December 13, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 13, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019

As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and disinformation on the platform. One of the most potentially powerful – limiting advertisers’ ability to target narrow slices of voters with political messages – struggled to find support and was abandoned. But today, as disinformation begins to spread ahead of the 2020 presidential vote, Facebook again is discussing “microtargeting” and weighing whether to restrict a set of advertising tools so powerful that, critics say, it may threaten democracy itself.

‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa
AP News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 12/6/2019

An outside group founded by top political aides to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with her to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law  Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign. And a condominium owned by a former aide, who was recently hired to lead the group, was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her. Documents not only make clear the group’s aim is securing an Ernst win in 2020, but they also show Ernst and her campaign worked in close concert with Iowa Values.

Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment from the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep
ProPublica – Jake Pearson and Anand Tumurtogoo | Published: 12/11/2019

Donald Trump Jr.’s hunting trip to Mongolia in August was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the trip. Trump Jr. shot and killed an argali, an endangered species of sheep. It thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting, a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by a permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections, and politics. The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a rare permit to slay the animal retroactively after he had left the region following his trip. It is unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay.

How the Mueller Investigation Changed K Street
Washingtonian Magazine – Luke Mullins | Published: 12/8/2019

Washington, D.C. has not been this terrified of foreign tampering with elections since World War II. All the same, another story about foreign interference is unfolding much more quietly. Instead of voting booths or electioneering, it features a corner of a local industry that has long catered to overseas actors: that swath of the influence business where foreigners go to hire their K Street problem-solver. Before Robert Mueller’s probe, few were even aware of this insider economy of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants representing foreign officials, corporations, and political parties. The business was so poorly regulated that lobbyists routinely agreed to conduct the work in secret, directly violating the law. Then the special counsel dusted off an obscure law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act and K Street found itself ensnared in the biggest criminal sweep since the Jack Abramoff scandal in the early 2000s.

Inspector General Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Investigate Trump Campaign’s Russia Ties but Finds Some Wrongdoing
Anchorage Daily News – Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

A long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia rebuts some of conservatives’ most sensational allegations about the case, including that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers, but finds faults in other areas. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into the Trump campaign and rejected the assertion the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules. It asserted, though, that as the probe went on, FBI officials repeatedly decided to emphasize damaging information they heard about Trump associates and play down exculpatory evidence they found.

Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren. Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events, and the South Bend mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” – those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns – within a week. The campaign also announced that McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm where Buttigieg used to work, would now allow him to disclose the identity of his clients from his stint there.

The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Katherine Rosman (New York Times) | Published: 10/6/2019

No matter the job title, the job of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative is shouldering the work alone. This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those by the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public. “There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper,” said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles.

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Review Decision Granting Congress Access to His Financial Records
Danbury News Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2019

A lower-court ruling giving a congressional committee access to President Trump’s financial records would usher in a new wave of political warfare in times of divided government, the president’s lawyers said in a brief. Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time to review rulings from lower courts that have said Congress and state prosecutors have a right to review his personal and business records. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a related case at its private conference December 13. If the high court decides to order full briefing and argument in both cases, it could lead to landmark decisions this term on the ability of prosecutors and Congress to investigate the president.

Trump Business Dealings Argued at Federal Appeals Court in Emoluments Case
Greenwich Times – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

Appeals court judges expressed skepticism that members of Congress as individuals have a legal right to sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments without lawmakers’ consent. Even as the judges seemed troubled that Congress may have no other viable way to enforce the Constitution’s “emoluments” provision, they did not seem prepared to allow the lawsuit from more than 200 Democratic lawmakers to move forward, and suggested the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final word. The lawsuit is one of three similar cases pending in appeals courts and has the potential to reveal details about the president’s closely held business interests.

‘Trump Changed Everything’: Big cities break hard left in Dem primary
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 12/8/2019

From New York City to Los Angeles, many of the nation’s biggest cities have turned even harder to the left under President Trump, putting pressure on local officials to embrace the leading progressive presidential candidates, or withhold their endorsements entirely for fear of antagonizing newly energized activists. It is a drastic political shift in some places, where for decades entrenched party bosses crushed any signs of life on the left or tended to put the weight of big-city institutional support behind Democratic establishment-oriented candidates. Part of the leftward turn is the result of a surge of progressive candidates taking office in recent years. But not all of the shift can be explained by newly elected Democrats.

Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/10/2019

House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Trump, declaring he “abused the powers of the Presidency” and sought to cover up his misdeeds by obstructing a congressional investigation into his dealings with Ukraine. The two narrowly drawn articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress represented the most significant step in Democrats’ impeachment effort. Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of such a sanction for misconduct in office. Asserting that the president would “remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” the articles accuse Trump of engaging in a corrupt scheme to solicit foreign interference to help his 2020 reelection bid.

Watchdog: Interior official’s meetings broke ethics rule
AP News – Ellen Nickmeyer | Published: 12/10/2019

An assistant Interior secretary broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his old employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal tussles between the group and the agency. Douglas Domenech, the agency’s assistant secretary for insular and international affairs, convened the first of the two meetings in April 2017, three months after leaving his old job and beginning at the agency, the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office found. That violated federal ethics rules that restricted Domenech in dealing with his former employer for two years after taking the government job, the inspector general’s office concluded.

From the States and Municipalities

California Former L.A. City Hall Aide Fined $37,500 for Failing to Report Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/10/2019

Gary Benjamin, a former planning deputy to Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell, formed his own consulting company after he left his city job and worked with Elizabeth Peterson Group, which is registered with the city as a lobbying firm. His firm, Alchemy, was paid more than $209,000 over a period of two years. Benjamin said he was surprised to hear his work was seen as lobbying, describing most of his duties as “research oriented and administrative.” Under city rules, “lobbying activities” can include research and providing advice to clients if that work is part of a paid effort to contact city officials and influence a decision. Now, Benjamin must pay a $37,500 fine after failing to report he was lobbying.

California Glendale City Council Candidate Ordered to Return $10K in Donations
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 12/11/2019

A Glendale City Council candidate was ordered to return more than $10,000 in campaign donations after reportedly receiving incorrect information about the appropriate fundraising period from the city clerk’s office. Dan Brotman returned the online contributions he received and began cutting refund checks to donors, hours after he received an email from the Glendale city attorney’s office alerting him that the law prohibited him from accepting campaign donations before September 1. Brotman, a first-time candidate, said the email surprised him because the city clerk’s office had assured him it was acceptable to raise funds when he reached out to discuss the matter in July.

California Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/6/2019

Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu called for full taxpayer financing of city election campaigns, resurrecting an idea that was proposed nearly three years ago but went nowhere. They want the city’s analysts to determine how much a “clean money” system would cost and where the money would come from. Under the proposal, candidates for 18 city offices would receive taxpayer funding for their campaigns as long as they collect a significant number of low-dollar donations from their constituents, refuse to collect “special interest” contributions, and decline to spend a significant amount of their own funds. The proposal was revived two days after the council voted to prohibit real estate developers who have projects pending before City Hall from giving to the campaigns of city candidates.

Colorado Bruce Rau Is One of the Most Elected Men in Colorado but Doesn’t Live in Any of the Metro Districts He Represents
Denver Post – David Migoya | Published: 12/12/2019

Bruce Rau sits on at least three dozen metropolitan district boards. Unlike any other public official in the state, however, Rau does not actually live in any of the districts he represents. He wields some of the most broad-reaching taxing authority that impacts tens of thousands of people he has never met and has been elected by fewer than a dozen voters at a time, sometimes by none at all. All of that because Colorado’s Special District Act lets him. Rau, an executive with Oakwood Homes, is also one of the most conflicted men in Colorado, having registered more conflicts-of-interest in his elected capacity than any other official in the state.

Florida Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to Be Reinstated After Acquittal in Corruption Case
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 12/11/2019

Almost two years after she was arrested on corruption charges and removed from her post as Hallandale Beach mayor, Joy Cooper will be reinstated by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Then-Gov. Rick Scott removed Cooper from office one day after her arrest in January 2018. She was accused of taking part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. A jury acquitted Cooper on all six counts against her following trial. Because Cooper was last elected in 2016 and her term was not slated to end until November 2020, she can now return to office at least until next November’s election.

Florida Local Lobbyist Database Could Increase Ethics Board’s Workload
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 12/6/2019

A possible local government lobbyist database would significantly increase the state ethics panel’s responsibilities, said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Currently, the commission compiles publicly available lists of lobbyists at the federal and state levels. Streamlining local government lobbyist database would increase transparency and accountability, Rep. Anthony Sabatini said. Most jurisdictions keep their own record, but there is no state requirement that it be kept and made public. The package of bills would also consolidate registration fees by requiring local government lobbyists to register with the state and one annual fee instead of with each city or county.

