June 26, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 26, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 6/24/2020

The cliffhanger elections in Kentucky and New York did not just leave the candidates and voters in a state of suspended animation wondering who had won. Election officials, lawyers, and political strategists in both parties said the lack of results was a bracing preview of what could come after the polls close in November: no clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. With the coronavirus pandemic swelling the number of mailed-in ballots to historic highs across the nation, the process of vote-counting has become more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to keep up and deliver timely results. The jumble of election rules and deadlines by state, including in presidential battlegrounds, all but ensure the victor in a close race will not be known on November 3.

Amid Threats and Political Pushback, Public Health Officials Are Leaving Their Posts
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Ariana Eungjun Cha (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2020

Public health workers are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have been fired, resigned, or have retired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.” Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation, and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”

Appeals Court Panel Orders End to Michael Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/24/2020

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directed a federal judge to drop a criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The panel ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn. The order was rare and came as a surprise, taking its place as yet another twist in the legal and political drama surrounding the prosecution of Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in the Russia investigation about his conversations in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Ex-Sens. Lott, Breaux Announce Move to Crossroads Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/15/2020

A week after exiting Squire Patton Boggs, former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and his longtime K Street colleague, ex-Sen. John Breaux, said they were joining the lobbying shop Crossroads Strategies. Both Lott and Breaux had been at Squire Patton Boggs for the past decade. Lott’s reported ousting from the firm, amid a national reckoning on racism, led some on K Street to speculate it was tied to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership in 2002. Lott, however, said the split was based on business.

Facebook Removes Trump Ads with Symbol Once Used by Nazis to Designate Political Prisoners
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps. A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, and other members of opposition parties. In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle. The symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page.

FEC to Take Public Comments on Petition to Close ‘Bloomberg Loophole’
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/18/2020

The FEC agreed to take public comments on a petition to close a loophole that allowed former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to transfer millions of dollars to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his self-funded campaign to the DNC in March, abusing a rule that allows candidates to funnel unlimited amounts of leftover campaign cash to party committees. Citizens United is seeking to limit the amount of money federal candidates can transfer to a party committee but noted the loophole could be closed in other way.

Judge: Bolton can publish book despite efforts to block
AP News – Eric Tucker | Published: 6/21/2020

A federal judge said former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security issues, even as the White House pledged to keep pursuing the onetime top aide. Lamberth also made clear his concerns that Bolton had taken it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.

Justice Dept. Officials Testify on Politicization Under Barr
MSN – Katie Benner, Nichokas Fandos, and Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/24/2020

Two U.S. Justice Department officials delivered stinging congressional testimony, accusing political appointees of intervening in criminal and antitrust cases to serve the personal interests of President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Aaron Zelinsky, a career prosecutor who worked on the Russia investigation, told the House Judiciary Committee that senior law enforcement officials intervened to seek a more lenient prison sentence for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone for political reasons. John Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division, charged that supervisors improperly used their powers to investigate the marijuana industry and a deal between California and four major automakers. Democrats say the hearing is part of a broader investigation into Barr’s leadership of the department.

K Street May Mostly Skip Political Conventions This Year
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/24/2020

Typically, this close to the political conventions, lobbyists would have booked hotel rooms, arranged for event spaces to host receptions, and scored passes to attend high-profile speeches, including those of the party nominees. But that has not happened this year as the influence industry faces fear of the coronavirus and fallout from location and date changes for the events. K Street’s biggest shops are among those with undetermined plans. The virus is not the only thing weighing on corporate lobbying interests. Even before COVID-19 upended Americans’ lives, many corporations, worried about associating their brands overtly in politics, had been assessing whether the large investments would be worth it.

