November 1, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 1, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

AP Exclusive: Middleman helped Saudi give to Obama inaugural
AP News – Alan Suderman and Jim Mustian | Published: 10/29/2019

When President Barack Obama was reelected in 2012, a Saudi tycoon and his business associate sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the U.S. to help pay for the inaugural celebration and get a picture with the president. American election law prohibits foreign nationals from making those sorts of contributions. But the donations Sheikh Mohammed Al Rahbani tried to send to Obama’s inaugural committee were funneled through a seasoned straw donor. That intermediary, Imaad Zuberi, agreed to plead guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to several American political candidates on behalf of foreign nationals. The prosecution is the latest in a string of cases that highlight the prevalence of banned foreign money in American politics and the often lax approach campaigns take in vetting contributions.

Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight
Seattle Times – Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles (New York Times) | Published: 10/27/2019

For years, the government has been handing over more responsibility to aerospace manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. A recent bill cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority. Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times found Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators. Weeks after the law was passed, a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing everyone on board. A second Max crashed in Ethiopia less than five months later, and the plane was grounded.

Civil Rights Leaders Thought They’d Figured Out How to Deal with Facebook. But Now They Are ‘Livid.’
Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 10/25/2019

Before a recent town hall event featuring Facebook’s second-in-command Sheryl Sandberg, civil rights activists were optimistic that company officials would address concerns about racism on the platform. Near the top of the list were the voter suppression messages that flooded Facebook during the 2016 presidential election and, the civil rights leaders feared, would do so again in 2020. But that hope turned to outrage as civil rights leaders learned Facebook had announced what many now call “the Trump Exemption,” meaning the policy allowing any politician to lie freely in ads or free posts without consequences. Though Facebook has portrayed this decision as reflecting the nation’s ideals of unfettered political speech, civil rights leaders say they see Facebook’s quest to profit from political advertising.

Corporate Political Transparency: It’s optional
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 10/24/2019

The disparity in the disclosure of political donations by corporations, detailed in a new report by the Center for Political Accountability and Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, underscores the flaccidity of federal laws and regulations governing what public companies must publicly disclose about their political activity. As the nation enters the teeth of the election season, corporations are again largely allowed to volunteer as much, or little, information as they please about, for example, how much cash they are infusing into “dark money” nonprofits that may in turn advocate for the election or defeat of candidates.

Federal Judge Holds DeVos in Contempt in Loan Case, Slaps Education Department with $100,000 Fine
Seattle Times – Danielle Douglas-Gabriel (Washington Post) | Published: 10/24/2019

A federal judge held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco slapped the Education Department with a $100,000 fine for violating a preliminary injunction. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the federal agency’s actions. Some former students of the defunct for-profit college had their paychecks garnished. Others had their tax refunds seized by the federal government.

For Impeachment Witnesses, Testifying Can Cost $15,000
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2019

As a parade of State Department officials began trooping to Capitol Hill to testify in the impeachment inquiry imperiling President Trump, officials from the department’s employee association dispatched an appeal to its nearly 17,000 members. Send money, they pleaded. For the second time since Trump took office, an investigation into his conduct has set off a scramble across Washington, D.C. for lawyers to represent witnesses, and for the money to pay them. Many of the witnesses are career government workers who helped shape or carry out policy toward Ukraine. On civil-servant salaries, they have racked up bills of $15,000 or more for lawyers who can guide them through the sessions before congressional inquisitors.

Justice Dept. Is Said to Open Criminal Inquiry into Its Own Russia Investigation
MSN – Katie Benner and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2019

For more than two years, President Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation, portraying it as a hoax and illegal even months after the special counsel closed it. Now, Trump’s own Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into how it all began. Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William Barr to a criminal inquiry. The move gives the prosecutor running it the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury, and to file criminal charges. The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.

K Street Executives Under Pressure on Diversity
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/30/2019

Overall, at least 22 corporate heads of companies’ K Street offices are people of color, according to data from the Washington Heads of Office, a group made up of senior government affairs executives of color. But those in the lobbying world say the numbers should be higher. Trade associations, lobbying shops, and law firms say they are working to diversify their ranks after growing pressure amid the most diverse Congress in history. But critics say the top lobbying jobs at companies do not see frequent turnover, and they say companies need to better nurture their talent pipeline. Some companies are flush with minority and female lobbyists, but just not at the top spot.

