October 2, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 2, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Amy Coney Barrett, a Disciple of Justice Scalia, Is Poised to Push the Supreme Court Further Right
Washington Post – Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg, and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/26/2020

The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.

Courts View GOP Fraud Claims Skeptically as Democrats Score Key Legal Victories Over Mail Voting
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020

A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against ensuring votes cast by mail are counted and protecting the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view, refuted by experts, that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election. Some of the wins have been preliminary. In many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans. But The Post found judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud.

Ethics Watchdog Seeks Stronger Powers to Police Rules Covering Public Officials
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 9/30/2020

Ireland’s ethics watchdog said she hopes the government will strengthen its powers to police “revolving-door” rules in a review announced in the wake of controversy regarding former minister Michael D’Arcy’s move to the private sector. The new powers would include the right to seize documents and compel testimony from people suspected of breaching the rules, which stipulate a 12-month waiting period before former ministers or senior officials join the private sector. Sherry Perrault, head of ethics and regulation at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said she welcomed the announcement of a review of the post-employment provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act.

False G.O.P. Ad Prompts QAnon Death Threats Against a Democratic Congressman
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 9/30/2020

U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski is facing down death threats from QAnon supporters after the House Republicans’ campaign arm falsely accused him of lobbying to protect sexual predators. QAnon supporters began targeting Malinowski after he led a bipartisan resolution condemning the movement, which spreads a baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. QAnon believers seized on an advertisement released by the campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, that falsely claimed Malinowski, then a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, worked to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.

Florida Republican Cooperating with Campaign Finance Probe
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/24/2020

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is accused of spending at least $50,000 in campaign money on vacations and restaurant and luxury hotel bills. The department’s Public Integrity Section is looking into the expenditures, which includes a 2017 trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren, rooms at a Ritz-Carlton resort, and a New Year’s Eve meal at a high-end seafood restaurant.

Judges Propose Making Disclosure of Their Personal Details a Crime
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/24/2020

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, has drawn widespread attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group. Judge Barbara Lagoa is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Those details, easily found in numerous news stories about the potential Supreme Court nominees, could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress. Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.

Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance
New York Times – Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire | Published: 9/27/2020

Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, largely because he reported losing much more money than he made. As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the IRS over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed and received after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million. The tax returns Trump has fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.

Michael Flynn Judge Emphasizes He Is Not a ‘Rubber Stamp’ in Justice Dept. Bid to Drop Prosecution
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow | Published: 9/29/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan began scrutinizing the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. Sullivan emphasized his role is not to serve as a “rubber stamp” when it comes to reviewing Attorney General William Barr’s questionable request to toss the prosecution of the highest-ranking Trump adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The climactic confrontation could help define the limits of executive- and judicial-branch powers and promises to provide legal and political drama before an election in which Flynn’s contentious prosecution has electrified Trump’s supporters and opponents.

Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters | Published: 9/27/2020

The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grassroots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds, and Senate inboxes. If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending, and potentially much more, and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign.

Ransomware Attacks Take on New Urgency Ahead of Vote
MSN – Nicole Perloth and David Sanger (New York Times) | Published: 9/27/2020

A company that sells software cities and states use to display results on election night was hit by ransomware, the latest of nearly a thousand such attacks over the past year against small towns, big cities, and the contractors who run their voting systems. Many of the attacks are conducted by Russian criminal groups, some with shady ties to President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services. While Tyler Technologies does not tally votes, it is used by election officials to aggregate and report them in at least 20 places around the country, making it exactly the kind of soft target the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and United States Cyber Command worry could be struck by anyone trying to sow chaos and uncertainty on election night.

Some Democrats Worry Millions Flowing from Super PACs Prioritize White Swing Voters Over Minorities
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/25/2020

Some Democratic strategists are raising the alarm about the millions of dollars being spent by super PACs in support of Joe Biden, saying too much is being spent on White swing voters while not enough is being devoted to driving up turnout among voters of color. The complaints are perennial, but they carry new resonance this year, as Biden has struggled to inspire enthusiasm among young Black voters and Latinos. The Democratic concerns come a more than $150 million has already been spent by the main super PACs supporting Biden, some of which have made it part of their strategy to win back supporters of former President Barack Obama who pivoted in 2016 to Trump.

Trump Incessantly Interrupts and Insults Biden as They Spar in Acrimonious First Debate
Washington Post – Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Annie Linskey | Published: 9/30/2020

The presidential campaign devolved into chaos and acrimony as President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted Democratic nominee Joe Biden while the two sparred over the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, and race relations in their first debate. The most anticipated event on the fall campaign calendar was an uncontrollable spectacle of badgering and browbeating, of raised voices and hot tempers. Trump;s interjections and jeers, some of them false and made in an apparent effort to fluster Biden, landed with such ferocity that moderator Chris Wallace pleaded multiple times with the president to follow the agreed-upon debate rules.

Trump’s Debts and Foreign Deals Pose Security Risks, Former Intelligence Officials Say
MSN – Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2020

Former intelligence officials and security experts said revelations about President Trump’s tax records raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests. The records show Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington, D.C. hotel and other properties; and despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due. Trump faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis. As a result, officials and experts said Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Abruptly Ousts Top Political Consultant Scott Reed, Alleging Leaks
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/29/2020

Scott Reed, the veteran Republican political consultant, was fired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the organization’s political director amid allegations he leaked confidential information. Reed helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade. The chamber’s spending on congressional races has for years eclipsed those of other business trade associations. In addition to donations to candidates, the chamber has a national grassroots organizing effort engaging local business leaders.

When Your Job Is to Make Sure Nov. 3 Isn’t a Disaster
New York Times – Dionne Searcey | Published: 9/30/2020

Secretaries of state, who serve as the top elections officials in most states in what is usually a partisan elected position, are in charge of managing a chaotic, disinformation-prone, pandemic-plagued presidential vote that none of them envisioned when they took office. That a sitting president has become  the chief sower of distrust in the election process has added new levels of exasperation for the officials whose days have already been spent rushing from top-secret briefings on thwarting Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns to making sure enough hand sanitizer is available at hundreds of polling places.

