March 13, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 13, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020

When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients girding them for what a Sanders administration might look like. Less than three weeks later, the same firm is preparing clients for a much less worrying prospect: the likelihood that Joe Biden, a more conventional candidate, will win the Democratic nomination after he rocketed past Sanders with a string of big victories. “There’s an immense amount of relief – make no mistake,” said Democratic lobbyist Scott Eckert. But a Biden administration, if he were to secure the nomination and defeat President Trump in November, could pose its own problems for K Street.

Bloomberg Aides Cut Loose Despite Yearlong Employment Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 3/10/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s shuttered presidential campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and inviting them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee, despite extending guarantees of being paid through the November election when they were hired. The former New York mayor is now underwriting an outside effort to help Democrats defeat President Trump. The Bloomberg campaign has said it plans to remain active in six battleground states and could give priority to the aides still on payroll. But it is unclear how many positions the new independent expenditure will have. Federal rules require Bloomberg to designate a new vehicle to fund Democratic efforts and pay staffers.

Business Money Flows Through Gaps in Anti-Corporate PAC Pledge
Roll Call – Kate Ackley and George LeVines | Published: 3/11/2020

More than 50 sitting federal lawmakers have taken a pledge not to accept direct donations from the PACs of corporations. The pledge has led to growing concerns among corporate PAC leaders about what it means for their future. Yet a review of contribution records found the political money of business interests – to the tune of $2.6 million last year alone – continued to find a way to most of the lawmakers who have taken the pledge. Typically, that route is through the PACs of trade associations and professional organizations. Trade association and member organization PACs are not designated as corporate PACs under the FEC’s classification process and therefore do not violate the no-corporate-PAC pledge as crafted by advocacy groups promoting it.

Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck | Published: 3/9/2020

Presidential campaigns, parties, and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions. The virus suddenly brought every assumption about the unfolding of the 2020 race into question, even the viability of activities as core to campaigning as knocking on doors. It also intensified fears about election interference and disinformation.

Democrats Boost National Fundraising for State Legislatures
Roll Call – Jacob Fischler | Published: 3/11/2020

After nearly a decade of virtually ceding state legislative races to Republicans, the Democratic Party organization dedicated to winning those seats and other allied groups nationally are ramping up fundraising in a bid to win control of state chambers ahead of census-driven redistricting. But funding disadvantages in individual races show the headwinds that persist. Flipping chambers as the Democrats did in Virginia in 2019 is about flipping individual seats. And the boost in funding to outside groups has not trickled down to individual Democratic candidates in key states.

Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 3/10/2020

House Democrats scored a legal victory as a federal appeals court panel granted them permission to access grand jury secrets from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The ruling from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the House’s ability to see the deleted passages in the public version of the Mueller report, the tome that describes the two-year investigation into potential links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report also examines Trump’s attempts to stymie the Russia probe. If it stands, the ruling would give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and entire pages – nearly 1,000 portions in all – as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s review.

Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2020

Erik Prince, a security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, and other groups. Two operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has used hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Trump’s agenda.

Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads
Reuters – Elizabeth Culliford and Mark Brown | Published: 3/5/2020

Facebook removed ads by President Trump’s re-election campaign that asked users to fill out an “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” because the ads violate the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census. The ads, which come from the pages of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, link to a survey on an official campaign website and then to a page asking for donations. “We need Patriotic Americans like YOU to respond to this census, so we can develop a winning strategy for YOUR STATE,” the ad read. The online newsletter Popular Information, which first reported on the ads, said Facebook had originally said they did not violate its policy.

GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC Probe into His Father
Politico – Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan | Published: 3/6/2020

The FEC is investigating potentially improper straw donations to U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ 2018 campaign that were paid for by his father, the latest political headache for the embattled Republican. At the heart of the FEC probe is whether Watkins’ father made illegal contributions to boost Watkin’s congressional bid. Steve Watkins Sr. confirmed the FEC is investigating him for giving thousands of dollars to his daughters, a home-building contractor, and the contractor’s wife, which they then used to max out to Watkins’ campaign. Those types of contributions violate campaign finance laws. The elder Watkins, who also dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a super PAC to support his son’s election, insisted he did not know what he was doing was illegal.

