July 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn | Published: 7/23/2020

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making big money from businesses trying to tap coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. His firm pulled in $240,000 in less than three months for lobbying the Trump administration on coronavirus aid on behalf of three New Jersey hospital systems and a Tennessee-based chain of addiction treatment centers. Christie is hardly the first former governor to land on K Street. But it is unusual for a former presidential candidate who has not ruled out running again to become a lobbyist, especially without joining a major Washington firm, Christie appears to be leaning on his ties to the administration as he makes his way on K Street.

Cities, Advocates Sue Trump to Block Census Immigrant Memo
Roll Call – Michael Macagnone | Published: 7/24/2020

President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census figures that will be used to determine congressional apportionment has been challenged in federal court, the first of what experts believe could be many legal battles for the administration’s order. Common Cause, along with and other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit arguing Trump’s effort “flouts the plain language of the constitution” and tries to do with a memorandum what should take a constitutional amendment. The complaint tied the memorandum to Trump’s previous effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and a broader strategy to “manipulate the census and apportionment process to deprive immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities of political power.”

Democrats Investigating Why White House Ended Ban on Some Gun Silencer Sales
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/28/2020

Congressional Democrats said they were investigating the Trump administration’s decision to lift a ban on firearm silencer sales to foreign private buyers that had been enacted to prevent the devices from being used against American troops. Democrats are focusing in part on the involvement of Michael Williams, a White House lawyer who had worked for two years for a trade group representing silencer manufacturers that had lobbied to overturn the ban. The administration move paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new foreign sales for companies that Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association.

Dems Rebuke Culture of Sexism in Defense of Ocasio-Cortez
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/23/2020

More than a dozen House Democrats lined up recently to support U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the floor of the chamber, issuing a chain of rebukes to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho for aggressively confronting the New York Democrat outside of the Capitol. Ocasio-Cortez recounted the confrontation with Yoho, which was witnessed by a reporter, in a speech lamenting the incident as an outgrowth of a toxic and sexist culture that some lawmakers still perpetuate on Capitol Hill.

DeVos Aide Played Role in Helping Failing For-Profit Colleges, Texts and Emails Show
Washington Post – Danielle Douglas-Gabriel | Published: 7/28/2020

For the past year, the Education Department has denied a top official went out of her way to help Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the Art Institutes, South University, and Argosy University, as the company spiraled into insolvency. But a batch of text messages, emails, and letters shed new light on Dream Center’s relationship with Diane Auer Jones, the head of higher education policy at the department, and her efforts to help the company regain accreditation at two of its schools. The Trump administration had a keen interest in staving off the collapse of the troubled chain of for-profit colleges, even though congressional investigators found Dream Center deceptively enrolled students at campuses that had lost accreditation and raked in taxpayer money in the process.

How the Republican National Convention Came Undone
MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2020

The chaotic unraveling of the Republican presidential nomination convention bears many of the hallmarks of the tumultuous Trump presidency: the public dismissal of scientific expertise, allegations of political conspiracy, and advisers run ragged to carry out a task that was next to impossible from the start. Even as Democrats began to rethink their event last spring, GOP planners moved forward at Trump’s urging. But ultimately, the rising coronavirus caseload, and the political cost of forcing risky behavior on thousands just months before the election, proved too great. Advisers convinced Trump that canceling the convention could help him politically as he tries to pay closer attention to the pandemic.

‘I’m Going to Answer the Damn Question’: Barr, House Democrats face off over Portland, politicization
USA Today – Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson | Published: 7/28/2020

Attorney General William Barr’s recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Barr came as Democrats investigate alleged political interference at the Justice Department, claiming the attorney general has turned it into a political annex of the Trump White House. The hearing touched on a year’s worth of grievances, from the widely criticized rollout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report in 2019, to interference in criminal investigations involving Trump’s allies, to the controversial ouster of Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor, to the use of force against protesters in Portland and at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

Kimberly Guilfoyle Under Fire for Trump Fundraising Disarray
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/23/2020

There is upheaval within the fundraising unit that Kimberly Guilfoyle oversees, which is primarily responsible for cultivating networks of donors who cut checks in increments up to $2,800 fort President Trump’s reelection. Interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans familiar with the campaign’s fundraising depict an operation beset by departures, staffers with no prior fundraising experience, and accusations of irresponsible spending. There are growing concerns among senior Republicans about whether the dysfunction within Guilfoyle’s team is translating into money left on the table for what has become an uphill fight for a second term.

Pelosi Mandates Wearing Masks on the House Floor After Gohmert Case
Politico – Heather Cayglde and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/29/2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would now require all members to wear masks on the House floor after U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for the coronavirus. Lawmakers are currently encouraged to wear masks in the chamber and required to wear them in committee rooms, although some Republicans openly defy that rule and have yet to be punished. Gohmert, who frequently refuses to wear a mask around the Capitol, tested positive during a pre-screening by the White Houser before a scheduled flight with President Trump to Texas, news that quickly reverberated across Capitol Hill.