Women Rise on K Street – Slowly
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/28/2020

Lobbying firms and corporate government relations offices with strong female representation have existed over time, though they are rare. Today, more women are rising in the ranks or opening their own shops to slowly balance the playing field. Lobbying is a typical next step for lawmakers after leaving Congress. But men dominate the pool of former members who have moved to K Street. Of The Hill’s top lobbyists of 2019 list, about one-third of the corporate lobbyists recognized are women.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Mining Executive Resigns a Day After Being Caught on Tape Boasting of His Ties to GOP Politicians
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin | Published: 9/25/2020

Mining executive Tom Collier, who boasted in secretly taped conversations he had leveraged his ties to Republican officials to advance a controversial project in Alaska, resigned. Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, offered his resignation a day after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released recordings of Zoom calls in which he talked of currying favor with the White House and Alaska lawmakers to win federal approval for a massive gold and copper mine. Speaking to EIA investigators, who were posing as possible investors in the project, he touted his effort to funnel money to Republican politicians in Alaska and defeat those who sided with Democrats against the mine.

Arizona Court Reopens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in Arizona Political Races
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/29/2020

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the state Legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the IRS has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates. That change overturned the ability of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised PAC, which disclose donors. The ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their candidates without disclosure, among other provisions.

California California NAACP President Aids Corporate Prop Campaigns – Collects $1.2 Million and Counting
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 9/25/2020

As leader of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman has weighed in with positions in the ballot handbook critics say run counter to the historic  organization’s mission to advance racial equality. What the guide does not tell voters is Huffman’s political consulting firm has been paid more than $1.2 million so far this year by ballot measure campaigns she or the group has endorsed. Huffman’s dual roles as both a paid campaign consultant and leader of a civil rights group amount to an unusual, but legal, arrangement. Huffman’s approach – making money from the campaigns that also wind up with an NAACP seal of approval – is stirring controversy in some Black communities. Critics say it appears the endorsement of the renowned organization is essentially up for sale.

California Porter Ranch Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in LA City Hall Bribery Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 9/30/2020

Lobbyist and former Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman pleaded guilty to conspiring with now-suspended Councilperson Jose Huizar in a bribery scheme. Goldman was a lobbyist for a company which had a pending development project in the city’s Arts District. He and others established two PACs, one of which purportedly supported a variety of causes but actually was created to primarily benefit the city council campaign of a relative of Huizar’s who was planning to run for his council seat. Goldman admitted he agreed with Huizar and an executive at the company that the developer would contribute $50,000 to a PAC established to support the relative’s campaign. In exchange, Huizar would vote against a union appeal of the company’s project in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired at the time.

Florida Felon Voting: Forcing fees to be paid not an issue for some wealthy felons
Palm Beach Post – John Pacenti | Published: 9/29/2020

Republicans have called for a criminal investigation into vote-buying after a $16 million contribution from New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay legal financial obligations of felons. The state indicated it does not have the wherewithal to verify felons who register have actually paid their obligations by the general election on November 3. While a federal judge in Tallahassee found Gov. Ron DeSantis’ financial requirement for felons was unconstitutional, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the governor, saying they were part of completing any prison sentence. “This disproportionately impacts the poor and keeps them disenfranchised, but if you are wealthy, you re-enfranchised,” said Michael Barfield, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Florida JEA Bidder Florida Power and Light Discussed Donating to Charities Led by City Council Members
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 9/29/2020

A month after JEA announced last July it would soon be for sale, Florida Power and Light (FPL) executives held a meeting with the lobbyists helping with the politics of the company’s effort to buy the city-owned utility. Among the assignments the lobbyists received at the meeting: find charities with close ties to Jacksonville City Council members, who would have to vote on any deal to sell JEA. FPL’s game plan included a “charitable giving” component, according to documents obtained by a council committee investigating the failed sale. The documents provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how FPL planned to use its financial muscle to strengthen its bid to buy JEA and win community support by financially supporting high-profile events, educational institutions, and nonprofits tied to public officials.

Georgia Choudhary Sentenced to Jail for Bribing Atlanta Official to Win Airport Contract
Rome News-Tribune – Everett Catts | Published: 9/29/2020

As part of the federal government’s corruption investigation of Atlanta, a businessperson was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for bribing a city official to secure a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hayat Choudhary, chief executive officer of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services, paid $20,000 in cash to a Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the airport.

Illinois 3 Ethics Board Exits Later, Cook County Commissioners Unveil First Draft of Ethics Code Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/24/2020

After a nine-month lag in the Cook County ethics board’s plan to revise the ethics ordinance, as well as three member exits, the Board of Commissioners unveiled a bundle of proposed reforms that mostly won the approval of two ousted ethics board chairpersons. The changes are based on revisions the ethics board voted in favor of in January despite objection from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office that more time was needed to examine the language. Since then, two members reluctantly left after Preckwinkle opted not to reappoint them, and a third resigned in protest.

Illinois Former ComEd VP Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Feds in Bribery Case Orbiting House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/29/2020

Fidel Marquez, the former senior vice president of governmental affairs at Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the first criminal conviction in an ongoing corruption investigation in Illinois. ComEd has been charged with bribery and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. It will pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years. The plea agreement says Marquez conspired with others to solicit jobs, contracts, and monetary payments for House Speaker Michael Madigan and his associates to influence legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Illinois Legislative Hearings into Madigan Reveal New Details About the ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold | Published: 9/29/2020

Lawyers representing Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) told a legislative panel how the utility repeatedly engaged in bribery to influence Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The committee weighing potential misconduct charges against the speaker heard the most public airing so far about the lengths ComEd went to curry favor with Madigan, including revelations the scheme was wider than previously disclosed. The company has admitted to showering no-work contracts on members of Madigan’s political team and even putting one ally on the company’s board to illegally bolster its standing with the speaker.

