February 28, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 28, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

‘All Traitors Must Die’: Feds charge man for threatening whistleblower attorney
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 2/20/2020

Federal prosecutors in Michigan charged a man with making a death threat against one of the attorneys for a whistleblower who initiated the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The man, Brittan Atkinson, allegedly emailed the attorney in November, calling him a “traitor” who “must die a miserable death.” The attorney, Mark Zaid, confirmed he received the email the day after Trump held up Zaid’s photo and read some of Zaid’s tweets during a rally. The indictment follows months of rhetorical salvos by the president and his allies against the whistleblower, whose purported identity has been posted on social media and even read aloud in the U.S. Senate despite federal laws that allow whistleblowers to remain anonymous.

Dressing for the Campaign Trail Can Be Tough for Female Candidates. M.M. LaFleur Is Lending Free Clothes to Ease the Burden.
Washington Post – Taylor Telford | Published: 2/19/2020

Research shows physical appearance remains a point of scrutiny for female candidates, while the looks or dress of their male peers are scarcely factored into their potential. Women running for office say they often feel pressure to look the part lest they not be taken seriously. But the expense and upkeep of a professional wardrobe can be a barrier for many. That is why workwear retailer M.M. LaFleur is offering to lend clothing to female candidates this election season. The company has received more than 550 responses from women in state, local, and federal races and an outpouring of support from customers. M.M. LaFleur is leaving the onus on candidates in local or state races to ensure the donation of clothing is acceptable under their jurisdiction’s campaign finance laws.

Environment Regulator’s Husband Listed as Lobbying Her Agency
Bloomberg Environment – Stephen Lee | Published: 2/27/2020

A disclosure form lists the husband of the general counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality as lobbying his wife’s employer on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the council’s top issue. Both the council and lobbying group deny any such lobbying happened. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a proposal to speed environmental permitting for major projects recently. The proposed changes have also prompted scrutiny of the work of the council. Viktoria Seale is the agency’s general counsel. Her husband, John Seale, is director of federal affairs at the American Chemistry Council. On its lobbying disclosure form for the last quarter of 2019, the group lists NEPA among its many lobbying issues. It also lists CEQ among the agencies the group has approached, and John Seale among the individuals “who acted as a lobbyist in this issue area.”

Group Asks Congress to Investigate How Devin Nunes Is Paying for His Lawsuits
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 2/26/2020

A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, calling for a congressional investigation into how the California Republican is paying for his lawsuits against media companies and critics. Nunes filed six lawsuits and sent two letters implying possible legal action in 2019. He has not disclosed how he is paying for the legal work, and the kind of lawsuits he is filing – alleging defamation and conspiracies against him – can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The complaint argues he would only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee. In all those cases, the complaint says, Nunes must disclose the legal help he is receiving by filing a legal expense fund, otherwise it would represent an illegal gift given to Nunes under congressional ethics rules.

How Conservatives Learned to Wield Power Inside Facebook
MSN – Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020

The debate over Facebook’s “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst disinformation pages being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within the company since Donald Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions, and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to employees. These sensitivities have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters to the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election.

In a Historically Old Presidential Field, Candidates Refuse to Release Health Records
MSN – Matt Viser and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020

Donald Trump became the oldest person to win the presidency in 2016 after a campaign in which he released only a letter from his doctor attesting to his “astonishingly excellent” health. Now, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are following his lead. Four of the six major Democratic candidates are 70 or older, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack about five months ago, an episode he at first failed to disclose. But the candidates, for the most part, have declined to release full dossiers on their health, relying instead on a physician testimonial. No law requires presidents to divulge intimate medical details, and previous occupants of the White House have not always done so. But in general, presidential candidates have felt an obligation to assure voters they are physically up to the job.

Once Cold War Heroes, ‘Miracle on Ice’ Team Struggles with Backlash from Donning ‘Keep America Great’ Hats at Trump Rally
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2020

Mike Eruzione and his teammates from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team had not meant to make a political statement when they appeared onstage as President Trump’s surprise guests at a recent campaign rally in Las Vegas. They happened to be in town to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” when they got a call from Trump’s campaign inviting them to a private photo line with the president. The next thing they knew, Eruzione said, Trump was introducing them at the rally and a campaign aide was handing them “Keep America Great” hats as they took the stage. Four of the former players chose not to wear them, but 10 others did, prompting a backlash on social media from Trump’s critics, who view the distinctive red hats as politicized symbols of hate, racism, and xenophobia.

