May 1, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 1, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Democrats Press General Services Administration Over Trump Hotel Payments
Greenwich Time – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2020

Congressional Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration for information about President Trump’s District of Columbia hotel lease after Trump’s company said it asked the federal government to include it in any accommodations it may make for private tenants during the coronavirus shutdown. The letter is the latest attempt by congressional Democrats to prevent Trump from using his administration to benefit his business, which he owns but which his adult sons are running while he is in office. The renewed oversight comes at a time when the Trump Organization, like virtually all hotel and golf companies in the country, has seen business plummet to a small fraction of what it was due to shutdowns from the pandemic, and has been looking to cut costs.

Donna Shalala, on Coronavirus Oversight Board, Pays Fine for Not Revealing Stock Sales
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/28/2020

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who admitted she broke federal law requiring the disclosure of stock sales, will pay a $1,200 fine for six violations because she failed to report hundreds of transactions made last year by a broker setting up a blind trust. A report details 556 stock transactions made by Shalala n in 2019. She did not make any stock transactions in 2020. There is no indication Shalala engaged in insider trading, though her stock holdings on her previous financial disclosure, from 2018, led to criticism that her portfolio conflicted with her work on an oversight committee set up oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses.

Government Watchdog Seeks Ethics Investigation of Jared Kushner’s ‘Shadow’ Coronavirus Task Force
MSN – Jerry Lambe (Law & Crime) | Published: 4/28/2020

In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the agency to conduct a review of whether members of a coronavirus task force overseen by Jared Kushner have complied with the disclosure obligations and conflict-of-interest restrictions required of special government employees under federal law. Kushner in March formed his own “shadow” coronavirus task force, separate from the official effort headed by Vice President Mike Pence, composed largely of private sector advisors whose primary focus was supposed to be expanding access to testing and acquiring life-saving personal protective equipment.

How a Digital Ad Strategy That Helped Trump Is Being Used Against Him
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 4/28/2020

In the fast-paced world of digital advertising, the availability of real-time data beyond mere engagement is fairly small, leaving campaigns with a patchwork of clicks, old polling, and hunches to assess the impact of the millions of dollars they are spending on digital platforms. Facebook, with about 220 million users in the country, remains the central digital vehicle for reaching Americans who are spending more time online during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has also forced campaigns to rely on a nearly entirely digital infrastructure, from fundraising to organizing to persuasion. Having fresh data to inform campaign arguments online is essential. A real-time testing project aims to help fill that gap.

Judges Worry Trump Position on McGahn Testimony Could Force Congress into Extreme Measures
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 4/28/2020

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claim that Congress can never go to court to enforce its oversight and spending powers. The discussion occurred as lawyers for the U.S. House and Justice Department sparred over efforts by Democrats to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify about his knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by Trump. Throughout the arguments, judges raised concerns about whether cutting off the courts to Congress would remove any incentive for future presidents to cooperate or negotiate with lawmakers trying to check executive power.

Pollo Tropical, Which Employs Florida Congresswoman’s Husband, Gets Small Biz Loan
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/23/2020

The publicly traded parent company of Miami restaurant chain Pollo Tropical, which employs the husband of U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell as an executive, received a taxpayer-funded loan intended for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Fiesta Restaurant Group, with more than 10,000 employees, was granted a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan, money that does not have to be paid back if it is used to keep employees on the job. Fiesta said it is “currently reviewing” the money to determine whether it is appropriate to keep it in light of new Treasury Department guidelines that will prevent most publicly-owned large companies from receiving loans.

Sen. Richard Burr Is Not Just a Friend to the Health Care Industry. He’s Also a Stockholder.
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis | Published: 4/28/2020

In his 15 years in the U.S. Senate, Richard Burr has been one of the health care industry’s staunchest friends, advocated for legislation to benefit the industry. Burr also trades in and out of the industry’s stocks. Since 2013, he and his wife bought and sold between $639,500 and $1.1 million of stock in companies that make medical devices, equipment, supplies, and drugs. With weak laws and little oversight, such trading rarely trips any wires. Burr is also one of the Senate’s biggest beneficiaries of the industry’s largesse. Medical companies, trade groups, and their executives and lobbyists regularly donate to his political committees.

