May 29, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 29, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

‘A Game-Changer’: Pandemic forces shift in black voter outreach
Roll Call – Bridgett Bowman | Published: 5/21/2020

Success in November for Democrats may depend on turning out black voters, but a history of facing voter suppression has fueled skepticism among African Americans about voting by mail and a preference to vote in person. Strategies to ensure black turnout are being redrawn as Democratic groups and grassroots organizations test messages in real time to determine how best to educate African American voters reluctant about casting mail-in ballots and reassure them it is safe and secure. It is a three-front battle, playing out in the courts, in federal and state Legislatures, and on the campaign trail.

America’s Economic Pain Arrives on K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Daniel Lippman | Published: 5/23/2020

A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Association Executives – essentially a trade group for people who lead trade groups – found 35 percent of trade groups estimated they would lose at least a quarter of their revenue because of canceled events and conferences. The cuts have hit trade groups even as many of their lobbyists have been busier than ever, hustling to secure a piece of the trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid for their members. The cuts show Washington’s influence industry is not immune to the economic pain afflicting much of the rest of the country. While much of K Street has experienced a boom as companies have rushed to hire lobbyists to help them secure relief loans, others are hurting.

Appeals Court Denies Lobbyists’ Efforts to Access Small-Business Loan Program
The Hill – Harper Neidig | Published: 5/26/2020

A federal appeals court rejected an effort by a group of lobbyists and political consultants to obtain access to the Paycheck Protection Program and its emergency loans for small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision not to grant a request by the American Association of Political Consultants for a preliminary injunction. The panel rejected the group’s argument that excluding lobbyists and political consultants from the loans violated the First Amendment.

Appeals Court Ruling Suggests Little Legal Traction for Trump’s Anti-Twitter Campaign
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/27/2020

A ruling that emerged from a federal appeals court recently is strong evidence the courts are unlikely to be receptive to President Trump’s claims that he and his political supporters are being silenced by social media platforms like Twitter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a lawsuit the conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer filed against four major technology companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple. Platforms have banned Loomer, citing anti-Muslim statements. The appeals court judges said despite the companies’ power, they cannot violate the First Amendment because it regulates only governments, not the private sector.

As Residents Perish, Nursing Homes Fight for Protection from Lawsuits
Politico – Maggie Severns and Rachel Roubien | Published: 5/26/2020

As an unprecedented catastrophe unfolds in which more than 28,000 people have died of Covid-19 in care facilities, the nursing home industry is responding with an unprecedented action of its own: using its multi-million dollar lobbying machine to secure protections from liability in lawsuits. The industry is one of the lobbying world’s quiet powerhouses. The state actions came after it spent tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and other advocacy per year. At the federal level, the industry has spent more than $4 million on lobbying over the past year, employing more than a dozen full-time lobbyists and drawing on an army of contract lobbyists.

As Trump Removes Federal Watchdogs, Some Loyalists Replacing Them Have ‘Preposterous’ Conflicts
MSN – Lisa Rein and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2020

For the first time since the system was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, inspectors general find themselves under systematic attack from the president, putting independent oversight of federal spending and operations at risk. Inspectors general, some in acting roles to begin with, have been fired and demoted with no notice, leaving their staffs in disarray, multiple inspectors general said. Adding to their alarm, several White House nominees awaiting Senate vetting for permanent roles do not meet traditional qualifications for the job. Some say the 40-year era of independent oversight of the executive branch is under threat more than ever.

‘Dark Money’ Groups Dodge Reporting Requirement in New Regulations
Politico – Toby Eckert | Published: 5/26/2020

The Treasury Department and IRS released final regulations under which certain tax-exempt groups will no longer be required to provide the names and addresses of major donors on annual returns filed with the IRS. The rules will affect groups organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Those organizations have no legal obligation to publicly disclose their donors’ identities, but they previously had to give the IRS the names and addresses of donors who gave them more than $5,000. Under the new regulations, the groups will not have to provide the information to the IRS at all.

Facebook Ran Multi-Year Charm Offensive to Woo State Prosecutors
Bloomberg Law – Naomi Nix | Published: 5/27/2020

Facebook went to great lengths to develop friendly relationships with powerful state prosecutors who could use their investigative and enforcement powers in ways that could harm the company’s revenue growth. While state attorneys general are law enforcement officials, they are also politicians, and many see the post as a stepping-stone to higher office. Corporate lobbyists often donate to their campaigns and meet with them at legal conferences, while also pressing their case on state regulatory issues. In the end, the company’s charm offensive met with mixed results: most of those state attorneys general are now investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations.

