July 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 17, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020

Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states’ chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them – politically, personally, and logistically. They have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured, an unending and public test on a scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states, and their political careers at stake. The pandemic has many of America’s governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.

Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 7/9/2020

A recent report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds that, on average, 73 percent of state campaign funding from 2016 through 2019 came from large donors or PACs, while just 12 percent came from small donors contributing $250 or less. if small donors are incentivized to donate state campaigns, the share currently given to politicians by large donors and special-interest PACs could be flipped on its head with nearly three-quarters of campaign funding could come from amplified donations of $250 and under, according to a previous CFI report that examined public financing in New York.

Chief of White House’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Vaccine Effort Can Keep Investing in Pharma Firms, Under IG Ruling
Albany Times Union – Christopher Rowland (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020

The co-director of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed can maintain extensive investments in the drug industry and avoid ethics disclosures while he continues to make decisions about government contracts for promising coronavirus vaccines under a decision by the Health and Human Services inspector general. The ruling came in response to a complaint that said the administration has carved out an improper exception to federal conflict-of-interest rules for Moncef Slaoui, a former high-ranking official at GlaxoSmithKline. Slaoui took the helm of the initiative as what the administration described as a volunteer contractor. That allowed him to avoid the requirement for government employees to disclose financial interests and divest in holdings that conflict with their responsibilities.

Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/13/2020

Michael Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers. But he could not overturn a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted to protect American troops overseas. Then Williams joined the Trump administration. As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials, and creating pressure within the State Department. On July 10, the State Department lifted the ban. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new sales for companies Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association. His role follows a pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies.

Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/14/2020

CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered U.S. House Democrats at the top of the party’s priority list this November. But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting politicians. This activity – creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom – diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.

Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job
MSN – Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020

Attorney General William Barr repeatedly pressured then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to resign and take another job, including as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to clear the way for President Trump to install a political ally as the leader of the powerful federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. Berman, who testified privately before the House Judiciary Committee, described in a written statement the unusual sequence of events that led to his departure on June 20. The revelation of Barr’s tactics adds to the picture of what was already known about the extraordinary turn of events that culminated in Berman stepping down amid suspicions he was being ousted for political reason.

‘She Knows Better’: Ex-ethics chief Walter Shaub says Ivanka Trump broke rule by promoting Goya beans
USA Today – William Cummings and David Jackson | Published: 7/15/2020

Ivanka Trump is facing questions of whether she violated ethics rules in a social media post that promoted Goya Foods, whose chief executive officer angered opponents of President Trump by praising the president at an event. Ivanka Trump posted an image of herself on Twitter holding aloft a can of Goya black beans, along with a caption featuring the company’s slogan, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that because Ivanka Trump often uses her Twitter account to conduct official business and includes her job description in her profile, “Ms. Trump’s Goya tweet is clearly a violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”

States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show
Anchorage Daily News – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020

Business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. It also sheds light on the thinking of governors who have pledged not to reverse course on reopening, even as coronavirus cases spike in their states. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say. Across the country, moves to reopen the economy before containing the virus offered a lesson in “how the political system accommodates the needs of business,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.

The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force
MSN – Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2020

A “Never Trump” rebellion that began four years ago as a largely ineffective cadre of Republicans has transformed in recent weeks into a potentially disruptive force in this year’s presidential race. Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the president. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, with an emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president.

Trump Commutes Longtime Friend Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence
AP News – Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2020

President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the U.S. House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. The move is another intervention by Trump in the nation’s justice system and underscores his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.

Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 7/12/2020

President Trump on July 4 retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking. It was not the first time Trump has nodded, accidentally or not, to QAnon followers on Twitter. But his QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. The engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes inspired by the conspiracy theory.

Trump Replaces Campaign Manager as Polls Show Him Trailing Biden in Presidential Race
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

President Trump announced he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as recent polls show him falling further behind Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy. The president said Parscale will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected. Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign, He was formerly a top aide to then-New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie. Stepien was expelled from Christi’s orbit in the aftermath of bridge lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, an episode known as Bridgegate.

Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?
ProPublica – Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz | Published: 7/13/2020

President Trump complained via Twitter that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done, not mentioning his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls. With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a three-mile border fence along the Rio Grande. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed. The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”

White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami | Published: 7/13/2020

President Trump was granted a second 45-day extension to file his personal financial disclosure forms, which will give the American public its only detailed look at the president’s private business interests. The forms are supposed to detail Trump’s income, debt, stock holdings, and outstanding loans for 2019. Federal law allows only two such extensions. Trump appears to be the only president since 2001 to need an extension for his financial disclosure filing.