Spotify and Text-a-Thons: How the census is reaching out during coronavirus
Poilitico – Maya King and Danielle Muoio | Published: 4/23/2020

As the coronavirus bears down on cities and states across the nation, the Census Bureau has scrubbed in-person get-out-the-count work in favor of ad buys on Spotify, thousand-person text-a-thons, and virtual speakers series. But despite an extensive statistical database and h$500 million ad strategy to get a proper count, local officials warn millions could still slip through the cracks. The people who are not counted can lose political representation at both the state and federal levels. Legislative and congressional districts are drawn based on population, and the areas where people are hardest to count skew Democratic.

Start-Ups Pursue ‘Free Money’ with Relief Funds, Prompting Backlash
MSN – Erin Griffith and David McCabe (New York Times) | Published: 4/27/2020

Scrutiny of the Paycheck Protection Program, the $349 billion plan to save jobs at small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, has reached technology start-ups. While many of these young companies have been hurt by the pandemic, they are not ailing in the same way that traditional small businesses are. Many mom-and-pop enterprises, which tend to employ hourly workers and operate on razor-thin margins, are shutting down immediately because of economic pain. But start-ups, which last year raised more than $130 billion in funding, have sometimes turned to the government loans not for day-to-day survival but simply to buy useful time. The start-up rush to tap the finite pool of government aid has stirred debate in Silicon Valley over whether these companies should have applied.

Supreme Court Casts Some Doubt on Whether It Should Settle Trump’s Fight with Congress Over His Finances
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/28/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court called for additional briefing on whether the court was authorized to settle a dispute about congressional subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records. The case is set to be argued May 12, and briefing was completed weeks ago. So the order from the court caught lawyers by surprise and raised at least the possibility the justices were looking for a way to avoid deciding the case’s merits. It may also be less dramatic than that. The request could reflect the interest of just one or a small group of the nine justices. Trump has raised sweeping arguments that the president is protected from investigation by congressional committees and, separately, a New York district attorney. The lower courts are considering the power of Congress to demand executive branch compliance with its investigations.

Thousands of Candidates Reinventing Politics on the Fly for the Age of Pandemic
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2020

There is a new reality for political professionals across the country as the social distancing clampdown has transformed the art and logistics of politicking. While much of the attention has focused on former Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, hunkering down in his basement to record his podcast, or President Trump seeking to monopolize the evening television airwaves, Covid-19 has transformed all corners of the political universe. Local candidates and name-brand leaders alike have been forced to abandon rallies, community centers, and campaign offices. Volunteers, organizers and operatives have been quarantined into virtual meetings, letter-writing campaigns, and mobile-texting blitzes. Entire organizations have pivoted to meet the moment.

Trump Allies Highlight New Claims Regarding Allegations Against Biden
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2020

Some allies of President Trump pointed to new claims by a woman who said she was told about sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden decades ago, renewing attention to questions about the past behavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Apparent corroboration recently for elements of two accusations made by Biden’s former Senate aide Tara Reade, one involving harassment and the second a sexual assault. Biden has not commented on the allegations, but his campaign has denied them and pointed to his record on women’s rights and promotion of women in his offices.

Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Stacy Cowley | Published: 4/29/2020

Last summer, on his final day of work at the nation’s consumer finance watchdog agency, a career economist sent a colleague a blunt memo. He claimed that President Trump’s appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had manipulated the agency’s research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have curtailed high-interest payday loans. The departing staff member, Jonathan Lanning, detailed several maneuvers by his agency’s political overseers that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed.

Under Pressure, House Leaders Scrap Plans for Speedy Return to the Capitol
New York Times – Emily Cochrane and Nicholas Fandos | Published: 4/28/2020

Democratic leaders scrapped a plan to call the U.S. House back into session in the near future, abruptly reversing themselves after some rank-and-file lawmakers complained that doing so constituted an unnecessary risk as coronavirus continues to spread in the capital and throughout the country. The delay will give House leaders more time to try to reach a bipartisan agreement on rules changes that would allow remote voting and hearings for the first time in history. Democratic leaders were hoping to build Republican support for their plan to permit lawmakers who could not or did not want to travel to Washington during the pandemic to designate another member to vote by proxy in their stead.

