July 24, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 24, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020

President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified talk among party donors and strategists about redirecting money to protect their narrow Senate Republican majority amid growing fear of complete Democratic control of Washington in 2021. Almost no one is talking openly about abandoning Trump at this point. A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder. Right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds but also in deep red states.

Dan Sullivan, Marco Rubio Pay Tribute to John Lewis Using the Photo of a Different Black Congressman
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2020

Like many of their colleagues, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan posted tributes to U.S. Rep. John Lewis and aimed to include photos of themselves with the civil rights icon who died on July 17. Rubio even made the image his Twitter profile picture. There was just one problem. The photos they each posted were of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in October.

Ethics Committee Clears Rep. Trahan in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Steve LeBlanc | Published: 7/17/2020

The House Committee on Ethics cleared U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan following an investigation into allegations she accepted excessive campaign contributions and reported them as personal loans even though they may not have been sourced from her personal funds. The investigation focused on allegations that Trahan’s husband, David Trahan, deposited funds into a joint checking account she then used to make $300,000 in loans to her campaign during the 2018 election. Lawyers for Rep, Trahan argued the funds were her personal funds because the couple signed a premarital agreement under which she and her husband have equal rights to the management of all marital property.

Financially Strapped Trucking Firm Tripled Lobbying Days Before Winning Coronavirus Relief Loan
Roll Call – Jessica Wehrman | Published: 7/21/2020

The trucking company that received a $700 million coronavirus relief loan spent $210,000 on lobbyists in the days before it reached an agreement with the Treasury Department on that loan. The money YRC Worldwide spent on lobbying during the second quarter of 2020 alone was more than three times what it spent on lobbying in 2019 and more than the $140,000 the company spent in 2018 and 2019 combined. Now, a bipartisan congressional panel is criticizing the loan the company received, saying “it is far from clear” that YRC Worldwide is eligible for a lending mechanism originally designed for companies critical to national security, such as Boeing.

GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform
The Hill – James Bikales | Published: 7/16/2020

A former House Democratic aide who was fired after two criminal convictions gained unauthorized access to a virtual Homeland Security subcommittee hearing recently, according to a Republican lawmaker. Isaac Lanier Avant, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson who is now a lobbyist, was on the WebEx platform designated for lawmakers and witnesses for an hour during the hearing, Homeland Security ranking member Mike Rogers said. Avant is a registered lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, whose chief executive officer George Zoley was testifying at the hearing.

House Lawmakers Agree That Secure Remote Voting Is Possible, but Implementation Still Divides
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 7/17/2020

House lawmakers agreed that the chamber could implement a comprehensive and secure electronic remote voting system, but divisions remain over whether such a move, even in the midst of a global health crisis, is prudent. The House Administration Committee heard from the House clerk, a pioneering former speaker, and a roster of academics and business leaders on the technological feasibility of electronic remote voting and keeping it safe from hackers and other bad actors aiming to sow distrust in government. In a historic move, the House made a temporary change to the chamber’s rules to allow for a proxy voting period. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still participate in floor votes and committee meetings.

‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them
Washington Post – Katie Shepherd | Published: 7/17/2020

Several men in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone during a protest in Portland, Oregon. He was detained and searched. They drove him to the federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Two officers read his Miranda rights and asked if Pettibone would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not. Almost as suddenly as they had grabbed him off the street, the men let him go. Pettibone said he still does not know who arrested him or whether what happened to him legally qualifies as an arrest. His detention and videos of similar actions by federal officials driving around Portland in unmarked cars have raised alarm bells for many. Legal scholars questioned whether the detentions pass constitutional muster.

Lobbyists Bundle Donations to Senate Democrats, Trump Victory
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/20/2020

Lobbyist bundlers rounded up $250,000 for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm during the second quarter of this year, even as many of the party’s candidates run against the corporate interests those K Street denizens represent. It highlights how even in a pandemic, advocates trying to influence federal policy are working in support of candidates who may someday vote on it, even though the candidates are keeping their distance from corporate PAC money. Campaigns are only required to disclose bundlers who are registered federal lobbyists, so it is not possible to track the ebb and flow of other people who gather contributions from groups of donors and pool them together, unless campaigns and committees release them voluntarily.

