July 26, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 26, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Appeals Court Judges Send Emoluments Suit Against Trump Back to a Lower Court
New York Times – Sharon LaFraniere | Published: 7/19/2019

A federal appeals court delivered a setback to a lawsuit by congressional Democrats accusing President Trump of illegally benefiting from his business interests while in office, saying a lower court judge hearing the suit had not adequately considered questions about the separation of powers between the president and Congress. The order by a three-judge panel is a new sign that Trump will not be forced to produce evidence in lawsuits claiming he has violated the anticorruption clauses of the Constitution until the novel legal questions raised in those cases are resolved. The clauses restrict the ability of federal official to accept benefits, or “emoluments,” from foreign or state governments.

As Vice President, Biden Said Ukraine Should Increase Gas Production. Then His Son Got a Job with a Ukrainian Gas Company.
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Kranish and David Stern (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2019

As Joe Biden announced he was seeking the presidency, his son Hunter quietly left his position with Ukraine’s largest private gas company after serving for five years. From the moment Hunter Biden took the job in 2014, Republicans have said it presented a conflict-of-interest for the Bidens. Joe Biden, then the vice president, was the point person on Ukraine policy in the Obama administration. He offered U.S. aid to Ukraine to increase gas production, which could benefit the Ukrainian energy industry. Now Hunter Biden’s service on the board of Burisma Holdings has emerged as an issue facing his father’s campaign. Just as Trump has faced repeated questions about whether his family has sought to benefit financially from his presidency, a similar focus is being given to Hunter Biden’s dealings.

Associate of Michael Flynn Is Found Guilty of Secretly Lobbying for Turkey
MSN – Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 7/23/2019

A business associate of the former national security adviser Michael Flynn was convicted of secretly lobbying for Turkey, a victory for the government after the judge considered dismissing the case because prosecutors lacked evidence. Judge Anthony Trenga had described the evidence against Flynn’s associate, Bijan Kian, as speculative and very circumstantial but let the case go to the jury. Trenga could still toss the verdict and scheduled a September hearing on the matter. Kian was charged with conspiracy to violate lobbying laws and failure to register as a foreign agent. Flynn’s association with the case was front and center during the trial. He pleaded guilty in a separate case to lying the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and lying on foreign lobbying disclosure forms related to his own work for Turkey.

Big Donor Steyer’s Presidential Run Could Deny Millions to Other Democratic Races
Reuters – Sharon Bernstein | Published: 7/18/2019

Billionaire Tom Steyer, a longtime friend and key donor to liberal candidates and causes, says he decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination next year because no other candidate was offering a “mandate for change.” But by deciding to fund his longshot bid with $100 million of his own money, some Democratic activists believe all he will end up doing is denying his money to grassroots organizations and candidates in Senate and House races that Democrats are desperate to win. “Every dollar he spends on himself is a dollar that’s not going into something that can make a difference,” said consultant Steven Maviglio, who worked with Steyer in 2010 to defeat a ballot measure aimed at weakening California’s greenhouse gas emissions law.

Dem Frontrunners Cash in on Slippery Definition of Lobbying
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/19/2019

While a few Democratic presidential candidates have said they will not accept contributions from K Street lobbyists, the Lobbyist Disclosure Act makes that pledge difficult to enforce. Some on K Street were able to donate because they are not registered to lobby, a legal requirement for people who meet criteria such as devoting at least 20 percent of the total time they spend working for each client to lobbying. People who oversee teams of lobbyists or work on corporate advocacy campaigns often do not meet that definition. Others have found it is easy to stay below the 20 percent threshold since they can quickly text or email the lawmakers they hope to influence.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Divided Over Returning Donations from Foreign Government Lobbyists
San Jose Mercury News – Casey Tolan | Published: 7/25/2019

From K Street lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia and Qatar to a radio operator broadcasting a Russian state-run news channel, Americans working on behalf of foreign governments have sent the Democratic presidential candidates tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. As the donations flow in, there is a growing divide among the campaigns about whether to pocket the money or send it back. American citizens who work for a foreign government, political party, or organization in a political capacity are required to register as “foreign agents” with the Department of Justice. There is nothing illegal about them giving money to candidates. But at a time when many Democrats are increasingly worried about foreign influence in the U.S. political system, rejecting the donations is a way for the candidates to shore up their good government bona fides.

Democrats Look to Capitalize on Turmoil Inside NRA
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/23/2019

Democrats and allies are looking to capitalize on turmoil at the National Rifle Association (NRA) ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The NRA has been hit by high-profile departures and a power struggle among its leaders, leading to questions about its role in the upcoming election. The NRA has long dominated the gun control debate in the country and showered its favored candidates with coveted endorsements and funding. But with the organization in transition, Democrats see it is a prime opportunity to push back on the issue of gun violence. Groups pushing for tougher gun rules say they will ramp up their own spending in 2020, building on the midterms, which saw a number of gun control candidates elected.

Emails Show DeVos Aides Pulled Strings for Failing For-Profit Colleges
New York Times – Erica Green and Stacy Cowley | Published: 7/23/2019

Dream Center Education Holdings had no experience in higher education when it petitioned the U.S. Department of Education to let it take over a troubled chain of for-profit trade schools. The purchase was approved despite Dream Center’s lack of experience and questionable finances by an administration favorable to for-profit education. But barely a year later, the company tumbled into insolvency and dozens of its colleges closed abruptly. The college is accused of enrolling new students and taking their taxpayer-supported financial aid dollars even after some of its campuses had lost their accreditation. Company records show part of why Dream Center kept going is that it thought the Education Department would try to keep it from failing. Emails said the department’s head of higher education policy had pulled strings to help the company’s schools in their effort to regain a seal of approval from an accreditor.

