May 31, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 31, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny
AP News – Richard Laudner | Published: 5/27/2019

Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee and all he has to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation. The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama. More than two years later, he still has not closed the deal. Haney’s donation to the inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.

Anti-Corruption Group Hits Congress for Ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill ‘Revolving Door’
The Hill – Mike Lillis | Published: 5/29/2019

An international anti-corruption group is criticizing Congress for what it considers an ongoing failure to restrict the “revolving door” between K Street and Capitol Hill. The Group of States Against Corruption, an offshoot of the Council of Europe of which the U.S. is a participant, charged that while Congress has taken steps to restrict influence peddling by sitting lawmakers, it has failed to put similar restrictions on those who migrate to the lobbying world upon leaving office. Watchdogs were quick to pile on, noting Congress has not enacted any new restrictions on the “revolving door” since 2007, when it adopted the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

Congressional Panel Calls for Lobbying Disclosure Reforms
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/23/2019

A bipartisan select committee is sending Congress a proposal on how to modernize the lobbying disclosure system. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted on recommendations they said would improve transparency for lobbyists, part of a larger package of congressional reforms the panel approved. The recommendations will be drafted into legislation and sent to the appropriate committees. Primarily it seeks to standardize how the disclosure system files and tracks the names of lobbyists, by giving each lobbyist a unique identifier. In addition, the House Clerk’s office would clarify and simplify the lobbying registration and disclosure process, to make filing the required paperwork easier.

Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 5/30/2019

After Thomas Hofeller died last summer, his daughter found hard drives in his home that revealed he played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Hofeller was prominent in Republican circles as the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country. Files on those drives showed he wrote a study concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. He wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision. Those documents have emerged only weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question.

Emails, Letters Detail Prosecution’s Case against Greg Craig
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/29/2019

Federal prosecutors have laid bare more of their most compelling evidence that former White House counsel Gregory Craig lied to and misled authorities about his work for Ukraine, but the newly disclosed proof also highlights one of the most glaring weaknesses in the government’s case. In court filing, prosecutors included copies of internal emails Craig sent to colleagues at his then-law firm Skadden Arps, as well as drafts of a letter he prepared for the Justice Department in response to its request that the firm register as an agent for Ukraine under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Prosecutors said the letters and emails show Craig crafting a false narrative that understated his involvement in distributing to the media a 2012 report Skadden prepared on the corruption trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Faked Pelosi Videos, Slowed to Make Her Appear Drunk, Spread Across Social Media
MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019

Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, altered to make her sound as if she is drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web. The video of Pelosi’s onstage at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The videos raised concerns about the roles of digital manipulation, misleading videos, and misinformation in politics going forward, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns
Lewiston Sun Journal – Joseph Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019

The FEC gave the go-ahead to a nonprofit organization seeking to offer free cybersecurity services to political campaigns, upending rules that typically consider such free services illegal campaign contributions. The agency’s reasoning was that it ordinarily bans such services due to the possibility people might try to cash in on political favors later. But in this case, the risk of Russian and Chinese hackers running roughshod over the 2020 elections is far worse. The nonprofit Defending Digital Campaigns, which made the appeal, now plans to run cybersecurity boot camps for staffers on presidential and congressional campaigns.

Freshman Lashes Out After House Ethics Rules Bar Promoting Bone Marrow Drive
Roll Call – Katherine Tully McManus | Published: 5/29/2019

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter learned recently that one of her constituents, Liyna Anwar, needed help finding a donor in her fight against myeloid leukemia. After her aides reached out to the House ethics committee, Porter learned she could not promote any of the nine bone marrow registry events happening in California on May 31, where Anwar’s possible match could join the database of donors. House rules include a blanket prohibition on lawmakers promoting events held by private entities, including nonprofits. That includes DKMS, an international organization that advocates for more people to register as blood stem cell donors. Now Porter is questioning whether rules designed to prevent misuse of taxpayer dollars need to be reviewed.