Florida Tampa City Council Member Went to Chicago on Nonprofit’s Dime, Later Paid for It
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 12/9/2019

In October, Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes took a four-day trip to Chicago for a community development conference hosted by Neighborworks America, a national nonprofit. That trip, also attended by the volunteer head of a city board, sparked cries of a conflict-of- interest. He went because the leader of a local nonprofit, CDC of Tampa, Inc., asked him. Gudes’ travel, lodging, and transportation would be covered. CDC of Tampa, Inc. was one of 10 bidders vying to redevelop 26 vacant lots in Gudes’ district. As a voting member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Gudes would have a say in the outcome.

Florida ‘This Is Big’: City of Tallahassee ethics package passes amid challenging year, FBI probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/6/2019

City commissioners approved changes to Tallahassee’s ethics code, including expanding the Independent Ethics Board’s jurisdiction. The move came after more than two years of scandal at City Hall, including state ethics findings against former Mayor Andrew Gillum and former City Manager Rick Fernandez for accepting gifts from lobbyists and guilty pleas from former city Commissioner Scott Maddox in an ongoing corruption case. Under the new ordinance, a gift ban would apply to more people, including commissioner aides, employees who file financial disclosures, and those who work in procurement. The revised ordinance also includes fines up to $5,000 for lobbyists who repeatedly fail to register, among other provisions.

Hawaii Honolulu City Council Voted on Company’s Project Then Let It Buy Lunch
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 12/10/2019

Right after Honolulu City Council members voted to advance a controversial rezoning measure, they broke for lunch paid for by a company representing the landowner in the case. That is despite guidance from the Honolulu Ethics Commission that government agencies should not accept gifts – defined as anything the government did not pay full value for – from companies with business before them. Ethics Commission guidelines address this very scenario, and city agencies received a reminder of how to handle these matters in the past week.

Kentucky Bevin Pardons Include Convicted Killer Whose Brother Hosted Campaign Fundraiser for Him
Louisville Courier-Journal – Andrew Wolfson and Joe Sonka | Published: 12/11/2019

The family of a man pardoned by then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for a homicide and other crimes raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. The brother and sister-in-law of offender Patrick Baker also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, who prosecuted Baker, noted Baker served only two years of a 19-year sentence on his conviction for reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence. Steele also cited the fact that two of Baker’s co-defendants are still in prison. “What makes Mr. Baker any different than the other two?” Steele asked.

Kentucky Kentucky House Changes Course on Ex-Speaker Investigation
Seattle Times – Bruce Schreiner (Associated Press) | Published: 12/10/2019

The Kentucky House changed course in the probe of former Speaker Jeff Hoover, voting to disband a special committee that was formed to investigate a sexual harassment settlement he secretly signed. The committee later voted itself out of existence. The sudden reversal means the inquiry shifts fully to the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission. Hoover was already under investigation by the commission, even before the House’s action. That inquiry focuses on whether Hoover violated state ethics laws, primarily if he used money from political donors or registered lobbyists to make the settlement payment.

Louisiana Former LSU Employee Fined $111K Over Money Missing from School of Theatre, Invoices to His Company
New Orleans Advocate – Jacqueline DeRobertis and Andrea Gallo | Published: 12/5/2019

The Ethics Adjudicatory Board imposed a $111,000 fine on a former administrative coordinator at Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts after finding he violated multiple state ethics rules, including misappropriating funds. The board determined David Rodriguez misappropriated more than $60,000 over three years. A three-judge panel also found he broke three additional ethics rules when his side business assisted in catered events at the college. Prosecutors dropped criminal charges in 2017. The attorney who represented Rodriguez in the criminal case, Margaret Lagattuta, said the university’s lax oversight of the money involved in the case meant several people could have stolen it.

