March 30, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 30, 2018





Political Lobbyists Are the New Hot Thing in Pop Culture
MarketWatch – Tom Teodorczuk | Published: 3/26/2018

Lobbyists have long been a fixture of movies ranging from “The American President” to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Now, the process of influencing elected representatives is increasingly taking center stage in plays, movies, and literature. The desperate lobbyist is starting to rival the embattled politician and scoop-hungry reporter as a staple character of pop culture. Sarah Burgess said her inspiration for writing “Kings” was a newspaper story. “I happened to encounter an article about these retreats that lobbyists will attend with politicians at big resorts and that seemed funny to me and so American,” Burgess said.


Fund-Raiser Held Out Access to Trump as a Prize for Prospective Clients
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and David Kirkpatrick (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2018

After Donald Trump’s election, Elliot Broidy quickly capitalized, marketing his connections to Trump to politicians and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records. Broidy suggested to clients and prospective customers of his defense contracting company, Circinus, that he could broker meetings with the president, his administration, and congressional allies. Broidy’s ability to leverage his political connections to boost his business illuminates how Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has spawned a new breed of access peddling in the swamp he vowed to drain.

Manafort Associate Had Russian Intelligence Ties During 2016 Campaign, Prosecutors Say
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 3/27/2018

Court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team reveal that Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairperson, Richard Gates, was knowingly working with an individual with ties to Russian intelligence during the presidential campaign. Prosecutors alleged this unnamed person worked for one of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort’s companies and was in touch with Gates in September and October 2016. The filing identifies the ex-spy only as “Person A.” The description matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian manager of Manafort’s lobbying office in Kiev.

Rep. Didn’t Report $50K in Donations as Registered Lobbyist
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci did not disclose nearly $50,000 in campaign contributions he made while registered as a federal lobbyist. Registered lobbyists are required to disclose all federal political donations of more than $200. His campaign said he was registered as a lobbyist with the consulting firm he helped launch in 2008 only as a precautionary measure. Renacci’s attorney, Laura Mills, provided the Associated Press with a form that listed Renacci’s status as “inactive” as of August 1, 2009. The campaign said only active lobbyists are required to disclose their contributions. But the AP found Mills did not file the companion form required to deactivate his registration until May 2011. Renacci continued to file and digitally sign lobbyist disclosure reports, other than the two he missed, through mid-2011, as an active lobbyist would.

Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort as Special Counsel Closed In
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2018

The New York Times reported that John Dowd, the former lead defense attorney in charge of managing President Trump’s communications with special counsel Robert Mueller, suggested the possibility of pardons for two of the most critical figures in the Russia investigation at the height of the inquiry. Dowd spoke to lawyers representing former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort last year, as Mueller’s investigation was closing in on both men. The discussions raise questions about whether Dowd was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. Legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.

From the States and Municipalities:

Maryland: Supreme Court Again Weighs Voting Maps Warped by Politics
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 3/28/2018

Dealing with an issue that could affect elections across the country, U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled with how far states may go to craft electoral districts that give the majority party a huge political advantage. But even as they heard their second case on partisan redistricting in six months, the justices expressed uncertainty about the best way to deal with a problem that several said would get worse without the court’s intervention. The arguments the court heard were over an appeal by Republican voters in Maryland who object to a congressional district that Democrats drew to elect a candidate of their own. The Maryland case is a companion to one from Wisconsin in which Democrats complain about a Republican-drawn map of legislative districts. That case was argued in October and remains undecided.

Missouri: An Affair, a Photo and a Felony Charge: Missouri’s governor is waging a campaign for political survival
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan | Published: 3/22/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who once volunteered with Mother Teresa, is aggressively trying to clear his name after allegations he took a naked photograph of a woman without her consent – after taping her hands to exercise rings and blindfolding her. Under indictment for felony invasion of privacy related to an extramarital affair, Greitens is seeking to discredit the Democratic prosecutor who went after him and battling back against Republicans calling on him to step down. Greitens is getting a fierce blowback from fellow Republicans already fed up with his bare-knuckle politics and broken promises of the past year.

New Mexico: New Mexico Outlines Future Limits on Federal Campaign Cash
Modesto Bee – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018

Politicians returning from Washington, D.C. to run for office in New Mexico are likely to find a clear legal path in the future to bring stockpiles of campaign dollars with them under a new agreement signed by state campaign finance regulators and attorneys for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. A proposed settlement allows Pearce to use more than $900,000 he raised while in Congress in his campaign for governor as the lone Republican contender. Linked to the settlement are guidelines aimed to prevent federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico campaign finance law, said Joey Keefe, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.

