January 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

6 Million Democratic Donors Gave $1 Billion in 2019 Through ActBlue, Officials Say
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/9/2020

Democratic small-dollar donors gave $1 billion through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2019, highlighting the explosion of online giving on the left heading into the presidential election year. Of the 6 million donors who gave to Democratic candidates and organizations in 2019, half were first-time donors, pointing to the growing base of contributors who are giving online. Forty percent of the new donors gave multiple times, according to ActBlue, in a sign of the new donors’ sustained political interest and engagement. Donors contributing in low increments online gave $343 million in the final three months of 2019.

Bipartisan Group of Campaign Finance Lawyers Urge Leaders to ‘Immediately’ Restore Quorum at Federal Election Commission
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

A bipartisan group of campaign finance lawyers urged the White House and congressional leaders to “work together and immediately” to restore a voting quorum on the FEC, which cannot monitor compliance with election laws even as presidential primaries begin in February. The agency tasked with regulating federal campaign finance laws has long faced ideological divisions and polarization. But it lost its ability to do its official job after the August 2019 resignation of a commissioner left it to operate for the first time in 11 years without its necessary four-person quorum. While routine administrative work continues, the agency cannot enforce the law, vote on investigations, provide guidance, or conduct audits – activities that are especially crucial and timely for a presidential election.

Bolton Is Willing to Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial, Raising Pressure for Witnesses
MSN – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/6/2020

John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial, putting new pressure on Republicans to call witnesses and raising the possibility of revelations as the Senate weighs Trump’s removal. Bolton’s surprise declaration was a dramatic turn that could alter the political dynamic of the impeachment process in the Senate and raise the risks for Trump of Republican defections. The former national security adviser is a potentially vital witness, with direct knowledge of presidential actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

Duncan Hunter Resigns from Congress
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/7/2020

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter submitted his resignation from Congress, marking the end of an 11-year stint in the House marred by his misuse of campaign funds for a variety of endeavors, including spending money on Lego sets, movie tickets, a $14,000 family vacation to Italy, and flights for his family’s pet rabbit. Hunter said his resignation would be effective January 13. He pleaded guilty to using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for his own enrichment. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who also pleaded guilty, illegally converted over $150,000 in campaign funds from 2010 through 2016 to buy goods and services for their own interests, according to the plea agreement. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 17.

Ex-Tea Party Lawmakers Turn Heads on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/8/2020

A number of prominent former lawmakers associated with the Tea Party Caucus have joined the ranks of K Street in the last year, bringing their small government agendas to the lobbying world. K Street has always been a favored perch for ex-lawmakers, but the recent moves from conservatives are attracting controversy. Tea Party groups and Trump have long run on reining in the influence of special interests and Tea Party lawmakers often clashed with the influence world and a number of prominent industries in high-profile fights. In the Trump era, though, K Street has seen business grow as the Republican president’s agenda has sparked major battles over trade, health care, and taxes. Despite Trump’s vows to challenge Washington, the “revolving door” between K Street and his administration has been busy. For critics, that is a sign that it is business as usual in the nation’s capital.

Facebook Bans Deepfakes, but New Policy May Not Cover Controversial Pelosi Video
MSN – Tony Romm, Drew Harwell, and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

Facebook banned users from posting computer-generated, highly manipulated videos, known as deepfakes, seeking to stop the spread of a novel form of misinformation months before the 2020 presidential election. But the policy does not prohibit all doctored videos: Facebook’s new guidelines do not appear to address a deceptively edited clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral on the social network last year. Monika Bickert, the company’s vice president for global policy management, will testify at a congressional hearing on “manipulation and deception in the digital age.” The inquiry marks the latest effort by House lawmakers to probe Facebook’s digital defenses after Russian agents weaponized the site to stoke social unrest during the 2016 race.

Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down from Allowing Lies in Political Ads
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2020

Facebook decided not to limit how political ads can be targeted to specific groups of people, as Google did to fight misinformation. Neither will it ban political ads outright, as Twitter did. And Facebook still will not fact check them, as it has faced pressure to do. Instead, Facebook announced much more limited “transparency features” that aim to give users slightly more control over how many political ads they see and to make its online library of political ads easier to use. These steps appear unlikely to assuage critics who say Facebook has too much power and not enough limits when it comes to its effects on elections and democracy itself.

FBI Raids Home, Office of Lobbyist Michael Esposito
Connecticut Post – Devlin Barrett, Jonathan O’Connell, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2020

FBI agents investigating a lobbyist who has claimed to have close ties to President Trump and his family searched the man’s home and K Street office for evidence of possible fraud, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Esposito’s business has boomed in the Trump era, but Trump, White House officials, and senior Republicans have said he greatly exaggerated his claims of access to the president and his inner circle. Following a story on Esposito’s business, the FBI is investigating to determine whether he may have defrauded his clients or engaged in any other type of financial fraud, the people said.

Judges Struggle Over Trump Bid to Block McGahn Congressional Testimony
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/3/2020

Appeals court judges appeared skeptical about broad legal arguments by President Trump’s administration seeking to block a former White House lawyer from testifying to Congress as part of the impeachment effort against Trump, but also seemed wary about stepping into the heated political fight. Judge Thomas Griffith asked tough questions of the Justice Department lawyer who argued on the administration’s behalf and the lawyer for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn and could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case. A second case involved the administration’s appeal of a judge’s October ruling that grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe should be provided to lawmakers.

Mnuchin Seeks Delay of Proposed Disclosure of Secret Service Spending on Presidential Travel Until After Election
MSN – Carol Leonnig and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel until after the 2020 election. The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home. Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed.

Shadow Group Provides Sanders Super PAC Support He Scorns
AP News – Bruian Slodysko | Published: 1/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he does not want a super PAC. Instead, he has Our Revolution, a nonprofit political organization he founded that functions much the same as one. Like a super PAC, Our Revolution can raise unlimited sums from wealthy patrons that dwarf the limits faced by candidates and conventional PACs. Unlike a super PAC, however, the group does not have to disclose its donors, a stream of revenue commonly referred to as “dark money.” Our Revolution appears to be skirting campaign finance law, which forbids groups founded by federal candidates and officeholders from using large donations to finance federal election activity, including Sanders’ presidential bid.

