June 12, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 12, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election
MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020

The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to experiment with or expand online voting, an approach the Department of Homeland Security deemed “high risk” in a recent report. It has also put renewed focus on the assortment of online state voter registration systems, which were among the chief targets of Russian hackers in 2016. Their security is central to ensuring that, come November, voters receive their mail-in ballots or can gain access to online voting. While Russian hackers stopped short of manipulating voter data in 2016, American officials determined the effort was likely a dry run for future interference.

Appeals Court Upholds Order to Restore Reporter’s White House Press Pass
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/10/2020

A federal appeals court endorsed a judge’s order restoring a White House press pass to a reporter who wound up in a verbal altercation with one of President Trump’s most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Rose Garden last year. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled the White House violated the constitutional due process rights of Playboy reporter Brian Karem by suspending his pass for 30 days after the heated exchange with talk show host and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka at the end of a social media summit.

‘Bloomberg Loophole’ Paves the Way for Rich Donors to Ignore Contribution Limits
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 6/5/2020

After suspending his presidential bid, Michael Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to back its organizing push in 12 battleground states. The DNC’s windfall far exceeds the $35,500 maximum legal contribution an individual can give to a national party committee in the 2019-2020 election cycle, and watchdogs immediately flagged it as pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law. The legal justification for the transfer comes down to a quirk of FEC reporting practice, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.

Coronavirus Was Paul Manafort’s Ticket Home. Many Other Old, Ill, Nonviolent Inmates Are Still in Prison.
USA Today – Kristine Phillips | Published: 6/9/2020

Attorneys and advocates say there are many old and nonviolent prisoners who are not a threat to public safety and yet remain behind bars, even as the coronavirus continues to infect hundreds of inmates and staff. The way in which the federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented Attorney General William Barr’s order to expedite moving vulnerable prisoners to home confinement has been inconsistent, confusing, and slow, attorneys and advocates say. The agency has broad discretion in determining who can spend the rest of their sentence at home, but how this gets decided is cloaked in secrecy.

Crapo Staffer Told FBI the Senator Gave Permission for $250K Campaign Investment into Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
The Post Register – Betsy Russell | Published: 6/1/2020

Newly released FBI documents say U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s campaign told the FBI the senator “was aware of and approved” the investment of $250,000 of his campaign donors’ funds into a risky get-rich-quick scheme “at the time of the transaction” in 2008, in which the money disappeared. Crapo, who now chairs the banking committee, has said repeatedly since 2013, when the news broke of the loss of his campaign funds in the scheme, that he knew nothing about it until late 2010, after the money was gone. Documents showed Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, invested the money into the scheme at a time when the campaign was between treasurers.

‘Everything about this is irregular’: Ex-judge tapped to review Flynn case blasts Trump DOJ
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/10/2020

A former federal judge selected to advise on a path forward in the criminal case against Michael Flynn is accusing the Justice Department of exercising a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” to protect an ally of President Trump, distorting known facts and legal principles to shield former national security adviser from a jail sentence. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson skewered Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the case, describing it as an “irregular” effort that courts would “scoff” at were the subject anyone other than an ally of Trump. The brief featured a reconstruction of the Flynn case and accused the department of contradicting its own arguments and precedents to justify dropping the case against Flynn.

Ex-Sen. Trent Lott: Squire Patton Boggs took ‘low road’ in split
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/9/2020

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says his ex-firm Squire Patton Boggs “took the low road” in reportedly firing him. Lott added that another former senator, John Breaux, was also planning to leave the lobby shop. Coming amid worldwide demonstrations against killings by police against African Americans, Lott’s exit was viewed on K Street as potentially linked to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership. Speaking at an event for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Lott recalled Mississippi had supported Thurmond’s segregationist run for president in 1948. “And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either,” Lott said in 2002.