New York: Corruption Trial Bruises Powerful Law Firm
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 3/24/2018

Todd Howe, a onetime government insider, testified recently against Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his three co-defendants in a corruption trial. Howe also inflicted collateral damage to the Albany-based law and lobbying firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, where Howe managed to stay employed for six years even after being convicted of bank fraud. Percoco was convicted on three of the six counts against him, including honest services fraud and soliciting bribes. In the wake of the trial, people are “certainly going to connect corruption with that law firm,” said Vincent Bonventre, a law professor at Albany Law School.

New York: De Blasio Donor Says He Steered Thousands in Bribes to Mayor’s Campaigns
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal | Published: 3/22/2018

Harendra Singh testified about his efforts to use campaign contributions funneled to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – as much as $80,000 raised from others, and much more personally by using “straw donors” to skirt contribution limits – to gain better terms from the city during lease negotiations for one of his restaurants. Singh also suggested for the first time that de Blasio not only knew of the illegal arrangement, but the mayor encouraged it and actively helped the restaurateur. Singh was testifying in the corruption trial of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive, and John Venditto, the former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, both of whom Singh has pleaded guilty to bribing.

Oregon: John Kitzhaber Agrees to Pay $20,000 for Ethics Law Violations
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/28/2018

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle 10 violations of state ethics law, signaling a close to the years-long scandal that forced him to resign. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will meet to sign off on the agreement. The maximum fine that could have levied was $50,000. The violations stem from conflicts-of-interest involving an overlap between Kitzhaber’s role as governor and his interest in a business owned by First Lady Cylvia Hayes. Hayes had a dual role as an unpaid adviser in the governor’s office and was privately paid to consult on the same issues.

Pennsylvania: Lobbyist, Lawmakers Entwined in Complex Relationship: Is it influence peddling, or essential?
StateImpact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 3/27/2018

There are more than 1,200 registered lobbyists in Harrisburg. Some work for firms, which take on multiple clients and represent different interests. Often, former lawmakers or regulators serve this role, using their old relationships for leverage. Some work specifically for a company or nonprofit. State Sen. Judy Schwank used to work for a nonprofit, and she says they are outgunned at the Capitol. “[Nonprofits] don’t have the dollars necessary to influence legislation the way that some other organizations that are for profit do,” said Schwank.

Washington: Inslee Signs Campaign Finance Bill
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 3/29/2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill transforming how the state administers and enforces its campaign finance laws. House Bill 2938 aims to make clearer for filers how to follow reporting rules and avoid mistakes that can incite a complaint against them. Under the new law, every complaint must first be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Staff will have greater ability to deal with minor errors and technical corrections, and authority to refer large and complex cases to Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin GOP Will Aim to Block Judge’s Order to Gov. Scott Walker to Call Special Election
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein | Published: 3/23/2018

Wisconsin Republicans refused to accept a court order to hold special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, calling lawmakers back to Madison to rewrite election laws in an extraordinary session. Legislative leaders said the court order means special elections and regular elections for the open seats will occur simultaneously, confusing voters and wasting tax dollars. The Legislature must reconvene to revise special election statutes, they said. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Republicans were throwing a “temper tantrum” because they lost in court and fear the open seats could flip to Democratic control.


State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

June 5, 2020 •

Rhode Island General Assembly Extends Postponement

Rhode Island State House

Rhode Island State House - by Farragutful

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has canceled legislative sessions for the week of June 8 to June 12. In addition, the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force is expected to meet on Tuesday, June 9. The […]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has canceled legislative sessions for the week of June 8 to June 12.

In addition, the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force is expected to meet on Tuesday, June 9.

The meeting will be televised and live streamed online here.

Both chambers of the General Assembly are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, June 16.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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June 5, 2020 •

Louisiana Lawmakers Call Special Session to Address State Budget

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana lawmakers called themselves into a 30-day special session that began on June 2, immediately following the adjournment of the regular session. The special session agenda focuses on piecing together a more than $30 billion operating budget for the financial […]

Louisiana lawmakers called themselves into a 30-day special session that began on June 2, immediately following the adjournment of the regular session.

The special session agenda focuses on piecing together a more than $30 billion operating budget for the financial year that begins on July 1.

