February 22, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 22, 2019

 

 

 

National:

The Growing Need for Opposition Research – on Yourself – in Today’s Political World
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/15/2019

The series of recent scandals in Virginia was kicked off by the emergence of a 35-year-old yearbook page from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school days. In September, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee grilled then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about entries in his high school yearbook and the calendar he kept as a student. Now reporters all over the country are scouring old yearbooks, looking for more examples of racist or otherwise disturbing images or language from the past of politicians. All this suggests that opposition research – as well as self-research, which refers to candidates hiring investigators to look into their own closets – will be a growing field in the years ahead.

Federal:

Elections Commission Chief Uses the ‘Nuclear Option’ to Rescue the Agency from Gridlock
Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 2/20/2019

Ellen Weintraub, who has been on the FEC since 2002 and became chairperson in January, has become increasingly frustrated by the agency’s lack of enforcement, which has led to less disclosure, less transparency, and more “dark money” within the campaign finance system. Weintraub now says she will not allow FEC lawyers to defend the government when the commission has been sued for not enforcing the law. This drastic step, which one former FEC lawyer called the “nuclear option,” is effectively an effort to sabotage her own agency in order to enforce the law and create more campaign finance disclosure.

Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s two-year war on the investigations encircling him
MSN – Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 2/19/2019

President Trump’s public war on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Muller is on a “witch hunt.” The president’s lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. Trump’s allies in Congress and the conservative media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the FBI to subvert a democratically elected president. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with current and former government officials and others close to Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: L.A. Ethics Commission Backs New Restrictions on Developer Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 2/19/2019

Faced with complaints about a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission backed new restrictions on political donations from real estate developers seeking city approval for their building plans. The proposed ban would cover a broad array of people “substantially involved” in a proposed development project, including real estate executives, architects, engineers, and others. Such donors would also be barred from fundraising or gathering political donations for city officials. The commission also backed new restrictions on “behested payments” – donations solicited by politicians for charitable or governmental causes.

California: Nation’s First All-LGBTQ City Council Tests Modern Meaning of Diversity
San Francisco Chronicle – Scott Wilson (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2019

Palm Springs achieved a measure of fame a little more than a year ago when voters elected the nation’s first city council consisting entirely of members of the LGBTQ community. The gay and lesbian community, a majority of the electorate in this city of 45,000 people, cheered the milestone as an affirmation of the community’s model tolerance. The happy moment did not last long. The council elected in November 2017 also happened to be all white. What was viewed by many as a broad step toward greater diversity instead turned Palm Springs into a forum for a debate about what diversity means – and who, exactly, is best suited to represent whom in a state shaped for decades by identity politics.

California: Why Cities, Counties May Turn to the State Political Watchdog to Enforce Local Campaign Finance Issues
San Bernardino Sun – Joe Nelson and Sandra Emerson | Published: 2/20/2019

A law that took effect on January 1 in California essentially allows local agencies to draw on the state’s experience and expertise in dealing with campaign finance and ethics laws – for a price. Under its contract with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), San Bernardino County pays the agency a flat fee of $55,000 annually and is billed at hourly rates for any work exceeding the flat amount. In return, the FPPC audits the campaign accounts of all county elected officials each election cycle, investigates complaints, provides written and verbal guidance to elected officials and their donors regarding the county’s campaign finance and ethics ordinance.

Florida: ‘Who Gave It, Who Got It?’ How Political Influence in Miami Is Bought – and Concealed
Miami Herald – Joey Flechas and Sandra Emerson | Published: 2/21/2019

Whether it is candidates or ballot measures, moneyed interests use political groups that can receive and spend unlimited, untraceable “dark money” to influence elections in Miami and pay for attack ads. Florida’s lax campaign finance laws allow donors to seed thousands of dollars into committees that can give to one or more other committees. The money that pays for the ads can be difficult to trace back to the original donor. Because state authorities do not aggressively police campaign finance reports, political committees can easily get away with concealing their donors while flouting election laws. But political groups do not necessarily need to break campaign laws to hide the sources of their money. It is allowed to be moved through a byzantine web of political committees that mask its origins.

Montana: US Supreme Court Won’t Take Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 2/19/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, declined to take up a case challenging Montana’s campaign finance disclosure law.  The justices left in place a lower court’s ruling that the state’s so-called Disclose Act is constitutional. The law requires groups that engage in last-minute advertising in elections to make public how they spend money to influence the state’s elections.

New Jersey: This N.J. Mayor Is Getting Paid to Fight Legal Weed. Here’s Why That’s Causing Trouble.
Bergen Record – Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/15/2019

The mayor of the first town in New Jersey to ban legal marijuana sales has also spent most of the past year on the payroll as a lobbyist for a prominent anti-marijuana group in the state. But Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid has not always been upfront about that connection, raising questions about ethics and conflicts-of-interest. More than 60 towns in New Jersey have taken some step to prohibit marijuana businesses from their borders. Reid has traveled around the state, offering his hand to other towns considering a ban as the mayor of a town that’ has already done it. Since May 2018, Reid has been a paid lobbyist for New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana, and his potential conflict is the subject of lawsuit against the town.