Illinois Top Lightfoot Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs to Marry Chicag Alderman, Raising Ethical Concerns from City Staff
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt and John Byrne | Published: 9/26/2020

A top legislative adviser to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is marrying Ald. Jim Gardiner, raising concerns from some of the mayor’s staff about the ethical implications of the relationship. Lightfoot’s senior adviser for legislative counsel and government affairs, Samantha Fields, has been dating Gardiner for months and they plan to get married in October. Chicago Board of Ethics Executive Director Steve Berlin said city employees and officials are only prohibited from supervising a spouse.

Indiana Indiana Casino Executive Charged in Illegal Campaign Scheme
Associated Press News – John Davies | Published: 9/29/2020

A top executive of an Indiana casino company that is building a $400 million casino in Gary was indicted on federal charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to a former state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign. The indictment charges Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler and former Indiana Sen. Brent Waltz with taking part in a scheme to direct more than $25,000 in illegal corporate contributions through straw donors to Waltz’s 2016 campaign.

Maryland HUD Inspectors Find Ben Carson’s Actions Didn’t Benefit Son in Baltimore Deals, but Had the ‘Appearance’ of Ethical Issues
Baltimore Sun – Meredith Cohen | Published: 9/29/2020

The inspector general’s office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs ((HUD) released an investigative report that found no evidence HUD Secretary Ben Carson used his position to benefit his son’s business interests in Baltimore, but he “could have done more to avoid the appearance that he was not complying with federal ethics regulations.” The investigation stems largely from a 2017 “listening tour” in the city by Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The report said the inspector general’s office received “multiple complaints” the HUD secretary allowed his son to invite companies and individuals to participate in the tour to advance his own financial interests.

Massachusetts Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Returns to Beacon Hill as Lobbyist
MSN – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/24/2020

When Stanley Rosenberg left Beacon Hill in the spring of 2018 under less than desirable circumstances, no one could say for sure if or when he might resurface after a career spent in public service. But Rosenberg, who once ascended the political platform in Massachusetts to become the first openly gay and Jewish president of the Senate, is back, and in a position that he never imagined for himself. He is a lobbyist. He resigned more than two years ago after an investigation into the activities of his husband, Bryon Hefner, including allegations he sexually assaulted four men. While the Ethics Committee did not find Rosenberg violated any Senate rules or allowed Hefner to influence Senate business, the committee recommended barring Rosenberg from any leadership positions or committee chairs for one term.

Missouri Voters See ‘Unfair’ Ballot Language on Cleaner Missouri in Two Counties
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 9/24/2020

Voters in at least two Missouri counties got absentee ballots recently with a key error. Clerks in Buchanan and Vernon counties had ballots with the wrong language describing Amendment 3, which asks voters to reverse changes they made to the state’s redistricting process two years ago. Two courts threw out language written by the Legislature as unfair and rewrote it in August. But Buchanan County Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey and Vernon County Clerk Mike Buehler said their ballots were mistakenly printed with the old language, prompting them to request reprinting with the correct language.

New York Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump Effort to Block Release of Financial Info
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/25/2020

President Trump’s drive to block Manhattan prosecutors from accessing a large swath of his tax and financial records got a chilly reception from a federal appeals court. Three judges on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals repeatedly questioned Trump attorney William Consovoy’s claim that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s grand jury subpoena for Trump’s records was “overbroad” and issued in retaliation for the Trump organization’s resistance to an earlier demand for Trump’s tax returns. Rather, they said, it was Consovoy who seemed to be misconstruing long-settled understandings about how grand jury subpoenas and investigations work.

New York City Council Ethics Committee Moves to Expel Bronx Councilmember Andy King
Gothamist – David Cruz | Published: 9/29/2020

The New York City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics took the rare step of recommending expelling Councilperson Andy King following another lengthy investigation into allegations of inappropriate comments, taking bribes, and skirting a $15,000 fine from another prior investigation. The committee determined King asked for a $2,000 kickback from a staffer, and ignored a previously issued $15,000 penalty for a 2019 inquiry that resulted in a 30-day suspension and an office monitor. He has yet to pay for the fine despite being offered a payment plan. The committee also substantiated a harassment claim against King, which alleged he made inappropriate comments to a female staffer in September 2017.

Ohio Ohio Republican Party Pulls Attack Ad After Realizing It Attacked the Wrong Person
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/28/2020

The Ohio Republican Party pulled an ad that falsely attacked state Rep. Phil Robinson for being sued over an unpaid debt from 1999. Along with a picture of Robinson, the ad read, “Phil Robinson can’t manage his own finances …. Can we trust him with ours?” It included a link to a website that has since been taken down. But the site showed information about a 1999 case filed in Cleveland Municipal Court against someone named Phil Robinson. It was a different Phil Robinson.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Republicans Ask Supreme Court to Stop Voting Accommodations
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 9/28/2020

Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a decision by the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Democrats’ favor on a number of mail-voting rules: permitting voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to using the U.S. Postal Service; allowing ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day; and blocking a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.

Rhode Island Judge Upholds R.I. Campaign Finance Law; Conservative Groups Appeal
Providence Journal – Patrick Anderson | Published: 9/29/2020

A federal judge rejected a bid to invalidate a portion of Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws, but conservative groups seeking to launch anonymous political campaigns have filed an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Mary McElroy dismissed a lawsuit that argued the state’s disclosure laws for independent campaign expenditures are unconstitutional. Under Rhode Island law, any person or organization spending $1,000 or more to benefit a candidate or an outcome in a ballot referendum must disclose it to the Board of Elections, even if they are not coordinated with a campaign. The plaintiffs argued that donors, businesses, and organizations should be afforded a “safe space” to engage in political speech without fear their actions will face pushback, as long as it is not coordinated with individual candidates.

Tennessee Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Violated Open Meetings Act with Secret Vote
The Tennessean – Mariah Timms | Published: 9/25/2020

A judge ruled the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance violated open meetings law when it voted by email to reduce a state lawmaker’s fines in April. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the state’s argument the vote was inconsequential and therefore unnecessary to be taken in public. The secret vote involved a settlement of penalties that could have kept Rep. Joe Towns from being eligible to run for office on the eve of the eligibility deadline. Towns faced more than $66,000 in penalties owed to the registry and the state Ethics Commission for failing to file certain documents.