Canada

Canada PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events
CTV – Rachel Gilmore | Published: 7/9/2020

Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid a total of nearly $300,000 over the last four years to speak at WE Charity events. The charity group is at the center of an ethics investigation into Trudeau. The federal ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Trudeau over his government’s now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program, which is slated to pay students and new graduates for their volunteer work this summer. While the charity has backed out of the management of the program following days of controversy, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said the request for an investigation “satisfies the requirements” laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law
Yellowhammer News – Tim Howe | Published: 7/9/2020

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute filed briefs urging Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June. Reid ruled BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as landing fees paid by airlines. Alabama law says an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics statutes if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

Alabama Jeff Sessions Loses Runoff in Alabama as Trump Helps End Career of Key Supporter
Anchorage Daily News – Paul Kane and Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020

Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Doug Jones. The result culminated four months of President Trump imploring the state’s voters to reject Sessions, the man who the president once said he leaned on for advice in forming his “America First” agenda. Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville in the race has always seemed to have more to do with Trump’s anger at Sessions over his recusing himself from the Russia investigation while attorney general than with any particular support for the former Auburn University football coach.

Arizona Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook
KJZZ – Associated Press | Published: 7/9/2020

The head of a special Arizona House ethics committee said he was dropping an investigation into the actions of a fellow Republican lawmaker who faced complaints he engaged in an improper relationship with a lobbyist and helped her avoid a tax seizure. Rep. John Allen said in a letter announcing his decision that he did not believe Rep. David Cook’s conduct “unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules” and the state constitution. The unilateral decision brought protest from Democrats on the panel.

Arkansas State Lawmaker Is Hired to Lead Youth Lockup; Red Flags Raised, Watchdog Say
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ginny Monk | Published: 7/14/2020

Arkansas Rep. Jasen Kelly was hired as director of Rite of Passage, the firm that manages all four of the state’s residential facilities for juvenile offenders for the Division of Youth Services. Kelly said the job does not conflict with his duties as a legislator or pose an ethical issue. He plans to recuse himself from votes or discussions that deal with Rite of Passage. Tom Masseau, executive director of Disability Rights Arkansas, called for Kelly’s resignation from the House, saying it was the only way to resolve a potential conflict-of-interest.

California California’s Department of Conservation Rolls Out New Ethics Policy After Years of Complaints
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Mark Olalde | Published: 7/15/2020

The California Department of Conservation, which has for years weathered accusations of a cozy relationship with the oil industry, introduced a new ethics policy that has drawn praise from advocates of good governance. The new conflict-of-interest manual, which came into force in March and applies across the department’s five agencies, forbids employees from maintaining financial holdings in businesses they regulate without written approval from the department’s director. Media reports found that leadership in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources held investments in major oil companies, including Chevron, which has a large footprint in the state.

California L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/13/2020

Investigators have turned the spotlight in Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar’s corruption case on an unlikely figure in a “pay-to-play” scandal: an elderly woman who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, once worked in a meatpacking plant, and has lived in a modest home in Boyle Heights. Isidra Huizar, the 80-year-old mother of the embattled council member, is one of the unnamed figures mentioned in the sprawling case. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that Isidra Huizar helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Huizar’s mother, identified only as Relative A-2, repeatedly received cash from her son, then used the proceeds to pay his expenses, according to an affidavit.

Colorado Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/10/2020

Outside groups spent nearly $1.7 million on eight highly contested Colorado legislative primary races in 2020. But it is not always easy to figure out where the money came from, despite a 2019 law touted as bringing more transparency to a system that includes cash from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. In other instances, discerning where the money came from is possible if you have time to track all the state and federal committees involved until the funder is revealed. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold acknowledged the loophole in the law that some committees use to avoid naming nonprofit donors. She attributed it to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending in political contests as long as committees do not coordinate with candidates or political parties.

Florida Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal
Politico – Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon | Published: 7/8/2020

The Florida Democratic Party announced it was returning at least $780,000 in small-business loans after its own lawmakers criticized the acceptance of the money as highly questionable if not unethical and illegal. The party immediately applied for the loan after Congress first passed the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, even though there was discussion at the time that the money should go to neither lobbyists nor political causes. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden.