Political Donors Whose Businesses Got PPP Loans Injected $52 Million into 2020 Election
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 7/23/2020

Government rescue loans meant for struggling small businesses went to a number of well-connected firms whose executives are major contributors to lawmakers’ campaigns and political parties. Employees and PACs connected to firms that received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, and in some cases the companies themselves, contributed at least $52 million to federal committees during the 2020 election cycle. Republicans and conservative groups got $27 million from these donors, while Democrats and liberal groups received $24 million. Powerful lobbying firms, hedge funds, and real estate companies received aid while tens of thousands of small businesses closed for good.

Politics at the Point of a Gun
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow | Published: 7/28/2020

Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view – marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors – and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups. In the pandemic stay-at-home orders, they see government overreach that restricts their freedoms and harms their businesses. Many members of these armed groups consider this pre-election period a defining moment. In the months of volatile street protests, they see local authorities who lost the nerve to confront violent agitators.

The Husband Is a Top Public Health Official. The Wife Does Lobbying. She Deleted a Tweet That Showed Them Together at a Public Event.
BuzzFeed News – Paul McLeod | Published: 7/27/2020

The wife of the second-ranking official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared with her husband during an official business trip at a time she was being paid to lobby the department. Emily Hargan tweeted a photo from a July 10 press conference at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center centered around a visit by her husband, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. She has since deleted the tweet. Emily Hargan has been paid by three healthcare companies to lobby HHS. All three contracts were still active on the day she appeared with her husband on an official business trip. She has no lobbying disclosures before her HHS work in June of this year.

Trump Campaign Accused of Using ‘Pass-Through’ Vendors to Obscure $170 Million in Payments
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Will Steakin | Published: 7/28/2020

A watchdog group accused President Trump’s reelection campaign of obscuring nearly $170 million worth of campaign spending through “pass-through” vendors linked to campaign leadership instead of disclosing the true recipients of the funds. In an FEC complaint, the Campaign Legal Center said American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, two companies set up and by run by campaign leadership, including former campaign manager Brad Parscale, have been disguised as providing a variety of services to the campaign, when in reality they have essentially served as “clearing house” firms that dole out contracts and payments to various subcontractors and vendors without revealing the ultimate recipients of the donor money.

Trump’s Assault on Election Integrity Forces Question: What would happen if he refused to accept a loss?
Anchorage Daily News – Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2020

President Trump’s unwillingness to commit to a smooth transition of power has forced academics and political leaders to contemplate possible scenarios if loses the election in November. The resulting turmoil could surpass the contention over the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, confounding the legal system, Congress, and the public’s faith in how the country picks its leaders. Such a crisis could also have long-lasting consequences for a nation that has already been rocked this year by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic collapse, and a reckoning over racial injustice.

Wealthy Donors Pour Millions into Fight Over Mail-In Voting
AP News – Brian Slodysko and Thomas Beaumont | Published: 7/27/2020

Wealthy and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Trump’s fate in the November election. In the battleground of Wisconsin, cash-strapped cities have received $6.3 million from an organization with ties to left-wing philanthropy to help expand vote by mail. Meanwhile, a well-funded conservative group best known for its focus on judicial appointments is spending heavily to fight cases related to mail-in balloting procedures in court. That is just a small slice of the overall spending, which is likely to swell far higher as the election nears.

Canada

Canada Trudeau Strains to Contain Political Scandal Engulfing His Family
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/24/2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is embroiled in another controversy of his own making that is inflicting political damage on him and his administration. He is struggling to contain the rapid spread of a firestorm sparked by his plan to award a sole-source contract to a powerful charity and fueled by revelations that members of his family have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by the organization over the past half-decade. The dustup also threatens to cost Trudeau his trusted finance minister. The public and parliamentary reaction in Canada to the news and further revelations of speaking fees and travel expenses paid to family members of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been swift and harsh.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona GOP Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Arizona Voting Rules Deemed Racially Biased
The Hill – John Kruzel | Published: 7/29/2020

Arizona Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to revive a pair of voting restrictions, struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory, that could make it harder for people of color to cast ballots in the battleground state this fall. In its ruling siding with Democratic challengers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals went so far as to conclude that one of the two voting rules under review was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. In their Supreme Court petition, Arizona Republicans argue the Ninth Circuit was wrong to invalidate the restrictions, which they say are needed to protect the integrity of the vote.

California A San Jose Commission Will Decide on Strong Mayor, Moving Mayoral Elections
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 7/28/2020

Just one month after the plan was devised, San Jose leaders have scrapped a November 2020 ballot measure that could have awarded Mayor Sam Liccardo considerably more power and two extra years in office. Instead, the Charter Review Commission was created to help decide whether San Jose should adopt a strong mayor system, whether mayoral elections should be aligned with presidential elections, and campaign finance reforms, including prohibiting contributions from lobbyists and requiring lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes involving organizations that have donated $250 or more to their campaigns.

California Developers Allegedly Bribed an L.A. Councilman. What Happens to Their Building Plans?
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/27/2020

Federal officials have charged Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe, accusing him of running a criminal enterprise fueled by bribes from real estate developers seeking to build in his downtown district. It is unclear, however, what might happen to the as-yet unbuilt skyscrapers planned by the executives who allegedly provided those bribes. Several council members have called for the city to reassess approvals for real estate projects mentioned in the criminal case, arguing the building plans have been tainted by the scandal.

