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.

August 7, 2020 •

Governor Allows Counties to Hold All-Mail Election in November

Hand dropping ballot

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail. If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9. Return postage will be provided. Voters […]

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail.

If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9.

Return postage will be provided.

Voters will still be able to vote in-person if they choose.

Gov. Bullock allowed counties to hold a mail-in ballot primary election in June.

Ultimately, all 56 counties used mail ballots for the primary, which had record turnout.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

August 7, 2020 •

Legislature to Return to Address Governor’s Vetoes

Mississippi Capitol

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

The Mississippi Legislature plans to reconvene its session on August 10. The legislature’s return will focus on the recent vetoes by Gov. Tate Reeves, as well as legislation concerning the Department of Marine Resources and education budgets.

The Mississippi Legislature plans to reconvene its session on August 10.

The legislature’s return will focus on the recent vetoes by Gov. Tate Reeves, as well as legislation concerning the Department of Marine Resources and education budgets.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

August 7, 2020 •

Georgia Special Election Announced to Fill Vacant Seat

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis. The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, […]

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis.

The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, if necessary.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

August 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020 Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the […]

National/Federal

As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020

Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing President Trump describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.” As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. Through mailers and Facebook ads, they are racing to promote absentee balloting among their own.

Biden Faces Pressure from Left Over Influence Industry Ties
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Glenn Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2020

Advisers, operatives, fundraisers, and allies involved with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have deep connections to Washington, D.C.’s lucrative lobbying, communications, and strategic consulting industry. That puts Biden at odds with powerful elements of his party’s liberal base. Increasingly, they are expressing concern the military contractors, Wall Street banks, and other major corporations that paid members of the former vice president’s inner circle while they were out of government could hold disproportionate power in a Biden administration. Politically, it could limit Biden’s ability to cast himself as the antidote to the access peddling that has proliferated in President Trump’s administration.

Corporate Lobbyists Vote to Keep Corporate Lobbyists in the DNC
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/5/2020

A resolution that would have changed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) charter to permanently bar corporate PAC donations and ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the party organization was rejected by the DNC’s Rules Committee. Several of the committee appointees who voted against the resolution have backgrounds in corporate lobbying. At least ten current corporate lobbyists and one major former lobbyist – as well as three corporate consultants, four corporate lawyers, and five corporate executives – were among the members who voted against the proposal. Brent Welder, who introduced the resolution, said he was approached by the Biden campaign and pressured to withdraw the measure.

Demeaned, Overlooked, Fighting Back: What it’s like to be a woman in Congress
Roll Call – Kathryn Lyons | Published: 8/5/2020

When U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark first came to Congress in 2013, someone manning the House chamber tried to stop her from setting foot inside. They did not recognize her. The second time it happened, she was not even all that new. “I was walking in with a male colleague; they just looked at us together, assumed we were a couple, and he was the congressman and that I was a spouse going onto the floor when it wasn’t permitted,” the Massachusetts Democrat recalls. Clark is one of several congresswomen The Hill spoke to in recent weeks, after a vulgar comment by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho on the Capitol steps in July touched off a new round of questions about exactly how far women have come.

DHS Compiled ‘Intelligence Reports’ on Journalists Who Published Leaked Documents
MSN – Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 7/30/2020

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis disseminated intelligence reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists, a reporter for The New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about department operations in Portland. Such reports are traditionally used for sharing the department’s analysis with federal law enforcement, state and local officials, and some foreign governments. They are not intended to disseminate information about American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment, officials said.

Facebook’s Fact Checkers Have Ruled Claims in Trump Ads Are False – But No One Is Telling Facebook’s Users
Anchorage Daily News – Craig Timberg and Andrew Ba Tran (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2020

Judgements on the veracity of President Trump’s campaign ads by fact checking organizations that are part of Facebook’s independent network for policing falsehoods on the platform were not shared with Facebook’s users. That is because the company specifically exempts politicians from its rules against deception. Ads containing the falsehoods continue to run freely on the Facebook, without any kind of warning or label. When Facebook’s fact checkers deem non-political ads false, the company removes them from its platform, though they remain in the publicly available Ad Library for research purposes. In the case of the Trump ads, the only public presentation of the factcheckers’ conclusions have been on their own websites.

FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid
KSL – Dennis Romboy | Published: 8/3/2020

Convicted businessperson Jeremy Johnson agreed to not challenge allegations he made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Johnson used straw donors to give $50,000 to Lee’s Senate campaign and $20,000 to Reid’s reelection campaign in the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to a consent judgement. The FEC, which filed a civil complaint against Johnson in 2015, fined him $840,000. But recognizing Johnson owes the federal government millions of dollars in connection with other cases and is limited in earning a living, the FEC agreed to forgo the penalty. Johnson agreed not to contest a list of allegations describing how he came to make the campaign contributions, several of which involve former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.

Fresno Congressman TJ Cox Used His Office to Skirt Yosemite’s Lottery for Car Passes, Emails Show
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 8/4/2020

U.S. Rep. TJ Cox tried to bypass Yosemite National Park’s lottery for vehicle permits over a holiday weekend, and when he was not selected, he used his office to push the National Park Service to grant him tickets, according to internal National Park Service emails. Cox requested, and eventually received, tickets for two cars to enter Yosemite on July 4. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, who heads the House Western Caucus, is asking the Department of the Interior to provide evidence that Cox was at Yosemite in an official capacity and not for personal reasons.

Full Appeals Court Agrees to Wade into Michael Flynn Case
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 7/31/2020

The entire Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court is stepping into the legal dispute over former national security adviser Michael Flynn as it weighs whether a judge can be forced to dismiss a case the U.S. Justice Department no longer wants to pursue. The action by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacates a decision from a three-judge panel that ordered the case dropped. The move also prolongs the fight over Flynn’s fate and represents one more dramatic development in a case that has taken unexpected twists and turns over the past year. The court did not offer an explanation for its decision in a brief order but did say “the parties should be prepared to address whether there are ‘no other adequate means to attain the relief’ desired.”

House Committee Subpoenas 4 Top Pompeo Aides
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/3/2020

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Eliot Engel subpoenaed four senior aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of resisting interviews in an investigation of President Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Engel issued the subpoenas to Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String, and senior adviser Toni Porter. The subpoenas are an escalation in the committee’s confrontation with the State Department, which has resisted repeated oversight attempts by the committee since Democrats’ impeachment investigation last year.

How the Trump Campaign Came to Court QAnon, the Online Conspiracy Movement Identified by the FBI as a Violent Threat
Philadelphia Inquirer – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2020

President Trump and his campaign have courted and legitimized QAnon adherents. The viral online movement, which took root on Internet message boards with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider identified as “Q,” has triggered violent acts and occasional criminal cases. Its effects were catalogued last year in an FBI intelligence bulletin listing QAnon among the “anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories” that “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.” As the worldview took shape online, its followers flocked to Trump rallies with QAnon apparel and placards. Recently, as the election has drawn closer, actions by the president and his associates have brought them more directly into the fold.

‘If Not Now, When?’: Black women seize political spotlight
Associated Press News – Claire Galofaro and Kat Stafford | Published: 8/3/2020

Black women have long been the heart of the Democratic Party, but for decades that allegiance did not translate to their own political rise. There have been no Black female governors, just two U.S. senators, and several dozen congresswomen. The people representing them instead have not met their needs: disparities in education and opportunity resulted in Black women making on average 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Now Black women are mobilized and demanding a return on their investment. Over the last several years, Black women ran and won elections in historic numbers, from Congress to county school boards. This transformation is taking place in once unlikely places, such as suburban counties in the South.

Kobach and Clay Go Down: Takeaways from a big primary night
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 8/5/2020

Republicans went into the August 4 primaries with problems lurking all over the ballot, but they ended the night thanking their voters for cleaning up a potential mess. Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas in more than 80 years, but Kris Kobach as the GOP nominee threatened to make the state an improbable toss-up. Instead, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall won the primary, giving the GOP a much more electable candidate to go up against a strong Democratic recruit. Meanwhile, Democrat Cori Bush’s primary win over U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay in St. Louis signaled the battle between the Democratic establishment and liberal outsiders has reached a new level: one in which even popular, progressive Black leaders are not immune from challenge.

