January 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020

Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.

How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020

In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.

How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020

Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.

Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020

There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020

Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.

Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020

Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020

An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.

Arkansas Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020

A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.

California L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020

The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

California Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020

San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.

California Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020

Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.

Colorado Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020

When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020

A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.

Florida Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020

Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.

Florida Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020

Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.

Illinois Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020

The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.

Indiana Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020

Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.

Kentucky These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020

At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.

Louisiana Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020

The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.

Maine Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020

A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.

Maryland After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020

With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government.  Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.

Maryland Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020

Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.

Massachusetts Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020

A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.

Massachusetts Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020

John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.

Michigan Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.

Michigan Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020

Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.

Missouri Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020

Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.

Missouri Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.

Missouri Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020

Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.

New York Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.

New York Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020

The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.

North Carolina Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020

Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.

Ohio Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.

Oregon Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020

Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.

Pennsylvania Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020

Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.

Texas Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020

San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.

Washington Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020

There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.

Washington DC Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020

Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration  in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.

April 3, 2020 •

Wisconsin Lawmakers to Consider Postponing Presidential Primary

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to postpone the presidential primary and state Supreme Court elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. Evers is calling the Legislature into a special session on April 4 to take up legislation to avoid […]

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to postpone the presidential primary and state Supreme Court elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 7.

Evers is calling the Legislature into a special session on April 4 to take up legislation to avoid in-person voting.

Additionally they will call for an all-mail election with a deadline of May 26 to return ballots.

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April 3, 2020 •

Rhode Island General Assembly Extends Postponement

Rhode Island State House

To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week. All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled. This does not […]

To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week.

All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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April 3, 2020 •

Illinois Further Extends All Filing Deadlines

Illinois State Capitol Building

Lobbying semimonthly reporting deadlines are now extended for 60 days, pushing the April 5 due date to June 4. In response to the exponential spread of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-18 on April 1. This extends prior […]

Lobbying semimonthly reporting deadlines are now extended for 60 days, pushing the April 5 due date to June 4.

In response to the exponential spread of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-18 on April 1.

This extends prior executive orders for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, which currently extends through April 30.

The Legislature also remains suspended through next week.

Additionally, lawmakers have been asked to keep their calendars clear for possible return dates.

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April 3, 2020 •

Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Legislative Session

Oklahoma Capitol Building

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19. Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but […]

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19.

Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but they cleared out of the state Capitol as the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on May 29.

Legislators have not yet set a date to return to pass a state budget and any other legislative priorities.

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April 3, 2020 •

Lawsuit Challenges New Ohio Presidential, State Primary Election Date and Procedures

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.

The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.

In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.

Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.

The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.

Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.

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April 3, 2020 •

North Carolina Secretary of State to Allow Late Filing of First Quarter Reports

North Carolina State Legislative Building

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22. This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing, Penalties for failure […]

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing,

Penalties for failure to timely file will not be levied if report is filed on or before July 22; is accompanied by a sworn and notarized statement that a notary could not be obtained prior to the date the report was filed; and all other reports due by July 22 are timely filed.

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