Russia. Ukraine. China. Bolton Account Highlights Pattern of Trump Welcoming Foreign Political Help.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

John Bolton’s book highlights Trump’s pattern of welcoming foreign political help and a casual comfort with what was once unthinkable in American politics – foreign intervention in U.S. elections. Experts fear Trump’s behavior may embolden nations to try to sway American voters in the 2020 campaign, particularly if foreign leaders conclude that helping lift Trump to a second term would be an effective way to curry favor with the White House. While Trump’s past outreach to foreign powers for political assistance triggered widespread condemnation, he has not suffered serious consequences. Bolton’s new allegations come as experts warn Russia, China, Iran, and other countries have been stepping up their efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

Sign of the Times: The return of campaign door knockers
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 6/20/2020

When the pandemic forced a national quarantine, campaigns were confronted with the daunting prospect of permanently sidelining the most reliable method to reach voters: knocking on their doors. But recent days have marked a shift in that thinking as states reopen for business and more Americans venture out in public. President Trump and Republican allies have resumed some level of in-person field operations in every state where they are campaigning. GOP-paid door knockers are now back in nearly every November battleground, party officials said. While Joe Biden’s campaign is not expecting an immediate return to the field, aides are in touch with local health officials and state parties to weigh their comfort level and are making assessments on a weekly basis about when it is safe to resume in-person campaigning.

Trade Groups Make Lobbying Push to Be Included in Small Business Loan Program
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/19/2020

The group that represents trade associations lobbied for professional and advocacy organizations struggling through the coronavirus to be eligible to receive small business loans. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) hosted a virtual fly-in to call for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program so 501(c)(6) organizations can receive loans. The groups, which include trade associations, professional societies, and local chambers of commerce, were left out of the program when Congress passed its $2.2 trillion relief bill in March. “As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, other revenue sources for associations are down as well, including membership dues, and things like advertising, and sponsorships,” said Chris Vest, ASAE director of public policy.

Treasury, SBA Cave to Demands for Bailout Transparency
Politico – Victoria Guida | Published: 6/19/2020

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration bowed to congressional pressure and said they will disclose information on companies that received loans under the government’s small business rescue program. The names of companies and nonprofits that got loans larger than $150,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program will be released, along with other identifying information. Loan amounts will only be given within a certain range. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move represents an agreement with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee. Those lawmakers had asked for all borrowers to be identified; the deal will cover nearly 75 percent of the more than $500 billion that has been lent out, though only a minority of the 4.5 million total beneficiaries.

Trump Crony’s Gas Deal Reignites Conflict-of-Interest Concerns
Courthouse News Service – Adam Klasfeld | Published: 6/19/2020

On the campaign trail a year before his election, Donald Trump boasted in a radio interview that his real estate holdings in Istanbul could influence U.S.-Turkish foreign policy as president. “I have a little conflict-of-interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul, and it’s a tremendously successful job,” Trump disclosed. As a second election cycle looms, Trump’s Turkish business partner on that Istanbul property is homing in on a liquefied natural gas deal that can dramatically boost the U.S.-Turkey energy trade for more than a decade. The man at the center of the gas deal is Mehmet Ali Yalçindag, chairperson of Turkey’s oldest state-sponsored trade group, who brought Trump’s real estate empire into Istanbul in 2012. He is the son-in-law of Aydin Dogan, who owns Trump Towers Istanbul.

Trump Ousts Manhattan U.S. Attorney Who Investigated President’s Associates
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky, and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2020

Attorney General William Barr said President Trump fired the top federal prosecutor in New York, ending an unprecedented standoff between Barr and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who had resisted being removed from his post. Barr informed Berman of the president’s move in a sharply worded letter, explaining that Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan until the Senate can confirm a permanent replacement. Under Berman, the office managed a number of sensitive investigations involving people close to Trump. The fight between Barr and the nation’s most powerful U.S. attorney deepened alarm among Democrats over Barr’s management of the Justice Department, generating fresh accusations the attorney general is placing the president’s interests above those of the public.