EPA’s Watchdog Is Scrutinizing Ethics Practices of Agency’s Former Air Policy Chief
Anchorage Daily News – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2019

A key architect of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken federal climate rules is under scrutiny by a watchdog for his dealings with industry players who lobbied the government to ease carbon pollution limits. It is the third inquiry into whether Bill Wehrum, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air policy division from November 2017 until last month, violated federal ethics rules. The EPA’s inspector general is looking at Wehrum’s interactions with his former law firm as well as several of its clients, who rank among the nation’s major emitters of greenhouse gases linked to climate change, according to two individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Internal Email: Microsoft suspends PAC donations temporarily following employee uproar
GeekWire – Nat Levy | Published: 7/24/2019

Microsoft is temporarily halting donations through its PAC after facing a backlash from employees protesting lack of influence over which candidates and campaigns the organization supported. The employees argued MSPAC used their money to support candidates that conflicted with important company values like diversity and inclusion. In addition to shutting down contributions until the fall, MSPAC will form new employee advisory councils to increase transparency and give employees more of a voice in how the PAC contributions are spent.

Mueller Answers Trump Taunts in Testimony Unlikely to Change the Political Dynamic
MSN – Ashley Parker, Racael Bade, Josh Dawsey, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2019

Testifying before Congress, former special counsel Robert Mueller, over the course of six hours, two hearings, and in his own understated – and at times juddering – way, pushed back on the months-long public relations offensive that President Trump and his team waged to undermine Mueller and his investigators. Mueller clarified his investigation and 448-page report did not, in fact, “totally exonerate” the president – contrary to Trump’s repeated claims – nor did it say there was no obstruction. He dismissed Trump’s frequent claims that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was a “hoax,” while also rejecting the president’s charge that his investigation was a “witch hunt.” But Mueller’s turn as a reluctant and at times uncomfortable witness seemed unlikely to change the political dynamic.

Puerto Rico Governor Says He Will Resign Amid Intense Political Pressure, Sweeping Protests
MSN – Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2019

The governor of Puerto Rico announced he will resign effective August 2, amid intense pressure from inside and outside his government, after a series of leaked chat messages denigrating his opponents and Hurricane Maria victims triggered outrage from frustrated citizens who had taken to the streets for 13 consecutive days of protests. Ricardo Rosselló had defied calls for his resignation as the island descended into upheaval. He lost support from nearly everyone in his ruling statehood party, and more than a dozen members of his administration had stepped down in recent days. Profanity-laced text messages, written on  an encrypted messaging app, showed Rosselló and 11 of his closest aides using sexist and homophobic language to demean female politicians, as well as journalists and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, and make light of Hurricane Maria’s victims.

Trump Sues Lawmakers, NY Officials to Thwart Potential Release of State Tax Returns
The Hill – Jacqueline Thomsen and Naomi Jagoda | Published: 7/23/2019

President Trump sued the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the New York state attorney general, and a New York state tax official to try to block any potential efforts by lawmakers to obtain his state tax returns. This lawsuit comes on the heels of a separate complaint filed by the Ways and Means Committee seeking Trump’s federal tax returns. Trump is asking a federal judge to issue permanent injunctions blocking House Democrats from requesting his tax returns under the law, stopping the New York attorney general from enforcing the law, and preventing the New York tax and finance commissioner from providing lawmakers with the tax documents.

Watchdog Group Wants D.C. to See What the States Know About Revolving Doors
The Fulcrom – David Hawkins | Published: 7/23/2019

Public Citizen’s national study of the “revolving door” rules in all 50 states finds most are tougher or better enforced than what is on the books at the federal level. The watchdog group is among those hoping to change that, in part by shining new light on the places where it sees ethical governance promoted above special interests’ influence. The limited way that Washington restricts the flow of people from Capitol Hill and the executive agencies down to K Street (and oftentimes back again) is maddening to advocates for a more open and cleaner government and was raised to new national consciousness by Donald Trump and his “drain the swamp” campaign mantra of 2016.

Zinke Taking Clients from Industries He Oversaw at Interior Department
San Francisco Chronicle – Ari Natter and Jennifer Dlouhy (Bloomberg) | Published: 7/23/2019

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is lining up consulting clients in industries regulated by his former department at the same time he decries the ethics investigations that drove him from the Trump administration. Zinke dismissed the 15 ethics probes of his dealings atop the department as “BS.” He said his work does not run afoul of prohibitions on post-government employment. Under federal law, a waiting period blocks administration officials from lobbying their former agencies in the 12 months after they depart. Zinke’s business dealings illustrate the “revolving door” between government jobs and corporate interests, said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Canada

Canada Ontario’s Influencers: How the heads of lobbying firms have become part of Doug Ford’s inner circle
The Globe and Mail – Jim Mahoney and Karen Howlett | Published: 7/22/2019

Ontario Premier Doug Ford relies on the heads of two lobbying firms for advice, giving them access to his inner circle and influence over provincial politics through strategic direction, crisis management, and input on the recent cabinet shuffle. The close relationships have been fostered in an ethics environment that critics say allows a blurring of lines between lobbying, campaigning, and advising on government operations. Chris Froggatt and Kory Teneycke, who started government-relations firms weeks after helping the Progressive Conservative Party win the election last year, have become powerful backroom advisers to Ford at the same time as their employees lobby his administration.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Public Corruption Tough to Prove Without Smoking Gun
Arizona Capitol Times – Ben Chiles | Published: 7/19/2019

A record of investigations by the Arizona attorney general’s office under Mark Brnovich’s tenure reveals that prosecuting public corruption cases are far from simple. While Brnovich has had some success seeking charges or court rulings against elected officials at the highest levels of state government, recent probes show how nuanced filing charges can be, and how decisions about when to prosecute, or not, can hinge on quirks in statute. Without clear cut evidence – for example, videotapes in the 1991 AzScam case of Republican and Democratic lawmakers accepting payments and bribes from undercover investigators – even high-profile cases of corruption can be challenging to prove before a jury.