‘He Always Brings Them Up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm
MSN – Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019

President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a Republican Party donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials. Fisher sued the U.S. government after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars. Trump has latched on to the company’s public claims that a new design and innovative construction method would vastly speed up the project and deliver it at far less cost to taxpayers. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials.

Mueller Suggests Only Congress Can ‘Formally Accuse a Sitting President of Wrongdoing’
Anchorage Daily News – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller reiterated that his office could not clear President Trump of obstructing justice, asserting in his first public remarks about his investigation that federal prosecutors cannot accuse a president of a crime. Mueller, who noted he was closing his office and formally resigning from the Justice Department, said he hoped the news conference would be his last public comments and if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak beyond what he wrote in his report. He also said while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing, a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

Republicans Spend More Than $4 Million at Trump Properties
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 5/24/2019

Republican candidates and campaign committees have spent more than $4 million at hotel, golf, and other properties that bear President Trump’s name since he was inaugurated in 2017. More than three dozen members of Congress have held fundraisers or spent the night at Trump properties. Watchdogs have raised concerns over the propriety of Trump profiting off businesses as foreign governments and corporate interest groups currying favor in Washington book rooms at Trump hotels. There is nothing in the Constitution that bans a campaign from spending money at a company that benefits a candidate. But those good-government groups say the mixture of business and politics creates a combustible potion. “The behavior itself is corrupting, and it’s creating corruption and the appearance of corruption,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that advocates for ethics in government.

September Debate Rules Could Winnow 2020 Democratic Field
Washington Post – Michael Scherer | Published: 5/29/2019

The Democratic National Committee announced new criteria for the party’s September presidential debate that could dramatically winnow the sprawling field of 23 candidates, raising the stakes on the summer campaign season. To appear in the party’s third debate, candidates will have to earn two percent support in four party-sanctioned polls between late June and August. In addition, they will have to show they have attracted at least 130,000 donors since the start of the campaign, including at least 400 from 20 different states. As the race now stands, only eight candidates in the field would meet the two percent threshold in recent party-sanctioned polls. Many are also struggling to reach the donor requirements.

Transportation Secretary Failed to Sever Financial Ties to Construction Company
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 5/28/2019

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao failed last year to cash out her stock options in one of the nation’s largest suppliers of highway construction materials, despite a promise she had made to do so in a signed ethics agreement when she joined the Trump administration. Chao had served for about two years on the board of directors of the company, Vulcan Materials. She owned this stock because in April 2018 Vulcan paid her for her stock options in the company instead of cash. A Transportation Department official said there was no ethics violation because Chao continued to recuse herself from any agency decisions directly related to the company. Vulcan is mentioned as one of the stocks that would benefit from any big increase in federal infrastructure spending.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Chevron Executive Is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona
Arizona Republic – Ryan Randazzo | Published: 5/28/2019

A California lobbyist for Chevron Corp. is urging retirees of the oil company in Arizona to oppose electric-car policies there, saying the vehicles are too expensive for most people and should not be promoted. A handful of people who either retired from Chevron or from Unocal, which Chevron acquired in 2005, have used the form letter to urge Arizona Corporation Commissioners not to require electric companies here to build electric-car charging stations. Form letters are commonly used to lobby commissioners, but the secretive nature of this campaign has drawn criticism, including from a retiree who alerted commissioners to the lobbyist’s effort.

Arizona Hot Mic Captures GOP Lawmakers’ Frustration with Colleagues Over State Budget
Arizona Republic – Rachel Leingang, Lily Altivina, and Yvonne Winget Sanchez | Published: 5/23/2019

Arizona House Republicans were caught on a hot microphone discussing how to penalize two of their colleagues for not going along with the state budget. An audio clip of the meeting features multiple members of the House GOP suggesting bills from two lawmakers not get hearings next year. The clip also suggests some lawmakers could be interested in pursuing an ethics inquiry involving state Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter. “I’ve got kids …. Once you give in and there are no repercussions, you’ve encouraged all kinds of bad behaviors. There has to be repercussions of some kind,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Ben Toma said.