Washington Freed Agrees to Civil Penalty to Resolve Campaign Finance, Reporting Violations
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 9/25/2020

A former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current write-in candidate for lieutenant governor agreed to a civil penalty with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Joshua Freed’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan he made to the campaign, which violated a $6,000 repayment limit. He agreed to a $50,000 penalty, with half of it suspended as long as he does not have further violations.

West Virginia Legislators Raise Concerns Over Lack of Oversight on Governor’s Grant Awards
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 9/30/2020

Legislative leadership is abdicating its appropriations powers by allowing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to award more than $20 million to date in CARES Act Small Business Grants without oversight, said Mick Bates, minority chairperson of the House Finance Committee. Since July, Justice has handed out more than 4,000 grants, most for $5,000, but some $2,000 grants to sole proprietors, out of $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act pandemic relief funds the state received. Some of those grants have drawn scrutiny, including $5,000 grants Justice awarded to VIP Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Martinsburg, and to legislative lobbyist Larry Puccio, who clientele includes Justice’s Greenbrier resort.

Wisconsin Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension
Associated Press News – Todd Richmond | Published: 9/27/2020

A federal appeals court temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Trump in the key battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by eight p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until November 9. Democrats sought more time to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots.

October 30, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 30, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020 After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump […]

National/Federal

Administration Plans to Nominate Bipartisan Pair to Hobbled FEC
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/28/2020

After leaving so many vacancies at the FEC that it could not hold meetings for most of the 2020 campaign cycle, the Trump administration said it planned to nominate a bipartisan pair to the hobbled agency. President Donald Trump’s picks are Republican Sean Cooksey, who serves as general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley, and Shana Broussard, who currently serves as counsel to FEC member Steven Walther. Broussard, if confirmed, would be the first Black commissioner in the agency’s 45-year history.

Ballrooms, Candles and Luxury Cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020

Since his first month in office, President Trump has used his power to direct millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and from his political supporters, into his own businesses. The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He has visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency. Documents show visits by Trump, his family, and his supporters have turned the government and the Republican Party into regular customers for the family business. In the case of the government, Trump’s visits turned it into a captive customer. What the government needed from Trump’s properties, it had to buy from Trump’s company.

Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020

Texas is one of five red states that emerged as conspicuous holdouts this year as the rest of the country rushed to loosen voting rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the roughly 30 million registered voters who live there, and in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have no choice but to cast ballots in person this fall, even as the rate of coronavirus in the U.S. approaches its third peak. The situation underscores how the nation’s decentralized election systems and Republican opposition to mail voting this year are translating into vastly different voting experiences for Americans, depending on where they live. Legal challenges to the voting limits have foundered in some courts, rejected by a federal judiciary that has shifted rightward under President Trump.

COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/21/2020

Negotiations over the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis have fueled the lobbying sector this year, as K Street firms and corporate representatives now turn their attention to the coming tumult after the November elections. Some of the nation’s biggest spenders on federal lobbying, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Facebook, and Amazon, reported shelling out more money on influence campaigns so far this year than they did during the first three quarters of 2019. The biggest lobbying firms, such as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, also reported increasing revenue this year.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina Claim Key Wins at Supreme Court Ahead of Election
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

Democrats won two significant U.S. Supreme Court victories involving voting deadlines in key battleground states, as the justices allowed extended periods for receiving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They declined to disturb decisions that allow Pennsylvania officials to receive ballots cast by Election Day and received within three days, and a ruling by North Carolina’s elections board that set a grace period of nine days. In both cases, the Republican Party and GOP legislators had opposed the extensions, and President Trump has railed on the campaign trail about the mail-in vote.

Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads
Politico – Mark Scott | Published: 10/23/2020

Facebook told researchers at New York University (NYU) to stop using a digital tool that tracks how people are targeted with political ads ahead of the November 3 election. The demand centers on the academics’ use of a web browser plug-in that gives Facebook users a way to share specific political ads they are seeing on the site. Political advertisers primarily target their ads to specific demographic groups, so the NYU tool, which collects roughly 16,000 ads each week, allows researchers to see how campaigns and other groups are crafting messages to voters based on race, age, location, or other criteria.

Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension
MSN – Mark Berman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2020

As tensions mount ahead of Election Day, a legal battle in Michigan is highlighting fears some officials and civil rights groups have about what will happen when people show up at polling sites with guns – which is legal in numerous jurisdictions across the U.S. Many Americans will be able to show up at their polling locations with guns, something that has unnerved law enforcement officials and experts nationwide at time of anxiety over whether clashes or violence could break out before, on, or after Election Day. Gun rights supporters argue law-abiding gun owners should be able to continue carrying their weapons where doing so is allowed. Exactly where that is allowed varies widely, echoing the way the country’s election processes vary from state to state.

How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’
Anchorage Daily News – Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2020

In the closing weeks of the 2016 election, Donald Trump led cheering supporters in chants of “drain the swamp,” promising he would completely disrupt the culture of Washington, D.C. He warned of the power of lobbyists and political donors who he said effectively bought off elected officials. He told voters he was uniquely prepared to take on the issue, because he knew personally as a donor how the system worked. But during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government.

In Campaign’s Closing Days, Disinformation Arrives Via Text Message and Email
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

A video sent to voters falsely claimed Joe Biden wants to give “sex changes to second-graders.” A menacing directive advised Democrats to vote for Trump “or else.” And a years-old photograph newly circulated with erroneous instructions for how to blow past a purported poll watcher on Election Day. These deceptive, 11th-hour messages are not finding their way to Americans via the now well-trodden paths of Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they are arriving in waves of text messages and emails, making use of a more intimate and less heavily scrutinized vector of disinformation than the social networking services manipulated four years ago as part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever
Washington Post – Carol Morello | Published: 10/22/2020

If legal controversy engulfs the 2020 elections, state Supreme Courts may be thrust into the prominent role of referee for the presidential race for the first time in two decades, placing new focus on judicial appointees that have increasingly shown partisan leanings. The Brennan Center found more than $500 million has been poured into state Supreme Court elections since 2000, reinventing the one-time “sleepy low-dollar contests,” as Douglas Keith of the Brennan Center put it, into an arena for dark money and political dogfights. And while both sides of the partisan divide have sought to gain an edge in the judicial arms race, conservative groups have prioritized efforts to tip the balance of these crucial courts.

Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/23/2020

The federal judge presiding over the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an unusual review of its filings in the case and certify whether any have been manipulated. The order is a signal of intense distrust between the judge, Emmet Sullivan, and the DOJ, whose filings are typically accepted at face value. In this case, the DOJ has acknowledged two documents it previously filed – handwritten notes taken by former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – were altered “inadvertently” to include inaccurate dates. Sullivan’s demand will force the DOJ to confront tricky interpretations of handwritten notes that the department and Flynn’s legal team have relied on to seek the dismissal of the prosecution.

Judge Rejects Justice Dept. Bid to Short Circuit Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Trump of Rape
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs | Published: 10/27/2020

A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her several years ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote Trump did not qualify as an “employee” under federal law, nor was he acting “within the scope of his employment” when he denied during interviews that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll sued Trump over that denial. The Justice Department argued Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he disputed Carroll’s allegations.

Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/23/2020

The lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs scrapped its $1 million contract Turkish government following a pressure campaign by Armenian-American activists incensed by Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in ongoing hostilities with Armenia. The effort recalls the push to convince K Street firms representing Saudi Arabia’s government to cut ties with the kingdom in 2018 after Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Washington Post, where Khashoggi had been a contributing opinion writer, threatened to bar two lobbyists from writing columns for the paper unless their firms stopped working for Saudi Arabia. The pressure ultimately led five lobbying firms to sever ties with the kingdom.

Miles Taylor Revealed as ‘Anonymous’ Writer of Insider Warnings About Trump
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

Miles Taylor, the ex-chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security who has spent the past two months building a case against reelecting President Trump, revealed himself to be the presidential critic from inside the administration known only as “Anonymous.” Taylor, who served in the administration for two years, wrote in a post revealing his identity that his criticisms of Trump were “widely held among officials at the highest levels of the federal government. In other words, Trump’s own lieutenants were alarmed by his instability.” Using the nom de plume, Taylor first wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2018 purporting to be among a group of people inside the administration working to protect the country from the president’s worst instincts.

Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote
ABC News – Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman | Published: 10/22/2020

As the eyes of the world focus on the U.S. election, teams of international observers are heading out across the United States amid concerns about the vote’s integrity. For the ninth time, observers affiliated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have come to the United States to watch over an election and recommend improvements, a mission little-noticed by most Americans. But the 2020 campaign is different. As fears rise about voter suppression, violence, and a potentially contested outcome, the Europeans say they hope their efforts will help assure Americans the vote is legitimate.

Trump’s Attacks on Political Adversaries Are Often Followed by Threats to Their Safety
MSN – Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2020

The CIA’s Security Protective Service monitors thousands of threats to public officials across social media and Internet chat rooms. Over time, a pattern has emerged: violent messages surged each time the analyst was targeted in tweets or public remarks by President Trump. Targets encompass nearly every category of government service: mayors, governors, and members of Congress, as well as officials Trump has turned against within his own administration. The dynamic appears to be without precedent – government agencies taking extraordinary measures to protect their people from strains of hostility stoked by a sitting president.

Twitter Launches ‘Pre-Bunks’ to Get Ahead of Voting Misinformation
NBC News – David Ingram | Published: 10/28/2020

Twitter said it would begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results, an escalation of the company’s battle against misinformation. Twitter is calling the messages a “pre-bunk,” something it says it has never done, because the debunking is not a reaction to an existing tweet with misinformation. Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are racing to make last-minute changes to prepare their services for an expected rise in misinformation, election interference or even civil unrest as officials prepare to begin counting votes November 3.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a state-ordered ban on curbside voting in Alabama, despite claims from disabled and at-risk voters that making them vote inside polling places puts them in danger of contracting the coronavirus. The justices stayed a lower-court injunction that lifted the prohibition on drive-through voting that was issued by Alabama’s secretary of state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that allowing curbside voting was a “modest” accommodation to those at greatest risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19.

Arizona Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings
Arizona Republic – Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez | Published: 10/24/2020

Among the dozens of donors listed as contributing to Tim Seay’s campaign for Phoenix mayor is Marvin Cox, a former fire chief in Maywood, Illinois. Cox is listed as contributing $5,000 on July 3. But he died more than a year earlier, in May 2019. His is one of several contributions on Seay’s campaign finance reports that raise questions, including others that came from people who said had not donated to his campaign. In an email, Seay said generally he knows he has “made some mistakes” on his campaign finance reports. He said that was due to his lack of experience as a candidate and inability to find an experienced campaign manager.

Arizona Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List
Associated Press News – Bob Christie | Published: 10/23/2020

Democratic leaders of the Arizona Legislature say two of five independents chosen by a judicial panel as potential chairpersons of a commission that will redraw political district boundaries next year are not legally eligible for the post. They want the nominees replaced with qualified people. The lawsuit alleges utility company executive and attorney Thomas Loquvam is not qualified because he is registered as a lobbyist. They also are challenging Robert Wilson, a gun store owner who is registered as an independent but has held rallies for President Trump and other Republicans. They say that shows he is not truly an independent as the constitution requires.

California Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App
Politico – Katy Murphy | Published: 10/26/2020

Rideshare and delivery companies are not only spending record sums, they are wielding their own platforms and using customer data to win on Proposition 22, a November ballot measure that would exempt some gig companies from a California law that classifies many freelance workers as full-time employees. The moves by Uber, Lyft, and others show what is possible, technologists and legal experts say, when tech companies brush past norms and consumer expectations, leveraging their influence and everything they know about the public for their political advantage. Given how much data is stored on their servers, data privacy experts fear the companies themselves could influence the electorate when they face an existential threat like the gig companies do in California.

California SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Lindsay Holden | Published: 10/21/2020

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors directed staff members to prepare an ordinance to cap political donations at $25,000 per person, an amount that is five times the statewide limit that will go into effect next year. Assembly Bill 571 will limit campaign contributions at $4,700 starting in January 2021 in all cities and counties that do not already have their own election finance laws.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition – Jeffrey Roberts | Published: 10/27/2020

Neither the Colorado Open Records Act nor the Open Meetings Law applies to the constitutionally created state commission that investigates allegations of ethical misconduct involving public officials, the state Court of Appeals ruled. Rejecting the Glendale mayor’s argument that a District Court has jurisdiction to review the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s denial of his records requests, a three-judge appellate panel determined the commission is not a state agency or public body subject to the open-government laws.

Colorado Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund
Westworld – Connor McCormick-Cavanagh | Published: 10/26/2020

The Denver City Council voted against pulling money from a municipal campaign finance fund and putting it toward other priorities in the 2021 budget. Denver voters passed a measure creating the Fair Elections Fund, which began collecting an annual allocation of approximately $2 million from the city budget starting in 2020. The fund can hold no more than $8 million per election cycle; candidates will have access to it for the first time during the 2023 Denver municipal elections. During the comment period, many speakers talked about the importance of the fund to encourage grassroots candidacies.

Connecticut FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up
Connecticut Mirror – Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) | Published: 10/21/2020

Then-New Haven Mayor Toni Harp walked out of Jack’s Steakhouse in 20109 with an envelope filled with thousands of dollars of cash handed to her by an accused money launderer. A city contract followed and a federal grand jury investigation. But it is unclear who was up to what. Harp had dinner that night with her top aide, Andrea Scott; city Controller Daryl Jones; and entrepreneur Derek Bluford, who is under federal indictment for financial fraud and was looking for a way to lessen his prison sentence. The group had been discussing a contract Bluford wanted the city to give a company with which he was involved. And they discussed his help in raising money for Harp’s reelection campaign. Bluford handed Harp an envelope as they left. Harp and Scott said they did not open the envelope until later, when they were shocked to find $7,000 in cash rather than legitimate individual campaign contribution checks.

Florida A ‘Dark Money’-Funded Ballot Measure in Florida Could Make It Harder to Pass Future Amendments
MSN – Jonah Goldman Kay (Business Insider) | Published: 10/29/2020

In the next election cycle after 2020, Florida voters might not pass any constitutional amendments. If passed, an initiative on the ballot this year, Amendment 4, would require any future amendments to be passed in two consecutive elections. Only one other state, Nevada, has a similar requirement in its constitution. The “Are You Sure” measure was sponsored by Keep Our Constitution Clean, a secretive nonprofit with ties to a major business advocacy organization in Florida. Opponents of the amendment say it is another attempt from the Republican-led Legislature to suppress the vote by making it more difficult to get amendments on the ballot.

Georgia In Georgia, Democrats Target the True Silent Majority: People who don’t vote
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/28/2020

Over 100 million eligible, voting-age Americans did not vote in 2016, more than the number who voted for either presidential candidate. In traditional swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, most observers believe turnout is largely fixed and campaigns succeed based on their ability to persuade a set of voters. But in the new set of battleground states in the South, as well as Arizona, the priority is converting nonvoters into voters. The thinking is that If the Democratic Party can reshape the electorate with new arrivals to the state, well as greater participation from Black residents and immigrants, a red state becomes a blue one. But experts who study nonvoting populations warn the work of changing electorates is hard and complicated. There is no such thing, they say, as an inevitable demographic destiny.

Illinois Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/22/2020

Chicago lobbyist Gyata Kimmons resigned his elected position as a Flossmoor village trustee, citing rules that took effect months ago prohibiting elected officials from lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city departments. The village announced Kimmons’ resignation the same day The Chicago Tribune published a report detailing how after aldermen banned elected officials from lobbying city government, he on two occasions exchanged emails directly with Lightfoot on behalf of UnibailRodamcoWestfield, a real estate company he lobbies City Hall on behalf of tenants at O’Hare International Airport. Kimmons was notified by Chicago that he had to immediately decide between lobbying the city professionally or holding public office.

Illinois Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say
Chicago Sun-Times – Tom Schuba | Published: 10/21/2020

A Cook County commissioner and her chief of staff should be investigated for joining a fledgling marijuana company after serving as state cannabis regulators, government ethics experts said. Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen acknowledged she is working with Americanna Dream, a startup seeking licenses to operate recreational marijuana dispensaries. The Sun-Times has since learned her chief of staff and general counsel, Tara Meyer, is also partnered with the company, which is among 21 finalists. Susan Garrett, chairperson of the Center for Illinois Politics, said there are simply “too many missing pieces to this puzzle” and recommended the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General probe the matter.

New Hampshire Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line
Manchester Union-Leader – Josie Albertson-Grove | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas’ campaign confirmed he is dating a former lobbyist after his opponent brought up the relationship in a debate but said it has had no bearing on his votes. The campaign said Pappas and Vann Bentley are in a relationship. Bentley left a job as a lobbyist for Amazon in August 2019. Members of Congress are not barred from having and are not required to disclose romantic relationships with lobbyists.

New Jersey State Education Department Orders Suspension of Paterson BOE Member
Bergen Record – Joe Malinconio (Paterson Times) | Published: 10/26/2020

The New Jersey Department of Education ordered that Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers be suspended for six months for taking a free trip to an Arizona resort from a company looking for a contract from the district. The company, Woz U, eventually got a contract from Paterson Public Schools for online courses, but never received any payment from the district for its services. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer’s decision largely agrees with a state ethics commission ruling but softened the panel’s suggested penalty. The commission had called for Capers’ removal from office. Prior to the ethics panel decision, an administrative law judge had ruled in Capers’ favor.

Ohio Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees
MSN – Marc Kovac (Columbus Dsipatch) | Published: 10/22/2020

State Attorney General Dave Yost said he would file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission after it was disclosed that former House Speaker Larry Householder used campaign cash to cover legal fees since his July arrest on federal corruption charges. Yost said the spending was illegal and he directed staff in his office to pursue a formal complaint. Householder’s pre-general election campaign finance filing included seven expenditures since July totaling more than $1 million to three law firms. Federal prosecutors allege Householder used “dark money” from FirstEnergy and related entities to support the campaigns of his supporters and block referendum efforts to overturn 2019 nuclear bailout legislation.