Twitter Labels Trump Video Tweet as Manipulated Media, Continuing Its Crackdown on Misinformation
MSN – Kat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

Twitter took the rare step of appending a warning label to one of President Trump’s tweets after the company determined it violated its policies on manipulated media. The president tweeted a doctored version of a popular video that went viral in 2019, which showed two toddlers, one black and one white, hugging. In the version Trump shared, the video has been edited with ominous music and a fake CNN headline that says, “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.” The label is the latest flash point in an increasingly contentious debate over tech companies’ responsibility to police falsehoods and hoaxes spread by politicians on their platforms.

Why Obsessive K-Pop Fans Are Turning Toward Political Activism
MSN – Joe Coscarelli (New York Times) | Published: 6/22/2020

Amid a pandemic, a forthcoming presidential election, and inescapable conversations about race, K-pop fans – the typically young and diverse international enthusiasts of Korean pop music who congregate daily on social media – is trying to exert its influence in a new realm: the American political arena. Spurred at first by the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, K-pop stans made themselves known outside of music circles hen some took credit for helping to inflate expectations for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa by reserving tickets they had no plans to use. But while the Trump campaign denied he prank affected attendance, the call to action in K-pop circles revealed a growing realization that fans’ efficient social-media tactics for fundraising or making a song go viral can also be used for political activism.

Canada

Canada Conservative Senator Victor Oh Faces Censure for Free Trip to China
The Globe and Mail – Robert Fife and Steven Chase | Published: 6/18/2020

The Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee is recommending Senator Victor Oh be censured for violating the chamber’s conflict-of-interest and ethics code by accepting an all-expenses paid trip to China for himself and two of his colleagues. Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault criticized Oh for providing incomplete testimony and withholding information, saying his conduct “raises questions about his integrity.” Censure in Parliament is a form of severe disapproval for the ethical actions of a parliamentarian. The committee did not recommend further sanctions but urged Oh to formally apologize.

Canada Senate Ethics Committee Recommends Rescinding Suspension of Senator Lynn
The Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup | Published: 6/22/2020

The Senate should rescind the suspension of Lynn Beyak ordered in February, the standing committee on ethics and conflict-of-interest for senators. The recommendation is the latest development in a drawn-out controversy for the Ontario senator who posted letters to her website the committee found contained racist content. In February, the Senate voted to suspend Beyak for a second time after it approved a previous ethics committee report on her conduct. The report recommended she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, apologize, and participate in educational programs.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona House Ethics Chair Weighs Holding Hearings into Claims Against Lawmaker
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/22/2020

The House Ethics Committee chairperson is weighing whether to hold hearings into its investigation of Arizona Rep. David Cook, Rep. John Allen said he is still reviewing the evidence presented by outside investigators as well as the response submitted by Cook’s attorneys. That response demanded a full hearing to be “given the right to the fundamental protections every citizen of our country would reasonably expect to have.” Allen said there are issues to be resolved about how to handle the two basic complaints against Cook, one involving allegations of an affair with a lobbyist and the other about efforts to intervene on the lobbyist’s behalf to halt the tax sale of property.

Arizona Scottsdale Rejects Ban on Anonymous Donations, Including GoFundMe Campaigns, to Council Members
Arizona Republic – Lorraine Lonhi | Published: 6/22/2020

What began as an effort to tweak Scottsdale’s gift policy grew complicated as some residents and council members saw an opportunity to push for campaign finance reform. A growing chorus of residents in recent years have raised concerns about developers and others who do business with the city donating to council members election campaigns. When the city proposed amending its ethics policy pertaining to gifts that might be offered to elected officials of a non-campaign nature, many advocated to extend the rules to campaign donations.

California After Court-Ordered Recount, Controversial San Jose Ballot Measure Falls Short
San Jose Mercury News – Maggie Angst | Published: 6/22/2020

Following a court-ordered recount, a controversial ballot measure to shift the San Jose’s mayoral race to presidential election years and limit campaign contributions failed to garner the required number of signatures to qualify for the November election. The Fair Elections Initiative called for aligning mayoral elections with presidential years to boost voter turnout, particularly among people of color, and placing a cap on certain political donations, including those from any person or entity that has received city contracts of at least $250,000.

