November 20, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 20, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

6 Lawmakers in 5 Days: New COVID-19 infections put spotlight on Congress’ loose guidelines
USA Today – Christal Hayes | Published: 11/18/2020

As rampant nationwide coronavirus spikes force states to reexamine reopening efforts, Congress is still struggling to maneuver around the pandemic as it encroaches on legislative business and endangers its members. COVID-19 has loomed over Congress for much of the year, yet lawmakers are still bickering over wearing face masks and not social distancing. Congressional leaders have refused to make coronavirus testing mandatory for lawmakers traveling back and forth to their home states. A rash of recent cases has infected a handful of lawmakers and sent several others into quarantine all while the U.S. Capitol welcomed back more than 500 legislators in the House and Senate.

Biden’s IRS Could Finally Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Democrats
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 11/16/2020

President Trump’s defeat will make it easier for Democrats to get his tax returns, and some prominent lawmakers plan to keep the heat on the incoming Biden administration and House leaders to deliver. Once Biden controls the Treasury Department, his administration could simply hand over the records to its allies in Congress, who have been fighting in court to force Trump to turn them over. But Biden is casting himself as a uniter and releasing the returns risks looking like a vindictive investigation of his predecessor. Yet, if Democrats were to suddenly say “never mind,” it would not only be an embarrassing about-face, it would also infuriate people such as U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.

Corporations and Foreign Nations Pivot to Lobby Biden
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/17/2020

While Joe Biden has taken steps to demonstrate his distance from lobbyists, his presidency is being welcomed on K Street. Lobbyists and other advisers who help clients navigate Washington are highlighting ties to Biden and his team in pitches to prospective clients, while firms and interest groups that lack such ties are scrambling to secure them. Such connections are plentiful because aides and colleagues of Biden’s have been cycling between government and the influence industry going back to his 36 years in the Senate and his eight years as vice president. It is a far cry from four years ago, when Donald Trump swept into town with few connections to established gatekeepers and lobbyists.

Fewer Opportunities and a Changed Political Environment in the U.S. May Have Curbed Moscow’s Election Interference This Year, Analysts Say
MSN – Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020

Russia failed to mount any major hacking or disinformation operations to interfere in the presidential election, and the Kremlin’s hackers did not even attempt to target elections systems in the way they did in 2016, according to U.S. officials. Analysts said it is too early to know why, but they point to a variety of possible reasons. Those include cyber and other operations that helped keep the Russians at bay, harder targets at the state and local level, and a political climate in which Americans themselves were the largest purveyors if disinformation, dwarfing Moscow’s efforts to influence the campaign through social media and its propaganda channels.

GOP Shows Limited Appetite for Pursuing Biden Probes
The Hill – Alexander Bolton | Published: 11/15/2020

Republicans are showing little appetite for aggressively pursuing investigations into President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden if they keep their U.S. Senate majority in 2021. Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, who led a joint investigation of Hunter Biden this year, are signaling they will take a tough stance on the incoming administration. But other GOP senators are taking a wait-and-see approach. One of the considerations among Republicans is a desire by some to lower the partisan temperature and possibly explore common ground with Democrats.

NASA Official Asked Boeing If It Would Protest a Major Contract It Lost. Instead, Boeing Resubmitted Its Bid
MSN – Christian Davenport (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020

Boeing’s bid to build a spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the moon did not meet NASA’s requirements, and the company was going to lose out on a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But NASA was worried Boeing would protest the contract award, potentially holding it up for months at a time when the space agency was trying to meet a White House mandate to get astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. in February, Doug Loverro, then the head of NASA’s human exploration directorate, called Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division, to explain the company was going to lose the contract and to inquire whether it would file a challenge. That call occurred during a period when the agency was to have no contact with any of the bidders.

