October 25, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 25, 2019

News You Can Use


‘C’est Moi’: Mitt Romney admits to running secret Twitter account under the alias ‘Pierre Delecto’
MSN – Allyson Chiu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2019

For years, Pierre Delecto’s presence on Twitter largely went unnoticed. Operating a bare-bones account with the handle @qaws9876, the user’s limited activity revealed only an interest in politics – namely, supporting Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). So, when “Pierre Delecto” started trending recently on the social media platform, people were understandably confused. But they learned Pierre Delecto was not a bot or a random Romney superfan, but an account run by the senator himself. As Delecto, Romney, who has become one of President Trump’s most vocal GOP critics, used the account to like critical tweets about the president, while also occasionally defending himself against detractors.

Congress Has Long Sought to Bar Foreign Campaign Contributions
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 10/18/2019

In the decades before President Trump asked Ukraine to launch an investigation into his main political rival in the upcoming presidential election, Congress tried again and again to keep foreign nationals out of American elections and government decisions. The lawmakers’ adversaries over the years sound as if they come straight out of Hollywood scripts: the Nazi party in the 1930s, the Philippine sugar industry in the 1960s, a Greek industrialist in the 1970s, an international businessperson turned Chinese government agent in the 1990s. Congress passed laws to ban what they saw as threats to the integrity of elections, foreign policy, and national security. Foreign nationals found loopholes or new ways to contribute to campaigns.

Conservative Political Fundraiser Pleads Guilty to Felony
Center for Public Integrity – Sarah Kleiner | Published: 10/22/2019

One of Washington, D.C.’s most controversial political fundraisers pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FEC. Scott Mackenzie “caused the submission of a number of materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations” to the FEC from 2011 to 2018 on behalf of two PACs: Conservative StrikeForce and Conservative Majority Fund. Mackenzie has for years served as treasurer of more than 50 PACs, about a dozen of which purport to raise money for political and social causes but spend most of the money they raise from donors on fundraising, salaries, and overhead. “… The publicly available evidence shows [Mackenzie] has been at the heart of many of the worst scam PACs …,” said Adav Noti of the Campaign Legal Center.

Contradicting Trump, Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze Before It Became Public
MSN – Andrew Kramer and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2019

To Democrats who say that President Trump’s decision to freeze a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was intended to bully Ukraine’s leader into carrying out investigations for Trump’s political benefit, the president and his allies have had a simple response: There could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know the assistance had been blocked. But in fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times. The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

Facebook Takedowns Show New Russian Activity Targeted Biden, Praised Trump
MSN – Tony Romm and Isaac Baker-Stanley (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2019

Facebook introduced new efforts meant to fine-tune its defenses against disinformation ahead of the presidential election. They seek to remedy some vulnerabilities that malicious actors have tapped in recent months to spread false or misleading posts, photographs, and videos. Facebook also said it removed a network of Russian-backed accounts that posed as locals weighing in on political issues in swing states, praising President Trump and attacking former Vice President Joe Biden, illustrating the familiar threat of Russian interference looms over the next U.S. presidential race. Researchers said the efforts demonstrated how those seeking to interfere in American politics continue to exploit contentious topics, including racial and religious fault lines.

Family Ties Have Troubled Many National Politicians
Newsday – Tom Brune | Published: 10/21/2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden is not the only national politician who has been accused of having a conflict-of-interest involving a family member. He joins a long list that includes some of the nation’s earliest leaders and President Trump. It is a thorny problem, lawyers and experts specializing in government ethics said, as family members find ways to cash in on their ties to politicians’ prominence and power despite attempts to curb that exploitation with laws and federal personnel restrictions. Over the past 50 years, family scandals, many involving siblings, have erupted on presidents, prompting public outcry, investigations, and eventually new laws.

‘Get Over It’: Defiant chief of staff rides out storm over Ukraine remarks
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 10/19/2019

On the day after he made more news than any chief of staff in recent White House history, Mick Mulvaney went about his business as usual. But Mulvaney’s job has been anything but normal since the news conference at which he seemingly undermined the Trump administration’s strategy for avoiding impeachment by acknowledging the president had sought a quid pro quo for providing Ukraine with American aid. In the chaotic aftermath, Trump’s Republican allies are questioning Mulvaney’s savvy and intelligence. As he approaches his anniversary in the White House, Mulvaney finds himself in a strange netherworld.

How a Beltway Power Couple and a Political Newcomer Learned to Thrive in the Trump Era
Houston Chronicle – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/23/2019

When Brad Parscale was looking for advice about how to navigate Washington. D.C. after running the digital strategy for Donald Trump’s upstart presidential campaign in 2016, the political newcomer turned to a Beltway power couple. Katie Walsh and Mike Shields, both former chiefs of staff at the Republican National Committee, advised him on how to make the most of his new perch, he said. Since then, the three have helped each other flourish inside the Republican Party ecosystem, recommending each other’s services to top party officials and candidates. Together, the trio have broad influence across the GOP, drawing millions of dollars from 23 party committees and organizations since the beginning of 2017. Their dominance has alarmed other GOP strategists, who say the three have a disproportionate amount of sway and have helped each other sustain that power.

Lobbying Business Booms Despite Gridlock and Investigations
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 10/21/2019

Lobbying revenue continued to increase throughout 2019, despite turbulence surrounding the Trump administration and partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. The third quarter of 2019 was lucrative for many K Street firms, with 20 reporting an uptick in revenue, compared to the same time last year. In addition, 16 of those firms also had increased lobbying fees from January through September of this year, compared to 2018. It is a continuation of a growth in lobbying fees since President Trump took office.

Man to Plead Guilty to Funneling Foreign Money to US Campaigns
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 10/22/2019

A California venture capitalist agreed to plead guilty to falsifying records to hide his work as a foreign agent and making illegal campaign contributions on behalf of foreign entities seeking to influence U.S. elections. Imaad Zuberi has donated large sums of money to both Republicans and Democrats, including $900,000 to President Trump’s inauguration committee and $600,000 to then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Zuberi told foreign nationals and representatives from foreign governments that he could influence American policies in their favor through his influence in Washington and flaunted his apparent sway to create business and investment opportunities for clients and himself, federal prosecutors say.

New EPA Chief in New England Barred from Many Decisions Because of Conflicts
Boston Globe – Dave Abel | Published: 10/22/2019

A former chemical industry lobbyist who was recently appointed as regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has been barred from overseeing a range of vital issues in New England because of conflicts-of-interest that could compromise his public duties. Dennis Deziel, who spent five years as director of federal government affairs for Dow Chemical before his appointment in August, must recuse himself from decisions involving nearly one-fifth of the region’s Superfund toxic waste sites, the agency’s ethics office said. The scope of Deziel’s entanglements has alarmed environmental groups, who say his years at Dow potentially undermine his ability to regulate certain industries. Dow is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of chemicals and has a history of violating environmental rules.