Oregon: ‘Give Me the Money, and I’ll Give It to Her.’ Former Oregon Lawmaker Describes Participating in Dubious Campaign Practice
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 2/17/2019

On paper, two contributions to candidates last year came from former Oregon Rep. Deborah Boone. She wrote the checks and her name is listed as the donor. In reality, Boone said, the money came from donors who asked her to pass it on under her name, creating a set of transactions and reports that may have violated state law. Boone described the practice as commonplace among legislators. State records show millions of dollars have moved between Oregon politicians in the past decade in what look like straightforward gestures of support. Lawmakers also routinely give money to committees run by legislative leaders, who then redistribute it to candidates in tough races. According to Boone, the transactions are not always what they seem.

Rhode Island: Political Donations by Strip-club Industry Made in Lobbying Firm’s Name
Providence Journal – Brian Amaral | Published: 2/15/2019

Mysterious errors in campaign finance records concealed the source of thousands of dollars in donations from the Providence strip-club industry to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Instead of listing their actual employers, the series of contributions listed a lobbying firm, the Goldberg Law Offices. A lobbyist at that firm, Robert Goldberg, also worked on behalf of the strip-club industry. Goldberg said he did not know why donations from people involved in the strip-club industry – and not, in fact, employed by his firm – listed his firm as their employer. The errors raise questions about the working relationship between a high-powered lobbyist and an industry he represented and illuminate the many connections between the strip-club industry and the halls of power in the state.

Texas: Sen. Angela Paxton Files Bill That Would Allow Her Husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to Issue Exemptions from Securities Regulations
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 2/16/2019

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, she filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, state Attorney General Ken Paxton to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.” One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment advisor” without registering. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas, one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.

Virginia: Richmond’s Donor Class and the VMI Brotherhood Stand Behind Embattled Virginia Governor
Washington Post – Gregory Schneider | Published: 2/16/2019

Gil Minor, a local corporate titan and major donor to both political parties, and Tom Slater, a prominent lawyer, met with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam soon after the shocking news broke that a racist photograph had been unearthed from Northam’s medical school yearbook page. Minor and Slater are part of a political donor class in Richmond that has rallied behind the embattled governor. Perhaps more significant, they are part of a Virginia Military Institute (VMI) brotherhood, an elite alumni corps that includes several of the state’s power brokers. They did not want Northam, the first VMI graduate to become governor, to go down in disgrace. That support is a major reason Northam has clung to office when most of the political world has called for his resignation, leaving the state locked in a limbo of dysfunction that shows no sign of changing soon.

Washington: SEIU State Council to Pay $128,000 in Civil Fines Over Campaign-Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 2/19/2019

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Washington State Council 14 has agreed to pay a six-figure settlement over a campaign finance lawsuit. The settlement requires SEIU to pay $128,262.75 in civil fines, as well as $18,300.85 in costs and fees. Another $104,942.25 in civil fines is suspended, provided the organization has no violations over the next four years. The Freedom Foundation alleged the SEIU state council had been operating as a political committee without filing as such with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. The state attorney general’s office determined that SEIU had made significant campaign contributions but failed to register and report as a political committee in for at least the years 2014 and 2016.

Wyoming: Legislature Reforms Campaign Finance
Staff – Sundance Times | Published: 2/20/2019

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed Senate Bill 18 into law. It is intended to enhance transparency by requiring that candidates report their expenditures and contributions simultaneously and up to two weeks before the election. It also raises the threshold for reporting from $25 to $100 to account for inflation. The law also clarifies campaign advertising provisions to now include online advertising and defines “electioneering communications,” while requiring that campaign activity be subject to the disclosure of donors and expenditures whether or not that activity was done in coordination with a candidate. A disclosure must now explicitly state, “Paid for by ….”

May 20, 2019 •

NYCU Video Digest – May 20, 2019

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

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

 

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May 20, 2019 •

North Dakota Officials Prepare to Appoint Ethics Commission Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 20, 2019 •

Missouri Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Missouri Capitol Building

The first regular session of the 100th General Assembly adjourned May 17 at 6 p.m. after four months in session. Several lobbying bills were introduced, including House Joint Resolution 48 which made its way to the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee. […]

The first regular session of the 100th General Assembly adjourned May 17 at 6 p.m. after four months in session.

Several lobbying bills were introduced, including House Joint Resolution 48 which made its way to the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee.

