July 5, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 5, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019

In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, saying it will begin printing forms that do not include the contentious query. The move comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court the rationale for the question as “contrived.” Officials determined there would not be enough time to continue the legal battle and meet the printing deadlines for the census questionnaire. Critics of the question, including some at the Census Bureau, said it could cause an undercount of millions of people in immigrant communities who would be afraid to return the form, leading to an inaccurate number that could skew representation and apportionment in favor of Republican areas.

Ethics Panel Launches Gaetz Investigation Over Cohen Tweet
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/29/2019

The House Committee on Ethics announced it is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for a February tweet in which he threatened to release embarrassing personal information about President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The committee said it has opened a formal inquiry into Gaetz’s comment based on a complaint from a fellow lawmaker, who is not identified. According to the ethics panel, Gaetz disregarded an initial review of the complaint, an extraordinary rebuke to his colleagues. Gaetz’s initial attack on Cohen came a day before the former Trump confidant was slated to testify to the House Oversight Committee, a high-profile hearing in which Cohen ultimately slammed the president as dishonest and provided evidence he paid hush money to women ahead of the 2016 election.

Gregory Craig Preps for Trial Tightrope in Foreign Agent Case
Law.com – Andrew Strickler | Published: 7/1/2019

Attorney Gregory Craig was charged with misleading Department of Justice officials six years ago about a Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom report commissioned by Paul Manafort and public-relations activities that would have triggered a duty for Skadden to publicly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Craig has vehemently denied lying to FARA officials or helping spin the report to influence a U.S. audience. He has also argued that neither of the government’s charged statutes imposed a clear obligation on him to reveal to FARA officials all the information they might have wanted to know.

House Democrats Sue for Trump’s Tax Returns
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 7/2/2019

House Democrats sued for President Trump’s tax returns, marking the beginning of a high-stakes legal fight over his efforts to keep them secret. Democrats are seeking six years’ worth of returns under a 1924 law allowing the leaders of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s confidential tax information. Democrats hope the documents will answer a host of questions about Trump’s finances. The president has defied a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns, and his administration is fighting the effort to force his hand, arguing Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for seeking the information. While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.

It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.
New York Times – Lisa Lerer | Published: 7/2/2019

Three years after nominating the first woman in history to head a presidential ticket, nearly six months after a wave of energized women swept Democrats into power in the U.S. House, and as a record number of women run for president, the party finds itself grappling with the strangely enduring question of the electability of women, and with the challenge for the candidates of refuting it before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Privately, Democratic strategists, candidates, and officials say they have been alarmed by how deeply doubts about female electability have taken hold. A portion of the party’s voters suggest they are eager to see a woman on the ticket but fear that putting her in the top slot could cost them the White House again.

Journalists, Pundits and Retired Politicians Put on a Show for Lobbyists
MAPLight.org – Andrew Perez, Abigail Luke, and Tom Zelina | Published: 7/2/2019

The practice of paying high-profile Washington, D.C. insiders to speak at industry trade shows and conferences, known as “buckraking,” is not a recent development. But as the rules on political participation by nonprofits and trade associations have been loosened, it has become common for lobbying groups to pay large sums to influential insiders who drive news coverage and public opinion. Guidelines on paid speeches vary widely across the industry, although the Society of Professional Journalists calls for reporters and editors to “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

NRA Meltdown Has Trump Campaign Sweating
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/3/2019

The National Rifle Association (NRA) aired an avalanche of television ads and pushed its five million-plus members to the polls for Donald Trump in 2016, propelling him in the Rust Belt states that delivered him the presidency. Now, the gun rights group is in total meltdown and senior Republicans and Trump campaign officials are alarmed. The turmoil is fueling fears that the NRA will be diminished heading into the election, leaving the Republican Party with a gaping hole in its political machinery. With the Chamber of Commerce and Koch political network withdrawing from their once-dominant roles in electing conservatives, Republicans worry that three groups that have long formed the core of their electoral infrastructure will be effectively on the sidelines.

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Affairs with Congressional Staff Raise Sexual Harassment Concerns
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 6/28/2019

Republican Party leaders have demurred on whether U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter should resign over revelations he pursued relationships with two congressional staffers, including one of his own aides. But that does not mean allegations that Hunter had “intimate relationships,” as U.S. attorneys described them in a recent court filing, with two staffers will not trigger consequences on Capitol Hill. The relationships were revealed in a motion filed in connection with Hunter’s upcoming trial on charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. Hunter dipped into campaign coffers to pay for drinks out, couples’ trips, and Uber rides from the women’s homes to his congressional office, prosecutors say. The relationships predate a law that amended the House’s code of conduct to prohibit members of Congress from dating subordinates. But Hunter’s behavior still raises ethical concerns, experts say.

