May 26, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 26, 2017

 

 

 

National:

Sean Hannity Done Talking About Seth Rich and WikiLeaks ‘for Now’ as Fox News Retracts Story
Washinton Post – Kristine Phillips and Peter Holley | Published: 5/24/2017

Fox News retracted a story linking the murder of a Democratic National Committee staff member with the email hacks that aided Donald Trump’s campaign, effectively quashing a conspiracy theory that had taken hold across the right-wing news media. The story of the murdered aide, Seth Rich, who was 27 when he was shot near his Washington, D.C. home in July, has been seized on by conservative pundits as an alternative narrative to the cascade of damaging revelations about the Trump administration’s ties to Russian officials who meddled in the presidential election. No evidence to support that theory has emerged, and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department is still investigating the case.

Work and Politics: What rights do employees have?
USA Today – Charisse Jones and Michael Izzo | Published: 5/16/2017

A U.S. House member’s letter that helped push a New Jersey attorney to resign after her boss was told she was a grassroots “ringleader,” sparked questions about how much an employer can clamp down on an employee’s activism. In an era of heightened political tensions, when many Americans are marching and boycotting for perhaps the first time, the case is showing how politics and the workplace can collide.

Federal:

‘Soft Money’ Rules Upheld by Supreme Court
Bloomberg BNA – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/23/2017

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away a Republican challenge to a federal campaign finance restriction that prevents political parties from raising unlimited amounts of cash to spend on supporting candidates. The Republican Party of Louisiana had argued a provision of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) violates its free speech rights. But the justices let stand a lower court’s ruling that rejected the challenge. BCRA barred state and local parties from taking unlimited donations for any activities concerning federal elections. Such contributions are often called soft money because they are unregulated.

Trump Asked Intelligence Chiefs to Push Back against FBI Collusion Probe after Comey Revealed Its Existence
Washington Post – Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 5/22/2017

President Trump called two of the nation’s top intelligence officials – Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, and Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency – and urged them to publicly deny there is any evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russians. The requests came in the days after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the FBI was probing the Trump-Russia connection in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate.

White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 5/22/2017

The Trump administration is trying to block an effort from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to find out the names of lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the federal government. The White House sent a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub, challenging the agency’s authority to see the waivers. President Trump in January signed an executive order that banned lobbyists hired in his administration from working with former clients or on issues they had been involved with for two years unless they received a waiver. Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are now working in the administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether those officials are violating ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Phoenix Moves to Implement New Rules for Lobbyists Following Republic Report
Arizona Republic – Rob O’Dell and Dustin Gardiner | Published: 5/23/2017

The city council gave preliminary approval to amending Phoenix’s lobbying ordinance so those who do not comply with its registration or expense disclosure rules can face sanctions, including fines of up to $2,500, suspension from lobbying, and possible jail time for repeated offenses. The new law also would apply rules to lobbyists’ communication with far more officials at the city. The council also approved a news definition of “lobbyist.” The council will hold one more vote to finalize the changes.

Arkansas – Panel: Dallas Cowboys owner violated Arkansas ethics law
Arkansas Online – John Lyon (Arkansas News Bureau) | Published: 5/20/2017

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who grew up in North Little Rock, paid for the city’s police officers and their families to attend a Cowboys home game of their choice late last season, with travel and lodging accommodations included. The gifts were in recognition of police service and volunteer work in the community. The Arkansas Ethics Commission ruled Jones had committed “an unintentional violation” by making the gift. Jones will receive a warning letter. No sanction was imposed because of his reliance on “the erroneous conclusion” in a North Little Rock City Council resolution. Through that resolution, the council accepted the gifts and subsequently passed them along to the officers as an employee benefit.

Iowa – Ethics Complaint Against Iowa Gun Owners Leader Dismissed
Des Moines Register – Brianne Pfannenstiel | Published: 5/22/2017

A man who has sometimes registered as a statehouse lobbyist was called a “liar” and “immoral,” but the House Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against Iowa Gun Owners Executive Director Aaron Dorr. The complaint alleged Dorr was telling members of his group that he was lobbying lawmakers, but while Dorr has registered as a lobbyist in the past, he did not this year. Dorr gave documents to the committee saying he had not been designated as a lobbyist for Iowa Gun Owners and was not being paid to be its executive director. Committee Chairperson Rob Taylor said unless the panel decided to issue a subpeona for Dorr’s tax returns and bank records, they would have to accept that explanation.