California Former L.A. County Assessor John Noguez Again Faces Corruption Charges
Los Angeles Times – Matt Hamilton | Published: 7/28/2020

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office refiled charges against former county Assessor John Noguez, reviving the long-running bribery and public corruption case after an appellate court ordered its dismissal on a technical violation. In the new complaint, prosecutors accused Noguez, along with Mark McNeil, a top official in the assessor’s office, and tax consultant Ramin Salari of participating in a scheme in which Noguez would accept bribes to illegally lower the values of properties across greater Los Angeles so Salari’s clients would pay less in taxes.

Florida NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Takes on First Amendment in Appeal
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 7/29/2020

A federal appeals court appeared skeptical of prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer’s arguments in a lawsuit stemming from graphic emails she received following the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed Hammer’s claims against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to Hammer that included photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds. The judge’s ruling came four months after Hammer filed a lawsuit against Sorensen and three other unrelated men because of emails she received. As Florida lawmakers considered legislation in the aftermath of the school shooting, Hammer lobbied against measures that would restrict gun owners’ rights.

Georgia Georgia Senator Is Criticized for Ad Enlarging Jewish Opponent’s Nose
MSN – Rick Rojas (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2020

U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia has taken down a digital campaign ad featuring a manipulated picture of his Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, with an enlarged nose. Before being removed, the Facebook ad showed grainy pictures of Ossoff and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who is also Jewish. “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” the ad said, adding that Schumer had poured millions of dollars into the race. Perdue’s campaign said the alteration had been an outside vendor’s error. But critics said it reflected something more insidious, arguing the campaign had employed imagery long used to malign Jews at a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the country has seeped into politics.

Illinois Feds Subpoena AT&T as Part of Investigation into Speaker Madigan and Lobbying
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Hal Dardick, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long | Published: 7/23/2020

AT&T has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors amid a widening criminal probe encircling Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political operation. The subpoena is part of an inquiry into whether companies improperly used a stable of consultants with ties to Madigan as they pushed for legislation in Springfield. The revelation comes after prosecutors asked Madigan’s office for “any and all documents and communications” concerning AT&T, including contracts and correspondence related to the hiring of anyone to provide consulting or lobbying services to the public utility.

Maine Maine Lawmakers Want Hydro-Quebec to Stop Trying to Influence Voters on CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Lori Valigra | Published: 7/29/2020

A group of 25 current and former Maine lawmakers wrote a letter to Quebec’s premier and Hydro-Quebec’s chief executive officer asking that they stop trying to influence the outcome of a referendum this November on Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor. So far, Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-linked group, and Hydro-Quebec have spent close to $14.7 million to promote the corridor. The lawmakers said they are concerned Hydro-Quebec is exploiting a loophole in Maine ethics laws they sought to close when the pandemic hit and the Legislature adjourned abruptly in March. A bill would prohibit contributions, expenditures, and participation by foreign nationals to influence referendum questions.

Maryland Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Asks Inspector General’s Office to Investigate Her Travel, Businesses
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/23/2020

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asked the city Inspector general’s office to investigate her travel and financial disclosures. It is unusual for an official to seek an investigation of themselves, but the move comes as Mosby weathers criticism of her trips and business arrangements. The request comes after Mosby filed financial disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission, which revealed she traveled at least 20 times for events over the past two years, including trips abroad. Most of the travel, which totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars, was paid for by outside organizations.

Maryland Montgomery Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine Fined for Ethics Violation, But Officials Want More Action
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 7/29/2020

Montgomery County lawmakers are calling for greater disciplinary action against Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine, who admitted to violating an ethics law by using public dollars to promote a book he wrote and maintaining business relationships with two companies that landed county contracts shortly after he took his job. Kleine, who is the top aide to County Executive Marc Elrich, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for the ethics violations. Some county council members say the fine is not sufficient.

Michigan Mystery Money Fuels Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Emergency Powers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/27/2020

The group collecting petitions to limit Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers is primarily being funded by a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, an organization with ties to Senate Republicans, gave $660,200 to Unlock Michigan from June 9 through July 20. Unlock Michigan is the ballot committee that wants to repeal a 1945 law that allows the governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without input or approval from the Legislature. The group’s board has also featured employees of a consulting firm that works with Senate Republicans. The nonprofit is listed at the same address as the consulting firm in Lansing.

Missouri Documents Say Political Consultants Tied to Mantovani Tried to Help Polish Stenger Lies about Northwest Plaza
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 7/25/2020

Two political consultants working to support Mark Mantovani’s bid for St. Louis County executive were part of an effort in 2018 by advisors to the former executive, Steve Stenger, to mislead the public about the cost of a real estate deal involving some of Stenger’s biggest campaign donors. County officials submitted statements to the county council’s ethics committee in 2019 as part of a probe into the county’s lease for office space in the former Northwest Plaza in St. Ann. A newspaper investigation would reveal the lease was far more costly than previously known, sparking an inquiry by the ethics committee. Those hearings revealed how Stenger circumvented procurement staff by placing political appointees in charge of lease negotiations. The owners of the site were among his largest campaign supporters.