Rep. Katie Hill Investigated Over Allegations of Improper Relationship with Staffer
Politico – John Bresnahan | Published: 10/23/2019

The House ethics committee announced it has launched an investigation into U.S. Rep. Katie Hill following allegations she engaged in an improper sexual relationship with a male congressional staffer. Hill denied that allegation and she blamed the controversy on an “abusive husband” whom she is in the midst of divorcing. But in a letter to her constituents sent out just before the committee announcement, Hill admitted to having an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staff member during her run for Congress in 2018. Hill apologized for the relationship.

Republicans Storm Closed-Door Impeachment Hearing as Escalating Ukraine Scandal Threatens Trump
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Mike Debonis | Published: 10/23/2019

Republicans’ defense of President Trump grew more frantic with House members storming a closed-door meeting, delaying the testimony of an impeachment witness as the GOP grappled with a growing abuse-of-power scandal centered on the president. A group of Trump’s congressional allies escalated their complaints about the impeachment inquiry by barging into a secure facility on Capitol Hill where a Pentagon official was to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Their intrusion, which caused the testimony to be delayed for about five hours over security concerns, came a day after the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified under oath that the White House had threatened to withhold military aid unless the Ukrainian government announced investigations for Trump’s political benefit.

The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It.
MSN – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2019

After decades of treating elections as an afterthought, college students have begun voting in force. Their turnout in the 2018 midterms was more than double the rate in the 2014 midterms, easily exceeding an already robust increase in national turnout. Energized by issues like climate change and the Trump presidency, students have suddenly emerged as a potentially crucial voting bloc in the 2020 general election. And almost as suddenly, Republican politicians around the country are throwing up roadblocks between students and voting booths. Students overwhelmingly lean Democratic, with three in four supportive of impeaching President Trump, according to a recent poll.

The Trump Administration Says It Has Violated Its Own Ethics Pledge
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz | Published: 10/23/2019

A government-wide review has acknowledged for the first time that at least several Trump political appointees violated the administration’s ethics pledge, which was put in place to try to “drain the swamp” by imposing lobbying restrictions and penalties. The details are tucked away in the Office of Government Ethics’ (OGE) latest annual report, which attracted little notice when it was released this summer. While President Trump’s ethics pledge was weaker than previous rules, the OGE still found violations in 2018 at three federal agencies: The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the National Labor Relations Board. No federal agency reported a violation of the Trump ethics pledge in 2017.

Trump Lawyer Says Even if He Shot Someone on Fifth Ave., He Can’t be Prosecuted
MSN – Benjamin Weiser and Azi Paybarah (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2019

A federal appeals panel expressed skepticism that President Trump had a right to block state prosecutors in Manhattan from enforcing a subpoena that sought his personal and corporate tax returns for the last eight years. The judges peppered a lawyer for Trump with questions, expressing skepticism about the president’s argument that he was immune from criminal investigation. A lower court judge earlier rejected Trump’s claim, which has not previously been tested in the courts. A deal struck with the district attorney’s office will allow the president time to seek a speedy review of the appellate ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court on the condition he ask that the court hear the case in its current term, which ends in June.

Trump’s Cabinet Meetings Have Become About Everything but the Business of His Cabinet
Stamford Advocate – Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2019

Under President Trump, Cabinet meetings have become less about the business of his Cabinet than an opportunity for the president to invite in the assembled press to boast of his own accomplishments, lash out at his critics, and to hear the praise flow forth from advisers. The gatherings, with the press in attendance, often stretch for 60 to 90 minutes. Much of the most recent Cabinet meeting seemed about self-validation as Trump’s allies describe a presidency under siege, and a president frustrated with an onslaught of criticism.

U.S. Envoy Says He Was Told Release of Ukraine Aid Was Contingent on Public Declaration to Investigate Bidens, 2016 Election
MSN – Anne Gearan, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2019

The senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine said he was told release of military aid was contingent on public declarations from Ukraine that it would investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, contradicting President Trump’s denial that he used the money as leverage for political gain. Acting Ambassador William Taylor Jr. testified in the House impeachment probe of Trump that he stands by his characterization that it was “crazy” to make the assistance contingent on investigations he found troubling. Taylor walked lawmakers through a series of conversations he had with other U.S. diplomats who were trying to obtain what one called the “deliverable” of Ukrainian help investigating Trump’s political rivals.

Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel
MSN – Maggie Haberman, Eric Lipton, and Katie Rogers (New York Times) | Published: 10/20/2019

He knew he was inviting criticism by choosing his own luxury golf club in Miami for the site of a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 summit in June, President Trump told his aides opposed to the choice, and he was prepared for the inevitable attack from Democrats. But what Trump was not prepared for was the reaction of fellow Republicans who said his choice of the club, the Trump National Doral, had crossed a line, and they could not defend it. So, Trump did something that might not have been a surprise for a president facing impeachment but was unusual for him: he reversed course, abruptly ending the uproar touched off earlier by the announcement of his decision by Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff.

From the States and Municipalities

California Company at Center of Insurance Commissioner’s Contributions Scandal Sold Without California Approval
San Diego Union-Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 10/18/2019

The insurance conglomerate behind tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has been sold, even though state regulators say they have not approved the transaction. Applied Underwriters was purchased for $920 million by its founder, Steven Menzies. The agreement is significant because Menzies is a central figure in a scandal surrounding Lara, who met privately with the insurance executive multiple times and accepted more than $46,000 in campaign donations from people connected to his company.

California Former Mayor Anthony Silva Sentenced, Charges Dismissed Against Sharon Simas
Stockton Record – Nicholas Filipas | Published: 10/21/2019

Former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva was formally sentenced to one felony conflict-of-interest charge that closed a three-year financial-malfeasance case. A judge sentenced Silva to 90 days in county jail. Silva was also ordered to pay $19,783 in restitution, be under three years of formal probation, and was given a lifetime ban on owning guns or ammunition. The conflict-of-interest charge stemmed from Silva’s decision to direct $5,000 in public money from a mayoral discretionary fund to the Kids Club of Stockton before leaving office in 2013.

California Glendale Officials Take First Steps to Regulate Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 10/17/2019

Glendale City Council members directed the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that would require lobbyists to identify themselves, who they are working for, and how much they are being compensated. Each year, lobbyists would need to register with the city for a fee or face possible civil or criminal penalties. Quarterly reports with the information would be available to Council members and the public, under the tentative regulations. If the ordinance is adopted, Glendale would join cities like Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood, which all regulate how lobbyists interact with local elected officials in Southern California.