The Surreal Lives of 2020 Campaign Spouses: What happens when your loved one wants to be president
Greenwich Time – Jada Yuan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

A modern presidential candidate’s significant other has the dual jobs of being an uncomplaining source of support for their partner, making sure he or she is getting fed and sleeping and has someone to vent to, plus often being the mouthpiece for your partner and attending events he or she cannot get to. Some, such as Jill Biden and Jane Sanders, have done this before, but no one could have prepared for this historically large and diverse field, with so many potential first gentlemen campaigning, or a primary season that is coinciding with the third presidential impeachment in the nation’s history.

Trump Donor Charged with Obstructing Inauguration Inquiry
AP News – Jim Mustian and Alan Suderman | Published: 1/7/2020

Federal prosecutors charged a major donor to President Trump’s inaugural committee with obstructing a federal investigation into whether foreign nationals unlawfully contributed to the inaugural celebrations. The donor, Imaad Zuberi, recently pleaded guilty in a separate case in Los Angeles to campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and failing to register as a foreign agent. A criminal information accuses Zuberi, a venture capitalist, of taking “numerous steps” to interfere with the investigation into where the inaugural committee received its funding. Prosecutors say Zuberi backdated a $50,000 check and deleted emails.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Sponsor Says Alaska Elections Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Be Placed on Ballot
Alaska Public Media – Andrew Kitchenman | Published: 1/3/2020

Sponsors of an initiative to overhaul Alaska’s election laws said they have enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot in November. The initiative is among several issues that are expected to be the focus of state government ahead of the start of the legislative session on January 21. The Better Elections Initiative would create an open primary that would send the top four vote-getters to the general election. Then voters would be able to rank their choices in the general election. The initiative also would increase campaign finance disclosures.

California L.A. to Curb Developer Donations, but Some Fear Corporate Contributions Could Mask Source of Giving
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/5/2020

A new campaign finance ordinance in Los Angeles prohibits real estate developers from contributing to city council members that vet their projects. Critics say an additional provision is needed – barring donors from giving through limited liability companies and other business entities that can make it difficult to tell who is donating. Los Angeles allows political donors to give not only as individuals, but also through companies and other groups. But some corporate entities do not have to publicly reveal who owns them, leaving it unclear to the public who is giving the money. In some cases, donors have funneled money through such companies to evade restrictions on campaign contributions.

Florida JEA Paid $25,000 to Lobbyist with Business Ties to Then-CEO Aaron Zahn Through JaxChamber
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/8/2020

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Daniel Davis confirmed a JEA official instructed one of his staffers to hire Deno Hicks, a local lobbyist who at the time had an undisclosed business partnership with then-CEO Aaron Zahn, to raise money for an innovation conference that JEA and the chamber organized in 2018. JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility, paid the chamber $25,000. Davis said he approved the request to hire Hicks’ firm, the Southern Strategy Group. He said hiring someone to raise money for an event was not unusual, although he did not know Zahn and Hicks co-owned a piece of undeveloped property in the city, which they have tried to sell for nearly $2 million.

Florida Nonprofit Group Criticizes Lawmakers’ Move Toward Limiting Local Power
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 1/7/2020

A research group wants Florida lawmakers to temper a trend of tying the hands of city and county officials by “preempting” local regulations. Integrity Florida issued a report raising concerns that lawmakers, with the backing of powerful lobbying groups, are strategically attacking home-rule authority on issues ranging from sunscreen bans to regulating businesses. Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, said a trend of preemption measures is growing, with 119 bills filed during the past three legislative sessions that included some form of preemption and nearly 20 filed for the 2020 session.

Georgia Ex-Atlanta Official Gets 2-Year Sentence in Corruption Probe
AP News – Kate Brumbeck | Published: 1/7/2020

A man who was tasked with ensuring equal opportunities for those seeking contracts with the city of Atlanta was given a two-year prison sentence for failing to disclose outside consulting work and not reporting some income to tax authorities. Larry Scott was director of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance and resigned shortly before he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Scott was also ordered to pay about $124,000 in restitution. He was the sixth person to plead guilty in a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed.

Illinois Vendor Bribed CPS Employee with Vacation Home Stay During Bid for $30M Contract, Inspector General Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2020

A vendor looking to win a $30 million nursing services contract with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) tried to sway the bidding by letting a district employee stay at her vacation home. Although CPS ended up not awarding the contract to the vendor, she eventually was given a different, much smaller contract for the nursing services just a few years later and still has that work with the school district. Those were the key findings of an investigation by CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office, which released its 2019 year-end report detailing the office’s most significant cases of the past year.

Indiana Former Indiana State Lawmaker Won’t Face Felony Charges Related to Violating Lobbying Laws
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich and Tony Cook | Published: 1/3/2020

Former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face felony charges related to violating Indiana’s lobbying laws. An Indianapolis Star investigation  revealed a secretive employment deal with a temp agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist or tracking his hours, as required by his contract. Both the temp agency, KHI Solutions, and the IDVA were sanctioned for failing to register their lobbying efforts. The state ethics commission also told Paul to register, but he refused.

Kansas Group Resists Naming Donors After Pro-Kobach Ads in Kansas
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 1/2/2020

A group that sponsored ads promoting Republican Kris Kobach during his failed 2018 run for Kansas governor is arguing it is not legally required to disclose its donors. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has given Per Aspera Policy until January 15 to file public reports on its activities during the last governor’s race. The commission warned the group it could face a potential fine of up to $300 for each missing report and intentionally failing to disclose the information is a misdemeanor. But an attorney representing the group told the commission it is not required to disclose any information under Kansas law because its ads did not “expressly advocate”{ for Kobach’s election.

Maryland Former Maryland Delegate Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
AP News – Michael Kunzelman | Published: 1/3/2020

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention for misusing campaign funds for her personal benefit. Gaines also must pay $22,565 in restitution. Gaines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. She faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom has said Gaines spent campaign money on personal expenses including fast food, hair styling, dental work, a cover for her swimming pool, and an Amazon Prime membership.

