May 3, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 3, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His Ties to Boeing
Washington Post – Dan Lamothe and Heather Ryan | Published: 4/24/2019

The Pentagon’s watchdog cleared Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan of wrongdoing in an investigation examining whether he used his influence at the Defense Department to favor Boeing, his former employer. The results seemingly clear the way for President Trump to nominate Shanahan to take over as Pentagon chief. The probe was launched after the department’s inspector general received reports saying Shanahan had boosted Boeing in meetings, disparaged Boeing’s competitors, pressured Pentagon officials to buy Boeing products, and sought to influence the Air Force’s decision on accepting a Boeing aircraft after technical problems delayed its delivery.

As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/30/2019

After vaulting into the top tier of presidential candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is building a nationwide network of donors that is anchored by many wealthy and well-connected figures in LGBT political circles. Buttigieg’s candidacy has struck a powerful chord with many top LGBT donors. Though many said they believed they would see a gay man or lesbian become a serious contender for the White House, most of them had never considered it beyond the abstract. But the LGBT community is no monolith, and Buttigieg’s candidacy is exposing tensions that have been papered over during the period of relative unity and common purpose that has taken hold since President Trump took office.

Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Iuliia Mendel (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019

Then-Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Kiev in March 2016 and threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the country. The prosecutor general was soon voted out by Parliament. Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, the younger son of the former vice president, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general. The broad outlines of how the roles of the father and son intersected have been known for some time. New details about Hunter Biden’s involvement have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the elder Biden is beginning his campaign for president.

Congressional Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Targeting President Trump’s Private Business Can Proceed, Judge Says
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, Ann Marimow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2019

A federal judge ruled Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption law and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene. Sullivan refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”

In Its Fight to Keep Drug Prices High, Big Pharma Leans on Charities
Los Angeles Times – Ben Elgin (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/29/2019

Many self-styled patient-advocacy groups with murky origins or hidden funders have cropped up since 2017. With names like the Doctor-Patient Rights Project or the Defenders Coalition, such groups pursue various policy aims that include effectively aiding pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to defeat drug-price proposals. The nonprofits take public positions in newspaper op-eds and letters to Congress while drug makers, beset by years of negative publicity over price hikes, tend to remain in the background. The groups say they are independent. That is not true for all of them, said Marc Boutin, chief executive of the National Health Council, which has more than 50 patient groups and dozens of drug makers as members. “There are a number of groups created by pharma companies that look and act like patient organizations, but they’re 100 percent funded by industry,” said Boutin, who did not name any specific examples.

Maria Butina, Russian Who Conspired to Infiltrate Conservative U.S. Political Groups, Sentenced to 18 Months
Boston Globe – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2019

A federal judge sentenced Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina to 18 months in prison Friday after calling her plot to penetrate conservative U.S. political circles without disclosing she was working as a foreign agent for the Kremlin “dangerous” and “a threat to our democracy.” Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups without registering with the U.S. Justice Department from 2015 until she was arrested and detained in July. Butina admitted she worked under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian government official, and with an American political operative on a multiyear scheme to establish unofficial lines of communications with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.

‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Aren’t Always So Pure
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/29/2019

Many incumbents in the club of Democratic lawmakers who refuse corporate PAC dollars still accept donations from colleagues and party committees that take the funds. Numerous freshman Democrats who ran on a no-corporate-PAC-money mantra opened their re-election coffers to donations this year from party leaders and committees, such as the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, that are full of funding from some of the nation’s best-known companies. Taking donations from party leaders and committees allows pledge-takers to stick to their vows while cleansing some of the “dirty” dollars and diluting the influence of the companies, but not banishing such money entirely.

Pete Buttigieg Swears Off the Lobbyist Money He Once Accepted
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/26/2019

Pete Buttigieg, whose upstart presidential campaign has benefited from an early surge of donations and national attention, will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who want to reform the way campaigns raise money. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was somewhat isolated among his rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination because he initially accepted lobbyist money, putting him at odds with the more progressive wing of his party. He will return the contributions he had already accepted from lobbyists, which his campaign said totaled $30,250 from 39 individuals.