House Democrats Request Appeal Asking Court to Enforce Subpoena for Former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2020

House Democrats asked a federal appeals court to reconsider enforcing a congressional subpoena for President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn. The request comes after a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the courts have no authority to resolve the separation-of-powers dispute between the White House and Democrats in Congress. Lawyers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want a full complement of judges on the appeals court to overturn the ruling from a three-judge panel of the same court. If the ruling stands, it means the president’s former White House counsel can defy the subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. Even if the full appeals court agrees to take a second look, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP
MSN – Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 3/9/2020

President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fundraising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure. Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee (RNC), the operatives have consolidated power – and made money – in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the RNC, and a range of other Republican clients.

Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence
New York Times – Julian Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Adam Goldman | Published: 3/10/2020

Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence. President Trump attacked the briefings earlier in the day, accusing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, of dwelling too much on Russian election interference. Two intelligence officials pushed back on any suggestion the officials were politicizing their assessments. They said career professionals had made the conclusions about Russia and they represented the current view of various intelligence agencies.

Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States
AP News – Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman | Published: 3/11/2020

Joe Biden decisively won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory there, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, dealt a serious blow to Sanders and substantially widened Biden’s path to the nomination. Biden again showed strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders’ narrow hopes for good news rested on North Dakota and Washington state. Washington’s primary was too early to call, and because all votes there are cast by mail or by dropping them off in a ballot box, many ballots were marked for candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2020

A federal appeals court is wrestling with the powers of House investigators to get accurate information when pursuing ethics investigations into members of Congress and their staff. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments stemming from the prosecution of David Bowser, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, on charges of misleading investigators about the hiring of a House-paid employee to do political work for Broun. The appeals judges who took up Bowser’s case offered some glimmers of hope for his defense, but it sounded unlikely he would see a ruling that wipes out all the guilty verdicts against him. Judge Robert Wilkins expressed concern that the court not be seen as criminalizing the widespread practice of congressional staffers moonlighting for campaigns.

Juul Labs Sought to Court AGs as Teen Vaping Surged
AP News – Matthew Perrone and Richard Lardner | Published: 3/9/2020

The nation’s largest electronic-cigarette company, Juul Labs, has met with state attorneys general from around the country and donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns, part of an effort to build relationships with these powerful officials and potentially head off legal challenges over how Juul promoted and sold its vaping products. The company also donated $50,000 each to the Republican and Democratic fundraising committees that support the election of attorneys general candidates. Those donations won Juul corporate membership in both groups, a status that came with invitations to semiannual retreats and conferences attended by attorneys general and their staff. These events provide opportunities for companies to lobby state officials.

Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.
MSN – Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2020

Days after U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore an enormous gas mask during a floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, he announced he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel virus. He said he will close his Washington office while he is in quarantine. Gaetz said he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested and expects results soon. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Douglas Collins, who attended the same conference, also announced they would self-quarantine.

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal More Secret Service Payments to Trump Properties
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2020

The U.S. Secret Service was billed $157,000 more than was previously known by President Trump’s clubs and properties for nightly room rentals in the last three years, documents show. In total, the agency – and by extension, taxpayers – has been billed at least $628,000 by the properties since Trump took office in 2017. The payments show Trump has an unprecedented, and still partially hidden, business relationship with his own government. The Secret Service accompanies the president and family members wherever they go, and while on protective duty its agents are exempt from federal limits on hotel room spending. But there appears to be no requirement that presidents must charge the Secret Service. In fact, most recent presidents and vice presidents have allowed the Secret Service to use space on their properties free.

Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds
Washington Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/6/2020

Experts at New York University performed a security audit of Facebook’s online ad archive between May 2018 and June 2019. Their conclusions, spelled out in a new paper, point to myriad opportunities malicious actors may have had to exploit the platform’s powerful targeting tools while hiding their tracks, misleading users and evading Facebook’s enforcement. In the years after Russian agents weaponized the social-networking platform as part of their efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election, Facebook developed verification measures designed to prevent foreign actors from purchasing political ads. It also undertook transparency initiatives that placed paid posts in a public archive. But researchers found a series of defects that still could “enable a malicious advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their political ads,” as they wrote.