Misuse of Taxpayer Funds Leads Ethics Committee to Reprimand and Fine Rep. Schweikert
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/30/2020

The House Committee on Ethics ordered that U.S. Rep. David Schweikert be fined $50,000 and reprimanded on the House floor for violating federal law and chamber rules by allowing his office to misuse taxpayer money, skirting FEC reporting requirements, using campaign money for personal use, and pressuring his staff to engage in campaign work. The ethics investigative subcommittee, which looked into Schweikert, decided to recommend a reprimand, a lesser sanction than censure, largely because he accepted responsibility and agreed to pay the fine.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Allegedly Misused More Than $90,000 in Campaign and Official Funds
Politico – John Bresnahan | Published: 7/31/2020

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia allegedly spent more than $90,000 in official funds and campaign money on personal expenses, including “fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment,” according to the Office of Congressional Ethics. (OCE). The agency said much of the total went to paying expenses at golf clubs where Bishop is a member. More than $16,000 in congressional funds were reportedly spent at annual holiday parties at one club for the staffs of Bishop and his wife, Vivian Creighton Bishop, a Georgia municipal judge. The OCE recommended the House ethics committee launch a full-scale investigation into Bishop.

Republicans Consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s Convention Speech
Washington Post – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/4/2020

Republican National Convention planners are considering the White House South Lawn as the site of President Trump’s nationally televised nomination acceptance speech. The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events. Under federal law, government employees and property are generally barred from being used for political purposes, with notable exceptions. The Hatch Act, which prevents federal officials from certain forms of political activity at work, exempts both the president and the vice president from any restrictions.

Trump’s Campaign in Crisis as Aides Attempt August Reset Before Time Runs Out
MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2020

Signs that President Trump’s reelection bid is in crisis grew steadily in recent days, one of the most tumultuous moments of a presidency increasingly operating with an air of desperation. Campaign officials pulled television ads off the air amid a late-stage review of strategy and messaging. At the same time, Trump publicly mused about delaying the November election, airing widely debunked allegations about fraud. As the campaign aims to mount a more aggressive defense of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president has reverted to touting unproven miracle cures and attacking public health officials. With Trump unable to hold traditional rallies and his central economic message no longer relevant, campaign officials are scrambling to assemble a fresh case for his candidacy on the fly.

Vaccine Project Contract Raises Transparency Questions
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 7/31/2020

The Trump administration is hiring consultants with drug industry ties to steer its effort to find a coronavirus vaccine under a contract that allows them to avoid disclosing potential conflicts-of-interest. The arrangement, which is covered through a contract for “Operation Warp Speed,” raises more questions about the transparency of the pandemic response and the roles of outside contractors, including top coronavirus vaccine adviser Moncef Slaoui, who are helping steer the government’s $10 billion development program. Democrats have raised persistent questions about why the Trump administration brought in Slaoui as a contractor and not as a special government employee, which would open him up to additional disclosures and ethics requirements.

Canada

Canada Trudeau Defends Work on Contract Now Engulfing His Government
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/30/2020

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aired regrets as he was criticized over a program that has him tangled in his third self-inflicted ethics controversy. The prime minister defended himself before a parliamentary committee over a sole-source contract his government awarded to a powerful charity with close ties to his family. The problems for Trudeau erupted after the contract was signed with WE Charity to administer a student grant program that is part of Canada’s coronavirus pandemic response. Trudeau has already been found guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws since becoming minister twice before and the latest ruckus kicked off a probe by the ethics commissioner, an investigation that encompasses his finance minister and spurred calls for his resignation.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Politician Resigns as a Southern Baptist Pastor After KKK Leader’s Birthday Celebration
Washington Post – Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Published: 7/30/2020

