July 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers
MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020

Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs has always been a subject of fascination. In the Trump White House, being the relative of someone with a big administration job seems to be one crucial advantage. Family connections, through marriage or direct blood ties, turn up in several places among the people who are in charge of communicating the administration’s agenda or involved in his reelection effort. In a legal opinion written in early 2017, the Justice Department concluded the president has “special hiring authority” and that a decades-old anti-nepotism statute did not apply to the White House.

A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020

A dozen donors gave about $480,000 to cover Vice President Mike Pence’s legal bills in the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Jim Atterholt, Pence’s former gubernatorial chief of staff, started the fund with $25 in December 2018. Since then, donors gave between $5,000 and $100,000, including business executives from Pence’s home state of Indiana and longtime Republican contributors. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials from receiving excessive gifts, and watchdogs have called on clearer guidelines for legal expense funds to prevent the potential for conflicts-of-interest or undue influence.

As Support for Mask-Wearing Grows, So Do Political Risks for Forgoing Them
MSN – Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2020

President Trump makes a point of not wearing a mask in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, has gone in the other direction. A mask is part of his 2020 signature look. This divergent accessorizing once highlighted yet another partisan divide. For Trump allies, going barefaced is about individual liberty. For Biden supporters, the mask is a symbol of science and sound policy. But as infections spike in red states, support for masks has grown. Some Republicans have urged the public to cover their faces in public, arguing it is the best way to slow the virus. This shift in rhetoric highlights the potential risks for the president as he continues to ignore the advice of public health experts, who agree masks are crucial to slow the spread of the virus.

Congressional Black Caucus Seizes on Push for Racial Justice to Wield Greater Influence
MSN – Rachel Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2020

The Congressional Black Caucus is seizing the national moment of reckoning over systemic inequality and racial injustice to wield its greatest level of influence inside the Capitol and in national politics. The caucus took the lead in crafting policing legislation the House passed, an expansive measure to stop police brutality after the death of George Floyd. Three caucus members – Sen. Kamala Harris and Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass – are on the shortlist of potential running mates for Joe Biden. And with black candidates around the nation channeling the public clamor for equality into likely primary upsets recently, the group is poised to expand its ranks next year when it marks its 50th anniversary.

Democrats Confirm Plans for Nearly All-Virtual Convention
AP News – Bill Barrow | Published: 6/24/2020

Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual presidential nominating convention August 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming. Joe Biden plans to accept the nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience there to see it. The Democratic National Committee said in a statement that official business, including the votes to nominate Biden and his yet-to-be-named running mate, will take place virtually, with delegates being asked not to travel to Milwaukee.

Devin Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over Statements by Fake Cow, Judge Rules
McClatchy DC – Kate Irby | Published: 6/24/2020

A judge ruled U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother, and a Republican strategist. Judge John Marshall said Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms. Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes, and strategist Liz Mair. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged defamation.

DOJ Files Charges Against Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 6/25/2020

Jack Abramoff is set to return to prison after agreeing to plead guilty to violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). He is the first person charged with violating the LDA, which was amended in 2007 after his earlier scheme was uncovered. It was one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent history, resulting in 20 convictions or guilty pleas. Prosecutors said that in 2017, Abramoff agreed to seek changes in federal law and met with members of Congress on behalf of the marijuana industry without registering as a lobbyist. He was also charged with marketing a cryptocurrency to potential investors with a series of false claims. Abramoff made a public showing of rehabilitating himself after he was released from prison in 2010.

For Months, Trump Allies Hunted for Tapes of Biden in Ukraine. Now They’re Turning Up.
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and David Stern | Published: 6/30/2020

President Trump’s allies were in pursuit last year of tape recordings of Joe Biden speaking to Ukrainian officials while he was vice president, conversations they believed could help them damage Biden’s current bid for the White House. Now, with just months to go before Election Day, that material is surfacing in Ukraine and being touted by some of the president’s backers in the U.S. Recordings show Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general. The tapes do not provide evidence to back Rudolph Giuliani’s accusation that Biden sought to have him fired to block an investigation of a gas company that had hired his son Hunter. The authenticity of the audio files, which appear heavily edited, could not be verified.