‘The Enigma of the Entire Mueller Probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Shane Harris, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2019

A conversation between Maltese-born academic Joseph Mifsud and Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, eventually relayed by an Australian diplomat to U.S. government officials, was cited by special counsel Robert Mueller as the event that set in motion the FBI probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. With Attorney General William Barr’s review of the counterintelligence investigation underway, the origins of the inquiry itself are now in the spotlight and with them, the role of Mifsud. Some of President Trump’s allies and advisers have been floating a provocative theory: that Mifsud was a Western intelligence plant, citing exaggerated and at times distorted details about his life. Such a notion runs counter to the description of Mifsud in the Mueller report, which states he “had connections to Russia” and “maintained various Russian contacts.”

The Nationwide Battle Over Gerrymandering Is Far from Over
Politico – Steven Shepard and Scott Bland | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that federal courts have no business deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much did not end the fight over how politicians draw political lines, it just moved the battlefield. The justices accelerated the race between the two parties to tilt the system to their advantage by electing as many governors and legislators as possible or, in some states, getting voters to support ballot measures to take the redistricting process out of politicians’ hands by 2021. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. It was there that Democratic-aligned plaintiffs successfully demolished Pennsylvania’s Republican-drawn congressional map before the 2018 elections.

Trump Advisers Pursue Democratic Drug-Price Ideas as Campaign Looms
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Laurie McGinley | Published: 7/2/2019

As President Trump presses to make health care a central plank of his 2020 reelection bid, he is frustrated with those he thinks are thwarting his ability to deliver on a major campaign promise: lowering drug prices. That has included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug executive who until very recently pushed back on proposals to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and negotiate drug prices in Medicare. Now, though, under pressure to deliver campaign talking points, Azar has reversed his long-standing opposition to ideas traditionally espoused by Democrats and reviled by most Republicans and the drug industry.

Trump Facebook Ads Use Models to Portray Actual Supporters
AP News – Robert Condon | Published: 7/2/2019

A series of Facebook video ads for President Trump’s re-election campaign shows what appears to be a young woman strolling on a beach in Florida, a Hispanic man on a city street in Texas, and a bearded hipster in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., all making glowing, voice-over endorsements of the president. But the people in the videos that ran in the past few months are all actually models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil, and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee. Though the 20-second videos include tiny disclaimers that say, “actual testimonial, actor portrayal,” they raise the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models.

Twitter Adds Labels for Tweets That Break Its Rules – a Move with Potentially Stark Implications for Trump’s Account
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Gwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019

Political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels. The new policy comes amid complaints that President Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence. From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service’s rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation. Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet will not be removed. Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won’t use its algorithms to “elevate” or otherwise promote such tweets.

Ukraine Role Focuses New Attention on Giuliani’s Foreign Work
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/30/2019

Pavel Fuks, a wealthy Ukrainian-Russian developer looking for ways to attract more investment from the U.S. to his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine, enlisted an especially well-connected American to help him: Rudolph Giuliani. Fuks hired Giuliani, who in 2018 would become the president’s personal lawyer, under a one-year deal to help improve Kharkiv’s emergency services and bolster its image as a destination for investment. Fuks’s description of Giuliani as a lobbyist further highlighted a controversy over what some say is a pattern by Giuliani of providing influence with the Trump administration. Democrats have asked whether Giuliani’s role working in a number of foreign countries fits the legal definition of lobbying and requires him to register as a foreign agent, something Giuliani has not done.

Welcome to 2020, the Era of Crowdfunded Presidential Debates
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 7/2/2019

Democrats this year are giving not only to help their preferred candidates, but also to offer a small token of appreciation for a clever policy idea for someone else, or to keep an underdog in the game. Welcome to the 2020 primaries, an era of crowdfunded presidential debates. Campaign donations and debates have become intermingled this year, with the Democratic National Committee for the first time requiring that candidates reach a certain number of donors to qualify for primary debates. That has created an intense focus on fundraising, with candidates asking supporters for money specifically to help them qualify for the widely watched forums. More than 100 debate viewers from across the country responded to a call-out by The Washington Post on Instagram, asking them about the moments that resonated with them and drove them to give money.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona A GOP Governor Wants to Cancel a Nike Contract after Flag-Shoe Flap, but the City It’s Headed for Isn’t Backing Down
Greenwich Time – Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/3/2019

Nike stopped production of shoes that featured the image of an American flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly lodged a complaint. Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, said he found the Betsy Ross flag designed in 1777 offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he ordered state authorities to revoke an incentive package it offered Nike to open a factory in the state. But Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said the city would honor the agreement. Boycotts by companies and independent contractors over governmental policies that cross what some see as lines on race or gender have become a common. Ducey’s decision inverted the calculation – in this case, a state would monetarily punish a private company for a political decision it made.

Connecticut They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/3/2019

Watchdogs are concerned the Connecticut General Assembly’s relationship with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) could undermine campaign finance reforms adopted in 2005. Near the end of the 2019 session, a deal by legislative leaders sped an elections bill that contained a calculated slap at the SEEC through the Senate in little more than a minute. It would have set term limits on the agency’s director, treating elections enforcement differently than the state’s other watchdogs. The measure marked the fifth time since 2011 the Legislature has at least attempted to curb the powers of the SEEC or loosen campaign finance rules, reflecting a longstanding antipathy towards the agency that not only enforce the laws, but bankrolls campaigns.

