June 22, 2018 •
In Trump’s America, the Conversation Turns Ugly and Angry, Starting at the Top
WRAL – Peter Baker and Katie Rogers | Published: 6/20/2018
The politics of rage that animated President Trump’s rise now dominate the national conversation, as demonstrated during the debate over his immigration policy that separated children from parents apprehended at the border. Harsh discourse in American politics is not new, but rarely has the president himself set the tone from the top in the way Trump does. Christine Porath, a Georgetown University professor and author of “Mastering Civility,” said the current harsh climate was affecting people beyond politics, injecting itself into everyday life at home and work. “It seems like people are not only reciprocating, but we tend to stoop lower rather than higher – it’s really putting us in an unfortunate place,” said Porath.
Pence Turns VP’s Office into Gateway for Lobbyists to Influence the Trump Administration
Seattle Times – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Anu Narayanswami (Washington Post) | Published: 6/15/2018
About twice as many companies and other interests hired lobbyists to contact the vice president’s office in Mike Pence’s first year than in any single year during the tenures of Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Richard Cheney. The approach has allowed Pence to emerge as a key ally for corporations inside the Trump White House even as the president vows to “drain the swamp.” Pence’s inner circle includes friends, donors, and former staffers who are among the lobbyists in regular contact with the vice president’s office. In several cases, the relationships are mutually beneficial, with lobbyists who have charged clients millions of dollars to access his office donating money to Pence-backed political causes.
Women Speak of Pervasive Harassment in DC Lobbying Culture
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 6/19/2018
For K Street denizens, deals are often done over dinner or drinks, on business travel, or retreats. Much like Capitol Hill, the lobbying industry remains dominated by men, creating an environment where women say they are often subject to harassment and worse. Unlike in other industries, few women have been willing to come forward to talk about it. The Hill reached out to women on K Street, asking whether they had similar stories to those surfacing as part of the “Me Too” movement. More than a dozen women spoke about instances of sexual harassment or assault they say they have faced while working as lobbyists and political operatives, and in public relations.
Zinke Linked to Real Estate Deal with Halliburton Chairman
Politico – Ben Lefebvre and Nick Juliano | Published: 6/18/2018
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s family is involved in a land deal with Halliburton Chairperson David Lesar, whose company does business with the Interior Department. A charitable foundation created by Zinke and run by his wife, Lola, is allowing a company co-owned by Lesar and his family to use a portion of its land in Whitefish, Montana, as a parking lot for the development. The Zinkes also own land on the other side of the development, and have long sparred with neighbors about their various plans for it. If the new hotel, retail stores, and microbrewery go through, real estate agents say, the Zinke-owned land next door would stand to increase substantially in value.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arkansas: Legislator-Graft Case Spotlights Arkansas Ethics-Law Flaws
Arkansas Online – Doug Thompson | Published: 6/18/2018
A lobbyist whose firm spent $3.5 million in Arkansas reported total legislator-related expenses of only $12,170 from 2010 to 2017, a comparison of his federal guilty plea and state ethics records show. Milton “Rusty” Cranford could spend up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of federal program bribery. What changes the state Ethics Commission will recommend in light of events uncovered by federal investigators have not been determined, Executive Director Graham Sloan said. He said ethics laws leave reporting of lobbying and campaign expenses up to the entities involved, and the system relies on voluntary compliance, and people reporting noncompliance to the commission. Any change in that system would require new law, Sloan said.
California: ACLU Suit Targets Law That Bars Horn Honking at Protests
San Diego Union Tribune – Teri Figueroa | Published: 6/14/2018
When Susan Porter beeped her car horn in support of a political protest in San Diego last year, she quickly found herself pulled over and ticketed. According to the state vehicle code, horns are to be honked only for safety reasons or as part of a car alarm. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties is asking a federal judge to find that state law unconstitutional, arguing in a newly filed lawsuit that preventing such honking chills free speech. The suit argues Porter is “censoring herself by refraining from using her vehicle horn for expressive purposes,” including supporting political rallies.
Colorado: Colorado Enacts Replacement Campaign Finance Enforcement System
National Law Review – Andrew Garrahan | Published: 6/19/2018
A federal court recently held that Colorado’s system for enforcing its campaign finance laws was unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office has now enacted temporary enforcement rules, effective immediately. Under the new rules, any person may file a complaint, just like under the old system. But the rules now include three protections that attempt to prevent abuse of the system for political purposes. In addition to the enforcement changes, the new rules also establish a formal system for seeking advisory opinions on campaign finance issues.
Florida: A Persistent Gadfly Wins Again in the Supreme Court
WRAL – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court gave a civic activist in Florda another shot at proving his arrest at a city council meeting was in retaliation for his criticism of public officials. The court said it was ruling narrowly for Fane Lozman, whose battles with the Riviera Beach City Council had become legendary. It said a lower court had been wrong to stop his retaliation lawsuit. The case grew from an attempt to cut Logan off at a council meeting into a major free-speech showdown that carried nationwide implications for citizens arrested, as Lozman was, by government officials whom they criticize.
Georgia: Candidate for Georgia Governor Bought Condo from Lobbyist
New York Times – Kevin Sack | Published: 6/14/2018
A Republican candidate for Georgia governor reportedly bought an Atlanta condominium from a lobbyist at what appeared to be a discount. The New York Times, citing real estate records, says Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle purchased the condo 10 years ago at 24 percent less than its appraised value. It was bought from Terry Hobbs, a lobbyist who represents natural gas marketer SCANA. Cagle sold the condo last year at a 29 percent profit. As lieutenant governor, Cagle presides over the Senate and controls the flow of legislation there. Cagle said the sale was “a legitimate transaction” and Hobbs had not lobbied him on any issue around the time of the sale.