Canada

Canada Alberta Premier Cleared in Ethics Probe Tied to Firing of Election Commissioner
National Post – Canadian Press | Published: 4/27/2020

Alberta’s ethics commissioner rejected accusations that Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative caucus broke the rules when they fired an election official investigating the party. Marguerite Trussler said there is no evidence the United Conservative Party (UCP) directly benefited when its caucus passed a bill late last year to fire Lorne Gibson as election commissioner. The New Democratic Party alleged that firing Gibson boosted the UCP’s long-term reputation and re-election prospects given that Gibson was investigating the party and had already levied more than $200,000 in fines tied to the 2017 leadership race won by Kenney.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas 14 PACs Sign Settlements, Accept Fines to Resolve Ethics Complaints, State Records Show
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 4/21/2020

Fourteen PACs represented by attorney Brenda Vassaur-Taylor signed settlements of complaints in which the committees acknowledge violations of state ethics law in 2016, according to Arkansas Ethics Commission records. They agreed to pay fines collectively totaling $1,450 and each received a public letter of caution. Kendall Bond filed about 30 ethics complaints in January against these PACs, as well as candidates in the 2016 primary election over unregistered PACs making contributions to other PACs and candidates, and unregistered PACS receiving contributions before they were registered as a PAC.

California California Republicans Prepared to Match Democrats on ‘Ballot Harvesting.’ Then Came Coronavirus
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 4/28/2020

Leaders of the embattled California Republican Party are reversing course during the coronavirus pandemic to demand Gov. Gavin Newsom ban a voting practice they until recently endorsed. The Republican leaders vowed to boost their “ballot harvesting” efforts, to allow people to pick up and deliver absentee ballots that others have cast, after a Democratic thumping in the 2018 midterms. But they are now arguing it is “an intolerable risk to public health and safety.” The practice allows party volunteers to collect mail-in ballots and submit them in groups to polling places or election offices. Republicans blame the Democrats’ ballot collecting as one factor for their 2018 midterm woes, which saw them lose seven congressional seats.

California National City Passes Campaign Contribution Limits
San Diego Union-Tribune – Gustavo Solis | Published: 4/27/2020

National City officials adopted campaign contribution limits recently. Individuals, businesses, and labor unions can now contribute up to $1,000 to candidates while political parties can give $2,000. The take effect in January 2021. Part of the reason behind limiting campaign contributions was the significant increase in outside money pouring into local elections in National City in recent years.

California Newsom Executive Orders Test Constitutional Bounds – and Legislative Goodwill
Politico – Debra Kahn | Published: 4/22/2020

Residents and leaders from both parties have given Gov. Gavin Newsom high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic so far, especially after his early stay-at-home order was widely credited for helping control the spread of infection in California. But state lawmakers who have been on recess for more than a month are starting to bristle at the governor’s seemingly unilateral decision making. As Newsom shifts from crisis mode to managing the long-term economic fallout, his orders are coming under more scrutiny not just from lawmakers but industry groups, who are likewise re-engaging in Sacramento policymaking. The legislative branch has likewise shut down most activities for the time being. That leaves Newsom nearly alone to decide how to flex California laws in the coronavirus emergency.

Florida Federal Grand Jury Casts Wide Net for JEA Records, Communications
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 4/23/2020

A federal grand jury subpoena orders JEA to provide documents, communications, and records from top utility and Jacksonville City Hall officials related to a failed push to privatize the city-owned utility and the hiring of former Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn. Federal prosecutors also are looking for communications and documents from lobbyists, JEA’s contracted legal and financial firms and consultants involved in the utility’s invitation to negotiate and failed stock option style-employee bonus plan.

