June 19, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 19, 2020

News You Can Use


Appeals Judges Reluctant to Force Immediate End to Flynn Case
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/12/2020

A federal appeals court panel appears poised to reject, at least for now, Michael Flynn’s effort to force a judge to dismiss the criminal case against him. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is urging the courts to swiftly toss out his case after Attorney General William Barr moved to drop the prosecution. But the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expressed serious reservations about cutting short the typical process and forcing the trial judge assigned to Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, to act before he has a chance to consider his options.

As Trump Warns of Leftist Violence, a Dangerous Threat Emerges from the Right-Wing Boogaloo Movement
MSN – Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2020

A far-right extremist movement born on social media and fueled by anti-government rhetoric has emerged as a real-world threat in recent weeks, with federal authorities accusing some of its adherents of working to spark violence at largely peaceful protests roiling the nation. At a time when President Trump and other top U.S. officials have claimed, with little evidence, that leftist groups were fomenting violence, federal prosecutors have charged various supporters of a right-wing movement called the “boogaloo bois” with crimes related to plotting to firebomb a U.S. Forest Service facility, preparing to use explosives at a peaceful demonstration, and killing a security officer at a federal courthouse.

Bolton Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Episodes
MSN – Peter Baker (New York Times) | Published: 6/17/2020

John Bolton, the former national security adviser, says in his new book the U.S. House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated President Trump not just for pressuring Ukraine but for a variety of instances when he sought to use trade negotiations and criminal investigations to further his political interests. While other books by journalists and lower-level former aides have revealed much about the Trump White House, Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a portrait of a president ignorant of basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him, and prone to false statements, and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

Ethics Probe into Rep. Alcee Hastings Ends After Disclosure He Married Aide
Politico – John Bresnahan | Published: 6/12/2020

An investigation into whether U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings had an improper relationship with one of his aides was dropped after it was disclosed the Florida Democrat has been married to the staffer since January 2019. The House ethics committee also announced it was creating a special investigative subcommittee to investigate allegations Del. Michael San Nicolas of Guam had an improper sexual relationship with a congressional staffer, broke campaign finance laws, and lied to governments. San Nicolas’ former chief of staff has accused the delegate of having an affair with the woman in question and then hiring her in his congressional office.

Justice Department Seeks Emergency Order to Block Publication of Bolton’s Book
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2020

The Justice Department sought an emergency order from a judge to block the publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming White House memoir, escalating a legal battle against him. The move came after the Trump administration filed a civil suit against Bolton, targeting the proceeds of the book and asking a court to order him to delay its scheduled June 23 release. Less than 24 hours later, The Wall Street Journal released an excerpt of the memoir, and lengthy accounts were published by other news organizations. The latest action sought to formally enjoin Bolton from allowing his book to be published, a legal strategy experts said was unlikely to succeed, particularly given the book has already been printed and shipped to warehouses and copies distributed to the media for review.

K Street Backrooms Morph Into ‘the Zoom Where It Happens’
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/15/2020

The upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic along with the wave of protests for racial justice and equality will leave a lasting imprint on the lobbying sector – on the strategies for influencing lawmakers and on the policy agenda. This moment also has expedited the long-running, but slow-to-change conversations about spurring diversity on K Street and in its pipeline for personnel, Capitol Hill. Some of the permanent transformations, like more Zoom conferences and fewer in-person meetings even after the pandemic ends, may appear minor adaptations. For an industry, like politics itself, built around face-to-face relationships with conversations sparked at high-dollar fundraising events, even some of the seemingly little shifts may galvanize a larger metamorphosis in the long run.

Members of Congress Took Small-Business Loans – and the Full Extent Is Unknown
Politico – Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona, and Zachary Warmbrodt | Published: 6/16/2020

A group of lawmakers acknowledged close ties to companies that received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, businesses that are either run by their families or employ their spouse as a senior executive. There are almost certainly more, according to aides and lawmakers. But only the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department have that information, and the Trump administration is refusing to provide any details. That leaves it entirely up to business owners, including elected officials, to decide whether to come forward about a loan, which can be as large as $10 million. The program is being dogged by growing transparency complaints, with Treasury and SBA refusing to disclose recipients.