Horsford’s Extramarital Affair with Former Senate Staffer Shows How Narrow House Rules Are
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 5/21/2020

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford had an extramarital affair with a former Senate intern spanning several years, an example that highlights how narrow the House prohibition against lawmakers sleeping with congressional staffers is. Gabriela Linder said the affair began in 2009 and continued sporadically until 2019. When they met, Horsford was a state senator in Nevada; Linder worked as an intern for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Horsford did not begin his first stint representing Nevada’s 4th Congressional District until 2013, after Linder stopped working for Reid. If Horsford were to have had a sexual relationship with Linder while he was a member of Congress and she was working in the Senate, although there is no indication he did, it would have been permissible under House rules.

Justice Dept. Ends Inquiries Into 3 Senators’ Stock Trades
New York Times – Katie Benner and Nicholas Fandos | Published: 5/26/2020

The Justice Department notified U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler, James Inhofe, and Dianne Feinstein it will not pursue insider trading charges against them after an investigation into stock transactions from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic did not find sufficient evidence that they had broken the law. All three had sold substantial amounts of stock when lawmakers were being briefed on the coronavirus threat but before the pandemic began roiling financial markets or was fully understood by the public. Law enforcement officials appear to still be investigating Sen. Richard Burr, whose own stock sales have drawn scrutiny from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lawmakers Press GSA on Trump Hotel’s Request for Financial Relief During Pandemic
Government Executive – Ccourtney Buble | Published: 5/19/2020

House Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration (GSA) for information on the Trump Organization’s request for rent relief during the pandemic for its hotel in a federally leased building. The Trump Organization, for which President Trump’s sons run the daily operations, asked the GSA to treat it like other federal tenants and provide financial relief during the pandemic. Following the news about the request for financial relief, two House committees pressed the GSA for information on the potential conflict-of-interest. The lawmakers said the president is “serving as both tenant and landlord” for the hotel. They also pointed out the hotel is banned from receiving relief loans from the CARES Act under a conflict-of-interest provision.

Lobbyist Register to Be Tightened After Monsanto Case
EU Observer – Nikolaj Nielson | Published: 5/27/2020

Updated European Union (EU) transparency rules set for the end of this year means lobbyists will have to declare much more accurate, and thus likely larger, figures on what they spend to influence decision-making. The EU’s joint transparency register is shared between the European Commission and the European Parliament and lists thousands of entities that work to influence EU legislation. The authority that oversees the register recently announced in a letter it would impose clearer rules to make sure lobbyists do not skirt their reporting obligations.

Republicans Sue Pelosi to Block House Proxy Voting During Pandemic
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt | Published: 5/26/2020

Republican leaders sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top congressional officials to block the U.S. House from using a proxy voting system set up by Democrats to allow for remote legislating during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it unconstitutional. Republicans argued new rules allowing lawmakers to vote from afar during the coronavirus outbreak would be the end of Congress as it was envisioned by the nation’s founders. The lawsuit will face an uphill battle in the courts, where judges have been reluctant to second-guess Congress’s ability to set its own rules. But it fits into a broader push by Republicans to put a cloud of suspicion over Democratic efforts to find alternative ways to vote during the pandemic, both in the House and in elections across the country.

Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder
MSN – Peter Baker and Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 5/26/2020

President Trump smeared a prominent television host from the Rose Garden with an unfounded allegation of murder. Trump all but accused Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress who now hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe,” of killing a staff member in 2001 even though he was 800 miles away at the time and the police ruled her death an accident. The president’s charge amplified a series of Twitter messages in recent days that have anguished the family of Lori Klausutis, who died when she suffered a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk. Trump doubled down on the false accusation even after Timothy Klausutis pleaded unsuccessfully for Twitter to take down the posts about his late wife because they were causing her family such pain.

Twitter Labels Trump’s Tweets with a Fact Check for the First Time
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/26/2020

For the first time, Twitter called tweets from Donald Trump “potentially misleading,” a decision that prompted the president to accuse the company of election meddling. Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims. It linked to a fact-check page filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion. Twitter, which has long grappled with how to address Trump’s tweets, may now find itself under even greater pressure than before to act in a consistent and transparent manner.

Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers
MSN – Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Sara Kliff (New York Times) | Published: 5/24/2020

The Providence Health System, one of the country’s largest and richest hospital chains, received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program. So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona NoDDC PAC Violated Campaign Laws, Lawyer Rules
Scottsdale Progress – Wayne Schutsky | Published: 5/27/2020

The NoDDC PAC and its co-founder Jason Alexander committed multiple campaign finance law violations, according to a report by Phoenix City Attorney Cris Meyer, who proposed 1 $3,000 fine. Meyer found Alexander and NoDDC failed to report some payments over $250 and legal expenses, including a $5,000 city fine for a previous campaign violation that was paid for by Alexander’s personal account and then reimbursed through the PAC.

