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.

September 29, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press California: “California […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post

National: “Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe” by Staff for Associated Press

California: “California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters

Elections

Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations” by Robert Barnes for Washington Post

Wisconsin: “Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension” by Todd Richmond for Associated Press News

Ethics

National: “Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Illinois: “Speaker Madigan And Several Former ComEd Lobbyists Decline to Appear Before House Committee” by Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold for WBEZ

New York: “Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

Lobbying

National: “Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash” by Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters for New York Times

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September 28, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune Elections Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader […]

Campaign Finance

Washington: “Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations” by Alexis Krell for Tacoma News Tribune

Elections

Missouri: “Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader

Ethics

National: “Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right” by Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow for Washington Post

National: “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance” by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire for New York Times

Illinois: “3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune

Illinois: “Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff” by Gregory Pratt and John Byrne for Chicago Tribune

Tennessee: “Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote” by Mariah Timms for The Tennessean

Lobbying

National: “Women Rise on K Street – Slowly” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Florida: “NextEra Energy’s Failed Attempt to Purchase JEA Highlights Web of Murky Spending, Lobbying” by Daniel Tait for Energy and Policy Institute

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September 28, 2020 •

Connecticut Governor Announces Special Session

Connecticut State Capitol

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a special session to convene on Tuesday, September 29. The General Assembly will consider legislation for several policy issues including: performance-based regulation of the state’s electricity, gas, and water companies; securing absentee ballots for the […]

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a special session to convene on Tuesday, September 29.

The General Assembly will consider legislation for several policy issues including: performance-based regulation of the state’s electricity, gas, and water companies; securing absentee ballots for the general election; school construction projects; and opportunities for the state’s hemp program.

The Legislature will also consider four nominations announced by the governor in July to fill a vacancy in the state Supreme Court and three seats in the Appellate Court.

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September 28, 2020 •

Governor Signs Bill Restoring Non-Presidential Year Primaries to June

elections

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill moving non-presidential year primaries back to June. Senate Bill 970 will return California to the traditional midterm primary date. The bill becomes effective January 1, 2021.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill moving non-presidential year primaries back to June.

Senate Bill 970 will return California to the traditional midterm primary date.

The bill becomes effective January 1, 2021.

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September 28, 2020 •

South Dakota Governor Calls Special Session of Legislature

South Dakota Capitol Building

South Dakota Capitol Building

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced she is calling a special legislative session on Monday, October 5, 2020. The main purpose of this session is to consider legislation related to the use of federal stimulus relief funds, including the $1.25 […]

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced she is calling a special legislative session on Monday, October 5, 2020.

The main purpose of this session is to consider legislation related to the use of federal stimulus relief funds, including the $1.25 billion allocated to South Dakota in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF).

Unless an extension is granted, South Dakota has until December 30, 2020 to spend all CRF dollars.

The administration has spent about $114 million of the $1.25 billion in federal funds allocated to the state.

Noem has mapped out a plan to spend the bulk of the money, including up to $400 million in small business grants.

However, some House members said lawmakers should be included in the decision.

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September 25, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 25, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020 On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with […]

National/Federal

Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020

On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020

More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.

Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.

DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020

The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.

How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020

With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.

Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020

In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.

Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.

Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020

An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020

The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020

Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.

Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020

President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.

Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020

President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020

A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.

Alaska In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

California California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020

The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”

California CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.

California LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020

A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.

California San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020

San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.

Florida Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”

Illinois Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020

A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020

The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.

Illinois CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020

After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.

Illinois Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020

Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.

Kentucky Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020

As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.

Louisiana In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020

In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.

Maryland Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020

Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.

Minnesota Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020

Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020

Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.

New Jersey Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020

A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.

New York Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020

President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”

New York New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020

After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.

New York Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.

Ohio Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020

FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”

Pennsylvania Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020

Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.

South Carolina Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020

Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.

Virginia Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020

The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.

Washington DC D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020

A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.

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September 24, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal Elections National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti […]

Campaign Finance

New Jersey: “Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal

Elections

National: “How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage” by Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti for New York Times

National: “The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.” by David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs for New York Times

Florida: “Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Help Florida Felons Pay Fines to Vote in November” by Stephanie Ruhle and Julia Jester for NBC News

Pennsylvania: “Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania” by Max Greenwood for The Hill

Ethics

National: “Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor” by Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) for MSN

Maryland: “Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun

Virginia: “Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed” by Laura Vozzella for Washington Post

Lobbying

Alaska: “In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House” by Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) for MSN

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September 23, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San […]

Campaign Finance

Alabama: “Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case” by Brad Harper for Montgomery Advertiser

California: “San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election” by Brian Whitehead for San Bernardino Sun

Elections

National: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020” by Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview” by Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford for Politico

New York: “Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time” by Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum for New York Times

Washington DC: “D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post

Legislative Issues

Minnesota: “Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol” by Melissa Townsend for MPR News

Lobbying

National: “Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal” by Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce for NBC News

Illinois: “CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches” by Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ

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