Arkansas Former Arkansas Senator Case Shows Gray Area in Ethics Rules
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Lisa Hammersly | Published: 5/26/2019

As federal prosecutors see it, a series of payments to former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson by former executives of Preferred Family Healthcare constituted bribery. Prosecutors say Hutchinson deposited the money before he filed an amendment to a bill that appeared to benefit the nonprofit. Hutchinson supporters have argued those checks and others like them were lawful compensation for services performed by the Little Rock lawyer outside of his legislative duties. After a string of corruption investigations targeted a half-dozen former state lawmakers, the Legislature has embraced new ethics-related laws. One focus has been a relatively unregulated practice in Arkansas politics: payments by lobbyists and their companies to lawmakers’ businesses, including their law and consulting firms.

Colorado $120 Million in Requests and $40 Million in the Bank. How an Obscure Theory Helped Prioritize the Colorado Budget.
Colorado Sun – Brian Eason | Published: 5/28/2019

Midway through Colorado’s 2019 legislative session, the appropriations committees in each chamber faced backlogs totaling more than 100 bills carrying a cumulative price tag of more than $120 million. The supporters for each bill were fighting for a piece of the same $40 million that budget writers set aside. The limited pot of money forced unenviable decisions for the Democratic majority with the power to set spending priorities. To find an answer, Democrats attempted a novel approach to public policy: quadratic voting. The obscure economic theory is designed to do what seems impossible at the Capitol – limit the influence of politics and self-interest. The experiment made the Colorado House one of the nation’s first test cases for the theory in the political realm.

Illinois Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers with Financial Ties to the Industry
ProPublica – Jason Grotto (ProPublica Illinois) and Dan Mihalopoulos (WBEZ) | Published: 5/28/2019

With the Illinois General Assembly poised to consider a tax hike on video gambling, some key lawmakers and their family members have developed previously undisclosed financial connections to the industry, meaning the fate of any proposal could lie in part on votes of legislators with a stake in the outcome. These ties, coupled with campaign donations by the industry, reveal how video gambling operators are building political influence at a time when the state is desperate to identify much-needed revenue to balance the budget. Those operators hope to block a tax increase, pushing instead to raise the maximum bet and increase the number of machines allowed in each location.

Michigan 50 States of Financial Disclosure: How Michigan stacks up
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 5/24/2019

Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. The lack of financial disclosure requirements is one?of the biggest?reasons?Michigan ranked last?in a 2015 report that documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws. Although some form of disclosure is required almost everywhere else in the country, how those documents are tracked, enforced, and made accessible to the public vary widely. Experts say having the information available is a good step towards addressing potential conflicts-of-interest and corruption.

Michigan Michigan Lobbyist for Polluter Wrote Law Easing Toxic Cleanups, Emails Show
Bridge Michigan – Jim Malewitz and Craig Mauger | Published: 5/29/2019

In a single year, a self-described “lawyer-lobbyist” went from working on behalf of a company accused of poisoning groundwater to writing a law that could weaken Michigan’s standards for pollution cleanups. A media investigation found attorney Troy Cummings last year represented Wolverine Worldwide in behind-the-scenes negotiations concerning litigation brought against the company by then-state Attorney General Bill Schuette over contamination from one of the company’s tanneries. At the same time, Cumings was involved with fundraising accounts tied to Schuette, who was running for governor. Emails also show Cumings, a lobbyist from Warner Norcross and Judd, later helped write legislation that makes it more difficult for state environmental regulators to update pollution cleanup standards for hundreds of chemicals.

New York Connections Can Mean Business for Some Lobbyists, Records Show
Newsday – Michael Gormley | Published: 5/25/2019

Lobbyists and legislators said Bolton-St. Johns, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, and the Parkside Group are among what one veteran lobbyist called “the flavors of month” in New York’s $261 million lobbying industry – firms that attract clients and higher fees at least in part because of their relationships with state officials. There always have been a few lobbying firms with such relationships, which can ebb and flow with whomever is in power. But outside the system, there is concern. “It may be that money doesn’t buy politicians, but it certainly buys access and people without money don’t have that access,” said Peter Galie, professor emeritus of political science at Canisius College. “The appearance of power is a form of power.”

