January 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 17, 2020

News You Can Use


Court Debates Using Shell Companies to Mask Political Donations
Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/10/2020

A federal appeals court panel heard arguments over the use of shell companies to hide donations in a case that could affect super PAC disclosure in the 2020 election. Utah businessperson Steven Lund is helping the FEC defend the dismissal of allegations that Lund and other wealthy donors used shell companies to illegally hide their donations to super PACs. Lund was among several donors accused of violating campaign finance laws by funneling millions of dollars to super PACs that supported Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. Obscure corporations were listed as the donors in reports filed with the FEC, prompting watchdog groups to complain the true donors were being hidden.

Did You Get a Text from an Unknown Number? It Might Be Bernie Sanders’ Campaign
McClatchyDC – Emily Cadei | Published: 1/8/2020

Democrats and Republicans alike are spending millions of dollars and deploying thousands of staffers and volunteers focused on texting with committed and potential supporters in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an early adopter of the tactic, has already sent nearly nine times as many text messages to voters as it did during the entire 2016 primary. Political candidates’ and groups’ use of text messaging has skyrocketed over the past several years thanks to new software and the ease and efficiency of reaching voters across the country. “Everyone reads their text messages,” said Daniel Souweine, who ran Sanders’ text message program in 2016. “It’s quickly moved from, ‘hey, what is this thing?’, to the point where you can’t run a modern political campaign without it.”

Doctored Images Have Become a Fact of Life for Political Campaigns. When They’re Disproved, Believers ‘Just Don’t Care.’
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 1/14/2020

For ginning up political resentment and accentuating a rivals’ flaws, nothing quite compares to a doctored image. It can help anyone turn a political opponent into a caricature – inventing gaffes, undercutting wins, and erasing nuance – leaving only the emotion behind. Sharing doctored images of an electoral rival is a timeworn strategy of modern politics: in campaign mailers and television ads, shadowy lighting, sinister music, and unflattering facial expressions are so expected as to be cliché. But those tactics are increasingly playing out on the Internet, the most powerful visual medium in history, where they do not require a campaign’s backing or resources to get attention.

House Votes to Send Trump Impeachment to Senate for Trial
AP News – Linda Mascaro | Published: 1/15/2020

The U.S. House voted to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate and approve House prosecutors for only the third impeachment trial in American history.  The nearly party-line vote moved Trump’s impeachment from the Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate, where Trump expects acquittal, even as new evidence is raising fresh questions about his Ukraine dealings. The president is charged with abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

IRS May Be Unaware of 9,774 Political Nonprofits, Watchdog Says
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 1/9/2020

The IRS has not done enough to identify noncompliant political organizations, despite having various sources of data that would enable it to do so, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said. There are 9,774 politically active tax-exempt organizations that may have failed to notify the IRS of their existence or submit the paperwork to operate tax-free. The groups are required to notify the IRS within 60 days of forming that they intend to operate as a “social welfare” group organized under tax code Section 501(c)4. The IRS could also be failing to collect millions of dollars in penalties and fees owed by these social welfare groups, the report said. The revelation comes as the IRS is seeking to finish regulations that would allow the groups to keep their donor lists secret unless they are requested by the agency.

Lev Parnas: Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on’ in Ukraine
Politico – Matthew Choi, Kyle Cheney, and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 1/15/2020

Lev Parnas said President Trump and Rudy Giuliani directed him to urge Ukrainian officials to publicly open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Parnas asserted that the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was entirely motivated by her interference in their efforts to start a Biden investigation. Parnas said Trump was fully aware of his actions and added that Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and former national security adviser John Bolton were all aware of or involved in parts of the scheme. Elements of his story are backed up by a trove of contemporaneous documents he provided to lawmakers in recent days, files that were initially seized by law enforcement officials following his indictment on campaign finance charges and released to him only recently.

More Money, Less Transparency: A decade under Citizens United
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/14/2020

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the longstanding prohibition on independent expenditures by corporations violated the First Amendment. With its decision, the court allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose candidates. The majority made the case that political spending from independent actors, even from powerful companies, was not a corrupting influence on those in office. The decade that followed was by far the most expensive in the history of American elections. The explosion of big money and secret spending was not spurred on by Citizens United alone. It was enabled by a number of court decisions that surgically removed several restrictions in campaign finance law and emboldened by inaction from Congress and gridlock within the FEC.