Reliability of Pricey New Voting Machines Questioned
AP News – Frank Bajak | Published: 2/23/2020

In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems. Nearly one in five U.S. voters will be using ballot-marking machines this year, compared with less than two percent in 2018, according to Verified Voting.

Republican Lobbying Firms Riding High Despite Uncertainty of 2020 Race
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/26/2020

Republican lobbying firms are riding high after three years of President Trump and a GOP-controlled Senate. But those firms also face a tumultuous presidential election, a heated fight for the Senate, and a wave of Republican retirements from both chambers. That is sparking questions about whether they can keep that stretch going. K Street as a whole has been booming in recent years, but the gains for Republican lobbyists in particular have been notable, as firms have beefed up their Washington teams and seen revenue surge. Some question whether GOP firms should brace themselves for the uncertainty ahead and the prospect their party could lose the White House. Many lobbyists from Republican firms who spoke to The Hill, however, said they expect the boom to continue no matter how 2020 shakes out.

Richard Grenell’s Paid Consulting Included Work for U.S. Nonprofit Funded Mostly by Hungary
MSN – Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Dalton Bennett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020

Richard Grenell’s public relations consulting and foreign policy commentary are part of an unusual résumé for a leader of the U.S. intelligence community, a job Grenell assumed when President Trump named him acting director of national intelligence. That promotion is drawing scrutiny of Grenell’s past, including his foreign affairs commentary and consulting work after he served as U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations. His work for a Hungarian-funded nonprofit is the type of activity that has drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators tasked with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law requires people who advocate in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign power to register and disclose their activities, but Grenell did not register.

‘Scam PAC’ Treasurer Sentenced to Federal Prison
Center for Public Integrity – Sarah Kleiner | Published: 2/21/2020

A federal judge sentenced political operative Scott Mackenzie to 12 months and one day in prison for making false statements to the FEC. He also must pay $172,200 in restitution. Mackenzie, one of Washington’s most prolific and controversial political fundraisers, has served as treasurer of more than 50 federal PACs. At least a dozen of these purported to raise money for political and social causes, but they spent most of the money they raise from unsuspecting donors on fundraising, salaries, and overhead. Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer, said the decision is “a historic campaign finance prosecution” – the first time he is aware a professional PAC accountant has been sentenced to prison for filing false reports with the FEC.

Senior Intelligence Official Told Lawmakers That Russia Wants to See Trump Reelected
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, and Anne Gearan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2020

A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. Trump replaced Maguire with a vocal defender, Richard Grenell. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who are not defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Steve Bannon’s Use of Private Jet Linked to Chinese Businessman Could Violate Campaign Finance Law
ProPublica – Justin Elliott | Published: 2/25/2020

President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, used a private jet apparently owned by a wealthy Chinese businessperson to fly to events to promote Republican congressional candidates in 2018. The previously unreported flights could run afoul of a campaign finance law that bars foreign money from U.S. elections, according to campaign finance experts, though it depends on several factors that are not known. One of the unknowns is whether Bannon paid Guo Wengui, who is a vocal critic of the Chinese regime, and with whom he has other reported financial ties, for the use of the jet.

Trump Campaign Says It Is Suing New York Times Over Russia Opinion Piece
Reuters – Steve Holland | Published: 2/26/2020

President Trump’s re-election campaign said it was filing a libel suit accusing The New York Times of intentionally publishing a false opinion article that suggested Russia and the campaign had an overarching deal in the 2016 U.S. election. In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in state court in New York. Trump’s criticism of what he calls liberal bias in the American news media plays well with his conservative political base and generates applause at his political rallies, where his supporters often jeer journalists. Trump regularly refers to various media outlets as “fake news” and has called elements of the U.S. media “the enemy of the American people.”

Watchdog ‘Disappointed’ with Review of State’s Lobbying Act
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 2/25/2020

Ireland’s lobbying watchdog criticized the government for failing to give it extra powers to police the “revolving door” between the private and public sectors. Sherry Perrault, who is in charge of ethics and lobbying at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said it was “disappointed none of its recommendations were adopted” during a review of lobbying laws. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found there was no convincing case for updating the laws introduced in 2014.

Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere
Chicago Tribune – Mihir Zaveri and Alan Yuhas (New York Times) | Published: 2/25/2020

For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag – buttons, mugs, guacamole bowls – to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers, and gather data about supporters. Less attention has been paid to what happens to all those things after most of those campaigns end, sometimes abruptly. Surplus items often end up in storage or in the homes of staff members and volunteers. Some are given a second life with a new campaign. Most are thought to be recycled or thrown away. Lori Ferber Collectibles has been gathering campaign ephemera for over 40 years, said Steve Ferber, the company’s vice president. He said the company had sold everything from Reagan yo-yos to a Nixon pizza box. “It can get pretty strange, but everything sells eventually,” Ferber said.

Canada

Canada Facing Senate Suspension, Sen. Lynn Beyak Apologizes ‘Unreservedly’ for Posting Racist Letters Online
National Post – Canadian Press | Published: 2/25/2020

Sen. Lynn Beyak sought to stave off suspension from the upper chamber, pledging to do more to make amends for the harm she caused by posting offensive letters online. The letters were sent to Beyak, a senator from Ontario, in support of her defense of the residential school system. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded the system caused horrific abuse and alienation for generations of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children, Beyak has suggested there were benefits to the program that have been overshadowed. The letters she received and published online echoed her views, but some also went further, including suggestions that Indigenous Peoples and their cultures were inferior.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Marijuana Industry Works to Curry Favor with Local Politicians
Anchorage Daily News – Aubrey Wieber | Published: 2/23/2020

Since recreational marijuana became legal in Alaska, local businesses have joined other industries in the state like oil, fishing, and tourism in working to influence how their trade is regulated. By holding fundraisers and interacting with local and state leaders, Alaska’s marijuana industry is building its political capital, aiming to shape everything from rules restricting signage to how the industry is taxed. In Anchorage, the marijuana industry uses its growing political influence to suggest local regulation changes.

Arizona A Veteran Running for Congress Is Suspending His Campaign After a Heroin Overdose
Washington Post – Meryl Kornfield | Published: 2/26/2020

An Arizona Republican running for the U.S. House suspended his campaign to go into treatment after a heroin overdose. Chris Taylor, a 33-year-old Army veteran and city council member in Safford, said he was sober for “many solid years” before the relapse. He was found unresponsive in his home, where paramedics revived him with naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids. As the opioid crisis has continued to make headlines, only a few politicians, especially at the federal level, have come forward with their own stories of addiction.

Arkansas Ex-Nonprofit Chief Sentenced to 2 Years in Corruption Case
Texarkana Gazette – Eric Besson (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) | Published: 2/27/2020

The founder and executive director of South Arkansas Youth Services received a two-and-one-half year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty as part of a public corruption investigation spanning Arkansas and Missouri. Jerry Walsh pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was convicted in July 2018 of funneling more than $380,000 of the nonprofit’s money to former Arkansas lobbyist Milton Cranford, one of Cranford’s relatives, and an unnamed former Arkansas senator. Walsh spent the money, without his board’s approval, as part of an effort to preserve the agency’s state contracts to run youth detention facilities in Arkansas and to otherwise secure favorable treatment from officials, he said in his plea.

California A New Voting System in L.A. Raises the Stakes for California’s Primary
Los Angeles Times – John Myers and Matt Stiles | Published: 2/24/2020

When Los Angeles County set out to build a new voting system from scratch more than a decade ago, election officials knew the challenges in serving an electorate larger than those found in any of 39 states. But what they did not know was that their efforts were on a collision course with a series of statewide election changes and the most consequential presidential primary in modern California history. Should Angelenos not understand what to do or where to go, the effects could be felt both statewide and – in terms of the Democratic presidential race – across the country.

