October 18, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 18, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules
The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about.” Her remarks came in the wake of the campaign finance violation charges leveled against two associates of Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. Florida businesspeople Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested and accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme that funneled money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Over His Financial Data
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow, Spencer Hsu, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2019

Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s business records from his accounting firm, a federal appeals court ruled in one of several legal battles over access to the president’s financial data. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld Congress’s broad investigative powers and rejected the president’s bid to block lawmakers from subpoenaing the documents. The case is one of several clashes between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican president over Trump’s data that is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, the judges ruled Trump’s arguments, that the subpoenas were invalid because Congress lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoenas, were incorrect.

Biden’s New Ethics Plan Includes Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Elections
NBC News – Mike Mernoli | Published: 10/14/2019

Seeking to turn the page from what he called the most corrupt administration in American history, former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out a new comprehensive ethics plan that includes a constitutional amendment to publicly finance elections. It also calls for a ban on lobbying by foreign governments and stricter protocols to ensure a firewall between the White House and prosecutorial decisions at the Justice Department. The proposal comes as Biden is under assault from President Trump and his allies over unsubstantiated allegations that he acted as vice president to shield his son from an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company whose board he served on.

Democratic Lobbyists Bristle at Party’s Attack on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/16/2019

With presidential candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for tougher rules on how the lobbying world works, Democratic lobbyists find themselves walking a difficult tightrope. The lobbying industry has pushed back on those proposals as unconstitutional, arguing they would be a restriction on First Amendment rights. Democratic lobbyists said while those proposals may be intended to target K Street'[s biggest spenders, they could also silence voices for progressive causes. A persistent argument against tougher restrictions on lobbying is they would lead to more so-called shadow lobbyists, those who do lobbying work but do not register.

Department of Justice’s Lobbyist Registry Available, but with Technical Issues
The Weekly – Giovanna Garofalo | Published: 10/16/2019

Puerto Rico’s lobbyist registry is now available for the general public to use. The registry is essentially a table that will list lobbyists under their name, number of registrations, clients who they represent, and authorized staff. When visitors access the page now, they will realize that it does not feature a single lobbyist. The Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service are still ironing out technical issues with the registry.

FEC Chairwoman Says She ‘Will Not Be Silenced’ after Republican Lawmaker Requests Ethics Investigation
CNN – Kaatina Iyer | Published: 10/10/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said she “will not be silenced” after a Republican member of Congress requested that she be investigated for ethics violations for her public statements. Rep. Rodney Davis, who was named an honorary state chairperson for President Trump’s reelection campaign, sent a letter to FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner, asking him to investigate Weintraub’s “refusal … to recuse herself” from any matters involving the president. He argued that Weintraub’s public statements regarding Trump on Twitter undermines her nonpartisan position.

Fourth Defendant in Giuliani Associates’ Case Arrested at New York Airport
Stamford Advocate – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2019

David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, was arrested at a New York City airport. Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators. The third defendant in the case, a California man named Andrey Kukushkin, was arrested recently, according to authorities.

Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth Vogel, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

An investigation by federal prosecutors into President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is tied to the case against two of Giuliani’s associates who were arrested recently on campaign finance related charges. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a member of Congress whose help they sought in removing the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Yovanovitch. Federal law requires American citizens to disclose any contacts with the government or media in the U.S. at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials.

Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting
MSN – Jo Becker, Maggie Haberman, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

During an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. Giuliani’s request provoked an immediate objection from Tillerson, who argued it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case. In the end, no such prisoner swap took place. But the episode has opened a new chapter in Giuliani’s efforts to interject himself into the Trump administration’s diplomacy while at times representing clients with a direct interest in the outcome.

House Readies Bill Aimed at Stopping Foreign Election Interference
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 10/16/2019

House lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a third bill to protect the integrity of U.S. elections, with the latest piece of legislation aimed at closing loopholes that allow foreign nationals to spend money on American campaigns. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act proposes increasing transparency for campaigns, parties, and PACs by requiring them to report any attempt by a foreign government or individual to influence an election to the FEC and the FBI. The bill also requires U.S. campaigns to establish standards for compliance.

