February 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020

Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New York City mayor would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, O’Brien said. Proceeds from the sale would go to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable giving arm that funds causes from climate change to public health and grants for American cities. The only restriction Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, O’Brien said. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said such an action would need to follow complex rules and be approved by the ethics office.

Bloomberg’s Meme Spree Prompts Changes in Facebook, Instagram Rules
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 2/14/2020

Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s spree of often-surreal social media memes is having one concrete impact – it prompted Facebook to make another change in its rules for paid political content. From now on, Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary will allow “branded content” from candidates, a practice in which a campaign pays so-called influencers to place supportive posts on their accounts. Previously, a Facebook spokesperson said, the platforms had banned such content from politicians by default. Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored.

Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says
Greenwich Time – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint alleging the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg improperly coordinated with VoteVets, a super PAC supporting the campaign of the former mayor of South Bend. The watchdog alleged Buttigieg’s campaign improperly accepted more than $639,000 in contributions, in violation of federal rules barring candidates from coordinating with independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. The complaint filed with the FEC centers on a tweet by Buttigieg senior strategist Michael Halle analyzing the strengths of a particular campaign message in Nevada, and a subsequent ad campaign in that state by VoteVets that appeared to follow the strategy outlined in the tweet.

DOJ Drops Probe into Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/14/2020

The Justice Department abandoned its efforts to seek criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. His lawyers were told last September that he should expect to be indicted on charges stemming from inaccurate statements he made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. But no indictment was ever returned, leading to speculation that the grand jury probing the matter took the rare step of rejecting charges. The confirmation of a formal end to the criminal investigation into McCabe’s conduct came amid a highly public tug-of-war between President Trump and the Justice Department over the handling of cases and investigations he has taken a keen interest in.

Mike Bloomberg for Years Has Battled Women’s Allegations of Profane, Sexist Comments
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2020

Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging women were discriminated against at Michael Bloomberg’s business-information company. While allegations about Bloomberg’s comments and treatment of women have received notice over the years, a review by The Washington Post of thousands of pages of court documents and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company have fought the claims. As Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements.

Political Ads Are Flooding Hulu, Roku and Other Streaming Services, Revealing Loopholes in Federal Election Laws
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 2/20/2020

Four years after Russian agents exploited popular online platforms to push propaganda, sow unrest, and promote Donald Trump’s candidacy, the U.S. government has made virtually no progress on bringing more transparency to paid political speech. The risks remain high that voters could be duped by candidates, advocacy groups, and foreign governments – particularly online, where major regulatory gaps exist. Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web. Politicians have followed people online, and over the past year, their ads have appeared on popular platforms such as Roku. But nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them.

President Pardons Ex-GSA, OMB Official
Government Executive – Tom Shoop | Published: 2/18/2020

The series of pardons that President Trump issued on February 18 included one for David Safavian, a top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the George W. Bush administration. Safavian served time in federal prison for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a high-profile scandal. Safavian was convicted on four counts relating to a golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002. The former head of federal procurement policy at OMB was found guilty of obstructing a GSA investigation, lying on a financial disclosure form, and two counts of making false statements.

Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 Months for Lying to Congress, Witness Tampering Amid Turmoil Between Justice Dept. and Trump on Penalty
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020

Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump. The penalty from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone, who was convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked emails related to Hillary Clinton. Stone was the sixth Trump associate convicted and the last person indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Rohrabacher Confirms He Offered Trump Pardon to Assange for Proof Russia Didn’t Hack DNC Email
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff | Published: 2/20/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails published by WikiLeaks. In an interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery. A lawyer for Assange cited the pardon offer during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Trump Campaign Hires Alum of Controversial Data Company
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 2/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alumnus of the data firm Cambridge Analytica, a move likely to raise alarms among Trump critics and data privacy advocates who worry the president will push the technological envelope to get reelected in 2020. Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program. Cambridge gained notoriety for its work on psychological voter profiling and because it allegedly improperly obtained the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users. Trump aides have denied they used Cambridge’s Facebook data in 2016 and say they will not in 2020, either. They insist they have no interest in using psychographic voter targeting. But that has not allayed fears among Democrats that the president will resort to online dirty tricks to win another term.

