July 26, 2019 •
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 – 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 •
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.
April 3, 2020 •
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 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.
April 3, 2020 •
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.
April 3, 2020 •
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.
April 2, 2020 •
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.
April 2, 2020 •
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.