How Amazon.com Moved into the Business of U.S. Elections
Reuters – Nandita Bose | Published: 10/15/2019

The expansion by Amazon Web Services (AWS) into state and local elections has gathered steam since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offering. So do the two main political parties, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the FEC. While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS, along with a network of partners, now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel, and helps provide live election-night results. The company’s efforts are welcomed by election administrators, who in interviews said they often struggle with keeping outdated systems up to date at the local level.

Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies
ProPublica – Heather Vogell | Published: 10/16/2019

Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender, and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.” Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic Leader and Regular Trump Target, Dies at 68
MSN – Jenna Portnoy and Antonia Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2019

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died on October 17. He was 68 years old. Cummings served as chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus and then ranking member chair of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. Cummings spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too
ENM News – Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

For the children of the politically powerful, personal business and public dealings can often be indistinguishable, especially when private projects depend on foreign governments that are looking to bolster ties with Washington. As the president has become embroiled in a scandal involving his interactions with Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have taken to attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, for his business dealings in Ukraine and China. The brothers have accused him of leveraging his family name for personal gain while his father served in the Obama administration. But the high-profile attack roles being played by President Trump’s eldest sons have now thrust their own business dealings into the spotlight too. Both sons have operated and promoted the Trump family business overseas during their father’s presidency, even as he retains ownership.

Trump Emoluments Case Over His D.C. Hotel Gets Second Chance in Legal Challenge
Connecticut Post – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2019

A federal appeals court order revived a lawsuit claiming President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his hotel in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed to rehear the lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, which was dismissed over the summer by a three-judge panel of the court. The brief order set oral arguments before a full panel of judges for December 12 and essentially gives the novel lawsuit, which tests the anti-corruption emoluments provisions of the Constitution, a second chance.

Trump Has Awarded Next Year’s G-7 Summit of World Leaders to His Miami-Area Resort, the White House Said
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell | Published: 10/17/2019

Next year’s G-7 gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies will take place at President Trump’s Doral golf resort outside of Miami. The decision is without precedent in modern American history – the president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself. Doral provides more revenue to Trump than any other hotel or golf club. But, in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into steep decline, with profits falling 69 percent in three years. Trump is already facing lawsuits for allegedly violating the Constitution’s ban on receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments. By doing this, he could be inviting a huge increase in the very line of business that these lawsuits are scrutinizing.

Ukraine Scandal Snags Pete Sessions’s Congressional Comeback Bid
MSN – Catie Edmondson (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

Former U.S. Pete Sessions, who is seeking a return to Congress, was caught in the fallout of the Ukraine scandal when he was referred to in the indictment of two presidential allies accused of campaign finance allegations. Sessions is described as “Congressman-1” in the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were charged with illegally funneling foreign money to American candidates and campaigns. “Congressman-1” is described as having received large campaign contributions from Parnas and Fruman, and whom Parnas asked for help in removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Violent Spoof Video of Trump Killing His Critics Shows How Memes Have Reshaped Politics
Denver Post – Drew Harwell and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2019

A meme video, a spoof derived from a bloody action film, shown at President Trump’s Miami-area golf resort drew outrage from some for its depiction of Trump shooting journalists and attacking political figures who have been critical of him, both Democrats and Republicans. Some warned the clip and others like it could incite real-world violence. But that outrage also helped ensure the video would be circulated more widely. Becca Lewis, who researches online subcultures and media manipulation for Stanford University, said the video’s sharing showed how such memes have become a potent force for political expression and propaganda. The meme creators, she said, routinely sought mainstream attention for the memes in a way that would make the shocking content seem more and more acceptable.

Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad
ENM News – Cecilia Kang and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is playing a game of dare with Facebook. The Democratic presidential candidate bought an ad on the social network that purposefully includes false claims about Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Trump to goad the social network to remove misinformation in political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential election. “We decided to see just how far it goes,” Warren wrote, calling Facebook a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” Warren’s actions follow a brouhaha over Facebook and political ads in recent weeks. Mr. Trump’s campaign recently bought ads across social media that falsely said Joe Biden offered $1 billion to Ukrainian officials to remove a prosecutor who was overseeing an investigation of a company associated with Biden’s son Hunter.