Missouri Marijuana Licensing Woes Dog Missouri’s Governor
Politico – Mona Zhang | Published: 7/27/2020

After Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana in November 2018, the state’s new governor, Mike Parson, moved quickly to certify tens of thousands of patients and begin licensing cannabis businesses. But what seemed at first to be an easy source of voter satisfaction and a new cache of revenue to the state has boomeranged badly. A flood of complaints led to state and federal corruption probes that now threaten Parson’s 2020 campaign. The governor’s friend and fundraiser, Steve Tilley, is at the center of the probes. He represented clients who appeared to receive a boost in the licensing process.

Missouri PAC Money to Page from Lobbyist Under FBI Scrutiny Draws Interest in St. Louis County Executive Race
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/23/2020

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page last year accepted $2,049 in campaign contributions from a PAC tied to a Jefferson City lobbyist and company under FBI investigation in Kansas City. The contribution came the month after Page lent his support to a low-income housing project in Dellwood that listed Gardner Capital as its developer, and whose financial backers are the Centene Charitable Foundation and Sterling Bank. The project developers were seeking $615,000 in annual low-income housing tax credits and ultimately won approval. Gardner Capital, Sterling Bank, and Centene Corp. all retain the same lobbyist, Steve Tilley, who also is a former Missouri House speaker. It has been reported the FBI was investigating Gardner Capital and Tilley, among others, in a possible “pay-to-play” scheme in Independence.

New Jersey Gannett Reporter Faces Ethics Questions After Repeated Asks of N.J. Governor About Indoor Dining
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 7/24/2020

Dustin Racioppi is a statehouse reporter for The Bergen Record. He also moonlights as a bartender at Murphy’s Tavern, an old speakeasy and restaurant that is owned by his wife. Occasionally, the two jobs intersect, and alarm bells go off about a potential conflict-of-interest. As a reporter, part of Racioppi’s job is to cover Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Racioppi frequently peppers Murphy with questions about the reopening of indoor restaurant dining but has not publicly disclosed the governor’s decision to close eating establishments, including his own, has had an effect on his family’s personal income.

New Jersey Trump Keeps Touting New Jersey Fraud Case to Attack Mail Voting. Local Leaders Say He’s Not Telling the Whole Story.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2020

Days before the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, selected new members of their city council in May, a postal employee in a neighboring town spotted something suspicious in a local post office: 347 mail-in ballots, bundled together. Four men, including a city councilperson, have been charged with fraud. The county election board disqualified 19 percent of ballots cast in the race. The episode probably would have remained a local dust-up but for the interest of President Trump, who has attacked voting by mail as susceptible to massive fraud. But those involved in the Paterson case said the president is vastly oversimplifying what took place in a local election, using it to serve his own political purposes and overstating the extent to which problems in their city serve as some kind of national cautionary tale.

New York Trump Lawyers Renew Legal Assault on Tax Records Subpoena
AP News – Larry Neumeister | Published: 7/27/2020

President Trump’s lawyers filed fresh arguments to try to block a criminal subpoena for his tax records, saying it was issued in bad faith, might have been politically motivated, and calling it a harassment of the president. Attorneys filed a rewritten lawsuit in Manhattan federal court to challenge the subpoena by a state prosecutor on grounds they believe conform with how the U.S. Supreme Court said the subpoena can be contested. The high court ruled Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could subpoena tax records from Trump’s accountant over his objections.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Requests Attorney General Opinion; Bill Drafts in Works for 2021
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/23/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission is asking for a state attorney general opinion amid its rulemaking process. Commission Executive Director David Thiele said the agency is seeking clarification on “our authority to expand on the definition of ‘lobbyist’ as it relates to gifts.” A time frame for receiving an opinion is unclear. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved the Ethics Commission in a constitutional initiative that also included a lobbyist gift prohibition that takes effect in January. Related rules are to be adopted by then. The 2019 Legislature passed Republican majority leaders’ framework for implementing the measure.

Ohio Bribery Case Shines Light on Ohio’s Campaign Finance Laws, Nonprofits
Toledo Blade – Jim Provance | Published: 7/25/2020

U.S. Attorney David DeVillers outlined a scheme by which authorities allege Ohio’s largest utility company used a series of nonprofit entities to funnel millions of dollars to the benefit of Columbus lawmakers who eventually approved a $1 billion citizen-backed bailout of the state’s nuclear power industry. But neither Ohio nor federal campaign finance laws currently require such disclosure by nonprofits. Such secrecy has long obscured the extent to which money influences politics in the Buckeye State, but it appears to be under newfound scrutiny as taxpayers take stock of the sweeping racketeering and bribery probe. Gov. Mike DeWine now says he would support closing that “dark-money” loophole in the law.

Ohio Criminal Charges Against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Echo Past Pay-to-Play Allegations
MSN – Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/28/2020

More than a decade before Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s July 21 arrest in a federal bribery probe of the state’s nuclear bailout law, his aggressive fundraising practices came under law enforcement scrutiny. But no charges resulted from that case. According to previous news reports, Householder’s operatives raised millions of dollars for him and House Republicans by threatening to withhold financial support from those who did not vote with Householder on key pieces of legislation. The reporting also revealed allegations they strong-armed members to embrace no-new-taxes pledges, using political nonprofits to wage campaigns against Democrats and uncooperative Republican primary opponents.