Georgia Supreme Court Rules States Can’t Copyright Annotated Laws
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan | Published: 4/27/2020

Extending a 19th century doctrine of copyright law to legal materials created by Legislatures, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled annotated versions of state codes cannot be copyrighted. Georgia contracts with Matthew Bender & Co., which is part of LexisNexis, to publish and distribute an annotated version of its official state code. LexisNexis publishes the full code without the annotations for free online and members of the public can access annotated versions for free at places like libraries and universities. Public.Resource.Org publishes official legal codes and other government documents online, bought 186 volumes of the annotated code and posted them online. Georgia sent the nonprofit cease and desist letters, but Public Resource refused to take the code down so the state filed a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Idaho IFF Accused of Disobeying IRS Rules by Encouraging Idahoans to Disobey Governor
Idaho Statesman – Cynthia Sewell | Published: 4/28/2020

A complaint filed with the IRS alleges Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian policy group, violated nonprofit organization rules by “supporting illegal activities” and “engaging in excessive lobbying activities.” After Gov. Brad Little extended the statewide stay-home order through April 30 to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the foundation encouraged people to disobey the order. The foundation helped organized the “Disobey Idaho” protest at the Capitol, which a few hundred people attended and continued to organize, promote, or participate in several stay-at-home violations. The complaint says one way the foundation directly attempts to influence legislation is through its “Freedom Index,” which grades how each state legislator’s voting record meshes with the group’s agenda.

Illinois Bid to Strengthen Legislative Ethics Code on Sexual Harassment Blocked by Senate
State Journal-Register – Dalton Stokes | Published: 4/24/2020

Legislation to expressly prohibit sexual harassment by legislators and lobbyists in Illinois was one of many bills that did not become law in the 2020 session that was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. The reasons for its failure in the state Senate remain unclear. After the bill passed the House, Senate leaders assigned it to the State and Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Wil Schroder. He said, “There were some Senate members who had questions regarding the new definitions contained in the bill and were not comfortable handling that section this session.”

Kansas Kansas Ethics Panel Fines Former Corrections Secretary for Taking $100K Job with CoreCivic
Topeka Capital-Journal – Sherman Smith | Published: 4/27/2020

The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined former corrections secretary Joe Norwood $5,000 for taking a job with CoreCivic after authorizing a lucrative state contract for the company. The commission also recommended authorities further investigate Norwood’s dealings with CoreCivic. As corrections secretary under former Gov. Sam Brownback, Norwood helped orchestrate a 20-year agreement for CoreCivic to build and operate a new prison facility, a $362 million deal panned by lawmakers and auditors as overly costly for the state. Norwood immediately went to work for CoreCivic after Gov. Laura Kelly took office in January 2019. Norwood said he was paid $100,000 by CoreCivic for consultant work last year.

Maryland Ex-NAACP Leader Kweisi Mfume Wins Maryland Seat in Congress
Miami Herald – Brian Witte and Julio Cortez (Associated Press) | Published: 4/28/2020

Democrat Kweisi Mfume won a special election to finish the term of the late Elijah Cummings, retaking a Maryland congressional seat he held for five terms before leaving to lead the NAACP. Mfume defeated Kimberly Klacik in the heavily Democratic Seventh Congressional District, capping a race reshaped by the coronavirus. Maryland opened just three polling stations and sent ballots weeks in advance to encourage mail voting because of the pandemic. Earlier in April, thousands of Wisconsin primary voters waited hours outside overcrowded polling stations, and Maryland’s contest could be a test for future races in a key election year.

Michigan Michigan Senator Apologizes for Mask That Looked Like Confederate Flag
New York Times – Sandra Garcia | Published: 4/26/2020

A Republican state senator in Michigan apologized for wearing a homemade mask that resembled the Confederate battle flag on the Senate floor. Dale Zorn said he told his wife, who made the mask, that it “probably will raise some eyebrows,” but he initially told a local television station that it was not a Confederate flag. He said his wife told the mask’s pattern was “more similar to” the state flags of Kentucky or Tennessee. The mask he wore, however, appeared to have more in common with the Confederate battle flag, which is all red and features a blue “X” with white stars inside it drawn across the flag.