Trump FEC Pick Offers Mixed Messages on Donor Disclosure
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/10/2020

Trey Trainor, President Trump’s Republican nominee to the FEC, tried to quell concerns from Democrats and some good government groups that he would avoid enforcing campaign finance law if confirmed. During his nomination hearing, Trainor said he believes political donors should be disclosed despite his past support for secret election spending. He defended a “dark money” group from state regulators and previously invoked the Federalist Papers to defend undisclosed political spending. Trainor followed that statement by indicating he would abide by the FEC’s current system of tackling undisclosed election spending.

Watchdog Group Says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Hong Kong Lobbying Broke the Law
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 3/6/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen broke the law when she signed on as a consultant for the Hong Kong government during her one-year lobbying ban after she left office. In April 2019, Ros-Lehtinen was named a “team leader” for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as part of her work with Akin Gump, according to a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ros-Lehtinen retired from Congress in January 2019 and was barred from lobbying Congress for one year. The one-year lobbying ban also includes a blanket ban on any work for a foreign government for at least a year.

From the States and Municipalities

California Ex-L.A. Councilman Englander Charged with Obstruction in Probe Alleging Lavish Spending and Escorts
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 3/9/2020

Former Los Angeles City Council member Mitchell Englander was charged with obstructing an investigation into him accepting cash, escort services, hotel rooms, and meals from a businessperson. Englander is the first City Hall figure to be publicly charged in connection with a probe that has delved into the worlds of politics and real estate development. In 2017, Englander and one of his top aides went to a Las Vegas resort and casino with the businessperson. At the resort, Englander took an envelope containing $10,000 in cash from the businessperson in a bathroom, according to the charges. The indictment also details meetings Englander had with the businessperson in Palm Springs. Englander allegedly accepted an envelope with $5,000 in cash from the businessperson during a brief encounter in a casino bathroom while the men attended a golf tournament.

California Glendale Officials Now Must Disclose Familial, Business Relationships to Those Seeking the City’s Ear
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 3/10/2020

Glendale adopted a lobbyist and disclosure ordinance that imposes rules on how city officials and individuals attempting to influence them can interact, with the intent of bringing more transparency to City Hall. Lobbyists will now have to identify themselves, who they are working for, and how much they are being paid or risk being slapped with fines or a misdemeanor charge. Each year, lobbyists – whether they are individuals or firms – will now need to register with the city.

Connecticut Lawmakers Question Funding Behind Anti-Vaccine Groups Who Swarmed State Capitol
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 3/5/2020

Democratic senators in Connecticut said three groups that are working against a bill to end the state’s religious exemption to vaccines for schoolchildren “have active social media presences, have purchased billboard advertising, created professional websites, and have distributed paraphernalia such as stickers and posters at legislative hearings,” appearing to exceed the $3,000 threshold that requires such groups to register as lobbying organizations with the Office of State Ethics. The senators said the groups are also soliciting online donations.

Florida Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation into Nonprofit That Enriched CEO
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 3/11/2020

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, adding the prospect of criminal charges to the government actions mounting against former Chief Executive Officer Tiffany Carr and the agency’s board of directors, accused of misusing millions in taxpayer dollars. The investigation is the latest response to revelations that members of the board allowed Carr to be paid $7.5 million in executive compensation over three years. Florida lawmakers have passed a bill to end the state contract with the coalition, which had been the clearinghouse for $52 million in annual state and federal funding for 42 domestic violence shelters.

Florida Leon County Commission Gives Green Light to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 3/10/2020

The Leon County Commissioners moved forward changes to the lobbying ordinance that would clear up ambiguity on who is required to register and streamline enforcement efforts. The proposed language, which will go before a public hearing, comes after recent reporting that highlighted the blurry lines at the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy. No lobbyist has ever been cited for a violation in the county, said outgoing County Attorney Herb Thiele, who added that any instances that could have resulted in a fine were handled by instead reminding lobbyists to register. But he described the process, if a lobbyist were to be cited, as “cumbersome.”