Arkansas Ruling Ends Wait for Political Donors
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 5/21/2020

A federal judge made his temporary injunction permanent in allowing Arkansas candidates for statewide office to accept campaign donations more than two years before an election. U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr.’s move reinforced his initial ruling that it is unconstitutional for the state to bar those contributions. In January, a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Moody’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period” for accepting political donations

California Blind Spot: Lobbying behind California coronavirus contracts can stay secret
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 5/26/2020

California law, despite all the disclosures it demands from lobbyists, does not require they report procurement work – including the $3 billion committed so far to masks, ventilators, and other supplies related to the coronavirus pandemic. As the state has signed hundreds of no-bid procurement contracts over the last two months, the public has very little information about the players involved in landing these deals and how much they are being paid. No lobbyist has been publicly accused of wrongdoing in connection with these contracts. A bill to require lobbyists to disclose procurement clients was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.

Colorado Hickenlooper Says He Won’t Appear Before Colorado Ethics Body for Video Trial in June
Denver Post – Alex Burness | Published: 5/22/2020

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is running for the U.S. Senate, says he will not appear for his own ethics trial if it proceeds by video, as currently scheduled. Hickenlooper’s attorney, Marc Grueskin, said their camp is prepared to sue in District Court if the state Independent Ethics Commission does not delay the hearing and allow for a new one at which Hickenlooper can consult in real time with his attorney. Hickenlooper was accused in 2018 of violating Amendment 41 of the Colorado Constitution, which bars state employees and officials from accepting gifts worth more than $53 per year.

Connecticut Dalios Pull Out of State Education Partnership, Attack GOP Reps
Connecticut Post – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 5/20/2020

Barbara and Ray Dalio are exiting the Partnership for Connecticut, ending the arrangement that was touted in 2019 as a unique way to reach troubled youths, although they will maintain their commitment to the cause with at least $100 million. The partnership was plagued by problems almost from the start including criticism that Gov. Ned Lamont and the General Assembly made it exempt from Freedom of Information and state ethics laws.

Florida Federal Judge Guts Florida Law Requiring Felons to Pay Fines Before They Can Vote
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2020

A federal judge eviscerated a Florida law requiring felons to pay all court fines and fees before they can register to vote, clearing the way for thousands of Floridians to register in time for the November presidential election. Republican lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed the measure after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to expand voting rights to felons who have completed “all terms of their sentence including probation and parole.” The law’s backers said it was necessary to clarify the amendment, while critics said Republicans were trying to limit the effects of what would have been the largest expansion of the state’s electorate since poll taxes and literacy tests were outlawed during the civil rights era.

Florida Lobbyist Tied to Curry, JEA Bidder Paid City Hall’s Bar Tab at Jaguars Games
Florida Times Union – Staff | Published: 5/22/2020

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration allowed a company owned by his political strategist Tim Baker, who lobbied for companies seeking money from the city and was contracted by a company that tried to purchase JEA, to cover the bar tab at City Hall’s private suite at TIAA Bank Field during the last two football seasons. Taxpayers purchased more than $13,000 in food that was ordered for city officials and their guests during the last two seasons, but they did not pay for the $4,642 worth of alcohol ordered. Instead, the stadium’s concession vendor discounted 50 percent of the alcohol purchases, and the remaining $2,300 was paid for by Bold City Strategic Partners, a firm owned by Baker.

Illinois Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Wins Latest Round in Suit Alleging Sham Candidates
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long | Published: 5/23/2020

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan won a federal court victory as he worked on wrapping up the shortened legislative session in Springfield. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly denied a motion asking for him to reconsider his decision to dismiss a lawsuit that contended Madigan conspired to put up two “sham” candidates with Hispanic names to confuse voters in a 2016 Democratic primary.

Kentucky Citing Misuse of Funds, Kentucky Auditor Refers 3 County Attorney Offices to Law Enforcement
Louisville Courier Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 5/21/2020

A report from state Auditor Mike Harmon identifies possible misuse of public funds in the offices of three county attorneys in Kentucky, including a lieutenant governor candidate in last year’s primary election. Harmon is referring his findings to the FBI and state Attorney General. The report found that of the $134,500 in bonuses Lawrence County Attorney Michael Hogan gave to his staff from delinquent tax fees from 2017 to 2019, 94 percent was paid to his wife, a secretary in the office. The audit report also found new information related to the former supervisor of the Boyd County Attorney’s Child Support Enforcement office, who was indicted on 77 charges last year relating to more than $113,000 allegedly fraudulently taken over a seven-year period.