Ocasio-Cortez Creates PAC to Push Back on the Democratic Party’s ‘Blacklisting’ Rule
MSN – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2020

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she had formed a PAC to help raise funds for progressive primary candidates. She has been a vocal opponent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy to “blacklist” vendors and firms that work with candidates mounting primary challenges against Democratic incumbents. Ocasio-Cortez was one such candidate, having run a successful primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in 2018. Democratic leadership sees the rule as necessary to protect seats and win elections, but critics say it prevents fresh voices from reaching Congress and could encumber efforts to increase diversity at the Capitol.

Robert Hyde, Erratic Ex-Landscaper, Is Unlikely New Impeachment Figure
TheWorldNews.net – Michael Rothfeld, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/15/2020

Even in an impeachment drama brimming with improbable characters, Robert Hyde stands out.  Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut, was thrust into the proceedings to remove President Trump from office when the House released a series of encrypted messages that he exchanged last year with an associate of Rudolph Giuliani. The messages suggest Hyde had been secretly tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time. The conversations drew alarm from Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post on Trump’s orders, and calls from a member of Congress for an investigation. It was only the latest in a series of erratic episodes for Hyde, whose congressional campaign has been marked by inflammatory comments.

Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment
MSN – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 1/13/2020

Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian gas company that is a major focus of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, according to a cybersecurity firm that says it discovered the attacks on Burisma Holdings. The Russian military hackers began an attack in November on the firm, where Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s son had served on the board. It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens, the same kind of information that Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

Sen. Cory Booker Exits the Democratic Presidential Primary, Making the Field Less Diverse
MSN – Amy Wang and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2020

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker announced he is dropping out of the Democratic presidential race. Booker said his operation would not have the money “to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win,” particularly with a Senate impeachment trial looming and because he would be absent from the most recent debate. As a presidential candidate, Booker was often stuck, unable to convince left-wing voters that he was on their side while turning down donations and initially rejecting super PAC support that could have helped him. Democrats who watched the candidates were often surprised by Booker’s lack of traction.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Fight Over SEC’s Pay-To-Play Rule
law360.com – Reenat Sinay | Published: 1/13/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a state Republican Party’s challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) power to implement a rule preventing “pay-to-play” practices by investment advisers who make political contributions, leaving in place a lower court ruling in the SEC’s favor. The rule at issue, approved by the SEC in 2016, prevents brokers from seeking government business within two years of a campaign donation. It was intended to complement the SEC’s existing rule covering investment advisers, given concerns that investment advisers might sidestep the rule by relying on brokers acting as placement agents to make the political contributions instead.

These Emails Show a Trump Official Helping Her Former Chemical Industry Colleagues
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz | Published: 1/14/2020

In 2017, Dow Chemical scored a long-sought-after victory: after a push from the U.S. government, China approved the import of the company’s genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn seeds. A grateful Dow lobbyist emailed a senior Agriculture Department official whose support had been critical: “Thank you for your efforts in support of U.S. agriculture.” That official, Rebeckah Adcock, was no stranger to Dow. Before joining the Trump administration, Adcock was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group, of which Dow was a prominent member. Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about the seed issue.

Trump Labor Agencies Ease Up on Recusals
Politico – Ian Kullgren and Rebecca Rainey | Published: 1/15/2020

President Trump promised to drain the swamp in Washington, but under his administration several high-level Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials are dealing directly with cases they touched in the private sector, raising questions about conflicts-of-interest. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, in his previous capacity as a private attorney, won a Chamber of Commerce lawsuit two years ago against an Obama-era regulation governing retirement advice. But in October, the department’s ethics lawyers cleared Scalia to participate in crafting a new version of the rule. The NLRB issued a new recusal policy in November that, barring unlikely intervention by a president or an appellate court ruling, leaves all decisions about conflict of interest to the NLRB member in question.

