February 7, 2020 •
Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020
In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to help arrange a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and the president of Ukraine at the time Trump sought to have Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump gave the instruction, Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in May that included Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The New York Times cited statements from Bolton detailing that Trump directly tied his hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine with investigations into the Bidens. The report led the administration to issue a formal threat to Bolton’s attorney. The letter said some portions of the manuscript contained information at the “top-secret level” and ordered that information removed before publication.
Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/28/2020
Away from the political party conventions’ main stage, K Streeters are booking concert halls, hotel ballrooms, and chic restaurants in the host cities for brunches, receptions, and late-night concerts to fete their favorite politicians and bring them together with the corporate clients they represent. That tradition will carry on this summer with the Democrats in Milwaukee and the GOP in Charlotte, North Carolina. But as lobbyists and executives mull their presence at the conventions, some are not convinced the show is worth the investment, sometimes into the six figures.
Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads
The Fulcrom – Sara Swann | Published: 1/30/2020
With the FEC ending its fifth month without a quorum, a bipartisan group of former members of Congress says enough is enough. Two former senators and seven former House members pressed Senate leadership to confirm new members of the commission right away, so it can revive oversight of campaign donations and spending in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. The group joins coalitions of good-government groups and campaign finance lawyers who have issued similar appeals in recent weeks. But President Trump and Senate leaders are showing no signs of breaking their impasse and allowing the FEC to get back to work.
House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Team Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Bublé | Published: 2/5/2020
The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which has passed the U.S. House and Senate, amends the law to improve the transfer of executive power between administrations. If President Trump signs the bill, the General Services Administration, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The bill would require presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethical conduct all members must sign.
In Historic Vote, Trump Acquitted of Impeachment Charges
MSN – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2020
The U.S. Senate acquitted President Trump of charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end. The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings. Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney, voted to convict the president of abuse of power. in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality, which members of both parties conceded would come only after the November election.
Investigations Into 2020 Candidates Must Be Cleared by Top Justice Dept. Officials
ENM News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 2/5/2020
Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the FBI inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race. The order by Barr comes after a critical report by the inspector general showed how FBI agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate. The memo said the FBI and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.
Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2020
Hours after the U.S. Senate voted against seeking new evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump, the administration acknowledged the existence of two dozen emails that could reveal the president’s thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine. In a midnight court filing, the Justice Department explained why it should not have to unredact copies of more than 100 emails written by officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Defense Department about the hold on funds to Ukraine. Heather Walsh, an OMB lawyer, wrote that of the 111 redacted emails in the lawsuit, 24 are protected by “presidential privilege.”
Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/4/2020
Democratic presidential contenders – including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren – have official policies of rejecting campaign donations from registered federal lobbyists, but lobbyists still donated to all of them in recent months, new disclosures show. Some of the K Street cash has already been refunded to the contributors, lobbyists said. Other donations may be on their way back, as some of the campaigns said they would return any newly identified contributions from registered federal lobbyists.
Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse
AP News – Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz | Published: 1/31/2020
Before Election Day, politicians across party lines are expected to spend more than $1 billion to inundate voters with millions of these cheap online ads, which can be tailored to a voter’s most personal details – down to one household or even a single individual. Experts warn this ad-targeting system is still vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments and domestic actors trying to influence the election, just as they did in 2016. Those attempts could become more sophisticated this year as tech companies wrestle with a dysfunctional Federal Election Commission and deploy haphazard safeguards that still offer plenty of loopholes.
US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying
AP News – Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo | Published: 2/4/2020
The Justice Department official leading the investigation of big tech companies’ market dominance, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, is stepping aside from the department’s Google probe because of his previous lobbying work for Google as a private attorney. Delrahim lobbied on Google’s behalf in 2007 when the company faced antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a competitor in digital advertising. The Justice Department’s ethics office apparently found no potential conflict-of-interest when Delrahim sought guidance as the investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple began last spring.
YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election
AP News – Matt O’Brien | Published: 2/3/2020
YouTube said it will ban misleading or doctored videos that could impact elections, tightening its rules ahead of the crucial presidential vote. The video-streaming site said it will remove videos that spread misinformation such as deepfakes or patently false information. It will also target videos that attempt to mislead the public about the voting or election process. YouTube said it will also crack down on any attempts to artificially increase the number of views, likes, and comments on videos. It changed its systems for recommending what videos users watch last year in a push to curb harmful misinformation.