California FBI Raids at DWP, L.A. City Hall Related to Fallout from Billing Debacle
Los Angeles Times – Dakota Smith, David Zahniser, Alene Tchekmediyan, and Laura Nelson | Published: 7/22/2019

FBI agents fanned across the Los Angeles area recently, serving search warrants at multiple government offices, including the Department of Water and Power (DWP), as part of an investigation into how the city responded to the disastrous rollout of a new customer billing system. The FBI raid was the second to occur at City Hall in less than a year. In November, agents hauled out boxes and bags of materials from two of Councilperson Jose Huizar’s offices as well as his home. Since then, a search warrant indicated federal investigators are looking into the activities of several other city officials. An excerpt of a federal search warrant shows investigators are seeking information about DWP contracts, awarded or proposed, with companies affiliated with attorney Paul Paradis, who was retained by the city attorney’s office.

Connecticut Jon Lender: New state ethics director chosen for shrinking watchdog agency
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 7/25/2019

Peter Lewandowski was offered the position of executive director of Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics (OSE), replacing Carol Carson, who is retiring on August 1. His appointment is not yet official pending final arrangements, including his new salary. Lewandowski, the deputy general counsel at the ethics agency, will take the helm of an office that has experienced a 33% cut in staff over the past 12 years. Lewandowski worked a few years with private law firms but has spent most of his legal career working for the OSE on projects attracting little public notice. These included overhauling the agency’s regulations and serving as counsel to Carson on legislative matters. He talked often with members of the General Assembly, testified at committee hearings on bills, and sought to develop bipartisan support for the OSE’s positions.

Florida Former State Fair Authority Director Agrees to Pay $7,500 Fine to Settle Ethics Complaint
Tampa Bay Times – Tony Marrero | Published: 7/25/2019

Charles Pesano resigned as executive director of the Florida State Fair Authority in 2016 after an investigation found he funneled fair business to his family’s company and accepted Tampa Bay Rays tickets and a hot tub from fair vendors and business partners. Three years later, the episode is hitting him in the wallet. Pesano agreed to pay a $7,500 fine to the Florida Commission on Ethics to settle a complaint against him. A review by the commission found probable cause to support six of the 11 alleged violations of state law that prohibit public officials from accepting gifts and conducting business with their own agency. Pesano will also receive a public censure and reprimand if the commission approves the agreement.

Florida In Fla., a Push for a Citizen-Only Voting Law
Laredo Morning Times – Amy Gardner and Alice Crites (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2019

A network of out-of-state political consultants, secret donors, and activists with ties to President Trump is behind an effort to change the Florida Constitution to explicitly state only citizens may vote in elections, a measure that would amplify the issue of immigration in the 2020 battleground state. Organizers said they have collected nearly twice the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot next year. While federal law explicitly bars noncitizen voting, the language in the Florida Constitution, like that of many states, says “every” citizen who is 18 may vote. The proposed amendment would change the language to say “only” a citizen may vote. Supporters of the amendment said the current phrasing is vague and leaves the door open to laws allowing noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections, now permitted in about a dozen jurisdictions around the country.

Florida Kraft Infiniti TV Commercial Starring John Dailey Pulled from the Air at Mayor’s Request
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 7/19/2019

A television commercial for a Tallahassee car dealership that was recently yanked from the airwaves featured a most unusual pitchman, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey. But Dailey says he was an unwitting participant in the ad, which was shot during a June groundbreaking of the Kraft Brothers’ Infiniti dealership. Dailey said as soon as he found out about the commercial, he asked the dealership to take it down. One viewer who happened to catch it called the city’s Independent Ethics Board’s hotline to complain. That prompted a review by the ethics officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, who never saw the commercial but recommended the matter be closed without action after speaking with Dailey about it.

Illinois Chicago City Council Approves Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Ethics Package; An Empowered Inspector General, Larger Fines Among Reforms
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt | Published: 7/24/2019

The Chicago City Council unanimously approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ethics reform package. Lightfoot has argued her overwhelming win in the April mayoral election gives her a mandate to tighten the rules on aldermanic behavior that is the focus of an ongoing federal investigation at City Hall. In addition to giving Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the ability to audit the city council’s committees, the mayor’s plan also increases fines for ethics violations from the current range of $500 to $2,000 up to $1,000 to $5,000. It broadens the definition of lobbyists to include nonprofits but waives their registration fees. Only those “paid or otherwise compensated” would be required to register.

Illinois Has Your Alderman Been Indicted? New Website Highlights the History of Corruption in City Hall – And Hopes You’ll Hold New Leaders Accountable
Block Club Chicago – Alex Hernandez | Published: 7/25/2019

Before this spring’s election, four Chicago aldermen were out of jail on bond. Currently, there is one sitting alderman that under federal indictment. Now, a new website is making it easier for residents to know if their elected official is in trouble with the law. The website, hasmyaldermanbeenindicted.com, includes information on the aldermen for all 50 of the city’s wards, as well as the history of political corruption in each ward. Thirty Chicago aldermen have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes related to their official duties since 1972, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Iowa Oops! Secretary of State’s Clerical Error Sets Back Iowa Ballot Measures
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 7/25/2019

Running elections is the highest-profile part of a secretary of state’s job. But in most states, there are myriad other responsibilities, such as handling business licenses, overseeing notaries, and performing a wide variety of disparate clerical functions. This year, a clerical error by the Iowa secretary of state’s office set back adoption of two constitutional amendments by at least two years. The state constitution requires that when an amendment has been passed the first time, voters must be informed at least three months ahead of the election in which they will elect a new Legislature. To make it official, the secretary of state is in charge of publishing notices in newspapers. This time, the publishing requirement fell through the cracks.