California Real-Estate Company Admits Violating Campaign-Finance Rules with $7,000 in Contributions to LA Council District 4 Candidate
Los Angeles Daily Breeze; City News Service –   | Published: 10/22/2019

Hillcrest LLC, a company owned by real estate developer Bruce Makowsky, was fined $71,000 for reimbursing donors to a Los Angeles City Council candidate during the 2015 election. City law prohibited individuals from contributing more than $700 to a council candidate in 2015. Campaign donors are barred from giving in the name of someone else, a practice that can be used to sidestep limits on how much each person can donate. Ethics Commission staffers recommended a penalty of $71,000 for the company, the maximum it could have been fined, because reimbursing donors is “an extremely serious violation,” they wrote in a report.

Connecticut State Says Pols Missed Deadline to Have Their Day in Court
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 10/22/2019

State Sen. Rob Sampson and his predecessor, Joe Markley, wanted a legal debate over political speech and campaign finance law; all they got before the Connecticut Supreme Court were arguments over missed deadlines. They say the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) violated their First Amendment rights by imposing fines of $5,000 on Sampson and $2,000 on Markley over campaign mailers promoting them in 2014 as reliable defenders against the policies of Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. At issue was the question of whether the mailers were just a benefit to Sampson and Markley, who disagreed with Malloy on everything from taxation to criminal justice? Or did they also benefit Tom Foley, the Republican nominee for governor in 2014? The SEEC viewed the attacks on Malloy by Sampson and Markley as at least partially benefitting Foley, making the mailers an improper contribution to Foley.

Florida Being Poor Shouldn’t Stop Florida Felons from Voting, Judge Rules in Amendment 4 Case
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 10/19/2019

Florida must allow felons to vote if they cannot afford to pay back their court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution, a federal judge ruled in a case challenging the Legislature’s crackdown on Amendment 4. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his decision that the historic amendment voters passed in 2018 allowing felons to vote does require they pay back their financial obligations to have their voting rights restored. But if they are too poor to pay those costs, the judge ruled, that should not keep them from voting. The judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents Florida officials from using the bill to keep the 17 plaintiffs suing the state from voting. But the ramifications of Hinkle’s ruling is expected to affect other felons seeking to vote.

Florida Tallahassee Ethics Officer Demands $450,000 and An Apology in Exchange for Early Exit
USA Today – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 10/23/2019

Julie Meadows-Keefe, Tallahassee’s independent ethics officer, announced in July she was planning to step down in February 2020, a move that came after mounting criticism over a personal relationship she had with an appointed city official and other matters. Mayor John Dailey questioned her during a recent city commission meeting and later wrote an opinion piece in a local newspaper, accusing her of “unethical behavior.” Meadows-Keefe is now demanding that Dailey apologize to her and the city pay her $450,000 in exchange for her stepping down by the end of the year. “[The mayor] has pushed publicly and privately for her termination in a malicious and calculated way,” Marie Mattox, a lawyer for Meadows-Keefe, wrote in a letter to the city attorney.

Maine Candidate for Maine Governor Paid Clean Elections Money to Future Employer
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 10/20/2019

Former state Sen. Garrett Mason, who is running as a Clean Elections candidate for governor last year, directed taxpayer money to a consulting firm that hired him just after he lost the primary election in June. Mason spent just over $100,000 in taxpayer funds with Eaton River Strategies, a firm headed by lobbyist Kathie Summers-Grice. Although the move does not violate any state campaign finance laws or ethics rules, it raises concerns that Clean Elections funds could be used by candidates for personal financial gain or as a gateway to lucrative employment when they lose an election or leave public office.

Maine Ethics Commission Staff Recommends Against Investigating Sara Gideon for Finance Violation
WGME – Caitlin Andrews (Bangor Daily News) | Published: 10/23/2019

The staff of Maine’s ethics commission is recommending against investigating state House Speaker Sara Gideon for her past use of a partially corporate-funded committee to reimburse herself for political contributions, saying Gideon, who is running to replace U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, did not violate state law because she did not intend to conceal the true source of the donations. Gideon’s use of her state political committee, which has since dissolved, to reimburse herself for political contributions came to light over the summer and became the subject of a campaign finance complaint.

Michigan Judge Weighs Rep. Larry Inman Fundraising: Bribery or protected speech?
MLive.com – John Agar | Published: 10/17/2019

A federal judge refused to dismiss bribery and extortion charges against Michigan Rep. Larry Inman. He contends he accepted legal campaign contributions. Prosecutors allege Inman appeared willing to sell his vote – and influence others, if they received campaign contributions, too – in repealing Michigan’s prevailing-wage law. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker said the case “inevitably raises First Amendment issues about the line between criminal bribery or extortion, on the one hand, and protected political activity on the other hand.” He thinks the issue should be left to a jury.

Michigan Report: Duggan gave Make Your Date favor; chief of staff ordered emails deleted
Detroit News – Christine Ferretti and George Hunter | Published: 10/21/2019

Detroit’s inspector general released a scathing report that found Mayor Mike Duggan “unilaterally” directed city resources toward assisting a nonprofit, and his chief of staff and other top aides abused their authority by directing staff to delete emails detailing those efforts, undermining “the public’s trust in an open and transparent government.” The finding of preferential treatment for Make Your Date, a nonprofit aimed at addressing preterm births, is the culmination of a sixth-month probe by the inspector general’s office, which is calling on the city to reform its policies and staff training, and take disciplinary action against three employees, including Alexis Wiley, the mayor’s chief of staff.

New York Campaign Panel Weighs Bigger Public Match for Local Donations
Newsday – Michael Gormley | Published: 10/22/2019

The commission charged with implementing the public funding of political campaigns in New York moved away from a straight six-to-one match of state funds to all donations toward an idea proposed by an Uber driver that would provide a far greater match to contributions from within a candidate’s legislative district. The commission voted analyze a twenty-to-one match for donations made by constituents from within the legislative district the candidate seeks to represent, and no match for contributions from outside the district. The concept would apply only to state legislative races, not statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, or attorney general.

New York Council Refers King Ethics Complaints to Outside Authorities
Politico – Joe Anuta and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 10/23/2019

Outside enforcement organizations may be looking into ethics allegations against New York City Councilperson Andy King, meaning the Bronx lawmaker could face further reckoning beyond the suite of sanctions his colleagues are set to vote on. A report by the Committee on Standards and Ethics paints a damning portrait of King’s conduct over the last several years. The document alleges King misused city resources to benefit himself and his wife, who works for influential healthcare workers union. In one instance, city resources were allegedly used to support a retreat and a family wedding in the Virgin Islands. The report also accused King of mounting a campaign of retaliation and intimidation against staffers he believed were cooperating with council investigators.