Warren Targets ‘Big Money’ in Campaigns, Rules Out Donations from Tech and Bank Executives
The Hill – Tal Axelrod | Published: 10/15/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren White House unveiled a sweeping new proposal to eliminate “big money” in politics, taking aim at donations from PACs and urging her fellow presidential contenders to be transparent in their fundraising. Warren said her plan would end the practice of federal candidates taking corporate PAC money and ban foreign corporate influence in American elections. She would also seek to require presidential campaigns to disclose their major donors, bundlers, and finance events and update campaign finance laws to address online political advertising.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Group Trying to Escape Fine for Violating Arizona Campaign Finance Laws
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 10/16/2019

A group that spent $260,000 attacking a 2014 foe of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his first gubernatorial race is trying again to escape paying a fine for violating state campaign finance laws. Attorneys for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund contend the Citizens Clean Elections Commission lacked the power to impose a $96,000 fine for the commercials targeting former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. They say there was no proof the ad was done to advance the political fortunes of anyone else in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Beyond that, the lawyers contend the commission lacks the authority to enforce the campaign finance laws.

Arkansas Speaking as Taxpayer in TV Ad, Griffin Says; His Appearance Raises Campaign Questions
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Alyson Hoge | Published: 10/6/2019

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin appears in a television advertisement financed by a nonprofit issue advocacy group called Arkansas Competes. The ad will air about two months after Griffin said he will be a candidate for governor in the 2022 election to succeed Asa Hutchinson. Griffin said he is appearing in the ad “as an Arkansas taxpayer deeply concerned about issues facing our state.” Arkansas Competes Director Carl Vogelpohl said the ad would not run afoul of state law. He noted a state Ethics Commission advisory opinion that said if a non-candidate committee organized as a 501 (c) (4) runs issue ads in Arkansas not asking for votes for or against a specific candidate, the committee’s activity would not constitute a contribution or non-monetary contribution under state law.

California FBI Investigating Whether Sacramento Pot Businesses Paid Bribes to Public Officials
Sacramento Bee – Sam Stanton and Ryan Sabalow | Published: 10/14/2019

The FBI has been investigating whether Sacramento-area marijuana businesses have made payoffs to public officials in the region in exchange for favorable treatment and license approvals. The investigation comes two months after the FBI announced in a podcast that it was “seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry” and asked for any tips involving public corruption and the industry, which generates millions of dollars in revenue and involves licenses that can go for as much as $500,000.

Connecticut Government for Sale? Lobbyists Spent $32M This Year to Influence Legislative Session
Manchester Journal Inquirer – Eric Bedner and Will Healy | Published: 10/12/2019

More than $32.3 million was spent this year by nearly 1,000 lobbying organizations to push their agendas and try to persuade Connecticut lawmakers into siding with them on key pieces of legislation. Most of that money was spent during the legislative session that ran from January to June. During the 2019 session, the two most lobbied areas of policy involved health care and hospitals and general government, which includes taxes and contracts Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the “overwhelming majority” of lobbyists comply with the regulations as the business is mostly “reputation-based.”

Florida $500 Ethics Fine Against Dennis McDonald Now Upped to $10,000, with Governor’s Reprimand and Censure
FlaglerLive.com; Staff –   | Published: 10/10/2019

A three-year-old ethics case against former Flagler County Commission candidate Dennis McDonald could have ended last June with a $500 fine to which he had agreed. Instead, and for lack of answering a few questions and correcting the record, McDonald now faces a $10,000 fine and a public censure and reprimand by the governor. The Florida Ethics Commission meets on October 25 to vote on the case. The commission voted unanimously at its June meeting to reject a settlement with McDonald because he had not corrected the mistakes on his financial disclosure forms, however minor, that had led to the case against him.