Trump Views the Supreme Court as an Ally, Sowing Doubt About Its Independence Among His Critics
MSN – Robert Barnes and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2019

President Trump’s tweets demonstrate he views the U.S. Supreme Court as an ally, and safeguard against lower court defeats and congressional opponents. His administration’s lawyers have tried to leapfrog the legal process to seek the high court’s quick review of adverse rulings and nationwide injunctions by lower courts. They are also ready to go to court as the president resists demands from congressional Democrats investigating his conduct, business dealings, and personal finances. Critics of the president say his rhetoric seeds doubts about the Supreme Court’s independence, complicates the role of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and could taint the victories Trump achieves there.

When the Mueller Investigation Ended, the Battle Over Its Conclusions Began
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter in March complaining to Attorney General William Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. What followed was a dayslong, behind-the-scenes tussle over the first public presentation of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. A richer picture of that battle has emerged, one of testy letters (Barr described one as “snitty”) and at least one tense telephone call between the special counsel Mueller and Barr. The two were longtime friends who found themselves on opposite sides of an embattled president. The growing evidence of a split between them also brought fresh scrutiny on Barr.

From the States and Municipalities

California – State Officials Keep Hiring Their Relatives. Will Newsom Crack Down on Nepotism?
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/1/2019

California agencies have a long history of nepotism, along with pledges to end such favoritism, but the practice continues. Workers in at least seven state agencies have alleged favoritism shown to family members and friends of administrators in the last decade. Getting a desirable job in state government too often depends on who you know, say watchdogs and employees who have raised red flags. A 2017 investigation found 835 employees of the Board of Equalization, or 17.5 percent of its workforce at the time, were related by blood, adoption, marriage, or cohabitation.

Florida – Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell | Published: 4/30/2019

A few days before voters went to the polls in the first round of Tampa’s mayoral election, the David Straz campaign was in an uproar over a missing $225,000. Straz said he was freezing campaign spending until the missing money could be accounted for, members of his team said, but no one could come up with an answer. The reason, they said: political consultant Bill Fletcher was the only one who knew how campaign money was being spent. The Nashville-based consultant had the purse strings while also directing millions of dollars to his own company to buy television, radio, and digital advertising. He answered only to Straz, a political novice. Near-total power wielded by a single consultant is highly unusual and potentially dangerous, said veteran political consultant Adam Goodman.

Kansas – Former Salina Senator Pads State Salary with Travel, Food Vouchers
Topeka Capital Journal – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/30/2019

The former state senator hired as Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s regulatory fixer billed taxpayers thousands of dollars for driving to and from the job in Topeka after his official work station was quietly switched from a state office building near the Capitol to his residence in Salina. Tom Arpke, who burnished a political reputation in the Senate and House as a fiscal conservative eager to expose spending he considered superfluous, was chosen by Colyer to serve as the executive branch’s regulatory ombudsman. The decision to designate Arpke’s office as his personal residence 112 miles away from the Curtis State Office Building adjacent to the Capitol was necessary to justify Arpke’s monthly claims that taxpayers should pay him extra every time he drove to Topeka for work.

Massachusetts – For Sale in the Pot Industry: Political influence
Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dam Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallach, and Patricia Wen | Published: 5/1/2019

The law that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts tried to make room for the little guy by limiting the number of cannabis shops a company could own or control. It also directly encourages proposals from black and Latino entrepreneurs whose community members were often unfairly targeted for arrest when pot was illegal. But so far, winning a license to sell marijuana in Massachusetts often seems to be determined by whom you know, or if you can afford to pay a lobbyist or consultant who knows people. Frank Perullo, the owner of Novus Group – which claims to be “one of the nation’s leading cannabis consulting firms” – estimates he has deployed his political connections and expertise to help push 40 to 50 proposed pot shops in Massachusetts.