New Mexico Coalition Asks for $8,000 Reimbursement from Legislator, Former Executive Director
Albuquerque Journal – T.S. Last | Published: 4/27/2020

The Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities (RCLC) is asking New Mexico Rep. Andrea Romero to pay back $8,000 in reimbursements paid to her while she served as the organization’s executive director and before her election in 2018. Romero previously reimbursed RCLC $2,200, but that was before the state auditor’s office released a report that included impermissible reimbursements for travel, meals, and alcoholic beverages and lobbying activities. The audit said more than $50,000 in improper payments were made to Romero, members of the coalition’s board, and third parties. More than half of those payments went to Andrea Romero Consulting.

New York New York Board of Elections Cancels Democratic Presidential Primary
New York Times – Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 4/27/2020

New York officials canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary, prompting an immediate backlash from the campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters who had hoped to amass convention delegates and help shape the party’s platform in August. In making the decision against holding a primary, which had been scheduled for June 23, the chairperson of the New York State Board of Elections called the primary “essentially a beauty contest” that the state could ill-afford in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic primary will be held for other races, but because of the decision, voters in about 20 counties with no other contests will have no need to go to the polls, and no choice for president will appear on ballots in the remainder of the state’s 62 counties.

Ohio Biden Wins Ohio Primary, but the Real Contest Was Its Attempt at Mail-In Voting
WUSA – Will Weissert and Julie Carr-Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 4/28/2020

Joe Biden won Ohio’s presidential primary, clinching a contest that was less about the Democratic nomination and more about how states can conduct elections in the era of the coronavirus. The primary was the first major test of statewide elections via mail amid an outbreak, and the results were mixed. There were reports of confusion but no widespread disruption. It was not like Wisconsin earlier in April, when voters were forced to overlook social distancing guidelines to stand in line wearing masks to cast a ballot. Still, overall turnout appeared to be off.

Ohio Former ODNR Chief Cited for Ethics Violation Over Free Fishing Trip
Toledo Blade – Mike Markey | Published: 4/28/2020

Former Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer is among nearly 40 current and former state employees and elected officials who the state inspector general has determined violated ethics guidelines by accepting a free charter fishing trip in July 2018. While ethics laws prohibit public officials and employees from accepting gifts of substantial value, state officials wrongly employed a “questionable” interpretation of state law that the fishing trip could be accepted as a donation to the agency to promote tourism, the report said. It instead constituted a “wrongful act” on which natural resources officials also spent public money on lodging and meals for the walleye fishing trip out of Ashtabula County.

Ohio Ohio’s G.O.P. Governor Splits from Trump, and Rises in Popularity
MSN – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 4/28/2020

The coronavirus crisis has made Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine something that decades in elected offices never did: a household name. A Republican, he took early and bold actions to lock down his state, even as President Trump dismissed the threat of the pandemic. DeWine’s decisiveness sent his popularity soaring. Now, DeWine is charting a way out of the shutdown, taking cautious steps while facing pressure from business leaders, conservative activists, and some GOP lawmakers who question the economic costs of a state in quarantine. DeWine is being guided by health experts while avoiding partisan fissures over stay-at-home orders that have been encouraged by Trump, who hopes a rebounding economy will carry him to re-election.

Oregon Oregon Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Campaign Contribution Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 4/23/2020

Campaign contribution limits are legal in Oregon. The state Supreme Court said limits do not violate the Oregon Constitution, a ruling that potentially signals major reform in one of the few states that does  not restrict how much donors, including corporations and labor unions, can give to the candidates. The court ruled in favor of the $500 cap adopted by Multnomah County voters in 2016. The decision sends the case back to a lower court to decide whether Multnomah County’s limits themselves are too low, while tossing out limits that county voters set on campaign expenditures.