Florida Lobbyist Sought City Benefits for Westside Property He Owned with Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 3/6/2020

Local lobbyist Deno Hicks sought financial incentives from Jacksonville City Hall for a city property he co-owns with JEA’s now-fired chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and that he is now trying to sell to a company affiliated with Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida’s former lieutenant governor. Zahn’s business partnership with Hicks came under scrutiny in his final days at JEA – a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility – which had hired Hicks’ former lobbying firm during Zahn’s tenure. Zahn did not disclose his ownership stake in the land to JEA’s ethics department. City attorneys who investigated Zahn concluded he failed to disclose business and personal conflicts-of-interest, which was one of two dozen instances of misconduct the board of directors used as evidence to fire Zahn earlier this year.

Louisiana In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law
Houston Public Media – Patrick Madden (WWNO) | Published: 3/5/2020

In Louisiana, casinos are prohibited from making campaign contributions to state politicians or campaigns. But casinos can donate money to federal groups such as the Democratic and Republican governors associations. These outside groups can spend freely on state races.  This money can be hard to trace because governors. associations don not disclose their donors until months after an election. Many other states have similar “pay-to-play” laws that prohibit specific special interests from making campaign contributions. But with outside groups free to raise and spend unlimited money without the same restrictions, watchdog groups worry these state-level “pay-to-play” laws could lose their effectiveness.

Maine CMP Project Backers Urge Lawmakers to Defeat Bill Barring Foreign Influence in Maine Elections
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 3/11/2020

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar foreign nationals and certain foreign corporations from spending to influence ballot campaigns. It is designed to close a loophole in the election law, but it could also have an immediate impact on Hydro-Quebec, the electricity supplier for a controversial $1 billion transmission line through western Maine. Hydro-Quebec formed a ballot question committee to support the project, and it has since been buying print and digital ads, touting its purported environmental benefits to Maine. But the Canadian utility’s involvement immediately raised questions about foreign influence in a Maine election and highlights an election law loophole that allows foreign nationals and companies controlled by foreign governments to spend on state ballot initiatives.

Maryland Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 3/9/2020

A Baltimore businessperson Lance Lucas pleaded to federal charges stemming from bribes totaling $42,500 he paid to former state Del. Cheryl Diane Glenn while she was still in office. Glenn pleaded guilty to accepting more than $33,000 in bribes from people other than Lucas. Lucas made 11 payments to Glenn, starting with four money orders, each for $500, in May 2018 after he told her about the significant costs that an unnamed company had incurred in its pursuit of a medical marijuana dispensary license. During a lunch meeting, Glenn suggested she would have drafted a bill benefiting the company had he paid her the money spent in the effort to get the license, according to the charging document.

Maryland Maryland House of Delegates Passes Campaign Finance Reform Package
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/12/2020

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation. One bill would help the State Board of Elections investigate suspicious campaign donations by requiring the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to forward a list of businesses that have forfeited their registrations to the elections board. Another bill prohibits a candidate’s family member or employee of the candidate from serving as the campaign’s treasurer. The four bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts
Baltimore Sun – Lance Lucas | Published: 3/9/2020

A bill that would allow labor unions to set the terms for how employees are hired on city construction projects has run into early opposition from Baltimore’s minority and nonunion contractors. Speaking in front of City Hall, representatives of several construction firms said the proposed legislation would be a burden on the city’s nonunion shops, many of which are minority-owned and employ people rejected by union groups like those with criminal records. The proposed bill would require project labor agreements, a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement between a contractor and a labor organization that establishes a labor group to represent everyone who works on the project. It would apply to all city construction projects valued at $25 million or more, or long-term capital improvement plans of more than $15 million that involve projects at multiple locations.

Missouri Businessman Involved in St. Louis County Scheme Sentenced
AP News – Jim Salter | Published: 3/5/2020

A businessperson who admitted to providing bribes as part of a “pay-to-play” scandal that led to the downfall of St. Louis County’s former top elected official was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. John Rallo pleaded guilty to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. He is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison. Two others also pleaded guilty to federal crimes as part of the scheme.