Alabama Rep. Will Dismukes said he has no plans to resign from his legislative seat amid national calls for him to step down after he attended a private celebration of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He did resign from his job as a Southern Baptist pastor of a rural church. The national uproar began after Dismukes posted on Facebook he took part in a celebration of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest the same weekend as ceremonies honoring the life of civil rights leader and member of Congress John Lewis in Alabama. Lewis led protesters in a 1965 March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

California Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K
gvwire.com – David Taub | Published: 8/4/2020

The days of unlimited campaign contributions for candidates running for Fresno County offices are over. The board of supervisors approved a limit of $30,000 per election cycle. The cap not only applies to individual donors but also to PACs. State legislators last year passed Assembly Bill 571, requiring counties and cities to set political contribution limits if none had been there before. If a jurisdiction fails to set limits by the January 1 deadline, maximum contributions revert to the caps for state legislative candidates of $4,700 in an election cycle.

California Charges Added to LA City Councilman in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 7/30/2020

A federal grand jury added 34 additional criminal charges against Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing corruption probe into a massive “pay-to-play” developer scheme. Huizar was arrested and charged in June with federal racketeering according to a criminal complaint that detailed bribes paid to the council member for favorable votes on committees he sat on that would allow for developer projects to be built in his district. Cash bribes were delivered to Huizar in liquor boxes, while $800,000 from an unnamed wealthy developer was used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for Huizar with a former aide in his council office.

Florida Ethics Referendum on Ballot in Naples Could Create New Ethics Commission, Office
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carloni | Published: 8/4/2020

Voters in the city of Naples, Florida, will decide on possible changes to the city’s ethics procedure. A referendum on the August ballot allows voters to say yes or no to amending the city charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for the city’s ethics code. The current code has weaknesses, said Councilperson Ray Christman. “The city doesn’t even have a designated chief ethics officer,” Christman said. “There’s nobody in the city designated on point and responsible for fielding ethics complaints.”

Florida Florida Commission on Ethics Lifts NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Off the Hook
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/29/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause” to believe National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer did not adhere to state lobbyist registration requirements, and it also dismissed a second allegation that she failed to properly file lobbyist compensation reports. The decision marks the second time Hammer has been cleared of wrongdoing despite failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to her from the NRA dating to at least 2007 on quarterly lobbyist compensation reports required by the Legislature.

Hawaii Alleged Oahu Crime Boss’ Nightclub Was a Popular Place for Political Fundraisers
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Nick Grube | Published: 7/30/2020

For years, the M Nightclub, owned and operated in Honolulu by alleged organized crime boss Michael Miske, was known as a den of debauchery and violence. A recent indictment that accuses Miske and his associates of a series of crimes, including murder, murder-for-hire, armed robbery, and the deployment of potentially deadly pesticides on their dance club patrons, only adds to the reputation. Yet in recent years, before the nightclub was closed down, records show some of Hawaii’s most recognizable politicians – including Gov. David Ige, state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, and former Honolulu City Councilperson Trevor Ozawa – used the club to hold lucrative political fundraisers.

Idaho Supreme Court Halts Idaho Online Signatures for Initiative
Jacksonville Journal Courier – Keith Ridler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/30/2020

The U.S Supreme Court ruled an Idaho group must stop collecting online signatures for an education funding initiative for the November ballot. The court ruled in favor of Gov. Brad Little’s request that a District Court’s order allowing online signatures be stayed until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a ruling. Arguments before that court are scheduled for the middle of August in the expedited case. Reclaim Idaho had argued Little’s statewide stay-at-home order in March because of the pandemic did not include exceptions for ballot initiative signature-gathering. Idaho does not allow online signatures for ballot initiatives. The state has argued in court documents that it undermines the election process.

Illinois ComEd Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Bribery Case; Prosecution to Be Deferred for Three Years
Chicago Tribune – Megan Crispeau and Jason Meisner | Published: 8/5/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) pleaded not guilty to an expansive federal bribery charge during what will likely be its final court hearing until 2023. The plea was a formality since the company has entered an agreement to defer prosecution. ComEd will pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate in the ongoing probe of its lobbying practices in Springfield in exchange for the charges being dropped at the end of the agreement period. But while the charges against ComEd will likely sink into the background after the arraignment, the case is far from over. In announcing the case, U.S. Attorney John Lausch said the investigation is “vibrant, and it will continue.”