California Steak Dinners, Secret Donors: How the Tech Caucus is courting Silicon Valley with charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/20/2020

As the number of nonprofits run by California lawmakers or staff has grown in the last decade, most have publicly reported donors to the Fair Political Practices Commission. But the Foundation for California’s Technology and Innovation Economy, overseen by three board members with close ties to Assemblyperson Evan Low, last year stopped disclosing where its money comes from. The choice highlights the potential for secrecy in the growing niche of nonprofits run by government officials. “Legally they’re not required to give a lot of detail, which is one reason these groups can be so opaque and remain in the shadows; It just depends on what a group chooses to disclose,” said Anna Massoglia of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Colorado Denver Auditor Finds Serious Deficiencies in Ethics Board, Gift Reporting
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 2/24/2020

City Auditor Timothy O’Brien found in a new report that Denver’s volunteer ethics board suffers from lack of enforcement powers and inability to take complaints anonymously. In a survey question that 1,237 city employees responded to, 41 percent said they had observed unethical behavior and did not report it to the board. They cited fear of retaliation and the expectation of no corrective action taken as the most common justifications for non-reports. The report also discovered noncompliance with deadlines among elected officials and their appointees for disclosure of gifts worth $50 or more.

Florida A Side Parking Business at PortMiami Ends for Firefighters After County Ethics Probe
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/21/2020

Parking for a week at the Port of Miami costs about $175 unless your girlfriend happened to use a travel agent who went to high school with a local firefighter who could rent you a parking spot at the county rescue station there for a fraction of that price. That is the scenario Chad Burg outlined to a county ethics investigator last fall, explaining how he wound up parking his truck at Miami-Dade Fire Station No. 39 for just $20 during a week-long cruise in September out of the county-owned port. That kind of parking deal at the world’s busiest cruise port has come to an end on the heels of an ethics investigation into a longstanding perk for county firefighters that evolved into a funding source for the station’s kitchen and recreational options.

Kentucky Lexington Businessman Found Guilty of Lying About Alleged Illegal Campaign Donations
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/25/2020

A federal jury convicted a real estate executive on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into alleged illegal contributions to Lexington council members in the May 2018 election. Timothy Wellman could face decades in prison if given the maximum sentence on all 11 counts. Prosecutors alleged Wellman circumvented state campaign finance limits that prohibit individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by giving money to more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. Wellman told his co-workers at CRM Companies 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.

Louisiana Ending of 10- Year-Old Ethics Case Sets ‘a New Low Standard’ for Louisiana Public Officials
New Orleans Advocate – Andrea Gallo | Published: 2/21/2020

Former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. has come to an agreement with the Louisiana Board of Ethics to resolve charges from 10 years ago that he failed to disclose he was paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University. State public servants are required to disclose when their financial interests overlap or conflict with the state’s, yet Marionneaux was able to delay doing so for years without penalty. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” ethics reforms in 2008 required new financial disclosures from public officials. But the other ways in which Jindal rejiggered the state’s ethics system have led to a falloff in enforcement, particularly for legislators, The New Orleans Advocate reported last year.

Maryland Ex-Lawmaker’s Campaign Treasurer Gets Probation for Fraud
AP News – Staff | Published: 2/26/2020

The campaign treasurer and daughter of a former Maryland lawmaker has been sentenced to probation for misusing her mother’s campaign funds. Anitra Edmond pleaded guilty to converting more than $35,000 in campaign funds for her personal use and failing to disclose contributions on state campaign finance reports. In a plea agreement, Edmond says she used the money for fast food, hair styling, personal phone bills, and rent for a separate business. Former Del. Tawanna Gaines pleaded guilty to a related charge of wire fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Sentenced to 3 Years in Book Scheme
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 2/27/2020

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison for a fraud scheme involving her children’s book series. She also must serve three years of supervised release after getting out of prison and pay more than $411,000 in restitution. Pugh resigned under pressure as authorities investigated bulk sales of her “Healthy Holly” paperbacks, which netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal authorities accused her of double selling the books, keeping many for self-promotion purposes, and failing to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including the Baltimore City Public Schools. Pugh had a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her books for $500,000.