Voting Machine Makers Face Questions from House Lawmakers – But More Remain
NBC News – Ben Popkin | Published: 1/9/2020

For decades, the companies that dominated the U.S. voting machine industry operated in relative anonymity. Now, lawmakers want answers and transparency. The chief executive officers of the three companies that make more than 80 percent of the country’s voting machines testified before Congress for the first time, marking a new and bipartisan effort to ensure the security of the 2020 election. Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hart InterCivic, are almost entirely unregulated. But in recent years, policymakers and election advocates have begun to question who owns the companies, how they make their machines, and whether they could be susceptible to remote hacking.

Wealthy Donors Now Allowed to Give Over Half a Million Dollars Each to Support Trump’s Reelection
San Francisco Chronicle – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2020

Donors to President Trump’s reelection are now permitted to give nearly $600,000 per year, boosting the president’s ability to raise money from wealthy supporters. Under an agreement announced by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC), a single donor can give as much as $580,600 this year to support Trump’s reelection – higher than the committee’s previous caps on contributions. That means the RNC’s biggest contributors could end up having shelled out as much as $1.6 million to support Trump’s reelection over the course of the four-year election cycle. It is the latest example of the expanding fundraising power of national party committees, made possible through pivotal legal changes in 2014 that loosened restrictions on individual donations.

White House Hold on Ukraine Aid Violated Federal Law, Congressional Watchdog Says
MSN – Jeff Stein, Ellen Nakashima, and Erica Werner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020

The White House violated federal law in its hold on security aid to Ukraine last year, according to a decision by The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress The GAO found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress. White House budget officials have defended their power to stop the money from being given to the Defense Department, arguing both congressional lawmakers and executive branch officials routinely demand delays on funding already signed into law.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona APS Boss Promises No More Campaign Cash for Regulators
Arizona Capitol Times – Dillon Rosenblatt | Published: 1/14/2020

The new chief executive officer of Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) vowed the company, its parent company, Pinnacle West, and other known affiliates would not spend money on campaigns for utility regulators while he is in charge. Jeff Guldner’s statement came at a meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission in which he fielded questions, giving them what they waited months to hear: a promise to no longer allow the utility to contribute to the elections of the regulators who will have to regulate them. Three of the current commissioners, Lea Marques Peterson, Boyd Dunn, and Bob Burns, have all accepted contributions from APS and other utilities and now have to disclose it before any vote relating to those companies under a new code of ethics.

California Slugfest at a California Conference Has Inspired a Politician to Propose a New Law
Los Angeles Times – Ruben Vives | Published: 1/13/2020

In May, two council members got into an argument at a conference in Indian Wells that turned into a brawl. The slugfest ended up involving four of the politicians from the city of Commerce and left one councilperson, Leonard Mendoza, lying on the ground unconscious. There were ripple effects: the California Contract Cities Association, the nonprofit advocacy group that hosted the conference, suspended Commerce’s membership and a local criminal investigation was launched, though no charges have been filed. Now, Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia, whose district includes Commerce, plans to introduce legislation aimed at giving the California auditor the authority to examine the finances of government lobbying organizations such as Contract Cities.

Florida Despite ‘Cone-of-Silence’ Over JEA Sale, Top Mayoral Official Spoke to Florida Power and Light CEO During Private Party at Jaguars Game
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/9/2020

Brian Hughes, Tallahassee Mayor Lenny Curry’s top administrator, denied having a substantive conversation with Florida Power and Light Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy during a party the company hosted at the October 27 Jacksonville Jaguars game. Silagy recalled speaking with Hughes about several issues related to economic development but not about JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility that Florida Power and Light was competing to buy. City Hall attorneys told city officials that state law prohibited them from discussing JEA privatization efforts with any representatives of the entities who submitted bids to purchase the utility. while city officials and the bidders were allowed to discuss matters unrelated to JEA, city attorneys cautioned them to “consider the appearance of impropriety” before doing so.