Payday Lenders Discussed Raising Money for Trump’s Campaign to Fend Off Regulation, Audio Reveals
Washington Post – Renae Merle | Published: 10/29/2019

A recent webinar sponsored by Borrow Smart Compliance, an industry consultant, gives surprisingly frank insight into the payday lending industry’s strategy to push for weaker government regulations by forging a tight relationship with the Trump administration and the president’s campaign. The payday lending industry, made up of businesses that make short-term loans to consumers at high interest rates, is awaiting new rules that could weaken Obama administration requirements. Michael Hodges, who billed himself as one of President Trump’s top fundraisers, said contributions to the president’s reelection campaign could be leveraged to gain access to the Trump administration.

Rep. Katie Hill to Resign Amid Allegations of Inappropriate Relationships with Staffers
Politico – Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan, and Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/27/2019

U.S. Rep. Katie Hill is resigning from Congress after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships with staff members in her office and on her congressional campaign. Hill’s announcement capped a tumultuous 10-day episode that shook the Democratic Caucus. Hill was a prominent figure in the historic Democratic freshman class, and her resignation was a blow to the colleagues who defended her. Hill was under investigation by the House ethics committee for allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a male congressional staffer, a claim she denied. Hill admitted to and apologized for an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staffer earlier.

Rep. Lori Trahan Says $300,000 of Campaign Funds Came from Husband, Calls It ‘Gray Area in Campaign Finance Law’
MassLive.com – Benjamin Kail | Published: 10/30/2019

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan defended loaning her 2018 campaign $300,000 of her husband’s income, calling it “our money.” The Boston Globe reported that Trahan had far outspent peers on legal bills, with $167,000 paid to Perkins Coie to manage financial disclosures. The Globe reported Trahan repeatedly claimed that $371,000 she loaned her campaign came from her own funds, and Trahan did not disclose a joint bank account with her husband as a funding source until after she won her election, sparking complaints from watchdog groups. Trahan said she now realized the move constituted “a gray area in campaign finance law,” but cited multiple FEC rulings suggesting “what I did was not a violation.”

Twitter to Ban All Political Ads Amid 2020 Election Uproar
Duluth News Tribune – Tony Romm and Isacc Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/30/2019

Twitter, reacting to growing concern about misinformation spread on social media, is banning all political advertising from its service. Its move strikes a contrast with Facebook, which continues to defend running paid political ads, even false ones, as a free speech priority. The move drew a mixed reception, with some critics highlighting that it would not affect what users can tweet and share on their own. The political ad ban also might not have much impact on widely followed accounts, including President Trump’s, whose tweets already reach more than 66 million users each day. Twitter’s new policy takes effect November 22.

White House Ukraine Expert Sought to Correct Transcript of Trump Call
MSN – Julian Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 10/29/2019

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted crucial words and phrases, and his attempts to include them failed, according to people familiar with the testimony. The omissions, Vindman said, included Trump’s assertion there were recordings of former Vice President Joe Biden discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky of Burisma, the energy company whose board employed Biden’s son. His testimony is likely to drive investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into the White House’s most classified computer system.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Birmingham Water Board Member Guilty on Ethics Charges
AL.com – Ivana Hrynkiw | Published: 10/30/2019

A member of the Birmingham Water Works Board has been jailed after being found guilty on ethics charges. The case centered around allegations that Sherry Lewis used her position on the board to get free trips and meals, along with jobs for her son from water board contractors. Lewis was found guilty of using her position for personal gain or for the gain of a family member and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest.

Arizona Effort Underway to Significantly Change Elections in Arizona
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 10/30/2019

Arizonans for Fair Elections launched a ballot initiative drive that proposes to lower the state’s campaign contribution limits and set up a system during election seasons for every voter to get vouchers from the state for up to $50 they could then give to the candidates of their choice. This model of publicly financing campaigns, which has already been adopted at the local level in Seattle, is just one piece of the sprawling proposed ballot measure that would also allow same-day and automatic voter registration while tightening the limits on political donations and restricting lobbying.