New Generation of Activists, Deeply Skeptical of Democratic Party, Resists Calls to Channel Energy into the 2020 Campaign
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2020

George Floyd’s killing ignited protests in more than 750 U.S. cities, with participants of all races in every corner of the country. The uprising is also a potential boon for Democrats, inspiring thousands of new grassroots organizers just as the party seeks to mobilize young voters and other core liberals to defeat President Trump and retake the U.S. Senate. Many of the country’s top Democrats have exhorted the activists to channel their energy toward the election. But the Democrats have so far failed to tap into the newly emerging protest movement, even turning off some activists who see early outreach efforts as hollow gestures. Many said they remain skeptical of the political system and the Democratic Party, which they said has a history of promising change and falling short.

Now You Can Opt Out of Seeing Political Ads on Facebook
New York Times – Mike Isaac | Published: 6/16/2020

Facebook said it would allow people in the U.S. to opt out of seeing social issue, electoral, or political ads from candidates or PACs in their Facebook or Instagram feeds. The ability to hide those ads will begin with a small group of users, before rolling out to the rest of the United States and later to several other countries. The move allows Facebook to play both sides of a complicated debate about the role of political advertising on social media ahead of the November election. With the change, Facebook can continue allowing political ads to flow across its network, while also finding a way to reduce the reach of those ads and to offer a concession to critics who have said the company should do more to moderate noxious speech on its platform.

Police Unions Face Lobbying Fights at All Levels of Government
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/12/2020

Police unions are gearing up for their biggest lobbying fights in years as lawmakers at all levels of government push to reform law enforcement practices and protections. In Congress, the brewing battle comes as House Democrats have introduced sweeping legislation to overhaul aspects of the criminal justice system, with Senate Republicans expected to unveil their proposal soon. The National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police group that represents over 330,000 officers, is expected to play a major role. Police unions also have to prepare for fights outside the Beltway.

QAnon Marches Toward the Halls of Congress
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 6/15/2020

QAnon adherents are now filtering into electoral politics. According to Media Matters, there are 51 candidates running for Congress who have promoted the messages of “Q” – a mysterious internet figure who drops digital “crumbs” about a secret war President Trump is waging against a cabal of pedophile political elites in Washington, D.C. Seven of them emerged recently in congressional Republican primaries. One, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, is favored to eventually end up in Congress. Trump invited one of Qanon’s top promoters to pose with him in the Oval Office, and retweeting over 130 tweets that directly reference QAnon-related claims. Now the president is seeing a tangible political benefit from the relationship, the GOP candidates who reference QAnon are also those who cling most closely to Trump.

Senate Aides Say There’s Work to Be Done on Staffer Diversity, After Tim Scott Airs Criticism
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus and Kathryn Lyons | Published: 6/11/2020

Sen. Tim Scott called out the lack of racial diversity among staff in certain U.S. Senate offices, which highlighted how little data is available on staffer demographics. It also got staff and senators talking about how to tackle the problem. Although there are varying opinions on how to boost diversity, many agree that a major problem is a lack of data on diversity of race, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds among staff. Scott, the only black Republican in the chamber, said he would like the Senate to conduct a study of staff member demographics and pay.

Senate Ethics Panel Dismisses Insider-Trading Inquiry into Sen. Loeffler
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz | Published: 6/16/2020

The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed its investigation into U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler for alleged insider trading ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, notifying her it found “no evidence” she violated the law or chamber rules. The panel’s decision follows the Justice Department, which closed its probe of Loeffler’s stock sales before the pandemic crashed the markets. The Justice Department dismissed similar probes into U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein but is still looking into U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for alleged insider trading.

‘Sharpiegate’ Controversy Laid to Uneasy Rest
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan | Published: 6/16/2020

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Neil Jacobs violated the agency’s ethics policy when he contradicted and silenced a local National Weather Service office about a hurricane’s path. President Trump wrote on Twitter that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama “harder than anticipated.” A few minutes later, the National Weather Service office in Birmingham posted on Twitter: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian.” Days later, Jacobs’ office issued an unsigned statement calling the Birmingham office’s posting “inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.” That statement turned out to be the result of pressure from the White House on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who threatened to fire the political staff at the agency unless the contradiction of Trump was addressed.