New York NY Ethics Agency Defends Probe of Rape Survivor
New York Post – Carl Campanile | Published: 10/23/2019

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is standing by its decision to investigate a rape survivor for violating lobbying laws by taking out billboards supporting a new sex abuse victims’ law. Kat Sullivan had allegedly used cash from the legal settlement in her rape case to pay $5,000 for the ads backing the Child Victims Act. The probe of an average person like Sullivan drew criticism from lawmakers. But JCOPE says the lobbying laws apply to everyone equally, correspondence reveals. “The Commission cannot pick and choose who is covered out of sympathy or hostility. Efforts to query a source or to urge compliance is mandated by the Legislature …,” JCOPE Chairperson Michael Rozen wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Oklahoma Oklahoma PAC Accused of Repeated Violations of Campaign Finance Laws
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 10/19/2019

A PAC secretly and illegally funneled thousands of dollars from a wealthy Missouri businessperson’s companies to Oklahoma politicians, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission alleged after an investigation. The commission sued Oklahoman’s For Healthy Living for financial penalties, saying it “repeatedly and intentionally violated the campaign finance laws of Oklahoma.” The only donors to the PAC over the last four years were two Missouri companies, Capital Health Management and Affordable Equity Partners Inc. The commission alleged Capital Health Management donated $35,000 and Affordable Equity Partners donated $8,000 in that time period in violation of state ethics rules against corporate donations. The president of both companies is Jeffrey Smith.

Pennsylvania New Oversight Committee Examines Flaws in Pennsylvania’s Lobbying Disclosures
The Center Square – Dave Lemery | Published: 10/22/2019

Politicians and voters of all political stripes have lamented the influence of lobbying on governmental policy, with accusations that lawmakers’ votes can be bought for the right price. The members of the new House Oversight Committee in Pennsylvania sought to examine that issue in their first meeting when they convened to discuss a forthcoming report on lobbying disclosures in the state. Witnesses described a system where individuals or entities that want to get the attention of lawmakers – known as “principals” – can hire lobbying firms to bring their issue to the attention of lawmakers. If the lobbying firm uses gifts, trips to restaurants, or other forms of entertainment in an attempt to influence policy, that has to be reported to the state.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania State Lawmakers Are Hiding Millions in Campaign Spending. And It’s All Legal.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted, Paula Knudson, Sam Janesch, and Alyssa Bierdeman (The Caucus) | Published: 10/22/2019

An investigation found Pennsylvania lawmakers are shielding sometimes lavish campaign spending by not reporting the details to the public, making it difficult to assess if those expenditures was appropriate. From 2016 through 2018, state House and Senate candidates spent nearly $3.5 million that cannot be fully traced based on the information they disclosed. Charges included foreign trips, country club memberships, and a DNA test kit. In many cases, the expenditures were listed on publicly available documents with entries such as “meals” or “travel,” and a total amount, with no other details. Lawmakers have dismissed efforts to impose more restrictions, arguing they are unnecessary as long as details about where the money comes from, and how it is spent, are available to the public.

Rhode Island Ex-Mattiello Operative Charged with Money Laundering; Says He’s Been Made ‘Fall Guy’
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/18/2019

Political operative Jeffrey Britt was indicted on a money-laundering charge in connection with his work on Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 reelection campaign. The indictment charges Britt with one felony count of money laundering and one misdemeanor count of making a prohibited campaign contribution and “disguising it as the contribution of someone else,” state Attorney General Peter Neronha said at a news conference. The grand jury investigated alleged shenanigans in the final weeks of Mattiello’s tough 2016 campaign in his Cranston home district, and specifically the roles played by Britt and potentially other aides in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello.

Texas Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Says He Won’t Seek Re-Election After Scandal
Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 10/22/2019

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced he will not seek re-election to the Legislature or as leader of the House following growing calls for his resignation. The announcement comes three months after conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan alleged Bonnen offered writers of the group’s news site long sought-after House press credentials in exchange for the organization’s firepower in targeting 10 Republican incumbents in their re-election bids. In July, Sullivan revealed he had secretly recorded the meeting. The audio appears to largely support Sullivan’s allegations and spurred a flood of renewed calls from House members for Bonnen to step down.

West Virginia Billionaire Governor’s Family Farms Get Subsidy
AP News – Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 10/17/2019

A farming business owned by the family of West Virginia’s billionaire governor has received $125,000 in soybean and corn subsidies, the maximum allowed from a federal program meant to help American farmers through the U.S. trade war with China. There is no evidence Gov. Jim Justice did anything illegal. But at least one analyst said the payments to the richest man in West Virginia are unseemly, given his wealth. And the subsidies have thrown the spotlight again on his business empire and the potential conflicts-of-interest it poses.

Wyoming Wyoming’s First Public Records Ombudsman Aims to Boost Transparency
Laramie Boomerang – Tom Coulter (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 10/21/2019

After working for nearly 30 years in Washington, D.C., Ruth Van Mark was not expecting to take on a new job in Wyoming. Instead, she was planning to retire back in the state where she grew up. A few months later, Van Mark was announced as the state’s first public records ombudsman. In the position, she will settle disputes over records requests, determine the scope of what can be redacted in requests, and coordinate with state agencies to make the process for submitting requests more straightforward. The position was created this year. Cassie Craven, a lobbyist with the Wyoming Liberty Group, said there was lot of testimony last session about records disputes between state agencies and citizens that had gone wrong in court.

October 22, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC Elections National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac […]

Campaign Finance

Canada: “Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds” by Tara Carman for CBC


National: “Threatening Emails Reportedly Sent to Democratic Voters in Three Swing States, Sparking Investigations” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

North Carolina: “Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension” by Josh Gerstein for Politico


National: “Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits” by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig for New York Times

California: “Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism” by Ben Brazil for Los Angeles Times

California: “City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband” by City News Service for Patch


National: “Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge” by Ben Wieder for Miami Herald

Illinois: “Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban” by John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) for MSN

Wyoming: “Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune

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October 21, 2020 •

Michigan Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds Published

Michigan Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol - By Brian Charles Watson

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds. This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit. The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other […]

The Bureau of Elections posted the Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds.

This changes every year in January to reflect the change in the consumer price index for Detroit.

The threshold for a lobbyist compensating a lobbyist agent or other employee increased from $2,525 to $2,575 for any 12-month period.