Palazzo’s Campaign Spending Under Investigation. ‘What We Saw Was Outrageous,’ Rival Says
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Anita Lee | Published: 11/13/2020

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for allegedly using campaign funds to pay expenses associated with a farm he used to own. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint asking the OCE to investigate Palazzo’s campaign spending. It centered on campaign expenditures to rent a farm and to pay an accounting firm Palazzo founded and is now run by his former wife. Palazzo’s campaign spent $60,000 to rent a farm he owned from 2018 to 2019, the complaint said. The farm is located more than 30 miles from his campaign committee.

Pelosi, Democrats Renew Push to Overhaul Election, Campaign Finance Laws
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/16/2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would press ahead early next year with a campaign finance and elections overhaul, even as the measure may face the same Senate fate it did this Congress: doom. Even though the Senate majority for the 117th Congress hinges on two runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats and their outside allies said they would still push for the measure, spotlighting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resistance.

Senior Justice Dept. Official Stalled Probe Against Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sources Say
MSN – Juliet Eilperin and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2020

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen deferred a bid from line prosecutors to move forward with possible criminal charges against former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying they needed to gather more evidence and refine the case, according to people familiar with the matter. The move last year by Rosen, an appointee of President Trump, angered some career prosecutors and has delayed for months the release of an Interior Department inspector general’s report. At issue is whether Zinke made false statements to investigators who were looking into his decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino off reservation land in East Windsor, Connecticut.

Trump Fires Top DHS Official Who Refuted His Claims That the Election Was Rigged
MSN – Ellen Nakashima and Nick Miroff (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2020

President Trump fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation. Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.'” Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen.

Watchdogs Urge Transparency as Executives from Powerful DC Firm Floated for Biden Administration
ABC News – Matthew Mosk and Mike Devine | Published: 11/12/2020

As speculation swirls over who President-elect Joe Biden will tap for top posts at intelligence and national security agencies, a number of names being publicly floated come from a Washington, D.C.-based firm packed with Obama-era powerbrokers. The company, WestExec Advisors, describes itself as a “strategic advisory firm” that helps private businesses navigate potential challenges around the world, including international laws, “geopolitical trends,” and “changes in Washington and in other capitals.” Unlike lobbying firms, which are usually required to disclose to the names of clients and government agencies they contact, WestExec falls into a different category of company, allowing it to operate with far less transparency.

With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map
New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns | Published: 11/15/2020

America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand. Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joe Biden prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.

Canada

Canada Fitzgibbon Is the First Cabinet Minister to Be Reprimanded by National Assembly
Montreal Gazette – Jocelyne Richer | Published: 11/12/2020

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon became the first provincial minister to be reprimanded by the National Assembly. While he maintains he did nothing wrong, Fitzgibbon will have to live with the unanimous vote for the rest of his political career. An investigation by concluded Fitzgibbon placed himself in a situation where his personal interest could influence his independence and judgment as a cabinet minister because of his close friendship with businessperson and lobbyist Luc Laperrière. The report criticized Fitzgibbon for allowing Laperrière privileged access to him while the latter was promoting three business dossiers being handled by Fitzgibbon’s ministry.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Voters Approve Alaska Ballot Measure 2 Which Adopts Top-Four Primaries, Ranked-Choice General Elections
Ballotpedia News – Ryan Byrne | Published: 11/18/2020

Ballot Measure 2 was approved by Alaska voters. It makes several changes to election policies, including: replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices; establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, in which voters can rank the candidates; and requiring persons and entities that contribute more than $2,000 that were derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the true sources of the money.

California California Lawmakers Head to Maui with Lobbyists Despite Pandemic, Travel Warnings
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 11/16/2020

The coronavirus pandemic did not derail an annual gathering of lobbyists and California lawmakers on the shores of Maui that brought people from across the country to a luxury resort. Roughly 100 people from four states converged at the Fairmont Kea Lani for a four-day legislative conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, said the group’s executive director, Dan Howle. The 18th annual event was a third of its regular size, Howle said, but it still drew nearly 20 lawmakers from California, Texas, and Washington state. The theme was how to reopen states’ economies amid the public health crisis.