Maryland In Wake of Healthy Holly Scandal, Baltimore City Council Gives Preliminary Approval to Stronger Ethics Law
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 7/22/2019

The Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to strengthen the city’s financial disclosure laws, the first reform measure to win approval from a package of bills proposed this spring amid the scandal over former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s sales of her self-published children’s books. The ethics bill, which will be up for final approval at the council’s next meeting in August, would require disclosures of board memberships and clarify which city employees must file an annual disclosure of their financial interests. It also would stiffen the penalties for failing to file the forms. Pugh resigned after The Baltimore Sun disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books, some to organizations that do business with the city, and a raid of her home and office by federal authorities.

Massachusetts Are Boston’s New Lobbying Rules Too Broad?
Boston Globe – Danny McDonald and Matt Stout | Published: 7/18/2019

A coalition that included the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, and Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, said in a letter to city officials they were concerned new lobbying regulations in Boston, which went into effect in April, would mean “hundreds of individuals will face registration and reporting burdens for activities that are not traditionally considered lobbying as they go about their normal course of business.” The group provided city officials with a legal analysis prepared by the law firm Foley Hoag that highlighted their concerns and provided “examples of how certain sections could create barriers and burdens to participation in government.” The analysis also proposed new language for amendments to the law.

Minnesota Former Corrections Official Says She’s Unfairly Accused of Lobbying on State Time
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Stephen Montemayor | Published: 7/23/2019

A top Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) official who quit her post recently said she has been accused of lobbying on state time for a veterans’ nonprofit organization run by her husband, an allegation she denied. Sarah Walker, who left her job as a deputy commissioner, indicated she is being unfairly investigated in connection with her ties to the Veterans Defense Project, a Minneapolis nonprofit that does legal work for military veterans. Although DOC officials have said little about the investigation, Walker acknowledged officials had received a complaint alleging she conducted lobbying activities on state time. She denied she had met with lawmakers or with officials in the administration of Gov. Tim Walz on behalf of her husband’s group.

Mississippi It’s Legal: Candidates could lose election, but pocket campaign cash through loophole
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 7/23/2019

A loophole in state law allows Mississippi politicians to personally profit from their campaign funds, as long as they use money raised before 2018. Many candidates running in upcoming statewide elections still have significant campaign money saved up from that time, a review of filings found. While lawmakers drew praise for campaign finance reform they passed in 2017, Mississippi’s current law, including the lack of spending rules for old money, remains among the most relaxed in the country.

Montana Montana’s Top Political Cop Wants 3 Years of State GOP Records
The Missoulian – Holly Michels | Published: 7/23/2019

The commissioner of political practices is demanding the Montana Republican Party turn over campaign finance and other party records it subpoenaed as part of a 2018 campaign finance investigation. But the state GOP is refusing, saying the commissioner does not have the authority and the original complaint is unfounded. The Montana Democratic Party filed a complaint claiming the GOP did not properly report “personal services” in financial disclosures in the 2016 election cycle. Those services are time spent by party staffers assisting state-level candidates with any tasks or services. Democrats had previously been the subject of a complaint filed by a conservative blogger over its use of party employees to help candidates.

Nevada Ex-Nevada Senate Democrat Sentenced for Campaign Fund Fraud
AP News – Ken Ritter | Published: 7/18/2019

Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison and fined almost $250,000 for misusing campaign funds to pay personal bills and open a Las Vegas nightclub where he hosted political fundraisers. U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said poor record keeping kept the FBI from determining how the more than $1.1 million Atkinson reported receiving in campaign contributions from 2010 to 2017 was spent. But he said investigators found a discrepancy of more than $450,000.

New Hampshire As Lobbying in N.H. Grows More Complex, It’s Nearly Impossible to Follow the Money
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 7/18/2019

Lobbyists have long been part of the fabric of the New Hampshire Capitol, helping shape policy on a wide range of issues. But their influence is often hard to measure. A New Hampshire Public Radio investigation found the state’s lobbying corps represents all kinds of interests – including, increasingly, nonprofit organizations and out-of-state corporations. But there is little consistency in what information is reported about how much money any client is spending on its lobbying efforts and where that money is going. There is little to no oversight of the lobbyists’ financial disclosure forms. No one is enforcing penalties to ensure the reports are filed, let alone filled out completely and correctly.

New York Charter Review Commission Gives Final Approval to 19 Proposals in 5 Questions to Appear on November Ballot
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 7/25/2019

The New York City Charter Revision Commission officially approved the language of 19 ballot proposals that will be put before voters for the November 5 general election. The ballot proposals are as varied as they are numerous and are grouped into five overarching questions on the ballot. The first of the three elections-related proposals would establish ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for all city government seats beginning in January 2021. Former city officials and employees currently face a one-year ban from appearing as a lobbyist before the agency or branch of government they served. The commission proposed expanding that to two years for anyone leaving their post after January 2022.

