October 9, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 9, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Biden Transition Elevates Former Facebook Exec as Ethics Arbiter
Politico – Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 10/1/2020

Joe Biden’s transition team named Jessica Hertz, until recently a Facebook executive focused on government regulations, as its general counsel and charged her with navigating conflicts-of-interest and other ethical issues for the Biden administration-in-waiting, a move that drew immediate fire from the left. Hertz will oversee a team responsible for “enforcement, oversight, and compliance” of the ethics plan that Biden’s team released. In it, they promise to reestablish many of the rules President Obama instituted to limit the role of former lobbyists in the 2008 transition. Biden’s rules bar those who have worked as registered lobbyists or foreign agents in the past year from working on the transition unless Hertz signs off.

Facebook Imposes Major New Restrictions on QAnon, Stepping Up Enforcement Against the Conspiracy Theory
MSN – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2020

Facebook imposed sweeping new sanctions on the QAnon conspiracy theory, expanding its policy to remove all affiliated groups and pages, and all accounts on the Facebook subsidiary Instagram, even if they do not violate other policies by inciting violence or trafficking in hate speech. The move expands an enforcement action in August that targeted more than 3,000 pages and groups but stopped short of a full ban. But the content morphed almost instantaneously, prompting the more sweeping action. This action comes after more than two years of mounting evidence that the QAnon conspiracy is rife with violent, hateful themes that regularly violated policies across Silicon Valley and also inspired numerous real-world crimes.

In a New Ruling, Judge Says Census Count Must Continue Through October
MSN – Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2020

A federal judge ordered that the 2020 Census continue until October 31, blocking for now the government’s efforts to complete the survey in time to deliver apportionment data to the president by the end of the year. The ruling follows a tense week in which the government appeared to try to circumvent a preliminary injunction against ending the count early. The National Urban League and a group of counties, cities, and others said a truncated schedule would irreparably harm communities that might be undercounted.

Justice Dept. Acknowledges FBI Notes Given to Flynn Defense Contain Altered Dates
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 10/7/2020

The Justice Department said it inadvertently altered dates on copies of notes from two former senior FBI officials that were turned over to Michael Flynn’s defense team and filed to the court as potentially exculpatory evidence. The dates were added to notes of former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI agent Peter Strzok and should have been removed before the documents were scanned by agency headquarters, the Justice Department told a judge weighing its request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s prosecution. McCabe and Strzok were key figures investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Public Records Requests Fall Victim to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Post – Nate Jones | Published: 10/1/2020

With most government employees still working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the disclosure of public records by many federal agencies and local government offices nationwide has worsened or even ground to a halt. When the pandemic was declared in early March, many employees at local, state, and federal agencies abandoned their offices and began working remotely. Employees tasked with answering open-records requests have been forced to rely on telework computer systems that are often incompatible with the software used to process records requests.

Several Lawmakers Disclose Opaque Financial Records
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 10/1/2020

Federal law requires members of Congress to publicly file annual financial disclosure statements and periodically report certain stock transactions exceeding $1,000. Such mandates provide the public with a view of lawmakers’ financial interests and possible conflicts-of-interest, but members are not required to file in a uniform manner. That has left some reports opaque and partially illegible. There is a stark contrast in clarity between financial disclosure reports filed in a standardized, electronic format and those that are not.

Sonny Perdue Fuels Ethics Scrutiny as Trump’s Rural Envoy
Politico – Ryan McCrimmon | Published: 10/5/2020

On top of his overt appeal to reelect President Trump, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has kept many farmers in Trump’s corner by doling out unprecedented sums of taxpayer aid to offset the industry’s losses after years of trade turmoil and painful biofuel policies. Democrats have questioned the practice but have made almost no effort to attach any strings to the payments. Now, Perdue is facing a fresh round of criticism for requiring federal contractors to stuff promotional letters from Trump into millions of Agriculture Department food boxes distributed to needy families, over the objections of lawmakers and many food banks. The department says these activities are not political and rejects the allegation the signed letters are a violation of the Hatch Act.

Trump Returns to Oval Office as Aides Refuse to Say When He Last Tested Negative for the Coronavirus
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker | Published: 10/7/2020

The White House again refused to say when President Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus, leaving open the possibility he potentially exposed dozens of people to the deadly virus before the announcement of his positive test on October 2. Trump attended several events, including a presidential debate against Joe Biden, a campaign rally, and an in-person fundraiser, where he could have potentially exposed people to the coronavirus if he was infectious at that time. Two officials familiar with the situation said Trump has not been tested daily in recent months. Only rarely has Trump been tested on a machine other than the one produced by Abbott Laboratories, which provides rapid results, but are not always accurate.