New York ‘So Completely Compromised’: New York watchdog agencies Have a credibility problem
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 5/29/2019

Created to monitor the behavior of more than 250,000 public officials and to enforce state lobbying laws, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has become the epitome of New York state’s lax ethical oversight, and the agency’s opacity is a source of widespread consternation. As is the case with other watchdog entities, JCOPE must balance the privacy of individuals against its duty to inform the public and instill confidence it is effectively carrying out its work. By design, many of these agencies are not required to inform the public about the complaints they receive or are prohibited from doing so to prevent reputational harm against individuals or entities that may be the subject of a complaint. But good government groups say that must change in order to build trust in institutions, and the public would be better served if agencies provided more transparency about how they handle complaints and report on outcomes of investigations.

Tennessee How a Large-Scale Effort to Register Black Voters Led to a Crackdown in Tennessee
Tulsa World – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019

The Tennessee Black Voter Project took credit for turning in more than 90,000 voter registration applications in 2018. But the surge of forms that landed in the months before Election Day was chaotic and consuming, according to elections officials. Thousands of applications had errors or omissions, they said, and their workers were overwhelmed by the task of verifying all the forms. A new law that takes effect on October 1 will impose fines on groups that employ paid canvassers if they submit incomplete or inaccurate voter registration forms. The fallout is part of a national clash between the two parties over access to the polls – one fueled by efforts on the left to expand the voting pool and new limits backed by Republican lawmakers, who often echo President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

April 3, 2020 •

Lawsuit Challenges New Ohio Presidential, State Primary Election Date and Procedures

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.

The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.

In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.

Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.

The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.

Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.

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April 3, 2020 •

North Carolina Secretary of State to Allow Late Filing of First Quarter Reports

North Carolina State Legislative Building

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22. This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing, Penalties for failure […]

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing,

Penalties for failure to timely file will not be levied if report is filed on or before July 22; is accompanied by a sworn and notarized statement that a notary could not be obtained prior to the date the report was filed; and all other reports due by July 22 are timely filed.

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April 3, 2020 •

Idaho’s May Primary Election Won’t Be Delayed, Deadline for Absentee Ballots Pushed Back

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2. […]

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2.

Idahoans will be able register to vote and request an absentee ballot up until 8 p.m. on May 19.

The extension pushes back voters’ deadline to submit ballots to county clerks to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Normally that deadline would have been 8 p.m. May 19.

The Office of the Secretary of State will be sending out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter who has not already requested one.

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April 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020 President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part […]

National/Federal

A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop
Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020

President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part to his belief, stoked by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that the media was using the pandemic as yet another way to attack him, according to four Trump advisers. The administration’s anti-media antagonism can manifest like an organized crusade in some cases but also more like a culture, a vernacular shared by the president and his allies on the right. Their battles are waged in the courts, on social media, and at rallies where Trump’s rants against the journalists who cover him goad his fans into taunting the camera crews and booing the press pens.

Bernie Sanders Says He’s Staying in the Presidential Race. Many Democrats Fear a Reprise of Their 2016 Defeat.
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer, and David Weigel | Published: 3/30/2020

Behind the growing fear among many Democrats that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential race could spell doom in November is the belief they have seen it happen before – in the 2016 campaign. To some Democrats in that campaign, it was a lesson learned the hard way about the limitations of Sanders’ promises of support and the ferocity of his backers. Four years later, with the senator still running against former Vice President Joe Biden despite almost impossible odds of victory, some party leaders are increasingly worried about a reprise of the bitter divisions that many Democrats blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Biden Faces a Cash Gap with Trump. He Has to Close It Virtually.
Salt Lake Tribune – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden’s finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming. Top Biden fundraisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC, and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. they expressed deepening concern the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs. President Trump and Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their shared committees. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million.