Louisiana Judges Disqualify Brian Pope from Running for Lafayette City Marshal
New Orleans Advocate – Kate Gagliano | Published: 8/4/2020

Two judges disqualified suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope from running for re-election. In one hearing, the Louisiana Board of Ethics argued Pope signed an affidavit when he filed his candidacy form and attested that he did not have any outstanding fines owed to the board. The ethics agency said he currently owes $5,000 in fines and late fees and had been mailed several notice letters about the outstanding balances. In the second hearing, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Landry argued Pope is not qualified to run for re-election because he is barred from registering to vote due to his felony convictions. Status as a registered voter is required to qualify as a candidate. Pope was suspended without pay in 2018 when he was convicted of several felony counts of malfeasance.

Maryland Judge Sentences Former Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn to 2 Years, Says She ‘Sold Her Office to Pay the Bills’
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/30/2020

Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn was sentenced to two years in prison for taking bribes for legislative favors. The grand jury indictment of Glenn said she accepted five bribes during an 11-month period in 2018 and 2019 to introduce legislation favorable to people and groups giving her the money. She took $5,000 to commit to legislation that would help a business seeking a medical marijuana license, according to prosecutors. Glenn accepted another $5,000 to file a bill to lower the number of years of experience required for a medical director of an opioid clinic. Prosecutors said Glenn actively sought these payments, including telling an associate about her outstanding tax debt as a hint that someone should pay it if they wanted her help.

Michigan Ex-Chamber Attorney Challenges Mystery Funding of Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Power
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/3/2020

An attorney who spent decades advising the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is challenging a nonprofit’s use of money from undisclosed sources to back the campaign to limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers. Bob LaBrant, who helped write some of the state’s campaign finance laws, argues the Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, a group tied to Republican consultants, should have to file its own fundraising disclosures after making a series of contributions to the Unlock Michigan petition drive. Unlock Michigan is the effort to repeal a 1945 law that allows a governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without the Legislature’s input.

Michigan Michigan Senator Sponsors Bills to Help Pawn Shops, Which Support His Campaigns
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 7/30/2020

No Michigan lawmaker has sponsored more bills helpful to the pawn shop industry than state Sen. Peter Lucido. And no Michigan lawmaker has collected more campaign cash from pawn brokers, who are not ranked among the state’s major political donors than Lucido, who is now running for Macomb County prosecutor. Lucido, who in 2018 got pawn brokers what he said was their first rate increase in 100 years and this year is working on getting them a second one amid near-record unemployment resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, said there is no quid pro, only mutual respect.

Minnesota New Appointments Relieve Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Hamstrung by Vacancies
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 7/31/2020

Gov. Tim Walz named four new members to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, filling vacancies that threatened to paralyze the agency’s watchdog work in an election year. The six-member board, which investigates and responds to potential violations of state campaign finance law, was down to just two active members in July after several appointments expired without action by the governor and state legislators. Without a quorum of four members, the board was unable to meet, authorize investigations into complaints, or vote on fines and other enforcement actions, Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said.

Missouri Parson PAC Fined for Reporting Lapses Connected to Super Bowl, D.C. Trips
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 8/3/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission fined a PAC supporting Gov. Mike Parson $2,000 for reporting lapses connected to a pair of flights for the governor the group chartered. The commission said there was probable cause to believe the Uniting Missouri PAC violated state ethics laws by “failing to report the fair market value of two flights within forty-eight hours of receiving the contributions.” Uniting Missouri will only have to pay $200 if the commission does not uncover any other violations within the next two years.