California Former Consultant for California High-Speed Rail Project Is Cleared of Ethics Violations
Yahoo News – Ralph Vartabedian | Published: 11/12/2020

The Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into the top consultant working on the California bullet train last year found he did not violate state law, following allegations he was among those who approved a contract modification for a company in which he held stock. The probe found Roy Hill, formerly the top official at the state’s main consulting firm, WSP, did not violate state laws for conflicts-of-interest. Hill was deputy chief operating officer for the project. The matter involved allegations Hill signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.

California Newsom’s Cozy Ties with Top Lobbyist Showcased by French Laundry Dinner Party
Politico – Jeremy White and Debra Kahn | Published: 11/16/2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being criticized for his decision to attend a celebration for political operative Jason Kinney at the French Laundry in Napa County. After the private dinner was reported, Newsom said while the outdoor meal did not violate coronavirus restrictions, he showed poor judgment in attending. The meal also cast a brighter spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics. Kinney is not the first operative to blur the line between politics and policy. The doors between campaigns, administrations, and Sacramento’s lobbying corps have long swung open for people with contacts and experience to leverage.

Florida State Investigating Mysterious Candidate Who Swayed Tight Florida Senate Race
Tampa Bay Times – Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos | Published: 11/17/2020

The razor-thin victory that delivered Ileana Garcia to the Florida Senate and ousted Democrat José Javier Rodríguez continues to raise eyebrows for one reason: a mysterious third candidate named Alex Rodriguez. A one-time mechanic with no history in local politics, Alex Rodriguez never started a campaign website, attended no candidate forums, and received no donations, save for a $2,000 loan from himself. Mailers pitching his name sent to voters in the Coral Gables area were sent by a shadowy political group that, so far, has been untraceable. When a television reporter recently tracked Alex Rodriguez down, he pretended to be someone else.

Georgia Ga. Secretary of State Says Fellow Republicans Are Pressuring Him to Find Ways to Exclude Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2020

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.

Illinois City Council Divided Over Changing Naperville’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules
Chicago Tribune – Suzanne Baker (Naperville Sun) | Published: 11/18/2020

Proposed changes to the Naperville campaign ethics regulations to include finance disclosures for city council members raised as many questions as it did support. Council member Theresa Sullivan originally sought to amend the city’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on any agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to their most recent campaign. Sullivan said she has since realized a mandatory recusal opens the door to more unintended consequences than she anticipated. Instead, Sullivan said she supports an option where council members must announce any campaign donation of $500 or more before voting on any pertinent issue where a donor was either a petitioner or opponent.

Illinois Feds Charge Former Top ComEd Executives, Lobbyists in Springfield Corruption Case
WBEZ – Dan Milhalopoulos, Dave McKinney, and Tony Arnold | Published: 11/18/2020

Federal prosecutors marched deeper into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, charging longtime confidant Michael McClain and former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) Chief Executive Officer Anne Pramaggiore in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with the powerful speaker. Also charged are ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club of Chicago, who was accused of helping to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to three people with ties to Madigan. ComEd admitted in July to an effort to win Madigan’s favor for rate increases and other legislation by funneling consulting payments to his allies for doing little or no work for the utility.

Louisiana After IG’s Ouster, Stronger Whistleblower Laws Considered by New Orleans Ethics Review Board
Nola.com – Jeff Adelson | Published: 11/17/2020

The ouster of New Orleans’ inspector general could spark a move for more expansive whistleblower protection laws or more detailed oversight of that office, city council members were told. Following allegations of rampant absenteeism against Inspector General Derry Harper and reports he warned staff against taking their concerns over his head, Ethics Review Board Chairperson Michael Cowan said efforts were underway to tighten the reins. The potential challenge, he said, would be balancing greater oversight of the watchdog office with the need for it to remain independent of political influence.