Michigan – Federal Court: Michigan political maps illegally rigged to ‘historical proportions’
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 4/25/2019

A federal court in Michigan became the latest in the country to strike down its state’s legislative and congressional district maps, ruling they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.  A panel of three judges in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The panel is giving the Republican-led House and Senate until August 1 to redraw the maps and get them signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. If state officials do not finalize new maps by then, the court would draw new boundaries itself and could appoint a special master to do so.

Missouri – ‘Pay to Play’ Case Sinks St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler, Jacob Barker, and Robert Patrick | Published: 4/30/2019

A federal grand jury indicted St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on charges of bribery, mail fraud, and the theft of honest services for trading political favors for campaign contributions. Stenger is accused of ensuring that donor John Rallo and his companies obtained contracts with the county and received other favors. Stenger also is accused of ensuring that an unnamed company obtained a state lobbying contract from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and taking actions to conceal the illegal conduct. Recent investigations by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch have raised concerns about county contracts going to Stenger’s political donors, and the county council began an ethics investigation into the matter.

New Hampshire – Sununu Inaugural Team Releases Conflict of Interest Policy, Months After Declining to Do So
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 4/25/2019

When faced with questions earlier this year about the thousands of dollars paid out from his inaugural committee to his sister and top political advisor, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s team said those payments followed state and federal regulations, and “the organization’s bylaws and conflict of interest policy.” New Hampshire lacks comprehensive disclosure and compliance rules around gubernatorial inaugural committees, and Sununu is the first sitting governor required to detail how his committee raises and spends money in reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.

New Jersey – The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520.
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag | Published: 5/1/2019

The Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs. But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks. Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey. Sheehan was allowed to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients.

New York – Mayor de Blasio and City Hall Staff Cozied Up to Lobbyists and Special Interests in Hundreds of Meetings, News Analysis Shows
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 5/2/2019

“I don’t sit down with lobbyists, I don’t talk to lobbyists, and I haven’t for years,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently. But a New York Daily News analysis of public records shows otherwise. De Blasio’s deputy mayors, commissioners, and high-ranking aides had at least 358 meetings and talks with both contract and in-house lobbyists in just 11 months, records show. They spoke with 332 different lobbyists during that time, between March 1, 2018, and January 31 of this year. Six of the contract lobbyists are with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, a law firm that represented de Blasio during a probe into his fundraising. City taxpayers paid the firm $2.6 million for representing the mayor.

New York – Some Top Albany Lobbyists Aren’t Following Sweeping Disclosure Rule
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/27/2019

New requirements imposed by the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) say lobbyists must disclose the names of lawmakers, agency employees, or local elected officials they directly lobby concerning legislation, regulations, and other matters. A review of the first filings covered by the requirement, reflecting lobbying performed in the first two months of the year, shows many top firms are trying to comply – some in extreme detail – but several prominent firms are not. Bolton St. Johns has not disclosed lobbying any lawmakers or agency officials this year despite employing a lengthy roster of lobbyists and having dozens of clients with legislative business. Whether JCOPE would penalize powerful lobbyists for not following the rule remains to be seen. Critics said it is also far from clear that the new disclosure rule would survive a court challenge.

North Dakota – Legislature Approves Republican-Written Ethics Measure
Dickinson Press – John Hageman (Forum News Service) | Published: 4/25/2019

North Dakota lawmakers approved a bill that sets rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform. The ballot initiative bans lobbyist gifts to public officials, requires the disclosure of the “ultimate and true source of funds” spent to influence elections and state government action, and creates a new state ethics commission that could investigate malfeasance. Greg Stites, an attorney hired by Measure 1 supporters to lobby lawmakers, said the implementation bill falls short by narrowing the definition of lobbyist and leaving holes in reporting requirements.