Matt Gaetz Appears to Run Afoul of House Ethics Rules
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 7/22/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices that appear to conflict with House ethics rules. He improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant, in direct conflict with the chamber’s rules. A private company installed a television studio in his father’s home, which Gaetz uses when he appears on television. Taxpayers foot the bill to rent the television camera, and the private company that built the studio takes a fee each time he appears on air. It is unclear how much it cost the private company to construct the studio. This may run afoul of the House gift rule, which prohibits a lawmaker from accepting gifts worth more than $50. The official definition of a gift is broad and covers virtually any good or service with monetary value.

Michael Cohen to Be Released from Prison After Judge Sides with Claims of Retaliation
Washington Post – Shayna Jacobs | Published: 7/23/2020

A judge ordered the release from prison of President Trump’s former personal lawyer, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election. Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled. “I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” Hellerstein said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”

Pandemic Lobbying Tops K Street Agenda, but Spending Dips
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/21/2020

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a whirl of K Street activity during the first half of the year, but nine of the top 10 biggest spenders reported a decrease in their lobbying tabs during the second quarter, indicating a turbulent business environment in the months ahead. The pandemic has disrupted the K Street economy, as it has the rest of the nation’s businesses, thrusting most lobbyists into an all-virtual workspace and creating volatility as the November elections draw closer.

Senators Request Ethics Probe After Ivanka Trump’s Goya Endorsement
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 7/21/2020

Days after Ivanka Trump created an uproar for endorsing Goya Foods after its chief executive officer praised her father, a pair of U.S. senators want an investigation into whether she violated federal ethics rules. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics inquiring about possible disciplinary action for Ivanka Trump, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House. “The timing of her remarks creates the appearance, at least, that praise for Trump Administration officials may elicit later endorsements from these same officials,” according to the senators’ letter.

Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2020

As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the U.S. House and Senate. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems, and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which President Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”

Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts
MSN – Katie Rogers and Peter Baker (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

President Trump directed the federal government not to count undocumented immigrants when allocating U.S. House districts, a move that critics called a transparent political ploy to help Republicans in violation of the Constitution. The president’s directive would exclude millions of people when determining how many House seats each state should have based on the once-a-decade census, reversing the longstanding policy of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status. The effect would likely shift several seats from Democratic states to Republican states.

Trump’s Request of an Ambassador: Get the British Open for me
MSN – Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

In 2018, President Trump allegedly pressured the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson, to ask the United Kingdom government to relocate the lucrative British Open golf tournament to the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. While the ambassador’s deputy warned Johnson such a request would be an ethical violation, Johnson reportedly felt pressured to go forward with it. As president, Trump is immune from a federal statute making conflicts-of-interest involving “government matters that will affect your own personal financial interest” a crime. He is beholden to the emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibiting federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. As recently as 2017, Turnberry posted a seven-figure loss.

Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts
Hartford Courant – Kate Conger (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

Twitter said it had removed thousands of accounts that spread messages about the conspiracy theories known as QAnon, saying their messages could lead to harm and violated company policy. Twitter said it would also block trends related to the loose network of QAnon conspiracy theories from appearing in its trending topics and search and would not allow users to post links affiliated with the theories on its platform. The QAnon theories stem from an anonymous person or group of people who use the name “Q” and claim to have access to government secrets that reveal a plot against President Trump and his supporters. That supposedly classified information was initially posted on message boards before spreading to mainstream internet platforms and has led to significant online harassment as well as physical violence.

Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management
AP News – Richard Lardner | Published: 7/16/2020

Seema Verma, the head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, failed to properly manage more than $6 million in communications and outreach contracts, giving broad authority over federal employees to a Republican media strategist she worked with before joining the Trump administration, a government watchdog said. The contracts were for strategic communications services, such as public engagement and interacting with the media. But the inspector general said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services used them as personal services contracts and exerted a level of control over the contractors’ work that exceeded what is allowed under that type of a federal award.