New York For 105 Clients, Manhattan’s Democratic Leader Now Registered Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/18/2019

Between January and July, former New York Assemblyperson Keith Wright, now the leader of the Manhattan Democratic Party, registered as a lobbyist for 72 clients with business before state government. Around the same time Wright was asked about the lobbying, his firm registered him for 33 additional clients. Though Wright says he has never lobbied state lawmakers from Manhattan, he has lobbied their staff members. State law appears to require Wright to file annual financial disclosure forms, but for the past two years he has not. The law also places certain restrictions on the business activities of political party leaders. A faction of the Manhattan Democratic Party has pushed for a rule change to ban paid lobbyists from being the party’s leader; the matter was tabled last year by Wright allies.

Pennsylvania After a Bombshell Corruption Scandal, Lower Southampton Grapples with Restoring Faith in Government
Philadelphia Inquirer – Vinny Vella | Published: 7/19/2019

John Waltman was a judge, but he acted like a king in his hometown of Lower Southampton, a working-class suburb of Philadelphia. It was an arrogance born of years of political dominance, steeled by backroom deals and barroom meetings. It was shattered in 2016, when Waltman and two of his lieutenants, township Public Safety Director Robert Hoopes and Constable Bernard Rafferty, were indicted on federal corruption charges. They were accused of shaking down business owners seeking township contracts and laundering money they believed was from illegal drug sales. The feds also nabbed Lower Southampton’s former solicitor, Michael Savona, for lying to the FBI about the way the men ran the township. Current township officials insist Lower Southampton is moving beyond the scandal, that the old regime is felled. But they recognize that there is rebuilding to do.

Tennessee Analysis: 4 areas officials could eye in campaign finance probe of Glen Casada
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/23/2019

With state officials expected to open an investigation into Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s campaign finances, the embattled lawmaker could face significant scrutiny for how he has spent donors’ money in recent years. Casada, who controls a PAC as well as his personal campaign committee, has more than $560,000 at his disposal. In the last two years, he has raised more than $600,000 and spent $445,000 out of the two committees. Casada used campaign money to cover items ranging from travel to a membership at a private club with a restaurant. While lawmakers are prohibited from using money in their personal campaign accounts for personal expenditures, PACs face no such limits. But a probe into his PAC could further highlight the loophole in state law that allows personal expenses.

Texas As Austin Ethics Cases Make Headlines, What’s the Penalty?
Austin American-Statesman – Elizabeth Findell | Published: 7/19/2019

The powers of the Austin Ethics Commission are relatively toothless compared with those in some cities on the East and West coasts, which can issue fines or other sanctions in cases of violations. Austin’s council-appointed commission hears complaints against elected and appointed officials and their staffs. If it finds a violation, it can issue one of three types of letters or, in extreme cases, offer a recommendation the person be removed from his or her job. The board can also refer cases for criminal prosecution by city attorneys, but it has not done so in recent decades. As Austin grows, its policies and processes surrounding city ethics have seen more scrutiny as prominent cases have tested them.

Texas Second Person Pleads Guilty in Federal Bribery Case Involving Dallas City Hall and Housing Developer
Dallas News – Kevin Krause and Sara Coello | Published: 7/23/2019

A second person named in a public corruption case involving former Dallas City Councilperson Carolyn Davis has pleaded guilty. Jeremy Scroggins admitted to using his nonprofit company, Hip Hop Government, to funnel bribes from developer Ruel Hamilton to Davis, who was at the time chair of the council’s housing committee. In exchange, Davis lobbied for and voted for Hamilton’s housing project. Scroggins is the third person to be charged in the case. He acknowledged not reporting the bribes to authorities, records show. The addition of Scroggins could bolster the government’s case against Hamilton, which took a hit with the unexpected death of Davis, a key witness who had pleaded guilty to her involvement.

Washington Interest Groups Are Pouring Money into Seattle’s City Council Elections Using No-Limit PACs
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/19/2019

Businesses, unions, and other interest groups have started pouring money into Seattle City Council races ahead of the August 6 primary election, using PACs that can collect and spend unlimited amounts of money. The special independent committees can accept huge cash contributions and spend as much as they want to support or oppose candidates, as long as they do not coordinate with the candidates. Some have already spent more than the candidates have spent themselves, buying the interest groups major clout. Seattle voters in 2015 approved a groundbreaking democracy vouchers program, which allows residents to assign taxpayer-funded vouchers to qualifying candidates. Meanwhile, outside money appears to be on the rise.

Washington DC D.C. Council Member’s Cousin Is Listed in $215 Million No-Bid Gambling Contract
San Francisco Chronicle – Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2019

The cousin of a District of Columbia Council member who cast a deciding vote for a no-bid sports gambling contract is listed as the chief executive officer of a business that would receive $3 million under the deal. City officials awarded a five-year, $215 million contract to the Greek gambling company Intralot to manage the city lottery and an upcoming online sports betting program. Plans that Intralot submitted list Keith McDuffie, cousin of Councilperson Kenyan McDuffie, as the CEO and point of contact for Potomac Supply, a subcontractor that would receive $3 million over five years to supply commercial paper products. The plans are required to demonstrate that Intralot is meeting city targets for including local and minority-owned businesses.

April 3, 2020 •

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

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

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

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

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

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 3, 2020 •

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

North Carolina State Legislative Building

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 3, 2020 •

Idaho’s May Primary Election Won’t Be Delayed, Deadline for Absentee Ballots Pushed Back

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2. […]

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2.

Idahoans will be able register to vote and request an absentee ballot up until 8 p.m. on May 19.

The extension pushes back voters’ deadline to submit ballots to county clerks to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Normally that deadline would have been 8 p.m. May 19.

The Office of the Secretary of State will be sending out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter who has not already requested one.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020 President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part […]

National/Federal

A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop
Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020

President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part to his belief, stoked by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that the media was using the pandemic as yet another way to attack him, according to four Trump advisers. The administration’s anti-media antagonism can manifest like an organized crusade in some cases but also more like a culture, a vernacular shared by the president and his allies on the right. Their battles are waged in the courts, on social media, and at rallies where Trump’s rants against the journalists who cover him goad his fans into taunting the camera crews and booing the press pens.