Feds Press Criminal Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/7/2020

The Justice Department is pressing forward with its criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, a onetime business partner of Michael Flynn, despite Attorney General William Barr’s decision to seek to abandon the prosecution of the former national security adviser to President Trump. The filing mentions Flynn’s integral role in the work that led to the two foreign-agent-related felony charges against Rafiekian and maintains the government’s position that Flynn was a co-conspirator in his business partner’s crimes. While the case included an admission by Flynn that he signed off on inaccurate Foreign Agent Registration Act filings about the project that led to Rafiekian’s prosecution: a $600,000 contract Flynn signed for his Flynn Intel Group at the height of the presidential campaign in 2016 to lobby on behalf of a Dutch firm.

GAO Offers Congress Steps to Protect Independence of Federal Watchdogs
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/8/2020

Lawmakers could take steps to prevent President Trump or other executive branch leaders from undermining the independence of federal watchdogs, according to a new report from Congress’ internal audit agency. Trump, who has bristled at the independence of inspectors general, has leaned heavily on temporary appointees to fill the powerful posts, leaving them more susceptible to pressure from within the administration. In some cases, he has turned to officials who already serve in senior roles inside the agency. The Government Accountability Office says lawmakers could require those “dual-hatted” employees to recuse themselves when their independence could be called into question and to vow in writing to protect the identity of whistleblowers who normally turn to inspectors general for protection.

How the Black Lives Matter Movement Went Mainstream
MSN – Jose Del Real, Robert Samuels, and Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

The three words were once a controversial rallying cry against racial profiling and police violence. Now, “Black lives matter” is painted in bright yellow letters on the road to the White House. Celebrities and chief executives are embracing it. Even U.S.Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican former presidential candidate, posted the phrase on Twitter. As consensus grows about the existence of systemic racism in American policing and other facets of American life, longtime organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to extend its momentum beyond the popularization of a phrase. Activists sense an opportunity to demand policy changes that once seemed far-fetched.

Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.
Laredo Morning Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 6/8/2020

Joe Biden’s close relationship with police groups while crafting the landmark 1994 crime bill legislation reflected his decades-long partnership with them as he embraced a tough-on-crime persona, one that extended to his work as vice president when he served as a liaison between police and the White House. Now, as Biden runs for president amid a national reckoning over police violence and racial injustice, that long alliance is threatening to undermine a cornerstone of his candidacy. The presumptive Democratic nominee is seeking to channel the anger of African Americans, one of his party’s most important voting blocs, by calling for “real police reform” and promising to combat systemic racism. In doing so, Biden is promising to undo some of the very measures he helped enact.

Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure
CNN – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 6/3/2020

Campaign commercials are running more often on services like Hulu, a sign of streaming’s growing importance in the world of politics as more Americans cut the cord on cable subscriptions and independent groups, candidates, and political parties seek new ways to reach their target audiences. The coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders it triggered across the country appear to have accelerated growth for streaming services. But the migration by candidates, super PACs, and parties to streaming services has set off alarms for some campaign finance watchdogs because the advertising is not subject to the same disclosure requirements that have governed traditional media for decades.

Political Donations Dropped Off as Coronavirus Pandemic Peaked
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/9/2020

Political fundraising took an intense dip as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation in mid-March and early April, according to an analysis of campaign contributions. The pandemic forced the leading presidential candidates to cancel in-person fundraisers that would have netted their campaigns millions of dollars. High-profile congressional candidates paused their fundraising activities to assist relief efforts. And the virus’ economic damage that forced 40 million to file for unemployment may have prompted potential donors to save their money.

Rep. Steve King Toxic to K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2020

U.S. Steve King, a pariah within his own party for racist comments, would be too controversial for lobbying firms, trade associations, and corporations after losing his primary election, say lobbyists and K Street headhunters, even as many former lawmakers decamp for such jobs. Many companies and lobbying groups issued statements offering support for racial justice efforts amid protests over the death of George Floyd that have gripped the nation. King also had lost influence among his colleagues well before he lost the Republican primary in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District.