The Rising Trump Lawyer Battling to Reshape the Electorate
New York Times – Danny Hakim and Stephanie Saul | Published: 6/15/2020

In 2013, a lawyer named William Consovoy appeared on a Brookings Institution panel to discuss his leading role in a recently decided voting-rights case. Days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled certain states, particularly in the South, would no longer need Justice Department approval before redrawing districts, moving polling places or making other electoral changes. Consovoy’s work on voting cases across the country is drawing increased attention in this presidential election year roiled by pandemic and protest. In recent weeks, his firm, Consovoy McCarthy, has fought against extending the deadline for mail-in voting in Wisconsin, sought to thwart felons from being re-enfranchised in Florida, and sued to block California’s plan to send absentee ballots to all registered voters.

Trump Health Official’s Approach to Contracts Faces Scrutiny
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 6/10/2020

A company that won a $628 million contract from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one that Robert Kadlec, the official who leads the agency’s pandemic response, knows well. Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, served as a consultant to Emergent Biosolutions until 2015. Since Kadlec’s 2017 confirmation, the company has received more than $1.2 billion from the division Kadlec oversees, including a part of HHS known as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The contract raises questions because a complaint by former BARDA Director Rick Bright alleges Kadlec and other officials may have broken the law by awarding lucrative contracts to former business acquaintances and friends.

Trump Rally Attendees Must Agree Not to Sue Campaign Over Potential Coronavirus Exposure
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 6/11/2020

Supporters of President Trump will soon be able to attend one of his signature, raucous campaign rallies again after a months-long hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but first, they must agree not to sue the campaign if they contract the virus after the event. The Trump campaign sent out registration information for the president’s first rally since March, with the campaign’s chief operating officer, Michael Glassner, proclaiming there is “no better place” to restart rallies than Tulsa, Oklahoma. But the fine print on the registration page for the event that has been rescheduled for June 20 underscores the continued health risks associated with reviving the “Make America Great Again” rallies, which pack thousands of supporters into arenas for hours at a time.


Canada Canada’s Ethics Czar Investigates Former Canadian Envoy to Washington Over His Work for Palantir
Politico – Abby Blatchford | Published: 6/13/2020

Canada’s ethics watchdog is investigating David MacNaughton, Ottawa’s former envoy to the U.S., to determine if he broke conflict-of-interest laws after taking a senior role last year with the data analytics firm Palantir. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion says he launched a probe into MacNaughton’s interactions with senior government officials since he became president of Palantir’s Canadian branch. MacNaughton, who has close ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took the job shortly after leaving the ambassador’s post. Dion said he will explore whether MacNaughton violated a rule that prohibits him from “taking improper advantage” of his previous public office and another forbidding him from making representations to anyone with whom he had “direct and significant official dealings” during his last year in public office.

Canada Lobbying Watchdog Seeks Budget Hike Amid Pandemic-Induced Surge in Lobbying
Yahoo Finance – Canadian Press | Published: 6/11/2020

The federal lobbying watchdog is asking for a budget increase to enable her office to modernize the way it registers lobbyists and keeps track of their activities in Canada, just as it is seeing a surge in lobbying sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lobbying commissioner Nancy Belanger says 441 lobbyists have registered with her office to make their case to the federal government on matters related to the pandemic. Belanger’s request for a budget hike is not directly related to the pandemic-induced increase in lobbying. She said she put in the request before COVID-19 began wreaking havoc on the global economy.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Judge Rules Birmingham Airport Authority Employees Not Under Ethics Law
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 6/15/2020

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid agreed with lawyers for the Birmingham Airport Authority, who argued airport employees are not public employees because they are not paid from taxpayer funds. Their salaries come from fees that airlines, car rental companies, and other vendors pay to use the airport. The ruling rejected an advisory opinion from the Alabama Ethics Commission. The ethics law is intended to prevent public officials and public employees from using their public positions for personal gain and to require them to disclose conflicts of interest. Airport Authority attorney Mark White said it was not meant to cover employees for public corporations like the authority.