Ohio Householder Probe Generates Campaign Cash Problem for House Republicans
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 7/29/2020

Without Speaker Larry Householder’s fundraising operation, Ohio House Republicans find themselves in a disastrous financial spot heading into competitive fall races. With fewer than 100 days until the November election, House Republicans’ campaign fund should total millions of dollars, GOP campaign operatives said. But the House Republican Campaign Committee’s (HRCC) latest financial report shows $384,000 and the current total could be even less. That is because House Republicans’ campaigns, by and large, were not bankrolled by the HRCC. Instead, money flowed through Householder’s personal campaign fund and “dark money” groups to elect Republicans loyal to the speaker.

Ohio Ohio House Ousts Top Leader After Arrest in Bribery Scheme
AP News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 7/30/2020

The Ohio House ousted its speaker as the chamber’s top leader in a historic, unanimous, and bipartisan vote after he was charged in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme. Rep. Larry Householder is the first Ohio House speaker ever removed by lawmakers. For now, he still retains his seat in the Legislature. Remaining members of Householder’s leadership team had said he deserves the presumption of innocence but “lost the trust of his colleagues and the public” and could not effectively lead the House

Pennsylvania Former Congressman Ozzie Myers Caught in 1970s Abscam Sting Has Been Indicted Again – This Time for Election Fraud
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 7/23/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, previously sent to prison in the 1970s Abscam investigation, was charged with new allegations that he bribed a poll worker to stuff ballot boxes in local elections in Philadelphia. Federal prosecutors allege Myers, now working as a campaign consultant, paid a judge of elections to fraudulently add votes to candidates who had hired him to represent him in their races between 2014 and 2016. Prosecutors did not say whether those candidates went on to win their elections or whether the votes added by DeMuro, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in March, were decisive in tipping the outcome.

Rhode Island RI Supreme Court Justice Wins Appeal of $200 Ethics Violation
WPRI – Eli Sherman and Walt Bateau | Published: 7/27/2020

A Superior Court judge overturned the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s decision to fine state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose that he was president of a Catholic legal group while ruling on a priest sexual abuse case. Judge Brian Stern concluded the commission failed to show Flaherty’s actions were “deliberate or intentional” or that he was aware he needed to list his position as president of the St. Thomas More Society of Rhode Island on his yearly financial statements.

Tennessee Former House Speaker Glen Casada Pays $10,500 Fine with Money from Political Action Committee
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/28/2020

Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada skirted around state law to use campaign money held by his PAC to pay a civil penalty of $10,500 levied fine by the Registry of Election Finance. Using money maintained in a candidate’s personal campaign account to pay off a fine is illegal under Tennessee law. The law, however, only applies to candidates’ campaign committees and not PACs controlled by candidates, said Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. “The law is silent on PACs,” Young said.

October 28, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Elections National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” […]

Campaign Finance

Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” by Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension” by Mark Berman (Washington Post) for MSN

Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline” by Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico

Ethics

National: “Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case” by Kyle Cheney for Politico

Colorado: “Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law” by Jeffrey Roberts for Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Tennessee: “Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover” by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean

Lobbying

New Hampshire: “Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line” by Josie Albertson-Grove for Manchester Union-Leader

Redistricting

Arizona: “Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List” by Bob Christie for Associated Press News

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October 27, 2020 •

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act Introduced to Amend FARA

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol - by Martin Falbisoner

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents. The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical […]

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents.

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical bills in both houses of Congress by Rep. Mike Gallagher and Sen. Tom Cotton, would repeal the exemption from registration for persons, acting as agents of a covered Chinese business organization, providing private and nonpolitical representation of trade and commercial interests.

House Bill 8663 and Senate Bill 4843 would also remove the exemption for persons filing disclosure reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 in connection with the representation of business organizations organized under the laws of, or having their principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China. The bill defines a covered Chinese business organization as an entity designated by the Attorney General as subject to the extrajudicial direction of the Chinese Communist Party or an entity organized under the laws of, or having its principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China (including any subsidiary or affiliate of such an entity).

The legislation would become effective 180 days after enactment.

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October 27, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic

Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” by Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN

Oregon: “Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign” by Rebecca Ellis for OPB

Elections

National: “Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads” by Mark Scott for Politico

California: “Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App” by Katy Murphy for Politico

Ethics

Illinois: “Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say” by Tom Schuba for Chicago Sun-Times

Lobbying

National: “How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’” by Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

National: “Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico

Wyoming: “Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors” by Staff for Associated Press News

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October 26, 2020 •

American Samoa Governor Calls Additional Special Session

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget. The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 […]

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget.

The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 million in drastic cuts made by the Fono to the budgets for executive branch departments.

The Fono leaders had told the governor in an October 13th letter they are not confident with governor’s revenue projections.

They further urged the governor to act on the final fiscal year 2021 budget bill now in his control.

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October 26, 2020 •

Missouri’s Second Special Session Set for November 5

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly. The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state. This session is the second special session Parson has called this year. […]

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly.

The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state.

This session is the second special session Parson has called this year.

The session does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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October 26, 2020 •

Ohio Lobbyists Must Pay 2021 Registration Fees Electronically

Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees. The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019. […]

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees.