Maryland Baltimore Approves More Than $13 Million Financed by Pugh Donor’s Firm Amid Call for Probe of His Deals
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Talia Richman | Published: 12/11/2019

A political donor who has drawn heat for his role in the “Healthy Holly” book scandal that took down former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is still making money from the city, despite concerns about his contracts from some officials in light of allegations by federal prosecutors that he made inappropriate contributions to Pugh. Baltimore’s spending panel approved an expenditure of more than $13 million for Motorola radio equipment under the city’s master lease, a long-standing financing agreement with Grant Capital Management, the firm of financier and big campaign donor J.P. Grant. The contract was not competitively bid, as is often allowed under the master lease. City Council President Brandon Scott abstained from the vote. He said the situation highlighted the need to reform the structure of the Board of Estimates, in which the mayor controls a majority of the votes.

Maryland Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers
Baltimore Sun – Jeff Barker | Published: 12/9/2019

A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enactment of key provisions of Maryland’s Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act. The law’s disclosure requirements would apply to any online platform with 100,000 unique monthly visitors that receives money for political ads. The platforms would be required to display, within 48 hours of an ad being purchased, information such as the identity of the buyer and the amount paid. The outlets would need to retain the information for state inspection. “… While Maryland’s law tries to serve important aims, the state has gone about this task in too circuitous and burdensome a manner to satisfy constitutional scrutiny,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson.

Michigan Before Losing Election, Clawson Mayor Sought Secret Deal to Hurt Opponent
Detroit Free Press – Bill Laitner | Published: 12/10/2019

With an election looming, then-Clawson, Michigan Mayor Deborah Wooley ordered the city manager to secretly hire a digital-detective firm, with an open purchase order for up to $5,000, and threatened to fire him if word got out. According to the city manager, Wooley’s goal was to dig up digital dirt on her political opponent, Reese Scripture, who had been a plague to Wooley throughout her two-year term, first filing an Open Meetings Act lawsuit, then running against Wooley for mayor. Wooley wanted to see whether Scripture had leaked embarrassing city emails. But the probe turned up nothing improper about Scripture’s email contacts with the city. Ultimately, they became part of a city council packet of public documents, for a meeting that exposed the scheme after the election.

Michigan County Official Who Displayed, Wore Trump Hat During Meetings Focus of Complaint
MLive.com – Ben Solis | Published: 12/9/2019

Muskegon County Commissioner Zach Lahring’s “Trump 2020” hat is at the center of a complaint filed with the state. The complaint alleges Lahring made contributions to the re-election campaign of President Trump using public resources by displaying and then wearing the hat during public meetings. The formal complaint is among several informal ones lodged against Lahring for his decorum at public meetings and his behavior on social media. The complaint argues Lahring violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by using a public resource, in this case the Muskegon County building, to promote and endorse a federal candidate. It also says the law prohibits Lahring from campaigning while doing the public’s work.

Michigan Inman Not Guilty of Lying to FBI; Hung Jury on Bribery and Extortion
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 12/10/2019

A Michigan lawmaker was found not guilty of lying to the FBI in connection with a bribery and extortion investigation. A federal jury could not reach a verdict on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe against state Rep. Larry Inman. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. A grand jury indicted Inman in May, alleging he sought campaign donations from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and other unions in return for “no” votes on a measure to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. Inman was expelled from the Republican caucus and lost his House office and staff after his indictment and after he admitted he sent the text messages to the unions. It is improper for a state representative to mix how he will vote with campaign finance issues, House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.

New York $100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine Business Expense, Cor Says
Syracuse Post-Standard – Tim Knauss | Published: 12/4/2019

Along with paying for engineering, an asbestos survey, and legal fees, Cor Development listed $114,825 for campaign donations to two governors, a mayor, and a county executive among their expenses in a Syracuse development project. Cor officials wrote in a letter that their partner on the joint venture project was expected to share the costs, including the campaign money. It was an unusual acknowledgement – because it was in writing – that business executives viewed political contributions as a cost of doing business. Critics of New York’s campaign finance laws say businesses sometimes seem to approach campaign contributions as a “corruption tax” they have to pay to get things done.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Plans Rule-Making Process
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/11/2019

North Dakota’s Ethics Commission will begin its administrative rulemaking in the new year after mapping out an early process recently. Chairperson Ron Goodman distributed 18 pages of what he called “very rough” rules, modified from other states. He said he will draft a code of ethics for the commission based on other North Dakota agencies’ similar policies, for discussion at the board’s January meeting. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that created the Ethics Commission to oversee conduct of state officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, and candidates.