Louisiana Judges’ Financial Disclosure Now Easily Available to the Public
KPLC – Staff | Published: 5/26/2020

For years, the public has been able to access financial disclosures of elected officials except for judges. But after being nudged by a watchdog group, the state Supreme Court is making such information more easily available to the public. The information is now easily searchable on the high court’s web site using the judge’s name or judicial district, while other elected state officials are on the state Board of Ethics site.

Maine Ethics Panel Wants to Look at Anti-Corridor Group’s Donors
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/23/2020

A group that opposes a hydropower transmission corridor in Maine must disclose financial information so the state ethics commission can continue investigating whether campaign finance laws were broken. Stop the Corridor spent more than $1 million on television and Facebook ads opposing the 145-mile transmission line earlier this year. But it never disclosed the source of the money.

Maryland Extra-Long Primary Season with Baltimore Mayoral Voters Behind Closed Doors Sees Spending on Mailers, Ads
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 5/26/2020

Under normal circumstances, Baltimore likely would know already who its next mayor is. The deep-blue city’s Democratic primary was supposed to be a month ago. But the coronavirus pandemic delayed the election, and that left candidates seeking funding for another 35 days of expensive campaigning. While earlier finance reports were peppered with $6,000 donations, the maximum amount a donor can directly give a candidate under state law, no candidate received more than a handful of such contributions during the most recent filing period. “If you were a low-financed candidates that was really going to be grassroots, you’re really stuck in a bad position [because of the pandemic],” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “Now you need more money because you have to be able to able to appeal on the airwaves.”

Michigan Feds Charge Ex-Macomb Public Works Boss Marrocco in Extortion Indictment
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/27/2020

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, alleging he teamed with an underling to extort county contractors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The indictment portrays Marrocco as a tough-talking bully and a political kingmaker during a decades-long reign. He threatening to revoke municipal contracts, withhold permits and, in May 2016, removed an unidentified excavation firm from a multi-million-dollar sinkhole repair project because the company held a fundraiser for Marrocco’s political opponent, according to the government. Builders and contractors bought hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets to fundraisers and some of the money financed Marrocco’s luxury lifestyle, prosecutors said.

Michigan Where Coronavirus Help on Facebook Is ‘Inherently Political’
New York Times – Jennifer Medina | Published: 5/28/2020

The coronavirus pandemic has unmoored already fragile institutions across the country, forcing many Americans to turn to one another for help instead of to the government or nonprofit organizations. With the belief that the system is so broken that assistance will never come, hundreds have formed mutual aid societies, designed to allow people to find help themselves. Though the groups’ efforts vary widely, similar attempts to offer assistance have formed in dozens of states. The groups are something of a throwback; such networks were popular in the heydays of communal activity, in the early 20th century and again in the 1960s and 1970s. The newest crop has been formed largely by young progressives, and their proliferation points to a new kind of organizing that could reshape politics long after the pandemic.

Mississippi Mississippi Lawmakers Approved $300M in Small Business Grants. Can They Apply for the Money?
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/22/2020

The Mississippi Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that commits $300 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses. But can lawmakers who operate small businesses themselves apply for the money? That is the question Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wants the state Ethics Commission to answer. The legislation specifically said lobbyists, businesses that hired a lobbyist, or ones involved in partisan political activities, could not apply for the program. But the bill did not say anything about the people who passed the bill.

Missouri No Lobbyist Gifts for State Lawmakers, But Local Officials in Missouri Still Get Freebies
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 5/21/2020

Although Missouri lawmakers are banned from accepting all but the smallest gifts from lobbyists, local officials continue to rake in freebies from companies doing business with cities and counties. A review of reports filed with state ethics regulators shows tickets to St. Louis Cardinals and Blues games remain a popular staple with lobbyists and local officials.

Missouri Suit Against Missouri Governor Over Public Records Gets New Life
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 5/26/2020

A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Missouri Gov. Mike Parson alleging his office violated the state’s public records laws. At issue is a 2018 lawsuit filed by Elad Gross, who is running for state attorney general. The suit accused Parson’s administration of breaking the Sunshine Law by requiring Gross pay more than $3,600 for a cache of records relating to former Gov. Eric Greitens, who left office under a cloud of scandal. In tossing the suit Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce said Parson’s administration, under Missouri law, had the discretion to charge or waive fees. But the appeals court said Joyce erred on five of the 10 points Gross made during an appeal.