Illinois Caught on Tape: Ex-Ald. Danny Solis sought money from Jerry Reinsdorf group
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 10/11/2019

With FBI agents secretly listening in, then-Chicago Ald. Danny Solis was caught on a wiretap four years ago discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group whose owners include sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, chairperson of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, that needed his help at City Hall. Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group needed Solis’ approval for a $40 million apartment complex they later built in his ward. During a call, Solis explained, over the worries of an unidentified aide that the developers were still awaiting the alderman’s approval for the project, how he planned to solicit Reinsdorf’s business partner Thomas Meador, for campaign money. Solis wore a wire for nearly two years, secretly recording conversations at City Hall.

Maryland ‘Maryland Is Very Corrupt’: Charges against former Del. Tawanna Gaines add to state’s corruption history
Baltimore Sun – Elliott Davis (Capital News Service) | Published: 10/17/2019

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines is scheduled to be arraigned on a federal wire fraud charge. She is charged with using an undisclosed PayPal account to accept donations to her campaign finance committee. Gaines is not alone. The arraignment adds her to the growing list of politicians in the state who have either committed crimes or ethical violations. Gaines is the third Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County alone to be charged or convicted since 2018.

Michigan Lights Turn Green for Traffic Signal Company That Hired MDOT Director
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 10/14/2019

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) made a major shift in who supplies its traffic signal control equipment, just as its former director has taken an executive position with the company that benefits from the change. MDOT used to buy all its traffic signal control equipment and software from Siemens Mobility. But that changed last October, the same month Kirk Steudle, who, for the previous 12 years headed up the department, was named senior vice president of Econolite Systems, a Siemens competitor based in California. In October 2018, the state agency changed its specifications to allow the purchase of traffic signal controllers supplied by Econolite in addition to those made by Siemens.

New York Big Questions Remain for NY’s Public Campaign Finance Plan
AP News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 10/14/2019

A New York commission began crafting a small-donor public campaign financing system but has yet to tackle big issues such as when the program would launch and how it would be implemented. The system will provide up to $100 million in public financing to candidates for offices such as governor and Legislature who get enough small private donations. The Public Campaign Financing Commission has until December 1 to announce rules that will become law unless lawmakers hold a rare end-of-year special session to reject them.

New York Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 10/14/2019

Contributions from people doing business with New York City were restricted in 2007 and a database was created to ensure candidates and donors complied with the law. Lobbyists pushing city policies and seeking municipal contracts for their clients are included. So are top executives and owners of companies who already have contracts and those lobbying the city.  But the law allows them to act as bundlers for other donors without the same contribution limits. Critics say the arrangement leaves the door wide open for powerful and well-connected New Yorkers to influence elections and sway politicians in their favor.

New York New York Can Now Bring Charges Against Presidential Pardon Recipients
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 10/16/2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will let New York prosecutors bring charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for related crimes. The bill was explicitly written to address fears that President Trump might use his pardon power to interfere with criminal investigations. The U.S. Supreme Court has found the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy does not apply to the states. It does not bar state prosecutors from bringing charges against individuals who have already been tried on similar federal crimes. But New York’s existing law included additional safeguards that prohibited these second trials.

North Carolina Solar Group Solicits Campaign Cash for Top Lawmaker, Tied Directly to Legislative Action
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 10/16/2019

A solar industry group solicited campaign contributions for a North Carolina legislator in an email to its members and tied the request for funds directly to action he had taken days earlier on a bill opposed by the group. The request came from the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance on behalf of state Rep. John Szoka, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy and Public Utilities. Chris Carmody, the executive director of alliance, asked the organization’s members to donate to Szoka up to $5,200, the maximum contribution allowed under the law. The email noted Szoka and a second lawmaker for their opposition to Senate Bill 559, which would authorize Duke Energy to set energy rates for a multi-year period with relaxed oversight from state regulators.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Receives First Complaint
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 10/10/2019

North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission has received its first complaint, but its details are not immediately available. The commission, which has met only twice, does not yet have investigative procedures for handling complaints. The panel’s next meeting agenda includes items such as establishing a website and office space and writing job descriptions for hiring staff. The commission may write and adopt rules related to transparency, elections, lobbying, and corruption, but it has yet to begin or even broach a rule-making process.