Maine Ethics Commission to Review Records of Maine Legislative ‘Leadership PACs’
Portland Press Herald – Kevin Miller | Published: 11/18/2020

The Maine ethics commission will review the finances of 15 so-called leadership PACs run by state lawmakers to ensure the groups are keeping accurate records and not violating state laws prohibiting personal use of PAC money. Members of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices stressed the reviews were being conducted “without any suggestion of impropriety.” But they also acknowledged the structure of “leadership PACs” – political action committees set up by legislators to raise and spend money – means there may be fewer “checks and balances” than in larger organizations.

Michigan Trump Coronavirus Adviser Tells Michigan to ‘Rise Up’ Against New Shutdown Orders
MSN – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closing colleges, high schools, workplaces, and in-person dining for three weeks as coronavirus cases have spiked. After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines. “The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas said in a tweet, which quoted a reporter who had shared information about Whitmer’s new restrictions. Critics condemned the rhetoric, which mirrored President Trump’s statements that correlated “tyranny” with the restrictions put in place previously by Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnap plot that was thwarted.

Michigan U.S. Attorney Sought Records from Joan Jackson Johnson’s Charity; City Must Repay $234K in HUD Grants
Lansing State Journal – Sarah Lehr | Published: 11/13/2020

Federal prosecutors requested records from One Church One Family, a private charity formerly managed by Joan Jackson Johnson. Meanwhile, Lansing is preparing to repay $233,710 in federal grant money the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded the city mismanaged during Jackson Johnson’s tenure as director of Human Relations and Community Services. Jackson Johnson retired in February after an external audit found she mismanaged city money and may have sought to “conceal” conflicts-of-interest by not properly disclosing them.

Michigan Wayne County Republican Who Asked to ‘Rescind’ Her Vote Certifying Election Results Says Trump Called Her
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble, and Tim Elfrink (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2020

President Trump called a Republican canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election. “I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two GOP members of the four-member board. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.” The call came after an hours-long meeting in which the canvassing board voted to certify the results of the November 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job and cannot retract its votes.

Missouri Failure to Pay Ethics Fine Could Cost Bruce Franks About $75,000
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Hollerman | Published: 11/16/2020

After not making a payment in 10 months on a negotiated $14,000 fine, the Missouri Ethics Commission now contends that former state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. owes more than $89,000. The state filed suit against Franks, saying he has not made a payment on the lower fine that was negotiated last year. The suit says Franks’ failure to make a payment on the agreed-upon amount now causes the remaining $75,000 of the fine to be restored.

Nevada Former Tourism Exec Strikes Ethics Deal in Misuse of Gift Cards
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 11/13/2020

Brig Lawson, a former executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, agreed to pay $13,881 in state ethics fines for using agency-bought airline gift cards on personal travel. Lawson also will pay another $8,881 fine the Nevada Ethics Commission said is twice the value of the Southwest Airlines gift cards he and his domestic partner and his partner’s parents used for personal trips.

New Mexico Modest Sunshine Still Leaves Campaign Cash in Shadow
New Mexico In Depth – Sara Swann (The Fulcrum) and Bryan Metzger | Published: 11/18/2020

What is happening in New Mexico illustrates that improving the transparency of how campaigns are financed can be done, but making progress often requires incremental steps that take a lot of time. It is an example of what states across the country must grapple with when they seek to slow the influence of money over their own politics, at a time when federal regulation of presidential and congressional elections has shriveled. Money still floats through the state’s elections while remaining out of public view because a new law did  not strengthen donor disclosure requirements for PACs.