Tech Group Files First Lawsuit Against Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Social Media
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 6/2/2020

A tech group supported by Facebook, Google, and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump, alleging his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election. The challenge brought by the Center for Democracy and Technology marks the first major legal test of Trump’s directive, which paves the way for federal agencies to investigate and penalize some of Silicon Valley’s most popular platforms over the way they police politically oriented posts, photos, and videos across the Web.

Trump Draws Rebukes for Suggesting 75-Year-Old Protester Pushed to the Ground in Buffalo Was Part of a ‘Set Up’
Laredo Morning Times – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

President Trump put forth an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo who suffered head injuries after he was pushed to the pavement by police. A cellphone video of the encounter has now been seen by millions of people and led to assault charges against two officers. Trump tweeted that the confrontation may have been a “set up” coordinated by anti-fascist demonstrators. Trump drew a rebuke from James Martin, a Jesuit priest. “[Gugino] is a peace activist and volunteer with the Catholic Worker movement,” Martin tweeted. “Why spread rumors about someone who embodies the Beatitudes? … Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ not the rumormongers.”

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Attorney for Arizona Tells Federal Court Legislature Can Remove Members with Two-Thirds Vote
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/3/2020

Attorneys for the state and a former Arizona House speaker told a federal court the Legislature is free to remove members for any reason at all, including political affiliation and race, as long as they can muster a two-thirds vote. Steve Tully said there was nothing wrong with the procedures used by J.D. Mesnard, who was speaker in 2018, to investigate then-Rep. Don Shooter and eventually have a vote that resulted in his ouster. The claim drew a skeptical response from Judge Marsha Berzon. She asked whether if the Democrats controlled most of the seats, they could simply decide to remove all Republicans.

California Fundraiser Pleads Guilty in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020

A political operative pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he helped a real estate developer pay off a Los Angeles City Council member for help with a major development project. The guilty plea by Justin Jangwoo Kim is the latest turn in an on-going investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office into “pay-to-play” schemes and other corruption in City Hall. Many details included in the court records have identified the council member as Jose Huizar, who served on a council committee that handles real estate projects and whose offices and home were raided by FBI agents in 2018. Huizar has not been charged with a crime in the case.

California L.A. Police Union Spent Big in Local Elections. Some Politicians Now Shun the Money
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 6/10/2020

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, has been a significant force in local elections. In the past decade, the union has given more than $100,000 directly to city candidates. Its independent expenditure committees, which cannot legally be controlled by candidates and do not have the same limits on donations, have spent millions of dollars more. Now, that money is under scrutiny by city residents supporting a national movement against police brutality, and some local politicians say they will not accept it anymore.

California ‘This Is Money Laundering 101’; More People Charged in Widening SF Public Corruption Probe
KPIX – Staff | Published: 6/8/2020

Three defendants in San Francisco’s public corruption scandal – Sandra Zuniga, Balmore Hernandez, and Florence Kong – were charged with a variety of federal crimes including money laundering, bribery, and making false statements to investigators stemming from a probe of Mohammed Nuru, the former San Francisco Public Works Chief. Nuru was charged for an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport commissioner. The complaint against Nuru also alleged he engaged in several additional schemes, including obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home while those contractors were also engaging in business with the city.

Colorado Ethics Commission Concludes Hickenlooper Violated Colorado’s Gift Ban for Public Officials
Colorado Public Radio – Andrew Kennedy | Published: 6/5/2020

The Independent Ethics Commission ruled U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper violated Colorado ethics law as governor by accepting a private jet flight to an official event and by receiving benefits he did not pay for at a meeting of government, business, and financial leaders in Italy. The commission dismissed four other complaints against Hickenlooper that were filed by a conservative group led by a former Colorado House speaker. It scheduled a June 12 hearing to discuss possible fines for the violations as well as for a contempt order it issued when Hickenlooper ignored a subpoena to appear at its hearing.