Florida Florida Lawmaker’s Ties to NFL Robbery Case Sparks Investigation
Tampa Bay Times – Meghan Bobrowsky | Published: 7/14/2020

The Florida Bar opened an investigation into the actions of state Rep. and lawyer Michael Grieco after it was reported his office was the scene of what appeared to be payoffs to victims of an alleged robbery by National Football League players Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker in May. Grieco had previously been representing Dunbar and Baker were accused of stealing money and jewelry from people at gunpoint at a party. It was revealed that police believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash in Grieco’s office. The victims reportedly signed sworn affidavits alleging Dunbar did not have anything to do with the robbery.

Florida Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus
Florida Politics – Staff | Published: 7/14/2020

A Florida lobbyist who attended a recent Republican fundraiser near Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Another lobbyist who briefly attended the event and asked to remain anonymous said they left after entering the reception and seeing no one wearing masks. Some attendees also attended an event two days later with Vice President Mike Pence where he thanked members of the Republican National Host Committee for their work on the Jacksonville event.

Florida NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/13/2020

Florida’s top gun lobbyist Marion Hammer faces a probable cause hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding her failure to disclose payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA). State Sen. Perry Thurston filed complaints about Hammer with the Senate and the ethics commission in May 2019. Two weeks before, it was reported the NRA paid Hammer hundreds of thousands of dollars she had not disclosed for a decade on quarterly lobbyist compensations reports required by the Legislature. State law says the fine for late reports is “$50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.”  Hammer, however, was not fined or otherwise disciplined.

Florida RNC Restricts Convention Attendance as Florida Coronavirus Cases Climb
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/16/2020

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to sharply limit attendance for its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, shrinking the event celebrating President Trump’s renomination amid concerns about coronavirus. RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, said attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates.

Illinois Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/9/2020

A Florida fuel distributor that lost a recent bid for a $43 million contract to provide diesel to the city of Chicago filed an official protest, saying the process was skewed to take care of an influential local company linked to an ongoing federal corruption probe. The protest filed by World Fuel Services alleged its proposal, which was the lowest of three submitted to the city, was rejected in favor of the second-lowest bidder that used Black Dog Petroleum as its minority-owned subcontractor. Black Dog and its owner, Amit Gauri, were named in search warrants and subpoenas by federal prosecutors in a probe of former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and suburban mayors and industry heavyweights.

Kansas Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 7/15/2020

U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged with three felonies, including illegal voting. The charges came three weeks before Kansas’s Republican primary election. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local city council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing. The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election in Topeka without being qualified.

Kentucky Breonna Taylor Protesters Sat on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Lawn. Police Charged 87 with Felonies.
Portland Press Herald – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

Protesters who refused to leave the front lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron were arrested and each one was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. The activists had come to demand Cameron charge the three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor inside her home while executing a no-knock warrant. The felony charge applies to people who use “physical force or a threat” to influence “the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion” of a participant in the legal process, like a victim, a witness, or a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the felony charges filed against the protesters, calling them “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate.”

Missouri FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 7/13/2020

The FBI has once again requested records from Independence City Hall, the latest in a series of inquiries by federal authorities over the last year that appear to be focused on a pair of utilities contracts and medical marijuana regulations. The Independence City Council in 2017 awarded Environmental Operations the contract to tear down a power plant in Missouri City that Independence Power and Light was no longer using.  The contract was immediately controversial since Environmental Operations got the job with a $9.75 million bid, more than twice that of the other bidder. Environmental Operations’ owner, Stacy Hastie, is well connected in Missouri politics. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year demanding records on four medical marijuana applicants.

Missouri St. Louis Prosecutor Receives Death Threats as Trump Defends Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters
Stamford Advocate – Meagan Flynn, Tom Jackman, and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the prosecutor investigating the couple who aimed guns at protesters, says she has received racist attacks and death threats that have worsened as President Trump has thrown his support behind the couple. Both the president and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson have offered impassioned defenses of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who went viral after brandishing guns at protesters on the private street outside their mansion.  Parson, who said the couple had “every right to protect their property,” said he spoke with Trump recently. He said Trump made it clear he “doesn’t like what he sees and the way these people are being treated,” referencing the McCloskeys.