The session will also center on tax credit considerations, exemptions, and suspensions for businesses that were forced to reduce operations since March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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June 5, 2020 •

DOJ FARA Unit Publishes Letters of Determination

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

On June 4, the Foreign Agents Registration Acts (FARA) Unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated its public list “Letters of Determination” it has issued since 2017. The list was initially published on the DOJ’s website on June 1. […]

On June 4, the Foreign Agents Registration Acts (FARA) Unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated its public list “Letters of Determination” it has issued since 2017. The list was initially published on the DOJ’s website on June 1.

The 15 letters made public were sent by the FARA Unit to potential registrants after evaluations were completed by the unit to determine whether registration was required. The letters, issued between 2017 and 2019, set forth relevant facts, applicable statutory and regulatory provisions, and the unit’s analysis.

While the names of the individuals and foreign principals who are the subject of the letters, and their respective activities being considered by the FARA Unit, are not redacted, the letters do contain some redactions.

According to the FARA Unit, “[The FARA Unit of the DOJ] regularly reviews information to determine whether an entity or individual has an obligation to register under FARA. Where such information suggests that a registration obligation may exist, the FARA Unit sends a letter advising the entity or individual of its potential obligations under FARA, and seeking additional information.”

FARA is a disclosure statute requiring persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make public disclosure of their relationship with and activities for the foreign principal.

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June 5, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 5, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020 President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort […]


As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion
MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020

President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort by conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls. The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome of the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 6/1/2020

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, and many states settled on a system in which the judge appoints the defendant’s attorney. That system has long been criticized for promoting cronyism and dampening the zeal of lawyers who want to stay in the good graces of judges. A new study documents a more troubling objection. Elected judges, the study found, tend to appoint lawyers who contribute to their campaigns. “Campaign finance is perverting the criminal justice system,” said Neel Sukhatme, a professor at Georgetown Law and an author of the study.

Houston Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Bestselling New Book Got Boost from Purchases by House GOP Campaign Arm
Dallas Morning News – Tom Benning | Published: 5/28/2020

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s bestselling new book, Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage, has been boosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) making a large bulk-order purchase. The House GOP’s campaign arm recently spent nearly $400,000 to buy more than 25,000 copies of the freshman Republican’s tome. The purchases were then used in a fundraising appeal that allowed donors to the NRCC to obtain a signed copy of the book. A Crenshaw aide would not answer if the lawmaker received royalties from the NRCC purchase. But the aide said the House ethics committee, signed off on Crenshaw’s book deal when he took office last year.

How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park
MSN – Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Katie Rogers, Zona Kanno-Youngs, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2020

After a day in which President Trump berated “weak” governors and lectured them to “dominate” demonstrators that were protesting the death of George Floyd, the president emerged from the White House and made his way to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed stern-faced, holding up a Bible. The resulting photographs of Trump striding purposefully across Lafayette Square satisfied his desire to project strength. The scene of mayhem that preceded the walk evoked images more commonly associated with authoritarian countries. Trump and his inner circle considered it a triumph that would resonate with many Americans turned off by scenes of urban riots and looting that have accompanied nonviolent protests. But critics were aghast at the use of force against Americans who posed no visible threat at the time.

Interior Watchdog: Agency official pressed EPA to hire relative
Politico – Ben Lefebvre | Published: 5/29/2020

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog said a senior appointed official violated federal laws by using his official email to push the Environmental Protection Agency to hire his son-in-law. The report General is the second time in six months the inspector general has found that Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas Doug Domenech broke federal ethics statutes. Domenech was earlier found to have met in 2017 with attorneys for his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, while the conservative think tank and the Interior Department were battling over a lawsuit, creating the appearance of a conflict-of-interest.

Judge Asks Court Not to ‘Short Circuit’ His Review of Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/1/2020

The Justice Department’s conduct in abruptly deciding to end the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was so unusual it raised a “plausible question” about the legitimacy of the move, a lawyer for the trial judge overseeing that case told a federal appeals court. In a court filing, the lawyer for U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan asked a three-judge panel not to cut short his review of the factual and legal issues surrounding the case. A defense lawyer for Flynn had asked the appellate panel to issue a so-called writ of mandamus ordering the judge to immediately dismiss it without letting him complete an assessment.

Lawmakers Have Been Sleeping in Their Capitol Offices for Years, Coronavirus Is Reviving a Push to End It
USA Today – Cristal Hayes | Published: 5/28/2020

Dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made their offices a second home, sleeping on couches, makeshift mattresses, or fold-out beds at night and getting ready for work before their staffs arrive the next morning. An estimated 100 lawmakers sleep in their offices, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But the coronavirus outbreak has reignited a years-old fight to stop what has become known as the “couch caucus,” with some lawmakers arguing that their colleagues sleeping in their offices is not only improper, it also increases the chances of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and staff at the Capitol.