Ohio Ohio’s Drop-Box Dispute Shows How Voting Rights Groups and Democrats Fear Trump’s Influence
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2020

An alliance of voting and civil rights groups – noting federal recommendations call for one ballot drop box for every 15,000 to 20,000 voters – sued Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, declaring his decision to limit the boxes to one per county was the definition of voter suppression. At a time when many people do not want to go to the polls due to the pandemic, or do not trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots on time, the groups said drop boxes are vital. The battle in Ohio underscores the fears of Democrats and voting rights advocates about the influence President Trump’s false claims about fraud via mail-in ballots and drop boxes could have over voters’ ability to cast a ballot and the counting of ballots.

Ohio What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians
MSN – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 10/23/2020

Newly released records show what actually happened with mysterious checks that FirstEnergy cut to Ohio politicians shortly before a massive bribery investigation came to light.  Between July 6 and July 16, FirstEnergy’s PAC issued checks worth $158,000 to Ohio Senate, House, and state Supreme Court candidates. But many candidates said they never received that money. FEC reports from the committee now show FirstEnergy canceled $103,000 in checks to 43 Ohio House candidates and state Supreme Court candidates Judi French and Sharon Kennedy on September 17. What happened to the remaining $55,000? FirstEnergy PAC sent that money to 20 Ohio Senate candidates. The checks, issued July 6, were not voided. But only one was cashed for certain.

Oregon Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 10/23/2020

A judge ruled the city auditor must examine a complaint into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 loan to his own re-election campaign. Voters approved strict campaign finance limits in 2018 including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. But City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero decided not to enforce the self-funding portion of the charter, saying it conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would inevitably be struck down by the court. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan ruled the auditor had to follow the rules in the charter and city code and look into the complaint that alleged Wheeler violated campaign finance rules with his loan.

Oregon Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape
Street Roots – Chris May | Published: 10/21/2020

After Oregon’s homebuilders lobby tried, but failed, to block regulations allowing local governments to implement their own wildfire safety standards in new construction, it is now relying on a secret agreement with Gov. Kate Brown to ensure those standards are not mandated statewide in fire-prone regions. Street Roots obtained secretly made recordings of this agreement being discussed at high-level meetings between Portland and Oregon Home Builders Association board members and top lobbyists. The audio provides a rare window into how one of the state’s most influential industries holds sway over critical public policy issues through lobbying, “revolving-doors,” and access to influential lawmakers.

Pennsylvania Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/23/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on a key concern surrounding an avalanche of mailed ballots, prohibiting counties from rejecting them if the voter’s signature on it does not resemble the signature on the voter’s registration form. Republican lawmakers and President Trump’s campaign had argued the law is clear election officials must compare the information on the mail-in ballot envelope, including a voter’s signature, to a voter’s information on file to determine a person’s qualifications to vote. But the justices disagreed, as did a federal judge in a separate case brought earlier the Trump campaign.

Tennessee Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover
The Tennessean – Brett Kelman | Published: 10/26/2020

A lawyer for state Sen. Joey Hensley conceded the politician, a small-town doctor, prescribed opioids to family members and an employee with whom he was in a romantic relationship, in what the state contends is a violation of medical ethics. Attorney David Steed said it was well-intentioned, harmless, and all but unavoidable for Hensley to prescribe to relatives in a small Tennessee town where he is the only available physician. Francine Baca-Chavez, a state attorney prosecuting the case, asked the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to put Hensley on professional probation for three years and require him to attend classes on safe prescribing and medical ethics.

Utah Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations
Salt Lake Tribune – Bryan Schott | Published: 10/27/2020

Burgess Owens, the Republican nominee in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District, appears to be at the center of a campaign finance controversy with a week to go until Election Day. Owens’ campaign accepted more than $135,000 in illegal campaign contributions, which is approximately 40 percent of the money he has available for the stretch run to the election. All the donations in question have a notation on the report that the amounts are not permitted, and the campaign is waiting for written directions from the donors about what to do with the cash. FEC rules allow donors to reallocate excessive amounts to another member of the household, or to another election, so long as that person is not also over the limit. The other option is a refund. It is not clear whether the campaign has indeed remedied the disputed donations.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 10/26/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate a court-ordered extension of the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots in Wisconsin, siding with Republicans in a battle over election procedures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The high court brushed aside complaints from Democrats and civil rights groups that enforcing the usual deadline of Election Day could leave thousands of ballots uncounted due to postal service changes and the massive number of voters seeking to vote by mail instead of in person. A District Court judge in Wisconsin issued an order pushing back the state’s due date for mail ballots from the close of polls on Election Day to November 9, as long as they were postmarked by November 3. A three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the lower court’s ruling.

Wyoming Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 10/22/2020

An attorney for a gun rights advocacy group in Wyoming challenged a ruling by the secretary of state to disclose the group’s donors, arguing the ruling is an attempt to stifle political speech after the group was accused of running attack ads against Republican candidates. The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce filed the complaint against Wyoming Gun Owners over ads the group ran in the past year despite not being registered with the secretary of state’s office as required by law. The group must now register with the state and disclose its donors or face a $500 fine. Stephen Klein asked the state elections division to dismiss the complaint, saying there was a lack of documentation that showed the ads were against the law.

Wyoming Wyoming Is Using Dark Money to Help Keep Coal Plants in Other States Open
National Public Radio – Cooper McKim and Andrew Graham | Published: 10/28/2020

After years of lawsuits, the utility Entergy Arkansas agreed to shut down two coal plants. Weeks later, the Arkansas Attorney General and a local coalition called the Arkansas Affordable Energy Coalition intervened, asking a judge to stop the settlement. They argued other fuel sources would be more expensive and less reliable. Emails show the coalition represents more than just coal, gas, and steel businesses in Arkansas. It was created by the nonprofit Energy Policy Network, whose largest donor most years is the state of Wyoming, home to the coal mines that feed the two Arkansas plants slated for shut down. Several ethics experts say this is the first time they have heard of a state using “dark money” in this way. They said it raises questions about state officials backing a group that surreptitiously seeks to impact policy elsewhere.