Arizona Elected Arizona Official Accused of Selling Babies Suspended
AP News; Staff –   | Published: 10/28/2019

An elected official in Arizona was suspended after he was charged with running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then paid them to give up their children for adoption. Leaders in Arizona’s most populous county suspended Assessor Paul Petersen without pay for 120 days. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors does not have the power to permanently remove him from his office, which determines the value of properties for tax purposes in Phoenix and its suburbs. Petersen, who is in federal custody, has so far refused to resign since his arrest on October 8. His lawyer, Kurt Altman, said Petersen will fight to keep the $77,000-a-year job he was last elected to in 2016.

Arkansas State Ethics Panel Member on Job After Term Ends
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 10/27/2019

A member of the Arkansas Ethics Commission has served 10 months past the expiration of her appointment because state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has yet to appoint a replacement – who, by law, must be a Democrat and of a minority race. Commissioner Sybil Jordan Hampton is not grumbling about continuing to serve on the commission. If she resigned, Hampton said, the five-member commission could have problems getting a quorum because another member was injured in a car accident in January and has not been able to attend meetings since then.

California A ‘Straight Frickin’ Arrow’ or Not? Some Say California Democratic Fundraiser Walks a Fine Line
Sacramento Bee – Hannah Wiley | Published: 10/28/2019

When state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara became embroiled in a deluge of questions and criticism this year for breaking a campaign promise not to accept industry donations, he promised Californians he would make it up to them. To start, he fired his longtime fundraiser, Dan Weitzman.  Lara said he would institute “rigorous vetting protocols” built by experts familiar with “best practices,” seemingly a deviation from the fundraising system he had set up with Weitzman at the helm. But Weitzman is no rookie. Top Democrats have for two decades invested their fundraising trust in Weitzman, whose ability to inspire cash flow has launched political careers and his own prominence in Sacramento since the 1990s.

California Times Investigation: L.A. councilman Wesson helped apartment executives while his son received rent break
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 10/24/2019

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson helped shepherd a residential tower through the city’s review process amid opposition from city staff and the planning commission. During the same period, his son was living in a building owned by Rosewood Corp., a company headed by tower developer Michael Hakim. The councilperson’s son, Herb Wesson III, went more than five years without a rent increase at the apartment building, even as many other tenants saw their rent go up. Three other people who lived in the building at the time said they were aware he was receiving a rent break, and that it was provided because his father is a council member. One of them said Wesson III explained during a private conversation that he had received a discount because of “business his father was doing with the owners of the building.”

Colorado Emails from 600 Colorado State Employees Are Slated to Vanish from Public Record
Denver Post – Alex Burness | Published: 10/30/2019

Email inboxes are slated to be purged for hundreds of state employees, in Colorado, a move that promises to eliminate access to government records that would otherwise be public. The impacted employees work for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, divisions of which regulate key industries, including insurance, electric utilities, banks, real estate, and telecommunications. Colorado law gives state departments broad discretion in crafting their policies for keeping or deleting the recorded history of public business they conduct.

Florida City Commission Votes for Tougher Ordinance, Ethics Board Gets More Power
Tallahassee Reports – Steve Stewart | Published: 10/28/2019

The Tallahassee City Commission voted to move forward with ethics proposals that will give the city’s Independent Ethics Board more power. Together, the adopted amendments give the board expanded authority to investigate ethics charges and levy higher fines. The Commission also adopted other reforms which address financial disclosure and lobbyist registration. Commissioners voted to increase fines for lobbyists that fail to register. The penalties will start at $1,000 for the first violation and increase with each additional violation by $500. City Attorney Cassandra Jackson said a draft ordinance would be presented to the commission in November.

Illinois Ethics Board Reaffirms Fine Against Operative Who Supplied Solis with Viagra, Sex Acts; Goes after Company That Hired Roberto Caldero
Chicago Sun Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 10/29/2019

The Chicago Board of Ethics reaffirmed its $25,000 fine against the political operative who supplied former Ald. Danny Solis with Viagra and sex acts and moved to hold Elgin Sweeping Services responsible for hiring Roberto Caldero.  he finding of probable cause will require Elgin to explain why it hired Caldero to promote the company’s interests at City Hall when he was not a registered lobbyist. Caldero has already been slapped with a $25,000 fine that was reaffirmed after the board rejected his appeal. Elgin Sweeping faces a lesser fine, ranging from $500 to $2,000.