Missouri Kansas City Mayor Is Turned Away from Polls, Told He ‘Wasn’t in the System’
Kansas City Star – Allison Kite, Robert Cronkelton, and Glenn Rice | Published: 3/10/2020

Moments after making a plea for people to get out and vote in the Missouri primary on March 10, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said as turned away from the polls and told he “wasn’t in the system.” Lucas tried to cast his vote at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, where he said he has voted since 2009. Election officials later blamed the incident on a mistake by a poll worker, and Lucas returned later in the day and voted. But the mayor said the incident pointed to a larger problem in how elections are run.

New York Cuomo Resurfaces Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Plan
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/5/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again trying to require nonprofits and political advocacy organizations to publicly disclose their donors, after a similar law he spearheaded was struck down in October. But representatives from nonprofits fear the proposal would quash charitable giving and violate free speech protections. Nonprofits already disclose their major donors on tax forms to both the IRS and state attorney general’s office, but that information is currently kept confidential. This proposal in the state budget would require the state to list the donors online who give more than $5,000.

North Carolina Durham Businessman Found Guilty of Bribing NC Official
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/5/2020

A federal jury convicted businessperson Greg Lindberg on public corruption and bribery charges in a scheme to influence North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg offered Causey up to $2 million more to ease regulations on Lindberg’s insurance companies. The jury also found John Gray, a Lindberg consultant, guilty of helping set up the deal. Causey recorded those conversations for the FBI. Former North Carolina Republican Party Chairperson Robin Hayes had already pleaded guilty in this case, admitting he lied to federal investigators about the deal, which included money flowing through the state party but ultimately bound for Causey’s campaign coffers.

Vermont House Panel Seeks to Weaken Corporate Campaign Contribution Bill
Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 3/10/2020

Campaign finance reformers have spent years seeking to limit the flow of corporate money into Vermont elections. Now a bill that would do just that is being watered down by a House committee. Senate Bill 47 was originally drafted to prohibit corporations from making direct donations to Vermont candidates and political parties. It passed the Senate last March but has languished in the House thereafter. The House Committee on Government Operations is now poised to approve the bill with one major change: it would continue to allow political parties to accept corporate contributions.

Virginia PR Consultants Linked to Social Media Campaign Opposing Northern Va. Slots Won’t Say Who’s Behind It
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/11/2020

Someone has been running a social media campaign built to look like grassroots opposition to slot machines in Northern Virginia. In almost $50,000 worth of Facebook ads, a group called Not in Nova has warned that “out-of-state Big Gambling special interests and their lobbyists” were sneaking a bill through the General Assembly that would make the area more crowded and expensive. But none of the group’s public materials connect back to any identifiable citizen activists working against a proposal to allow Colonial Downs to operate hundreds of slots-like historical horse racing machines in Dumfries. The secretive nature of the advocacy campaign and the fingerprints of the public relations firms that seem to be carrying it out have fueled questions on social media and around the Capitol about who is actually behind it.

Washington Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/9/2020

Businessperson Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg agreed to pay $250,000 in fines and legal expenses after a judge found they violated Washington’s campaign finance law, but the defendants insist the case is a serious overreach by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder ruled Greene and Moberg unlawfully concealed they were responsible for spending $3,900 on political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor. Moberg was assessed the bulk of the settlement: $230,000. That includes $115,000 in fines and $115,000 for legal costs incurred by the state. “Intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Ferguson said.

Washington DC Jack Evans Probably Qualifies for Public Campaign Money in Comeback Bid, Records Show
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/11/2020

Jack Evans appears to qualify for public campaign funds in his bid to reclaim the District of Columbia Council seat he gave up amid an ethics scandal. The city’s new public financing program allows ward council candidates to receive taxpayer dollars if they collect at least $5,000 in small campaign contributions from 150 residents. Evans’ filing showed he raised nearly $10,000 from more than 200 residents. If regulators verify that he met the requirements to qualify for public financing and this summer’s election ballots, Evans would receive $40,000 in grants and up to $50,000 in matching donations. Public financing for Evans would mark a dramatic shift for the former council member, who has relied on raising money from developers, businesses, and moneyed interests over three decades.