California Former East Bay Elections Chief Charged with 34 Felony Counts Related to Illegal Campaign Spending
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 6/17/2020

Joe Canciamilla, the former Contra Costa County elections chief, was charged with 34 felony crimes for illegally spending campaign funds for several years. He was charged with perjury involving campaign disclosure statements and grand theft of campaign funds spent on a vacation in Asia, airfare, restaurants, and other personal expenses. The charges stem from conduct starting in 2010, when Canciamilla failed to report investment gains in a campaign bank account. Though the gains were legal, using the proceeds for personal use is prohibited, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen, adding that Canciamilla covered up the gains and losses from the investment account.

California L.A. County Has Found the Cause of Its Hourslong Poll Lines. It Wasn’t the New Voting Machines.
Politico – Kim Zetter | Published: 6/17/2020

The long wait times that snarled the March 3 primary in Los Angeles County stemmed from malfunctions in the electronic tablets used to check in voters at the polls, according to an county report that adds to questions about the nation’s readiness for November. The report concludes these devices, known as electronic poll books, and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays. Although the voting machines also had problems, the report faults inadequate planning, testing, and programming of the poll books that workers used to check in voters and verify they are registered, technology that has also been implicated in the recent Georgia primary.

California LA Councilman Jose Huizar Arrested in Pay-to-Play Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – Elizabeth Chou | Published: 6/23/2020

Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar was arrested in an investigation into corruption at City Hall. Federal prosecutors have been probing allegations that real estate developers were shaken down for cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for Huizar’s help getting high-rise development projects through the city’s approval process. Huizar and his associates are accused of enjoying free plane travel, lavish meals, poker chips, and other perks offered by developers. In plea deals struck with the government, a former aide to the council member, one of his political fundraisers, and a real estate consultant agreed to cooperate with the investigation into Huizar and others in City Hall.

Colorado Campaign Contribution Not a Reason to Disqualify Judge from Case, Court of Appeals Rules
Colorado Politics – Michael Kralick | Published: 6/18/2020

A prominent attorney donated more than $200,000 against an Adams County judge’s retention election. But that did not mean the judge should have recused himself from a case involving the firm’s lawyers, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled. At trial, Lyubov Bocian attempted to disqualify Adams County District Court Judge Edward Moss from her case, alleging he was biased against her attorneys at Franklin D. Azar and Associates. The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure require a judicial substitution if there is a reasonable inference of a judge’s partiality toward either of the litigants or opposing counsel. The appellate court did not find Moss exhibited any hostility or prejudice toward the Azar firm based on his actions, nor did the panel determine Moss harbored ill will because Azar himself made a $224,000 campaign contribution against Moss’s retention election in 2018.

Florida FBI Investigating Mayor Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Ex-Officials Say
Daytona Beach News-Journal – Matt Bruce and Erica Von Braun | Published: 6/22/2020

Two former city employees say FBI agents have interviewed them regarding Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland’s connection to Coastal Guard. The company has a unique arrangement with the city to provide some digital services. It is also Holland’s daytime employer. Michael Schottey, the city’s former communications director and now a candidate for mayor, read emails during a virtual press conference that he said show Holland used her position as mayor to solicit business for Coastal Cloud with the city of Orlando.

Florida ‘Suspicious’ Car Rental, Other Payments by Mayor’s Campaign Not Criminal, Probe Finds
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 6/22/2020

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office investigated payments related to the 2016 mayoral campaign of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, finding a “suspicious” car rental and some “haphazard” accounting but insufficient evidence to prove any criminal activity. The investigation delved into whether Gilbert’s rental of an Infiniti QX80 constituted an unreported campaign expenditure; whether he instructed the Miami Gardens city clerk to falsify the date on an amended campaign treasurer’s report; and whether Gilbert directed his campaign to make improper payments to a for-profit company and to incorrectly label those payments as donations to a nonprofit.