Florida Lobbyist or Neighborhood Advocate? ‘Strange’ Events at Zoning Meeting Puzzles County
Palm Beach Post – Hannah Morse | Published: 1/10/2020

Supporters of a RaceTrac gas station at a Palm Beach County zoning meeting are being examined. One Palm Beach County commissioner thought it was odd that a hearing on a gas station proposal drew supporters who made curious, sometimes repetitive arguments, like preferring RaceTrac’s food offerings to fast food and enjoying the service station’s access to Wi-Fi connections. Those who made the peculiar comments are being examined closer after an allegation that they may have been paid to speak in favor of the project. “Where do you view them from someone who’s advocating versus someone who is a flat-out lobbyist?” Assistant County Administrator Patrick Rutter said.

Florida Public Policy, Secret Sway and ‘Schmoozing’ in Tallahassee, Leon County
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/9/2020

A review of Tallahassee and Lee County commissioner calendars from 2018 and the first half of 2019 found elected officials interacted with more than 30 lobbyists who were not registered with the respective local governments during some 60 meetings. The investigation illuminated how public business is conducted in a government town brimming with lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, where friendships, personal business, and public policy often are intertwined. While many of the lobbyist interactions may have been perfectly legal, watchdogs say they fall in a grey area of the law. In some cases, unregistered lobbyists and elected officials talked public business behind closed doors or otherwise out of the sunshine, making it impossible for constituents to know exactly what was discussed.

Illinois City Hall Lobbyists Rewrite Their Playbook
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 1/10/2020

In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reforming crusade against aldermanic prerogative and a culture of “give to get” in City Hall, her first months have included changes that doubled fines for ethics violations and broadened the definition of lobbyist to include nonprofits. Her administration has also banned aldermen from lobbying other governments and banned other politicians from lobbying City Hall for private interests. Despite those changes – or perhaps because of them – the local lobbying business is on the upswing. Those who can navigate the changing landscape and guide their clients through it stand to benefit.

Illinois Ethics Board Imposes Max $2,000 Fine Against Chicago Ald. Edward Burke Over Letter He Wrote in Matter Involving a Client
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 1/15/2020

The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Edward Burke $2,000 after determining the embattled alderman wrote a letter to another city official “in a matter involving a client of his law firm within 12 months of when the alderman’s law firm represented this client.” The board fined Burke the maximum it could for the violation, which was $2,000. Federal prosecutors filed a racketeering indictment against Burke in May. The 59-indictment outlined a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city.

Illinois Illinois Ag Director Resigns Over Response to Rape Email
AP News – John O’Connor | Published: 1/14/2020

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture director has resigned after acknowledging he received, but did not act on, a lobbyist’s email seven years ago that referenced an alleged rape cover-up and illegal hiring practices. John Sullivan said he did not read the email thoroughly at the time but that “I accept responsibility for what was truly an unintentional oversight and the subsequent inaction.” The email from Michael McClain, formerly a powerful lobbyist and confidante of House Speaker Michael Madigan, was sent to aides of then-Gov. Pat Quinn. It sought leniency for a “loyal” state employee who “has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.” Pritzker referred the matter to the Office of the Executive Inspector General for review and the Illinois State Police have opened an investigation.

Illinois Who’s a Lobbyist? Lawmakers Grapple with the Question as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Others Push for Ban on Public Officials Working in That Role
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 1/15/2020

With federal investigators scrutinizing the activities of lobbyists at Chicago City Hall and the Capitol, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the General Assembly to pass legislation banning public officials from working as lobbyists at other levels of government. But to do that, lawmakers will have to decide what, exactly, counts as lobbying and who would be required to register as a lobbyist. The difficulty lawmakers face in answering those questions became apparent at the second meeting of a state ethics commission created late last year in response to the issues raised during the ongoing federal investigation. Aside from state government, only a handful of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government have any kind of disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence decision-making by public officials.

Indiana Former Lawmaker Won’t Face Lobbying Charges. Marion County Prosecutor Won’t Detail Why.
Indianapolis Star Tribune – Chris Sikich | Published: 1/13/2020

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to say specifically why former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face criminal charges that he violated Indiana’s lobbying law, leaving veterans advocates puzzled and frustrated. A media investigation revealed a secretive employment deal with a temporary agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist, as seemingly required by law, or tracking his hours and work product, as required by his contract. Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, has repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about why the prosecutor’s office reached a different conclusion than the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission. The office also will not make Prosecutor Ryan Mears, or any of his deputies or investigators, available for an interview about the matter.