Canada – Lynn Beyak Claimed She Was Métis During Her Anti-Racism Training Sessions
CBC – John Paul Tasker | Published: 2/3/2020
Sen. Lynn Beyak claimed racism does not exist in her northern Ontario hometown and displayed “overtly biased views, prejudiced opinions, and insolent behaviors” during unsuccessful Indigenous cultural competency training last year, according to an educator who administered the training. Beyak undertook training from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on separate occasions in June and August. Nicole Meawasige said Beyak not only failed to complete the program but was also asked to leave due to the nature of her behavior and comments. Beyak’s colleagues ousted her from the upper chamber temporarily last spring after condemning as racist several letters she had posted to her website.
Canada – RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 2/4/2020
The cost to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) wrote a check for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations, and jet ski rentals. The RCMP, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he or she travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval. Watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2020
The way Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe notes it is illegal for foreigners to try to use their money to influence elections in the U.S. So, he wants to enact the same law in Arizona, but with a twist: Hose Bill 2718 would make it a crime for anyone who does not live in the state to contribute to campaigns for or against candidates and for or against ballot measures. Critics have called the bill unconstitutional, but Thorpe hopes the Legislature enacts his proposal anyway as a method of mounting a legal challenge, one that likely would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arizona – Lobbyist: Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed her before Shooter expulsion
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/4/2020
State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who became the face of Arizona’s #MeToo movement when her claims led to a fellow lawmaker’s expulsion, sexually harassed a female lobbyist so severely it took a toll on the woman’s mental health and career, the lobbyist alleged in a sworn deposition. Repercussions from unwanted advances by Ugenti-Rita and her now-husband, Brian Townsend, led the woman to seek therapy, turn down job offers, and miss workdays, she said. The woman describes her fear of Ugenti-Rita, and her struggles to balance her personal discomfort with her professional need to maintain a good relationship with the senator, who she said served as a “prominent vote” for her employer’s interests.
California – Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Matt Fountain | Published: 1/30/2020
Morro Bay City Councilperson Dawn Addis, who is running for a seat in the California Assembly, accepted a $250 donation from a registered state lobbyist. Campaign spokesperson Gail Bunting said once the campaign realized the error, the donation was immediately returned. Candidates for elected office are prohibited from accepting money or in-kind donations from lobbyists. Since returning the money, Addis’ campaign has added a disclaimer on her fundraising website explaining campaign finance rules, including that lobbyist contributions are prohibited. The donation of $250 came from Steven Black, who is registered as a lobbyist with clients in the wind energy industry.
Colorado – New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators
Complete Colorado – Scott Weiser | Published: 1/31/2020
In late December, Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold issued new lobbying rules that may put private citizens at risk of being legally sanctioned if they do not follow the complex regulations, with one former staffer calling the rules potentially unconstitutional. Traditionally, private individuals who discussed legislation with officials on their own behalf were exempt from the definition of “lobbying” in the rules. The previous rules explicitly excluded “a political committee, volunteer, lobbyist, or citizen who lobbies on his or her behalf” from the definition of lobbying for the purposes of regulation. The new rules repeal that language and create two new categories exempt from the definition of lobbying.
Florida – FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/30/2020
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board moved swiftly to find a new ethics officer after its incoming one bowed out amid controversy over his Twitter feed. The board voted unanimously to extend an offer to a previous finalist: Dwight Floyd, retired bureau chief for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which Floyd accepted. The decision came during an emergency meeting called after political tweets came to light written by Keith Powell, a veteran state ethics investigator who was set to start work as the city’s new independent ethics officer. The tweets included barbs against Democrats and a complaint about a gay kiss shown during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Florida – From $1 to $1,500: Cost of alleged nepotism just went up for former Midway Mayor Wanda Range
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2020
The Florida Commission on Ethics took a rare step in changing an administrative law judge’s recommended one dollar fine in favor of $1,500 against a former Midway mayor who voted to appoint her first cousin to step into her role whenever she could not perform her duties. The commission also found probable cause that Wanda Range used a city vehicle and credit card for personal use and failed to report their use as gifts. Residents of Midway elect the five members of the city council, who in turn vote on the mayor and mayor pro tem positions.