New Jersey New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation
ProPublica – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 7/13/2020

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put a freeze on the continued disbursement of $578 million worth of tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie. A task force’s lead investigator said he referred several companies to law enforcement for making potentially fraudulent threats to move out of state to obtain tax breaks. Of the 12 companies whose awards are under review, five are connected to Democratic Party boss George Norcross and represent most of the money – $540 million. Some companies provided the same out-of-state location where they claimed they would move if they did not get a tax break, Blue Hill Plaza in Rockland County, New York. But the applications were approved.

New Mexico New Mexico Group ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Ordered to Pay Fines, Register as Political Committee
AP News – Russell Contreras | Published: 7/11/2020

The New Mexico group, Cowboys for Trump, must register as a political committee in the state, and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports, an arbitrator ruled. Cowboys for Trump has protested the requirements because it argues campaign finance laws violate free speech, and the group does not meet the definition of a political committee. Cowboys for Trump members say the group is a for-profit organization.

New York Probe Into De Blasio’s Old Charity Given Green Light by State Judge
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile | Published: 7/15/2020

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) received approval from a judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled JCOPE has the authority to pursue a probe into Broadway Stages’ communications with de Blasio as well as $60,000 in donations. Broadway Stages claimed JCOPE cannot investigate individuals who give “gifts” and is limited to regulating officials who receive those monetary donations. It also denied giving to Campaign for One New York following a request from de Blasio or any another public official.

New York Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 7/15/2020

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue the district attorney’s subpoena was too broad and politically motivated. The president and the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.

Ohio Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations
Toledo Blade – Tom Troy | Published: 7/11/2020

Investigators say Toledo City Council members Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson, all Democrats, engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme that exchanged money for votes. They face federal bribery and extortion charges. More than $34,000 changed hands between business owners and the council members during the investigation. Several local politicians and campaign experts, however, contend the line between what constitutes a campaign contribution and what constitutes a bribe may be fuzzy to some because of a culture in which politicians and businesses, interest groups, and unions symbiotically support each other through political donations and favorable votes on legislation.

Oregon Oregon AG Appeals Federal Judge’s Order on Redistricting Bid
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 7/15/2020

Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced she is fighting a federal judge’s order for Oregon to give more leeway to a group that seeks to change how the state draws its electoral districts. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown orders prevented People Not Politicians from obtaining the required number of signatures by a July 2 deadline to put the issue on the ballot for the November election. The Legislature is currently responsible for redrawing district lines. People Not Politicians wants an independent citizen redistricting commission to do it instead and seeks to have voters approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow that.

South Carolina Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 7/12/2020

Anonymous donors poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a South Carolina Senate primary for a seat that covers Myrtle Beach, exploiting the state’s weak campaign finance laws and influencing voters in Horry County. The large amount of money spent on the primary runoff between state Sen. Luke Rankin and John Gallman highlights the outsize role that so-called dark money groups can play in state elections in South Carolina. Combined, the organizations were able to spend more than three times what Rankin was able to raise for his own campaign. That is because people who give directly to candidates are subject to contribution limits in South Carolina, whereas these groups are not.

Tennessee Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/9/2020

Campaign finance officials followed through on a plan to levy a $10,500 penalty against former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada after an audit determined he failed to adequately retain receipts for roughly $100,000 in expenditures. Despite Casada being eligible to face more than $2.9 million in fines, the Registry of Election Finance voted in favor of the smaller penalty. Although the audits found a number of issues with Casada’s personal campaign committee and a PAC controlled, the registry only fined him for failing to have receipts for 299 expenditures.

Texas Ronny Jackson, Ex-White House Doctor, Wins Texas House Runoff
MSN – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2020

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with President Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, left the West Wing in December after becoming Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to withdraw his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct. Jackson made a series of mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. But after Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked two senior members of Trump’s re-election campaign to step in.

October 28, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Elections National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” […]

Campaign Finance

Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” by Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension” by Mark Berman (Washington Post) for MSN

Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline” by Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico

Ethics

National: “Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case” by Kyle Cheney for Politico

Colorado: “Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law” by Jeffrey Roberts for Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Tennessee: “Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover” by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean

Lobbying

New Hampshire: “Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line” by Josie Albertson-Grove for Manchester Union-Leader

Redistricting

Arizona: “Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List” by Bob Christie for Associated Press News

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

October 27, 2020 •

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act Introduced to Amend FARA

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol - by Martin Falbisoner

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents. The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical […]

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents.