Ohio The Right Way for a State to Purge Voters Might Be to Show How Wrong It Is
ENM News – Nicholas Casey (New York Times) | Published: 10/14/2019

Ohio is a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive. That has led critics to contend parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who do not learn they cannot vote until Election Day. Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the state released the full list and gave it to advocacy groups to check. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors. Around 40,000 people should not have been on it, the state determined. One of the names to be purged as an inactive voter was Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

Rhode Island Facing Penalties, IGT Discloses $776K More Was Spent in Push for New Contract
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/16/2019

Facing potential penalties of up to $5,000 and revocation of its right to lobby in Rhode Island, lottery giant IGT and an affiliate have now publicly disclosed a total of $1.2 million in spending in July, August, and September on the company’s campaign for a no-bid, 20-year contract extension to provide the technology and machines for the Rhode Island Lottery, a state-run entity that produced $397 million in revenue last year. While the company disclosed the $129,000 it paid a dozen lobbyists between July 1 and September 30, it had not disclosed how much it paid its public-relations consultants, advertisers, and affiliates to try to win public and legislative support for the contract extension.

South Carolina SC Supreme Court Justices Grill Special Prosecutor in Quinn Public Corruption Case
The State – John Monk | Published: 10/15/2019

South Carolina’s five Supreme Court justices fired question after question at special prosecutor David Pascoe about why he wanted to undo the conviction and no-prison sentence of ex-state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. in a high-profile public corruption case. At the heart of Pascoe’s argument was his claim that the judge who sentenced Quinn erred in allowing Quinn to plead guilty to what Pascoe asserted was a non-crime. The Supreme Court overturning the conviction could allow either a new trial or a guilty plea to a lawful charge, Pascoe has said in briefs on the case.

Texas Dallas Council Member Violated City Code with VisitDallas Tickets, Ethics Commission Says
Dallas News – Hayat Norimine | Published: 10/15/2019

Dallas City Councilperson Casey Thomas violated the ethics code by failing to disclose over $1,600 worth of event tickets he received from VisitDallas, the city Ethics Advisory Commission said. Ahead of the commission’s vote, Thomas promised to recuse himself from any votes related to VisitDallas, the city’s tourism bureau, for the remainder of his term. He also said he fixed procedures with his staff to ensure the mistake would not happen again. The code of ethics on gifts states that city officials should not accept an item that “is intended to influence or reward” decisions and must file financial disclosure forms for any gift that exceeds $250 within a month of accepting it.

Texas Texas GOP Speaker Tape: Lawmaker ‘vile,’ Trump ‘killing us’
AP News – Paul Weber and Clarice Silber | Published: 10/15/2019

A secretly recorded audio tape of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen seeking help to oust members of his own Republican Party and profanely disparaging a Democratic House member, along with and other political scheming, has thrown the GOP-controlled Legislature into disarray at a fragile moment when their majority is at stake. The tape has uncorked the biggest political scandal in the state in years. Democrats filed a lawsuit accusing Bonnen of breaking campaign finance laws during the meeting with the head of a conservative group called Empower Texans, which has spent lavishly in pursuit of pulling the Legislature far to the right on issues such as abortion and guns. State investigators responsible for looking into allegations of corruption by public officials have also opened a case.

Virginia A Virginia Beach Republican Says Democrats Gave His Campaign $44,000. Here’s What’s Going On.
The Virginian-Pilot – Marie Albiges | Published: 10/16/2019

A Republican delegate trying to hold onto his Virginia House seat says his Democratic opponent’s attack mailers have actually benefited his campaign, so much so that he is reporting them as a $44,000 in-kind contribution in official records submitted to the state. Davis said he feels a “legal obligation” to report the donation. The stunt in reality is a creative way to frame what is shaping up to be a close race as Democrats try to flip enough seats to seize control of the General Assembly, said Robin Cooperman, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s political theater, to be sure,” Cooperman said.