Bernie Sanders Says He’s Staying in the Presidential Race. Many Democrats Fear a Reprise of Their 2016 Defeat.
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer, and David Weigel | Published: 3/30/2020

Behind the growing fear among many Democrats that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential race could spell doom in November is the belief they have seen it happen before – in the 2016 campaign. To some Democrats in that campaign, it was a lesson learned the hard way about the limitations of Sanders’ promises of support and the ferocity of his backers. Four years later, with the senator still running against former Vice President Joe Biden despite almost impossible odds of victory, some party leaders are increasingly worried about a reprise of the bitter divisions that many Democrats blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Biden Faces a Cash Gap with Trump. He Has to Close It Virtually.
Salt Lake Tribune – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden’s finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming. Top Biden fundraisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC, and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. they expressed deepening concern the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs. President Trump and Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their shared committees. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million.

Campaigning in the Age of Pandemic: Biden and Sanders as amateur video hosts
MSN – Annie Linskey and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden is hosting a podcast from his Wilmington, Delaware, home, while Bernie Sanders is emceeing a live-streamed talk show from the first floor of his house in Burlington, Vermont. Welcome to campaigning in the age of pandemic. For Americans accustomed to candidates delivering lofty speeches before crowds of thousands or embracing voters in emotional moments, this new era of campaigning is yet another example of traditions upended, and expectations disrupted. But is what campaigning will look like for the foreseeable future, as candidates who spent years honing a sense of spectacle and rhetoric are reduced to amateur-style programs in their homes. Without studios or large event staffs, the programs do not so much resemble political events as they do, at best, local-access cable shows.

Campaigns Hit Up Lobbyists for Cash with In-Person Events Ending
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/27/2020

The regular scramble for congressional campaigns to quickly amass funds before the March 31 reporting deadline has been hindered by anti-gathering rules put in place to slow the coronavirus outbreak or put aside because of the legislative rush to stop the bleeding in the economy. But it has not stopped completely. Money from wealthier donors and lobbyists, in addition to small-dollar grassroots contributors, are likely to fall as the country faces a recession and unemployment rises to historic levels. It could also impact the amount of money contributed to the PACs run by corporations, trade associations, unions, and lobbying firms, which are funded by employees to donate.

Democrats Postpone Convention Until August Because of Coronavirus
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/2/2020

The Democratic National Committee postponed its national convention because of the coronavirus, moving it from mid-July to mid-August. It is the largest political event to be moved so far because of the public health crisis, which has already led to the cancellation of hundreds of state and local conventions from both parties. The convention will still be held in Milwaukee, as planned, the week of August 17, officials said, a week before Republicans plan to gather in Charlotte to renominate President Trump. An August convention is likely to be smaller than the planned July event. One senior Democratic official said the event would probably be a “bare minimum” convention, with scores of people who had planned to come staying away either because of health concerns.

Forget Washington – Corporate America Is Focused on Governors Right Now
Politico – Sam Sutton | Published: 3/30/2020

With the Trump administration taking a backseat to state leaders on coronavirus mitigation, companies and trade associations that traditionally rely on relationships with Washington, D.C. power brokers are instead being forced to reckon with newly emboldened statehouse executives to deal with the crisis. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. and other business groups wrote to the National Governors Association asking governors take a uniform approach on stay-at-home orders that designate which “essential business” and “critical infrastructure” can operate. The sudden emergence of executive orders shutting down large components of the economy forced lobbying organizations, or their local affiliates, to play “whack-a-mole” as governors readied similar directives, said Jason Straczewski 0f the National Retail Federation.

Frustrated Gamblers Turn to Politics as the Only Game in Town
Politico – Tony Rehgan | Published: 3/30/2020

Gamblers have been sidelined as the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down sports in the U.S. But they have found an outlet for their need to wager – politics. Some savvy gamblers are finding they can chase shifting odds on the 2020 U.S. presidential election or turn a quick buck wagering on incidental proposition bets like whether Joe Biden will pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, and also a host of adjacent bets on the price of oil and the stock market. Interestingly, the surge in political betting has exposed a gray area in the law.

Georgia Senator Discloses Additional Stock Sales Worth Millions During Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Examiner – Madison Dibble (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2020

Sen. Kelly Loeffler reported millions of dollars in stock sales this year as Covid-19 swept through the United States. Financial disclosures show the Georgia Republican, one of several senators accused of insider trading after reports showed they dumped stocks prior to the market plunge earlier this year, had even more stocks sold on her behalf. The latest transactions included $18.7 million in sales of stocks owned by her husband’s company Intercontinental Exchange in three separate dumps. The senator used to work for the same firm before taking office. These sales took place from mid-February through mid-March, when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy were already being felt.

Justice Department Reviews Stock Trades by Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings
CNN – David Shortell, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, and Kara Scannell | Published: 3/30/2020

The Justice Department has started to investigate a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus. The inquiry, which is being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the pandemic. The sales have come under fire after senators received closed-door briefings about the virus over the past several weeks, before the market began trending downward.

Tech Giants Prepared for 2016-Style Meddling. But the Threat Has Changed.
New York Times – Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth | Published: 3/29/2020

Big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The companies have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems, and developing new policies to prevent election meddling. Although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference that they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020. Their difficulties reflect how much online threats have evolved since the 2016 election. More problematic, partisan groups in the U.S. have borrowed Russia’s playbook to create their own propaganda and disinformation campaigns, forcing the tech companies to make tough calls about restricting the speech of American citizens.