Oklahoma Public Campaigns Being Conducted with Donations Kept Private
The Oklahoman – Chris Casteel | Published: 12/7/2019

Public campaigns being waged in Oklahoma City on local, state, and federal issues are being financed by donors who, so far, have remained anonymous. The campaigns for MAPS 4 and Medicaid expansion and against President Trump’s impeachment have all been conducted through mechanisms that do not require public disclosure of contributors, at least for now. Ashley Kemp, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said the commission in 2014 requested some changes to the campaign reporting laws for local governments to make standards and enforcement more uniform. “There was not a request by the commission to eliminate public disclosure for local ballot measures,” Kemp said.

Oklahoma Tag Agency Standoff with Gov. Stitt Over Lobbying Is Settled – for Now
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 12/12/2019

An attempt to force privately owned tag agencies to stop their lobbying activities in Oklahoma has been dropped. The proposed ban on tag agency lobbying would extend executive orders signed earlier this year by Gov. Kevin Stitt to state government contractors – specifically, in this case, tag agents. It is not clear whether such a ban could include other state contractors or even state employees. Privately, some have questioned whether such a ban would survive a legal challenge. For now, tag agencies employing lobbyist Clayton Taylor may continue to do so for at least another year.

Pennsylvania Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Staff | Published: 12/11/2019

Councilperson Darlene Harris sued the city, the mayor, and the ethics board, alleging Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and a fine levied against her should be set aside. The case stems from an effort by the city’s Ethics Hearing Board to collect a $4,150 fine from Harris, in relation to her refusal to file campaign filings with that body. The city ordinance charges the Ethics Hearing board with receiving candidates’ campaign finance reports and posting the data online. Those filings are also filed with Allegheny County, under state law.

Pennsylvania He’s the FBI Agent Who Took Down Allentown’s Mayor. Now He’s Talking Publicly About the Case.
LehighValleyLive.com – Steve Novak | Published: 12/11/2019

As Scott Curtis tells it, he was sitting alone at a bar in Pittsburgh, buried in his phone. He could not leave yet. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was meeting people in the back of the restaurant, along with an FBI informant. Curtis was the special agent heading the corruption investigation into Palowski and other public officials. He had to observe the meeting and make sure that his wired-up witness, Mike Fleck, did not try anything. Curtis would go on to close the book on one of the Lehigh Valley’s most explosive corruption cases, one that led to a number of convictions. Among them was Pawlowski, who in 2018 was found guilty of 47 charges for rigging city contracts in favor of campaign donors. He was sentenced up to 15 years in prison.

Pennsylvania She’s the Force Behind Pa.’s Efforts to Treat Drug Addiction. Critics Say ‘There Is More to the Story.’
Philadelphia Inqirer – Aneri Pattani | Published: 12/12/2019

Deb Beck is a formidable power player in Harrisburg, influencing Pennsylvania’s response to a drug addiction epidemic that has led to thousands of deaths and spawned a multimillion-dollar treatment industry. She has been in the field since 1971, and whenever lawmakers want to draft addiction-related laws, or need to get a loved one into treatment, they go to her. Now, with the state spending huge sums of taxpayer money for treatment for opioid addiction and paying greater attention to how best to reverse the deadly trend, some are questioning if Beck is using her sway to help patients or the businesses providing care. Her advocacy for long-term residential care for those suffering from opioid addiction has prompted concerns she is pushing an outdated treatment model over approaches that medical professionals say are far more effective.

South Carolina This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up.
Pro Publica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 12/5/2019

The Chester County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina accused a pair of lower court judges of unfairly blocking the sheriff’s requests for criminal warrants. A top deputy planned to file a complaint with the chief magistrate and the local state senator, who controls the county’s judicial appointments. But before doing so, the deputy turned to an unlikely ally to help craft his appeal: Magistrate Angel Underwood. The arrangement was unusual. Underwood was a sitting judge, sworn to remain impartial from those who brought matters before her. She was also the wife of the sheriff, Alex Underwood. Intermingling those two roles had recently brought her a yearlong suspension from the bench; the state’s judicial watchdog found she failed to disqualify herself in more than 100 cases brought by her husband’s department.