Maryland Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Announces Ethics Reform Legislation, Fends Off Questions About His Firm
Baltimore Sun – Luke Braodwater and Pamela Wood | Published: 1/7/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he will introduce legislation to punish corrupt state lawmakers after a recent spate of convictions. At the same time, Hogan brushed off questions from reporters and some Democratic lawmakers about his transparency and ethics as he continues to make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from real estate deals managed by a trust, approved by the State Ethics Commission, and run by his associates. Hogan’s Ethics and Accountability in Government Act would increase state penalties for bribery of public officials to a maximum of $100,000 and authorize the ethics panel to impose civil penalties against state employees and public officials without first going to court, among other proposals.

Minnesota Legislator’s Work as St. Paul Mayor’s Aide Raises Red Flag
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jim Walsh | Published: 1/6/2020

Kaohly Vang Her, policy director for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and a state representative, so liked the mayor’s idea to give every capital city newborn $50 for a college savings plan that Her authored a bill to help pay for it. That is a potential problem, say authorities on government ethics. Because Carter is Her’s boss, he could show her favor, or withhold it, based on what she might accomplish as a legislator, said Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. Her defended the advocacy for the savings plan as good for St. Paul children. It is no different, she said, than other legislators – farmers, teachers, doctors, and businesspeople – promoting their professional interests at the Capitol.

Minnesota Proposed Changes to Campaign Spending, Lobbying Laws Put on Ice
Minnesota Public Radio – Brian Bakst | Published: 1/3/2020

Sensing resistance, Minnesota’s campaign and lobbying regulatory board intends to hold back on sweeping legislative recommendations that would redefine advocacy rules and expand a program aimed at encouraging small-dollar campaign contributions. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board decided instead to write a letter to the Legislature to encourage a debate over a campaign and lobbying structure that has not changed much in recent years. Board members said they and board staffers would work to refine their suggestions in the meantime. Board Chairperson Robert Moilanen said the letter would stress to legislators that current laws are outdated but acknowledge there is “not a consensus on the solution.”

Missouri Clean Missouri Redistricting Changes to Be Discussed by Legislators
Columbia Missourian – Lillie Hegeman | Published: 1/6/2020

From its early days of gathering signatures in the beginning of 2018 to the final week of the 2019 legislative session, Clean Missouri has been at the center of public, legislative, and judicial debate. And that is not going to change as lawmakers begin the 2020 legislative session. The ballot initiative limits lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to five dollars or less, tighten limits on campaign contributions that legislators can accept, and changed the process and criteria for drawing state legislative districts and create a “nonpartisan state demographer” position to carry out the task. When the amendment passed, however, legislators were not done with the debate. Some lawmakers in 2019 proposed resolutions to alter or repeal the portion that most troubles some of them: the redistricting changes. The issue will continue to be a focus of the 2020 session.

Missouri Town and Country Mayor, Who Is a Registered Lobbyist, Tripped Up by Recent Ethics Law Change
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/7/2020

Jon Dalton, a registered lobbyist and the mayor of Town and Country, must shut down his campaign committee in response to a 2016 state law, the Missouri Ethics Commission said. In a consent order Dalton signed, the commission cited the relatively new requirement that “any person who registers as a lobbyist shall dissolve his or her campaign committee.” Dalton, who has lobbied since 1994 and was first elected mayor in 2005, said he was caught between two different statutes when the Legislature approved the ethics bill: one requires lobbyists to register with the state and the other requires candidates to form campaign committees.

Montana Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Bullock
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 1/2/2020

A federal judge ruled a group suing to overturn a Montana executive order requiring disclosure of contributions to dark money groups has to fix their lawsuit or it will be permanently dismissed. Gov. Steve Bullock’s order requires any company wanting to bid on state contracts in Montana worth more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods to disclose donations of $2,500 or more to political groups including organizations that are not required to disclose donors. Illinois Opportunity Project sued, arguing it wanted to spend in Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial election, but it faced difficulty finding corporate donors due to the governor’s order.

Nevada Nevada Redistricting Group Files Amended Petition
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 1/7/2020

A group seeking to change how Nevada redraws state legislative and congressional districts has resubmitted a proposed state constitutional amendment after a judicial order that found the original petition misleading. Fair Maps Nevada, a local group involved in a national effort to counter state-based gerrymandering, filed in November to put a petition on this year’s ballot establishing a commission to redraw districts based on the decennial census. Under current state law, reapportionment is done by the Legislature subject to the governor’s signoff. The change would establish a seven-member commission to handle the task. Anyone who had worked during the preceding four years in certain state jobs; as a lobbyist, campaign consultant, or party official; or had run for or held elected office, and their close relatives, would be ineligible to serve on the commission.

New Jersey Fix the ‘Toxic Culture’ in N.J. Politics, Top Senator Demands after NJ.com Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/30/2019

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said she is forming an ad hoc committee to look for ways to change the “toxic culture that women face in New Jersey politics.”  The committee, which will include several top female lobbyists and political operatives, will be created in response to an NJ Advance Media report detailing the sexual harassment, groping, and sexual of women working in state and local politics. The ad hoc panel will look for solutions to the climate of misogyny, harassment, and sexual assault that pervades New Jersey politics, said Weinberg.

New Jersey N.J. Won’t Dismiss Ethics Complaint in $40M School Named After the Lt. Gov.
Newark Star Ledger – Adam Clark (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/3/2020

Voting to name a $40 million school after your boss might be unethical, even if your boss is New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, according to the School Ethics Commission, which found probable cause to sustain two of the eight ethics charges levied against Terry Swanson-Tucker, president of the East Orange School Board and chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. The case now moves to an investigation and hearing by the Office of Administrative Law. It will determine if Swanson-Tucker violated state ethics law when she voted in December 2018 to suspend a district naming policy and rename the George Washington Carver Institute the Sheila Y. Oliver Academy.

New Mexico New State Watchdog Ready to Investigate Ethics Complaints
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/3/2020

Decades in the making, New Mexico’s ethics panel is now ready to accept and investigate complaints. The agency has appointed two hearing officers, established a website, and may issue its first advisory opinion in February. It is the result of a 40-year push to establish an independent watchdog with jurisdiction over allegations against legislators, candidates, lobbyists, and others. Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment establishing the State Ethics Commission in 2018, after several ethics scandals, including the corruption conviction of a former state senator.