Trump’s Call for Poll-Watching Volunteers Sparks Fear of Chaos and Violence on Election Day
MSN – Amy Gardner, Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/30/2020

President Trump’s debate-stage call for volunteers to stand watch at voting locations has prompted an enthusiastic response from known neo-Nazis and right-wing activists, leading many state election and law enforcement officials to prepare for voter intimidation, arrests, and even violence on Election Day. The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee for months have promised to recruit as many as 50,000 poll watchers to monitor voting locations on Election Day. The campaign’s “Army for Trump” website has contributed to that effort, urging supporters to join the “army of supporters fighting to re-elect him in 2020.”

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska An Initiative Proposes to Overhaul Alaska’s Elections. But Not Everyone Thinks They’re Broken.
Anchorage Daily News – Nat Herz (Alaska Public Media) | Published: 9/29/2020

Political activists proposed a citizen’s initiative to change Alaska’s entire election system. Ballot Measure 2 would mandate more transparency about who is funding the super PAC-like independent spending groups that operate in Alaska’s elections. But its two most ambitious provisions target the election process itself: the initiative would do away with Alaska’s partisan primary altogether, replacing it with a single ballot open to all voters, and the top four candidates would advance to the general election. Then, in the general election, Alaskans would choose winners using a new system called ranked choice voting. They have never been combined for statewide elections in the way the Alaska initiative proposes, leaving a measure of uncertainty about how it could transform the state’s politics and government.

California Was City of Industry Tricked into Hiring a Negotiator with a Major Conflict of Interest on Failed $20 Million Solar Project?
San Gabriel Valley News – Jason Henry | Published: 9/29/2020

An attorney who negotiated the terms of a $20 million solar project on behalf of the city of Industry, California, did not disclose to the city the proposed developer owed him $1.5 million from a prior business relationship. Industry now alleges the developer, William Barkett, orchestrated the hiring of attorney Anthony Bouza to limit oversight on the project. The city sued Barkett in 2019, alleging he siphoned off the $20 million and could not provide evidence that work occurred.

Delaware Fittingly, Supreme Court Term Starts with Test of Political Affiliations for Judges
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 10/5/2020

Delaware requires its major courts be roughly balanced, so that no more than a bare majority of a court is made up of members of one political party. It requires the minority be made up of the other political party. The result, Stanford law professor Michael McConnell told the U.S. Supreme Court, is “Delaware’s courts are widely regarded as the least partisan and most professional in the nation.” Attorney David Finger said the plan denies the chance for his client, lawyer James Adams, to serve on the courts because he is neither a Democrat nor Republican but a political independent, and that violates his First Amendment rights of political association. It seemed a fitting beginning for the court’s new term, as the Senate is torn along partisan lines about whether to confirm just before the election Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Florida In Florida, the Gutting of a Landmark Law Leaves Few Felons Likely to Vote
ProPublica – Lawrence Mower and Langston Taylor (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 10/7/2020

What was expected to be the nation’s largest voter re-enfranchisement in more than 50 years resulted in less than a quarter of an estimated 1.4 million felons in Florida signing up to vote. Officials have not removed any felons from the rolls for owing fines or fees, and they are unlikely to do so before Election Day, Secretary of State Laurel Lee said. It is unclear whether those whom the state fails to prune are entitled to vote or may face prosecution if they do. Amid the confusion, the one certainty is Florida’s governor and Legislature have tamped down the felon vote, according to an analysis of state records. In a presidential election marred by voter suppression tactics, the weakening of Florida’s Amendment 4 may constitute the biggest single instance of voter disenfranchisement.

Florida Palm Bay Developer Brian West Arrested on Bribery Charges Involving Palm Bay City Council
Florida Today – Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, Jim Waymer, and Dave Berman | Published: 10/2/2020

Developer Brian West was arrested on felony charges of bribery over an alleged scheme to buy votes on the Palm Bay City Council to rezone land for a project. The alleged bribery appears to have been directed at Councilperson Brian Anderson, who appears to have acted as the confidential informant with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The circumstances that led to West’s arrest revolved around allegations of an attempted deal brokered by local hotelier Puneet Kapur to buy votes to approve the rezoning of a subdivision to commercial use. That is land that one of West’s companies was trying to develop.