Campaigning in the Age of Pandemic: Biden and Sanders as amateur video hosts
MSN – Annie Linskey and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden is hosting a podcast from his Wilmington, Delaware, home, while Bernie Sanders is emceeing a live-streamed talk show from the first floor of his house in Burlington, Vermont. Welcome to campaigning in the age of pandemic. For Americans accustomed to candidates delivering lofty speeches before crowds of thousands or embracing voters in emotional moments, this new era of campaigning is yet another example of traditions upended, and expectations disrupted. But is what campaigning will look like for the foreseeable future, as candidates who spent years honing a sense of spectacle and rhetoric are reduced to amateur-style programs in their homes. Without studios or large event staffs, the programs do not so much resemble political events as they do, at best, local-access cable shows.

Campaigns Hit Up Lobbyists for Cash with In-Person Events Ending
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/27/2020

The regular scramble for congressional campaigns to quickly amass funds before the March 31 reporting deadline has been hindered by anti-gathering rules put in place to slow the coronavirus outbreak or put aside because of the legislative rush to stop the bleeding in the economy. But it has not stopped completely. Money from wealthier donors and lobbyists, in addition to small-dollar grassroots contributors, are likely to fall as the country faces a recession and unemployment rises to historic levels. It could also impact the amount of money contributed to the PACs run by corporations, trade associations, unions, and lobbying firms, which are funded by employees to donate.

Democrats Postpone Convention Until August Because of Coronavirus
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/2/2020

The Democratic National Committee postponed its national convention because of the coronavirus, moving it from mid-July to mid-August. It is the largest political event to be moved so far because of the public health crisis, which has already led to the cancellation of hundreds of state and local conventions from both parties. The convention will still be held in Milwaukee, as planned, the week of August 17, officials said, a week before Republicans plan to gather in Charlotte to renominate President Trump. An August convention is likely to be smaller than the planned July event. One senior Democratic official said the event would probably be a “bare minimum” convention, with scores of people who had planned to come staying away either because of health concerns.

Forget Washington – Corporate America Is Focused on Governors Right Now
Politico – Sam Sutton | Published: 3/30/2020

With the Trump administration taking a backseat to state leaders on coronavirus mitigation, companies and trade associations that traditionally rely on relationships with Washington, D.C. power brokers are instead being forced to reckon with newly emboldened statehouse executives to deal with the crisis. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. and other business groups wrote to the National Governors Association asking governors take a uniform approach on stay-at-home orders that designate which “essential business” and “critical infrastructure” can operate. The sudden emergence of executive orders shutting down large components of the economy forced lobbying organizations, or their local affiliates, to play “whack-a-mole” as governors readied similar directives, said Jason Straczewski 0f the National Retail Federation.

Frustrated Gamblers Turn to Politics as the Only Game in Town
Politico – Tony Rehgan | Published: 3/30/2020

Gamblers have been sidelined as the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down sports in the U.S. But they have found an outlet for their need to wager – politics. Some savvy gamblers are finding they can chase shifting odds on the 2020 U.S. presidential election or turn a quick buck wagering on incidental proposition bets like whether Joe Biden will pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, and also a host of adjacent bets on the price of oil and the stock market. Interestingly, the surge in political betting has exposed a gray area in the law.

Georgia Senator Discloses Additional Stock Sales Worth Millions During Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Examiner – Madison Dibble (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2020

Sen. Kelly Loeffler reported millions of dollars in stock sales this year as Covid-19 swept through the United States. Financial disclosures show the Georgia Republican, one of several senators accused of insider trading after reports showed they dumped stocks prior to the market plunge earlier this year, had even more stocks sold on her behalf. The latest transactions included $18.7 million in sales of stocks owned by her husband’s company Intercontinental Exchange in three separate dumps. The senator used to work for the same firm before taking office. These sales took place from mid-February through mid-March, when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy were already being felt.