Florida GOP Expects to Move Its Convention to Jacksonville After Dispute with North Carolina Over Pandemic Safeguards
MSN – Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

Seeking a city willing to allow a large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Florida, as the new destination for the premier festivities of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in August. The details of the arrangement are still in flux and RNC aides are scrambling to determine whether the city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate the quadrennial event, which typically kicks off the final stretch of the presidential campaign. The highly unusual decision to seek an alternative location for the convention’s marquee events stems from President Trump’s desire to accept his party’s nomination before an enormous crowd.

Georgia Georgia’s Election Mess: Many problems, plenty of blame, few solutions for November
New York Times – Richard Fausset and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/10/2020

As multiple investigations begin into what went wrong during with the Georgia primary elections, and as Democrats accuse the state’s Republicans of voter suppression, a picture emerged of a systematic breakdown that both revealed general incompetence and highlighted some of the thorny and specific challenges the coronavirus pandemic may pose to elections officials nationwide. As it seeks answers, Georgia is being roiled by a politically volatile debate over whether the problems were the result of mere bungling, or an intentional effort by Republican officials to inhibit voting. Georgia is expected to be a presidential battleground in November, as well as the site of two contested Senate races that could determine control of the chamber.

Hawaii How A Major Campaign Donor Got A Million-Dollar Cleaning Contract in Honolulu
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 6/8/2020

The city and county of Honolulu in March gave a $1.4 million contract to a local industrial cleaning company to clean Oahu’s buses every night so the fleet could operate through the coronavirus pandemic. But H2O Process Systems got the contract without having to go through the usual competitive bidding process because the law governing purchases for government agencies was suspended as part of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation. H2O Process System’s owner, Milton Choy, has been a prolific political donor to Hawaii’s mayors, governors, and lawmakers.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs ‘Compromise’ Felon Voting Restriction Bill into Law
KGAN – Caroline Cummings | Published: 6/4/2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that will establish some restrictions if voters ratify a constitutional amendment automatically restoring felons’ voting rights at the completion of their sentence. Current law, the strictest in the nation, bans people with felony records from voting for life unless they successfully petition the governor to get those rights restored. The policy is enshrined in the state constitution and the governor has advocated for the last two years to pass an amendment to change that.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Expected to Plead Guilty to Perjury in State Case
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/9/2020

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of perjury in state court, Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said, before she departs for federal prison in Alabama. Prosecutors charged her with perjury for willfully omitting her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business from the financial disclosure forms she filed as a state senator. The perjury charge carries a maximum of 10 years in state prison. Pugh’s federal prison term has been postponed pending the resolution of the state case.

Missouri Democratic Club in North St. Louis County Fined $2,500 for Cash Withdrawal, Reporting Failures
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/4/2020

A St. Louis County Democratic club faces a $2,500 fine after the Missouri Ethics Commission found the group made cash payments to 13 campaign workers and did not properly document the spending in disclosure reports. The Norwood Township Democratic Club’s will have to pay the state $1,600 if it pays within 45 days. The group will have to pay the full fine if it commits any more violations within two years.

Nevada Judge Extends Signature-Gathering Deadline for Proposed Redistricting Commission Ballot Question
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder | Published: 5/29/2020

An effort to place a ballot question creating an independent redistricting commission on the 2020 ballot will have a second chance at life after a federal judge agreed to extend a June deadline to turn in signatures for the petition under “unique factual circumstances” brought by the COVID-19 pandemic U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du partially granted the request of Fair Maps Nevada to extend the deadline to collect signatures for the petition, which needs to garner 97,598 signatures by June 24 to make it on to the ballot. Attorneys for the group had said it collected around 10,000 signatures before Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered nonessential business shutdowns and other social distancing directives in mid-March.

New Jersey N.J. Legislative Aide Accused of Rape Resigns Though Investigation Found No Proof of Wrongdoing, Sources Say
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/4/2020

A staff member in the New Jersey Assembly accused of raping a female lobbyist is stepping down from his job after an internal investigation. No charges are expected to be filed against the man, however, after an internal investigation initiated by the state Legislature did not find enough evidence to prove the sexual assault claim. The alleged victim in the case has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing.