Alaska Alaska Supreme Court Approves Election-Reform Ballot Measure
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 6/13/2020

In November, Alaskans will decide whether to impose ranked-choice voting, nonpartisan primary elections, and tough new rules on campaign finance disclosure. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower-court decision and confirmed the legality of a proposed multipart ballot measure including all three topics. The state had argued the measure violated a constitutional requirement that ballot measures be limited to one subject.

Arizona Arizona Asks Appeals Court to Block Laws That Regulate Campaign Finance
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/10/2020

An attorney for the state asked the Court of Appeals to block the Citizens Clean Elections Commission from enforcing certain laws that regulate how much candidates and others in Arizona can spend on campaigns and what the public must be told about it. Tim Berg said the Legislature was within its power in crafting exceptions to campaign finance laws. He said the changes were not directly part of the Clean Elections Act which voters enacted. But commission attorney Joseph Roth said the changes violated the Voter Protection Act, which bars legislators from tinkering with what voters enacted because it effectively nullified what voters approved because of the way lawmakers crafted the proposal. He said that unconstitutionally undermined the intent of the law which was designed to reduce the influence of money on politics.

Arizona House Committee Report Says Globe Lawmaker Had Romantic Relationship with Lobbyist
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/12/2020

A report by the Arizona House Ethics Committee accuses state Rep. David Cook of having an undisclosed relationship with a lobbyist, one that the investigators said was romantic. The report prepared by outside lawyers hired to investigate Cook also says he called Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb about plans to seize property in which the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr, had an interest and Lamb subsequently called off the sale. It also says there is evidence of Cook’s “use of alcohol while conducting official business, including a meeting at the governor’s office.”

California Public Health Funds Are Needed More Than Ever but Lack ‘Lobbying Muscle’ in California
Los Angeles Times – Angela Hart (California Healthline) | Published: 6/15/2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature are expected to reject a plea from local public health officials for an additional $150 million a year to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and protect against future threats. Public health officials vow to continue making their case. Persuading lawmakers to increase spending in a time of cuts will be difficult because public health does not carry the same political clout in the Capitol as power players such as hospitals, doctors, or public employee unions, which plow millions of dollars into lobbying each year. “I’ve not met anybody who is a lobbyist for public health,” said Assemblyperson Jim Wood, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee.

Colorado Ethics Panel Fines Former Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper $2,750
AP News – Staff | Published: 6/13/2020

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission fined U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper $2,750 for ethics violations he committed as governor that included accepting a private jet flight to an official event and receiving benefits he did not pay for at a meeting of government, business, and financial leaders in Italy. Hickenlooper insisted his intent was to promote Colorado’s economy as governor. But he acknowledged that on several occasions he did not seek an opinion from the commission on individual gifts. He also acknowledged he did not get formal training on the state’s ethics law.

Connecticut Family Investments, Coronavirus Pandemic Put Gov. Ned Lamont on Ethical Tightrope
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 6/14/2020

As the first Connecticut governor married to a venture capitalist with a $1.9 billion portfolio, Ned Lamont anticipated conflict between his decisions about where to spend the state’s billions and his wife’s about where to invest hers. Ann Lamont is a successful financier – one whose business has its investments divided between the health care industry during a viral pandemic and financial technology while married to a governor pledging to drag the state government into the digital age. The torrent of state money poured into coronavirus mitigation has produced at least one convergence of state and family money, much as Gov. Lamont anticipated. But it also shows the Lamonts expected such an eventuality and, early in the new administration, drafted an ethics plan they believe insulates them from a variety of personal and state business decisions that could otherwise create an appearance of self-dealing.

Florida Could Potential for Conflicts Influence Review of Miami’s Powerful Zoning Code?
Miami Herald – Andres Viglucci | Published: 6/15/2020

Should three prominent Miami developers’ attorneys be permitted to participate in a new task force that is revising the city’ Miami 21 zoning code? That is the question that kept the three lawyers specializing in land use from joining eight other experts at the task force’s inaugural meeting. All three attorneys are registered to act as lobbyists for dozens of developers seeking waivers and city zoning and development approvals under Miami 21, including some proposing controversial projects.