Pence Chief of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict with Coronavirus Response
National Public Radio – Tim Mak | Published: 5/28/2020

Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, owns between $506,043 and $1.64 million worth of individual stocks in companies doing work related to the Trump administration’s pandemic response, holdings that could run afoul of conflict-of-interest laws. Many of the medical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing companies in which Short and his wife hold stock have been directly affected by or involved in the work of the Coronavirus Task Force, chaired by Pence. Other companies have been publicly touted by the White House for their work with the federal government on the coronavirus response.

Steve King Ousted on Historic Primary Night
Politico – Allie Mutnick, James Arkin, and Zach Montellaro | Published: 6/2/2020

Rep. Steve King will leave Congress after this year, ending a nearly two-decade-long career that included numerous inflammatory comments on race and immigration. The Iowa Republican lost his bid for a 10th term when GOP voters in his Iowa district awarded state Sen. Randy Feenstra with the nomination after a fierce primary battle. Feenstra’s decisive victory is a boon to leaders in both parties, including Republican leaders who stripped King of his committee assignments last year and had long felt his offensive and racist rhetoric cast a shadow on the party.

This Treasury Official Is Running the Bailout. It’s Been Great for His Family.
ProPublica – Justin Elliott, Lydia DePillis, and Robert Faturechi | Published: 6/2/2020

Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have become the public faces of the $3 trillion federal coronavirus bailout. Behind the scenes, however, the Treasury’s responsibilities have fallen largely to the deputy secretary, Justin Muzinich. A major beneficiary of that bailout so far: Muzinich & Co., the asset manager founded by his father where Justin served as president before joining the administration. He reported owning a stake worth at least $60 million when he entered government in 2017.

Trump Signs Order That Could Punish Social Media Companies for How They Police Content, Drawing Criticism and Doubts of Legality
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2020

President Trump signed an executive order aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms. The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most content shared by users on their sites. Trump has argued these protections allow Facebook, Google, and Twitter to censor conservatives. The order seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which the White House asked to probe whether the companies’ content-moderation policies adhere to their pledges of neutrality. It also created a council in cooperation with state attorneys general to probe allegations of censorship based on political views.

Veteran Lobbyists Flex Muscles in K Street’s New Normal
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/28/2020

K Street lobbyists are trying to deliver coronavirus relief funds for their clients while also learning to navigate the new digitally focused landscape, a change from their routine of attending fundraisers and meeting with lawmakers and their staffs in person on Capitol Hill. The difficulty in establishing new connections means many are relying on existing ties, making it harder for newcomers and those who desperately need to expand their networks. “The Zoom lobbying period had made it particularly difficult for starting a relationship with a member or staff and building the level of trust necessary to do our job,” said Ivan Zapien, a partner at Hogan Lovells. That has also put veteran lobbyists at an advantage.

From the States and Municipalities

California Corruption Probe Takes Down Another at LA City Hall
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 5/27/2020

George Esparza, a former aide to Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar, agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall, becoming the closest associate of the councilperson so far to be snared in the federal “pay-to-play” probe. Esparza’s indictment details bribes paid to an unnamed councilperson to move ahead development projects in their district, to help a relative’s political aspirations, and settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The corruption probe has resulted in multiple arrests All previous indictments corroborate evidence that the unnamed council member in the money-making scheme is Huizar and Esparza’s cooperation and indictment furthers that theory.

California DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 6/1/2020

A coalition of current and former district attorneys called on the American Bar Association and the California State Bar to pass an ethics rule prohibiting prosecutors from accepting political donations and endorsements from law enforcement agencies and police unions. The request follows a weekend of mass demonstrations against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder. The district attorneys, who review use of force incidents and make charging decisions against police officers, said they must cut money and politics out of the equation to help build the public’s trust in the judicial system.

California Lawyer at Center of Tax-Sharing Deals Being Probed on Ethics Law
Bloomberg Tax – Laura Mahoney | Published: 5/28/2020

Robert Cendejas, a lawyer who has brokered sales-tax incentive deals between cities and major e-commerce companies that included multimillion-dollar payouts for himself, is being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for possible conflict-of-interest violations. In the case of the city of Ontario, Cendejas has represented or consulted for the city on tax policy. He has also represented a number of California cities in tax disputes with the state’s Board of Equalization. The deals typically last for decades and, in deals he helped negotiate, Cendejas has reached separate agreements to get a percentage of the additional tax collections for himself.