Trump Commutes Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence
AP News – Michael Tarm | Published: 2/18/2020

President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted in a wide-ranging political corruption case just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality television show. Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state where four of the last 10 governors have gone to prison  for corruption. Judge James Zagel, who sentenced Blagojevich to the longest prison term yet for an Illinois politician, said when a governor “goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured.” He was originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, trying to trade an appointment to a U.S. Senate seat for contributions and attempting to extort a children’s hospital executive. An appeals court tossed five of the convictions.

Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 2/14/2020

To increase their clout in Washington, D.C., corporations and trade associations often use affiliated PACs to boost the campaigns of candidates. Corporations themselves cannot give directly to traditional PACs, candidates, or parties. But they are allowed to cover almost all expenses incurred by their affiliated PAC, including staff salaries, fundraising expenses, and administrative costs. And corporations may spend their treasury funds to create incentives for their employees to fund the PAC. Grassroots political organizations say the current rules create an uneven playing field in the world of PAC giving. By paying for PAC expenses with corporate funds, these companies can maximize their political giving. Issue-focused PACs, on the other hand, must spend donors’ money to pay for salaries and hefty fundraising fees.

Canada

Canada Remicade Maker Janssen Recruits Former Doug Ford Adviser as Lobbyist
The Globe and Mail – Jill Mahoney and Kelly Grant | Published: 2/17/2020

A former top policy adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford registered as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company that is trying to persuade the provincial government to keep funding the country’s most lucrative drug. Greg Harrington, who played a senior role on government health policy, registered as a lobbyist for Janssen on January 31. During his time in the premier’s office, Harrington said he met with Janssen officials once or twice over concerns the province would force patients on government-sponsored drug insurance to switch from the company’s drug Remicade to cheaper alternatives called biosimilars. Harrington is the latest in a group of lobbyists with close ties to Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party that Janssen has enlisted.

Canada Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire
CBC – Jean Laroche | Published: 2/14/2020

A year ago, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and one of his senior advisers sat down to breakfast at Halifax’s Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a gathering arranged and hosted by former Quebec premier and one-time deputy prime minister Jean Charest, who lobbies on the group’s behalf. The private meeting coincided with a national aerospace industry effort called Vision 2025, a campaign Charest noted was part of his lobbying activities on the federal government’s lobbyist registry in November 2018. Although Charest is registered federally, he has not registered as a lobbyist in Nova Scotia.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska State Challenges Ballot Measure That Would Install Ranked-Choice Voting Statewide
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 2/19/2020

State attorneys asked the Alaska Supreme Court to split a proposed election-reform ballot measure into two or more separate votes. If not, Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox said, the justices should rule the measure unconstitutional and prevent it from coming to a vote. Fox’s request came as the justices listened to arguments over the validity of the Better Elections ballot initiative, which would eliminate party-specific primary elections, install ranked-choice voting for general elections, and impose tough new disclosure rules on campaign contributions.

Arizona Migrant-Rights Advocates File Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth After He Cuts Off Testimony
Arizona Republic – Maria Polletta | Published: 2/18/2020

Migrant-rights advocates announced they filed an ethics complaint against Arizona Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, who had them removed from a committee hearing as they protested a controversial immigration measure. Lobbyist Hugo Polanco was testifying at the hearing on behalf of Living United for Change in Arizona, saying the resolution would be “a return to the racism, divisiveness, and hate of [Senate Bill] 1070” when Farnsworth stopped him and told him not to be “vitriolic.” When Polanco insisted the legislation at hand was also “racist, divisive, and hateful,” Farnsworth cut him off. Farnsworth asked security personnel to remove Polanco if he continued to argue and announced the committee was done hearing public comment on the measure. Several members of the group were told they could be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave the hearing voluntarily.

Arizona Republican Lawmaker Files Ethics Complaints After Chaotic Voting Law Hearing at Arizona Legislature
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 2/19/2020

House Elections Committee Chairperson Kelly Townsend will file an ethics complaint against two Democratic lawmakers after a hearing devolved into a fracas. The hours-long hearing culminated in Townsend attempting to cut off public testimony, throw a speaker out of the committee room, and force a vote on a multifaceted piece of legislation all while Democrats objected and the gallery jeered. Democrats accused Townsend of stifling discussion and public testimony.