Iowa Kim Reynolds Confirms She Will Sign Felon Voting Rights Executive Order
Des Moines Register – Stephen Miller-Gruber and Ian Richardson | Published: 6/16/2020

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to people with past felony convictions, a move that will address Iowa’s status as the last state in the country with a lifetime ban on felon voting. More than 60,000 Iowans, including nearly one in ten African American adults, are barred from voting in the state due to a prior felony conviction. Reynolds has pushed the Legislature to approve an amendment to the state constitution to make the process of regaining voting rights automatic once felons have completed their sentences. But Republicans in the Iowa Senate killed the proposal each year. The Legislature this year without the Senate voting on the measure.

Maine Would-Be Clean Elections Candidates Find It Harder to Qualify During Pandemic
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 6/17/2020

Officials at the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Campaign Finance said fewer candidates who wanted to participate in the state’s clean elections program were able to qualify. To qualify, candidates must collect qualifying five-dollar contributions from at least 60 registered voters in their district. Two candidates said physical distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic made it far more difficult to collect the qualifying funds. “The law is designed for legislative candidates to meet their neighbors in their districts and ask for … contributions documented with a signature on a form,” Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said. “That was much harder because candidates could not go door-to-door, as they had in years past.”

Maryland Payments by Auto Insurer for Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Were Illegal, State Review Finds
Baltimore Sun – Meredith Cohn | Published: 6/17/2020

Payments made by Maryland’s quasi-governmental auto insurer to then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh for her Healthy Holly children’s books violated state law, according to a letter that state regulators sent to the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund. The ruling by the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) is likely among the last of the outstanding reviews into the book deals that led to Pugh’s resignation and guilty plea for a fraud scheme that brought her hundreds of thousands of dollars. The MIA had said it was investigating at least three insurers that acknowledged making payments for the books, but officials deferred action until other law enforcement agency investigations were complete.

Nebraska Nebraska Democrats Renounce Their Senate Pick Over Comments
AP News – Grant Schulte | Published: 6/17/2020

The Nebraska Democratic Party called on its U.S. Senate nominee to drop out of the race after he made graphic sexual comments about a campaign staff member in a group text with her and other staffers. The party said its state executive committee voted unanimously to withdraw all of its resources from Chris Janicek’s campaign. Janicek tried walk back those comments as “a joke,” and texted an apology to the group. The female staffer texted back that she was appalled by his comments and could no longer support his campaign.

New Jersey Candidates Would Not Be Able to Use Campaign Cash to Settle Sexual Harassment Claims Under Bill
Newark Star Ledger – Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/15/2020

Legislation passed by the New Jersey Senate would bar candidates for public office from using campaign money to settle allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment and bar the state from entering into non-disclosure agreements. #MeToo movement advocates say these nondisclosure agreements have kept workplace disputes under wraps and mask the pervasiveness of the sexual harassment problem in the workplace.

North Dakota Judge Nixes North Dakota Group’s Call for Online Signatures
AP News – Staff | Published: 6/16/2020

A federal judge said he will not waive North Dakota’s ban on electronic signature gathering for a group attempting to get a wide-ranging measure on the November ballot. North Dakota Voters First asked to allow online signature gathering because of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Court Judge Peter Welte said the group was not likely to succeed on a First Amendment rights violation because petitioners have up to a year to collect signatures. The judge added that the state did not issue any stay-at-home orders and Gov. Doug Burgum on May 1 “revoked nearly all the previously imposed pandemic-related restrictions.”

Ohio Ex-Cuyahoga County Jail Director Lied to Investigators to ‘Protect Armond Budish and Those in His Inner Circle,’ Prosecutors Say
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Cory Shaffer | Published: 6/15/2020

The indicted former director of the Cuyahoga County Jail lied to criminal investigators in 2018 to protect County Executive Armond Budish and his cabinet from scrutiny over a failed attempt to privatize healthcare delivery in the county’s lock-up, prosecutors said. The court filing did not include copies of all of the evidence that prosecutors referenced in it, but it marks the most extensive disclosure yet of the case investigators have built against the man Budish tapped in 2015 to run the county’s jail complex and oversee a plan for the county to house prisoners from the city of Cleveland and surrounding suburbs despite having no experience in corrections.