The financial transaction threshold between a registered lobbyist or lobbyist agent and a public official increased from $1,275 to $1,300.

Travel and lodging reimbursements increased from $825 to $850.

Food and beverage expenditures for a public official increased from $63 to $64 in any month.

Meanwhile, the $400 threshold for food and beverages purchased between January 1 and the end of the reporting period remains the same as last year.

Employee reimbursements increased from $25 to $26, and the general gift threshold also increased from $63 to $64.

Late filing fees increased from $25 a day up to a maximum of $750, to $26 and a $780 maximum.

The registration threshold of $650 for a lobbyist agent or a lobbyist’s expenditure on one public official during a 12-month period and exempt expenditures at $13, remain the same as last year.

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October 21, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New […]

Campaign Finance

National: “How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage” by Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller for Associated Press News

National: “The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times

Montana: “Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules” by Perrin Stein for Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Rhode Island: “What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case” by Kate Mulvaney for Providence Journal


Colorado: “Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It” by Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba for New York Times

Ohio: “Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges” by Farnoush Amiri for Associated Press News

Pennsylvania: “Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day” by Richard Wolf for USA Today


National: “Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service

California: “Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty” by Robert Salonga for San Jose Mercury News

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October 20, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times Elections California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify […]

Campaign Finance

Illinois: “Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep” by Robert Herguth for Chicago Sun-Times


California: “Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures” by John Wilkens for San Diego Union Tribune

Michigan: “Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues” by Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser for Washington Post


National: “Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post

National: “Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants” by Steven Shepard for Politico

National: “On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act” by Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff for Bloomberg Law

Kansas: “Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say” by Timothy Bella for Washington Post

New Mexico: “NM Investment Scandal Winds Down” by Mike Gallagher for Albuquerque Journal

Ohio: “Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says” by Ben Peters for Athens News

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October 19, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature’s Fifth Special Session Ends

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

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

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills. This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass. Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the […]

Lawmakers adjourned the fifth special session of the Legislature on October 15 after passing four bills.

This included the bonding bill, which requires a three-fifths supermajority in each house to pass.

Gov. Tim Walz called the session to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by 30 days.

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

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October 19, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian Elections Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian


Florida: “Florida Acts to Remove Felons from Voter Rolls as Election Looms” by Gary Fineout for Politico


National: “Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son” by Elizabeth Dwoskin for Washington Post

National: “White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump” by Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Illinois: “Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner” by Robert McCoppin for Chicago Tribune

Kentucky: “Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.” by Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) for MSN

Maryland: “Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout” by Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun


National: “Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Canada: “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case” by Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) for CTV

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October 16, 2020 •

Yukon Lobbyist Registry Accepting Registrations

Yukon Legislature

Yukon Legislature

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only […]

On October 15, the Canadian territory of Yukon’s new and first lobbying law came into force with the online Yukon Lobbyist Registry becoming live. Bill No. 23, the Lobbyists Registration Act, received Royal Assent on November 22, 2018, but only came into effect this year.

Consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists are required to register. Registration is required for individuals communicating with a public office holder, directly or through grassroots communications, in attempts to lobby. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is required to register when arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person for the purposes covered by the Act.

There are two revolving door provisions in the Act. For the six-month period after ceasing to be in office, a former public office-holder is prohibited from lobbying as a consultant lobbyist, but he or she is not prohibited from immediately lobbying as an in-house lobbyist. Additionally, a consultant lobbyist is prohibited from becoming an employee of Yukon’s public service for six months after terminating her or her lobbyist registration. Penalties for violations of the Lobbyists Registration Act include fines up to $25,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.

As of October 16, the lobbyist registry does not have any registered lobbyists.

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October 16, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 16, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020 A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear […]


As U.S. Politics Heats Up, Companies Seek to Avoid Controversy
Reuters – Jessica DiNapoli | Published: 10/13/2020

A record number of U.S. companies are either banning political spending or making sure they disclose it, as they seek to steer clear of controversy ahead of the November 3 election, a new study found. While many American corporations donate to candidates and campaigns, some do not disclose it. This can put them in the crosshairs of customers and suppliers who can accuse them of a lack of transparency. The Center for Political Accountability found 332 companies in the S&P 500 prohibited some kind of political spending, like funding political committees, or disclosed some or all of their election-related spending in 2020, up roughly nine percent from 2016.

As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off
New York Times – Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti | Published: 10/14/2020

On the day President Trump declared the coronavirus was “very much under control,” senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas Philipson, an economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than administration advisers were signaling in public. A hedge fund consultant’s assessment of the meeting spread through parts of the investment world and traders spotted the immediate significance: the president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Trump was publicly insisting the threat was nonexistent.

Court Tells FEC to Take Action on Complaint Against Dark Money Group Tied to Joni Ernst
The Gazete – James Lynch | Published: 10/14/2020

A U.S. District Court judge entered a default judgment against the FEC, ordering it to act on a complaint involving a so-called dark money group tied to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign. The complaint was brought by the Campaign Legal Center, which told the court the FEC had failed to take action on its complaint that Ernst’s campaign had illegally coordinated with Iowa Values, a political nonprofit backing the senator. Candidates and outside groups are prohibited from coordinating their political activities. The FEC generally has not enforced coordination rules, allowing for the proliferation of super PACs and nonprofit groups tied to party leaders and individual candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facebook to Temporarily Halt Political Ads in U.S. After Polls Close Nov. 3, Broadening Earlier Restrictions
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/7/2020

Facebook said it plans to temporarily suspend all political and issue-based advertising after polls close November 3, a move the company said was intended to limit confusion, misinformation, and abuse of its services in the days after the presidential election. Facebook also said it would remove calls for people to watch the polls when those posts use militaristic or intimidating language. Executives said the policy applies to anyone, including President Trump and other officials. Trump has made calls for people to engage in poll-watching, and Donald Trump Jr. appeared in an ad urging people to “defend your ballot” and join an “army” to protect the polls.

Fake Twitter Accounts Posing as Black Trump Supporters Appear, Reach Thousands, Then Vanish
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 10/13/2020

An account featuring the image of a Black police officer, President Trump, and the words “VOTE REPUBLICAN” had a brief but spectacular run on Twitter. In six days after it became active, it tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers, with its most popular tweet being liked 75,000 times. Then, on days later, the account was suspended by Twitter for breaking its rules against platform manipulation. The reach of @CopJrCliff and other fake accounts from supposed Black Trump supporters highlights how an account can be effective at pushing misleading narratives in just a few days – faster than Twitter can take it down.

Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Charged with Acting as a Foreign Agent, Is Likely to Plead Guilty
Seattle Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/8/2020

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy was charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him. Prosecutors outlined how they believe he took millions of dollars in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into Malaysian corruption and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. Prosecutors said Broidy and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

New Justice Dept. Election Fraud Guidance Could Allow Boosting of Trump’s Exaggerated Claims, Legal Observers Say
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 10/7/2020

The Justice Department issued guidance giving federal prosecutors more leeway to take public action on suspected election fraud before ballots are in, a move some legal analysts worry could foreshadow an effort to bolster President Trump’s exaggerated claims of fraud via mail-in voting. The guidance detailed what it called an “exception to the general non-interference with elections policy,” which discourages prosecutors from taking overt steps in fraud investigations until all ballots are counted and certified. Critics say Trump and Attorney General William Barr seem to be working in concert to undermine public confidence in the election result, and the newly issued guidance could aid in that effort – allowing prosecutors to publicize cases of suspected fraud they previously would have been barred from discussing.

NYT: Vegas connections helped Trump engineer $21M windfall during 2016 race
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump’s tax records reveal he engineered a windfall of more than $21 million during his 2016 presidential run, The New York Times reported. A hotel Trump owns with casino mogul Phil Ruffin in Las Vegas made payments to several companies Trump controlled, and that money then flowed to the president himself. The hotel wrote off the payments as a business expense, The Times said. The newspaper reported that the payments came at a time when Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign needed funds and many of his businesses were losing money. The tax records do not indicate whether the payments helped Trump’s campaign, his businesses, or both, the newspaper said.

Sonny Perdue Faces Ethics Questions Over His Business Holdings
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/15/2020

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pledged in 2017 to separate himself from his multimillion-dollar business holdings that could pose conflicts-of-interest in his public duties. But last year, he disclosed he had become trustee of a newly formed fund that includes many of the same assets as his original family trust. Watchdog organizations are now calling for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Perdue has run afoul of the ethics agreement he signed as a nominee for the job early in the Trump administration. The commitments entailed moving his holdings into a new trust and agreeing not to serve as a trustee or beneficiary of the fund.

Supreme Court Halts Census in Latest Twist of 2020 Count
Associated Press News – Mike Schneider | Published: 10/14/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can end census field operations early, in a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts. But the ruling increased the chances of the administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets, and by extension how much voting power each state has.

Supreme Court Won’t Revive Congressional Emoluments Case Against Trump
Washington Post – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow | Published: 10/13/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an attempt by Democratic members of Congress to sue President Trump over his private businesses accepting payments from foreign governments. Without comment, the justices let stand a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to dismiss the lawsuit filed by 215 members of Congress. Their novel lawsuit sought to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. A unanimous panel of the appeals court said the individual members did not have legal standing to take the president to court.

The Mystery of a GOP Congressman’s Seemingly Rent-Free Campaign Office
Politico – Daniel Newhauser | Published: 10/9/2020

For at least seven years, U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn appears to have enjoyed rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor, which would be a clear violation of federal election law that comes amid mounting scrutiny of his finances. In dozens of filings with the FEC, Hagedorn has listed a basement suite in a downtown Mankato, Minnesota, building as his campaign’s headquarters. But election spending records show Hagedorn has reported no payments for the use of that space over the course of the past four elections he has run to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional District, including his current race. Ethics experts expressed skepticism with Hagedorn’s actions.

Trump Taps U.S. Marine Band for White House Event and Raises Questions About Employing the Military for Political Purposes
Washington Post – Paul Sonne | Published: 10/11/2020

When President Trump, recovering from COVID-19, welcomed hundreds of people to what resembled a campaign rally on the White House grounds, the guests filed onto the South Lawn past a military band in resplendent red, its horns blasting the tune “America” from “West Side Story.” The use of the United States Marine Band for a de facto political rally marked another instance of the president pushing the boundaries of U.S. law and the military tradition of political neutrality. Federal regulations bar the use of government resources for, and the coercion of federal employees into, political activities aimed at a candidate’s reelection, and taxpayer-funded military bands cannot be used for campaign events.

Trump’s Children Brought Secret Service Money to the Family Business with Their Visits, Records Show
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2020

President Trump’s adult children and their families have caused the U.S. government to spend at least $238,000 at Trump properties so far, according to Secret Service records. Government ethics experts say nothing is wrong with Trump’s children seeking protection from the Secret Service. But, they said, the Trump Organization’s decision to charge for the agents’ rooms created a situation in which, just by traveling, Trump’s children could bring taxpayer money to their family’s business. That, ethics experts said, could create the appearance that Trump family members were exploiting their publicly funded protection for private financial gain.

‘Unmasking’ Probe Commissioned by Barr Concludes Without Charges or Any Public Report
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2020

The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing. The Justice Department has so far declined to release the results of U.S. Attorney John Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names, a common practice in government to help understand classified documents, as a political conspiracy.

With Election Day Looming, Twitter Imposes New Limits on U.S. Politicians – and Ordinary Users, Too
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Twitter will impose new warnings on politicians’ lies, restrict premature declarations of victory, and block calls for polling violence or other disruptions, the company announced as it rolled out wide-ranging changes designed to harden the platform against abuse related to the U.S. election on November 3. The moves also will temporarily alter the look and feel of Twitter. Retweeting others, for example, will require an extra step designed to encourage users to add their own thoughts before posting. Recommendations and trends will get new curbs intended to prevent abuse. The policy changes are the culmination of years of revisions intended to prevent a repeat of 2016’s electoral debacle on social media, when disinformation, false news reports, and Russian interference rampaged virtually unchecked across all major platforms.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Absentee Witness Requirements Scrapped for Election
Associated Press News – Becky Bohrer | Published: 10/13/2020

The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling eliminating witness requirements for absentee ballots for the general election. Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby had ruled enforcement of the witness requirements during the coronavirus pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote.” She waited to put the order into effect, to allow the Supreme Court to weigh in. The case was brought by the Arctic Village Council, League of Women Voters of Alaska, and two individuals. Their attorneys have argued the witness requirement is unconstitutional during the pandemic and a bar to voting for those who do not live with someone who is at least 18 and able to serve as a witness.

California Arcadia Subsidiary of Chinese Company to Pay $1 Million Fine in LA City Hall Bribery Scandal
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 10/7/2020

The subsidiary of a China-based real estate company agreed to pay $1.05 million to resolve a probe into its involvement in the Los Angeles City Hall corruption scandal. Jia Yuan USA Co. will pay the penalty and continue cooperating with the federal government in its probe of city Councilperson Jose Huizar and other figures. A Jia Yuan employee provided Huizar with Katy Perry concert tickets after he and former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan helped resolve an issue involving compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jia Yuan also admitted providing in-kind campaign contributions to several U.S. political candidates by hosting reduced-cost fundraising events. Some of those events took place at the direction of a foreign national barred from participating in American elections, investigators said.