North Carolina NC Voter ID Law Written with ‘Discriminatory Intent,’ Says Judge Who Just Blocked It
Raleigh News and Observer – Wil Doran | Published: 12/31/2019

Racial discrimination was at least part of the motivation for a new voter ID law in North Carolina, a federal judge wrote, striking the law down for now. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs’ ruling means that although voters statewide approved a voter ID mandate as an amendment to the state constitution in the 2018 elections, people most likely will be able to vote without showing ID in at least the March primary election. The last time North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly passed a voter ID law, in 2013, it was also struck down for racial discrimination. But GOP leaders have said they believed this newer version of the law, which was passed a year ago, avoided the racial issues the previous law ran into.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Campaign Rules Curb Contributions, but Punish Some Candidates
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Rich Lord | Published: 1/5/2020

Pittsburgh’s decade-long effort to limit the influence of money in city politics now faces both a court challenge and complaints from some candidates that it threatens to stifle democracy. The city first put limits on contributions to campaigns for mayor, controller, and council in 2009, and revised the rules in 2015. Now, outgoing Councilperson Darlene Harris is challenging the constitutionality of the limits in a lawsuit. And as the city’s Ethics Hearing Board pursues enforcement actions, candidates facing fines are speaking out.

Texas Jerry-Rigged? Second Garcia Withdraws from Harris County Constable’s Race but Remains on Ballot
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 1/8/2020

One of the two candidates named Jerry Garcia who filed to run for Houston’s Precinct 2 constable – the one who did not appear to be actively campaigning – has withdrawn from the race. His short, strange trip as a candidate is not over yet, however. He will remain on the ballot for the March 3 Democratic Party primary, though votes for him will not count. Garcia, who is a cousin of Democratic incumbent Constable Chris Diaz’s wife, was one two men who had filed for the seat bearing the same name as the late Grateful Dead guitarist. The other Jerry Garcia said the turn of events is further evidence the former candidate never intended to mount a serious campaign. That Garcia, a lieutenant in a neighboring constable precinct, alleges the incumbent Diaz pushed his wife’s cousin to run solely to confuse voters, ensuring his re-election.

Vermont Some Legislators’ Financial Disclosures Were Late, Report Says
Seven Days – Colin Flanders | Published: 1/7/2020

The 2018 election was the first for which Vermont lawmakers were required to disclose their financial interests when filing to run for office, allowing voters to see potential conflicts-of-interest before casting their ballots. But according to the House Ethics Panel, disclosure forms for “multiple” legislators were not publicized by the last election. Multiple as in about 30, or a fifth of the House members, according to panel Chairperson John Gannon. State law says House candidates must file financial disclosure forms with their town clerks when submitting petitions to run for office. The documents detail sources of income for candidates and their spouses or partners greater than $5,000, including investments. They must also disclose whether they own 10 percent of any companies, and whether such companies do business with the state.

Vermont VPIRG Head Calls for End to ‘Worthless’ Ethics Commission
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 1/8/2020

The head of the organization that pushed hardest for a state Ethics Commission in Vermont says it should be disbanded. Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the commission was “worthless” and provided lawmakers “a fig leaf of protection” that they were addressing ethics concerns. Vermont was one of the last states to establish an ethics commission in 2017. That came after years of discussion and receiving a grade of “F” from the Center for Public Integrity on ethics enforcement. The panel and part-time executive director have no powers to investigate or levy punishment. It essentially operates as a referral agency, taking in complaints about state officials and sending them to another agency. Burns said the Legislature established the commission simply to “get off the list of states without one.”

Washington Seattle Council Advances Ban on Most Political Spending By ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/7/2020

Seattle moved closer to banning most political spending by “foreign-influenced” corporations, as a city council committee advanced legislation that Council President M. Lorena González said could companies from using money to shape elections. But González postponed a committee vote on other legislation that would limit all contributions to the PACs that businesses, labor unions, and other interests used to bundle and spend a record $4 million in last year’s elections. She said the council needs to further vet the nationally watched proposal, which would likely be challenged in court, though she and her colleagues did narrow a loophole that could have advantaged unions and grassroots groups.

Washington DC D.C. Council Member Jack Evans to Resign Over Ethics Violations; Was City’s Longest-Serving Lawmaker
Stamford Advocate – Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans announced he will resign on January 17. The council took a preliminary vote to expel Evans and had scheduled a hearing to summarize the case against him and offer him an opportunity to speak before a final expulsion vote. Evans’s close ties to business eventually proved to be his undoing, as his outside employment with law firms and as a consultant to prominent companies with interests before city government came under scrutiny. He stepped down from the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after an investigation there found ethics violations. Federal prosecutors are investigating Evans and FBI agents searched his home, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Washington DC Top D.C. Ethics Investigator Resigns Amid Scrutiny of His Office
Laredo Morning Times – Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

The District of Columbia’s top ethics investigator has resigned amid criticism of the agency’s failure to promptly investigate complaints. Brent Wolfingbarger resigned as the director of government ethics at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability effective December 31, agency officials said. Wolfingbarger’s two-year tenure at the helm of the city’s internal watchdog had come under scrutiny by lawmakers and watchdogs. Several city council members had criticized the ethics board for staying on the sidelines of an ongoing ethics issue involving another member, Jack Evans. The board was formed in 2013 after several scandals involving council members.

October 22, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC Elections National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac […]

Campaign Finance

Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC

Elections

National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

North Carolina: “Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Ethics

National: “Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits” by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig for New York Times

California: “Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism” by Ben Brazil for Los Angeles Times

California: “City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband” by City News Service for Patch

Lobbying

National: “Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge” by Ben Wieder for Miami Herald

Illinois: “Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban” by John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) for MSN

Wyoming: “Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune

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October 21, 2020 •

Michigan Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds Published

Michigan Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol - By Brian Charles Watson

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds. This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit. The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other […]

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds.

This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit.

The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other employee increased from $2,525 to $2,575 for any 12-month period.

The financial transaction threshold between a registered lobbyist or lobbyist agent and a public official increased from $1,275 to $1,300.

Travel and lodging reimbursements increased from $825 to $850.

Food and beverage expenditures for a public official increased from $63 to $64 in any month.

Meanwhile, the $400 threshold for food and beverages purchased between January 1 and the end of the reporting period remains the same as last year.