Florida – Lobbyists Tried to Pay for Mayor Lenny Curry’s Trip to Atlanta to Watch Baseball Game with JEA’s Former CEO
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 2/4/2020
A company run by Tim Baker and Sam Mousa, two lobbyists who have both worked for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, organized and attended a secret trip to Atlanta on a private plane to watch a playoff baseball game along with Curry, his top administrator Brian Hughes, JEA’s then-Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and city council President Scott Wilson. Curry, who cannot accept gifts from lobbyists worth more than $100, said he initially covered his $400 portion of the trip by accepting it as in-kind contribution from Baker and Mousa’s company that was made in October to a political committee that has no official ties to Curry or his campaigns. He said he decided in December to personally pay for the trip.
Florida – Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/3/2020
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said he accepted one $4,000 ticket to the Super Bowl from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and bought a second for his wife. Ross also offered $3,000 tickets to county commissioners ahead of a vote on his plan to bring Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium. At least one commissioner accepted the offer. The county’s top ethics lawyer cleared Gimenez to accept the tickets, saying the $8,000 gift did not qualify as the kind of quid pro quo offer that would trigger a violation of Miami-Dade law. The Dolphins’ lobbying team is fighting county legislation that would block Ross from bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium, and Gimenez is a key ally in that effort.
Florida – St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 2/3/2020
A St. Petersburg ordinance that is serving as a national model for “dark money” reform would be preempted under a last-minute proposal attached to a bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes. He introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1372, a measure that updates election law. The revision takes aim at a 2017 ordinance passed by the St. Petersburg City Council that abolishes super PACs and prohibits spending by foreign-influenced corporations in city elections. The bill would ban cities and counties from “adopting any limitation or restriction” on contributions to political committees or expenditures from political committees in city elections.
Georgia – Sentence Reduced for Man Who Cooperated in Corruption Case
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 2/4/2020
A judge agreed to reduce the prison sentence for a former Atlanta contractor, Elvis Mitchell, by a year after prosecutors said he “substantially assisted” them in a federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. In January 2017, Mitchell was the first in a string of people to be charged in the federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed. Prosecutors have said Mitchell and another city construction contractor, Charles Richards Jr., bribed Mitzi Bickers to represent their businesses and to steer lucrative city construction contracts to their companies. During much of the that time, prosecutors have said, Bickers was a city employee.
Illinois – Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation
Southern Illinoisan – Peter Hancock | Published: 1/30/2020
Government reform advocates told a panel of state lawmakers that Illinois has some of the weakest governmental ethics rules in the country and lawmakers should put more teeth into them if they hope to regain the trust of the public. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform was formed in the wake of federal investigations that led to indictments against three sitting state lawmakers, two of whom have since resigned. The panel’s most recent hearing focused on the state’s Governmental Ethics Act, and specifically its provisions dealing with conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure requirements.
Iowa – Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2020
Shadow’s vote-recording app stands at the center of one of the biggest technical failures of the 2020 campaign, producing only partial and unreliable results during Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic contest for president. Shadow grew from an effort by Democrats to give their party newfound digital might. But the software was largely untested, and it proved difficult to use when it was most needed at the February 3 caucus, raising concerns about the technology undergirding American democracy and prompting pointed questions about why Iowa Democratic Party officials chose it in the first place. To developers and tech specialists, Shadow’s ambition – to build a secure and foolproof mobile app for quickly relaying vote results – seemed doomed from the beginning.
Kansas – After Kobach’s 2018 Bid, Kansas Lawmakers Weigh Making Secretary of State Non-Partisan
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 2/5/2020
When then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer, won the 2018 Republican primary for governor by a razor-thin margin, it prompted concerns about conflicts-of-interest. A bill to prevent that scenario, in which a Kobach-like figure could oversee elections while campaigning for governor or Congress, is drawing some interest from Kansas lawmakers. The legislation is sponsored by a Democrat but nevertheless set to receive a hearing in a Republican-controlled committee, a sign that legislators want to at least explore the proposal.
Maryland – Baltimore Comptroller’s Vote to Sell City Lots to Her Church Was Conflict of Interest, Inspector General Says
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/5/2020
Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted to sell city property to her church, representing a conflict-of-interest that illuminated “administrative oversights” in her office, according to the city’s inspector general. Members of the city’s Board of Estimates, which signs off on all spending over $25,000, are supposed to abstain from voting on items that pose a conflict for them. Ahead of that 2017 meeting, Pratt says she verbally told a staff member that she wanted to abstain from a vote to sell properties to her church, but that person did not properly note the abstention and so it was not announced during the spending panel’s weekly meeting. Pratt ended up approving the sale as part of the Board of Estimate’s routine agenda.