Illinois Berrios Son-in-Law Indicted in Bribery Scheme Involving Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 10/2/2020

The son-in-law of onetime Cook County Democratic boss Joseph Berrios was indicted for his alleged role in a bribery scheme that brought down former Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo and exposed a shadowy lobbying effort to expand sweepstakes gaming machines. James Weiss was charged with bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud, and lying to the FBI. The indictment also added new wire and mail fraud charges against Arroyo, who was originally charged with one count of federal program bribery and had been on track to plead guilty. According to the charges, Arroyo agreed to pay a state senator $2,500 a month in kickbacks in exchange for the senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit Weiss, who was in the sweepstakes business and was one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.

Illinois Chicago Aldermen to Consider Rolling Back Part of City’s Elected Official Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/30/2020

Chicago aldermen now appear likely to consider a proposal introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that would roll back part of the tougher rules they passed to prevent elected officials from lobbying City Hall. Ald. Jason Ervin used a parliamentary rule to threaten an up-or-down city council floor vote on Lightfoot’s ordinance that would again let elected officials from outside Chicago lobby aldermen, the mayor’s office, and other city government departments. Ervin’s move prompted Ethics Committee Chairperson Michele Smith to instead agree to hold a hearing on the proposal in her committee.

Maryland Can Public Campaign Financing Improve Government? Baltimore County Executive, Activists Start Campaign to Convince Voters.
Baltimore Sun – Alison Knezevich | Published: 10/6/2020

Saying it is time to reduce the influence of big money on Baltimore County politics, activists kicked off an effort to convince voters to approve public financing for local campaigns. Last year, a bill to put public campaign financing on the ballot was the Democratic county executive’s first major legislative initiative. It is now up to voters whether to approve the charter amendment in November. If they do, the county will create a “citizen’s election fund” that candidates for the Baltimore County Council and county executive would have the option to use starting in 2026. The details of the program, including the specific funding source, would be worked out later if voters approve the amendment.

Michigan F.B.I. Says a Michigan Militia Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
New York Times – Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Shaila Dewan, and Kathleen Gray | Published: 10/8/2020

The FBI revealed it thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, unsealing charges against six people who the agency said contemplated a violent overthrow of the government. The FBI said it had learned so much about the plot by intercepting encrypted messages and because it had undercover agents and confidential informants working with the group. Whitmer has been the subject of attack from right-wing protesters for measures she imposed to control the coronavirus. Thousands of people gathered in Lansing to protest executive orders she issued shutting down most of the state to help stop the spread of the virus. In April, President Trump openly encouraged such protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”

Michigan Michigan AG Dana Nessel Files Charges Against GOP Operatives Over Robocalls
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 10/1/2020

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed felony charges against two well-known out-of-state Republican operatives for allegedly orchestrating robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the Detroit area. Nessel charged Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl with election law and conspiracy crimes that would bring up to 24 years in prison for each of them if convicted. The charges stem from a false robocall that discouraged mail-in voting by telling people their personal information will be part of a public database that will then be used by police if they vote by mail.

Missouri Amid Accusations of Insider Politics, Parson Campaign Rents Space from Lobbyists
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 10/7/2020

At the same time Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign is criticizing his opponent’s husband for having served as a lobbyist, the governor’s team is sharing office space with lobbyists. The campaign is renting space in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s headquarters in Jefferson City, as well as using space in a suite of offices owned by lobbyist Brent Hemphill, who represents Ameren, AT&T, and a number of casinos. Parson campaign manager Steele Shippy said Hemphill contributed the space in his building as an in-kind donation. The offices used by the campaign are on a different floor from Hemphill’s lobbying organization, Shippy said.

Missouri St. Louis Husband and Wife Who Pointed Guns at Protesters Indicted on Firearms Charges
NBC News – Tim Stelloh | Published: 10/7/2020

The St. Louis husband and wife who were captured on video brandishing guns at protesters over the summer were indicted on firearm and evidence tampering charges. The indictment comes nearly four months after Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who have been embraced by conservatives and appeared at the Republican National Convention, were filmed and photographed outside their affluent home pointing a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun at the demonstrators.