California Legislative Inquiry Finds Assemblyman Committed Sexual Harassment
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 5/27/2020

A Legislative Counsel investigation determined California Assemblyperson Bill Brough engaged in sexual misconduct on multiple occasions, including an offer of political help in exchange for going to his apartment. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon removed him from all of his committee assignments and suggested Brough would face additional punishment. In the meantime, Brough is required to take “additional harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention training.”

California More Costly Campaigns During COVID? Councilwoman Asks About Raising Contribution Limits
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 5/27/2020

A changing election landscape and a global pandemic has some Long Beach politicians asking how the city can raise its cap on political contributions to help fuel campaigns through a longer election cycle and, presently, one where volunteers may be hesitant about knocking on doors. Councilperson Mary Zendejas, who chairs the Elections Oversight Committee, asked the city attorney’s office to start looking at the issue. Zendejas said the city should look at increasing the $400 limit from individual donors to help those campaigning through the pandemic and beyond.

Colorado John Hickenlooper Must Testify in Ethics Complaint, Denver Judge Rules Hours Before Hearing
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 6/3/2020

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who is running for the U.S. Senate, must testify at a hearing about whether his travel on private planes amounts to a violation of the state’s gift ban. Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann issued a ruling that declined Hickenlooper’s request to block a subpoena and delay the remote hearing before the  Independent Ethics Commission. The judge dismissed Hickenlooper’s concerns about the format of the hearing and questioned the last-minute lawsuit given the remote hearing was initially scheduled in early May.

Connecticut Jon Lender: Despite COVID-19, legislators and PACs still put the touch on lobbyists, others for contributions; but now the touch is virtual
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 5/29/2020

While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down nations and states, it cannot stop the machinery of campaign fundraising whether in the presidential campaign or down at the level of Connecticut General Assembly candidates. And, just as experts now say that viruses adapt during a pandemic, so do political fundraising methods. Under the subject “Virtual Fundraiser” from Connecticut Deputy House Majority Leader Jeff Currey, read: “CURREY PAC was hoping to host a summer fundraiser, but in light of our social distancing efforts, I’d like to offer some 1-on-1 time, via Zoom. To donate, click the link below. If you would also like to schedule a 1:1 virtual chat, please reply to this email with the preferred time ….” The  email recipients included past donors and lobbyists.

Florida Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 5/28/2020

The Florida Department of Financial Services has requested 100,000 private companies registered as vendors authorized to bid on state contracts to verify within 30 days whether they are “majority-owned by United States interests.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said the goal of the query is to “better identify businesses that are majority Communist Party of China-owned that do business with the state of Florida.”

Idaho Ada Co. GOP Chair Used Party Funds on Private Expense, Allowed Questionable Audit
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 5/27/2020

Ryan Davidson, chairperson of the Ada County Republican Central Committee, used his own party’s money to pay for advice related to his private lobbying business in 2018. A review of the organization’s finances under Davidson’s watch has also been conducted by an insider who pleaded guilty to misusing public money in the past. Facebook messages show Davidson admitting he “inadvertently’ paid $100 from county GOP funds to Holly Cook, a public relations professional and political consultant.

Kansas Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law
McClatchy DC – Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/27/2020

Dave Lindstrom’s campaign for the U.S. Senate may be violating Kansas law by raffling a Kansas City Chiefs jersey signed by Patrick Mahomes, according to two state agencies. Lindstrom, a former Chiefs player, is running the Republican nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. The campaign began selling $20 tickets recently for a June 23 raffle of the Super Bowl MVP’s jersey. Kansas law only permits charities to conduct raffles. All other entities are restricted, including political campaigns, according to Zach Fletcher, spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue.

Kentucky Beshear Makes Appointments to Executive Ethics Commission
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2020

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is reorganizing a state commission that promotes ethical conduct by elected officials in the executive branch. The governor said he wanted to “restore the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to what it should be.” Beshear, a Democrat, made three appointments to the five-member board and said he would take recommendations from the state attorney general and state auditor for two more positions. Both the attorney general and the auditor are Republicans.

Michigan Bucci Pleads Guilty in Macomb Extortion Scandal
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/28/2020

Former Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci pleaded guilty to embezzling money, extorting contractors, and serving as the bagman for ex-county public works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco during a decades-long extortion conspiracy. The allegations were outlined in a new criminal case that accused Bucci of stealing public tax dollars and extorting businesspeople during a crime spree that spanned his tenure as a Republican politician and his county job working for Marrocco. The criminal case was filed hours after Marrocco was indicted and accused of orchestrating a conspiracy that extorted money from country contractors that prosecutors say was spent on personal luxuries.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer: I didn’t OK Dem firm for coronavirus project, despite emails
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disputed a health official’s characterization that her office gave a “green light” for the state to hire a Democratic campaign consultant’s firm to lead a volunteer COVID-19 contact tracing program. Whitmer said she did not personally learn about the contract until after it was signed on April 20, despite an email that showed her communications director discussing the “arrangement” days before the $194,250 deal was finalized. Her denial follows a news report about emails that appear to show Michigan officials tried to avoid controversy over the contact tracing contract by shifting planned work to apolitical subsidiaries of firms with known partisan leanings.