New York State Ethics Panel Split Over Charges of Cuomo Influence
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/10/2020

Six members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) have called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism that JCOPE’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. JCOPE’s top staff position has been vacant since the departure a year ago of former Cuomo counsel Seth Agata, whose resignation left the embattled commission in search of its fourth executive director in eight years.

Ohio Councilman Matt Zone, Chair of Police Oversight Committee, Acknowledges Son Is a Cleveland Officer
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Robert Higgs | Published: 6/9/2020

Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone publicly acknowledged for the first time his son is serving as an officer with the city police department that Zone oversees as chair of council’s Public Safety Committee. Zone said he checked with the Ohio Ethics Commission when his son joined the police force in December 2015 and was assured that retaining his leadership position on the committee would not pose a problem. Zone also said he chose not to make a public disclosure at the time so as not to cause a distraction for his son as he started his new job. Zone’s disclosure comes as police leaders face criticism from some members of the public about whether the department was adequately prepared for demonstrations on May 30 that evolved into looting in downtown Cleveland.

Oregon Oregon Redistricting Campaign Hopes Huge Mailing Will Help Initiative Qualify for November Ballot
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 6/10/2020

Oregon voters by the hundreds of thousands are receiving letters asking them to help get an independent redistricting proposal on the November ballot, as coronavirus social distancing guidelines largely rule out traditional signature gathering strategies. Initiative Petition 57 would transfer the job of redrawing Oregon’s legislative and congressional district lines from the state Legislature to a new 12-member commission. Supporters must gather 149,360 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Oregon The Oregonian/OregonLive’s ‘Polluted by Money’ Wins Inaugural Collier Prize
Portland Oregonian – Staff | Published: 6/10/2020

“Polluted by Money,” a four-part series by Portland Oregonian reporter Rob Davis, won the inaugural Collier Prize for State Government Accountability. The prize is administered by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The series exposed how Oregon’s lack of campaign finance limits led to an easy tolerance of polluters by state lawmakers who benefited from campaign contributions. After the series ran, lawmakers referred a long-stalled constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot, which will allow Oregonians to decide whether they want to make political contributions limits legal.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Revolts Over Sidelining of 2 Black Colleagues
New York Times – Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy | Published: 6/10/2020

Two prominent black staff members, a reporter, and a photojournalist at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said newsroom leaders had unfairly kept them from covering the protests against racism and police violence. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents the paper’s staff members, called on readers to send letters demanding that reporter Alexis Johnson and photojournalist Michael Santiago be allowed to cover the protests. More than 80 Post-Gazette staff members have taken the side of their sidelined colleagues in social media posts, the guild said.

South Carolina Judge Throws Out Upstate Lawmaker’s Suit Against SC GOP, Primary Challenger
The State – Maayan Schechter | Published: 6/5/2020

A South Carolina judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a lawmaker who sued the state Republican Party and its primary backed challenger, Vaughn Parfitt, over allegations the GOP spent beyond the legal expenditure limits. State Rep. Jonathon Hill alleged the party violated ethics laws by spending more than $5,000 on Hill’s primary challenger by way of campaign mailers on multiple dates. Hill’s complaint said the GOP is limited to spending no more than $1,000 per election cycle in support of any campaign.

Tennessee Campaign Finance Officials Uphold $465,000 Fine Against Ex-Lawmaker Jeremy Durham
MSN – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 6/10/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance rejected an administrative law judge’s decision regarding a $465,000 fine levied against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham. The registry unanimously voted in favor of rejecting an opinion from Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell, who said the panel excessively fined Durham while saying auditors failed to prove his expenditures were illegal. Darnell’s decision came after Durham, who was ousted from the Legislature after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, appealed the registry’s massive fine against him for violating campaign finance law hundreds of times.

Tennessee Judge: Tennessee must allow postal voting for all amid virus
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/4/2020

Tennessee must give all its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled. Lyle said the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The decision upends a determination by Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls would not qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion would not be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel, and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns.