Massachusetts – Search Begins for New Campaign Finance Chief
Newburyport Daily News – Colin Young (State House News Service) | Published: 2/6/2020
As a new election year unfolds, candidates interested in becoming the next head of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) have about two weeks to submit their resumes and applications to the bipartisan commission formed to find a new director. At the end of 2019, after nearly a quarter-century in the post, Michael Sullivan retired from the agency that oversees campaign finance law in the state. For Secretary of State William Galvin, who chairs the commission that must unanimously choose the next director, the ideal candidate is someone who shares similar traits as Sullivan.
New Jersey – Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald | Published: 1/30/2020
A New Jersey mayor who got drunk at a party and took off his pants before falling asleep in an employee’s bed exemplifies a larger problem that women working in politics face, according to two women leading the state’s fight against sexual misconduct. Mahwah Mayor John Roth’s contention that the episode was a private matter irked state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who recently launched a working group of women to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. Roth confirmed he drank too much and removed his clothes at the party and apologized to the township employee. He also questioned whether his actions were worthy of news coverage.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule
Courthouse News Service – Victpria Preiskop | Published: 1/30/2020
A federal judge ruled a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending over $250 on a ballot issue passes constitutional muster. The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the Rio Grande Foundation, which claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation chilled free speech. The foundation became involved in a campaign opposing a proposed soda tax in Santa Fe. In the course of the campaign, the group set up a website, a Facebook page, and a link to a YouTube video explaining its objections to the tax. Because the group was deemed to have spent more than $250 in costs and in-kind contributions from third parties on the campaign, it was required by Santa Fe’s campaign code to disclose its donors and was officially reprimanded by the city for failing to do so.
New York – JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/2/2020
The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators, a nonprofit run by state lawmakers, in ways mirrors a nonprofit founded to push the agenda of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the de Blasio group has been subjected to continuing investigation by New York’s ethics regulators, that does not mean the association will get the same scrutiny. In a draft advisory opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) apparently sought to “thread the needle” to cover de Blasio’s activities, while exempting the association, said David Grandeau, who spent a dozen years as New York’s top lobbying regulator. Good-government groups have long charged the governor and state lawmakers that appoint JCOPE’s members have undue influence over its operations.
New York – State Police Had Role in Lobbying Investigation of Rape Survivor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/3/2020
Last September, a State Police official placed a phone call to the owner and manager of the South Albany Airport, Ted Zabinski. The call concerned a flight from the airstrip in 2018 that passed over the Capitol, towing a banner asking the New York Legislature to pass the Child Victims Act. The flight had been chartered by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape victim turned activist. Both the State Police and Zabinski maintain the phone call was benign. But others, including Sullivan’s attorney, contend Zabinski was intimidated by the call, to the point he did not allow Sullivan to hire another flight from there in December, with a new banner criticizing state government. The call came as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics was ramping up its controversial probe into Sullivan for potential violations of state lobbying law.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Bill Drafts to Resolve Conflicts in Ethics Laws
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/4/2020
Proposed legislation would change new North Dakota ethics laws that apparently conflict with a voter-passed constitutional amendment for state government ethics. Rep. Karla Rose Hanson provided fellow members of the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee with two bill drafts related to procedures and authority of North Dakota’s Ethics Commission and transparency in campaign spending. The committee is studying the 2018 ethics measure that created the new five-person panel and other ethics mandates.
Ohio – Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 1/31/2020
A former food-services consultant for the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority faces up to 10 years in prison after signing an agreement to plead guilty to bribery. Rodney Myers, who was hired by the authority for $5,000 a month to help evaluate contracts submitted by potential food vendors, admitted he helped steer a $700,000-a-year contract to a vendor identified as “Company A.” The Columbus Dispatch has identified “Company A” as Connecticut-based Centerplate through public records. Myers later billed that company for his services. The Myers case involved former Columbus City Hall lobbyist John Raphael, who was good friends with Myers and served on the authority’s board of directors at the time while also serving as Centerplate’s paid lobbyist.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Quickly Launch New Fight Over Campaign Finance Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 2/4/2020
Oregon Rep. Dan Rayfield wants to keep the campaign field for candidates level this year as courts and legislators untangle campaign finance reforms, but he wants to short circuit a voter-approved measure to do that. Dan Meek, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate, said Rayfield’s proposed legislation would overturn the wishes of voters while undermining efforts to rein in the way state’s politicians raise money. Oregon is one of a handful of states with no limits on how much money can be donated to candidates. Rayfield’s legislation, House Bill 4124, comes at a time when the state could be on the cusp of enacting campaign finance reform.