Illinois Feds Allege State Rep. Luis Arroyo Caught on Undercover Recording Paying $2,500 Bribe. ‘This is the Jackpot.’
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Jamie Munks, and Dan Petrella | Published: 10/29/2019

Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo bribed a legislative colleague with an offer of $2,500 a month in exchange for support of sweepstakes-related legislation, according to a federal complaint. Arroyo made the offer on August 2 and handed over an initial check on August 22 for the unidentified lawmaker’s backing of the legislation in the Illinois Senate, the complaint says. It describes Arroyo as having a vested interest in the arrangement as manager of Spartacus 3 LLC, a lobbying company, which included as its clients the owner of a firm that deals in video sweepstakes machines. The complaint describes the moment Arroyo gave the check to his colleague in a suburban Chicago restaurant, citing a federal wiretap that allegedly captured their conversation. “… This is, this is, this is the jackpot,” Arroyo told the senator.

Illinois Former Lake Forest City Manager Indicted for Role in Paying Lobbyists Over Controversial Rail Project
Chicago Tribune – Daniel Dorfman (Pioneer Press) | Published: 10/24/2019

A former city manager in Lake Forest was indicted for official misconduct after he was accused of exceeding his authority as an administrator for his role in paying a lobbying firm without the city council’s approval. According to the indictment, Bob Kiely exceeded his $20,000 purchasing authority without council approval between January 1, 2016, and March 1, 2017, when payments were sent to the lobbying firm, and engaged in the contract knowing he was forbidden to do so under the law.

Maryland Daughter of Ex-Md. Lawmaker Charged with Federal Wire Fraud Days After Mother’s Guilty Plea
Washington Post – Lynh Bui | Published: 10/29/2019

Anitra Edmond, the daughter and campaign treasurer of longtime Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines, was charged with federal wire fraud, accused of funneling money from her mother’s campaign funds to a personal bank account. The charge against Edmond was filed less than two weeks after Gaines appeared in the same courthouse and pleaded guilty to the same charge. Gaines has resigned her seat.

Maryland Maryland’s Online Political Ad Law Debated in Fourth Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Brad Kutner | Published: 10/30/2019

Maryland’s effort to regulate online political ads was met with skepticism by an appeals court judge, as a state attorney defending against a challenge by The Washington Post and other newspapers argued the law does not violate digital publishers’ right to free speech. The Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act was blocked by a federal judge who found it would impose undue burden on publishers. The law requires platforms with more than 100,000 monthly visitors to publish the names and contact information for any purchaser of a “qualifying paid digital communication,” along with the price paid, and requires them to maintain a publicly available database with relevant information about the ad.

Maryland Online Portal Will Publicly Display Baltimore Lobbying Disclosures
Baltimore Sun – Colin Campbell | Published: 10/31/2019

Baltimore has set up a public online portal where lobbyists can register and file disclosure forms to the city Ethics Board twice a year, instead of annually, as a result of a recent law to tighten lobbying rules. The law requires lobbyists approaching city government officials to “affirmatively identify” who they represent. It requires the Ethics Board to post those reports online, disclosing who paid lobbyists and how much. Those who fail to report could face a $1,000 penalty for each violation and a three-year ban from lobbying at City Hall. The reports must include any gifts of $100 or more given to a public servant or their family members.

Michigan How a Tax Break to Help the Poor Went to NBA Owner Dan Gilbert
ProPublica – Jedff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott | Published: 10/24/2019

Billionaire Dan Gilbert has spent the last decade buying up buildings in downtown Detroit, amassing nearly 100 properties and so completely dominating the area, it is known as Gilbertville. In the last few years, Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has also grown close to the Trump family. Quicken gave $750,000 to President Trump’s inaugural fund. Gilbert’s cultivation of the Trump family appears to have paid off: Three swaths of downtown Detroit were selected as opportunity zones under the Trump tax law, extending a valuable tax break to Gilbert’s real estate empire. Gilbert’s relationship with the White House helped him win his desired tax break, an email obtained by ProPublica suggests. The area made the cut even though it did not meet the poverty requirements of the program.