Oregon Portland to Begin Enforcing $500 Campaign Donation Limit Next Week, But It Won’t Apply Retroactively
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 4/28/2020

In the wake of an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that campaign contribution limits do not violate the state constitution, Portland election officials say they will enforce a voter-approved $500-per-donor limit starting May 4 but would not retroactively enforce the cap. In their ruling, the justices asked lower courts to decide if $500-per-donor limits, approved first by Multnomah County voters and then by Portland voters, are too low. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said his campaign would limit donations going forward to $500 overall in light of the Supreme Court ruling. He also called on state lawmakers to establish uniform political contribution rules in 2021.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Dismisses GOP Complaint vs. Raimondo
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 4/28/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission voted to dismiss allegations that Gov. Gina Raimondo crossed a line when she negotiated a no-bid, 20-year lottery deal with International Game Technology (IGT). The complaint the state Republican Party filed against Raimondo centers on her relationship with former IGT Chairperson Donald Sweitzer, who was both an IGT lobbyist in Rhode Island and treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association while Raimondo led the group. The complaint alleges Raimondo violated the prohibition against public officials using their public positions to benefit a “business associate,” in this case Sweitzer.

Rhode Island Former State Representative-Elect Laufton Ascencao Charged with Felony Embezzlement
UpriseRI – Staff | Published: 4/28/2020

Former state Rep.-elect Laufton Ascencao was charged with embezzlement of funds from the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club, as well as not reporting expenditures on campaign finance filings and failing to appoint a treasurer to certify his campaign filings in 2017 and 2018. The state attorney general’s office said Ascencao, without authorization, diverted $16,379 from the checking account of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club while he was serving as treasurer of that organization. Ascencao used the money to pay for expenses during his 2018 campaign for state representative.

South Carolina SC Officials Troubled by Senator’s Financial Ties to Richland County Church’s Nonprofit
The State – Andrew Kaplan | Published: 4/24/2020

The revelation that a prominent South Carolina senator sent nearly $500,000 in public money to help with the construction of a private development has some lawmakers and ethics experts crying foul. The money sent to a church’s nonprofit in 2007 was approved by state lawmakers, including state Sen. Darrell Jackson, who is pastor of the church and founder of its nonprofit. It is part of a long-held practice in which legislative leaders stash millions of dollars in the state’s budget each year, then send the earmarked money to pet projects. While a majority of legislators voted in favor of sending money to the private development, several recently interviewed issue with the vote and said they would not have supported later earmarks for the nonprofit had they known about its ties to their fellow lawmaker.

South Dakota 2 South Dakota Lawmakers Reprimanded for Intoxication at Capitol
Dickinson Press – Shannon Marvel | Published: 4/24/2020

State Sens. Brock Greenfield and Kris Langer apologized during an investigative committee meeting for drinking and returning to the South Dakota Capitol drunk in the early morning hours of April 1. March 31 was the scheduled Veto Day, and the actual legislative session ended at about 3 a.m. on April 1. House Speaker Steve Haugaard testified he witnessed Langer and Greenfield slur their words during a meeting with Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden. Rep. Fred Deutsch tweeted that the lawmakers should apologize to all of South Dakota. “We are elected to do the people’s work, not to booze it up – the tradition of lobbyist-provided all-you-can-drink free booze needs to stop,” Deutsch tweeted.

Virginia Va. Gun Range Wins First Victory Against Order Requiring Businesses to Close
Laredo Morning Times – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2020

A Virginia Circuit Court judge ruled Gov. Ralph Northam exceeded his authority by forcing an indoor gun range in Lynchburg to close as part of his order shuttering some nonessential businesses. The decision to grant a temporary injunction allowing Safeside Tactical to reopen marks the first victory by a business challenging the restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The judge ruled the state law that allowed Northam to declare a state of emergency gives him broad powers, but it specifically prohibits him from limiting the right to keep and bear arms, and found accessing indoor gun ranges falls under that right. Legal experts said the case could spur others as businesses begin to chafe under restrictive shutdown orders in Virginia and across the country.

Wisconsin Justice Daniel Kelly Rejoins Voter Purge Case After Losing Election
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/29/2020

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly rejoined a lawsuit over the state’s voter rolls after earlier keeping away from the case.  Kelly recused himself from the case last year because he was on the April 7 ballot. The justice lost the election but will stay on the bench until the end of July, when his term ends. Days after the election results were announced, Kelly asked parties involved in the case to say what they thought he should do and on April 29 he issued an order saying he would participate in the case. His decision to participate in the case means the court will not deadlock on it, as it did in December.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Health Department: 36 people positive for coronavirus after primary vote
Politico – Noland McCaskill | Published: 4/27/2020

The state health department said at least three dozen Wisconsin voters and poll workers have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Shortly after the state held an in-person election on April 7, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced “new tracing mechanisms” to help local officials track residents who might have been exposed to the virus while working the polls or casting a ballot. Health department spokesperson Jennifer Miller said “several” people within that group reported additional possible exposures, making it unclear whether the election itself is responsible for their contraction of the disease. If those people contracted the virus prior to the election, they could have also spread it to others who went to the polls that day.