Nevada Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Mail-In Election Bill
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Rory Appelton | Published: 8/4/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske over changes to the state’s general election plan passed by the Legislature. The lawsuit alleges several provisions of Assembly Bill 4, “lack clear standards to guide the actions of county and city officials administering certain parts of Nevada’s elections.” It includes many of the Republican attacks leveled against enhanced voting by mail and the collection of another’s ballot with permission of the voter, commonly referred to as ballot harvesting. Specifically, the Republicans allege compromised election integrity and increased risk of fraud.

New York Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry
MSN – David Enrich, Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2020

The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, seeking financial records he and his company provided to the bank. The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Trump. But in a recent court filing, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

Ohio Coal Giant Murray Energy Is $100K Dark Money Donor ‘Company B’ in Federal Probe
MSN – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) and Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/31/2020

Coal company and House Bill 6 supporter Murray Energy provided $100,000 in “dark money” involved in the alleged racketeering and bribery scheme that ensnared former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others. The criminal complaint states “Dark Money Group 1,” previously identified by The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer as the for-profit company Hardworking Ohioans Inc., spent nearly $1.5 million to support Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. A bankruptcy filing by Murray Energy shows the company gave $100,000 to Hardworking Ohioans amid its flurry of media buys backing Householder-blessed candidates as he angled to be elected speaker.

Ohio Meet ‘Representative 3,’ Who Benefited from Larry Householder’s Cover Campaign
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/30/2020

Following passage of Ohio House Bill 6, a group of lawmakers gathered to celebrate with Speaker Larry Householder. Among the celebrants, according to a federal criminal complaint, was “Representative 3,” whom The Columbus Dispatch has identified as state Rep. Jamie Callender of Lake County. He was one of the measure’s two sponsors. Before the vote, a media campaign financed by “dark money” urged voters to contact their representatives and tell them to support the $1 billion bailout of two nuclear plants. Callender’s district includes the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. A complaint by Secretary of State Frank LaRose accuses “Representative 3” of accepting corporate contributions and failing to deposit the money.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Backing Bipartisan Legislative Push Cracking Down on ‘Dark Money’ in Ohio Following Corruption Scandal
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/3/2020

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is joining a bipartisan call to crack down on anonymous political spending in the state, in the aftermath of the recent arrest of former House Speaker Larry Householder. A proposal by some lawmakers would require mandatory donor disclosures for all political spending in Ohio, even if a group is organized as a non-profit, which under federal law do not have to disclose their donors. They also want to require more frequent disclosures – once every other month, instead of the common practice of quarterly reports – and to give the secretary of state’s office subpoena power to force organizations to share records if they do not file them willingly.

Oregon How a Public Institute in Oregon Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry
ProPublica – Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (OPB) | Published: 8/4/2020

A media investigation found the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, created in the 1990s to educate residents about forestry, has acted as a public-relations agency and lobbying arm for the timber industry, in some cases skirting legal constraints that forbid it from doing so. The timber industry has maintained outsized influence in the state, thwarting attempts to restrict logging with the help of a decades-long public opinion campaign. Through the institute, the timber industry executed that campaign from behind the veneer of the state government.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Unlikely to Appeal Overturned $200 Violation Against Supreme Court Justice
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 7/29/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is keeping its legal options open after a judge overturned a $200 ethics violation against a state Supreme Court justice, but Executive Director Jason Gramitt said an appeal for further review is unlikely. Superior Court Judge Brian Stern vacated the commission’s ruling against Associate Justice Francis Flaherty. The violation stemmed from a 2016 complaint accusing Flaherty of repeatedly failing to disclose his leadership position in a Catholic nonprofit while also ruling on a priest abuse case. Gramitt described the decision as “narrow and limited,” meaning it would be more challenging to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal.

Tennessee Tennessee State Senator Charged with Stealing Federal Funds
Associated Press News – Adrian Sainz | Published: 7/30/2020

Tennessee Sen. Katrina Robinson was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds received by a health care company she directed and using the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses. Robinson is director of The Healthcare Institute, which provides training for jobs in the health care field. The school received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2015 through 2019, Robinson stole more than $600,000 and used it to pay for her wedding and honeymoon, a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, travel and entertainment for her family, and an event for her state Senate campaign, prosecutors said.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

August 6, 2020 •

Lawmakers Introduce The Ohio Anti-Corruption Act Bill to Amend Campaign Finance Law

Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Lawmakers have introduced identical House and Senate bills to increase transparency in corporate campaign contributions. House Bill 0739 and Senate Bill 0349, named the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, require 501(c)(4)s and limited liability companies to disclose contributions and expenditures made […]

Ohio Lawmakers have introduced identical House and Senate bills to increase transparency in corporate campaign contributions.