Wyoming Wyoming Utility Regulator Copied, Sent Coal Lobby Letter
WyoFile.com – Andrew Graham | Published: 10/15/2019

The Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC), in concert with five equivalent bodies from other states, recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate an inquiry that could subsidize coal plants in the name of electrical grid reliability. The letter of request appears to have been drafted, in part, by a coal industry lobbying group and passed through by the PSC. Emails obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute through a public records request show three paragraphs of PSC Chairperson Karen Forstrom’s letter match a model letter a representative of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity provided to West Virginia public service commissioners on July 30.

July 13, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge

Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun

Ohio: “Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations” by Tom Troy for Toledo Blade

Ethics

National: “Trump Commutes Sentence of Confidant Roger Stone Who Was Convicted of Lying to Congress and Witness Tampering” by Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Toluse Olorunnipa for Washington Post

Canada: “PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events” by Rachel Gilmore for CTV

Florida: “Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal” by Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon for Politico

Lobbying

National: “States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook” by Associated Press for KJZZ

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July 10, 2020 •

Alabama Ethics Commission Challenges Circuit Court’s Public Employee Ruling

Birmingham International Airport

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders. The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act. The Ethics […]

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders.

The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act.

The Ethics Commission has proposed rather than looking to whether someone is paid through taxpayer contributions, the standard should be whether their salaries were paid out of revenue from negotiated “commercial arms-length” transactions.

The Birmingham Airport Authority has filed a response arguing the commission’s new standard inconsistent with the facts of the case.

Joining them in opposition, the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute has also filed a brief arguing this new standard.

The institute argues the standard would create a burden on public corporations and their employees.

Therefore, this would cause an attempt to untie a tangled knot of revenue and determine the status of each employee.

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July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 9, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Elections National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New […]

Elections

Elections

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New York Times) for Boston Globe

Wisconsin: “Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings” by Todd Richmond for AP News

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski for Washington Post

California: “Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Ohio: “Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave” by Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade

Pennsylvania: “Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban” by Kathleen Carey for Delaware County Times

Lobbying

Arizona: “Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror

 

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July 8, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature to Hold Another Special Session Beginning July 13

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

Gov Tim Walz, with Lt Gov Peggy Flanagan - by Lorie Shaull

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13. Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that […]

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13.

Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that other issues should get top billing.

Walz is obligated by law to call a special session for the Legislature to approve the emergency declaration.

The Senate tried to revoke the governor’s executive power during the first special session ending June 19.

However, the attempt failed because it requires the vote of both chambers.

In the first special session, no deals were reached on legislation both parties said was necessary and everything will be on the agenda again.

The Legislature will determine the length of the session.

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July 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]

Elections

National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico

National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call

Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post

National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN

Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN

Lobbying

California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times

Redistricting

Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com

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July 7, 2020 •

Lobbyist Registration and Reporting Not Required During Nevada Special Session

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_R._Thompson_Center,_Chicago,_Illinois_(9179428785).jpg

The James R. Thompson Center - Ken Lund

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session. To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during […]

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau sent a notice stating the requirements for registration and reporting of lobbyist activities will not be applicable to the upcoming special session.

To prevent potential spread of the coronavirus, access to the legislative building during the special session will be limited to legislators, essential staff and a small press pool.

The Legislature’s website and YouTube channel will both host livestreams of all floor sessions and committee meetings.

In addition, the teleconference system will allow individuals to call in to participate in the legislative process.

The Legislators will receive written comments made available through submission by email, fax and mail.

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July 7, 2020 •

City of Oakland Launches Online Lobbyist Registration, Reporting System

Oakland, California

Oakland, California - by James BeBop

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System. This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online. It is […]

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has launched the OAKAPPS Lobbyist Registration and Reporting System.

This system allows users to register as an Oakland lobbyist, maintain a client list, enter lobbyist activity, draft disclosure reports, and submit them online.

It is available at https://apps.oaklandca.gov/OakApps/OakApps.aspx.

In order to use the system, a user name and password is needed.

For questions about using this new system, please contact the Oakland Public Ethics Commission at ethicscommission@oaklandca.gov or 510-238-3593.

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