Georgia Ethics Commission Fines Group That Backed Stacey Abrams $50,000
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 6/19/2020

A group backing Stacey Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign was fined $50,000 by Georgia’s ethics commission for failing to report the money it raised and spent to help her get elected.  The independent committee, Gente4Abrams (People for Abrams), was set up out of state and raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campaign without ever registering with the commission or disclosing how much it raised.

Georgia House Republican Leaders Condemn GOP Candidate Who Made Racist Videos
Politico – Ally Mutnick ans Stephanie Zanona | Published: 6/17/2020

The House’s highest-ranking Republicans are racing to distance themselves from a leading GOP congressional candidate in Georgia after Facebook videos were uncovered in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic views. The candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, suggested Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”; called George Soros, a Jewish Democratic donor, a Nazi; and said she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War. Greene is entering an August runoff as the favorite to secure the Republican nomination for a district where that is tantamount to winning the general election in November.

Illinois Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Until 2021
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/18/2020

Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect on January 1, 2020 but were initially delayed until April after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The Board of Ethics attempted to clarify the new rules, issuing three advisory opinions that exempted grassroots groups or residents who press city officials on issues they are concerned about. But that effort was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended until July, and will now last through the end of 2020.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Pleads Guilty in State Court to Perjury in ‘Healthy Holly’ Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/19/2020

A judge sentenced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to six months in prison for deliberately lying on financial disclosures forms to hide her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business. Under terms of Pugh’s plea deal, her time will be served concurrent with a separate, pending three-year prison sentence. Pugh pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of perjury, admitting she withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from the disclosure forms she filed during her years as a state senator.

Missouri Missouri Attorney General Candidate Files Ethics Complaint Against Former Governor Greitens
KDSK – PJ Randhawa and Erin Richey | Published: 6/20/2020

Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens filed paperwork to run for an unspecified statewide office in 2024. Elad Gross, a candidate for state attorney general, is asking the Missouri Ethics Commission to decide if Greitens should be able to do that even though he has not publicly announced any interest in running for office again. Experts say it is part of a trend of campaign committees avoiding the state law that requires them to close their accounts and distribute the leftover money as refunds or donations if they will not be running for office again.

Missouri Missouri Politicians Get Around Contribution Limits by Using PACs
Columbia Missourian – Jordan Meier, Mawa Iqbal, and Spencer Norris | Published: 6/23/2020

In Missouri, contributions for state elections have been in place off and on since 1994, when voters approved a ballot measure. The limits withstood several court tests, but the Legislature repealed them twice. State voters reinstated them in 2016 and approved slightly lower caps in 2018, through passage of Clean Missouri. Even with limits in place, candidates have found creative ways to receive large donations. PACs have no restraints on the amount they can receive in donations, which makes them an ideal way to collect large checks from millionaires and special interests such as casinos, labor unions, and tobacco companies.

New Jersey N.J. Corruption Scheme Involving Pay-to-Play Contracts Leads to Charges Against Law Firm Partner
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/19/2020

Attorney Elizabeth Valandingham was charged with lying about alleged “pay-to-play” violations in New Jersey. Valandingham, was accused of falsely claiming her law firm had not made any reportable political contributions to candidates in two towns where the firm had been vying for contracts to provide legal services, when in fact it had. While the charges against Valandingham arose from a corruption investigation in which five New Jersey political figures are accused of accepting a total of $74,900 in bribes in the form of campaign donations, they are not directly related to the bribery allegations.