West Virginia Ethics Panel Clears Justice’s Flights to, from Lewisburg
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/6/2020

Gov. Jim Justice may fly in the state plane from his home in Lewisburg to destinations other than Charleston to participate in official state business, and while in those locations, may take part in campaign activities before making the return flight home, the West Virginia Ethics Commission determined. In an advisory opinion, the commission said Justice has to meet several criteria to assure his travel does not violate the Ethics Act’s prohibition against using public office for private gain. The commission stressed it was not addressing a current legal challenge before the state Supreme Court contending that, by living in Lewisburg, Justice is violating a requirement in the state constitution that the governor reside at the seat of state government.

July 13, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge

Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun

Ohio: “Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations” by Tom Troy for Toledo Blade

Ethics

National: “Trump Commutes Sentence of Confidant Roger Stone Who Was Convicted of Lying to Congress and Witness Tampering” by Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Toluse Olorunnipa for Washington Post

Canada: “PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events” by Rachel Gilmore for CTV

Florida: “Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal” by Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon for Politico

Lobbying

National: “States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook” by Associated Press for KJZZ

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July 10, 2020 •

Alabama Ethics Commission Challenges Circuit Court’s Public Employee Ruling

Birmingham International Airport

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders. The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act. The Ethics […]

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders.

The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act.

The Ethics Commission has proposed rather than looking to whether someone is paid through taxpayer contributions, the standard should be whether their salaries were paid out of revenue from negotiated “commercial arms-length” transactions.

The Birmingham Airport Authority has filed a response arguing the commission’s new standard inconsistent with the facts of the case.

Joining them in opposition, the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute has also filed a brief arguing this new standard.

The institute argues the standard would create a burden on public corporations and their employees.

Therefore, this would cause an attempt to untie a tangled knot of revenue and determine the status of each employee.

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July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 9, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Elections National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New […]

Elections

Elections

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New York Times) for Boston Globe

Wisconsin: “Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings” by Todd Richmond for AP News

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski for Washington Post

California: “Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Ohio: “Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave” by Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade

Pennsylvania: “Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban” by Kathleen Carey for Delaware County Times

Lobbying

Arizona: “Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror

 

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July 8, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature to Hold Another Special Session Beginning July 13

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

Gov Tim Walz, with Lt Gov Peggy Flanagan - by Lorie Shaull

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13. Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that […]

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13.

Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that other issues should get top billing.

Walz is obligated by law to call a special session for the Legislature to approve the emergency declaration.

The Senate tried to revoke the governor’s executive power during the first special session ending June 19.

However, the attempt failed because it requires the vote of both chambers.

In the first special session, no deals were reached on legislation both parties said was necessary and everything will be on the agenda again.

The Legislature will determine the length of the session.

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July 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]

Elections

National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico

National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call

Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post

National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN

Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN

Lobbying

California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times

Redistricting

Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com

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July 7, 2020 •

Lobbyist Registration and Reporting Not Required During Nevada Special Session

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_R._Thompson_Center,_Chicago,_Illinois_(9179428785).jpg

The James R. Thompson Center - Ken Lund

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session. To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during […]

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session.

To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during the special session will be limited to legislators, essential staff and a small press pool.

The Legislature’s website and YouTube channel will both host livestreams of all floor sessions and committee meetings.

In addition, the teleconference system will allow individuals to call in to participate in the legislative process.

The Legislators will receive written comments made available through submission by email, fax and mail.

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July 7, 2020 •

City of Oakland Launches Online Lobbyist Registration, Reporting System

Oakland, California

Oakland, California - by James BeBop

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System. This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online. It is […]

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System.

This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online.

It is available at https://apps.oaklandca.gov/OakApps/OakApps.aspx.

In order to use the system, a user name and password is needed.

For questions about using this new system, please contact the Oakland Public Ethics Commission at ethicscommission@oaklandca.gov or 510-238-3593.

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