Texas Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations
Houston Chronicle – Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks | Published: 12/6/2019

James Dannenbaum, the former head of a prominent Texas engineering firm and a major political donor, pleaded guilty to circumventing federal election laws by helping employees funnel illegal campaign contributions to congressional and U.S. Senate candidates. The company that he once led, Dannenbaum Engineering, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in November that hinged upon its former chief executive officer owning up to his role in the fraud scheme. The company agreed to a fine of $1.6 million after admitting being part in a broader scheme.

Virginia A Congressman Could Go to Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds. What He Did Is Totally Legal in Virginia.
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 12/5/2019

After federal prosecutors gathered evidence showing U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his family members had taken $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal golf outings, vacations, meals, video games, and gas, Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Though federal campaign finance laws prohibit using political funds to cover unrelated expenses, Virginia has no such rule for candidates running for state and local offices. That means Virginia campaigns do not have to be meticulous about making sure candidates do not use their political account, often filled by business interests and wealthy donors, as a personal piggy bank. In another contrast with federal law, Virginia’s rules place no limits on contribution size.

Washington How Much Money Did Tim Eyman Make Last Year: Depends what form you check
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 12/9/2019

How much money did Tim Eyman make in the last year? Eyman, the candidate for governor, says his income was less than $48,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman, the serial initiative promoter and conservative activist, says he made more than $297,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman’s newly filed statement with the state Public Disclosure Commission, now that he is announced a run for governor, appears to be in sharp contrast with his monthly reports in federal court, where he filed for bankruptcy one year ago. Eyman says there is a perfectly good explanation, but for almost his entire two-decade history as an anti-tax evangelist, his financial transparency has been called into question.

July 15, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico Elections Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico

Elections

Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job” by Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.” by Tina Nguyen for Politico

California: “L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Missouri: “FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government” by Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

New Jersey: “New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation” by Nancy Solomon (WNYC) for ProPublica

Lobbying

Florida: “Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus” by Staff for Florida Politics

Procurement

National: “Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?” by Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz for ProPublica

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July 14, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign […]

Campaign Finance

South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier

Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean

Elections

National: “The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force” by Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them” by Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker for New York Times

National: “White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15” by David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami for Washington Post

Alabama: “Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law” by Tim Howe for Yellowhammer News

Lobbying

National: “Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons” by Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Florida: “NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog

Procurement

Illinois: “Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

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July 13, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge

Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun

Ohio: “Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations” by Tom Troy for Toledo Blade

Ethics

National: “Trump Commutes Sentence of Confidant Roger Stone Who Was Convicted of Lying to Congress and Witness Tampering” by Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Toluse Olorunnipa for Washington Post

Canada: “PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events” by Rachel Gilmore for CTV

Florida: “Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal” by Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon for Politico

Lobbying

National: “States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook” by Associated Press for KJZZ

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July 10, 2020 •

Alabama Ethics Commission Challenges Circuit Court’s Public Employee Ruling

Birmingham International Airport

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders. The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act. The Ethics […]

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders.

The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act.

The Ethics Commission has proposed rather than looking to whether someone is paid through taxpayer contributions, the standard should be whether their salaries were paid out of revenue from negotiated “commercial arms-length” transactions.

The Birmingham Airport Authority has filed a response arguing the commission’s new standard inconsistent with the facts of the case.

Joining them in opposition, the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute has also filed a brief arguing this new standard.

The institute argues the standard would create a burden on public corporations and their employees.

Therefore, this would cause an attempt to untie a tangled knot of revenue and determine the status of each employee.

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July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 9, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Elections National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New […]

Elections

Elections

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New York Times) for Boston Globe

Wisconsin: “Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings” by Todd Richmond for AP News

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski for Washington Post

California: “Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Ohio: “Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave” by Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade

Pennsylvania: “Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban” by Kathleen Carey for Delaware County Times

Lobbying

Arizona: “Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror

 

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July 8, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature to Hold Another Special Session Beginning July 13

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

Gov Tim Walz, with Lt Gov Peggy Flanagan - by Lorie Shaull

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13. Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that […]

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13.

Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that other issues should get top billing.

Walz is obligated by law to call a special session for the Legislature to approve the emergency declaration.

The Senate tried to revoke the governor’s executive power during the first special session ending June 19.

However, the attempt failed because it requires the vote of both chambers.

In the first special session, no deals were reached on legislation both parties said was necessary and everything will be on the agenda again.

The Legislature will determine the length of the session.

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July 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]

Elections

National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico

National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call

Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post

National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN

Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN

Lobbying

California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times

Redistricting

Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com

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