GOP Appointee Resigns from Federal Election Commission, Once Again Leaving It Without a Quorum
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/26/2020

Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on FEC, announced he is stepping down on July 3, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions. Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the confirmation of Republican James Trainor. The White House announced its plans to nominate campaign finance lawyer Allen Dickerson to replace Hunter. Dickerson is the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit that opposes limits on political speech and advertising. The FEC, which is ideologically split by design, is now left with one Republican, one Democrat, and an independent who often caucuses with Democrats.

Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary
Politico – James Arkin and Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/30/2020

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado and will face U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this fall. It was just one of several major races across the country. Hickenlooper was the prohibitive favorite for months, leaning on his successes in his two terms as governor and his universal name recognition and positive image among voters. But he stumbled in the closing stretch of the race, apologizing for racially insensitive comments, and being held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, which ruled he twice violated state ethics laws as governor.

House Republican Leaders Support GOP Nominee Open to QAnon Conspiracy Theory
Washington Post – Paul Kane and Colby Itkowitz | Published: 7/1/2020

Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive U.S. House seat despite her openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott Tipton. Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.

Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America
Politico – Nahal Toosi | Published: 7/1/2020

International activists, groups, and institutions are increasingly focusing on the United States as a villain, not a hero, on human rights. While the country has never fully escaped such scrutiny, former officials and activists say that under President Trump, American domestic strife is raising an unusual level of alarm alongside U.S. actions on the global stage. Some groups also flag what they say is an erosion of democracy in a country that has long styled itself as a beacon of freedom.

Judge Sets July 14 Surrender Date, Immediate Home Confinement for Roger Stone
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/26/2020

A federal judge ordered longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone to prison on July 14 and into home confinement until then, citing Stone’s own evidence of medical issues that he cited to request a delay of his June 30 surrender date to begin a 40-month jail term. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until September 3. Jackson sentenced Stone to his 40-month jail term in February following his conviction on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

New York Court Sides with Publisher of Explosive Book by President Trump’s Niece
Seattle Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

A court lifted a temporary restraining order against the publication of a book by President Trump’s niece, enabling publisher Simon & Schuster to continue printing and distributing the insider account by Mary Trump. A New York Supreme Court judge agreed to impose the restraining order to allow the parties to present their arguments, raising doubts about whether it would be published. But the Supreme Court’s appellate division lifted the restraining order that had been imposed on Simon & Schuster, while leaving in place the one regarding Mary Trump. That effectively enables the publisher to continue distributing copies of the book in preparation for the planned July 28 publication, even as the overall merits of the case are argued.

Reddit Closes Long-Running Forum Supporting President Trump After Years of Policy Violations
MSN – Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin (WashingtonPost) | Published: 6/29/2020

Reddit shut down its popular but controversial forum devoted to supporting President Trump, following years in which the social media company tried but often failed to control the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, glorification of violence, and conspiracy theories that flourished there. The move by Reddit comes amid a broader crackdown by technology companies to try to rein in hateful, deceptive. and other problematic content on their platforms, typically after high-profile scandals prompted action. Reddit also implemented its first policy banning hate speech and closed about 2,000 individual forums, what the company calls “subreddits.” The company already had a policy against “divisive language” in advertising.

SBA Exempted Lawmakers, Federal Officials from Ethics Rules in $660 Billion Loan Program
Washington Post – Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg | Published: 6/26/2020

A brief and barely noticed “blanket approval” issued by the Trump administration allows lawmakers, Small Business Administration (SBA) staff, other federal officials and their families to bypass long-standing rules on conflicts-of-interest to seek funds for themselves, adding to concerns that coronavirus aid programs could be subject to fraud and abuse. Policy experts and watchdogs said the blanket waiver could allow officials to write the rules to benefit themselves. Josh Gotbaum, a Brookings Institution scholar who has worked in economic policy under Democratic and Republican administrations, said he was “appalled” by the waiver.

The Lincoln Project Is Trolling Trump. But Can It Sway Voters?
Politico – Tina Nguyen and Elena Schneider | Published: 6/29/2020

In the past few months, the Lincoln Project, an anti-President Trump PAC run by Republicans, has successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events, and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it is the District of Columbia. market or his golf courses across the country. And every time Trump responds, the Lincoln Project scores an incalculable amount of earned media, and millions of views online. But though the PAC has successfully caught the president’s attention, Trump’s critics worry the ads may not work to “prosecute the case” against his reelection, as the group vowed to do in December.