New York JCOPE Commissioners Mull Filing Criminal Complaint Over Alleged Leak
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/22/2020

Members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are contemplating whether a criminal complaint should be filed in connection with a leak investigation last year by the state inspector general’s office that failed to confirm allegations Gov. Andrew Cuomo received details of JCOPE’s confidential vote on a matter involving a former top aide to the governor. The apparent leak, which would be a criminal offense, surfaced when Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s top counsel, Howard Vargas, called Commissioner Julie Garcia and told her that Cuomo had complained to the speaker about how his appointees to the commission had voted on the matter.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Fast-Tracking a Lucrative Gambling Expansion That Would Benefit a Major Campaign Donor
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted (The Caucus), and Sam Jenesh (The Caucus) | Published: 6/19/2020

The top lobbyist for a gaming company seeking a lucrative gambling expansion in Pennsylvania helped host a fundraiser in Las Vegas for the leading Republican in the state Senate, Joe Scarnati. Several months later, executives from the gaming company, Golden Entertainment, poured thousands of dollars into a campaign committee controlled by Scarnati and close associates. Now, Scarnati and other top Republicans are working to secure votes for a bill that would help Golden and others like it cash in on the next frontier of expanded gambling, potentially worth millions of dollars: video-gaming terminals, known better as VGTs.

South Carolina Conflict of interest? Councilman with Ties to Richland Mega Church Pushed Road Project
The State – Andrew Kaplan | Published: 6/18/2020

Richland County Council member Chip Jackson voted nine times for improvements to Atlas Road in the county during the last three years, even though he worked for a church and its nonprofit arm that would benefit from the work. The popularity of the megachurch, Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, and its plans to sell surrounding property to developers, were part of the reason the road was originally slated for $17 million in improvements, according to the county’s transportation director. The money was to come from the county’s sales-tax program that voters approved. Jackson’s dual roles as a council member and consultant for the church is a potential ethics violation, according to experts.

Utah Utah Gave Group $400,000 to Sue the Feds on Public Lands Issues. It Never Did. What Happened?
Salt Lake Tribune – Brian Maffley | Published: 6/23/2020

In 2016, the Utah Legislature opened up its wallet to a nonprofit called the Foundation for Integrated Resource Management (FIRM), one of several groups that have received millions of dollars in recent years to push greater local and state control over Utah’s large expanses of federal land and imperiled wildlife. But FIRM’s taxpayer-supported charge was specific: file lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of Utah counties. The goal was to reverse restrictive land-use policies to promote “integrated” use of natural resources. Four years and $400,000 later, FIRM has yet to pursue a single legal action, according to ethics complaints filed with the IRS, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, and state auditor.

Vermont Candidate Incomes Outpace Average Vermonter; Advocates Seek More Disclosure
VTDigger.org – Jasper Goodman and Kit Norton | Published: 6/22/2020

Most of the top candidates seeking statewide office reported substantially higher incomes than the average Vermonter. There is no tax return requirement for individuals seeking seats in the state Legislature. Those candidates only need to fill out a brief financial disclosure form which requires reporting any source of income of $5,000 or more. But the statute requiring candidates to file the forms includes no enforcement mechanism for non-compliance. Larry Novins, executive director of the Vermont Ethics Commission, said the agency has “no ability to do anything about” candidates who do not file the forms because it has “no authority” over them. The commission can review ethics complaints but has no investigative or enforcement power.

July 6, 2020 •

Chicago Lobbying Ordinance Stalled

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot - MacLean Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 6, 2020 •

Louisiana Lobbyist Expenditure Limit on Food, Beverages Increases

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana State Capitol

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

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

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

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

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

That index rose 1.8 percent in the last year.

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July 6, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

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

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July 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

Toledo Mayor Calls for Resignation of City Council Members

Toledo, Ohio skyline

Toledo, Ohio skyline - by NorthernMagnolia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

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

San Jose City Hall

San Jose City Hall - by Daderot

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

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

The proposed measure would bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions.

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

Nevada Governor Announces Date for Special Legislative Session

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This does affect ALERTS reporting.

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

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July 2, 2020 •

New Hampshire Legislature Adjourns Session

New Hampshire State House - AlexiusHoratius

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

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

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

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

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

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