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical bills in both houses of Congress by Rep. Mike Gallagher and Sen. Tom Cotton, would repeal the exemption from registration for persons, acting as agents of a covered Chinese business organization, providing private and nonpolitical representation of trade and commercial interests.

House Bill 8663 and Senate Bill 4843 would also remove the exemption for persons filing disclosure reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 in connection with the representation of business organizations organized under the laws of, or having their principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China. The bill defines a covered Chinese business organization as an entity designated by the Attorney General as subject to the extrajudicial direction of the Chinese Communist Party or an entity organized under the laws of, or having its principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China (including any subsidiary or affiliate of such an entity).

The legislation would become effective 180 days after enactment.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

October 27, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic

Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” by Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN

Oregon: “Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign” by Rebecca Ellis for OPB

Elections

National: “Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads” by Mark Scott for Politico

California: “Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App” by Katy Murphy for Politico

Ethics

Illinois: “Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say” by Tom Schuba for Chicago Sun-Times

Lobbying

National: “How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’” by Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

National: “Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico

Wyoming: “Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors” by Staff for Associated Press News

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

October 26, 2020 •

American Samoa Governor Calls Additional Special Session

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget. The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 […]

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget.

The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 million in drastic cuts made by the Fono to the budgets for executive branch departments.

The Fono leaders had told the governor in an October 13th letter they are not confident with governor’s revenue projections.

They further urged the governor to act on the final fiscal year 2021 budget bill now in his control.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 26, 2020 •

Missouri’s Second Special Session Set for November 5

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly. The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state. This session is the second special session Parson has called this year. […]

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly.

The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state.

This session is the second special session Parson has called this year.

The session does not affect lobbyist reporting.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 26, 2020 •

Ohio Lobbyists Must Pay 2021 Registration Fees Electronically

Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees. The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019. […]

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees.

The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019.

Registrations fees for 2021 must be paid electronically by VISA, MasterCard, or ACH.

Lobbyists may begin renewing registrations for legislative, executive, and retirement system engagements in OLAC on December 1.

The renewal option closes January 15, 2021.

Any lobbyist who does not complete the renewal process by January 15 must file a new initial registration statement.

The registration statement requires a signature page.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 26, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune Elections National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested […]

Campaign Finance

California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune

Elections

National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote” by Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman for ABC News

National: “International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever” by Carol Morello for Washington Post

Alabama: “Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Pennsylvania: “Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says” by Marc Levy for Associated Press News

Ethics

Connecticut: “FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up” by Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) for Connecticut Mirror

Lobbying

National: “COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Illinois: “Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall” by Heather Cherone for WTTW

Oregon: “Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape” by Chris May for Street Roots

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

October 23, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 23, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020 A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a […]

National/Federal

Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020

A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a swift ruling in the legal battle over access to President Trump’s financial records The panel previously upheld the subpoena brought by the House but considered the case for the second time after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reevaluate the House’s subpoena power. Democrats had hoped to have Trump’s past financial statements for campaign leverage. For Judge David Tatel, however, the more prudent move would be to wait until after the next Congress convenes on January 3. The case is one of several ongoing legal battles over the president’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.

Ex-Interior Official Violated Trump Ethics Pledge by Meeting with Former Associates: Watchdog
The Hill – Rebecca Bietsch | Published: 10/21/2020

A former top Interior Department political appointee violated his ethics pledge by taking a meeting with an organization he previously volunteered for, according to a report from the department’s watchdog. Sources said the employee in question is Todd Wynn, the former head of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Wynn, now a lobbyist for a major Arizona utility, took a meeting with Rich Lindsey, an energy committee policy consultant from the Council of State Governments. Wynn previously was on the board of trustees for the Council of State Governments 21st Century Foundation.

Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge
Miami Herald – Ben Wieder | Published: 10/20/2020

Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, at the time, the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has agreed to forfeit $6.6 million he was paid for his work. The charge is related to his efforts to arrange meetings with top American officials to help quash a U.S. investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian embezzlement scheme and to push for the deportation of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Broidy agreed he acted as a foreign agent in his efforts.

Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 10/15/2020

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the House of Representatives’ attempt to enforce a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn but cautioned the case could go unresolved once this Congress’s term ends in January. The appeals court said it will revisit a three-judge panel decision to dismiss the House lawsuit, which came after the White House claimed key presidential aides are “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony to Congress. The panel found Congress has not passed a law expressly authorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.