California California Officials Say GOP’s Ballot Boxes Are Illegal. Republicans May Expand the Practice
Los Angeles Times – Stephanie Lai and Sarah Parvini | Published: 10/13/2020

In recent weeks, gray metal containers labeled as ballot drop boxes have been placed at various locations – including gun shops, shooting ranges, churches, and Republican Party offices – in several California counties. State GOP officials acknowledged responsibility for the boxes and have rejected allegations of wrongdoing, in defiance of what the state’s top election official and attorney general say is an illegal practice. At the center of the battle are questions of whether it is legal to collect ballots through third party boxes and what constitutes an “official” ballot drop box.

California Ex-Director of Coliseum Authority Takes Plea Deal in Stadium Naming Rights Case; Avoids Jail Time
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 10/13/2020

Former Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, who was criminally charged with violating state law by seeking payment from RingCentral for negotiating a stadium naming rights contract, took a plea deal and by doing so avoided trial and possible jail time. Prosecutors alleged McKibben violated the law because he sought a $50,000 payment from RingCentral as part of a $3 million deal to rename the ballpark “RingCentral Coliseum.” The law prohibits public officials from having a financial interest in contracts made by them in their official capacity. McKibben will serve three years’ probation and take an ethics course. Judge Kevin Murphy will decide how much McKibben should pay the stadium authority.

Colorado Colorado Voters to Decide Whether to Pull Out of National Popular Vote Effort
Denver Post – John Aguilar | Published: 10/11/2020

State lawmakers decided last year that Colorado should join 14 other state and Washington, D.C. in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which pledges their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most raw votes nationwide. On November 3, Coloradans will get the chance to affirm or reject that decision when they vote on Proposition 113, which was put on the ballot by opponents of the movement. A “yes” vote keeps the state in the compact, while a “no” vote maintains the system Colorado has used for decades to choose a president, in which the candidate with the most statewide support gets its nine Electoral College votes.

Florida Federal Judge Denies Request to Extend Florida Voter Registration Deadline
Tampa Bay Times – Allison Ross | Published: 10/9/2020

A federal judge rejected calls by several voting rights groups that Florida should further extend its voter registration deadline following repeated outages to the state’s online on the last day people could sign up to vote in the November 3 election. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious and perennially chaotic election” outweighed the concern of potentially thousands of Floridians being unable to cast ballots in the general election. The state had argued reopening the voter registration deadline could mean Floridians who registered during that later time may have to cast provisional ballots if counties cannot update their voter rolls in time, and extending the deadline could cause voter confusion and other issues.

Florida Prominent Lobbyist Didn’t Disclose Calls to Orlando Airport Board Members, Violating Policy
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/14/2020

Under the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s policies, lobbyists are supposed to publicly disclose meetings with board members within seven days. But Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, did not reveal she called four members of the board that runs Orlando International Airport on behalf of a client until nearly three months later, after The Orlando Sentinel requested records related to the firm’s work at the airport. Authority leaders, however, say they do not plan to act. “… She self-reported and became compliant and … there’s nothing further we can do,” said Dan Gerber, the authority’s general counsel. Some government-transparency advocates criticized the lack of consequences.

Georgia Common Cause Calls for Investigation of Georgia Ethics Commission’s Conflict of Interest Policies
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 10/9/2020

A good government group is calling on Georgia’s ethics commission to investigate its own policies regarding how commission members handle potential conflicts-of-interest. The rules for deciding when a member should recuse themselves are confusing. Commission Chairperson Jake Evans says a commission policy gives him the authority to order a member to recuse themselves. But he follows a state attorney general’s opinion from 1989 to let members decide for themselves whether they have a conflict.

Hawaii Ballot Questions Could Bolster Ethics Watchdog’s Staffing and Spending
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/11/2020

The Honolulu Ethics Commission could enjoy greater autonomy over its budget should voters grant them that ability in November. Voters are also being asked whether the commission should also be granted more flexibility to hire and retain staff. Commission Chairperson Victoria Marks said passage of the charter amendments would give the agency greater flexibility to describe positions, and hire and retain the specialized staff that she said it needs “to grow and strengthen the city’s ethics and lobbyist programs.” Marks said the amendments would provide the commission “with budget flexibility and greater autonomy” from the city administration.

Illinois Aldermen Reject Lightfoot’s Proposal to Ease Ban on Lobbying by Elected Officials
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/13/2020

Aldermen rejected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ordinance that would have rolled back part of tougher City Hall lobbying rules for elected officials the city council passed last year. It would have once again allowed elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the mayor, aldermen, and other city government agencies on behalf of private clients, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. With federal investigators probing lobbying practices in Springfield and past City Hall scandals tied to lobbying infractions, aldermen said it was not the time to walk back the stricter requirements.

Minnesota Federal Judge Upholds Minnesota’s Deadline Extension for Counting Ballots
National Public Radio – Jason Slotkin | Published: 10/12/2020

A federal judge upheld Minnesota’s seven-day deadline extension for counting mail-in ballots after it was challenged by a pair of Republicans. Minnesota extended its deadline for receiving mail-in ballots after voting rights groups raised concerns the state’s previous deadline could disenfranchise voters as the state receives an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots. In past elections, absentee ballots would only be counted if received by eight p.m. on Election Day. A state court agreement reached with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received within seven days.

New York Trump Again Asks Supreme Court to Block Subpoena for His Tax Records
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 10/13/2020

Personal lawyers for President Trump, seeking to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year, asked the justices to delay a ruling that would allow Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. To obtain Trump’s financial records. In an “emergency” application, Trump’s legal team told the court that a U.S. District Court judge was wrong to rule Vance had a legal right to subpoena the materials and an appeals court panel in New York was wrong to uphold that decision. The request for intervention marks a return for the case. In July, the high court ruled the fact that Trump was the sitting president did not make him absolutely immune from criminal investigation, as his legal team had argued.

New York Trump Got a $21 Million Tax Break for Saving the Forest Outside His N.Y. Mansion. Now the Deal Is Under Investigation.
MSN – Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/9/2020

Donald Trump received a tax break of $21.1 million five years ago after promising to preserve 150 acres of woodlands in New York state. The amount of the tax break was set by a 2016 appraisal that valued Seven Springs at $56.6 million, more than double the value assessed by the three Westchester County towns that each contained a piece of the property. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of the land. The appraisal appears to have relied on unsupported assertions and misleading conclusions that boosted the value of Trump’s charitable gift and his tax break. The appraisal was written by Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm that has worked with Trump over many years and whose headquarters are in a building co-owned by Trump.