Pennsylvania – A Group That Championed Pa.’s Lobbying Law Was Fined $19,900 for Breaking It
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Daniel Simmons-Ritchie (Spotlight PA) | Published: 2/6/2020
The state Ethics Commission imposed a $19,900 fine on Common Cause Pennsylvania after the group filed a quarterly lobbying report 112 days past the deadline. The organization has also been late in filing four other reports since the beginning of 2018. In Pennsylvania, groups are required to disclose the names of any lobbyists they employ, the subject matter they lobbied on, and the total amount of money they spent. Though Common Cause Pennsylvania reports spending only a few thousand dollars each year on lobbying, the Ethics Commission nonetheless expressed its disappointment over the group’s failures, especially since it had helped champion the current law.
Rhode Island – R.I. Legislature Waits Until End of Session to Act on Many Acts, Data Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 2/6/2020
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea office has launched a “Lobbying and Legislation Data Exploration Tool,” saying it will let the public easily sort years of lobbying and legislative information using dozens of search functions. All the lobbying and legislative information has been public in years past, but now it is easily sorted so that people can, for example, find out the number of registered lobbyists in a given year or the number of bills introduced on a particular subject. Users can also narrow their focus to explore the activity of an individual lobbyist or the progress of an individual bill.
Texas – DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows
Dallas News – Miles Moffeit | Published: 1/31/2020
Two weeks after DeSoto, Texas, officials Candice and Jeremiah Quarles took a controversial Disney World vacation funded largely by taxpayers, AT&T gave the couple free tickets to two exclusive Cotton Bowl dinners. Jeremiah Quarles, then head of economic development for the city, jumped at an offer to attend one hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. He also told the AT&T representative that his wife, Candice, who at the time was on a city zoning board, would be accompanying him. DeSoto ethics policies prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 to avoid improper outside influence over their public duties. The rules also warn officials to avoid practices that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. AT&T competes for major telecommunications services contracts that depend on the approval of city officials.
Washington – City Council Member to Pay $500 Fine for Violating Ethics Code
KOMO – Michelle Esteban | Published: 2/5/2020
City Councilperson Lisa Herbold will pay a $500 fine for what the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission calls a violation of the city code. Herbold acknowledged the wrongdoing after sending text messages to Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best last October over an RV parked on her street. instead of calling the Police Department’s non-emergency line to report what Herbold said she thought was a stolen RV parked in front or her home, she texted the chief directly. An investigation found Herbold not only thought the RV was stolen, but that it was a political stunt.
Wisconsin – 2 Leaders of Democratic Convention Host Committee Fired
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 2/5/2020
The two leaders of Milwaukee’s host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention – the group’s president, Liz Gilbert, and its chief of staff, Adam Alonso – were fired amid allegations they oversaw a toxic work environment, a dramatic shakeup less than six months before the showcase event in swing state Wisconsin. The host committee is a nonpartisan group responsible for raising the $70 million, recruiting the 15,000 volunteers, and providing the facilities needed to put on the convention in July. Alonso was fired less than a week after he was involved with a controversy in his home state of New Jersey, where both he and Gilbert are top-ranking Democratic operatives.
April 3, 2020 •
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to postpone the presidential primary and state Supreme Court elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. Evers is calling the Legislature into a special session on April 4 to take up legislation to avoid […]
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to postpone the presidential primary and state Supreme Court elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 7.
Evers is calling the Legislature into a special session on April 4 to take up legislation to avoid in-person voting.
Additionally they will call for an all-mail election with a deadline of May 26 to return ballots.
April 3, 2020 •
To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week. All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled. This does not […]
To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week.
All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled.
This does not affect lobbyist reporting.
April 3, 2020 •
Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19. Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but […]
Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19.
Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but they cleared out of the state Capitol as the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up.
The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on May 29.
Legislators have not yet set a date to return to pass a state budget and any other legislative priorities.
April 3, 2020 •
A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]
A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.
The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.
In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.
The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.
Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.
The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.
Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.
April 3, 2020 •
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]
The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.
In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.
The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.
April 3, 2020 •
The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]
The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.
The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.
Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.