June 2, 2020 •

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Campaign Finance Law

U.S. Supreme Court Building

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case challenging a Montana disclosure law. Specifically, the law requires disclosure of spending for political ads within 60 days of an election. In August 2019, the 9th U.S Circuit […]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case challenging a Montana disclosure law.

Specifically, the law requires disclosure of spending for political ads within 60 days of an election.

In August 2019, the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Montana’s law requiring nonprofit groups running ads mentioning candidates, political parties or ballot issues in the 60 day window before an election to report any spending of $250 or more and disclose who funded their efforts.

This law is part of the state’s Disclosure Act, while the case was filed by the National Association of Gun Rights in 2016.

In their lawsuit, the group stated they were planning on sending mailers in Montana.

However, they would not report their donors or spending because it violated their constitutional rights of free speech.

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June 2, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds” by Adam Liptak for New York Times California: “More Costly Campaigns During COVID? Councilwoman Asks About Raising Contribution Limits” by Jason Ruiz for Long Beach Post Connecticut: “Jon […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds” by Adam Liptak for New York Times

California: “More Costly Campaigns During COVID? Councilwoman Asks About Raising Contribution Limits” by Jason Ruiz for Long Beach Post

Connecticut: “Jon Lender: Despite COVID-19, legislators and PACs still put the touch on lobbyists, others for contributions; but now the touch is virtual” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant

Nevada: “Nev. Elections Office Reviewing MedMen Donation Allegations” by Michelle Price for AP News

Ethics

National: “Judge Sullivan’s Refusal to Immediately Dismiss Flynn’s Case Raises Novel Questions About the Limits of Judicial Power” by Ann Marimow for Washington Post

National: “Houston Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Bestselling New Book Got Boost from Purchases by House GOP Campaign Arm” by Tom Benning for Dallas Morning News

Colorado: “Hickenlooper Subpoenaed to Testify Thursday About Private Flights” by Jason Wingerter for Denver Post

Michigan: “Bucci Pleads Guilty in Macomb Extortion Scandal” by Robert Snell for Detroit News

Mississippi: “Lt. Governor Withdraws Request for Ethics Decision Over Small Business Grants for Lawmakers” by Luke Ramseth for Jackson Clarion-Ledger

North Carolina: “Raleigh Mayor Now Working for Company That Got $6M City Contract. No Conflict, She Says.” by Anna Johnson for Raleigh News and Observer

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June 1, 2020 •

Newark, New Jersey Lawmakers Amend Pay-to-Play Laws

New Jersey Capitol Building

On May 20, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signed Ordinance No. 20-0515 amending the city’s contractor pay-to-play laws to reflect state law. The ordinance removes Essex County political party committees, political committees and continuing political committees regularly engaging in the support […]

On May 20, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signed Ordinance No. 20-0515 amending the city’s contractor pay-to-play laws to reflect state law.

The ordinance removes Essex County political party committees, political committees and continuing political committees regularly engaging in the support of candidates for Newark municipal offices or County of Essex offices from the definition of campaign committee.

Additionally, ordinance 20-0515 removed the monetary thresholds of $300 per calendar year and annual aggregate limit of $2,500 for all business entity contributions to covered Newark political recipients.

Under the ordinance, all contributions to covered recipients by a business entity submitting a proposal, in negotiations for, or in agreement with the city for services is prohibited during the term of the contract.

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June 1, 2020 •

Missouri Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Missouri Capitol Building

The Second Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly adjourned sine die, officially ending the session, on May 27. Before adjourning lawmakers sent House Bill 1386 to the governor, modifying the definition of legislative lobbyist for purposes of lobbying laws. The […]

The Second Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly adjourned sine die, officially ending the session, on May 27.