Montana Record Penalties Levied in Dark Money Lawsuit
Montana Free Press – John Adams | Published: 10/2/2020

A judge entered a $1.76 million judgement against two now-defunct corporations that were found to have made illegal contributions to Republican candidates in Montana. The judgment is likely the final chapter in a case that spanned more than a decade, led to the largest-ever fine against a sitting politician in Montana, and was featured in the documentary film “Dark Money.” Western Tradition Partnership and Direct Mail and Communications will pay $881,955 in penalties for violating laws prohibiting corporations from giving directly to campaigns. They will pay an additional $881,955 fine for failing to report the illegal contributions. The two groups were fined $500 each for not maintaining and producing records of their campaign activities.

New Jersey NJ Investigating Bergen Health Broker Records in Criminal Probe of Political Donations
Bergen Record – Terence McDonald | Published: 9/29/2020

New Jersey’s attorney general launched an investigation into public health brokerage contracts and potential “pay-to-play” violations in Bergen County. The investigation has resulted in at least one subpoena to the county seeking contracts and related documents to be reviewed by a grand jury. The subpoena demands the county hand over. Since 2016, the county’s health broker has been Acrisure. In Bergen County, contributions to all county-level elected officials and both political parties must be disclosed. The county’s pay-to-play law also restricts donations from a vendor’s subsidiaries. The insurance industry is a lucrative one, attracting power brokers who build close relationships with elected officials and reward them with a steady stream of donations.

New Mexico New Mexico State Ethics Commission Urged to Reform Candidate Finance Reports
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 10/2/2020

A watchdog group says New Mexico’s law on financial disclosure reporting is lax and confusing and leads to a lack of transparency that makes it difficult to accurately track the financial activities of candidates. New Mexico Ethics Watch Executive Director Kathleen Sabo said financial disclosure forms for 12 state Senate candidates and 24 candidates for the House are missing or cannot be viewed on the secretary of state’s website. Guidelines for filling out those forms are so vague, she said, they allow legislators to avoid disclosing how much they earn and with whom they do business.

New York Andrew Cuomo Holds Webinar with Firm That Promised His Book to Employees
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Jon Campbell | Published: 10/2/2020

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom hosted a closed-to-the-public webinar with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sending an email invitation to employees that prominently featured the cover of “American Crisis,” Cuomo’s upcoming account of leading the state during the coronavirus pandemic. Each person who registered for the webinar is due to receive a copy of the book, which carries a hardcover list price of $30. Crown Publishing Group confirmed it is not providing copies to Skadden free of charge. Skadden is a registered lobbyist in New York, though the firm lists only one lobbying client in the state: The Shed, a performing and visual arts center. Most of the lobbying work appears centered on New York City, not the state.

New York Appeals Court Rejects Trump Effort to Shield Financial Records
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/7/2020

A federal appeals court rejected President Trump’s efforts to keep his financial records from a Manhattan prosecutor, putting the president on track for a second date at the U.S. Supreme Court in his campaign to keep those documents private. A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Trump’s legal team that the subpoena issued to Trump’s accounting firm at the request of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was too broad and the subpoena amounted to retaliation for the refusal of Trump’s businesses to cooperate with Vance’s office.

New York NYC Council Expels Andy King Over Latest Harassment, Ethics Violations
MSN – Stephen Rex Brown and Shant Shahrigian (New York Daily News) | Published: 10/5/2020

The New York City Council expelled Andy King over charges he harassed and discriminated against a female employee, took a kickback from another staffer, and failed to pay a fine for previous misconduct. The vote to expel King resulted from the third investigation into his conduct in less than three years. In the latest case, the council’s Ethics Committee found he forced a female staffer to go on unpaid leave after she complained of menstrual bleeding. King gave a different employee a $9,500 one-time payment with council funds and demanded a $2,000 kickback in return. The panel found King refused to accept part of the punishment he received last year for separate violations.

New York Rochester, New York, Mayor Indicted on 2 Felony Campaign Finance Charges
USA Today – Gary Craig and Tony Sharp (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) | Published: 10/2/2020

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was indicted on two felony campaign finance charges. The first charge is for first-degree scheme to defraud; the second is an election law offense for illegally coordinating activities and expenditures. The grand jury indictment is connected to Warren’s 2017 mayoral re-election campaign. Warren has refuted any wrongdoing in the matter. If convicted, Warren would be removed from office under state law. While Warren would be unlikely to be incarcerated, her pension could be forfeited if the matter is determined to be a crime related to public office, and she also could lose her law license.