Ohio – Ex-Dayton Commissioner, State Lawmaker Arrested; More Arrests Coming, Feds Say
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff, Josh Sweigart, Thomas Gnau, Cornelius Frolick, and Mark Govaki | Published: 4/30/2019

An investigation by federal agents into suspected public corruption in the Dayton area led to charges against Joey Williams, a local bank executive and former city commissioner; former state Rep. Clayton Luckie; city employee RoShawn Winburn; and Brian Higgins, a local man who once owned a dead body hauling business. Four separate federal indictments detail allegations of bribes, fraud, and contract steering. The charges involve allegations of wrong-doing starting in 2014. The separate schemes arose out of the same investigation, authorities said. FBI Assistant Special Agent Joseph Deters said the lengthy investigation used sophisticated methods to “uncover what appears to be a culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics.”

Tennessee – Why This Republican Lawmaker Hired His Own Personal Lobbyist to Work the Capitol Halls
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/2/2019

Tennessee Rep. Martin Daniel officially hired a lobbyist recently, making him the first lawmaker in recent memory to have such an employee at his disposal. Nashville resident Drew Lonergan filed his lobbyist registration with the Tennessee Ethics Commission on March 25. Lonergan said he had been “consulting” for Daniel since January but registered as a lobbyist after consulting ethics officials. Lonergan’s sole employer listed on his lobbyist registration is Daniel, who is the only current lawmaker to have a personal lobbyist. Daniel said he pays Lonergan out of his own pocket and does not use campaign money to cover the expense.

June 17, 2019 •

Bill Limiting Lobbyist Contributions Signed

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

This month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2677 prohibiting persons required to register as a lobbyist from knowingly making or authorizing certain political contributions or political expenditures. Prohibited contributions include those to another candidate, officeholder, or political committee […]

This month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2677 prohibiting persons required to register as a lobbyist from knowingly making or authorizing certain political contributions or political expenditures.

Prohibited contributions include those to another candidate, officeholder, or political committee from political contributions accepted by the person as a candidate or officeholder or by a specific-purpose committee for the purpose of supporting the person as a candidate or assisting the person as an officeholder.

Under House Bill 2677, making a contribution described above requires a person to refrain from lobbying for a two-year period following the date the person makes or authorizes the contribution.

An exception is created for persons seeking to influence legislation or administrative action on behalf of nonprofit organizations, low income individuals, and a group of individuals with disabilities, and those not receiving compensation for their communications with members of the legislative and executive branches.

House Bill 2677 will go into effect on September 27, 2019.

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June 17, 2019 •

West Virginia Governor Amends Special Session

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice is adding an additional 12 bills for the Legislature to consider during the special session originally focusing on education. Gov. Justice amended his original proclamation by adding 10 new supplemental appropriation bills. One bill relates to the […]

Gov. Jim Justice is adding an additional 12 bills for the Legislature to consider during the special session originally focusing on education.

Gov. Justice amended his original proclamation by adding 10 new supplemental appropriation bills.

One bill relates to the procurement of construction work performed as part of disaster mitigation or recovery originating from a declared state of emergency.

Additionally, another bill relates to the Ryan Brown Fund.

Members of the House of Delegates are scheduled to convene today to continue the special session on education.

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June 17, 2019 •

NYCU Video Digest – June 17, 2019

New FARA Regulations, and changes being made to lobbying disclosures in various states. Catch up with all of it in this edition of News You Can Use Video Digest!

New FARA Regulations, and changes being made to lobbying disclosures in various states. Catch up with all of it in this edition of News You Can Use Video Digest!