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October 29, 2020 •

American Samoa Ends Special Session After Passing Funding Gap Appropriations Bill

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

The Senate and House gave final approval to the House version of a bill enacting a temporary funding gap appropriation for the government before ending the special session. The House version of the bill has been enrolled and transmitted to […]

The Senate and House gave final approval to the House version of a bill enacting a temporary funding gap appropriation for the government before ending the special session.

The House version of the bill has been enrolled and transmitted to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for his review and consideration.

The bill also provides consolidated appropriations and temporary funding to continue government operations until action on regular appropriations are completed.

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October 29, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Colorado: “Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund” by Connor McCormick-Cavanagh for Westworld Utah: “Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations” by Bryan Schott for Salt Lake Tribune […]

Campaign Finance

Colorado: “Denver City Council Votes Down Money Transfer from Fair Elections Fund” by Connor McCormick-Cavanagh for Westworld

Utah: “Republican Burgess Owens May Have to Refund Thousands of Dollars in Campaign Donations” by Bryan Schott for Salt Lake Tribune

Wyoming: “Wyoming Is Using Dark Money to Help Keep Coal Plants in Other States Open” by Cooper McKim and Andrew Graham for National Public Radio

Elections

National: “In Campaign’s Closing Days, Disinformation Arrives Via Text Message and Email” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm (Washington Post) for MSN

Georgia: “In Georgia, Democrats Target the True Silent Majority: People who don’t vote” by Astead Herndon for New York Times

Ohio: “Ohio’s Drop-Box Dispute Shows How Voting Rights Groups and Democrats Fear Trump’s Influence” by Michael Kranish (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Political Adversaries Are Often Followed by Threats to Their Safety” by Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Judge Rejects Justice Dept. Bid to Short Circuit Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Trump of Rape” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs for Washington Post

National: “Ballrooms, Candles and Luxury Cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) for MSN

California: “L.A. Council Members Backtrack, Turning Against Request to Help a Hotel Developer” by David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times

New Jersey: “State Education Department Orders Suspension of Paterson BOE Member” by Joe Malinconio (Paterson Times) for Bergen Record

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October 28, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN Elections National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” […]

Campaign Finance

Ohio: “What Actually Happened with FirstEnergy’s $158K Checks to Ohio Politicians” by Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for MSN

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Cases Are Surging Again. These States Have Refused to Loosen Rules on Who Can Vote by Mail.” by Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernandez (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Guns at Voting Sites Emerge as Flash Point in Michigan Amid Nationwide Election Tension” by Mark Berman (Washington Post) for MSN

Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin Ballot Deadline” by Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico

Ethics

National: “Judge Orders Justice Department to Verify Its Filings in Flynn Case” by Kyle Cheney for Politico

Colorado: “Court of Appeals: Colorado ethics commission not subject to CORA or state open meetings law” by Jeffrey Roberts for Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Tennessee: “Tennessee Sen. Joey Hensley Defends Prescribing Opioids to Relatives, Lover” by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean

Lobbying

New Hampshire: “Pappas Confirms Relationship with Ex-Lobbyist, Says Mowers Crossed a Line” by Josie Albertson-Grove for Manchester Union-Leader

Redistricting

Arizona: “Top Democrats Sue Over Arizona Redistricting Panel List” by Bob Christie for Associated Press News

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October 27, 2020 •

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act Introduced to Amend FARA

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol - by Martin Falbisoner

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents. The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical […]

On October 23, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to amend and expand the Foreign Agents Registration Act to compel lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents.

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, introduced as identical bills in both houses of Congress by Rep. Mike Gallagher and Sen. Tom Cotton, would repeal the exemption from registration for persons, acting as agents of a covered Chinese business organization, providing private and nonpolitical representation of trade and commercial interests.

House Bill 8663 and Senate Bill 4843 would also remove the exemption for persons filing disclosure reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 in connection with the representation of business organizations organized under the laws of, or having their principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China. The bill defines a covered Chinese business organization as an entity designated by the Attorney General as subject to the extrajudicial direction of the Chinese Communist Party or an entity organized under the laws of, or having its principal place of business in, the People’s Republic of China (including any subsidiary or affiliate of such an entity).

The legislation would become effective 180 days after enactment.

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October 27, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Dead Contributor Among Questions Raised Over Phoenix Mayor Candidate’s Campaign Filings” by Jen Fifield, Farah Eltohamy, and Jose-Ignacio Castaneda Perez for Arizona Republic

Ohio: “Attorney General Challenges Legality of Householder Using $1M Campaign Cash for Legal Fees” by Marc Kovac (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN

Oregon: “Judge Rules City Must Open Investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan to His Campaign” by Rebecca Ellis for OPB

Elections

National: “Facebook Tries to Block Tool Aimed at Promoting Transparency Around Political Ads” by Mark Scott for Politico

California: “Gig Companies Open the Door to Campaigning by App” by Katy Murphy for Politico

Ethics

Illinois: “Inspector General Should Probe Cook County Commissioner, Chief of Staff Amid Pot Firm Revelations, Ethics Experts Say” by Tom Schuba for Chicago Sun-Times

Lobbying

National: “How Trump Abandoned His Pledge to ‘Drain the Swamp’” by Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

National: “Lobbying Firm Cuts Ties with Turkey Under Pressure” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico

Wyoming: “Wyoming Gun Rights Group Fights Ruling to Disclose Donors” by Staff for Associated Press News

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October 26, 2020 •

American Samoa Governor Calls Additional Special Session

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget. The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 […]

American Samoa lawmakers returned Monday for an additional 15-day special session.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga extended the session with the only issue on the agenda to revisit the final fiscal year 2021 budget.

The governor remains opposed to the $6.5 million in drastic cuts made by the Fono to the budgets for executive branch departments.

The Fono leaders had told the governor in an October 13th letter they are not confident with governor’s revenue projections.

They further urged the governor to act on the final fiscal year 2021 budget bill now in his control.

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October 26, 2020 •

Missouri’s Second Special Session Set for November 5

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly. The session begins November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state. This session is the second special session Parson has called this year. […]

Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session of the General Assembly.

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

This session is the second special session Parson has called this year.

The session does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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