Texas Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/4/2020

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended its order blocking a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. With early voting for the primary runoff elections starting later in June, and the state Supreme Court also blocking expanded voting by mail is a separate case, the ruling effectively eliminates the possibility that Texas voters will be able to legally request mail-in ballots solely because they fear a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus will put them at risk if they vote in person. The issue is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas Furor in Texas GOP After Leaders Post Racist Memes That Suggest Floyd’s Death Is a Hoax
Washington Post – Ted Armus, Meryl Kornfield, and Annie Gowan | Published: 6/6/2020

One Facebook post falsely claimed that the killing of George Floyd in police custody last month was a “staged event,” meant to rile up opposition to President Trump. Another showed a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. next to a banana, an established racist trope. A third claimed that George Soros, the liberal billionaire, paid “white cops to murder black people” and “black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.” All these posts were shared in recent days by Republican county leaders in Texas, some of whom are now facing calls to resign from top officials within their own party. The posts have unleashed controversy in the state where Republicans are struggling to beat back Democratic advances in the diversifying electorate.

Washington Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case
Access Washington – Washington Attorney General’s Office | Published: 6/8/2020

A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Freedom Foundation to pay $80,000 for violating Washington’s campaign finance law. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted the organization failed to properly and timely file independent expenditure reports disclosing the value of the legal services it provided to support ballot propositions in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton, as required. In January of this year, a judge found the Freedom Foundation violated the law.

Washington DC Trump-Connected Lobbyist Ends Coronavirus Contract with D.C. Amid Bowser, White House Feud
Washington Post – Josh Dawsey and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/5/2020

A lobbyist with ties to President Trump, ended his relationship with the District of Columbia as tensions grew between the president and Mayor Muriel Bowser. Brian Ballard was hired by the city to secure coronavirus funding. “We can’t be effective under the current situation,” Ballard said, about an hour after Trump lambasted Bowser on Twitter as part of a days-long feud over protests in the nation’s capital. Ballard has become one of the most profitable lobbyists in Washington during the Trump administration and he fundraises for the president’s campaign.

July 6, 2020 •

Chicago Lobbying Ordinance Stalled

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot - MacLean Center

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed amendment to the lobbying ordinance has been stalled. This stall comes after Lincoln Park Alderwoman Michele Smith, chair of the Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Lightfoot’s ordinance for […]

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed amendment to the lobbying ordinance has been stalled.

This stall comes after Lincoln Park Alderwoman Michele Smith, chair of the Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Lightfoot’s ordinance for a vote.

The Mayor introduced Ordinance 2020-2328 in April over concerns that the language in the original ordinance passed by City Council late last year was too broad.

Additionally, there were concerns the ordinance would force registered lobbyists to give up positions on suburban bodies in order to keep lobbying Chicago government.

The proposed amendment would allow elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby City Council, the mayor, and other city offices.

This would be allowed as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city of Chicago.

In response to Smith’s statement, a spokesman for Lightfoot stated the administration looks forward to partnering with Smith to make necessary updates to any existing lobbying policies.

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July 6, 2020 •

Louisiana Lobbyist Expenditure Limit on Food, Beverages Increases

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana State Capitol

Lobbyists in Louisiana can now spend a bit more on wining and dining state lawmakers and other public officials. When the new budget year began July 1, the lobbying limit on food and drink for a public official edged up […]

Lobbyists in Louisiana can now spend a bit more on wining and dining state lawmakers and other public officials.

When the new budget year began July 1, the lobbying limit on food and drink for a public official edged up $1 per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is $63.

When the lobbying cap was first enacted, the limit was $50 per occasion.

But the 2008 law that sets the limit allows annual adjustment tied to increases in the federal Consumer price Index for food and beverages.

That index rose 1.8 percent in the last year.