Mississippi Lt. Governor Withdraws Request for Ethics Decision Over Small Business Grants for Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/27/2020

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann withdrew a request to the Mississippi Ethics Commission asking whether lawmakers could apply for coronavirus small business relief funding the Legislature approved. The panel discussed the issue at a special meeting and was expected to make a decision soon. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said no explanation was given for why the request was withdrawn. Sente Bill 2772 specified that lobbyists, businesses that hired a lobbyist, or ones involved in partisan political activities could not receive the grants. But the bill did not say anything about the people who passed the bill.

Montana U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Holly Michels | Published: 6/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that challenged Montana’s law on disclosing the spending for political ads within 60 days of an election. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state law that nonprofit groups running ads that mention candidates, political parties, or ballot issues in the 60-day window before an election have to report any spending of $250 or more and say who funded their efforts.

Nevada Nev. Elections Office Reviewing MedMen Donation Allegations
AP News – Michelle Price | Published: 5/27/2020

The Nevada secretary of state’s office is reviewing allegations made by a former executive of the cannabis company MedMen Enterprises that the company’s co-founders made illegal campaign donations to Gov. Steve Sioslak. In a lawsuit, MedMen Chief Financial Officer James Parker alleged board member Adam Bierman, the company’s co-founder, gave the maximum $10,000 campaign donation allowed by law to a Nevada politician. The lawsuit alleges Bierman illegally forced Parker to make a similar contribution and company funds were illegally used to buy furniture for co-founder and executive Andrew Modlin in order to reimburse Modlin for a similar campaign donation made in his name.

New Mexico Mixed Ruling on State’s Ethics Law
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 6/2/2020

The state Court of Appeals has ruled that part, but not all, of New Mexico’s anti-corruption law is too vague to be enforced. In a complex ruling, the court ordered the reinstatement of at least one ethics charge against three defendants: former Doña Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez, Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez, and former San Juan County Magistrate Judge Connie Lee Johnston. The judges did not rule on the defendants’ guilt or innocence, just that charges could proceed. By contrast, the court dismissed a series of other charges against them and against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.

New York New Round of Subpoenas Issued in Investigation into Mayor Warren Campaign Funds
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Craig | Published: 5/29/2020

The investigation into whether there were irregularities with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s 2017 re-election campaign is not over. The Monroe County district attorney’s office subpoenaed businesses and other entities that assisted the campaign. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in December 2018 that vendors who were contracted by the Warren campaign or political committees had been subpoenaed for campaign-related records. But, afterward, there was no public word on how the investigation was progressing, or whether it had or had not unearthed evidence of campaign financing fraud. However, the investigation was a joint probe with the state Board of Elections, which last year was locked in an internal struggle over whether it was sluggish or unwilling to aggressively pursue political investigations.

North Carolina A Confrontation Between NC Senators, a Police Report, and a Secretive Ethics Process
MSN – Jessica Huseman (ProPublica) and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/27/2020

North Carolina Sen. Erica Smith filed a complaint accusing other state lawmakers of bullying and making sexual comments and verbal insults to her and asked for expulsion from the Senate for two of them. The Legislative Ethics Assembly recently dismissed parts of her complaint. Documents show a conclusion by police that state Sen. Paul Lowe assaulted Smith during an altercation at a Democratic caucus meeting last September 11. He has not been charged. The records also reveal infighting between Senate Democrats and allegations against multiple senators that include sexually harassing comments.

North Carolina Raleigh Mayor Now Working for Company That Got $6M City Contract. No Conflict, She Says.
Raleigh News and Observer – Anna Johnson | Published: 5/28/2020

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin began interviewing for her new job with a construction company nine days after the company received a $6.3 million city contract. The job and its timing have some of the mayor’s frequent critics calling it a conflict-of-interest. Baldwin says she was not yet in touch with the company when the Raleigh City Council unanimously voted on the contract. A former five-term council member who was elected mayor in 2019, Baldwin is now director of Business Development for Barnhill Contracting’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions.  She was formerly vice president at Holt Brothers Construction and executive director of the Holt Brothers Foundation, which supports children who have a parent with cancer.