Arizona Scandals Reveal Murky Workplace Standards in Legislature
Arizona Capitol Times – Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Julia Shumway | Published: 2/14/2020

Arizona Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr have said their relationship is proper and platonic, even after love letters Cook wrote to Knorr surfaced. But Cook and Knorr have faced disparate consequences since the story broke. Cook has continued to serve on committees and vote on legislation. Knorr was placed on administrative leave by her employer, the Western Growers’ Association, pending an investigation into whether her relationship with Cook presented ethical violations. That one is on leave while the other remains in the public eye highlights the different standards between the Legislature, where lawmakers have balked at adopting a code of conduct,  and private sector firms, where experts say written expectations on proper interpersonal relationships are ubiquitous.

California Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law
KQED – Scott Shafer | Published: 2/14/2020

San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with disgraced former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, but also accepting a $5,600 gift from him for car repairs. While the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position,” Breed said she would voluntarily report the gift on her Statement of Economic Interests form. What Breed did not mention is that the gift she received from Nuru appears to violate city ethics rules.

California Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/14/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he will uphold the majority of Proposition F, a San Francisco ordinance that requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a PAC, that committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed. While refusing to block most of the law, Breyer agreed that requiring lengthy disclaimers for small-print and short-length political ads is likely unconstitutional because they would “clearly just overwhelm the message.”

California The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/17/2020

Nonprofits run by state lawmakers and their staff host fundraisers where lobbyists can mingle at the Disneyland Hotel with politicians, and policy conferences where tech executives can dine with legislators shaping California law on data privacy and the gig economy. While state law caps the amount donors can give to campaigns, contributions to nonprofits are not limited. These groups underwrite charitable work and let public officials help the state or advance causes they care about without using taxpayer money. But unlike campaign accounts, they often offer a tax break and can raise unlimited sums from special interests, with fewer disclosure requirements. Experts say the practice has become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits even of California’s tough regulations.

Florida Florida Loses Appeals Court Ruling on Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 2/19/2020

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida law limiting the voting rights of people with felony convictions was unconstitutional. The judges upheld a lower court decision that found the state could not deny ex-felons the right to vote just because they cannot afford to pay outstanding court fines, fees, and restitution, as required by the 2019 law. The ruling said the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Illinois Aldermen Relied on a Study to Approve $1.3 Billion for Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards. Turns Out That Sterling Bay Hired the Consultant Who Wrote It.
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 2/18/2020

Key to the $1.3 billion taxpayer subsidy for the Lincoln Yards development in Chicago was a report declaring the project met the requirements to get the money. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration promoted the record tax increment financing (TIF) deal at a public meeting, a planning official introduced the author of that report as “the city’s TIF consultant.” What the administration and consultant did not tell the crowd was that developer Sterling Bay had both picked the consultant and paid the firm. That consultant also had been retained by a Sterling Bay subsidiary to lobby City Hall on the final terms of the Lincoln Yards agreement. Experts say such arrangements pose obvious conflicts, given that the consultants who certify such projects are being paid by the very developers who are seeking approval for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Illinois Aldermen Tighten Reins on Outside Jobs for City Employees
WBBM – Staff | Published: 2/19/2020

The Chicago City Council is placing new limits on side jobs for some city employees, closing a loophole that allowed them to work for private contractors who have government deals they oversee. The ordinance that was approved would prohibit any city official or employee with contract oversight from working for subcontractors or consultants on any contract they manage as part of their government job.

Indiana Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich | Published: 2/17/2020

Environmental advocates are worried a bill that would prevent the state from protecting certain wetlands will lead to more flooding, less clean water, and the loss of wildlife in Indiana. But it is not just what the bill would do that has drawn criticism. Good government experts are also expressing concern over the appropriateness of who is authoring the legislation. Sen. Victoria Spartz wrote Senate Bill 229, which removes state oversight of certain wetlands near what are called regulated drains. Spartz  has her own complicated history with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s regulation of wetlands, one she did not disclose as the bill has moved through the Legislature.