The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019.

Registrations fees for 2021 must be paid electronically by VISA, MasterCard, or ACH.

Lobbyists may begin renewing registrations for legislative, executive, and retirement system engagements in OLAC on December 1.

The renewal option closes January 15, 2021.

Any lobbyist who does not complete the renewal process by January 15 must file a new initial registration statement.

The registration statement requires a signature page.

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October 26, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune Elections National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested […]

Campaign Finance

California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune

Elections

National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote” by Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman for ABC News

National: “International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever” by Carol Morello for Washington Post

Alabama: “Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Pennsylvania: “Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says” by Marc Levy for Associated Press News

Ethics

Connecticut: “FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up” by Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) for Connecticut Mirror

Lobbying

National: “COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Illinois: “Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall” by Heather Cherone for WTTW

Oregon: “Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape” by Chris May for Street Roots

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October 23, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 23, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020 A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a […]

National/Federal

Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020

A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a swift ruling in the legal battle over access to President Trump’s financial records The panel previously upheld the subpoena brought by the House but considered the case for the second time after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reevaluate the House’s subpoena power. Democrats had hoped to have Trump’s past financial statements for campaign leverage. For Judge David Tatel, however, the more prudent move would be to wait until after the next Congress convenes on January 3. The case is one of several ongoing legal battles over the president’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.

Ex-Interior Official Violated Trump Ethics Pledge by Meeting with Former Associates: Watchdog
The Hill – Rebecca Bietsch | Published: 10/21/2020

A former top Interior Department political appointee violated his ethics pledge by taking a meeting with an organization he previously volunteered for, according to a report from the department’s watchdog. Sources said the employee in question is Todd Wynn, the former head of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Wynn, now a lobbyist for a major Arizona utility, took a meeting with Rich Lindsey, an energy committee policy consultant from the Council of State Governments. Wynn previously was on the board of trustees for the Council of State Governments 21st Century Foundation.

Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge
Miami Herald – Ben Wieder | Published: 10/20/2020

Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, at the time, the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has agreed to forfeit $6.6 million he was paid for his work. The charge is related to his efforts to arrange meetings with top American officials to help quash a U.S. investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian embezzlement scheme and to push for the deportation of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Broidy agreed he acted as a foreign agent in his efforts.

Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 10/15/2020

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the House of Representatives’ attempt to enforce a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn but cautioned the case could go unresolved once this Congress’s term ends in January. The appeals court said it will revisit a three-judge panel decision to dismiss the House lawsuit, which came after the White House claimed key presidential aides are “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony to Congress. The panel found Congress has not passed a law expressly authorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.

How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller | Published: 10/20/2020

Some campaign aides for President Trump privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising, even though Trump’s political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy.

Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/15/2020

Lobbyists are preparing for the difficulty of virtually getting to know newly elected members of Congress when they come to Washington, D.C. for orientation in November. A victory by Joe Biden would make that task even harder given the influx of new aides and administration officials. In all, lobbyists could find themselves navigating the challenges of trying to meet new leadership, committee, agency, and administration staffers in a pandemic without in-person meetings or the fundraisers that typically populate K Street’s calendar shortly after a general election.

On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act
Bloomberg Law – Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff | Published: 10/14/2020

Under President Trump, allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, which clamps down on political activities of government employees while they are on the job, have come at a rate not seen in previous administrations, but there have been few consequences. Two agencies have a role in enforcing Hatch Act violations: the Justice Department, which handles criminal cases, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which takes on civil violations. But while the OSC sometimes makes Hatch Act findings, the Justice Department rarely does, said David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 10/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states. The court’s announcement teed up oral arguments in the case for November 30, an accelerated timeline that paves the way for a potential decision before the Census Bureau is set to deliver the population counts to Trump’s desk at the end of the year. In July, Trump issued a memorandum in July, asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment, the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years.

The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 10/20/2020

While Joe Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. As the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential bundlers. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months, about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time.

Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig | Published: 10/20/2020

President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there. But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. It turns out China is one of only three foreign nations where Trump maintains a bank account. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/15/2020

Twitter changed a rule about hacked materials that resulted in blocking a controversial New York Post story about the alleged emails of Joe Biden’s son. The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information. Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving “feedback” that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, Twitter will remove content only if it is directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.

U.S. Government Concludes Iran Was Behind Threatening Emails Sent to Democrats
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. officials accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election. The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump
MSN – Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2020

The intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent. When national security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation, Trump dismissed concern about Giuliani’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”

Canada

Canada Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds
CBC – Tara Carman | Published: 10/21/2020

A ban on union and corporate donations to British Columbia political parties and a cap on the amount individuals can give has hurt the provincial Liberals the most, a CBC News analysis found. The ban was introduced by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in November 2017. Even though British Columbia’s two largest parties both used to accept tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed donors – unions in the case of the NDP and businesses in the case of the Liberals, for the most part – the Liberals were more dependent on those contributions. Donations of $250 or less collectively form the biggest piece of the donation pie for all three parties. This was also true before the rule change, but the limits have made those types of contributions more important.