Nevada Reno City Attorney Karl Hall Kept His Property Deal Quiet During Strip Club Fight
Renp Gazette Journal – Anjeanette Damon | Published: 10/29/2019

At the height of the Reno City Council’s campaign to oust strip clubs from downtown, City Attorney Karl Hall worked to sell an office building less than a block away from the Wild Orchid Gentleman’s Club but did not disclose the possible conflict-of-interest. Although the property was included on his annual financial disclosure form, Hall never disclosed his ownership or the fact it was on the market during the debate over whether the council should force the Wild Orchid and other strip clubs to move out of downtown. Nevada’s ethics law, which requires council members to read aloud a disclosure when they consider policies that might affect their personal finances, also applies to Hall.

New York De Blasio Presidential Campaign Bankrolled by Donors with City Interests
Politico – Joe Anuta and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 10/29/2019

Despite disavowing the role of big money in politics, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio relied primarily on donors who have business dealings with the city, are often wealthy, and are rarely motivated by ideology, something reinforced by his presidential campaign’s most recent federal filings. People who have a business stake in the policies and actions of his administration largely underwrote the $1.4 million he raised to bankroll his candidacy, including at least eight who appeared on the “doing business” list –people and companies with active financial dealings before the city whose donations would represent a conflict-of-interest.

New York Kat Sullivan Sues JCOPE Over Lobbying Allegations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/24/2019

Kat Sullivan, the alleged rape victim who has been extensively targeted by state ethics regulators in New York for failing to register as a lobbyist, filed a lawsuit arguing she never conducted lobbying work and the law under which she is being pursued is unconstitutional. The lawsuit alleges the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is conducting an “improper and abusive” investigation into Sullivan over her efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault and support for passing the Child Victim’s Act in 2018. Sullivan’s lawsuit challenges JCOPE to prove the definition of “lobbying” it is applying in her case adheres to state law. She also is challenging whether the underlying law is valid.

North Carolina State Court Bars Using North Carolina House Map in 2020 Elections
MSN – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 10/28/2019

A state court effectively threw out North Carolina’s map of congressional districts, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans. The ruling, by a three-judge panel in Superior Court, technically imposes a temporary ban on using the map in primary elections next spring. But the judges signaled they were unlikely to change their minds by inviting plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. The judges also said they were prepared to postpone primary elections should that prove necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

Oregon Struggling Oregon County Spent $43,000 Traveling to D.C. to Lobby. It Wants $2,000 to Hand Over the Receipts.
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 10/25/2019

In the last four years, leaders of a struggling Oregon timber county have repeatedly traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby President Trump and other top federal officials to increase timber harvests. Douglas County commissioners spent at least $43,000 on their lobbying trips using federal money awarded to the county. Yet after three formal requests and numerous questions from The Portland Oregonian, the county has only accounted for how commissioners spent $579.57. County officials want to charge the newsroom more than $1,900 and spend nearly a full week’s worth of clerical time to find 170 pages they say itemize the other $42,500.

Pennsylvania Citing Spotlight PA/Caucus Probe, Top Lawmaker Pushes Limits on Campaign Donations, Stricter Disclosure Rules
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Sam Janich (The Caucus) and Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 10/25/2019

Pennsylvania Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa is proposing sweeping campaign finance reforms that would set limits on contributions, increase transparency, and ban candidates from using campaign money for their personal benefit, issues at the heart of a yearlong investigation published by The Caucus and Spotlight PA. Costa said his bill would, among other changes, establish contribution limits for the first time in the state, and impose more accountability for spending by elected officials and others running for office. For instance, the measure would require candidates to submit credit-card statements with their regularly filed campaign finance reports and ban the use of gift cards that can be used to further shield expenses.

Pennsylvania House Panel Says Lobbyist Disclosure Law Should Be Improved
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 10/30/2019

A new state House investigative committee’s first report said Pennsylvania’s lobbyist disclosure law should be overhauled so lobbyists, rather than the entities they work for, report meals, gifts, and other spending meant to influence government. The House Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously for the report that also recommended changes to how lobbyist spending reports are audited. The committee said identifying and punishing lobbyist registration violations is difficult under the current law, and it was not able to determine what percentage of principals, lobbying firms, and lobbyists are in compliance.