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June 17, 2019 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills” by Dave Levinthal for Center for Public Integrity National: “Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty” by Julie Watson for AP News New York: “Council Passes Campaign […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills” by Dave Levinthal for Center for Public Integrity

National: “Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty” by Julie Watson for AP News

New York: “Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race” by Noah Berman for Gotham Gazette

Oregon: “Judge Strikes Down Portland Campaign Finance Limits” by Gordon Friedman for Portland Oregonian

Ethics

National: “Federal Watchdog Agency Recommends Removal of Kellyanne Conway from Federal Office for Violating the Hatch Act” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein, and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

New Jersey: “Phil Murphy’s Office Was Warned About Improper Hiring at SDA, Ethics Official Says” by Dustin Racioppi for Bergen Record

Lobbying

Canada: “Democracy Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Lobbyists Selling Tickets for Ford Fundraiser” by Jill Mahoney for The Globe and Mail

Massachusetts: “Does Sal DiMasi Have to Register as a Lobbyist? The State Says He Already Lobbied – Illegally” by Matt Stout for Boston Globe

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June 14, 2019 •

Alaska Legislature Adjourns First Special Session, Governor Calls Second

Alaska State Capitol Buildling - Jay Galvin [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Lawmakers ended their special session on June 13. The Legislature passed a capital budget bill but failed to reach the three-quarter threshold required to fund major provisions. Failure to reach the threshold left millions of dollars in projects unfunded and […]

Lawmakers ended their special session on June 13.

The Legislature passed a capital budget bill but failed to reach the three-quarter threshold required to fund major provisions.

Failure to reach the threshold left millions of dollars in projects unfunded and federal match money at risk.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy called a second special session in order to address the permanent fund dividends the Legislature also could not agree on.

The second special session will convene on July 8, at 1 p.m. in Wasilla.

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June 14, 2019 •

Massachusetts Offering Seminars on New Disclosure Reporting System

Massachusetts Capitol Building

The Lobbyist Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office announced they are transitioning to a new disclosure reporting system on June 19. Exclusive, hour-long introduction and training seminars on the new system will be held from June 19 […]

The Lobbyist Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office announced they are transitioning to a new disclosure reporting system on June 19.

Exclusive, hour-long introduction and training seminars on the new system will be held from June 19 to June 21.

Appointment requests can be sent to lob@sec.state.ma.us.

Firms should offer three preferable times between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any of the three available days.  Walk-ins for the seminar will not be accepted.

The Lobbyist Division will be offering additional training for all registered entities, lobbyists, and clients from June 24 to July 12.

Organizations that are unable to attend the introduction seminars can apply for these training sessions instead.

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June 14, 2019 •

Judge Strikes Down Portland Campaign Finance Limits

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch struck down voter-approved limits on campaign donations to candidates running for county offices. Judge Bloch’s ruling stated the $500 limit on donations violates Oregon’s expansive free expression guarantees in the Oregon Constitution. The decision […]

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch struck down voter-approved limits on campaign donations to candidates running for county offices.

Judge Bloch’s ruling stated the $500 limit on donations violates Oregon’s expansive free expression guarantees in the Oregon Constitution.

The decision mirrors one the judge issued in March 2018 striking down limits for Multnomah County races, citing a 1997 Oregon Supreme Court decision.

Judge Bloch also struck down another provision in the law requiring campaign advertising to list the top five donors, calling the provision vague and overbroad.

Supporters of the law say they will appeal the decision.

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June 14, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 14, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019 In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named […]

National/Federal

A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel
MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019

In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and spent 26 nights in a suite, a visit estimated to have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kasnazan said his choice of the Trump hotel was not part of a lobbying effort. His long visit is an example of how Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the administration.

As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder
New York Times – Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/11/2019

Of the 23 Democratic candidates for president, only eight routinely break one percent in national polls. Most have not yet qualified for the fall debates. And cable news channels, which have emerged as an early driving force in the race, have only so many hours of programming each day. That has moved the campaign into a new, yet familiar, phase: the ritual airing of grievances. Weeks’ worth of pent-up frustration is beginning to trickle into the public arena, as a way for candidates to explain their lowly positions, both to themselves and to the voters.  The rules around participation in the primary debates are a sore spot for second- and third-tier candidates, who fear getting shut out of the biggest stage in the race.

Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/10/2019

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation that would give the Department of Justice more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak. The bill would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent. It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.

Chao Created Special Path for McConnell’s Favored Projects
Politico – Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snider | Published: 6/10/2019

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell, including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications. The circumstances highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically.

DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest
Politico – Michael Stratford | Published: 6/11/2019

The Education Department appointee who oversees the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan being asked about a potential conflict-of-interest. Mark Brown, a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, was selected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be the new head of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Until recently, he also served as an unpaid member of the board of directors of KnowledgeWorks, a non-profit foundation that holds about $30 million in federally guaranteed student loans. Several ethics experts said that arrangement raised concerns about a potential conflict because Brown’s unit is responsible for regulating and overseeing student loans backed by the government, including those that are owned by KnowledgeWorks.

Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate
Anchorage Daily News – Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 6/5/2019

Joe Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 amid questions about a value he had worked hard to convince voters he had: authenticity. The collapse had begun with news that Biden had lifted phrases and mannerisms from a British Labour Party politician while making closing remarks at a debate. Examples soon surfaced of Biden using material from other politicians without attribution, and he acknowledged he had been accused of plagiarism in law school. Now, those events are back in the spotlight for the former vice president, who is one of the most visible Democrats in a crowded field vying to run against President Trump. Biden’s campaign acknowledged it had lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.

Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 6/6/2019

One year out from the 2020 elections, presidential candidates face legal roadblocks to acquiring the tools and assistance necessary to defend against the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 campaign. Federal laws prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidates. The same law also blocks political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an in-kind donation. The issue took on added urgency after lawyers for the FEC advised the agency to block a request by Area 1 Security, asked the company to refile the request with a simpler explanation of how it would determine what campaigns qualified for discounted services.

NRA Money Flowed to Board Members Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending by Top Officials and Vendors
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2019

The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members, the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. Eighteen members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years. The payments deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. The payments, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.

Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel
USA Today – Maureen Groppe | Published: 6/11/2019

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, reported spending more than $7,600 in campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in the first few months after his election in November, although lawmakers are supposed to pay for their own housing in Washington, D.C. Hours after USA Today pressed for details on the nature of the lodging expenses, Rep. Pence’s campaign filed an amended FEC report that changed the designation of the expenses to “fundraising event costs.” Federal election rules allow campaign funds to be spent on hotels for fundraising events. And Greg Pence separately reported more than $15,000 in catering and reception costs at Trump’s hotel in December and January.

Top AI Researchers Race to Detect ‘Deepfake’ Videos: ‘We are outgunned’
San Francisco Chronicle – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2019

Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers warn that computer-generated fake videos could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they did not really do. And researchers fear it is only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage – to sow confusion, fuel doubt, or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote. Even simple tweaks to existing videos can create turmoil, as happened with the recent viral spread of a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, distorted to make her speech stunted and slurred. That video was viewed more than 3 million times.

Trump 2020 Campaign Ad Payments Hidden by Layers of Shell Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/13/2019

The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission records. The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. Trump’s reelection campaign quietly continued to funnel money to the same individuals through payments to Harris Sikes Media.

Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/9/2019

As the special counsel’s investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence – a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness – that might have led to him. An attorney for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump, while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. Dowd never said whether Trump directed him to make the overture. And investigators for Robert Mueller declined to question Dowd about his message. Legal experts were divided on whether Mueller’s team should have sought to question Dowd.

Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents
Keene Sentinel – Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/13/2019

President Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it and he would have no obligation to call in the FBI. The president’s comments come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. Although special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign in his probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, his report said the Russian government interfered in the election in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” and that Trump’s campaign was open to assistance from Russian sources.