How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller | Published: 10/20/2020

Some campaign aides for President Trump privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising, even though Trump’s political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy.

Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/15/2020

Lobbyists are preparing for the difficulty of virtually getting to know newly elected members of Congress when they come to Washington, D.C. for orientation in November. A victory by Joe Biden would make that task even harder given the influx of new aides and administration officials. In all, lobbyists could find themselves navigating the challenges of trying to meet new leadership, committee, agency, and administration staffers in a pandemic without in-person meetings or the fundraisers that typically populate K Street’s calendar shortly after a general election.

On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act
Bloomberg Law – Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff | Published: 10/14/2020

Under President Trump, allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, which clamps down on political activities of government employees while they are on the job, have come at a rate not seen in previous administrations, but there have been few consequences. Two agencies have a role in enforcing Hatch Act violations: the Justice Department, which handles criminal cases, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which takes on civil violations. But while the OSC sometimes makes Hatch Act findings, the Justice Department rarely does, said David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 10/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states. The court’s announcement teed up oral arguments in the case for November 30, an accelerated timeline that paves the way for a potential decision before the Census Bureau is set to deliver the population counts to Trump’s desk at the end of the year. In July, Trump issued a memorandum in July, asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment, the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years.

The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 10/20/2020

While Joe Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. As the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential bundlers. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months, about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time.

Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig | Published: 10/20/2020

President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there. But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. It turns out China is one of only three foreign nations where Trump maintains a bank account. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/15/2020

Twitter changed a rule about hacked materials that resulted in blocking a controversial New York Post story about the alleged emails of Joe Biden’s son. The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information. Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving “feedback” that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, Twitter will remove content only if it is directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.

U.S. Government Concludes Iran Was Behind Threatening Emails Sent to Democrats
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. officials accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election. The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump
MSN – Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2020

The intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent. When national security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation, Trump dismissed concern about Giuliani’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”

Canada

Canada Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds
CBC – Tara Carman | Published: 10/21/2020

A ban on union and corporate donations to British Columbia political parties and a cap on the amount individuals can give has hurt the provincial Liberals the most, a CBC News analysis found. The ban was introduced by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in November 2017. Even though British Columbia’s two largest parties both used to accept tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed donors – unions in the case of the NDP and businesses in the case of the Liberals, for the most part – the Liberals were more dependent on those contributions. Donations of $250 or less collectively form the biggest piece of the donation pie for all three parties. This was also true before the rule change, but the limits have made those types of contributions more important.

Canada Lobbyists Must Now Report Their Activities
Whitehorse Daily Star – Gabrielle Plonka | Published: 10/21/2020

Lobbyists are now required to report their activities in the Yukon Territory with the implementation of the Lobbyist Registration Act. Lobbyists are responsible for registering and entering their information online. A 90-day grace period from October 15 is in effect, to allow for lobbyists to learn and adhere to the new reporting requirements. All lobbyists must register by January 13, 2021. David Jones, the Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the Lobbyist Registry.

Canada Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case
CTV – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/15/2020

A new court ruling means the federal lobbying commissioner will not be taking a fresh look at whether the Aga Khan broke rules by giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal in the matter from Democracy Watch. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

California City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband
Patch – City News Service | Published: 10/21/2020

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $7,500 against Lorena Saucillo, a former city clerk who sent people’s credit card information to her incarcerated husband. On two occasions, Saucillo recorded credit card information provided by landlords who were paying city fees. Using her city email address, Lorena sent the credit card information to a personal email account accessible to her husband, whom she knew was intending to use the information for fraudulent purposes, the commission said.

California Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism
Los Angeles Times – Ben Brazil | Published: 10/20/2020

An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents. Some have called Irvine Community News & Views biased in favor of Larry Agran, the longstanding local politician who helped get the newspaper started. Agran said in an interview that the newspaper, which claims a circulation of 66,500, is legitimate and just like any other. Agran credited publisher and friend Frank Lunding with starting and running the paper. “I have written for it. I am proud of it. I help Frank wherever I can. I help recruit writers for him,” Agran said.

California Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures
San Diego Union Tribune – John Wilkens | Published: 10/18/2020

Election workers eyeballing the signatures of San Diego County voters are at the heart of a screening process that happens before mail ballots for the November 3 election are counted. Workers compare scanned images of voters’ return-envelope signatures with samples already on file at the county Registrar of Voters. It is how they verify the person returning a ballot is the person it was sent to, a safeguard against fraud. Exact matches are not required. Instead, the workers are checking similarities  in characteristics such as the slant of the letters, the spacing between the first and last names, and how the “I’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.

California Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty
San Jose Mercury News – Robert Salonga | Published: 10/19/2020

Former AS Solution security manager Martin Nielsen, the primary witness who implicated a sheriff’s captain and three others in an alleged bribery scheme to trade political donations supporting Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith for concealed-carry weapons permits, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for his role in the ploy. According to the indictment, Nielsen and two others conspired with the four main defendants to obtain up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits from the sheriff’s office in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith.

Colorado Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba | Published: 10/20/2020

In 2019, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold saw a tweet falsely claiming her state’s election system had been hacked. The flare-up was another reminder of how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election. To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos, and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado’s elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.

Florida Appeals Court Rejects NRA Lobbyist’s Case Over Graphic Parkland Massacre Emails
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/21/2020

A full federal appeals court rejected a request by National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer asked for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds. The request came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle and a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled against Hammer, who alleged Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida In Last-Minute Push, DeSantis Administration Urges Florida Election Officials to Remove Felons Who Owe Fines from Voting Rolls
Washington Post – Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa | Published: 10/20/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection. In a notice sent to local election officials, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day. A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

Florida Orlando Airport Leaders Will Review Their Lobbying Rules Following Sentinel Report
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/21/2020

The agency that runs Orlando International Airport will reexamine its lobbying rules after The Orlando Sentinel reported that a prominent lobbyist broke those rules over the summer but did not face any consequences. Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, called four board members in July on behalf of a client. The rules require lobbyists to report their contacts with board members within one week. Brodeur did not disclose her calls until nearly three months later.

Illinois Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2020

Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanged emails with lobbyist and Flossmoor Trustee Gyata Kimmons months after a law took effect banning elected public officials from lobbying Chicago City Hall. Kimmons emailed Lightfoot on behalf of a real estate company with tenants at O’Hare International Airport. The back-and-forth occurred after Lightfoot introduced a proposal that would have rolled back part of the ordinance that prohibited elected officials such as Kimmons from lobbying city officials while keeping his elected post. Alderman rejected Lightfoot’s plan but while it was pending, Kimmons continued to lobby the city. During that time, the Chicago Board of Ethics declined to enforce the restrictions against lobbying by elected officials on the grounds that if Lightfoot’s proposal passed, it would nullify them.

Illinois Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner
Chicago Tribune – Robert McCoppin | Published: 10/15/2020

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, who is a former Illinois cannabis regulator, said she is part owner of a company that is applying for cannabis licenses and she was paid to write the applications. The state’s “revolving door” law, meant to keep state workers from immediately switching from regulating an industry to participating in it, prohibits any regulatory worker from accepting compensation from any entity which that person “substantially” regulated, within one year of their state employment. Effective next year, the law will prohibit any state workers who participated substantially in awarding cannabis licenses from holding ownership in any cannabis license for two years after they leave their state jobs. Degnen said she was out of her state job for two years before she joined AmeriCanna Dream late last year.

Illinois Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/18/2020

The Illinois Democratic Party has been deluging potential voters in the general election with campaign mailers taking aim at Republican state Rep. Bradley Stephens for taking donations from one of the new bogeymen of Illinois politics: the red-light camera industry. But records also reveal House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs the state Democratic Party and has been bankrolling the campaign of Stephens’ opponent, has accepted generous campaign checks from red-light camera companies and people affiliated with them for many years. Madigan’s campaign funds have also accepted donations from officials tied to SafeSpeed, which has been swept up in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Kansas Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 10/19/2020

When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official, the mayor said he noticed the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him. The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty was arrested on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide.

Kentucky Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 10/14/2020

Dozens of Kentucky counties are failing to fully follow a law requiring financial disclosure by officials and having local boards to handle ethics issues, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office. Harmon said his office surveyed counties on the issue because it has referred findings about potential problems to county ethics boards, only to find there was no active board. In addition to violating the law, the widespread county shortcomings could undermine confidence in government, Harmon said.

Maryland Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 10/15/2020

State lawmakers issued subpoenas for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), to appear before a committee investigating McGrath’s six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency. McGrath left his position as Hogan’s top aide four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the MES. It was also reported The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for travel, meetings, and meals after he left the agency.