Canada

Canada How Washington Works: Inside an annual field trip for Canada’s senior bureaucrats
Maclean’s – Nick Taylor-Vaisey | Published: 7/21/2020

“How Washington Works” is a course offered by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), a training ground for that country’s federal employees that aims to “provide a broad range of learning opportunities and to establish a culture of learning.” The CSPS has for years sent senior executives south of the border. Until a few years ago, the course was conducted mostly within the confines of the Canadian embassy. But that all changed in 2015, when Maryscott Greenwood, a frequent guest speaker at the event took on a new role as facilitator. Greenwood heads up the Canadian American Business Council, an influential lobby group backed by some of the biggest corporations with cross-border business.

Canada WE Organization Under Scrutiny for Not Registering as Lobbyist Before Pitching Proposals to Trudeau Liberals
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 7/17/2020

The WE organization is coming under new scrutiny over questions as to whether it should have officially registered to lobby the federal government before it pitched two separate programs to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government last April. WE is not listed in the federal lobbying registry. Conservative members of Parliament wrote the federal commissioner of lobbying, Nancy Bélanger, asking her to investigate if WE had possibly broken the Lobbying Act.

From the States and Municipalities

California George Esparza, Ex-Aide to LA Councilman Jose Huizar, Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 7/22/2020

A former aide to now-suspended Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge arising from a purported City Hall corruption scheme in which real estate developers paid bribes to ensure building projects received favored treatment. From 2013 to 2018, Esparza worked as a special assistant to Huizar, who chaired the Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Prosecutors say Esparza and Huizar took bribes from the head of a major Chinese real estate company, who paid more than $1 million in exchange for Huizar’s support for a 77-story skyscraper the company wanted to build.

Colorado Hickenlooper’s Ethics Defense Costs Taxpayers More Than $133,000
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 7/18/2020

Taxpayers spent $133,438 covering the cost of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s defense attorney in the 18 months before he was found to have violated the state’s ban on gifts to public officials. The legal costs have raised eyebrows because they were paid with leftover money from a 2003 federal fund. The fund was supposed to be for essential government services and federal mandates, but Hickenlooper and his predecessor used the money for a wide range of discretionary spending.

Florida Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey’s Business Paid Thousands by County Contractor
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 7/22/2020

Since 2016, a business owned by Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey has been paid as much as $88,000 by an engineering firm that contracts with the county. But VanderLey did not disclose that until recently, after The Orlando Sentinel sent her questions about her income from the company and the accuracy of her public financial disclosures. VanderLey acknowledged she had made mistakes on her state- and county-mandated financial disclosure forms, which are meant to help voters understand their elected officials’ potential conflicts-of-interest. VanderLey called it a “clerical error.” County commissioners and other public officers are generally barred by state law from voting on any matter that would uniquely benefit them financially.

Florida Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 7/18/2020

A Democratic super PAC and other groups agreed to drop their voting lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party on the eve of a federal trial. The groups pushed to change Florida voting laws due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there were signs the lawsuit was in trouble. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in June refused to order changes right away, including a request that taxpayers cover postage costs for mail-in ballots. The decision to end most or all of the legal battle is another win for Republicans in a key battleground state that could make or break President Trump’s reelection effort.

Florida Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on Florida’s fight over felon voting, choosing not to overturn a lower court’s decision to keep hundreds of thousands of poor felons from joining the voter rolls ahead of this year’s elections. The decision, which was not accompanied by a written ruling, means felons who cannot afford to pay off all court fines, fees, and restitution to victims are still unable to register to vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the fight against allowing poor felons to vote, after nearly 65 percent of Floridians approved Amendment 4 in 2018. The amendment overturned Florida’s Jim Crow-era law meant to keep Blacks from voting.

Illinois Federal Investigation Draws Closer to Madigan as ComEd Will Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme; Pritzker Says Speaker Must Resign If Allegations True
Chicago Tribune – Dan Hinkel, Rick Pierson, Alice Yin, Megan Crepeau, and Annie Sweeney | Published: 7/18/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) settled a federal criminal investigation into a years-long bribery scheme in Illinois. According to the deferred prosecution, the company is charged with one count of bribery. As long as it pays a $200 million fine and complies with regulations for three years, that charge will be dropped. ComEd admits it arranged jobs, subcontracts, and pay-offs for associates of “a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois.” Prosecutors in a criminal filing say that elected official is House Speaker Michael Madigan. Prosecutors put a value of $150 million on the legislative benefits ComEd received.