Kentucky Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/18/2020

Federal prosecutors told a jury that a Lexington real estate executive went to great lengths to cover up his scheme to funnel money to co-workers and family members, who allegedly used the money to make illegal donations to candidates for city government two years ago. Timothy Wellman, an executive with CRM Companies, told co-workers to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury, and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said. Kent Wicker, Wellman’s lawyer, said Wellman often loans money to people without asking to be repaid and contends a disgruntled businesses competitor hired a law firm to investigate him and spread unfounded rumors.

Maine Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 2/14/2020

A Republican member of Maine’s ethics commission has stepped down, leaving the panel with just three of the five members it is authorized to have as the state heads into the 2020 election cycle. Bradford Pattershall is running for a state Senate seat and by law cannot also serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Although the commission often reaches consensus in its findings, Chairperson William Lee III raised concerns about a depleted membership even before Pattershall’s resignation. Lee warned in November that an understaffed commission could leave it unable to do its job.

Massachusetts State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos
Boston Globe – Tonya Alanez and Travis Anderson | Published: 2/18/2020

Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle, who sits on the House Committee on Ethics, was arrested on federal charges alleging he raided his campaign account to pay personal expenses and sustain his casino gambling habit. An indictment says Nangle used his campaign fund to pay thousands of dollars in Lowell Golf Club dues and personal charges; rental cars for casino travel; flowers for his girlfriend; gas, hotel, and restaurant charges that he had already received state reimbursement for; gift cards for personal use; and cash withdrawals.

Michigan Ballot Language Approved for Proposal to ‘Change the Culture’ of Lobbying in Michigan
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 2/19/2020

Supporters of a ballot initiative to regulate how lobbyists in Michigan interact with lawmakers hope to start collecting signatures by the March 10 presidential primary following approval of a summary of the measure from a state board. Republicans expressed concerns that the language did not reflect how the proposal regulates the speech of Michigan residents. Board member Norm Shinkle also questioned whether the proposal is overly broad, saying it would apply to many obscure state boards and commissions. Former state Democratic Party Chairperson Mark Brewer argued Michiganders have a right to know whenever a lobbyist tries to contact a public official.

Michigan Ex-Detroit Metro Official Sentenced to 10 Years for Bribery
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 2/5/2020

James Warner, a former Detroit Metropolitan Airport supervisor convicted of receiving more than $6 million in bribes – the third-largest amount in U.S. history – was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say he steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three co-conspirators in return for the kickbacks. At one dinner, Warner and Gary Tenaglia, a contractor who was sentenced to 14 months in prison, discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”

Missouri ‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 2/13/2020

Former Gov. Eric Greitens was fined $178,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for two campaign finance violations, while a host of other allegations contained in a complaint filed shortly after he resigned from office in 2018 were dismissed. The commission said in a consent decree released that while there were reasonable grounds to believe Greitens’ campaign broke Missouri law, its investigation “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence Gov. Greitens knew” about any violations. If Greitens pays $38,000 of the fine and commits no more violations, the rest would be forgiven.

New Hampshire Legislature Considers Whether to Tighten Its Own Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 2/19/2020

Responding to a pair of high-profile ethics cases that highlighted the lack of clear restrictions on conflicts-of-interest at the statehouse, New Hampshire lawmakers are weighing how best to balance their role as citizen legislators with a desire to prevent politicians from exploiting public office for private gain. One proposal would prevent lawmakers “from introducing legislation, testifying, voting, participating in, or influencing any legislative matter directly related to [their] employment.” A related proposal would require lawmakers to recuse themselves from official legislative activities if someone in their household is being paid by an organization with “a special interest” in that activity.

New Jersey Governor Unveils Broader State Ethics, Transparency Bill
Associated Press – Mike Catalini | Published: 2/19/2020

The Legislature will be subject to the state’s open records law, lobbying registration requirements will be tightened, and bills would not get come to a vote unless they were posted online for at least three days under bipartisan ethics legislation to be introduced in New Jersey. The legislation would require public relations experts and lawyers who are currently exempt to register as lobbyists. It would also lower the threshold for registering as a lobbyist from 20 hours a year lobbying to one hour. Other changes include “zero tolerance” for gifts to lawmakers’ offices.