House Bill 0739 and Senate Bill 0349, named the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, require 501(c)(4)s and limited liability companies to disclose contributions and expenditures made to influence elections.

The bills eliminate the category of continuing association and expand the definition of “political contributing entity” to include partnerships and unincorporated business organizations or associations.

The bills also require political contributing entities to disclose the name of each officer, director, principal shareholder, partner, owner, or member of the corporation or unincorporated business.

In an effort to strengthen restrictions against foreign interests influencing Ohio elections, the bills also expand the definition of “foreign national.”

The definition will now include a corporation that is owned twenty percent or more by persons or entities from outside of the United States and a corporation that is owned five percent or more by any one person or entity from outside of the United States.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

August 6, 2020 •

Nevada Special Session Ends After Passing COVID-19 Liability Bill

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

The 32nd Special Legislative Session adjourned shortly after midnight and the final bills have gone to Gov. Steve Sisolak for his signature. Lawmakers wrapped up the state’s latest special session with a deeply divisive amendment. This amendment cuts schools and […]

The 32nd Special Legislative Session adjourned shortly after midnight and the final bills have gone to Gov. Steve Sisolak for his signature.

Lawmakers wrapped up the state’s latest special session with a deeply divisive amendment.

This amendment cuts schools and hospitals out of a bill to protect business owners from coronavirus related employee lawsuits.

Other issues were also addressed such as police reform, voting rights, more flexibility with Nevada’s unemployment benefits, alternative dispute resolution for rental evictions and a dire budget shortfall as a result of the pandemic.

Legislators appropriated $410,000 from the general fund to pay for the six day session.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

August 6, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid” by Dennis Romboy for KSL California: “Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K” by David Taub for gvwire.com Michigan: “Ex-Chamber […]

Campaign Finance

National: “FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid” by Dennis Romboy for KSL

California: “Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K” by David Taub for gvwire.com

Michigan: “Ex-Chamber Attorney Challenges Mystery Funding of Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Power” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News

Ohio: “Secretary of State Frank LaRose Backing Bipartisan Legislative Push Cracking Down on ‘Dark Money’ in Ohio Following Corruption Scandal” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Elections

National: “Kobach and Clay Go Down: Takeaways from a big primary night” by Steven Shepard for Politico

National: “Republicans Consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s Convention Speech” by Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

Nevada: “Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Mail-In Election Bill” by Rory Appelton for Las Vegas Review-Journal

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Fact Checkers Have Ruled Claims in Trump Ads Are False – But No One Is Telling Facebook’s Users” by Craig Timberg and Andrew Ba Tran for Washington Post

National: “Demeaned, Overlooked, Fighting Back: What it’s like to be a woman in Congress” by Kathryn Lyons for Roll Call

Illinois: “ComEd Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Bribery Case; Prosecution to Be Deferred for Three Years” by Megan Crispeau and Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

Lobbying

Oregon: “How a Public Institute in Oregon Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry” by Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (OPB) for ProPublica

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

August 5, 2020 •

Idaho Governor to Call Special Session Amid Pandemic

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Gov. Brad Little stated Wednesday he will call the part-time Legislature back into a special session during the week of August 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The special session could include how to conduct the November general election amid […]

Gov. Brad Little stated Wednesday he will call the part-time Legislature back into a special session during the week of August 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The special session could include how to conduct the November general election amid the pandemic.

Also a topic of discussion is legislation creating a liability shield for protection against lawsuits during declared emergencies such as the pandemic.

How a special session would work during the pandemic and how much it would cost is unclear.

Lawmakers would have to be in the Statehouse in Boise for their votes to count.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close
Back to all posts