Pennsylvania Inside the FBI Investigation into Philly Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, His Wife, and Kenny Gamble’s Nonprofit
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 10/25/2019

Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson has found himself dogged for the past three years by FBI scrutiny of his tenure. But while much of that investigation has taken place behind closed doors, details are beginning to emerge. Sources familiar with the probe described a sweeping examination into everything from the council member’s involvement in the bargain-rate sale of city-owned land to the work of his wife, Dawn Chavous, as an education consultant, campaign adviser, and charter school advocate.

Rhode Island IGT Discloses Additional $600,000 Spent on Lobbying Campaign
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/24/2019

International Game Technology (IGT) has publicly acknowledged an additional $600,000 in spending on its campaign for a 20-year, no-bid extension of its Rhode Island Lottery contract, in response to a notice from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office that it was obliged to disclose the amount it gave Keeping Jobs in Rhode Island to run ads touting IGT and criticizing its rivals in the contract fight. The disclosure, in an amended lobbyist-disclosure report, raised the amount the United Kingdom-based gambling technology company and its affiliate, Keeping Jobs in Rhode Island, have spent on lobbyists and advertising and public-relations in a single three-month period to an unmatched $1.8 million. Gorbea raised the specter of penalties of up to $5,000 and revocation of IGT’s right to lobby in Rhode Island if it did not make a complete disclosure.

Rhode Island Who is Brett Smiley? A Look at the Top Aide to Governor Raimondo Who Is Accused of Threatening a Casino Executive
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan | Published: 10/30/2019

Brett Smiley, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief of staff, allegedly tried to persuade the Twin River casino to not oppose a proposed 20-year, no-bid contract extension for one of its rivals, IGT, to run the state lottery and operate most video lottery terminals at the state’s two casinos. Marc Crisafulli, Twin River’s executive vice president, claims Smiley warned him the Twin River casino could face regulatory problems if the company fought the highly contentious contract proposal for IGT. Twin River waged a public relations and lobbying campaign opposing the deal anyway, and later was forced to pay a $180,000 fine to the state taking on too much debt from a series of transactions in 2019.

Virginia Ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges
The Virginian-Pilot – Scott Daugherty and Tim Eberly | Published: 10/24/2019

Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe was indicted on 11 federal corruption charges, accused of taking bribes over more than two decades in exchange for steering millions of dollars in city contracts to friendly businesses. McCabe was charged along with Gerard Boyle, the founder of firms that have long provided health care services for Norfolk jail inmates. Prosecutors say the longtime sheriff took bribes – including an unreported $6,000 loan, gift cards to Todd Jurich’s Bistro, Washington Redskins tickets, and free catering for his annual golf tournament – in exchange for ensuring government contracts went to Boyle’s firm and another that did business with the jail. The indictment does not name the second company, but details in the document match the jail’s food services provider, ABL Food Management.

Washington Despite Promising to Stop, Facebook and Google Are Still Selling Political Ads in Washington State
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 10/28/2019

Facebook and Google announced they would stop selling political ads in Washington after a lawsuit accused them of not obeying the state’s rules on transparency. But search Facebook’s ad library and you will find paid ads for candidates for Olympia mayor and Seattle School Board, among many others. Google has sold at least $25,000 worth of ads about state and local elections in the state. Although the amounts represent only a fraction of the millions of dollars flooding Seattle’s city council elections and other campaigns, they are still reaching hundreds of thousands of potential voters. And candidates and PACs certainly think they are effective as they continue to buy the ads that the companies have claimed they do not sell, even though the platforms claim they remove the ads as soon as they realize what they have done.

November 24, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Georgia Senator David Perdue Privately Pushed for a Tax Break for Rich Sports Teamowners” by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott for ProPublica California: “SLO County Supervisors OK $25,000 Campaign Donation Cap Over Hundreds of Objections” by Lindsey […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Georgia Senator David Perdue Privately Pushed for a Tax Break for Rich Sports Teamowners” by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott for ProPublica

California: “SLO County Supervisors OK $25,000 Campaign Donation Cap Over Hundreds of Objections” by Lindsey Holden for San Luis Obispo News

New York: “Bill Would Further Restrict Coordination Between City Candidates and Independent Expenditure Campaigns” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette

Elections

National: “Trump Pushes Supreme Court to Let Him Reshape Apportionment” by Michael Macagnone for Roll Call

Ethics

National: “All the President’s ‘Guys’” by Ben Terris for Washington Post

California: “Feds Charge Recology Exec in Purported Mohammed Nuru Bribery Scheme” by Julian Mark and Joe Eskenazi for Mission Local

Illinois: “Feds Draw Near Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan as Key Confidant Weighs Cooperation Choice” by Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News

Ohio: “Sam Randazzo Resigns as Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Legislative Issues

Wyoming: “When Will the Wyoming Legislature Convene Next Year? No One’s Sure Yet” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune

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November 23, 2020 •

Missouri Special Session Continued Until After Thanksgiving Break

Missouri Capitol Building

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break. This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff. The special session began on November 5 to […]

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break.

This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff.

The special session began on November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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November 23, 2020 •

Third Cincinnati Council Member Arrested

Cincinnati Skyline

Cincinnati Skyline - by Mr. RNGAndreson

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges. He is the third council member to be arrested this year. Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign. If he […]

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges.

He is the third council member to be arrested this year.

Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign.

If he does resign, four members of the council will choose his successor by a majority vote.

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November 23, 2020 •

San Luis Obispo County Adopts Campaign Contribution Limits

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo - by MARELBU

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000. Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700. Opponents of the $25,000 […]

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000.

Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700.

Opponents of the $25,000 ceiling voiced concerns the higher limit would lead to corruption.

Others argued the county should not make a decision until a replacement for deceased Supervisor Adam Hill is seated.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation limiting campaign contributions to local candidates to $4,700 in cities and counties not having their own contribution limits.

Those limits go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

The $25,000 limit will apply to candidates for 10 county offices, including the five supervisors, the district attorney, and the sheriff.

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November 23, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico

California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose Mercury News

Nevada: “Las Vegas Judge Took Lawyer’s Campaign Donation Before Dismissals” by David Ferrara for Las Vegas Review-Journal

Elections

National: “Trump’s Escalating Attacks Put Pressure on Vote Certification Process” by David Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

New York: “Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations” by Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess for New York Times

Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Utah: “Audit Finds Free Spending and Cronyism by Ex-State Agency Head” by Bethany Rodgers for Salt Lake Tribune

Lobbying

National: “K Street Moves to Counter ‘Purity’ Test for Biden Administration” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Florida: “After Months of Work, Leon County Gives OK to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat

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November 20, 2020 •

COVID Has Affected State and Federal Communications

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing […]

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing masks when in the office. We have only had one staff member who tested positive and is back in the office after the required quarantine period.

I do have to say, this pandemic has affected an important publication. After 21 years, the quick desk reference, State and Federal Communications Guidebook, will not be printed. Due to the pandemic, our clients are not in the office and we are already in possession of the 2020 Congressional Directory we ordered for everyone and received in May, when offices closed and people started working from home.

The information in the Guidebook is included in the very robust State and Federal Communications website, www.stateandfed.com, which will have a redesign unveiled on December 1, 2020.

Jon Spontarelli and Kristi Hadgigeorge will be alerting the State and Federal Communications Community about the updates and upgrades on our new website and, especially where you can continue to find the valuable materials from the Guidebook.

We will continue to make sure you have all the valuable information you need for your work and please do not hesitate to give us a call if you need guidance along the road to compliance.

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November 20, 2020 •

Colorado Governor Calls for Special Session November 30

Colorado Capitol

Colorado Capitol Building

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m. Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct […]

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m.

Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct rental assistance, food insecurity, and public health response.

It is expected to take at least three days to approve the legislation. A professional lobbyist must disclose within 72 hours if a lobbyist agrees to lobby for an existing client or takes a new position in connection to legislation, standard, rules, or rates during a special session.

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November 20, 2020 •

New Mexico Governor Announces Special Session

New Mexico Capitol

New Mexico Capitol Building - Ken Lund

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief. The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the […]

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief.

The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the resources toward small businesses and unemployment.

The special session is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 24, and is expected to last one day. The Roundhouse will be closed to the public during that time.

A legislative report will be due within 48 hours for each separate expenditure of $500 or more made or incurred by a lobbyist or employer during the special legislative session.

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