The committee voted do not pass on May 13. The bill would have banned all lobbyist gifts to lawmakers instead of the current $5 maximum limit.

Similarly, House Bill 1199 was introduced to amend the definition of a lobbyist principal to add an entity with authority to direct the lobbyists’ activities. The bill made its way through the Legislative Oversight Committee but did not pass either chamber.

The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene on January 15, 2020.

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May 20, 2019 •

San Francisco Ethics Commission Propose Code Changes

San Francisco, California - Noahnmf [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

The San Francisco Ethics Commission will hold its next regular meeting on May 29. The commission will consider and possibly act on a set of proposed regulation changes to the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code. These changes include electronic filing, […]

The San Francisco Ethics Commission will hold its next regular meeting on May 29.

The commission will consider and possibly act on a set of proposed regulation changes to the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code.

These changes include electronic filing, filing of contribution disclosures no later than 14 days following the contribution, and updating filing forms.

The proposed changes are intended to provide clarity regarding code sections created by the Anti-Corruption and Accountability Ordinance and update the regulations to match other recent changes to the code.

Changes additionally provide clarity about various provisions of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance.

Opportunity for public comment will be provided at the meeting.

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May 20, 2019 •

Minnesota Bill Addresses Digital Political Contributions

Minnesota House Chamber - Chris Gaukel [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

On May 14, a bill was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives to prohibit political candidates from accepting certain digital currency like bitcoin unless backed by an official legal currency. House File 2884 would prohibit an individual, political committee, […]

On May 14, a bill was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives to prohibit political candidates from accepting certain digital currency like bitcoin unless backed by an official legal currency.

House File 2884 would prohibit an individual, political committee, political fund, principal campaign committee, or party unit from soliciting or accepting a contribution or donation of any digital unit of exchange.

This includes but is not limited to bitcoin, that is not backed by a government-issued legal tender.

Under the bill, a person knowingly accepting any prohibited digital unit of exchange would be guilty of a felony.

The legislation also imposes a civil penalty of up to $3,000 for any individual, political committee, political fund, principal campaign committee, or party unit knowingly soliciting or accepting any digital unit of exchange.

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May 20, 2019 •

Fresno District 2 Special Election

Fresno Arch - by John Walker, Fresno Bee File

The city of Fresno is holding a special election for the District 2 City Council seat on August 13. Steve Brandau stepped down from the District 2 City Council seat after winning the District 2 seat on the Fresno County […]

The city of Fresno is holding a special election for the District 2 City Council seat on August 13.

Steve Brandau stepped down from the District 2 City Council seat after winning the District 2 seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

If a runoff is required, the special runoff election will be held on November 5.

The elected candidate will serve the remainder of Brandau’s term, which ends in 2020.

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May 20, 2019 •

Richmond City Council Passes Revolving Door Ordinance

Richmond City Hall - by Taber Andrew Bain

The Richmond City Council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2019-115 prohibiting lobbying after employment. Ordinance No. 2019-115 defines “officer or employee” as members of the city council, city officers and employees, and individuals who receive monetary compensation for service on or […]

The Richmond City Council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2019-115 prohibiting lobbying after employment.

Ordinance No. 2019-115 defines “officer or employee” as members of the city council, city officers and employees, and individuals who receive monetary compensation for service on or employment by agencies, boards, authorities, sanitary districts, commissions, committees, and task forces appointed by the city council.

Former officers and employees may not represent a client for compensation for one year following their term in office.

Matters of any nature involving any agency, department, or an office of the city government the former officer or employee served immediately prior to the termination of employment or service are prohibited.

The revolving door ordinance is effective July 1.

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May 20, 2019 •

New Jersey Dark Money Disclosure Bill Vetoed

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed legislation requiring dark money groups spending money to influence elections in New Jersey to disclose their large donors. Senate Bill 1500, carried over from last year’s session, requires disclosure of contributors giving more than $10,000 […]

Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed legislation requiring dark money groups spending money to influence elections in New Jersey to disclose their large donors.

Senate Bill 1500, carried over from last year’s session, requires disclosure of contributors giving more than $10,000 to 501(c)(4) groups engaging in political activities and lobbying.

In issuing the veto, Gov. Murphy said the bill contained loopholes and inconsistent disclosure standards.

He also expressed concern about the legislation not passing judicial scrutiny because of broad disclosure requirements beyond spending in elections for groups involved in issue campaigns.

The veto went on to recommend requiring companies receiving large scale tax credits from the state to disclose public contracts and political contributions to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

The recommendation also sought to strike a provision limiting elected officials from managing dark-money groups.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1500, which overwhelmingly passed both houses, argued the legislation leveled the playing field by requiring all groups to disclose if trying to sway elections, legislation, or policy.

The legislature can attempt an override of the governor’s veto or work towards amending the bill based on the governor’s recommendations.

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