Nebraska Nebraska Sees Increase in Lobbyists, Spending on Lobbyists
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/22/2020

Lobbyists in Nebraska raked in more cash than ever last year and more people joined their ranks to try to influence public officials, according to a new report. Lobbyists collected $19.4 million in gross earnings in 2019, Common Cause Nebraska said. The watchdog group said the total is a record, up from $17.8 million in 2018.

New York De Blasio’s NYC Campaign Account Hit with $16K Fine by Regulator
New York Post – Nolan Hicks | Published: 5/23/2020

The Campaign Finance Board hit New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign with a $16,000 fine for violating a slew of regulations, including failing to promptly return excessive contributions from individuals with business before City Hall. It also determined de Blasio’s reelection effort broke other rules, including failing to report expenses or in-kind contributions that came from hosting 22 fundraisers, failing to disclose a dozen donations from late in the campaign cycle on required daily reports, and shelling out $6,700 in expenses it could not prove were in “furtherance of the campaign.”

Oklahoma Bill Could Hide Donor and Lobbyist Info from the Public
The Express-News – Ben Felder (The Frontier) | Published: 5/19/2020

A bill pushed through the Oklahoma Legislature in the final days of the session could prevent the public from knowing who is donating to PACs or who lobbyists are working for, a move that would bring significant secrecy to the legislative process. House Bill 3613 could result in the state’s electronic campaign reporting system being taken offline, according to Ashley Kemp, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. The bill would prevent state agencies from collecting any information that “identifies a person as a member, supporter, or volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to, any entity organized pursuant to Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.”

Rhode Island R.I. Senate Leaders Propose Allowing Email Voting
Providence Journal – Patrhick Anderson | Published: 5/26/2020

More than two months after Rhode Island General Assembly sessions were put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, the state Senate is moving toward allowing lawmakers to vote remotely. A resolution sponsored by Senate Democratic leaders would give lawmakers who do not feel comfortable gathering at the statehouse the option of voting by email.

Washington Wash. Campaign Finance Watchdog Blocks Some Online Access in Wake of Unemployment Fraud
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Austin Jenkins | Published: 5/26/2020

At the request of a powerful state senator who warned of “foreign intrusion,” the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) temporarily suspended online access to the personal financial statements of elected officials, candidates, and other public officials. The F-1 statements, as they are known, include information about an individual’s income, assets, property holdings, debt, and business associations. Sen. Sam Hunt said he had both warned that the “PDC is being assaulted by international data thieves from China, Russia, and Germany.”

Washington DC Jack Evans Fined $35,000 by Ethics Board as Voters Weigh Returning Him to Office
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 5/22/2020

The District of Columbia’s ethics board fined former city council member Jack Evans $35,000 for violations related to his outside employment while in office, as voting started in the primary election where Evans is attempting to reclaim his old seat. The negotiated settlement wraps up a probe that started more than two years ago scrutinizing the ties between Evans and businesses that employed him as a lawyer or consultant. The board found Evans violated the city code of conduct governing conflicts-of-interest.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Elections Commission Votes to Send Absentee Ballot Applications to 2.7 Million Voters
Wisconsin Public Radio – Shawn Johnson | Published: 5/27/2020

The state would send about 2.7 million registered voters absentee ballot applications under a motion approved by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The state would send absentee ballot applications to nearly all registered voters to prepare for Wisconsin’s November election. Roughly 62 percent of all votes in Wisconsin’s April election were cast by mail as voters heeded advice from both state and federal government to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Turnout for the November election is expected to double that of the spring election.

July 6, 2020 •

Chicago Lobbying Ordinance Stalled

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot - MacLean Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 6, 2020 •

Louisiana Lobbyist Expenditure Limit on Food, Beverages Increases

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana State Capitol

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

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

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

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

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

That index rose 1.8 percent in the last year.

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July 6, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

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

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July 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

Toledo Mayor Calls for Resignation of City Council Members

Toledo, Ohio skyline

Toledo, Ohio skyline - by NorthernMagnolia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

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

San Jose City Hall

San Jose City Hall - by Daderot

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

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

The proposed measure would bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions.

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

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

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

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

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

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July 2, 2020 •

Nevada Governor Announces Date for Special Legislative Session

Nevada State Capitol Octagonal Annex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This does affect ALERTS reporting.

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

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July 2, 2020 •

New Hampshire Legislature Adjourns Session

New Hampshire State House - AlexiusHoratius

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

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

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

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

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

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