Zuckerberg Once Wanted to Sanction Trump. Then Facebook Wrote Rules That Accommodated Him.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2020

Facebook constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy allowing politicians to lie, and altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims it was biased against conservatives, according to documents and employees. A document shows it began in 2015 when as a candidate, Donald Trump posted a video calling for a ban of Muslims entering the U.S. Facebook executives declined to remove it, setting in motion an exception for political discourse. Concessions to Trump paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to push out misinformation and incendiary political language. It has complicated the understanding of major events and contributed to polarization. Fear of Trump’s wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network.

Canada

Canada Alberta Local Elections Bill Gets Mixed Reaction from Experts, Former Candidates
CBC – Madeleine Cummings and Michelle Bellfontaine | Published: 6/28/2020

Policy experts and former candidates are giving a mixed reaction to amendments to Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Amendment Act. Among the changes proposed are removing the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to Election Day, removing limits on spending by third-party advertisers outside the local election campaign period, and allowing individuals to donate up to $5,000 to as many candidates as they want during an election.

Canada Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government
Canada.com – Christopher Nardi | Published: 6/29/2020

WE Charity, which has close ties to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, and which will get millions of dollars to administer a federal student volunteer grant program. has received a series of exclusively sole-source contracts from the federal government over the last three years. Sole-source contracts are government contracts that are handed directly to a chosen supplier, without the opportunity for others to provide competing bids for the business. The contracts were for vague services such as “Management consulting,” “Public relations services,” and, in three cases, “Other professional services not otherwise specified,” according to records.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 6/29/2020

Alabama officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct elections in the midst of a national health crisis in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed an application to the high court to overturn a lower court’s injunction that found the requirements could violate the constitutional right to vote for some elderly and disabled voters during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue in Alabama are two requirements state officials say combat voter fraud. Voters must submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot application, and absentee ballots must contain a voter affidavit that is either notarized or signed by two witnesses.

Arizona Witness in Rep. David Cook Investigation Says Lawmaker Sent Threatening Message
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 6/29/2020

The day before a legislative ethics committee released a critical report on Arizona Rep. David Cook, the lawmaker got a copy for himself and a few hours later sent a message to one of the witnesses that the witness took as a threat. Patrick Bray was interviewed by investigators looking into claims that Cook had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist at the same time he was supporting her legislation. The investigation also looked into allegations Cook intervened to stop a local sheriff from seizing property belonging to the lobbyist’s family.

California Feds Say Tower Project Shows Toll of Bribery in Huizar Case: Less affordable housing
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 6/26/2020

In 2018, a real estate developer received the blessing of the Los Angeles City Council for a new high-rise in the Arts District. The real estate executive said the council had approved the tallest building yet in the Arts District, and with “minimal” requirements for affordable housing, according to federal prosecutors. Now l investigators are describing the Arts District project as one of the real estate developments entangled in an alleged criminal scheme headed by Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna cited it as an example of “the harm that comes with bribery.”

California Huizar, Facing Felony Charge, Will No Longer Receive L.A. Council Salary, Official Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 6/29/2020

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin moved to have the city stop paying Councilperson Jose Huizar his salary, saying it would be “unacceptable” for Huizar to continue receiving taxpayer funds while facing a felony charge in a federal corruption case. Huizar had been earning nearly $214,000 per year. Galperin said Huizar’s last day receiving a city salary was June 23, the day he was charged with racketeering in a case in which he is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes and other improper financial benefits. A Galperin spokesperson said the City Charter allows the controller to stop salary payments when a council member is not “devoting his time to duties related to his office.”

California Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 6/29/2020

The alleged public corruption engaged in by former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru was able to go on unchecked for years due to gaps in city contracting and gift rules he exploited, according to a new report. The city controller’s investigation of the Public Works department resulted in eight recommendations to reform its operations to prevent the sort of behavior for which Nuru is accused. Federal prosecutors have accused Nuru of trading favors for city contractors and developers in exchange for gifts. Nuru also created a culture conducive to public corruption, the report said.

California Permit Expediter Accused of Fraud to Cooperate in FBI City Hall Corruption Probe
San Francisco Examiner – Michael Barber and Joseph Sabatini | Published: 6/25/2020

A San Francisco permit expediter is facing criminal charges for allegedly engaging in “pay-to-play” schemes with public officials including former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru for more than a decade. Prosecutors charged Walter Wong with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI investigation into public corruption at City Hall. Wong has helped developers navigate San Francisco’s complicated permitting process for more than a decade and is also a building contractor. He is the seventh person to be charged as a result of the expanding FBI corruption probe.