Maine Indirect Lobbying Can Fly Under the Radar. A Maine Ethics Commission Proposal Could Change That
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/9/2020

The agency overseeing Maine’s lobbying regulations wants to update a state law that has allowed some interest groups to influence legislation by spending big without having to disclose it to the public. The proposal deals with what is known as grassroots lobbying. Jonathan Wayne, director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, says it is inspired by an increase in advertising and “influence campaigns” that often do not get reported through traditional lobbying disclosures, and influenced by a shadowy group that is seeking to derail a controversial transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power. Wayne told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee his agency’s bill is designed to modernize grassroots lobbying requirements.

Maryland After Corruption Scandal, Baltimore City Council Committee Will Consider Government Reform Measures
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 1/13/2020

Less than two months after former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges, the city council is pushing forward on a slate of government reform measures that include giving itself the power to oust a mayor for misconduct. Council members introduced a number of charter amendments in the wake of the wide-ranging “Healthy Holly” scandal, in which Pugh sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of self-published children’s books to companies that did business with the city. The amendments also would create a city administrator position and reduce the number of votes needed to overturn a mayor’s veto.

Massachusetts In Novel Move, DiMasi Sues Secretary of State After Lobbyist Bid Denied
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 1/10/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi sued Secretary of State William Galvin as part of DiMasi’s bid to register as a state lobbyist, a novel legal move that could have wide ramifications for how Massachusetts lobbying and ethics laws are interpreted. DiMasi has said intended to challenge Galvin’s decision to reject his lobbying application after a state hearing officer denied DiMasi’s appeal. It is nevertheless unprecedented. First elected in 1994, Galvin has never been sued for denying a lobbyist application, and depending on how a judge rules, it could reshape how he enforces state law.

Michigan Michigan Senator to Female Reporter: High school boys could ‘have a lot of fun’ with you
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray | Published: 1/15/2020

A state senator is facing widespread criticism and an investigation in the Michigan Legislature after telling a female reporter she should stick around at the Capitol because a group of high school students from an all-boys school, touring the building, could “have a lot of fun” with her. Sen. Peter Lucido made the comments outside the Senate chamber to Allison Donahue, a reporter from the Michigan Advance, while surrounded by a group of male high school students from De La Salle Collegiate. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate announced they have asked the Senate Business Office to investigate whether the incident violated Senate rules related to sexual harassment.

New Jersey No Hard Alcohol Will Be Allowed on ‘Chamber Train’ Following NJ.com Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/9/2020

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has banned “hard alcohol” aboard its annual “Walk to Washington” lobbying event in response to a recent report that quoted women saying they do not feel safe attending the important affair for politicians and lobbyists. The Chamber also said it will hire more security officers and establish a direct phone line that would “immediately and discreetly” report an incident of harassment directly to security personnel and the organizers. A story published in The Newark Star Ledger included interviews with women who said they were groped, assaulted, or sexually propositioned over the years on the job in state politics. The women also identified the problems with the Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip, which includes crowded cars of people drinking and networking from Newark to Washington D.C.

New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Bridgegate Scandal
Northwest Indiana Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/14/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to overturn the convictions against two of former Gov. Chris Christie’s ex-political allies in the “Bridgegate” case, and the decision could have implications for how federal prosecutors pursue allegations of public corruption. The two former allies, Bridget Kelly and William Baroni Jr., argue the Justice Department reached too far in charging them with fraud for their roles in an alleged plot to back up traffic on the George Washington Bridge as retaliation against a local mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. They say while the conduct alleged might have been uncouth, it was not illegal, and declaring it so would criminalize routine political dealings. The Justice Department counters that Kelly and Baroni are misstating what occurred, and the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions.