Missouri Meet the Consultant Who Got Stenger Elected, and Why He’s Still ‘Proud’ He Won
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 6/30/2019

Two days after Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to federal “pay-to-play” charges, Democratic consultant Michael Kelley was on television, sounding as though he barely knew the former St. Louis County executive. “… An absolutely ridiculous thing for Steve Stenger to have been involved in,” Kelly said. Left unsaid was the fact that Stenger’s campaign had paid Kelley’s Show Me Victories – the political communications arm of the Kelley Group – $550,000 during his two successful election campaigns. Nor did Kelley mention that Stenger, as county executive, had been a regular at the Kelley Group’s offices, visiting almost weekly for meetings in 2018. In addition to the Stenger campaign, Show Me Victories has worked on nearly every major local ballot proposition in the last few years.

New Jersey U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Bridgegate Appeal. Stunning Move Keeps Alive Case That Dogged Christie.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/28/2019

Bridget Anne Kelly, the one-time aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whose “time for some traffic problems” email became a key focal point of the Bridgegate corruption scandal, will get a final chance to argue she was wrongfully convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Kelly’s appeal – weeks before she is due to report to federal prison – reviving a case that many had thought was finally over. The decision to review her conviction could raise new questions about the ability of the government to take on major political prosecutions, by a court that has taken aim at a number of high-profile corruption cases in recent years. Lawyers for Kelly had argued that federal prosecutors used criminal fraud statutes typically used in cases of personal gain, such as bribery, to instead criminalize routine political behavior.

North Dakota Legislator as Landlord: Financial disclosures don’t highlight state agency leases with North Dakota elected officials
Jamestown Sun – John Hageman | Published: 6/30/2019

Several current or former elected state officials in North Dakota have an interest in property rented by state agencies, but those financial relationships were not readily apparent on campaign disclosure forms. The officials defended the leases, which are not awarded through a formal competitive bidding process, as a byproduct of North Dakota’s citizen-run Legislature and said they do not affect their decision-making. Dina Butcher, who led the effort to pass last year’s ballot measure etching new ethics rules into the state constitution, did not directly criticize the state officials because the arrangements are not illegal, and she was not aware of any leases being unfairly awarded. But she said the ethics commission created by Measure 1 may take up the issue once it is formed.

Oregon Campaign Finance Limits on Track to Oregon Ballot
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 7/1/2019

Voters in Oregon will decide next November whether the state constitution should allow limits on campaign donations. Legislative approval of the historic campaign finance measure comes three months after The Portland Oregonian revealed how the outsize influence of corporate campaign money helped limit environmental protections in a state that once aimed to be an environmental pioneer. Per capita, corporate interests have given more money to the average Oregon lawmaker than in any state in the country, the investigation found. Lawmakers also passed House Bill 2716, under which some large funders will need to be disclosed in some advertisements.

Texas How a Longtime Aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Became a Top Lobbyist
Austin American-Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 6/27/2019

Daniel Hodge, a former aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who is now a lobbyist, earned as much as $3.7 million this year representing more than two dozen clients at the state Legislature. It illuminates how someone like Hodge can, within a couple of years of hanging a shingle, become one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state. Longtime lobbyists say the transition is a natural one, using knowledge learned and relationships built in the public sector for effective advocacy outside it. But watchdogs have pointed to the close link between the Legislature and those who peddle access to government funds as an erosion of public trust. In recent years, lawmakers have tried, with limited success, to expand restrictions on the path from state government to lobbying.

Wyoming Wyoming Tribe Funded Effort to Kill Gambling Regulations; Sides Dispute Who Created the Group
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 7/1/2019

A casino managed by the Northern Arapaho tribe gave thousands of dollars to a secretive organization trying to defeat regulated gambling in Wyoming, records show, but tribal officials say they were duped by their lobbyist who set up the group. The tribe fired the lobbyist, Mark Howell recently. Howell, and a minority of tribal leadership, denied the officials’ version of events, saying they ordered the group’s creation. The Wind River Hotel and Casino put more than $80,000 into the Wyoming Public Policy Center, which formed prior to the 2019 legislative session. The group has spent more than $60,000 in lobbying expenses and engaged in a sophisticated advertising campaign. Little had been known about the group’s activities prior to the filing. Hidden behind a wall of anonymous filings in multiple jurisdictions, the group had been afforded a level of secrecy unavailable in states with stricter corporate filing laws.

April 3, 2020 •

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

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

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

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

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

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

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

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

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

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

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

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

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

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

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

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

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

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

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

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

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April 3, 2020 •

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

North Carolina State Legislative Building

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

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

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

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

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April 3, 2020 •

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

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 3, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 2, 2020 •

Mississippi Postpones House District 88 Special Election

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

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

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

The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January.

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

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April 2, 2020 •

West Virginia Postpones Primary until June 9

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

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

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

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

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