What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/11/2019

A handful of governors presiding over one-party states are now taking serious hits from legislators and leaders in their own political parties. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is engaged in a feud with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that has led to threats of a primary challenge. In Kentucky, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanne Hampton warned recently about “dark forces” operating within Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Craig Blair, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee in West Virginia, called on Republican Gov. Jim Justice to resign. In states with divided governments, it is almost to be expected that governors and legislators will sometimes sling arrows at each other. But most states are dominated by a single party, and their most powerful politicians are finding that it can still be difficult to get along.

With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 6/11/2019

It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state Legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones. Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic. Analysts said issues addressed by state Legislatures this year, which included gun control and health care, might have more lasting effect than anything approved in Washington, D.C., where government is divided.

From the States and Municipalities

California Democrats Say They Don’t Take Big Tobacco Money. But JUUL Had a Sponsorship at Convention
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 6/7/2019

JUUL Labs, maker of a line of e-cigarette products in popular use among middle and high school students, had a prominent sponsor slot on the stage of the California Democratic Party’s state convention, where politicians like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a bevy of presidential candidates and state officials spoke. State Sen. Jerry Hill, an outspoken critic of tobacco companies, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the sponsorship. “I was baffled because it’s a long-standing policy of the Democratic Party not to take money from Big Tobacco,” Hill said. JUUL is one-third owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA.

Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Introduce Ethics Package Aimed at Fighting City Hall Corruption
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 6/5/2019

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to follow through on her campaign pledge to clean up a City Hall that for months has been rocked by an FBI investigation and racketeering charges against Ald. Edward Burke by introducing an ethics reform package. The former federal prosecutor’s proposal looks to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and would require nonprofits lobbying City Hall to register as lobbyists. It also would give city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the power to audit city council committees. Lightfoot is  also pushing for more modest increases to fines for ethics violations than the city Ethics Board has proposed.

Indiana Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/11/2019

Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the city of Fort Wayne in a case regarding its controversial “pay-to-play” ordinance. DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts. The ordinance prohibited any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

New Hampshire Top N.H. Lawmaker Says No Lobbying Involved in His Union Job, But His Predecessor Was a Lobbyist
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 6/6/2019

House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant he has not broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature. He has also maintained his work on the union’s behalf – testifying at public hearings, rallying support or opposition for specific bills, and sending out “legislative bulletins” to union members – does not count as lobbying. But Ley’s predecessor at the union, Laura Hainey, said she did consider much of the same kind of advocacy work she did at the statehouse to constitute lobbying. And, unlike Ley, she registered as a lobbyist during her term as the union’s president.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure
Burlington County Times – Dave Levinsky | Published: 6/10/2019

Facing the likelihood that lawmakers would vote to override his earlier veto, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to sign a “dark money” disclosure bill originally sent to him. Lawmakers agreed to vote again on the original legislation and Murphy has agreed to sign it with no changes. The bill mandates the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by dark-money groups in recent years.

New York Inside the Stealth Campaign for ‘Responsible Rent Reform’
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 6/10/2019

Confronted with a Democratic takeover of the state Legislature and emboldened progressive activists, the city’s landlords and developers, long accustomed to ruling New York through political donations and expensive lobbyists, are adopting the tactics of their activist foes. They have sent buses of electricians and boiler repair workers to Albany to protest the proposed changes, organized rallies outside public hearings, formed groups with generic names to run social media advertisements, and paid for mailers urging constituents to call their representatives. The goal is to deliver the industry’s message that too-strict rent regulations would affect not only wealthy landlords, but also the working class in a way that does not seem like it is coming from the industry.

Wisconsin Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 6/11/2019

The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated most of the lame-duck laws Republican lawmakers approved in December to trim the powers of the state’s top Democrats. With a pair of orders, the high court canceled a trial and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal. After the rulings, just two provisions of the lame-duck laws have been kept from going into effect. One would have limited early voting; the other would have required a public commenting period for older government documents. The status of the laws could change in the months ahead because the Supreme Court has to make more rulings in the case. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages.

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