New York After Cuomo Book Approval, Ethics Commissioners Quash Greater Scrutiny
The Telegraph – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 11/17/2020

Staff for the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has long issued informal advisory opinions to public officials seeking advice about how to conduct themselves properly under state ethics and lobbying laws. In 2012, commissioners passed a resolution allowing staff to do that work between meetings. At the same time, state law requires JCOPE to engage in a formal process: approving or disapproving requests by state employees to earn over $5,000 in outside income. In practice, JCOPE’s informal advisory opinions have become conflated with the formal approval process. Staff has used the opinion letters to approve or disapprove the formal requests to earn income, even though nothing in the resolution passed by commissioners granted staff that authority.

New York Despite State Law, Democrats’ Seats on Ethics Panel Remain Vacant
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/16/2020

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been short two commissioners for more than a year, due to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins not following that law that a commissioner must be replaced within 30 days by the government leader responsible for making that appointment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appoints six commissioners, three Republicans and three Democrats. Among Republican lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt has three picks and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay has one. Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy said JCOPE has “well-documented problems which make it hard to find people that would want to serve.”

Ohio FBI Searches Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo’s Home
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer and Andrew Tobias | Published: 11/16/2020

FBI agents searched a home owned by Sam Randazzo, chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). An FBI spokesperson declined to provide details about why the home was searched. The PUCO chair is one of the most powerful positions in state government, wielding influence on matters regarding the regulation of utilities in the state to include profits and rates charged to customers. The search comes after the FBI arrested then- House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in connection to a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly funded by FirstEnergy, which was seeking a $1 billion legislative bailout for its two nuclear power plants in the state.

Ohio How FBI Agents Posed as Cincinnati Hotel Developers to Catch Suspects in 2 Ohio Bribery Scandals
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/12/2020

Lobbyist Neil Clark did not realize, while chatting with hotel developer clients after a Cincinnati Reds game, that he was talking with undercover FBI agents working to uncover two bribery schemes. The first was against Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pator, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for his vote on development projects. The second was against Clark, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and three others. They are accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to seize control of the House, pass a bailout for nuclear plants, and defend those subsidies against a ballot initiative. Those two apparently unconnected, widespread bribery investigations converged in Cincinnati.

Ohio Sundermann, Landsman Propose Reforms After 2 Council Members Accused of Taking Bribes
MSN – Jennifer Edwards Baker (WXIX) | Published: 11/16/2020

Cincinnati City Councilmembers Greg Landsman and Betsy Sundermann separately announced a series of proposed City Hall reforms, including a charter amendment that would allow for recall of people in office and a creating a city Ethics Commission. The announcements come on the heels of two councilmembers, Tamaya Dennard and Jeff Pastor, being arrested on charges that allege “pay-to-play” schemes. Pastor was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes, allegation he has vowed to fight. Dennard, who has resigned, was arrested after she promised a developer she would vote for a development project in exchange for $15,000.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejects Complaints About Philadelphia Election Observations
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 11/17/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled observers’ rights to watch ballot counting was sufficient in Philadelphia, rejecting a claim from President Trump’s campaign that poll observers did not get “meaningful access.” The Trump campaign argued observers were stationed too far away to see the process of counting votes, and a lower court initially agreed with them, ordering that they be allowed closer to the process. The state Supreme Court, which had previously rejected other Republican arguments, vacated that lower court order.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Revives Lawsuit Against Journalists Over Public Records Fees
PennLive – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 11/12/2020

The campaign of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati renewed its lawsuit against a Spotlight PA journalist and others, asking the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the case. Scarnati’s campaign sued The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis for $5,070. The suit claims they owe an accounting firm the money for producing public records that documented questionable spending by Scarnati’s campaign. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorney fees and court costs.  A judge ruled Scarnati’s campaign should pay the accounting firm.

Tennessee Nashville Council Members Call for Ethics Review of Actions by Colleague Robert Swope
The Tennessean – Yihyng Jeong | Published: 11/16/2020

Council members are calling for an ethics review of Metro Council member Robert Swope’s conduct after recent reports say he tried to steer government contracts to his company. A letter has circulated gauging interest among council members in asking Swope to seek an advisory opinion from the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct. The concerns follow news reports that uncovered emails showing Swopes last year tried to get city contracts Intelligent Transit and also attempted to initiate a loan proposal to lend Metro $500 million from a company he is affiliated with, in exchange for ownership of some future city infrastructure.