Justice Department Reviews Stock Trades by Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings
CNN – David Shortell, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, and Kara Scannell | Published: 3/30/2020

The Justice Department has started to investigate a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus. The inquiry, which is being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the pandemic. The sales have come under fire after senators received closed-door briefings about the virus over the past several weeks, before the market began trending downward.

Tech Giants Prepared for 2016-Style Meddling. But the Threat Has Changed.
New York Times – Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth | Published: 3/29/2020

Big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The companies have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems, and developing new policies to prevent election meddling. Although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference that they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020. Their difficulties reflect how much online threats have evolved since the 2016 election. More problematic, partisan groups in the U.S. have borrowed Russia’s playbook to create their own propaganda and disinformation campaigns, forcing the tech companies to make tough calls about restricting the speech of American citizens.

The Race for Virus Money Is On. Lobbyists Are Standing By.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2020

The federal government is open for coronavirus business, and the scramble to get some of it is on. Across the country, companies see a chance to cash in, do some good for the country or both, making virus outbreak response one of the few thriving sectors of the economy. And because so much of the business runs through Washington, D.C., the rush has created new opportunities for those who can offer access, influence, and expertise in navigating bureaucratic hurdles and securing chunks of the relief package that President Trump signed into law. The law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight set up an entire “Covid-19 Response Team,” which is expected to grow to include as many as 60 lawyers.

Trump Administration Rules Gun Shops ‘Essential’ Amid Virus
AP News – Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 3/30/2020

The Trump administration ruled gun shops are considered “essential” businesses that should remain open as other businesses are closed to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Gun control groups are balking, calling it a policy that puts profits over public health after intense lobbying by the firearms industry. After days of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other gun groups, the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory declaring firearms dealers should be considered essential services — just like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals – and allowed to remain open. The agency said its ruling was not a mandate but merely guidance for cities, towns, and states as they weigh how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump Won the Internet. Democrats Are Scrambling to Take It Back.
MSN – Jim Rutenberg and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/30/2020

Since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, Democrats have been scrambling to reorder the digital campaign equation, an effort that has drawn a range of new donors, progressive activists, and operatives together with veterans of the Obama campaigns and the old-line contributors and party regulars of the Bill Clinton era. So far, Democrats and their allies have produced new apps to organize volunteers and register voters, new media outlets to pump out anti-President Trump content, and a major new data initiative to drive what the party hopes will be the biggest voter-mobilization effort in its history. But while Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, have brought conservatives together to build a technological juggernaut for 2020, the Democratic effort has been slowed by the party’s rivalries and divisions.

Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Mississippi Congressman’s Campaign Spending
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/27/2020

The Campaign Legal Center is asking ethics officials to investigate campaign spending by U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo after the group found he channeled six figures of donors’ money to family-owned businesses. Palazzo used campaign funds to pay over $60,000 in rent to his own farm, according to FEC filings. His campaign also spent nearly $128,000 with his now ex-wife’s accounting firm. Federal election law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. But candidates can justify funneling contributions to themselves or family members if they make the case the spending is campaign related. The Campaign Legal Center argues Palazzo had an existing accounting firm and his campaign did not need the services of Palazzo & Co.

Canada

Canada New B.C. Lobbying Laws Come into Force in May
Business in Vancouver – Haley Woodin | Published: 3/31/2020

In just over a month, new legislation to make government lobbying in British Columbia more transparent will come into force. As of May 4, all government lobbyists will be required to register and begin reporting their monthly lobbying activities. The changes are part of the new Lobbyists Transparency Act, which replaces the Lobbyists Registration Act, and includes amendments already passed by the provincial government.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Campaign Finance Initiative Campaign Suspends Signature Gathering
Ballotpedia.com – Ryan Byrne | Published: 3/30/2020

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, co-chair of Outlaw Dirty Money, announced the campaign was suspending signature gathering efforts for its ballot initiative due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign needs to gather at least 356,467 signatures by the July 2 deadline. The ballot initiative would add language to the state constitution providing people with a right to know the identity of the original source of an aggregate contribution of $5,000 or more used for campaign media spending. Goddard called on the Legislature to allow for signatures to be gathered online.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Dakota Smith, and Joel Rubin | Published: 3/27/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander, accused of obstructing a public corruption investigation, agreed to plead guilty to scheming to falsify facts. He has been investigated for allegedly accepting gifts from a businessperson. According to the plea agreement, he schemed to cover up cash payments, meals, escort services, and other gifts. He admitted to accepting a total of $15,000 in cash from the businessperson among other things during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017. “Businessman A” worked for local companies related to major development projects while Englander was on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees most of the significant development projects in the city.