Canada Lobbyists Must Now Report Their Activities
Whitehorse Daily Star – Gabrielle Plonka | Published: 10/21/2020

Lobbyists are now required to report their activities in the Yukon Territory with the implementation of the Lobbyist Registration Act. Lobbyists are responsible for registering and entering their information online. A 90-day grace period from October 15 is in effect, to allow for lobbyists to learn and adhere to the new reporting requirements. All lobbyists must register by January 13, 2021. David Jones, the Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the Lobbyist Registry.

Canada Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case
CTV – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/15/2020

A new court ruling means the federal lobbying commissioner will not be taking a fresh look at whether the Aga Khan broke rules by giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal in the matter from Democracy Watch. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

California City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband
Patch – City News Service | Published: 10/21/2020

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $7,500 against Lorena Saucillo, a former city clerk who sent people’s credit card information to her incarcerated husband. On two occasions, Saucillo recorded credit card information provided by landlords who were paying city fees. Using her city email address, Lorena sent the credit card information to a personal email account accessible to her husband, whom she knew was intending to use the information for fraudulent purposes, the commission said.

California Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism
Los Angeles Times – Ben Brazil | Published: 10/20/2020

An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents. Some have called Irvine Community News & Views biased in favor of Larry Agran, the longstanding local politician who helped get the newspaper started. Agran said in an interview that the newspaper, which claims a circulation of 66,500, is legitimate and just like any other. Agran credited publisher and friend Frank Lunding with starting and running the paper. “I have written for it. I am proud of it. I help Frank wherever I can. I help recruit writers for him,” Agran said.

California Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures
San Diego Union Tribune – John Wilkens | Published: 10/18/2020

Election workers eyeballing the signatures of San Diego County voters are at the heart of a screening process that happens before mail ballots for the November 3 election are counted. Workers compare scanned images of voters’ return-envelope signatures with samples already on file at the county Registrar of Voters. It is how they verify the person returning a ballot is the person it was sent to, a safeguard against fraud. Exact matches are not required. Instead, the workers are checking similarities  in characteristics such as the slant of the letters, the spacing between the first and last names, and how the “I’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.

California Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty
San Jose Mercury News – Robert Salonga | Published: 10/19/2020

Former AS Solution security manager Martin Nielsen, the primary witness who implicated a sheriff’s captain and three others in an alleged bribery scheme to trade political donations supporting Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith for concealed-carry weapons permits, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for his role in the ploy. According to the indictment, Nielsen and two others conspired with the four main defendants to obtain up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits from the sheriff’s office in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith.

Colorado Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba | Published: 10/20/2020

In 2019, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold saw a tweet falsely claiming her state’s election system had been hacked. The flare-up was another reminder of how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election. To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos, and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado’s elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.

Florida Appeals Court Rejects NRA Lobbyist’s Case Over Graphic Parkland Massacre Emails
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/21/2020

A full federal appeals court rejected a request by National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer asked for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds. The request came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle and a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled against Hammer, who alleged Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida In Last-Minute Push, DeSantis Administration Urges Florida Election Officials to Remove Felons Who Owe Fines from Voting Rolls
Washington Post – Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa | Published: 10/20/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection. In a notice sent to local election officials, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day. A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

Florida Orlando Airport Leaders Will Review Their Lobbying Rules Following Sentinel Report
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/21/2020

The agency that runs Orlando International Airport will reexamine its lobbying rules after The Orlando Sentinel reported that a prominent lobbyist broke those rules over the summer but did not face any consequences. Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, called four board members in July on behalf of a client. The rules require lobbyists to report their contacts with board members within one week. Brodeur did not disclose her calls until nearly three months later.

Illinois Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2020

Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanged emails with lobbyist and Flossmoor Trustee Gyata Kimmons months after a law took effect banning elected public officials from lobbying Chicago City Hall. Kimmons emailed Lightfoot on behalf of a real estate company with tenants at O’Hare International Airport. The back-and-forth occurred after Lightfoot introduced a proposal that would have rolled back part of the ordinance that prohibited elected officials such as Kimmons from lobbying city officials while keeping his elected post. Alderman rejected Lightfoot’s plan but while it was pending, Kimmons continued to lobby the city. During that time, the Chicago Board of Ethics declined to enforce the restrictions against lobbying by elected officials on the grounds that if Lightfoot’s proposal passed, it would nullify them.

Illinois Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner
Chicago Tribune – Robert McCoppin | Published: 10/15/2020

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, who is a former Illinois cannabis regulator, said she is part owner of a company that is applying for cannabis licenses and she was paid to write the applications. The state’s “revolving door” law, meant to keep state workers from immediately switching from regulating an industry to participating in it, prohibits any regulatory worker from accepting compensation from any entity which that person “substantially” regulated, within one year of their state employment. Effective next year, the law will prohibit any state workers who participated substantially in awarding cannabis licenses from holding ownership in any cannabis license for two years after they leave their state jobs. Degnen said she was out of her state job for two years before she joined AmeriCanna Dream late last year.