Maryland The NAACP Paid $100,000 To A Woman Who Accused Him of Sexual Harassment. Now He’s Likely Headed to Congress.
BuzzFeed News – Addy Baird | Published: 2/25/2020

It has been nearly three years since the #MeToo movement began, ushering in the downfall of dozens of powerful men. But slowly, in recent months, those who faced serious allegations of misconduct have begun to reenter the mainstream. How to handle their reinventions remains an open question, and it is one U.S. House Democrats will have to answer given the near certainty that Kweisi Mfume, a former member of Congress and NAACP president who was accused of sexual harassment and admitted to dating a subordinate more than a decade ago, will join their ranks in late April. The NAACP paid the subordinate $100,000 in 2004 to avoid a lawsuit. Mfume recently won the special election primary to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Massachusetts Following Bribery Scandal, Walsh Revamps Zoning Board Policies
Boston Globe – Tim Logan and Milton Valencia | Published: 2/24/2020

Six months after a bribery scandal rocked the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh detailed changes he hopes will prevent such an incident from happening again. Walsh signed an executive order designed to strengthen conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure rules for the seven-member board, which governs small and midsize development projects across the city. More substantial changes, such as adding seats to the board, would require state legislation and probably take months, if not years, to win approval. But Walsh and key city council members said such measures are crucial to restoring faith in a board that wields enormous influence on the look and feel of Boston’s neighborhoods.

Nevada Bernie Sanders Decisively Wins Nevada Caucuses
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him. Sanders’ advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters.

New Hampshire Lawmakers Reprimanded for Skipping Anti-Harassment Training
AP News – Holly Ramer | Published: 2/20/2020

Seven Republican members of the New Hampshire House were publicly reprimanded for failing to attend mandatory training on sexual harassment prevention in a contentious session that lasted far longer than the two-hour course. Over the course of four hours, each lawmaker was given the opportunity to explain why they did not attend the training sessions. Some said they believed the mandate was unconstitutional, others said they did not need the training. Throughout the afternoon, Republicans made their displeasure known through a variety of unsuccessful procedural stunts that delayed the votes.

New Jersey Court Ruling Bolsters Convicted Former Jersey City Council President’s Bid for His Pension Benefits
Newark Star Ledger – Ron Zeitlinger (Jersey Journal) | Published: 2/20/2020

A former Jersey City politician caught in a federal corruption sting more than 10 years ago may be entitled to pension benefits, a state appellate panel ruled. The panel reversed the state pension board’s 2018 decision that denied benefits to former City Council President Mariano Vega because of his guilty plea to corruption charges in 2010. The court did not grant Vega benefits earned from his 22 years as a Hudson County employee, but instead sent the question of benefits back to the pension board with instructions to weigh all the factors before deciding if Vega should receive all, some, or none of his pension.

New Jersey N.J.’s Oddest Political Tradition to Roll Along with Less Booze, Fewer People After #MeToo Allegations
Newark Star-Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/26/2020

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip has long been a political tradition. Politicians, lobbyists, business leaders – and anyone who wants to get close to power – can buy $700 tickets to shake hands, drink, and schmooze as they walk through a series of packed train cars on their way to Washington, D.C. This year, the Chamber is debuting new rules designed to make the trip less raucous in response to a report on sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. The report included comments from women who said they were groped and subjected to sexual comments from often-drunk men on the crowded train. Though the trip is considered a must-attend event for many, some women said they no longer attend or take other transportation to the receptions because they felt uncomfortable on the packed train.

New Mexico Ethics Panel Wants Charges Against Padilla Refiled
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/25/2020

In its first court filing, the State Ethics Commission says the New Mexico Court of Appeals should reverse the dismissal of criminal charges against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla. The Ethics Commission took no position on Padilla’s guilt or innocence. But it said the state Governmental Conduct Act established specific, mandatory duties prohibiting abuse of office that can be enforced through criminal charges. Padilla had fair warning, the agency said, that she could face criminal enforcement if she were to abuse her office. The filing comes after Padilla’s attorney won dismissal of five ethics charges last year, arguing Padilla had been charged under parts of the law that are too vague to be enforced and were never meant to be used in criminal cases.

New Mexico NM Lobbyists Spend $151,000 on Legislators
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/26/2020

New Mexico lobbyists and their clients reported about $151,000 in spending this session. That is just part of the expenditures. More-detailed reports are due in May. But what is not reported might be more interesting. Lobbyists are not required to report which specific bills they are supporting or opposing, and they often do not reveal which legislators they met or shared a meal with. Sen. Jeff Steinborn said he will push again next session to expand the disclosure requirements for lobbyists. One priority, Steinborn said, is for lobbyists to reveal which bills they are working on.