Kansas: Judge Slams Kobach for Flouting Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/18/2018
A federal judge permanently struck down Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law, rebuking Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the country’s most vocal advocates of voter-ID laws. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson said the state’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship during registration violated both the Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act. Robinson struck down the law and ordered Kobach to take six additional hours of continuing legal education that “pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence.” In an earlier ruling, Robinson held Kobach in contempt for skirting court orders related to the law and failing to send postcards confirming registration for thousands of voters.
Kentucky: Kentucky Man Gets 30-Day Sentence in Attack on Senator Rand Paul
Reuters – Suzannah Gonzales | Published: 6/19/2018
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor was sentenced to 30 days in prison for tackling the lawmaker while he was out doing yard work at his Kentucky home. Paul, who suffered broken ribs, had hoped for a harsher penalty. He said in a statement that the 21 months in prison sought by prosecutors “would have been the appropriate punishment.” Rene Boucher pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress in the attack. Boucher said he was triggered by Paul repeatedly stacking debris near their property line in Bowling Green and “lost his temper.” Boucher must serve a year of supervised release after the prison time, stay away from the Paul family, and pay a $10,000 fine.
Maryland: Candidate’s Relationship with Talk Radio Station Raises Questions About Campaign Finance
Baltimore Sun – Libby Solomon | Published: 6/18/2018
Nino Mangione’s family owns talk radio station WCBM 680. He is the station’s web manager. Until April, he even hosted a weekly, hourlong talk show. But Mangione is also running to be a state delegate, a situation one of his opponents said is problematic. “… He’s using his family-owned media platform to promote his own candidacy, and doesn’t seem to understand the conflict of interest involved,” said Justin Kinsey. Mangione said when the WCBM website posts stories about his campaign, it is just reporting the news, not advertising his campaign. Attorney Andy Levy said the relationship could potentially be considered an in-kind campaign contribution, subject to reporting requirements and limits.
Massachusetts: City Council Offers Own Lobbying Bill, Straying from Marty Walsh’s Proposal
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 6/19/2018
Boston City Council members Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty introduced a new lobbying ordinance. The proposal would require lobbyists and their clients to file notices with the city and pay an annual fee: $1,000 for a lobbyist and $500 for a client. They would have to file quarterly reports. A plan to reform the city’s lobbying law was proposed by Mayor Martin Walsh two years ago with a home rule petition that needed the state Legislature’s approval. Wu and Flaherty are proposing a local ordinance, which needs approval from only the council and mayor. But the versions are different enough to raise questions whether a deal can be reached on any changes to the city’s minimal lobbyist registration and disclosure requirements.
Ohio: Convicted Ohio Republican Businessman’s Company Targets Democrats
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 6/20/2018
Ben Suarez, an Ohio direct-marketer who was convicted of witness tampering in a campaign finance investigation, is organizing an operation to retaliate against the prominent Democrats he blames for putting him in prison. A memorandum lays out The Justice Association’s strategy for a lawsuit and ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election this year, and former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, the Democratic nominee for state attorney general. It calls them “chief culprits” in a vast effort by Democrats to unjustly prosecute Republican-owned companies under former President Obama.
West Virginia: West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Indicted in Investigation He Initiated
Governing – Lacie Pierson (Tribune News Service) | Published: 6/21/2018
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, who wrote a book on political corruption in the state, was arrested by FBI agents and faces 22 charges alleging fraud, witness tampering, and lying to investigators. The indictment says Loughry used a state vehicle and credit card for personal use, including trips to visit family. It says Loughry also sought mileage reimbursements for trips even though he drove a state vehicle and used a government credit card for gas. He was accused of moving a leather couch and a valuable desk from the Supreme Court office to his home, and of lying to federal agents about his actions and trying to influence an employee’s testimony. Loughry has been suspended without pay.
May 22, 2019 •
On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency. Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position […]
On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency.
Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
“We look forward to working with him and drawing upon his deep expertise,” said Chair Ellen L. Weintraub in the FEC’s press release.
His appointment with the FEC becomes effective on May 28.
May 22, 2019 •
On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds. The virtual public hearing will be […]
On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds.
The virtual public hearing will be recorded and a transcript of the hearing will be posted on OGE’s website.
The agency is seeking public comments even after the virtual hearing, with the comment period ending on June 14.
The OGE has also listed questions on its website for the public to consider in order to help the agency determine issues specifically related to legal expense funds.
Those questions include whether there should be contribution limits to legal expense funds; whether donations of pro bono legal services to legal expense funds should be permitted; and whether contributions should be subject to reporting requirements?
May 20, 2019 •
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law. The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial […]
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law.
The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the challenge, brought by 1A Auto Inc. and 126 Self Storage Inc., in September.
The suit claimed disparate treatment by banning for-profit corporate contributions while allowing significant contributions by unions and nonprofits.
After the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, state law was updated to allow corporate spending for independent expenditures but not political contributions.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded Monday’s decision not to hear the case for the integrity of state elections.
Opponents of the law are hopeful the Supreme Court will take up the issue in another case.
May 20, 2019 •
Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1. Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission […]
Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission through May 24 and hopes to have members selected by July 1.
The five commissioners will be chosen by consensus agreement of the governor and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders.
The state constitution bars certain people from serving on the commission including lobbyists, political party officials, and those who hold statewide elected or appointed office.