Employee reimbursements increased from $25 to $26, and the general gift threshold also increased from $63 to $64.

Late filing fees increased from $25 a day up to a maximum of $750, to $26 and a $780 maximum.

The registration threshold of $650 for a lobbyist agent or a lobbyist’s expenditure on one public official during a 12-month period and exempt expenditures at $13, remain the same as last year.

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October 21, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New […]

Campaign Finance

National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News

National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times

Montana: “Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules” by Perrin Stein for Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Rhode Island: “What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case” by Kate Mulvaney for Providence Journal

Elections

Colorado: “Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It” by Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba for New York Times

Ohio: “Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges” by Farnoush Amiri for Associated Press News

Pennsylvania: “Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day” by Richard Wolf for USA Today

Ethics

National: “Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service

California: “Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty” by Robert Salonga for San Jose Mercury News

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October 20, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times Elections California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify […]

Campaign Finance

Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times

Elections

California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures” by John Wilkens for San Diego Union Tribune

Michigan: “Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues” by Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post

National: “Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants” by Steven Shepard for Politico

National: “On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act” by Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff for Bloomberg Law

Kansas: “Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say” by Timothy Bella for Washington Post

New Mexico: “NM Investment Scandal Winds Down” by Mike Gallagher for Albuquerque Journal

Ohio: “Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says” by Ben Peters for Athens News

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October 19, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature’s Fifth Special Session Ends

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

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

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills. This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass. Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the […]

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills.

This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass.

Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by 30 days.

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

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October 19, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian Elections Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Elections

Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico

Ethics

National: “Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post

National: “White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump” by Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Illinois: “Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner” by Robert McCoppin for Chicago Tribune

Kentucky: “Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.” by Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) for MSN

Maryland: “Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout” by Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun

Lobbying

National: “Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Canada: “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case” by Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) for CTV

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October 16, 2020 •

Yukon Lobbyist Registry Accepting Registrations

Yukon Legislature

Yukon Legislature

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only […]

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only came into effect this year.

Consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists are required to register. Registration is required for individuals communicating with a public office holder, directly or through grassroots communications, in attempts to lobby. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is required to register when arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person for the purposes covered by the Act.

There are two revolving door provisions in the Act. For the six-month period after ceasing to be in office, a former public office-holder is prohibited from lobbying as a consultant lobbyist, but he or she is not prohibited from immediately lobbying as an in-house lobbyist. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is prohibited from becoming an employee of Yukon’s public service for six months after terminating her or her lobbyist registration. Penalties for violations of the Lobbyists Registration Act include fines up to $25,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.

As of October 16, the lobbyist registry does not have any registered lobbyists.

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October 16, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 16, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020 A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear […]

National/Federal

As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy
Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020

A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear of controversy ahead of the November 3 election, a new study found. While many American corporations donate to candidates and campaigns, some do not disclose it. This can put them in the crosshairs of customers and suppliers who can accuse them of a lack of transparency. The Center for Political Accountability found 332 companies in the S&P 500 prohibited some kind of political spending, like funding political committees, or disclosed some or all of their election-related spending in 2020, up roughly nine percent from 2016.

As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off
New York Times – Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti | Published: 10/14/2020

On the day President Trump declared the coronavirus was “very much under control,” senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas Philipson, an economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than administration advisers were signaling in public. A hedge fund consultant’s assessment of the meeting spread through parts of the investment world and traders spotted the immediate significance: the president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Trump was publicly insisting the threat was nonexistent.

Court Tells FEC to Take Action on Complaint Against Dark Money Group Tied to Joni Ernst
The Gazete – James Lynch | Published: 10/14/2020

A U.S. District Court judge entered a default judgment against the FEC, ordering it to act on a complaint involving a so-called dark money group tied to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign. The complaint was brought by the Campaign Legal Center, which told the court the FEC had failed to take action on its complaint that Ernst’s campaign had illegally coordinated with Iowa Values, a political nonprofit backing the senator. Candidates and outside groups are prohibited from coordinating their political activities. The FEC generally has not enforced coordination rules, allowing for the proliferation of super PACs and nonprofit groups tied to party leaders and individual candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facebook to Temporarily Halt Political Ads in U.S. After Polls Close Nov. 3, Broadening Earlier Restrictions
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/7/2020

Facebook said it plans to temporarily suspend all political and issue-based advertising after polls close November 3, a move the company said was intended to limit confusion, misinformation, and abuse of its services in the days after the presidential election. Facebook also said it would remove calls for people to watch the polls when those posts use militaristic or intimidating language. Executives said the policy applies to anyone, including President Trump and other officials. Trump has made calls for people to engage in poll-watching, and Donald Trump Jr. appeared in an ad urging people to “defend your ballot” and join an “army” to protect the polls.

Fake Twitter Accounts Posing as Black Trump Supporters Appear, Reach Thousands, Then Vanish
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 10/13/2020

An account featuring the image of a Black police officer, President Trump, and the words “VOTE REPUBLICAN” had a brief but spectacular run on Twitter. In six days after it became active, it tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers, with its most popular tweet being liked 75,000 times. Then, on days later, the account was suspended by Twitter for breaking its rules against platform manipulation. The reach of @CopJrCliff and other fake accounts from supposed Black Trump supporters highlights how an account can be effective at pushing misleading narratives in just a few days – faster than Twitter can take it down.

Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Charged with Acting as a Foreign Agent, Is Likely to Plead Guilty
Seattle Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/8/2020

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy was charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him. Prosecutors outlined how they believe he took millions of dollars in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into Malaysian corruption and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. Prosecutors said Broidy and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

New Justice Dept. Election Fraud Guidance Could Allow Boosting of Trump’s Exaggerated Claims, Legal Observers Say
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2020

The Justice Department issued guidance giving federal prosecutors more leeway to take public action on suspected election fraud before ballots are in, a move some legal analysts worry could foreshadow an effort to bolster President Trump’s exaggerated claims of fraud via mail-in voting. The guidance detailed what it called an “exception to the general non-interference with elections policy,” which discourages prosecutors from taking overt steps in fraud investigations until all ballots are counted and certified. Critics say Trump and Attorney General William Barr seem to be working in concert to undermine public confidence in the election result, and the newly issued guidance could aid in that effort – allowing prosecutors to publicize cases of suspected fraud they previously would have been barred from discussing.