South Carolina Special Prosecutor Pascoe Under Fire, and Firing Back, in SC Supreme Court
The State – John Monk | Published: 6/11/2020

At a recent hearing, South Carolina Supreme Court justices peppered special prosecutor David Pascoe and opposing attorney Bobby Stepp with questions about whether Pascoe’s conviction of a former lawmaker on public corruption charges should be overturned. State Rep. Jim Harrison’s guilt or innocence was not argued. The jury that convicted him heard overwhelming evidence that showed Harrison illegally taken nearly $900,000 from the influential consulting firm of Richard Quinn and Associates. What was in dispute was whether Pascoe had exceeded his lawful authority as a special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Alan Wilson to investigate potential targets named in a confidential section of a State Law Enforcement Division report on allegations of financial wrongdoing in the General Assembly.

Tennessee Audits: Glen Casada failed to report contributions, keep expense receipt
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/10/2020

Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada failed to accurately report $26,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures and lacked receipts for $104,000 in expenses during a nearly 18-month period, making it difficult to determine their legitimacy, according to a pair of audits. Casada also accepted money during a period when lawmakers are banned from receiving contributions. The Registry of Election Finance indicated it planned to levy just $10,500 in penalties and show significant leniency to Casada, who vowed to maintain better campaign records.

Tennessee State Election Finance Committee Grants Rep. Staples ‘Grace’ in Campaign Spending Complaint
The Tennessean – Tyler Whetstone | Published: 6/11/2020

Tennessee Rep. Rick Staples’ plea earlier this year for “grace and mercy” from state regulators is closer to being granted and forgiveness is likely on the way. Staples opened his portion of the meeting with the state Registry of Election Finance by admitting he had some $11,000 in unallowable campaign expenditures. He asked for the opportunity to pay them back. The panel, in return, praised Staples’ openness and opted to defer a ruling until July. These conversations followed a number of reports in recent months that uncovered more than $10,000 in questionable campaign spending.

Texas Texas Democrats Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Voting by Mail
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/16/2020

After a series of losses in state and federal courts, Texas Democrats are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to expand voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. The Texas Democratic Party asked the high court to immediately lift the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ block on a ruling that would allow all Texas voters who are seeking to avoid becoming infected at in-person polling places to instead vote by mail. Under existing 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.

Virginia Rep. Riggleman Ousted in Virginia GOP Convention After Presiding Over Same-Sex Marriage
Beaumont Enterprise – Jenna Portnoy (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2020

U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, who drew criticism from within his party for presiding over a same-sex wedding, lost the GOP nomination to challenger Bob Good, a former Liberty University fundraiser who describes himself as a “biblical conservative.” The defeat of Riggleman puts the Virginia seat potentially within reach for Democrats in the general election for the first time in more than a decade, analysts say.

Washington Ethics Complaint Dismissed Against Kennewick Mayor. Should Ethics Code Cover Personal Life?
The Tri-City Herald – Annette Cary | Published: 6/15/2020

The ethics officer for the city of Kennewick, Washington, reversed his finding that there should be a hearing to consider evidence that Mayor Don Britain may have violated the city’s ethics code. Attorney Thomas Atwood, who serves as the ethics officer on an as-needed basis, was convinced to change his recommendation based on the mayor’s argument the ethics policy for city council members should only apply to conduct directly related to city activities or council business. Atwood said an exception could be made to consider personal conduct if there were egregious behavior outside of city business, such as a felony conviction or conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, neither of which applies to Britain’s case, Atwood wrote in his decision.

Washington Tim Eyman’s Lawyer Says Anti-Tax Activist Is Victim of ‘Judicial Lynching’
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 6/12/2020

Tim Eyman’s lawyer said the gubernatorial candidate and longtime anti-tax activist is the victim of a “judicial lynching.” It is the latest incident in recent weeks in which Eyman, or his team, has used inflammatory language to compare himself to victims of racism. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, in a case that has dragged on for years, has charged Eyman with violating campaign finance law to enrich himself, laundering political donations and accepting kickbacks. Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled Eyman has been in violation of campaign finance laws for at least the last seven years, concealing nearly $800,000 in political contributions. Ferguson asked Dixon to impose unspecified sanctions on Sanders, accusing him of filing a “repetitive, unfounded, misleading, and offensive” brief.

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


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


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


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 […]


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 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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