Missouri – New Campaign Finance Rules Ignore Missouri Voters’ Decision
Governing – Kurt Erickson (Tribune News Service) | Published: 5/23/2017

The Missouri Ethics Commission issued an opinion saying campaign committees formed by party leaders in the House and Senate are no longer limited to contributions totaling $25,000 annually. Commission Executive Director James Klahr said those committees can once again receive unlimited donations. Under a November change to the state constitution, Missouri voters overwhelmingly capped contributions to individual candidates for office at $2,600 per election. Donations to a political party were capped at $25,000.

Montana – Bullock Vetoes Bill to Raise Allowable Campaign Contributions
Billings Gazette – Holly Michels | Published: 5/19/2017

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a bill that would have revised campaign finance laws in the state and made changes to the commissioner of political practices office. Bullock said Senate Bill 368 would undermine the agency’s effectiveness and raise contribution limits far above what residents think is acceptable. The legislation would have increased the filing fees for legislative candidates, changed laws related to investigation of campaign practices, created an appeal procedure for certain complaints, and prohibit the commissioner from filing criminal action against a candidate for some violations.

New Mexico – Loophole and Vague Laws Create Ambiguity in Lobbyist Reporting
New Mexico In Depth – Sandra Fish | Published: 5/19/2017

New Mexico’s lobbyist reporting law has been criticized as lacking transparency. A loophole in a 2016 reform effort changed the reporting requirements for organizations and people they hire who spend money to influence public officials in New Mexico. Critics also say the law’s vagueness results in a situation in which lobbyists are now free to report some expenses, or not. And how they report them depends on a lobbyist’s interpretation of the rules.

New York – JCOPE Settlement Expected to Reveal Glenwood Behind $690K
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/23/2017

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics reached a settlement with nonprofit lobbying group Pledge 2 Protect that is expected to require the group to disclose that real estate giant Glenwood was intended to force groups like Pledge 2 Protect, issue-oriented nonprofits with lobbying operations, to disclose their donors. But in a series of six transactions in 2013, nearly $700,000 was funneled from previously unknown donors to a newly founded boutique law firm, Marquart & Small, which then passed the funds on to Pledge 2 Protect. Only the name of Marquart & Small showed up on subsequent lobbying disclosure filings, not the names of the original donors.

North Carolina – Supreme Court Ruling Wipes Out Republican-Drawn House Districts in N.C.
USA Today – Richard Wolff | Published: 5/22/2017

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Legislature unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state’s congressional districts. The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found racial considerations improperly predominated in redistricting decisions by GOP Legislatures in Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina. Some involved congressional districts, others state legislative districts. The states had contended their efforts were partisan attempts to protect their majorities, which the Supreme Court in the past has allowed, rather than attempts to diminish the impact of minority voters, which is forbidden. But the justices declared North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in their efforts to “reshuffle,” voters from one district to another.

South Carolina – How South Carolina Lawmakers Are Re-examining Their Rule Book after Statehouse Probe Indictments
Charleston Post and Courier – Andy Shain | Published: 5/21/2017

The House and Senate ethics committees are reviewing their advisory opinions to determine if alterations or updates are needed to ensure state lawmakers get the proper guidance to stay within the boundaries of South Carolina’s ethics law. The law does not cover every potential personal conflict in a legislator’s campaign or legislative duties. So, lawmakers receive opinions from their ethics panels to fill the gaps and create a more complete rulebook for them to follow. Since 2014, four legislators have been indicted in an ongoing probe of statehouse corruption.

Virginia – A ‘Personal Friend’ Exemption on Gifts to Virginia’s Elected Officials Leaves Open an Unlimited Loophole
The Virginian-Pilot – Bill Bartel | Published: 5/23/2017

Changes to Virginia’s ethics laws that went into effect last year place a $100 annual limit on gifts from a lobbyist, his or her clients, or someone seeking business with the state. The reform ended a common practice of lobbyists providing lawmakers with unlimited gifts, such as expensive sports tickets or pricey dinners. A new ethics council was set up advise officials and to approve acceptance of specific gifts or travel costing more than $100. But there remained a large exception: there is no limit on gifts to an officeholder or immediate family members from a “personal friend” who is not a lobbyist, a lobbyist’s client, or someone seeking state business.

 

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.

March 31, 2020 •

Colorado General Assembly Meets Briefly on March 30

Colorado Capitol Building

The Colorado House and Senate convened for one day on March 30, but lawmakers took different approaches to returning from the General Assembly’s COVID-19 recess. The House recessed until Thursday, April 2. Lawmakers in the House based their decision on […]

The Colorado House and Senate convened for one day on March 30, but lawmakers took different approaches to returning from the General Assembly’s COVID-19 recess.

The House recessed until Thursday, April 2. Lawmakers in the House based their decision on the constitutional provision allowing for a three-day recess without formal agreement from both chambers.

The Senate, however, postponed indefinitely based on another interpretation. This specifically allows the General Assembly to remain recessed without setting an exact date to reconvene.