NYT: Vegas connections helped Trump engineer $21M windfall during 2016 race
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump’s tax records reveal he engineered a windfall of more than $21 million during his 2016 presidential run, The New York Times reported. A hotel Trump owns with casino mogul Phil Ruffin in Las Vegas made payments to several companies Trump controlled, and that money then flowed to the president himself. The hotel wrote off the payments as a business expense, The Times said. The newspaper reported that the payments came at a time when Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign needed funds and many of his businesses were losing money. The tax records do not indicate whether the payments helped Trump’s campaign, his businesses, or both, the newspaper said.

Sonny Perdue Faces Ethics Questions Over His Business Holdings
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/15/2020

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pledged in 2017 to separate himself from his multimillion-dollar business holdings that could pose conflicts-of-interest in his public duties. But last year, he disclosed he had become trustee of a newly formed fund that includes many of the same assets as his original family trust. Watchdog organizations are now calling for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Perdue has run afoul of the ethics agreement he signed as a nominee for the job early in the Trump administration. The commitments entailed moving his holdings into a new trust and agreeing not to serve as a trustee or beneficiary of the fund.

Supreme Court Halts Census in Latest Twist of 2020 Count
Associated Press News – Mike Schneider | Published: 10/14/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can end census field operations early, in a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts. But the ruling increased the chances of the administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets, and by extension how much voting power each state has.

Supreme Court Won’t Revive Congressional Emoluments Case Against Trump
Washington Post – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow | Published: 10/13/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an attempt by Democratic members of Congress to sue President Trump over his private businesses accepting payments from foreign governments. Without comment, the justices let stand a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 215 members of Congress. Their novel lawsuit sought to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. A unanimous panel of the appeals court said the individual members did not have legal standing to take the president to court.

The Mystery of a GOP Congressman’s Seemingly Rent-Free Campaign Office
Politico – Daniel Newhauser | Published: 10/9/2020

For at least seven years, U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn appears to have enjoyed rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor, which would be a clear violation of federal election law that comes amid mounting scrutiny of his finances. In dozens of filings with the FEC, Hagedorn has listed a basement suite in a downtown Mankato, Minnesota, building as his campaign’s headquarters. But election spending records show Hagedorn has reported no payments for the use of that space over the course of the past four elections he has run to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional District, including his current race. Ethics experts expressed skepticism with Hagedorn’s actions.

Trump Taps U.S. Marine Band for White House Event and Raises Questions About Employing the Military for Political Purposes
Washington Post – Paul Sonne | Published: 10/11/2020

When President Trump, recovering from COVID-19, welcomed hundreds of people to what resembled a campaign rally on the White House grounds, the guests filed onto the South Lawn past a military band in resplendent red, its horns blasting the tune “America” from “West Side Story.” The use of the United States Marine Band for a de facto political rally marked another instance of the president pushing the boundaries of U.S. law and the military tradition of political neutrality. Federal regulations bar the use of government resources for, and the coercion of federal employees into, political activities aimed at a candidate’s reelection, and taxpayer-funded military bands cannot be used for campaign events.

Trump’s Children Brought Secret Service Money to the Family Business with Their Visits, Records Show
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2020

President Trump’s adult children and their families have caused the U.S. government to spend at least $238,000 at Trump properties so far, according to Secret Service records. Government ethics experts say nothing is wrong with Trump’s children seeking protection from the Secret Service. But, they said, the Trump Organization’s decision to charge for the agents’ rooms created a situation in which, just by traveling, Trump’s children could bring taxpayer money to their family’s business. That, ethics experts said, could create the appearance that Trump family members were exploiting their publicly funded protection for private financial gain.

‘Unmasking’ Probe Commissioned by Barr Concludes Without Charges or Any Public Report
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2020

The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing. The Justice Department has so far declined to release the results of U.S. Attorney John Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names, a common practice in government to help understand classified documents, as a political conspiracy.

With Election Day Looming, Twitter Imposes New Limits on U.S. Politicians – and Ordinary Users, Too
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Twitter will impose new warnings on politicians’ lies, restrict premature declarations of victory, and block calls for polling violence or other disruptions, the company announced as it rolled out wide-ranging changes designed to harden the platform against abuse related to the U.S. election on November 3. The moves also will temporarily alter the look and feel of Twitter. Retweeting others, for example, will require an extra step designed to encourage users to add their own thoughts before posting. Recommendations and trends will get new curbs intended to prevent abuse. The policy changes are the culmination of years of revisions intended to prevent a repeat of 2016’s electoral debacle on social media, when disinformation, false news reports, and Russian interference rampaged virtually unchecked across all major platforms.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Absentee Witness Requirements Scrapped for Election
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 10/13/2020

The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling eliminating witness requirements for absentee ballots for the general election. Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby had ruled enforcement of the witness requirements during the coronavirus pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote.” She waited to put the order into effect, to allow the Supreme Court to weigh in. The case was brought by the Arctic Village Council, League of Women Voters of Alaska, and two individuals. Their attorneys have argued the witness requirement is unconstitutional during the pandemic and a bar to voting for those who do not live with someone who is at least 18 and able to serve as a witness.

California Arcadia Subsidiary of Chinese Company to Pay $1 Million Fine in LA City Hall Bribery Scandal
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 10/7/2020

The subsidiary of a China-based real estate company agreed to pay $1.05 million to resolve a probe into its involvement in the Los Angeles City Hall corruption scandal. Jia Yuan USA Co. will pay the penalty and continue cooperating with the federal government in its probe of city Councilperson Jose Huizar and other figures. A Jia Yuan employee provided Huizar with Katy Perry concert tickets after he and former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan helped resolve an issue involving compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jia Yuan also admitted providing in-kind campaign contributions to several U.S. political candidates by hosting reduced-cost fundraising events. Some of those events took place at the direction of a foreign national barred from participating in American elections, investigators said.