New York NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 2/14/2020

New York City Councilperson Andy King faces new ethics charges and calls for expulsion less than four months after the council sanctioned him for past misconduct. He was accused of trying to circumvent an independent monitor the council voted to place in his office after rampant unethical behavior. King was also charged with violating conflict-of-interest rules and the council’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, as well as disorderly conduct and misappropriating public money for his personal benefit.

North Carolina Another Court Blocks NC Voter ID Law, Citing ‘Racially Discriminatory Intent’
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/18/2020

The state’s new voter ID law appears to have been enacted with racially discriminatory intent and will be at least temporarily blocked during the 2020 elections, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. A federal court has already blocked the voter ID mandate through at least the 2020 primary elections. The most recent decision, in a separate lawsuit in state courts rather than federal courts, could also extend that block until the general election in November. It is now the second court to rule African American voters could be harmed by the way the Republican-Led legislature wrote the law behind the amendment. The activists who sued appear likely to be able to prove “that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor behind” the voter ID law, the judges wrote.

North Carolina Bribery Trial of Megadonor Greg Lindberg Opens with New Details, All-Star Witness List
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell, Michael Gordon, and Michelle Battaglia | Published: 2/18/2020

As the bribery trial of insurance conglomerate owner and political donor Greg Lindberg gets under way, new details are emerging through court documents and public records about allegations that Lindberg tried to work with the chairperson of the North Carolina Republican Party to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner. Lindberg and two of his business associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were indicted along with then-GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes, who has since taken a plea deal and could testify at the trial. The trio is accused of trying unsuccessfully to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with campaign money in exchange for actions favorable to Lindberg’s companies, including the removal of a top Department of Insurance official that Lindberg disliked.

Tennessee Proposal Would Overhaul Blocked Tennessee Voter Signup Law
AP News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/19/2020

Tennessee lawmakers introduced a new proposal to amend the state’s legally contentious voter-registration restrictions that are currently blocked from being enforced during the 2020 elections. Last year, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that made Tennessee the first state in the country to fine registration groups for turning in too many incomplete signup forms. It also criminalized intentional infractions of other new rules with misdemeanor charges. But the law prompted two lawsuits and sparked national criticism from those who argued the law would suppress efforts to register minorities and other voters.

Texas Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 2/14/2020

Harris County Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz pressured employees to donate to his re-election campaigns and punished those who refused, deputies and civilian staff said. Thirty-eight percent of the $491,000 Diaz has raised since taking office in 2013 has come from Precinct 2 employees or their relatives, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis. Fourteen current and former Precinct 2 employees told The Chronicle that Diaz expected staff to aid his campaign by donating money and items to be auctioned, purchasing supplies for fundraisers, and block walking in the jurisdiction. Three of those former employees are part of a wrongful termination lawsuit against Diaz, who they say reassigned or withheld promotions from deputies and civilian staff who stopped participating.

Vermont Lawmakers Take a Step on Ethics Code, but Enforcement Still a Ways Off
VTDigger.org – Colin Meyn and Mark Johnson | Published: 2/14/2020

Vermont Senators moved a step closer to creating a code of ethics for state officials and lawmakers but approving that code and giving teeth to an ethics commission created three years ago remain at least a year away. The Government Operations Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 198, which requires the State Ethics Commission to produce a proposed ethics code by November 15, at the latest. That code would then be considered by the Legislature in the next biennium. The bill also asks the commission to present enforcement options. Commission Executive Director Larry Novins worries that including the issue of enforcement, which would inevitably introduce questions of funding, could be used by opponents to derail efforts to get a code passed into law.

West Virginia Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry
MSN – Peter Jamison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2020

The strife seizing Harpers Ferry, population 281, cannot compare to the raid by abolitionist John Brown on the eve of the Civil War that made this rural hamlet famous. But the bitter political drama unfolding there easily rivals the one 60 miles away in Washington, D.C. The conflict has spilled far beyond the half-square-mile that constitutes Harpers Ferry. Voting irregularities are being examined by the West Virginia Supreme Court and secretary of state. Lawmakers are debating a bill that would strip this tiny municipality of much of its authority to govern itself, legislation that could dramatically affect other small towns in West Virginia.  Looming over this drama, figuratively and literally, is the ruin of a 130-year-old hotel.

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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