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July 6, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call Elections California: “San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call

Elections

California: “San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years” by Grace Hase for San Jose Insider

Ethics

National: “GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.” by Christiano Lima for Politico

National: “Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump” by Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician” by John Hudson (Washington Post) for MSN

New Jersey: “NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations” by Stacey Barchenger for Bergen Record

Washington: “Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times

Lobbying

Illinois: “Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune

Massachusetts: “Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill” by Matt Murphy (State House News Service) for MassLive.com

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July 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020 Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs […]

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

Toledo Mayor Calls for Resignation of City Council Members

Toledo, Ohio skyline

Toledo, Ohio skyline - by NorthernMagnolia

Toledo, Ohio Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has requested the resignation of four City Council members accused of encouraging and accepting bribes in exchange for votes. Yvonne Harper (District 4), Tyrone Riley (District 1), Gary Johnson (At-large), and Larry Sykes (At-large), are […]

Toledo, Ohio Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has requested the resignation of four City Council members accused of encouraging and accepting bribes in exchange for votes.

Yvonne Harper (District 4), Tyrone Riley (District 1), Gary Johnson (At-large), and Larry Sykes (At-large), are named in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court at the conclusion of a two-year FBI investigation.

The court documents detail how each of the members allegedly accepted payments in the range of $500 to $5,000 for “yes” votes on zoning requests to internet cafes.

In an official statement, Kapszukiewicz explained these members are entitled to their day in court and should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

However, he is concerned about the cloud of doubt that would rest over city government if they continue to hold office.

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July 2, 2020 •

San Jose Council Approves Ballot Measure Barring Contributions and Gifts from Lobbyists

San Jose City Hall

San Jose City Hall - by Daderot

The City Council approved a November ballot measure relating to contributions and gifts from lobbyists. The proposed measure would bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions. The mayor, council members, and senior administrators would also be barred from accepting gifts from […]

The City Council approved a November ballot measure relating to contributions and gifts from lobbyists.

The proposed measure would bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions.

The mayor, council members, and senior administrators would also be barred from accepting gifts from lobbyists or city contractors.

The mayor and council members would also be required to sit out of any vote involving a person or entity contributing to their campaign or other cause in the last 12 months and the three months following the vote.

The proposed initiative would also give the mayor the power to hire and fire the city manager and department heads starting January 1, 2023.

The measure also includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral races with the presidential election cycle in an effort to increase voter turnout.

The City Council will hold a special meeting on July 28 where they will review the proposed ballot language before sending it off to the county Registrar of Voters.

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July 2, 2020 •

Nevada Governor Announces Date for Special Legislative Session

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

Gov. Steve Sisolak officially called for the Nevada Legislature to convene in a special session on July 8 to address the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget crisis. At a later date, the governor’s office will issue the formal proclamation to […]

Gov. Steve Sisolak officially called for the Nevada Legislature to convene in a special session on July 8 to address the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget crisis.

At a later date, the governor’s office will issue the formal proclamation to convene the special session.

Gov. Sisolak and legislative leadership are working to assess potential additional items to be included in any special session proclamation.

These additions will be including policy proposals related to criminal and social justice reform.

Furthermore, the governor acknowledged the start date could change based on public health conditions.

The public will be able to watch the floor sessions and committee meetings via the Legislature’s livestreams.

Finally, those who wish to participate will be able to teleconference or submit written comments.

This does affect ALERTS reporting.

A lobbyist activity report will be due between the first and tenth of the month after each month the Legislature in in a special session.

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July 2, 2020 •

New Hampshire Legislature Adjourns Session

New Hampshire State House - AlexiusHoratius

On June 30, the New Hampshire General Court adjourned their legislative session. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative session was abbreviated and conducted away from the State House for the first time in over 150 years. During the shortened […]

On June 30, the New Hampshire General Court adjourned their legislative session.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative session was abbreviated and conducted away from the State House for the first time in over 150 years.

During the shortened session, the Legislature passed bills relating to police reform, absentee voting, and drug importation.

The Legislature will discuss any bills vetoed by the governor when it is expected to reconvene later this fall.

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