Texas FBI Is Investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AP Report Says
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 11/17/2020

The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton’s former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor. Sources said the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign in 2018. Aides told authorities they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave, sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.

Virginia Charges Dismissed Against State Sen. Louise Lucas in Vandalism of Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument
Virginian-Pilot – Margaret Matray | Published: 11/16/2020

A judge dismissed charges against Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and all others charged in a June protest at Portsmouth’s Confederate monument at the request of the city’s top prosecutor, who said the elements of the charges were not properly met. The felony charges against Lucas and 18 others – including local NAACP leaders, several public defenders, and a school board member –stem from a protest and vandalism at the city’s Confederate monument. Activists and Democrats questioned the timing of the charges, which came a day before a General Assembly special session. Lucas, a veteran Democratic legislator, has been an outspoken advocate for police reform.

Washington After Years of Preamble, Tim Eyman’s Trial Begins. Could It Mean the End of His Initiatives?
Wenatchee World – David Gutman (Seattle Times) | Published: 11/16/2020

Tim Eyman has spent decades running initiatives to lower taxes and advance conservative policies in Washington. He now stands accused of laundering political donations to enrich himself, accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm, and a years-long refusal to comply with campaign finance laws. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose 2017 lawsuit precipitated the civil trial, seeks millions of dollars in damages and hopes to permanently bar Eyman from accepting money on behalf of any political committee or handling their finances. Eyman has personally received and concealed more than $1 million, Ferguson says.

West Virginia W.Va. Lobbyist Puccio Crosses Political Streams to Advise Democrat Manchin, Republican Justice
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 11/15/2020

Larry Puccio has been walking a political tightrope. His path crosses influence, access, politics, loyalty, friendship, and no small degree of personal finance against the backdrop of a West Virginia that is transitioning from longtime Democratic dominance toward Republican power. He is a lobbyist, former state Democratic Party chairperson, and ex-chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin when he was governor. But this political season, Puccio pushed for the re-election of Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who first won office as a Democrat.

November 30, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh Looks to Tighten Campaign Finance Reports for PACs, Independent Expenditures” by Ashley Murray for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Elections National: “Wisconsin Recount Confirms Biden’s Win Over Trump, Cementing the President’s Failure to Change the Election Results” by Rosalind […]

Campaign Finance

Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh Looks to Tighten Campaign Finance Reports for PACs, Independent Expenditures” by Ashley Murray for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Elections

National: “Wisconsin Recount Confirms Biden’s Win Over Trump, Cementing the President’s Failure to Change the Election Results” by Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “NRA Reports Alleged Misspending by Current and Former Executives to IRS” by Beth Reinhard and Carol Leonning (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Who Pleaded Guilty to Lying to the FBI” by Rosalind Helserman and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

Delaware: “Wilmington Councilman Rebuked: ‘City employees must not be threatened for doing their jobs’” by Jeanne Kuang for Wilmington News Journal

Illinois: “City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin Denies Wrongly Firing Chief of Staff, Other Employees” by Gregory Pratt for Chicago Tribune

Illinois: “New Cache of ComEd Documents Shows Indicted Madigan Confidant Pressing Utility for Jobs and Contracts” by Dan Petrella, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for Yahoo News

Legislative Issues

Virginia: “As Virginia Democrats Rein Themselves In with Bill Limits, Some Legislators See Lost Opportunities” by Laura Vozzella for Washington Post

Lobbying

Ohio: “Bankruptcy Judge Orders Lobbyists to Testify About Any Ties to Householder Bribery Case” by Jim Mackinnon for Akron Beacon Journal

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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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