California ‘They’re All Tainted by It.’ Federal Corruption Cases Deal New Blow to Trust in City Hall
Yahoo News – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/1/2020

As city leaders face urgent pleas for help from Los Angeles residents reeling from the ripple effects of a global pandemic, they are also confronting distrust and revulsion over the alleged bribe and other “pay to play” activities that are at the heart of a widespread corruption investigation. Even those who are doing good work at have been tarnished by the scandals, said former Councilperson Greig Smith. Corruption probes are not new to City Hall. What makes the ongoing federal investigations so unusual, and potentially damning for city government, is that they touch on so many politicians at once.

California Watchdog to Review Rules Letting California Politicians Raise Money for Charity
Calmatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/31/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is preparing to update the regulations and laws that govern “behested payments” – donations made to charities at a politician’s request. Such donations have become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. FPPC Chairperson Richard Miadich cited Calmatters’ recent “Sweet Charity Series,” which revealed the amount of money flowing to nonprofits controlled by California lawmakers or their staff has skyrocketed over the last decade to $2.9 million in 2019 and showed much of the money comes from corporations and unions that lobby the Legislature.

Florida Council Committee Plans to Subpoena Bidders, Investment Banks in JEA Probe
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/30/2020

A Jacksonville City Council committee investigating JEA will subpoena the private companies that bid in the city utility’s failed invitation to negotiate. It also will subpoena the investment banks that advised JEA senior leaders in the sale attempt. Special Investigatory Committee Chairperson Rory Diamond said the panel will issue subpoenas for the names of the lobbying firms hired by nine private companies.

Illinois Pandemic Derails Illinois’ Lobbying Reform Commission Ahead of Key Deadline
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 3/31/2020

Unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reforms missed its March 31 deadline to provide recommendations to clean up some questionable practices in Springfield, but a member of the commission said it will get back to business. The commission, made up of state lawmakers and members appointed by the offices of the Illinois governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, was created in the fall amid a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that included allegations of bribery involving lawmakers, lobbyists, and business leaders.

Massachusetts Sen. Dean Tran Stripped of Leadership Position After Committee Report Says He Used Public Staff for Campaign Work
MassLive.com – Steph Solis | Published: 3/26/2020

Massachusetts lawmakers voted to strip state Sen. Dean Tran of his leadership role after a committee report found he used his Senate staff for work related to his 2018 and 2020 re-election campaigns during business hours. Tran is also banned from interacting with his staff except for written communications, The Senate Committee on Ethics report states that Tran “received repeated advice” that it was inappropriate for his staff to do campaign work during regular business hours, funded at the taxpayer’s expense, and for staff to participate in most fundraising activities. But Tran did not heed the advice and his current campaign manager threatened at least one staffer with termination if the person did not work on the 2020 campaign.

Michigan Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith Resigns Amid Criminal Charges Against Him
Detroit Free Press – Christina Hall | Published: 3/30/2020

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, accused of embezzlement and misconduct in office over how drug and alcohol forfeiture funds were spent, resigned from office. The announcement came less than week after the longtime prosecutor was charged with 10 criminal counts by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in a nearly yearlong probe of how his office spent the funds. Investigators found Smith and other defendants used the money to buy flowers and makeup for select secretaries, a security system for Smith’s residence, garden benches for staffers’ homes, country club catering for parties, campaign expenditures, and more.