Iowa Iowa GOP Congressional Candidate Apologizes for Plagiarism, Cuts Ties with Consulting Firm
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 7/22/2020

Iowa congressional candidate Ashley Hinson apologized for plagiarism her opinion pieces and website and cut ties with a consulting firm she said was responsible. The New York Times reported Hinson, a former television news reporter and state representative, plagiarized passages from news outlets including The Times. Hinson repeated the passages word for word in op-eds and on her campaign site without giving credit to the original sources. She also used near-identical language as her opponent, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, used in her platform on veterans issues.

Kentucky Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign
Louisville Courier-Journal – Deborah Yetter | Published: 7/16/2020

Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairperson and the father of former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for campaign finance violations related to his daughter’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Lundergan was convicted last year with Dale Emmons for being part of a scheme to funnel more than $200,000 in illegal campaign donations to the campaign in which Grimes ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Kentucky Well-Connected Unemployment Director Quietly Fired Amid Crisis
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Eleanor Klibanoff and Jared Bennett | Published: 7/20/2020

Muncie McNamara, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance, was quietly fired on May 5 amid an unprecedented number of jobless claims, a race to overhaul an archaic computer system, and a belatedly reported data breach. McNamara had been on the job only four months. The lawyer had no experience with unemployment systems or state government before taking the job. But what he did have was connections. He volunteered for and donated to Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign. His wife, a recent chairperson of the Nelson County Democratic Party, considers Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman “a good friend.” Coleman called McNamara to offer him the job personally, he said. McNamara was paid $15,000 more than his predecessor, a career official who the cabinet kept on staff as a special assistant.

Maryland Political Operative Used Maryland’s DC Lobbyist in Seeking $12.5M Coronavirus Supplies Contract That Went Sour
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 7/16/2020

A company that failed to deliver millions of dollars’ worth of masks and ventilators to Maryland landed the contested deal with the help of a political connection, documents indicate. An adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan helped Blue Flame Medical get its foot in the door with state purchasing agents. The company was founded in March by two Republican political operatives with no medical experience as the coronavirus swept across the country. Tiffany Waddell, Hogan’s director of federal relations, sent an email introducing Blue Flame Medical co-founder Mike Gula to Ellington Churchill, the state’s secretary of the Department of General Services.

Michigan Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Charged with Misconduct in Office, a Felony
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 7/17/2020

The Monroe County prosecutor charged Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland with misconduct in office. The felony charge comes a month before Leland was scheduled to go to trial in federal court on three counts of bribery for allegedly demanding $15,000 from Bob Carmack to help the businessperson in a dispute with the city. The misconduct in office charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000, indicates Leland’s fate will be decided in state court rather than U.S. District Court. There are several reasons Leland may prefer to resolve the case in state court.

Montana GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 7/21/2020

A primary election contest led to potential fines for the state auditor candidate who won and another Republican candidate. Montana Commissioner of Political Practice Jeff Mangan said the winning candidate, Troy Downing, had seven violations while another candidate who lost, Scott Tuxbury, had one violation. Downing failed to provide opposing candidates with copies of a campaign direct mail promotion and a television advertisement that mentioned them and were used within 10 days of the primary election. Mangan said Tuxbury failed to disclose details of a $79,000 in-kind contribution to his campaign.

New Mexico Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work
New Mexico Political Report – Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 7/17/2020

As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District heated up in May, two mysterious groups began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive advertisements about Leger Fernandez but did not disclose who paid for them. Other candidates condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads. But a review of FEC filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race, Valerie Plame, the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign. It is not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups do not disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.