Florida A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 6/25/2020

A typographical error led to a two-month legal fight between Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and firefighter Omar Blanco, and the dispute that began with a misspelled check now has Blanco accusing Gimenez of using illegal funds to qualify for the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The back-and-forth will continue, at least for now, after a judge denied Gimenez’s motion to dismiss Blanco’s lawsuit. An attorney for Blanco said Gimenez’s candidacy is illegal if his $10,400 check, written in April to qualify for the primary ballot, was paid for with funds from a PAC instead of Gimenez’s campaign account. The bank that issued Gimenez’s check said it did not have any records of a campaign account bearing Gimenez’s name, or the misspelled version – “Giminez” – that appeared on his qualifying check.

Florida Conflict-of-Interest Issues Spark Conflict Among Tourism Development Council Members
Florida Today – Dave Berman | Published: 6/25/2020

A behind-the-scenes dispute involving members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council over perceived conflicts-of-interest has become public, as Giles Malone and Bob Baugher repeatedly sniped at one another during a recent meeting. Their debate focused on Malone’s role in helping bring the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games to Brevard County and his involvement in linking athletes with hotels. The debate could lead to a larger examination of how the council handles business dealings involving its members and their companies. That includes when members must abstain from voting on certain matters and when they must formally declare they have a conflict of interest.  County officials plan to ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to help sort things out.

Georgia Georgia Lawmakers Pass New DeKalb Ethics Bill
The Champion – Asia Ashley | Published: 6/28/2020

On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed a new proposal to the DeKalb County ethics laws. The county’s ethics board has been dormant and unable to make recommendations on complaints received since August 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled the board was unconstitutional due to its members being appointed by non-elected entities. If House Bill 1243 is approved by voters in November, the new ethics board would begin their roles on January 1, 2020.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Responds to Report Alleging She Approved Contracts for Groups on Abstention List
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 6/24/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt asked the city inspector general to correct a report on her voting history, saying it may have left a misleading impression that she approved contracts in which she had a conflict-of-interest. In her response to the report, Pratt said she maintains a long “abstentions list” – organizations that she has worked with, belonged to, or filed tax returns for as a private accountant – in an effort to be transparent as a member of the city’s powerful Board of Estimates. Inspector General Isabel Cumming said she stood by the report.

Mississippi Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Changing State’s Flag, Abandoning Confederate Symbol
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Berman and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that retires the only state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. The new flag’s design will be determined later, but lawmakers have barred it from including the most recognizable icon of the Confederacy, which many people associate with racism, slavery, and oppression. Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But a growing number of cities and all the state’s public universities have abandoned it. The issue was still broadly considered too volatile for legislators to touch until the death of George Floyd set off protests against racial injustice, followed by calls to take down Confederate symbols.

Montana Official Finds Montana GOP Violated Campaign Finance Laws
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 6/26/2020

The Montana Republican Party and two minor party qualification committees violated state campaign finance laws in a successful effort to qualify the Green Party of Montana for the primary ballot without the Green Party’s knowledge. The Montana GOP has acknowledged paying Advanced Micro Targeting $100,000 to gather signatures to certify the Green Party for the ballot. The money was also listed as an in-kind contribution to a group called Montanans for Conservation, which did not register as a minor party qualifying committee until after the Green Party was certified for the ballot on March 6. The Legislature passed a law in 2019 requiring groups to report any spending for paid signature gatherers to qualify issues or parties for the ballot to ensure transparency.

New Jersey Buried in N.J.’s Budget Cuts: A break for a billionaire
New York Times – Tracey Tully | Published: 7/2/2020

New Jersey lawmakers passed a stopgap three-month budget that included $4 billion in cuts. It was fast-tracked to meet the July 1 deadline, leaving watchdogs and advocacy organizations largely in the dark about key details during a time when most traditional lobbying and legislative activities have been sidelined by the virus. Somewhere along the way a one-paragraph clause was quietly inserted. The wording could clear the way for private development in Liberty State Park, which has been eyed for decades by developers. Liberty National, an exclusive private golf club, has been pressing for years to expand into a nearby section of the park. Key lawmakers said they were blindsided by the maneuver that would likely reward the wealthy at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the nation’s economic and racial divide.