New York Even Defunct, de Blasio Campaign Draws Financial Ethics Concerns
Politico – Joe Anuta | Published: 2/24/2020

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign coffers ran dry, he paid consultants and staff from a pair of PACs ostensibly created to help other Democrats, a questionable fundraising setup that helped boost the mayor’s profile even as he positioned himself as a reformer looking to get big money out of politics. Politico has reported that de Blasio’s campaign accepted the maximum from a small group of wealthy benefactors and then took additional contributions from the same people through his PACs. The PACs then spent money to help his White House bid in what one watchdog group called a shell game, but which the de Blasio camp has defended as a legal setup.

New York New Bill Would Close Loophole for Reporting on Independent Expenditures to Influence Ballot Referenda
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 2/26/2020

New York City Councilperson Brad Lander introduced legislation that would close a loophole in city campaign finance law that currently allows groups to hide their donors when they try to influence voting on a ballot referendum. The law now requires independent expenditure committees to disclose their contributors only when they spend money to favorably or negatively affect a candidate’s campaign for elected office. The law does not require that for ballot measures, such as the five that were approved by voters in November of last year.

Ohio Tamaya Dennard: Councilwoman facing charges of bribery and extortion, court documents show
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Cooledge | Published: 2/25/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard was arrested on federal charges of wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, between August and December 2019, Dennard engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money. Dennard is accused of requesting between $10,000 and $15,000 from an individual to pay for her personal expenses. An individual working with the FBI and Dennard exchanged a total of $15,000, in increments of $10,000 and $5,000, for upcoming votes on a matter scheduled to be heard by council. Dennard deposited $10,000 in a personal bank account the same day she received it.

South Carolina SC School District Officials Hit with Ethics Fines for Votes Tied to Spouses
Charleston Post and Courier – Joseph Cranney and Avery Wilkes | Published: 2/26/2020

South Carolina’s Ethics Commission sanctioned a pair of Columbia school district commissioners who each voted for contracts that netted hundreds of thousands in public dollars for nonprofits partly controlled by their spouses. Jamie Devine, board chair for Richland County School District One, said in a statement that a commission’s ruling against him went contrary to legal advice he received regarding his spouse’s board position with the EngenuitySC, which has partnered with the district on science education programs. Fellow Commissioner Beatrice King, who once warned Jamie Devine about his potential conflict, was fined for her own failure to recuse herself on votes for district contracts that went to Prisma Health. Her husband sits on that group’s board.

Washington Tim Eyman Violated Campaign Finance Law, Concealed Payments, Judge Rules
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/21/2020

Tim Eyman has been in violation of Washington’s campaign finance laws for at least the last seven years, concealing more than $766,000 in political contributions, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled. Eyman raised the money to compensate himself for the political work he does – serially running anti-tax ballot initiatives. But he did not report any of that money to the state Public Disclosure Commission, as is required. The judge said Eyman is at least 2,706 days late in registering as a political committee. He is also a combined 173,862 days late in filing 110 monthly campaign finance reports. The penalty for filing a late report is $10 a day, and that could be bumped to $30 a day if the judge rules the violations were intentional, which could potentially leave Eyman vulnerable to a fine of more than $5 million.

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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July 7, 2020 •

Lobbyist Registration and Reporting Not Required During Nevada Special Session

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_R._Thompson_Center,_Chicago,_Illinois_(9179428785).jpg

The James R. Thompson Center - Ken Lund

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session. To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during […]

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session.

To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during the special session will be limited to legislators, essential staff and a small press pool.

The Legislature’s website and YouTube channel will both host livestreams of all floor sessions and committee meetings.

In addition, the teleconference system will allow individuals to call in to participate in the legislative process.

The Legislators will receive written comments made available through submission by email, fax and mail.

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July 7, 2020 •

City of Oakland Launches Online Lobbyist Registration, Reporting System

Oakland, California

Oakland, California - by James BeBop

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System. This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online. It is […]

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System.

This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online.

It is available at https://apps.oaklandca.gov/OakApps/OakApps.aspx.

In order to use the system, a user name and password is needed.

For questions about using this new system, please contact the Oakland Public Ethics Commission at ethicscommission@oaklandca.gov or 510-238-3593.

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