New York NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office
Adirondack Daily Enterprise – Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 7/22/2020

A month after resigning as New York Senate Republican leader, John Flanagan is holding on to his campaign fund, which contains $376,018. Flanagan’s campaign account, though substantial, is dwarfed by the $1.3 million held former state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who retired from the Legislature at the end of 2018. While neither Flanagan or DeFrancisco has plans to seek office again, state allows former office holders to keep their campaign funds active, though good government groups have pushed for years for a requirement that they be dissolved anywhere from six to 18 months after they leave office. The law only requires the fund be dissolved when the person who held or is holding office dies, said John Conklin of the state Board of Elections.

New York Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/16/2020

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is accusing President Trump’s lawyers of deliberately stalling a legal battle over a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax records. During a court hearing held one week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s most sweeping arguments against the grand jury subpoena, an attorney from District Attorney Cy Vance’s office said it was evident Trump’s legal team was playing for time. The president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, did not respond directly to that claim but said there were strong indications that Vance’s investigation was a political errand on behalf of Democratic lawmakers in Washington seeking the same set of records.

North Dakota ND GOP Fined $8,000 for Campaign Finance Violation
Grand Forks Herald – Barry Amundson | Published: 7/18/2020

The North Dakota Republican Party was fined $8,000 by the FEC for failing to report a major campaign contribution within the required timeframe during the 2016 election. Nick Hacker, who was treasurer of the party in October 2016 when the reporting violation was made, said a staff member for the party did not make the corrected report within the 30 days required. Instead, he said, it was corrected within 45 days.

Ohio Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 Others Charged in $60M Bribery Case Tied to Bailout of Akron’s Energy Harbor
Akron Beacon Journal – USA Today Network Ohio | Published: 7/21/2020

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were arrested in a federal corruption investigation connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of the state’s two nuclear power plants. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme that had “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” Householder, chief political aide Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyists Matt Borges, Neil Clark, and Juan Cespedes used the bribe money to expand the speaker’s political power and enrich themselves by millions of dollars through “dark-money” groups and bank accounts.

Texas If Texas Capitol Remains Closed, Lobbyists Say Special Interests Will Thrive Away from Public View
KXAN – John Enger | Published: 7/20/2020

Legislation is debated and voted on inside the Texas Capitol in Austin every other year. But it is two blocks down the road where much of the action takes place. At the corner of Ninth Street and Congress Avenue, buildings house dozens of lobbyists who welcome lawmakers to discuss their clients’ policy and financial goals. With the state’s biennial legislative session approaching, and the Capitol still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, some lobbyists say special interests could have an even greater role in the coming year.

Texas Oil-and-Gas Money Flows to Railroad Commission Nominee Who Pledged to Recuse Himself
Austin American Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 7/16/2020

In March, when James Wright, with little money in his campaign account, remained an obscure Republican primary challenger to a sitting Texas oil-and-gas regulator, he pledged to recuse himself from matters involving campaign donors. But campaign finance reports show that after Wright’s out-of-nowhere upset primary victory, hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests flowed his way. Wright qualified his earlier pledge, saying should he be elected in November to the Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil-and-gas industry, he would recuse himself only on matters that involved donors who give money directly ahead of a commission vote.

Virginia A Politician’s Return of a $10,000 Donation Was Never Cashed. The Transit Union Says It Lost the Check.
Washington Post – Patricia Sullivan | Published: 7/23/2020

The $10,000 donation that cost former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMTA) board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said. Dorsey, an Arlington County Board member, who served as one of WMTA’s appointed leaders until February, lost that unpaid job over his failure to disclose the union contribution within 10 days, as the board’s ethics policy requires.

Washington DC Trump Attended a Fundraiser Without a Mask. The City Sent an Investigator to Inspect His Hotel.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Julie Zauzma | Published: 7/22/2020

The president’s recent maskless appearance at his Trump International Hotel, in apparent defiance of District of Columbia coronavirus regulations, caught the attention of local authorities, who inspected the hotel to check for compliance with city rules. The investigator found no violations at the time of the visit, but the agency pledged to continue monitoring the hotel. President Trump did not wear a mask while greeting Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn at his downtown Washington hotel, according to video of their interaction. Nor did multiple guests standing near one another in the lobby, the video shows.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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