New York NYC Board of Elections Director Fined for Violating Ethics Law
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin (WNYC) | Published: 6/25/2020

New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan was fined $2,500 for violating the city’s ethics law. In 2016, Ryan served as an unpaid member of an advisory board for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), a vendor the board purchases its election machines and other supplies from. In 2018, it was revealed Ryan took nine trips paid for by ES&S. Ryan sought guidance from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board who advised him ES&S could pay for his travel expenses to attend board meetings as needed for him to fulfill his city duties. But Ryan committed an ethics violation while attending a meeting in Manhattan in 2016.

North Carolina NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Raleigh News and Observer – Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan | Published: 7/1/2020

A lobbyist who met with as many as five members of the North Carolina General Assembly tested positive for COVID-19. “I am told no legislators who met with the lobbyists have symptoms or have tested positive,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a text message. Moore said the lobbyist went to meetings and did not linger in the building. This is the second time a person who was in the Legislative Building has been reported as testing positive for COVID-19. In March, a cafeteria staff member tested positive one day after working in the building.

Ohio Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe
Toledo Blade – Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms | Published: 6/30/2020

Four Toledo City Council members and a private attorney were arrested on charges of accepting cash and other things of value from business owners in exchange for favorable votes on issues before the council, federal prosecutors said. Council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes, and Garrick Johnson, along with Keith Mitchell, an attorney who Harper allegedly used to solicit and funnel bribe payments, all face bribery and extortion charges. Details in the complaint suggest up to $34,260 changed hands between business owners, the council members, and Mitchell during the two-year investigation.

Ohio ‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha | Published: 6/28/2020

Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard pleaded guilty to accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money. According to court documents, on two separate days in September 2019, Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney to pay for her personal expenses. In exchange for the money, documents say, “Dennard promised and did provide favorable official action on behalf of” the lawyer’s unnamed client. After receiving the $15,000, Dennard continued to solicit additional money from the attorney.

Texas U.S. Supreme Court Declines Texas Democrats’ Request to Allow All Texans to Vote by Mail
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/26/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an initial bid by state Democrats to expand voting by mail to all Texas voters during the coronavirus pandemic. The high court denied the Texas Democratic Party’s request to let U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order to expand mail-in voting take effect while the case is on appeal. Biery ruled in May that Texas must allow all voters fearful of becoming infected at polling places to vote by mail even if they would not ordinarily qualify for mail-in ballots under state election law. The decision means the state’s strict rules to qualify for ballots that can be filled out at home will remain in place for the July 14 primary runoff election. Under current law, mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail.

Utah Lobbyists and a Utah Senate Leader Create What Critics Call a ‘Fake PAC’ to Help Friends
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 6/27/2020

Lobbyist Spencer Stokes and Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert were upset when the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Term Limits attacked two state Senate candidates they like, including the cousin of Hemmert’s wife. So, they helped form a new local PAC, called Utah Term Limits, to send competing mailers. They created it one day after deadlines that would have required disclosing its donors and expenses before the June 30 primary election. So, the source of the money remains hidden. Senate candidate and former Utah Rep. Rich Cunningham said it appears to have little if any membership beyond lobbyists who use dark money and late ads to muddy up who in his race really favors limiting the terms of politicians.

Washington DC Milestone House Vote on DC Statehood Is Where It Likely Ends … For Now
Roll Call – Chris Cioffi | Published: 6/26/2020

A U.S. House approved a bill to admit the District of Columbia as the 51st state, the first time a such legislation passed either chamber of Congress. It is also expected to be the bill’s last stop, at least until next year. The bill has little chance of making it to the floor in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote does mark a milestone for many who have spent years fighting for statehood, and if Democrats keep their focus, it might one day become reality if the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

August 7, 2020 •

Governor Allows Counties to Hold All-Mail Election in November

Hand dropping ballot

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

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

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

Return postage will be provided.

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

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

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

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August 7, 2020 •

Legislature to Return to Address Governor’s Vetoes

Mississippi Capitol

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

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

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

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

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August 7, 2020 •

Georgia Special Election Announced to Fill Vacant Seat

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

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

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

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

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August 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 7, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 6, 2020 •

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

Ohio Statehouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 6, 2020 •

Nevada Special Session Ends After Passing COVID-19 Liability Bill

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 6, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

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

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

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

Elections

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

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

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August 5, 2020 •

Idaho Governor to Call Special Session Amid Pandemic

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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