New York SAM Party Sues State Over Changes to Third Party Ballot Access
Albany Times Union – Amanda Fries | Published: 1/14/2020

A new state law in New York requiring political parties to offer a presidential candidate and garner nearly three times as many votes than previously needed to maintain their statewide ballot line is facing a legal challenge by the newest political party. The Serve America Movement (SAM) Party, which gained state ballot access in the 2018 gubernatorial race, is suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state legislators, and the state Board of Elections alleging the requirements are unconstitutional. The SAM Party complaint alleges that forcing the minor party to nominate a presidential candidate or otherwise lose party status is a “severe burden” and violates the First and Fourteenth amendments allowing citizens to create and develop new political parties.

Oregon Pay to Play? Out-Of-State Law Firms Reap Rewards of Oregon Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/15/2020

Almost half of the money that Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read reported raising in 2019 came from big law firms headquartered in places like New York City and Washington, D.C. Nearly all are being made by lawyers who seek work from the state. A 2008 law gave firms a chance to make millions of dollars if they are picked to work one of the potentially lucrative lawsuits that Oregon files against powerful corporations. The result is a torrent of outside money to state candidates, much of it solicited by Oregon treasurers and attorneys general, the same elected officials whose offices decide which firms get the work. “Whether this corrupts their decision or not, they ought to be sensitive to the fact that it stinks,” said James Cox, a professor at Duke University School of Law.

Rhode Island R.I. Ethics Commission, Known for Transparency, Talks About Keeping Complaints Secret Until Investigations Done
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 1/10/2020

Rhode Island has one of the most transparent ethics agencies in the nation, but a member of the state Ethics Commission floated an idea that would limit transparency by keeping ethics complaints under wraps until investigations are complete. Ethics complaints can be used as a “political tool,” said Dr. Robert Salk, who has been on the commission since 2012. “The problem is that the way we do it is hurting people that did nothing wrong.” When it began in 1986, the ethics panel used a “secret process,” the commission’s executive director, Jason Gramitt, said, but after court cases, hearings, and workshops, the commission opened up the complaint process.

South Dakota Federal Judge Blocks South Dakota Petition Law
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 1/9/2020

A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a South Dakota law imposing burdensome regulations that would have made it much harder for the average citizen to get an initiative on the ballot. Gov. Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1094 into law in 2019, requiring petition circulators to wear name tags and register with the secretary of state. The law further mandates that circulators provide the state with their personal information, such as their home address and phone number to be included in a public directory, potentially exposing people to harassment. Aside from the unduly onerous disclosure requirements, political activist Cory Heidelberger said the law discriminates based on viewpoint, since it only applies to petition proponents.

Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill Facing Questions Over Last-Minute Legislation, Contributions
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 1/16/2020

Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill, who faced scrutiny for comments he made last year related to a little-known $4 million grant, sponsored another bill during the 2019 legislative session that will benefit several business owners who later gave him $45,000. The law would let the local government use a portion of sales tax revenue to provide incentives in the development of a taxpayer funded development district. The legislation was approved on the final day of the 2019 session. Less than a month later, the owners and employees of Face Amusement, a Johnson City-based company with land in the proposed development district, donated to a PAC used by Hill for his race for speaker.

Washington Seattle City Council Bans ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies from Most Political Spending
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/13/2020

The Seattle City Council banned most political spending by “foreign-influenced corporations” to prevent international influence in city elections. The legislation would prevent corporations with a single non-U.S. investor holding at least one percent ownership, or two or more holding at least five percent ownership from contributing to directly to Seattle candidates or through PACs. Companies that have a non-U.S. investor making decisions on its American political activities will also be prevented from political spending.  The council also passed a bill that requires commercial advertisers maintain public records on political ads related to legislative decisions, in addition to ads related to elections.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Blocks Purge of Wisconsin Voter Rolls for the Time Being
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/14/2020

An appeals court ordered the state to keep more than 200,000 people on its voter rolls, a day after an Ozaukee County judge found Wisconsin election officials in contempt of court for not following his December decision to suspend voter registrations. In a separate order, one of the judges on the appeals court blocked the contempt finding, relieving the commission and three of its members of $800 in fines.  The rulings are not final and were put in place temporarily while the appeals court considers whether anyone should be taken off the rolls. But for now, the decision is a victory for Democrats who hoped to prevent thousands of people from losing their voter registrations.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 […]


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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