North Carolina Democrat’s Personal Scandal Roils N. Carolina Senate Race
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Gary Robertson | Published: 10/7/2020

A race in North Carolina critical to control of the U.S. Senate has been thrown into turmoil over allegations of personal misconduct by Democrat Cal Cunningham, a married man who had an extramarital relationship this summer with a consultant. Previously undisclosed text messages and interviews show the relationship extended beyond suggestive texts, as was previously reported, to an intimate encounter as recent as July. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, and the contest between Cunningham and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis has been among the most watched in the country, with polls showing a tight race and both parties investing heavily in the outcome.

Ohio Federal Judge Thinks LaRose Has Permitted Off-Site Ballot Collection Sites in Ohio, Dismisses Drop Box Lawsuit. But Is He Right?
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 10/6/2020

A federal judge determined Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has permitted county boards of elections to offer off-site ballot collection sites and dismissed a lawsuit from voting-rights activists seeking an expansion of ballot drop boxes. But parties in the case, elections officials, and observers said they are confused by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster’s order and what it will mean for state elections. Officials in LaRose’s office have said they have not actually said that extra ballot drop boxes are allowed, and local elections officials say they are waiting on guidance. Polster declined to clarify his ruling, while LaRose’s office issued a statement that did not clearly address what their next step is.

Ohio FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor Can Still Donate to Legislative Candidates During HB6 Repeal Debate, Judge Rules
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 10/2/2020

A judge ruled FirstEnergy Corp. and the owner of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants can still make political donations to state lawmakers as the Legislature considers whether to repeal a controversial law benefiting the companies. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown reluctantly denied an injunction request by Attorney General Dave Yost to restrict FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor, ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, and others involved in the House Bill 6 scandal from donating to any state legislative candidate through the end of the year, nor lobby any legislator about repealing or changing the legislation.

Oregon After Wheeler’s $150,000 Loan, Iannarone Campaign Takes City Auditor to Court to Enforce Self-Funding Limits
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 10/6/2020

Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone’s campaign asked a court to make the city auditor enforce a strict cap on the money that candidates can lend themselves to fund their election efforts. The request comes after Mayor Ted Wheeler loaned his campaign $150,000. Voters approved strict campaign finance limits in 2018, including a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can loan themselves. After a series of court challenges, the city auditor announced in May she would begin enforcing most of the campaign finance changes, except for the limits on self-funding. The city has taken the position that the self-funding portion of the charter conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would not hold up in court.

Oregon Election 2020: Oregon’s Measure 107 would allow laws to limit campaign contributions
Salem Statesman Journal – Capi Lynn | Published: 10/6/2020

Measure 107 on the November ballot would amend the Oregon Constitution, allowing not just the state but local governments to enact laws that limit campaign contributions and expenditures and require their disclosure. The measure also would require campaign advertisements to identify who paid for them. Oregon is one of five states with no limits on political campaign donations and ranks first in per-capita corporate political donations. State lawmakers approved sending Measure 107 to voters. If it passes, it will be up to them to come to a consensus on what limits and disclosure look like.

Pennsylvania Chester County District Judge Siphoned $4K From His Campaign Fund to Feed a Gambling Habit, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Vinny Vella | Published: 10/7/2020

Chester County Magisterial District Judge Michael Cabry III diverted nearly $4,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses, using the funds to prop up his “six-figure gambling habit,” at casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, state prosecutors said. In the run-up to the 2017 election, Cabry created Citizens for Cabry, a PAC overseen by his niece, the grand jury said. Its reports reflected personal reimbursements to Cabry through debit cards linked to the PAC’s bank account. Those reimbursements included ATM withdrawals at Delaware Park Casino, Dover Downs Casino, and Bally’s Resort and Casino, as well as stays at hotels near those casinos, the grand jury said.

Pennsylvania Courtright: ‘I should have known better.’
Citizen’s Voice – Joseph Kohut | Published: 10/2/2020

The former mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison on charges he shook down businesses for bribes and campaign contributions. Bill Courtright resigned last year as mayor of the city of 78,000 and pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. Prosecutors say Courtright took bribes from a company that had a contract with the city to collect delinquent taxes and garbage fees.