North Carolina A Legal Fight Over How to Fix Ballot Errors in North Carolina Has Left Thousands of Voters in Limbo – Nearly Half People of Color
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 10/12/2020

A dispute over how North Carolina voters should correct problems with their mail ballots remains unresolved, leaving at least 6,800 votes – including more than 3,300 ballots from people of color – in limbo across a key presidential battleground state. The legal fight intensified after the state Board of Elections said in September it would allow voters to “cure,” or fix, deficiencies in their mail ballots by completing and returning an affidavit to county election officials. The affidavit would neutralize a range of voter errors that could lead to ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. ballots being tossed, including failure to provide a witness signature. But a federal judge put the plan on hold October 3, arguing it changed the rules too close to Election Day.

Oregon City of Portland Lawyers Won’t Defend Auditor in Legal Appeals of Mayor’s Campaign Violations, City Council Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 10/14/2020

The Portland City Council refused a request from the city auditor for city lawyers to represent her in lawsuits filed by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign, citing the city attorney’s assertion it would be an ethical violation and a conflict-of-interest. Auditor Mary Hull Caballero argued before the vote that Wheeler’s campaign is not a client of the city attorney’s office and she fined the campaign through her capacity as a Portland elected official who oversees the city elections process. She noted city lawyers already represent her in other elections-related lawsuits, including one filed on behalf of mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone about Wheeler’s campaign.

Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out Trump Campaign’s Pennsylvania Lawsuit
Associated Press News – Marc Levy | Published: 10/10/2020

A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit filed by President Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed by Trump, also poured cold water on the president’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud. Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee Chairwoman Reaps Big Harvest of Campaign Contributions from Insurance Industry
Allentown Morning Call – Ford Turner | Published: 10/9/2020

State Rep. Tina Pickett, whose position in Harrisburg gives her enormous authority over what happens to proposed insurance laws, has more cash in her political campaign account than any of her 201 colleagues in the Pennsylvania House, thanks in large part to the insurance industry. A review of hundreds of campaign finance reports showed Pickett’s $268,546.49 cash balance in late May was inflated by a years-long influx of insurance industry cash that began when Pickett became chairperson of the House Insurance Committee in 2013. Experts say the contributions are made to curry favor.

Rhode Island A Chaotic Campaign Helped Save Rhode Island’s House Speaker in 2016. Now It Threatens to End His Political Career
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan and Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/13/2020

The criminal trial of Jeffrey Britt, a former campaign consultant to Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $2,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witnesses detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Steven Frias. Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by an operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race. Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.

Texas Appeals Court OKs Texas Governor’s Order to Limit Drop Off Locations for Absentee Ballots
NBC News – Rachel Elbaum | Published: 10/13/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to shut down dozens of mail ballot drop-off sites weeks before November’s election. The ruling comes after a federal judge halted the order, which allowed for only one absentee ballot drop off location for every county, regardless of its size. The Texas secretary of state had argued Abbott’s order was part of a 40-day expansion of Texans’ absentee voting opportunities put in place because of Covid-19 that went beyond what state election rules normally permit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it agreed with her.

Virginia Inside the Utility Company Lobbying Blitz That Will Hike Electric Bills
ProPublica – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 10/9/2020

When Democrats campaigned for seats in the Virginia Legislature last year, they took aim at the state’s largest power broker: Dominion Energy. The electric utility’s clout was legendary at the Capitol, where it doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions and employed an army of lobbyists who helped write energy policy for decades. The result was soaring electricity bills and an energy grid heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Democrats vowed to change that. But Dominion fought back and ended up as a winner in a bill intended to diminish its influence. By doubling the size of its lobbying corps and tapping its long-standing relationships with legislative leaders and Gov. Ralph Northam, the utility secured the right to build its top priority – a massive offshore wind farm set to be the most expensive utility project in Virginia history.

Virginia Men in Alleged Kidnapping Plot Also Considered Targeting Virginia Governor, FBI Says
National Public Radio – Bill Chappell and Ryan Lucas | Published: 10/13/2020

Two of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took part in a discussions earlier this year with members of self-styled militia groups about potentially abducting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified. Special Agent Richard Trask did not say whether any of the attendees ultimately took any action toward potentially targeting Northam, and no one has been charged with any threats against him. Whitmer and Northam, both Democrats, have faced resistance in their respective states to measures they’ have taken to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Virginia Va. Congressional Candidate Reported No Assets. His Amended Disclosure Shows He Holds Dozens of Stocks.
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 10/9/2020

After previously disclosing owning zero financial assets, Virginia congressional candidate Bob Good filed an amended financial disclosure showing he holds dozens of stocks, including in two companies that had business before the Campbell County Board of Supervisors when Good served on the panel. He now reports between $213,000 and $1.65 million in assets and unearned income. Virginia law requires local and state lawmakers to disclose their personal economic interests in forms filed with the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council.

Washington Port of Tacoma, Others Agree to Fine in Save Tacoma Water Campaign Finance Case
MSN – Alexid Krell (Tacoma News-Tribune) | Published: 10/12/2020

The Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County agreed to pay a civil penalty for violating campaign finance law while fighting initiatives that were trying to limit industrial development on the Tideflats. They will pay a $34,000 fine, with $17,000 suspended. The case stemmed from efforts by a group called Save Tacoma Water following citizen opposition to a proposed methanol plant. Activist Arthur West complained the three groups violated campaign finance law in their effort.

Washington Twitter to Pay $100k to Washington State in Settlement Over Political Ad Disclosure Violations
GeekWire – Todd Bishop | Published: 10/13/2020

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Twitter agreed to pay $100,000 for failing to maintain records related to ads that ran from 2012 through 2019, when Twitter banned political advertising. Companies are required to maintain records about who paid for ads, when they ran, how much they cost, and the name of the candidate or measure supported or opposed. Twitter failed to maintain the required records for at least 38 Washington candidates and committees that reported paying $194,550 for political advertising on its platform.

Wisconsin Federal Appeals Court Blocks Extension for Wisconsin Ballot Returns
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/8/2020

Federal judges blocked a lower court’s order extending the deadline for returning mail ballots in Wisconsin, requiring that absentee ballots be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on Election Day. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of staying the lower court’s order, which would have allowed for ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received by November 9, six days later, in order to be counted. The stay also suspended an order extending the deadline for online and mailed-in voter registration from October 14 to October 21, and it stopped potential electronic delivery of certain ballots.

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