California California Officials Say GOP’s Ballot Boxes Are Illegal. Republicans May Expand the Practice
Los Angeles Times – Stephanie Lai and Sarah Parvini | Published: 10/13/2020

In recent weeks, gray metal containers labeled as ballot drop boxes have been placed at various locations – including gun shops, shooting ranges, churches, and Republican Party offices – in several California counties. State GOP officials acknowledged responsibility for the boxes and have rejected allegations of wrongdoing, in defiance of what the state’s top election official and attorney general say is an illegal practice. At the center of the battle are questions of whether it is legal to collect ballots through third party boxes and what constitutes an “official” ballot drop box.

California Ex-Director of Coliseum Authority Takes Plea Deal in Stadium Naming Rights Case; Avoids Jail Time
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 10/13/2020

Former Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, who was criminally charged with violating state law by seeking payment from RingCentral for negotiating a stadium naming rights contract, took a plea deal and by doing so avoided trial and possible jail time. Prosecutors alleged McKibben violated the law because he sought a $50,000 payment from RingCentral as part of a $3 million deal to rename the ballpark “RingCentral Coliseum.” The law prohibits public officials from having a financial interest in contracts made by them in their official capacity. McKibben will serve three years’ probation and take an ethics course. Judge Kevin Murphy will decide how much McKibben should pay the stadium authority.

Colorado Colorado Voters to Decide Whether to Pull Out of National Popular Vote Effort
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 10/11/2020

State lawmakers decided last year that Colorado should join 14 other state and Washington, D.C. in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which pledges their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most raw votes nationwide. On November 3, Coloradans will get the chance to affirm or reject that decision when they vote on Proposition 113, which was put on the ballot by opponents of the movement. A “yes” vote keeps the state in the compact, while a “no” vote maintains the system Colorado has used for decades to choose a president, in which the candidate with the most statewide support gets its nine Electoral College votes.

Florida Federal Judge Denies Request to Extend Florida Voter Registration Deadline
Tampa Bay Times – Allison Ross | Published: 10/9/2020

A federal judge rejected calls by several voting rights groups that Florida should further extend its voter registration deadline following repeated outages to the state’s online on the last day people could sign up to vote in the November 3 election. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious and perennially chaotic election” outweighed the concern of potentially thousands of Floridians being unable to cast ballots in the general election. The state had argued reopening the voter registration deadline could mean Floridians who registered during that later time may have to cast provisional ballots if counties cannot update their voter rolls in time, and extending the deadline could cause voter confusion and other issues.

Florida Prominent Lobbyist Didn’t Disclose Calls to Orlando Airport Board Members, Violating Policy
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/14/2020

Under the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s policies, lobbyists are supposed to publicly disclose meetings with board members within seven days. But Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, did not reveal she called four members of the board that runs Orlando International Airport on behalf of a client until nearly three months later, after The Orlando Sentinel requested records related to the firm’s work at the airport. Authority leaders, however, say they do not plan to act. “… She self-reported and became compliant and … there’s nothing further we can do,” said Dan Gerber, the authority’s general counsel. Some government-transparency advocates criticized the lack of consequences.

Georgia Common Cause Calls for Investigation of Georgia Ethics Commission’s Conflict of Interest Policies
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 10/9/2020

A good government group is calling on Georgia’s ethics commission to investigate its own policies regarding how commission members handle potential conflicts-of-interest. The rules for deciding when a member should recuse themselves are confusing. Commission Chairperson Jake Evans says a commission policy gives him the authority to order a member to recuse themselves. But he follows a state attorney general’s opinion from 1989 to let members decide for themselves whether they have a conflict.

Hawaii Ballot Questions Could Bolster Ethics Watchdog’s Staffing and Spending
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/11/2020

The Honolulu Ethics Commission could enjoy greater autonomy over its budget should voters grant them that ability in November. Voters are also being asked whether the commission should also be granted more flexibility to hire and retain staff. Commission Chairperson Victoria Marks said passage of the charter amendments would give the agency greater flexibility to describe positions, and hire and retain the specialized staff that she said it needs “to grow and strengthen the city’s ethics and lobbyist programs.” Marks said the amendments would provide the commission “with budget flexibility and greater autonomy” from the city administration.

Illinois Aldermen Reject Lightfoot’s Proposal to Ease Ban on Lobbying by Elected Officials
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/13/2020

Aldermen rejected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ordinance that would have rolled back part of tougher City Hall lobbying rules for elected officials the city council passed last year. It would have once again allowed elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the mayor, aldermen, and other city government agencies on behalf of private clients, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. With federal investigators probing lobbying practices in Springfield and past City Hall scandals tied to lobbying infractions, aldermen said it was not the time to walk back the stricter requirements.

Minnesota Federal Judge Upholds Minnesota’s Deadline Extension for Counting Ballots
National Public Radio – Jason Slotkin | Published: 10/12/2020

A federal judge upheld Minnesota’s seven-day deadline extension for counting mail-in ballots after it was challenged by a pair of Republicans. Minnesota extended its deadline for receiving mail-in ballots after voting rights groups raised concerns the state’s previous deadline could disenfranchise voters as the state receives an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots. In past elections, absentee ballots would only be counted if received by eight p.m. on Election Day. A state court agreement reached with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received within seven days.

New York Trump Again Asks Supreme Court to Block Subpoena for His Tax Records
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 10/13/2020

Personal lawyers for President Trump, seeking to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year, asked the justices to delay a ruling that would allow Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. To obtain Trump’s financial records. In an “emergency” application, Trump’s legal team told the court that a U.S. District Court judge was wrong to rule Vance had a legal right to subpoena the materials and an appeals court panel in New York was wrong to uphold that decision. The request for intervention marks a return for the case. In July, the high court ruled the fact that Trump was the sitting president did not make him absolutely immune from criminal investigation, as his legal team had argued.

New York Trump Got a $21 Million Tax Break for Saving the Forest Outside His N.Y. Mansion. Now the Deal Is Under Investigation.
MSN – Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump received a tax break of $21.1 million five years ago after promising to preserve 150 acres of woodlands in New York state. The amount of the tax break was set by a 2016 appraisal that valued Seven Springs at $56.6 million, more than double the value assessed by the three Westchester County towns that each contained a piece of the property. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of the land. The appraisal appears to have relied on unsupported assertions and misleading conclusions that boosted the value of Trump’s charitable gift and his tax break. The appraisal was written by Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm that has worked with Trump over many years and whose headquarters are in a building co-owned by Trump.