The Race for Virus Money Is On. Lobbyists Are Standing By.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2020

The federal government is open for coronavirus business, and the scramble to get some of it is on. Across the country, companies see a chance to cash in, do some good for the country or both, making virus outbreak response one of the few thriving sectors of the economy. And because so much of the business runs through Washington, D.C., the rush has created new opportunities for those who can offer access, influence, and expertise in navigating bureaucratic hurdles and securing chunks of the relief package that President Trump signed into law. The law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight set up an entire “Covid-19 Response Team,” which is expected to grow to include as many as 60 lawyers.

Trump Administration Rules Gun Shops ‘Essential’ Amid Virus
AP News – Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 3/30/2020

The Trump administration ruled gun shops are considered “essential” businesses that should remain open as other businesses are closed to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Gun control groups are balking, calling it a policy that puts profits over public health after intense lobbying by the firearms industry. After days of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other gun groups, the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory declaring firearms dealers should be considered essential services — just like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals – and allowed to remain open. The agency said its ruling was not a mandate but merely guidance for cities, towns, and states as they weigh how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump Won the Internet. Democrats Are Scrambling to Take It Back.
MSN – Jim Rutenberg and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/30/2020

Since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, Democrats have been scrambling to reorder the digital campaign equation, an effort that has drawn a range of new donors, progressive activists, and operatives together with veterans of the Obama campaigns and the old-line contributors and party regulars of the Bill Clinton era. So far, Democrats and their allies have produced new apps to organize volunteers and register voters, new media outlets to pump out anti-President Trump content, and a major new data initiative to drive what the party hopes will be the biggest voter-mobilization effort in its history. But while Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, have brought conservatives together to build a technological juggernaut for 2020, the Democratic effort has been slowed by the party’s rivalries and divisions.

Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Mississippi Congressman’s Campaign Spending
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/27/2020

The Campaign Legal Center is asking ethics officials to investigate campaign spending by U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo after the group found he channeled six figures of donors’ money to family-owned businesses. Palazzo used campaign funds to pay over $60,000 in rent to his own farm, according to FEC filings. His campaign also spent nearly $128,000 with his now ex-wife’s accounting firm. Federal election law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. But candidates can justify funneling contributions to themselves or family members if they make the case the spending is campaign related. The Campaign Legal Center argues Palazzo had an existing accounting firm and his campaign did not need the services of Palazzo & Co.

Canada

Canada New B.C. Lobbying Laws Come into Force in May
Business in Vancouver – Haley Woodin | Published: 3/31/2020

In just over a month, new legislation to make government lobbying in British Columbia more transparent will come into force. As of May 4, all government lobbyists will be required to register and begin reporting their monthly lobbying activities. The changes are part of the new Lobbyists Transparency Act, which replaces the Lobbyists Registration Act, and includes amendments already passed by the provincial government.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Campaign Finance Initiative Campaign Suspends Signature Gathering
Ballotpedia.com – Ryan Byrne | Published: 3/30/2020

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, co-chair of Outlaw Dirty Money, announced the campaign was suspending signature gathering efforts for its ballot initiative due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign needs to gather at least 356,467 signatures by the July 2 deadline. The ballot initiative would add language to the state constitution providing people with a right to know the identity of the original source of an aggregate contribution of $5,000 or more used for campaign media spending. Goddard called on the Legislature to allow for signatures to be gathered online.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Dakota Smith, and Joel Rubin | Published: 3/27/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander, accused of obstructing a public corruption investigation, agreed to plead guilty to scheming to falsify facts. He has been investigated for allegedly accepting gifts from a businessperson. According to the plea agreement, he schemed to cover up cash payments, meals, escort services, and other gifts. He admitted to accepting a total of $15,000 in cash from the businessperson among other things during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017. “Businessman A” worked for local companies related to major development projects while Englander was on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees most of the significant development projects in the city.

California ‘They’re All Tainted by It.’ Federal Corruption Cases Deal New Blow to Trust in City Hall
Yahoo News – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/1/2020

As city leaders face urgent pleas for help from Los Angeles residents reeling from the ripple effects of a global pandemic, they are also confronting distrust and revulsion over the alleged bribe and other “pay to play” activities that are at the heart of a widespread corruption investigation. Even those who are doing good work at have been tarnished by the scandals, said former Councilperson Greig Smith. Corruption probes are not new to City Hall. What makes the ongoing federal investigations so unusual, and potentially damning for city government, is that they touch on so many politicians at once.

California Watchdog to Review Rules Letting California Politicians Raise Money for Charity
Calmatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/31/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is preparing to update the regulations and laws that govern “behested payments” – donations made to charities at a politician’s request. Such donations have become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. FPPC Chairperson Richard Miadich cited Calmatters’ recent “Sweet Charity Series,” which revealed the amount of money flowing to nonprofits controlled by California lawmakers or their staff has skyrocketed over the last decade to $2.9 million in 2019 and showed much of the money comes from corporations and unions that lobby the Legislature.

Florida Council Committee Plans to Subpoena Bidders, Investment Banks in JEA Probe
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/30/2020

A Jacksonville City Council committee investigating JEA will subpoena the private companies that bid in the city utility’s failed invitation to negotiate. It also will subpoena the investment banks that advised JEA senior leaders in the sale attempt. Special Investigatory Committee Chairperson Rory Diamond said the panel will issue subpoenas for the names of the lobbying firms hired by nine private companies.

Illinois Pandemic Derails Illinois’ Lobbying Reform Commission Ahead of Key Deadline
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 3/31/2020

Unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reforms missed its March 31 deadline to provide recommendations to clean up some questionable practices in Springfield, but a member of the commission said it will get back to business. The commission, made up of state lawmakers and members appointed by the offices of the Illinois governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, was created in the fall amid a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that included allegations of bribery involving lawmakers, lobbyists, and business leaders.