On April 2, it is expected that the House will meet briefly and recess again for an unspecified period of time.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

Additionally, the General Assembly is still considered to be in regular session. This is for purposes of restrictions on contributions from lobbyists during the session, as the General Assembly has not adjourned sine die.

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March 31, 2020 •

Hawaii Proposed Administrative Rule Hearing Rescheduled for May 7

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission has rescheduled its public hearing on proposed administrative rules concerning amendments to state lobbying and gift laws for May 7. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the original date of March 19 was postponed. The proposals include: […]

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission has rescheduled its public hearing on proposed administrative rules concerning amendments to state lobbying and gift laws for May 7.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the original date of March 19 was postponed.

The proposals include:

  • Clarifications as to what activities constitute lobbying
  • Exclusions from lobbyist registration requirements
  • A requirement that expenditures be reported on an accrual rather than cash basis.

Additionally, the proposals would amend prohibitions on certain kinds of gifts, valuation of gifts, and gift disclosure statements.

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March 31, 2020 •

Lawmakers in Newfoundland and Labrador Adjourn Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Confederation Building, Newfoundland, CA - by shhewitt

On March 26, the General Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to adjourn parliamentary business an unspecified future date. The legislature will remain adjourned until the call of the Chair, the procedure for recalling […]

On March 26, the General Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to adjourn parliamentary business an unspecified future date.

The legislature will remain adjourned until the call of the Chair, the procedure for recalling lawmakers into session. 

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March 31, 2020 •

New York Nassau County Attorney Announces Extension For Lobbyist Report

Flag of Nassau County, NY

The Office of the County Attorney announced emergency regulations extending the deadline for filing first quarter lobbyist reports. This comes in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and current state of emergency. The deadline for lobbyist reports covering activity for the […]

The Office of the County Attorney announced emergency regulations extending the deadline for filing first quarter lobbyist reports.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and current state of emergency.

The deadline for lobbyist reports covering activity for the period of January 1 to March 31 is extended until May 15.

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March 31, 2020 •

April Sitting of Prince Edward Island Legislature Postponed Due to Coronavirus

Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly Chamber - Joseph Thornley

The anticipated start date of April 7, 2020, for the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island has been postponed until a date to be determined due to the coronavirus pandemic.   Speaker Colin LaVie suspended the Spring Sitting of the […]

The anticipated start date of April 7, 2020, for the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island has been postponed until a date to be determined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Speaker Colin LaVie suspended the Spring Sitting of the Legislature based on recommendations of the province’s chief public health officer.

LaVie intends to call the legislature into session after consultation with the other parliamentary leaders as the situation evolves.

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March 31, 2020 •

British Columbia Legislative Committees Videoconferencing

British Columbia Legislature

As of March 30, committees of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, such as the Public Account Committee, continue to meet using videoconferencing. Some of the committee videoconferencing is available for the public to view live on the Assembly’s website. […]

As of March 30, committees of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, such as the Public Account Committee, continue to meet using videoconferencing.

Some of the committee videoconferencing is available for the public to view live on the Assembly’s website.

 

On March 23, lawmakers had adjourned their Spring Session to a date they have not yet determined.

Legislators will reconvene at their physical legislative building when the Speaker of the House, after consultation with the government, determines the public interest requires it or when advised by the government.

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March 31, 2020 •

Yukon Legislature to Convene October 1

Yukon Legislature

On October 1, the Yukon Legislative Assembly is scheduled to convene, having recessed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.   On March 19, the legislature adjourned its Spring Session earlier than the scheduled April 16 end-of-session date, while still staying […]

On October 1, the Yukon Legislative Assembly is scheduled to convene, having recessed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

On March 19, the legislature adjourned its Spring Session earlier than the scheduled April 16 end-of-session date, while still staying late on its last day to complete consideration of Bill No. 203, a fiscal appropriation act for the territory.

 

“These are unusual times that call for unusual measures,” said Speaker Hon. Nils Clarke said in his press release.

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March 31, 2020 •

New York JCOPE Suspends Lobbying Random Audit Program

New York Capitol Building

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced the suspension of the Lobbying Random Audit Program to avoid unnecessary administrative burden during the COVID-19 emergency. Effective immediately, no new audits will be initiated by JCOPE until further notice. Complying with ongoing […]

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced the suspension of the Lobbying Random Audit Program to avoid unnecessary administrative burden during the COVID-19 emergency.

Effective immediately, no new audits will be initiated by JCOPE until further notice.

Complying with ongoing audits is voluntary until the commission resumes the audit program.

Any questions regarding this policy should be emailed to helpdesk@jcope.ny.gov, with ‘Audit’ in the subject line.

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