North Carolina A Legal Fight Over How to Fix Ballot Errors in North Carolina Has Left Thousands of Voters in Limbo – Nearly Half People of Color
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 10/12/2020

A dispute over how North Carolina voters should correct problems with their mail ballots remains unresolved, leaving at least 6,800 votes – including more than 3,300 ballots from people of color – in limbo across a key presidential battleground state. The legal fight intensified after the state Board of Elections said in September it would allow voters to “cure,” or fix, deficiencies in their mail ballots by completing and returning an affidavit to county election officials. The affidavit would neutralize a range of voter errors that could lead to ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. But a federal judge put the plan on hold October 3, arguing it changed the rules too close to Election Day.

Oregon City of Portland Lawyers Won’t Defend Auditor in Legal Appeals of Mayor’s Campaign Violations, City Council Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 10/14/2020

The Portland City Council refused a request from the city auditor for city lawyers to represent her in lawsuits filed by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign, citing the city attorney’s assertion it would be an ethical violation and a conflict-of-interest. Auditor Mary Hull Caballero argued before the vote that Wheeler’s campaign is not a client of the city attorney’s office and she fined the campaign through her capacity as a Portland elected official who oversees the city elections process. She noted city lawyers already represent her in other elections-related lawsuits, including one filed on behalf of mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone about Wheeler’s campaign.

Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/10/2020

A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed by Trump, also poured cold water on the president’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud. Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee Chairwoman Reaps Big Harvest of Campaign Contributions from Insurance Industry
Allentown Morning Call – Ford Turner | Published: 10/9/2020

State Rep. Tina Pickett, whose position in Harrisburg gives her enormous authority over what happens to proposed insurance laws, has more cash in her political campaign account than any of her 201 colleagues in the Pennsylvania House, thanks in large part to the insurance industry. A review of hundreds of campaign finance reports showed Pickett’s $268,546.49 cash balance in late May was inflated by a years-long influx of insurance industry cash that began when Pickett became chairperson of the House Insurance Committee in 2013. Experts say the contributions are made to curry favor.

Rhode Island A Chaotic Campaign Helped Save Rhode Island’s House Speaker in 2016. Now It Threatens to End His Political Career
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan and Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/13/2020

The criminal trial of Jeffrey Britt, a former campaign consultant to Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $2,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witnesses detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Steven Frias. Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by an operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race. Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.

Texas Appeals Court OKs Texas Governor’s Order to Limit Drop Off Locations for Absentee Ballots
NBC News – Rachel Elbaum | Published: 10/13/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to shut down dozens of mail ballot drop-off sites weeks before November’s election. The ruling comes after a federal judge halted the order, which allowed for only one absentee ballot drop off location for every county, regardless of its size. The Texas secretary of state had argued Abbott’s order was part of a 40-day expansion of Texans’ absentee voting opportunities put in place because of Covid-19 that went beyond what state election rules normally permit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it agreed with her.

Virginia Inside the Utility Company Lobbying Blitz That Will Hike Electric Bills
ProPublica – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 10/9/2020

When Democrats campaigned for seats in the Virginia Legislature last year, they took aim at the state’s largest power broker: Dominion Energy. The electric utility’s clout was legendary at the Capitol, where it doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions and employed an army of lobbyists who helped write energy policy for decades. The result was soaring electricity bills and an energy grid heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Democrats vowed to change that. But Dominion fought back and ended up as a winner in a bill intended to diminish its influence. By doubling the size of its lobbying corps and tapping its long-standing relationships with legislative leaders and Gov. Ralph Northam, the utility secured the right to build its top priority – a massive offshore wind farm set to be the most expensive utility project in Virginia history.

Virginia Men in Alleged Kidnapping Plot Also Considered Targeting Virginia Governor, FBI Says
National Public Radio – Bill Chappell and Ryan Lucas | Published: 10/13/2020

Two of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took part in a discussions earlier this year with members of self-styled militia groups about potentially abducting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified. Special Agent Richard Trask did not say whether any of the attendees ultimately took any action toward potentially targeting Northam, and no one has been charged with any threats against him. Whitmer and Northam, both Democrats, have faced resistance in their respective states to measures they’ have taken to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Virginia Va. Congressional Candidate Reported No Assets. His Amended Disclosure Shows He Holds Dozens of Stocks.
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 10/9/2020

After previously disclosing owning zero financial assets, Virginia congressional candidate Bob Good filed an amended financial disclosure showing he holds dozens of stocks, including in two companies that had business before the Campbell County Board of Supervisors when Good served on the panel. He now reports between $213,000 and $1.65 million in assets and unearned income. Virginia law requires local and state lawmakers to disclose their personal economic interests in forms filed with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council.

Washington Port of Tacoma, Others Agree to Fine in Save Tacoma Water Campaign Finance Case
MSN – Alexid Krell (Tacoma News-Tribune) | Published: 10/12/2020

The Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County agreed to pay a civil penalty for violating campaign finance law while fighting initiatives that were trying to limit industrial development on the Tideflats. They will pay a $34,000 fine, with $17,000 suspended. The case stemmed from efforts by a group called Save Tacoma Water following citizen opposition to a proposed methanol plant. Activist Arthur West complained the three groups violated campaign finance law in their effort.

Washington Twitter to Pay $100k to Washington State in Settlement Over Political Ad Disclosure Violations
GeekWire – Todd Bishop | Published: 10/13/2020

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Twitter agreed to pay $100,000 for failing to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019, when Twitter banned political advertising. Companies are required to maintain records about who paid for ads, when they ran, how much they cost, and the name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed. Twitter failed to maintain the required records for at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that reported paying $194,550 for political advertising on its platform.

Wisconsin Federal Appeals Court Blocks Extension for Wisconsin Ballot Returns
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/8/2020

Federal judges blocked a lower court’s order extending the deadline for returning mail ballots in Wisconsin, requiring that absentee ballots be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on Election Day. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of staying the lower court’s order, which would have allowed for ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received by November 9, six days later, in order to be counted. The stay also suspended an order extending the deadline for online and mailed-in voter registration from October 14 to October 21, and it stopped potential electronic delivery of certain ballots.

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