Before adjourning lawmakers sent House Bill 1386 to the governor, modifying the definition of legislative lobbyist for purposes of lobbying laws.

The definition will exclude legislative liaisons, defined as any state employee hired to communicate with members of the General Assembly on behalf of any elected official of the state, the judicial branch of state government, or any department, agency, board, or commission of the state, provided such entity is a part of the executive branch of state government.

The Legislature also passed Senate Joint Resolution 0038, placing a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot enacting a lobbyist gift ban.

Additionally it will reduce contribution limits made to or accepted by any candidate or committee from $2,500 to $2,000.

And finally it will repeal a redistricting plan enacted by voters in 2018.

The veto session is scheduled for September 16.

 

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June 1, 2020 •

U.S. Court of Appeals Permanently Enjoins PA Ban on Gaming Contributions

Cards, Chips and Dice

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit permanently enjoined the Commonwealth’s prohibition on political contributions from gaming-license applicants, licensees, and principals of licensees. Judge Richard Nygaard upheld the lower court’s conclusion and granted summary judgment in favor of […]

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit permanently enjoined the Commonwealth’s prohibition on political contributions from gaming-license applicants, licensees, and principals of licensees.

Judge Richard Nygaard upheld the lower court’s conclusion and granted summary judgment in favor of appellees Deon and Hardy.

Judge Nygaard found Section 1513 of the Gaming Act furthers a substantially important state interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption.

However, the restriction imposed on political contributions is unconstitutional because the Commonwealth did not closely draw the scheme to address the issue.

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June 1, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Ethics National: “Pence Chief of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict with Coronavirus Response” by Tim Mak for National Public Radio National: “Trump Signs Order That Could Punish Social Media Companies for How They Police Content, Drawing Criticism and Doubts […]

Ethics

National: “Pence Chief of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict with Coronavirus Response” by Tim Mak for National Public Radio

National: “Trump Signs Order That Could Punish Social Media Companies for How They Police Content, Drawing Criticism and Doubts of Legality” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

California: “Corruption Probe Takes Down Another at LA City Hall” by Nathan Solis for Courthouse News Service

Colorado: “John Hickenlooper Must Testify in Ethics Hearing, Commission Rules” by Saja Hindi for Denver Post

Kentucky: “Beshear Makes Appointments to Executive Ethics Commission” by Staff for AP News

North Carolina: “A Confrontation Between NC Senators, a Police Report, and a Secretive Ethics Process” by Jessica Huseman (ProPublica) and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan (Raleigh News and Observer) for MSN

Legislative Issues

Pennsylvania: “Pa. House Democrats Say They Were in the Dark for a Week About Republican’s Positive Coronavirus” by Julia Terruso (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Angela Couloumbis for Spotlight PA

Lobbying

National: “Veteran Lobbyists Flex Muscles in K Street’s New Normal” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Idaho: “Ada Co. GOP Chair Used Party Funds on Private Expense, Allowed Questionable Audit” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio

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May 29, 2020 •

Rhode Island General Assembly Cancels Sessions for the First Week of June

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 1 to June 5. Committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly and will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. […]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has canceled legislative sessions for the week of June 1 to June 5.

Committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly and will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

During this time, the State House building will remain closed.

Members of the public wishing to testify on any of the matters before the committees may submit written testimony.

The General Assembly is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, June 9.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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May 29, 2020 •

Chicago Extends Deadline for First Quarter Lobbyist Activity Reports

Chicago City Hall

Chicago City Hall - Ken Lund

The Chicago Board of Ethics is further extending the first quarterly report filing deadline from June 1 to July 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First quarter reports cover the January 1 to March 31 period and must be filed […]

The Chicago Board of Ethics is further extending the first quarterly report filing deadline from June 1 to July 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First quarter reports cover the January 1 to March 31 period and must be filed even if there was no activity.

In addition, registered lobbyists now have until December 31st to complete their annual mandatory ethics training.

The board expects additional amendments to the city’s lobbying laws later in 2020.

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