Michigan Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser | Published: 10/17/2020

A state appeals court in Michigan moved up the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots, reimposing a cutoff favored by Republicans during a continuing surge in early and mail-in voting around the country. A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country. Voters in the state now must return their mail-in ballots by eight p.m. on November 3.

Montana Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Perrin Stein | Published: 10/19/2020

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is running for governor against U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, failed to properly report in-kind contributions from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and also accepted donations beyond the state limit from the group. The Cooney campaign and the DGA worked on a statewide advertising campaign criticizing Gianforte for his alleged support of a sales tax. Mangan said the Cooney campaign failed to disclose the costs associated with a website that was a component of the advertising campaign as an in-kind contribution from the DGA.

New Mexico NM Investment Scandal Winds Down
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 10/17/2020

The New Mexico Supreme Court effectively closed the books on state investment scandals involving “pay-to-play” schemes beginning in 2004 that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that went south. The court upheld earlier rulings that rejected a challenge to a $24.5 million settlement reached between lawyers for the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and State Investment Council with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors. The state lost more than $100 million on its Vanderbilt investments, and the settlement had been challenged as inadequate by Frank Foy, former chief investment officer at the ERB.

North Carolina Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided federal appeals court denied an attempt by Republicans to block an agreement by North Carolina officials allowing absentee ballots in the November election to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later. North Caolina typically counts absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after the election, but the State Board of Elections agreed to extend that window to nine days due to the increased ballot requests related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well concerns about mail delays due to recent Postal Service changes.

Ohio Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges
Associated Press News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 10/17/2020

Ohio Rep. Larry Householder is likely to win reelection this year despite being indicted on racketeering charges in the alleged bribery scheme to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants. House members considered removing Householder from the chamber immediately but, if they did so before November 3, voters would be able to reelect him and a lawmaker cannot be expelled twice. The only option now for both parties is to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider expelling or impeaching him. If reelected, Householder would be automatically removed from office if he is convicted as state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or bribery charges from holding public office.

Ohio Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says
Athens News – Ben Peters | Published: 10/16/2020

Neil Clark, a longtime Columbus lobbyist who was indicted in a corruption probe, said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is “Representative 8” in the federal affidavit connected to the House Bill 6 scandal. Clark said he, Edwards, then-House Speaker Larry Householder, an aide, and two clients – who Clark reportedly believed to be working undercover with the FBI – met in September 2019 at the Aubergine Club, where they discussed the importance of defeating the ballot initiative campaign that aimed to repeal House Bill 6. Edwards, who served as majority whip, said he does not recall attending the meeting, but he never explicitly denied it occurred.

Oregon Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/15/2020

Oregon voters who go online to search for information about the election are likely to find a website called the “2020 Oregon voter guide” at the top of their search results. Thanks to paid search engine ads, that website shows up before the state’s official voters’ guide. It looks neutral and informational, but it endorses only Democrats and urges a “yes” vote on all four statewide ballot measures. Campaign finance data shows at least one candidate and some state and local ballot measures endorsed by the guide are paying the PAC that produced it. That information is not listed on the website, nor on political mailers.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 10/19/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well. The justices’ order establishes the ground rules for mail-in voting in one of the nation’s key battleground states. The ruling could have an impact in other states where the deadline for mail-in ballots has been the subject of court battles. Those include Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, and Montana.

Rhode Island What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case
MSN – Kate Mulvaney (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/19/2020

Final written arguments were submitted in the trial of Jeremy Britt, a campaign operative for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The arguments did not focus solely on Britt’s guilt or innocence on the most serious charge he faces – allegedly funneling money through a once-rival Republican’s campaign to hide his own role in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello. At the judge’s request, they also addressed the significance of the punctuation in the state’s money-laundering law. More specifically, whether placement of commas and semicolons should determine Britt’s fate.

Wyoming Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 10/20/2020

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office ordered a pro-gun lobbying organization to reveal its donors after a summer in which the group flooded Wyoming with dozens of ads disparaging a number of sitting lawmakers in competitive races. The office said Wyoming Gun Owners failed to comply with state campaign finance law by not reporting the electioneering communications. The gun owners group now has until November 4 to release the names of its donors or face a $500 fine. If the group refuses to comply, the case will then go to the state attorney general.

Continue Reading - 32 min read Close
Back to all posts