graig for Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Ohio: “Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says” by Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) for MSN

Pennsylvania: “Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs” by Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) for Pennlive.com

South Dakota: “State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says” by Arielle Zionts for Rapid City Journal

Lobbying

National: “Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues” by Thomas Harrison for Courthouse News Service

Canada: “Freeland, Vance and Several Federal Officials Barred from Official Dealings with Ex-Ambassador” by Catherine Tunney for CBC

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September 16, 2020 •

Fort Collins City Council Approves LLC Contribution Amendments for Final Passage

handshake

Two Fort Collins City Council campaign finance ordinances were approved for final passage on September 15. Ordinance 109-2020 will allow unexpended campaign contributions to a candidate committee to be contributed to a candidate committee established by the same candidate for […]

Two Fort Collins City Council campaign finance ordinances were approved for final passage on September 15.

Ordinance 109-2020 will allow unexpended campaign contributions to a candidate committee to be contributed to a candidate committee established by the same candidate for a subsequent campaign in a city election or to a candidate committee established after January 1, 2021.

The ordinance will also reduce the penalty for certain lower-level campaign finance violations from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil penalty.

Ordinance 112-2020 requires donations from LLCs to include statements that attribute the donation to specific LLC members.

The donations attributed through an LLC will then count toward individual donation limits.

Ordinance 112-2020 will also place a $100 cap on donations to political committees.

Both ordinances will become effective 10 days from the date of final passage on September 25.

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September 16, 2020 •

Chicago Board of Ethics to Enforce Lobbying Ban

Chicago River @ Michigan Ave. By David Wilson

The Chicago Board of Ethics announced it will begin enforcing Ordinance 2-156-309 on October 1. The ordinance prohibits state and local elected officials from lobbying City Council or any city agency, department, board, or commission. In a press release announcing […]

The Chicago Board of Ethics announced it will begin enforcing Ordinance 2-156-309 on October 1.

The ordinance prohibits state and local elected officials from lobbying City Council or any city agency, department, board, or commission.

In a press release announcing enforcement of the ban, the board indicated it had been monitoring compliance and delayed enforcement of the ordinance, which took effect April 14, because a proposal submitted to City Council by Mayor Lori Lightfoot would have affected at least one lobbyist.

The board indicated sufficient time has passed and it has confirmed there will be no changes to the ordinance.

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September 16, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Alabama: “Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com Elections New York: “Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival” by Dana Rubinstein for New York Times Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme […]

Campaign Finance

Alabama: “Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation” by Mike Cason for AL.com

Elections

New York: “Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival” by Dana Rubinstein for New York Times

Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Denies Green Party Presidential Candidate Ballot Access” by Riley Vetterkind (Wisconsin State Journal) for Madison.com

Ethics

National: “At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response” by Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma for New York Times

National: “Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation” by Matt Zapotosky for Washington Post

California: “13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants” by Beau Yarbrough for San Bernardino Sun

Washington: “A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.” by Jaclyn Peiser for Washington Post

Lobbying

National: “Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Illinois: “Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune

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September 15, 2020 •

Saskatchewan Lobbying Law Amendments Awaiting Order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council

The threshold for being required to register as an in-house lobbyist will soon be lower. Bill 195, The Lobbyists Amendment Act, 2019, which received Royal Assent this summer, will come into force once the order of the Lieutenant Governor in […]

The threshold for being required to register as an in-house lobbyist will soon be lower. Bill 195, The Lobbyists Amendment Act, 2019, which received Royal Assent this summer, will come into force once the order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is given.

The bill reduces the threshold for registration as an in-house lobbyist from 100 to 30 hours; prohibits gifts to public office holders from lobbyists, except for gifts valued at less than $200 and that are given as an incident of the protocol or social obligations normally accompanying the duties or responsibilities of office of the public office holder; and grants power to the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations concerning gifts and personal benefits.

The bill outlines a gift or personal benefit to include: an amount of money, if there is no obligation to repay it; a service, hospitality or property, including the use of property, that is provided without charge or for a charge that is less than its commercial value; and any other prescribed gift or personal benefit.

Additionally, Bill 195 directs the Lobbying Act not apply when persons are acting in their official capacity as officers, directors or employees of a non-profit organization, association, society, coalition or interest group, any of which has both a charitable purpose and fewer than five employees, if the lobbying activity performed by the officers, directors and employees combined is less than 30 hours annually.

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September 15, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Colorado: “A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns” by John Frank for Colorado Sun Connecticut: “New Study: CT’s Citizens’ Elections Program has become a national model for clean elections” […]

Campaign Finance

Colorado: “A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns” by John Frank for Colorado Sun

Connecticut: “New Study: CT’s Citizens’ Elections Program has become a national model for clean elections” by Keith Phaneuf for Connecticut Mirror

Elections

Kansas: “D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices” by Matthew Kelly for Kansas City Star

Ethics

National: “Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post

National: “Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings” by Kate Irby for Fresno Bee

National: “Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr” by Edmund Mahoney for Hartford Courant

Illinois: “Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

New Jersey: “These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles” by Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger

Lobbying

Pennsylvania: “Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff” by Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted for Spotlight PA

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