Massachusetts Sen. Dean Tran Stripped of Leadership Position After Committee Report Says He Used Public Staff for Campaign Work
MassLive.com – Steph Solis | Published: 3/26/2020

Massachusetts lawmakers voted to strip state Sen. Dean Tran of his leadership role after a committee report found he used his Senate staff for work related to his 2018 and 2020 re-election campaigns during business hours. Tran is also banned from interacting with his staff except for written communications, The Senate Committee on Ethics report states that Tran “received repeated advice” that it was inappropriate for his staff to do campaign work during regular business hours, funded at the taxpayer’s expense, and for staff to participate in most fundraising activities. But Tran did not heed the advice and his current campaign manager threatened at least one staffer with termination if the person did not work on the 2020 campaign.

Michigan Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith Resigns Amid Criminal Charges Against Him
Detroit Free Press – Christina Hall | Published: 3/30/2020

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, accused of embezzlement and misconduct in office over how drug and alcohol forfeiture funds were spent, resigned from office. The announcement came less than week after the longtime prosecutor was charged with 10 criminal counts by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in a nearly yearlong probe of how his office spent the funds. Investigators found Smith and other defendants used the money to buy flowers and makeup for select secretaries, a security system for Smith’s residence, garden benches for staffers’ homes, country club catering for parties, campaign expenditures, and more.

Michigan Whitmer to Clerks: Send all new registrants an absentee ballot for May 5
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 3/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order temporarily changing state voting laws for jurisdictions with a May 5 election and allowing some May elections to be postponed to August 4 or later in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In those jurisdictions still holding elections, all clerks are required to send absentee ballots to new registrants under the order and absentee applications must be mailed to all currently registered voters in those areas. The order was opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who argued the May elections should be delayed instead.

New York Cuomo Pulls Back on Proposed Donor Disclosures for Nonprofits
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/31/2020

Changes to the state budget in New York ease reporting requirements for charities and nonprofits concerning their donors, though their financial reports may be made public. The latest budget language also includes new provisions expanding oversight of nonprofits through the Department of State. Certain nonprofits, such as those who have spent more than $10,000 in communication endorsing or opposing legislation, will have to submit annual financial disclosure reports to the agency. The department will then examine the relationship between charitable nonprofits and political advocacy organizations, filed as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofits, who share staff, office space, or supplies, among other provisions.

New York New York Delays Presidential Primary, Special Election to June
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/28/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s presidential primary and a special election in the 27th Congressional District will be postponed from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The elections will now coincide with the state’s primaries for congressional and state legislative races. The special election in the 27th District will replace former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned in September and was sentenced to prison for insider trading.

New York Organizing for Sanders in New York When the City’s on Lockdown and You Can’t Leave Your Apartment
Washington Post – Chelsea James | Published: 4/2/2020

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has spent two presidential cycles building a grassroots movement unparalleled among Democrats in reach and loyalty. For nearly eight years, that network has measured enthusiasm by doors knocked and rallies organized. Now though, as the coronavirus ravages the country, Sanders’ staffers and organizers have found themselves stuck in their homes, unable to hold, concertlike events that have become a staple of the campaign. Instead, they are reduced to connecting to people over Zoom, erasing a major advantage they had over Joe Biden, an ability to fill communities with volunteers and have thousands of conversations about their candidate.

New York Previously Struck Down in Court, New Campaign Finance System and Political Party Ballot Threshold Passed in Budget
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/1/2020

A new campaign finance system in New York, with public matching money for candidates who choose to participate and lower individual contribution limits, will be enshrined in law through inclusion in the new state budget. It is accompanied by controversial ballot-threshold requirements for political parties. The campaign finance system had been approved last year based on the recommendations of a state-created commission but was struck down in mid-March by a state Supreme Court judge who ruled such a commission could not be tasked with writing laws. The budget bill addressed that mistake and passed the same recommendations the commission made.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Moves Primaries to June 2 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/27/2020

Pennsylvania moved the state’s presidential and congressional primaries from April 28 to June 2. Gov. Tom Wolf made the move official by signing a bill moving the primary date into law. Pennsylvania, which President Trump narrowly won in 2016, will be a key state in the presidential race in November.

Washington Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle ‘Democracy Vouchers’
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/30/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” campaign finance program. Two local property owners said the vouchers violated their constitutional rights to free speech by forcing them through their tax dollars to support candidates they did not like. The Supreme Court has generally upheld the public financing of campaigns, within the limits of the First Amendment, saying “public financing as a means of eliminating the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest” of helping to eliminate corruption.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Goes It Alone, Holding Elections Next Week Amid Fears of Infection and Voting Chaos
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 4/1/2020

Across Wisconsin, voters, election officials, and civil rights leaders are angry the state Legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections even as the coronavirus continues its march across the country. The public-health risk is too high and asking voters to venture out of their homes directly contradicts state and local emergency orders to shelter in place, they say. Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature say moving the voting date so late in the process would sow confusion and create a leadership vacuum in cities and towns holding contests for municipal posts that will be vacant as early as mid-April.

Continue Reading - 25 min read Close

April 2, 2020 •

Mississippi Postpones House District 88 Special Election

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23. The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January. Due to the House leadership ruling members could not […]

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23.

The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January.

Due to the House leadership ruling members could not collect legislative pay while also receiving state retirement funds.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

April 2, 2020 •

West Virginia Postpones Primary until June 9

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those […]

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those elections to be rescheduled as necessary.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close
Back to all posts