North Carolina Republicans Will Move Trump Convention Speech Out of Charlotte
New York Times – Annie Karni | Published: 6/2/2020

Republicans said they were moving President Trump’s convention speech out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and to another city, after coming to a stalemate with Democratic officials in the state about safety and crowd size restrictions because of the coronavirus. But Republican officials also said they could still hold other convention business in Charlotte, so as not to break a formal contract they signed with the city more than two years ago. Party officials are planning a visit to Nashville to assess its suitability for the convention. Other cities under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando, and Jacksonville, as well as sites in Georgia.

Pennsylvania A Congressman Caught in the 1970s Abscam Sting Is Now at the Heart of a Philly Election Fraud Probe, Sources Say
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck, Chris Brennan, and Andrew Seidman | Published: 5/27/2020

A central question lingered after federal recently disclosed a Philadelphia poll worker had admitted taking bribes to stuff ballot boxes in local elections: who was the unnamed “Campaign Consultant #1” described in court filings as the man who paid Domenick DeMuro to inflate vote totals on behalf of favored candidates between 2014 and 2016? Prosecutors have declined to say. But two sources briefed on the matter and an analysis of campaign finance data and court filings in DeMuro’s case point to one man: former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, who was a key figure in the Abscam scandal of the 1970s.

Pennsylvania Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court – Matt Miller | Published: 6/1/2020

A federal appeals court agreed that a provision of Pennsylvania law barring campaign contributions from individuals holding ownership stakes in businesses with gaming licenses ran violated constitutional free speech protections. That is so even though the prohibition included in the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act adopted in 2004 is aimed at preventing corruption in state politics, Judge Richard Nygaard wrote in the opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Pennsylvania officials have not proven their total ban is justified when those other states impose lesser restrictions that do not severely infringe free speech rights, Nygaard wrote.

Pennsylvania Pa. House Democrats Say They Were in the Dark for a Week About Republican’s Positive Coronavirus
Spotlight PA – Julia Terruso (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/28/2020

Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus in May, leading at least one of his Pennsylvania House colleagues, Russ Diamond, to self-quarantine. Diamond has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal opponents of mask-wearing, boasting on social media that he goes shopping without one. The admission immediately ignited outrage among Democrats in the chamber who said they were recklessly left in the dark for nearly a week about Lewis’s condition.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Rejects Staff Advice: Opens door for Sen. Lynch Prata to potentially get Supreme Court seat
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 6/2/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission ignored its own staff advice and opened the door for Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to seek a seat on the state Supreme Court. The “revolving door” ban requires a year out of office before a legislator can take a state job, including a judgeship. A 1991 Providence Journal investigation found 49 of the 311 people who had served in the General Assembly the previous decade had gotten state jobs, many of which had never been advertised, while in office or within a year of leaving.

South Carolina SC Republican House Member Sues His Own Party, Claiming It Helped Primary Opponent
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 6/3/2020

A Republican member of the South Carolina House is suing his own party after it allegedly paid for campaign ads assisting his political opponent in the leadup to the state’s primary election. Rep. Jonathon Hill filed the lawsuit, arguing the state GOP should not be allowed to contribute more than $5,000 to assist his primary opponent’s campaign. Hill has often clashed with the House’s Republican leadership. That animosity grew to the point that other members of the Legislature voted last year to kick him out of the Republican Caucus. Hill believes the spending shows the GOP is illegally influencing the election.

Tennessee Tennessee House Approves Measure Reducing Campaign Finance Disclosures in Election Years
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020

The Tennessee House approved a measure that would claw back campaign finance disclosures during election years. This year, like other election years, lawmakers are required to file five disclosures outlining how they raised and spend campaign money. An additional disclosure is required early next year outlining activity in the final months of 2020.In non-election years, lawmakers are required to file two disclosures. The bill would remove the requirement to file disclosures before the primary and general elections. Those reports currently must be filed no later than seven days before the elections.

Washington DC Brandon Todd Loses His D.C. Council Seat, and Voters Soundly Reject Jack Evans
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/3/2020

Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, who was trying to reclaim the seat he relinquished in January while facing expulsion for ethics violations, finished near the bottom of  a crowded field in the Democratic primary, with about 300 votes of nearly 8,000 ballots cast. Evans had asked voters to forgive his transgressions and return him to the office he held for nearly three decades. But two years of scandal, including an FBI search of his home and investigations finding he violated ethics rules at the council and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority where he served as board chairperson, proved too much to overcome.