Illinois Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/18/2020

The Illinois Democratic Party has been deluging potential voters in the general election with campaign mailers taking aim at Republican state Rep. Bradley Stephens for taking donations from one of the new bogeymen of Illinois politics: the red-light camera industry. But records also reveal House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs the state Democratic Party and has been bankrolling the campaign of Stephens’ opponent, has accepted generous campaign checks from red-light camera companies and people affiliated with them for many years. Madigan’s campaign funds have also accepted donations from officials tied to SafeSpeed, which has been swept up in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Kansas Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 10/19/2020

When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official, the mayor said he noticed the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him. The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty was arrested on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide.

Kentucky Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 10/14/2020

Dozens of Kentucky counties are failing to fully follow a law requiring financial disclosure by officials and having local boards to handle ethics issues, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office. Harmon said his office surveyed counties on the issue because it has referred findings about potential problems to county ethics boards, only to find there was no active board. In addition to violating the law, the widespread county shortcomings could undermine confidence in government, Harmon said.

Maryland Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 10/15/2020

State lawmakers issued subpoenas for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), to appear before a committee investigating McGrath’s six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency. McGrath left his position as Hogan’s top aide four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the MES. It was also reported The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for travel, meetings, and meals after he left the agency.

Michigan Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser | Published: 10/17/2020

A state appeals court in Michigan moved up the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots, reimposing a cutoff favored by Republicans during a continuing surge in early and mail-in voting around the country. A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country. Voters in the state now must return their mail-in ballots by eight p.m. on November 3.

Montana Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Perrin Stein | Published: 10/19/2020

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is running for governor against U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, failed to properly report in-kind contributions from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and also accepted donations beyond the state limit from the group. The Cooney campaign and the DGA worked on a statewide advertising campaign criticizing Gianforte for his alleged support of a sales tax. Mangan said the Cooney campaign failed to disclose the costs associated with a website that was a component of the advertising campaign as an in-kind contribution from the DGA.

New Mexico NM Investment Scandal Winds Down
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 10/17/2020

The New Mexico Supreme Court effectively closed the books on state investment scandals involving “pay-to-play” schemes beginning in 2004 that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that went south. The court upheld earlier rulings that rejected a challenge to a $24.5 million settlement reached between lawyers for the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and State Investment Council with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors. The state lost more than $100 million on its Vanderbilt investments, and the settlement had been challenged as inadequate by Frank Foy, former chief investment officer at the ERB.

North Carolina Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided federal appeals court denied an attempt by Republicans to block an agreement by North Carolina officials allowing absentee ballots in the November election to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later. North Caolina typically counts absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after the election, but the State Board of Elections agreed to extend that window to nine days due to the increased ballot requests related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well concerns about mail delays due to recent Postal Service changes.

Ohio Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges
Associated Press News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 10/17/2020

Ohio Rep. Larry Householder is likely to win reelection this year despite being indicted on racketeering charges in the alleged bribery scheme to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants. House members considered removing Householder from the chamber immediately but, if they did so before November 3, voters would be able to reelect him and a lawmaker cannot be expelled twice. The only option now for both parties is to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider expelling or impeaching him. If reelected, Householder would be automatically removed from office if he is convicted as state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or bribery charges from holding public office.

Ohio Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says
Athens News – Ben Peters | Published: 10/16/2020

Neil Clark, a longtime Columbus lobbyist who was indicted in a corruption probe, said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is “Representative 8” in the federal affidavit connected to the House Bill 6 scandal. Clark said he, Edwards, then-House Speaker Larry Householder, an aide, and two clients – who Clark reportedly believed to be working undercover with the FBI – met in September 2019 at the Aubergine Club, where they discussed the importance of defeating the ballot initiative campaign that aimed to repeal House Bill 6. Edwards, who served as majority whip, said he does not recall attending the meeting, but he never explicitly denied it occurred.

Oregon Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/15/2020

Oregon voters who go online to search for information about the election are likely to find a website called the “2020 Oregon voter guide” at the top of their search results. Thanks to paid search engine ads, that website shows up before the state’s official voters’ guide. It looks neutral and informational, but it endorses only Democrats and urges a “yes” vote on all four statewide ballot measures. Campaign finance data shows at least one candidate and some state and local ballot measures endorsed by the guide are paying the PAC that produced it. That information is not listed on the website, nor on political mailers.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 10/19/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well. The justices’ order establishes the ground rules for mail-in voting in one of the nation’s key battleground states. The ruling could have an impact in other states where the deadline for mail-in ballots has been the subject of court battles. Those include Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, and Montana.

Rhode Island What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case
MSN – Kate Mulvaney (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/19/2020

Final written arguments were submitted in the trial of Jeremy Britt, a campaign operative for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The arguments did not focus solely on Britt’s guilt or innocence on the most serious charge he faces – allegedly funneling money through a once-rival Republican’s campaign to hide his own role in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello. At the judge’s request, they also addressed the significance of the punctuation in the state’s money-laundering law. More specifically, whether placement of commas and semicolons should determine Britt’s fate.

Wyoming Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 10/20/2020

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office ordered a pro-gun lobbying organization to reveal its donors after a summer in which the group flooded Wyoming with dozens of ads disparaging a number of sitting lawmakers in competitive races. The office said Wyoming Gun Owners failed to comply with state campaign finance law by not reporting the electioneering communications. The gun owners group now has until November 4 to release the names of its donors or face a $500 fine. If the group refuses to comply, the case will then go to the state attorney general.

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