Michigan Whitmer to Clerks: Send all new registrants an absentee ballot for May 5
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 3/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order temporarily changing state voting laws for jurisdictions with a May 5 election and allowing some May elections to be postponed to August 4 or later in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In those jurisdictions still holding elections, all clerks are required to send absentee ballots to new registrants under the order and absentee applications must be mailed to all currently registered voters in those areas. The order was opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who argued the May elections should be delayed instead.

New York Cuomo Pulls Back on Proposed Donor Disclosures for Nonprofits
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/31/2020

Changes to the state budget in New York ease reporting requirements for charities and nonprofits concerning their donors, though their financial reports may be made public. The latest budget language also includes new provisions expanding oversight of nonprofits through the Department of State. Certain nonprofits, such as those who have spent more than $10,000 in communication endorsing or opposing legislation, will have to submit annual financial disclosure reports to the agency. The department will then examine the relationship between charitable nonprofits and political advocacy organizations, filed as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofits, who share staff, office space, or supplies, among other provisions.

New York New York Delays Presidential Primary, Special Election to June
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/28/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s presidential primary and a special election in the 27th Congressional District will be postponed from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The elections will now coincide with the state’s primaries for congressional and state legislative races. The special election in the 27th District will replace former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned in September and was sentenced to prison for insider trading.

New York Organizing for Sanders in New York When the City’s on Lockdown and You Can’t Leave Your Apartment
Washington Post – Chelsea James | Published: 4/2/2020

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has spent two presidential cycles building a grassroots movement unparalleled among Democrats in reach and loyalty. For nearly eight years, that network has measured enthusiasm by doors knocked and rallies organized. Now though, as the coronavirus ravages the country, Sanders’ staffers and organizers have found themselves stuck in their homes, unable to hold, concertlike events that have become a staple of the campaign. Instead, they are reduced to connecting to people over Zoom, erasing a major advantage they had over Joe Biden, an ability to fill communities with volunteers and have thousands of conversations about their candidate.

New York Previously Struck Down in Court, New Campaign Finance System and Political Party Ballot Threshold Passed in Budget
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/1/2020

A new campaign finance system in New York, with public matching money for candidates who choose to participate and lower individual contribution limits, will be enshrined in law through inclusion in the new state budget. It is accompanied by controversial ballot-threshold requirements for political parties. The campaign finance system had been approved last year based on the recommendations of a state-created commission but was struck down in mid-March by a state Supreme Court judge who ruled such a commission could not be tasked with writing laws. The budget bill addressed that mistake and passed the same recommendations the commission made.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Moves Primaries to June 2 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/27/2020

Pennsylvania moved the state’s presidential and congressional primaries from April 28 to June 2. Gov. Tom Wolf made the move official by signing a bill moving the primary date into law. Pennsylvania, which President Trump narrowly won in 2016, will be a key state in the presidential race in November.

Washington Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle ‘Democracy Vouchers’
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/30/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” campaign finance program. Two local property owners said the vouchers violated their constitutional rights to free speech by forcing them through their tax dollars to support candidates they did not like. The Supreme Court has generally upheld the public financing of campaigns, within the limits of the First Amendment, saying “public financing as a means of eliminating the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest” of helping to eliminate corruption.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Goes It Alone, Holding Elections Next Week Amid Fears of Infection and Voting Chaos
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 4/1/2020

Across Wisconsin, voters, election officials, and civil rights leaders are angry the state Legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections even as the coronavirus continues its march across the country. The public-health risk is too high and asking voters to venture out of their homes directly contradicts state and local emergency orders to shelter in place, they say. Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature say moving the voting date so late in the process would sow confusion and create a leadership vacuum in cities and towns holding contests for municipal posts that will be vacant as early as mid-April.

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April 2, 2020 •

Mississippi Postpones House District 88 Special Election

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23. The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January. Due to the House leadership ruling members could not […]

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23.

The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January.

Due to the House leadership ruling members could not collect legislative pay while also receiving state retirement funds.

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April 2, 2020 •

West Virginia Postpones Primary until June 9

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those […]

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those elections to be rescheduled as necessary.

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