West Virginia This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/28/2020

The billionaire governor of West Virginia, whose business empire has amassed more than $128 million in judgments and settlements against it for unpaid bills, lost another court case recently that adds millions more to that tally. Gov. Jim Justice’s Bluestone Resources was ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million to a financing company after it stopped making payments on a lease for a bulldozer used in coal mining. The ruling comes as Justice campaigns for a second term as governor, touting his experience as a longtime businessperson. But in advance of the state’s June 9 primary, opponents in both political parties are branding the Republican incumbent as a billionaire scofflaw.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voter Purge Case
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 6/2/2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a case seeking to purge about 129,000 voter registrations from the rolls ahead of the November presidential election after previously deadlocking on whether to get involved. Democrats oppose the voter purge, arguing it is intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Conservatives who brought the lawsuit argue the integrity of the vote is at stake, saying when records indicate voters may have moved, their registrations should be deactivated.

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June 4, 2020 •

Georgia General Assembly Set to Return on June 15

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston announced the Georgia General Assembly will resume its 2020 legislative session on June 15. The General Assembly’s session has been on pause since March 13 due to COVID-19 concerns. […]

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston announced the Georgia General Assembly will resume its 2020 legislative session on June 15.

The General Assembly’s session has been on pause since March 13 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Upon reconvening, a key issue will be the state budget.

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June 4, 2020 •

Governor Makes Appointment to Fill Idaho House Seat

Aaron von Ehligner

Aaron von Ehligner - by FinallyGoodIT

Gov. Brad Little appointed Aaron von Ehlinger to fill the Idaho House District 6 seat until November’s general election. The appointment was made one day after von Ehlinger challenged incumbent Rep. Thyra Stevenson, and won the Republican primary for the […]

Gov. Brad Little appointed Aaron von Ehlinger to fill the Idaho House District 6 seat until November’s general election.

The appointment was made one day after von Ehlinger challenged incumbent Rep. Thyra Stevenson, and won the Republican primary for the seat.

However, Stevenson passed away on May 11 following a heart attack.

She remained on the Republican primary ballot because it was too late to change forms.

The 6th Legislative District Republican Central Committee nominated von Ehlinger and two others as potential picks following the passing of Stevenson.

Von Ehlinger will now be the incumbent in the November general election, where he is running unopposed.

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June 4, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police” by Maria Dinzeo for Courthouse News Service Kansas: “Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law” by Bryan Lowry for McClatchy DC […]

Campaign Finance

California: “DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police” by Maria Dinzeo for Courthouse News Service

Kansas: “Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law” by Bryan Lowry for McClatchy DC

Tennessee: “Tennessee House Approves Measure Reducing Campaign Finance Disclosures in Election Years” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean


National: “Steve King Ousted on Historic Primary Night” by Allie Mutnick, James Arkin, and Zach Montellaro for Politico

North Carolina: “Republicans Will Move Trump Convention Speech Out of Charlotte” by Annie Karni for New York Times

Pennsylvania: “A Congressman Caught in the 1970s Abscam Sting Is Now at the Heart of a Philly Election Fraud Probe, Sources Say” by Jeremy Roebuck, Chris Brennan, and Andrew Seidman for Philadelphia Inquirer

Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voter Purge Case” by Scott Bauer for AP News


National: “How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park” by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Katie Rogers, Zona Kanno-Youngs, and Katie Benner (New York Times) for MSN

National: “This Treasury Official Is Running the Bailout. It’s Been Great for His Family.” by Justin Elliott, Lydia DePillis, and Robert Faturechi for ProPublica

New Mexico: “Mixed Ruling on State’s Ethics Law” by Dan McKay for Albuquerque Journal

Rhode Island: “Ethics Commission Rejects Staff Advice: Opens door for Sen. Lynch Prata to potentially get Supreme Court seat” by Katherine Gregg for Providence Journal

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June 3, 2020 •

Republican Convention Will Not Be Held in North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper

N. Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper - by NCDOTcommunications

After a prolonged standoff with the state’s Democratic governor, President Donald Trump says Republicans will seek another state instead of North Carolina to hold its August convention. Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a proposal for a full convention and insisted on […]

After a prolonged standoff with the state’s Democratic governor, President Donald Trump says Republicans will seek another state instead of North Carolina to hold its August convention.

Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a proposal for a full convention and insisted on scaling back the event due to uncertainty as to what the status of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in August.

Several other locations are expected to or have already expressed interest in hosting the event, but the GOP is still weighing its options for the event.

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