Pennsylvania Judge Dismisses Suit by Top Pa. Senator’s Campaign Against Spotlight PA Journalist, Others
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) | Published: 10/7/2020

A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign against a Spotlight PA reporter and The Caucus and one of its journalists. Scarnati’s campaign wanted The Caucus, and reporters Brad Bumsted, and Angela Couloumbis to pay its accounting firm $5,070 for producing and copying public records that documented questionable campaign spending by Scarati. It also wanted the trio to pay $1,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs. But Magisterial District Court Judge Jacqueline Mizerock ruled Scarnati’s campaign, not the journalists, should be on the hook for the costs the accounting firm incurred.

Rhode Island Speaker Mattiello Isn’t the One on Trial for Money Laundering Today. But His Reputation Could Be.
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 10/4/2020

Little-known Democratic political operative Jeffrey Britt is on trial for money laundering and making an illegal campaign contribution, but much of the focus will be on someone who is not on trial: House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Britt’s lawyer says Leo Skenyon, Mattiello’s chief of staff, told Britt to persuade a defeated Republican candidate to endorse Mattiello instead of the candidate from her own party who was seeking to unseat the speaker in 2016. Britt has pleaded not guilty to the charge he illegally funneled money to her to pay for a mailer that carried her endorsement. If Skenyon knew what he was doing, Britt maintains, then so did the Mattiello campaign. Of the three men, only Britt is charged. But Britt’s attorney is determined to put Mattiello on trial.

South Carolina High Court Reinstates S. Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement
Associated Press News – Jessica Gresko | Published: 10/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a requirement that South Carolina residents voting by mail in November’s election get a witness to sign their ballots. Democrats had sought to have the requirement put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Republicans had defended it as deterring fraud. While the high court reinstated the requirement as a lawsuit over it proceeds, voters have already started returning ballots. More than 200,000 absentee ballots have been mailed and 18,000 returned, according to the state’s election commission. The court said any ballots cast before the court’s action on October 5 “and received within two days of this order may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Limits Counties to One Absentee Ballot Drop-Off Location, Bolstering GOP Efforts to Restrict Voting
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 10/1/2020

Gov. Greg Abbott threw the weight of his office behind Republican efforts to limit options for Texas voters who want to hand-deliver their completed absentee ballots for the November election, a rebuke to some large, Democratic counties that have set up multiple drop-off locations in what they call an effort to maximize voter convenience. The governor issued a proclamation directing counties to designate just one location for ballot drop-offs and allowing political parties to install poll watchers to observe the process. With the U.S. Postal Service warning of potential delays, many Texans are eager to deliver their completed absentee ballots in person.

Texas Texas Supreme Court Rules Harris County Cannot Mail Out Ballot Applications to All Registered Voters
CNN – Ashley Killough and Veronica Stracqualursi | Published: 10/7/2020

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Harris County, one of the largest in the country, cannot mail out applications for absentee ballots to all of its 2.4 million registered voters. The ruling is the latest blow for Democrats and voting rights groups who have pushed for Texas to expand vote-by-mail access amid the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have blocked their efforts in favor of stricter measures that they argue ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The  decision blocks Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins from sending out applications for mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the county even if they may be ineligible for absentee voting, including in Houston, the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold.

Washington DC Mayor Bowser Has $219,000 in Her Fund for Needy Residents. During the Pandemic, She Has Given $0.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 10/5/2020

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and city council Chairperson Phil Mendelson have not made a single donation this year from the special charitable funds they control, even as the coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of city residents jobless and businesses scrambling to stay afloat. Bowser has $219,000 in her constituent services fund, while Mendelson has nearly $136,000, mostly from leftover campaign money. Six other council members have accumulated a total of $39,000 but spent only $7,000 since the virus arrived in the region in March. Watchdogs, who have long criticized the constituent service program because it allows individuals and special-interest groups to give money to politicians outside of campaign season, say there is no shortage of organizations and residents in need of financial assistance, and elected officials should be more proactive.

West Virginia WV State Ed Official Urged SAT Seller to Hire Former GOP Chairman to ‘Neutralize’ ACT Lobbyist
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Ryan Quinn | Published: 10/2/2020

West Virginia’s assistant schools superintendent for testing successfully urged the seller of the SAT test to hire the state Republican Party’s former chairperson as a lobbyist. Assistant Superintendent Jan Barth said Conrad Lucas would, as she put it in an email, “neutralize” a lobbyist for the competing ACT test. This means Barth, who oversees statewide learning standards, in addition to standardized testing, recommended the hiring of a legislative representative for an organization, the College Board, that is paid roughly $1 million annually by Barth’s agency. The College Board might seek to extend that contract in the future.

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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