September 13, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 13, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

At the Bedraggled FEC, a Clean Slate of Leaders? The First African-American Commissioner?
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 9/11/2019

The FEC no longer has enough members to conduct high-level business. The U.S. Senate and President Trump could easily appoint new commissioners and soon end the agency’s involuntary trip through limbo. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an attorney and executive assistant to longtime Commissioner Steven Walther, to Trump for nomination. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate could at any moment consider Trump’s lone FEC nominee to date, Trey Trainor, who has languished for nearly two years without even a confirmation hearing. But there is disagreement among Senate Republicans and Democrats, as well as the White House, on how to proceed. FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said the agency’s more than 300 employees are attending to their work the best they can.

FEMA Officials Accused of Bribery, Fraud in Hurricane Maria Relief
MSN – Rick Jarvis (USA Today) | Published: 9/10/2019

Two former officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the former president of an energy contractor were arrested, accused of bribery and wire fraud while trying to restore electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Prosecutors said the president of Cobra Acquisitions, Donald Keith Ellison, gave FEMA’s deputy regional director airline flights, hotel accommodations, personal security services, and the use of a credit card. In return, Ahsha Nateef Tribble “used any opportunity she had to benefit Cobra,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, including accelerating payments to the company and pressuring power authority officials to award it contracts.

Harsh Spotlight on Trump Donors Raises Disclosure Questions
Danbury News Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/10/2019

Critics of President Trump are taking aim at his campaign donors, who have become the subject of social media attacks from liberals when their identities become public. A large amount of information about donors is available publicly, a result of laws intended to serve as a check on corrupting influences on politicians. Campaigns and committees are required to turn over the name, address, job title, employer, and donation amount of anyone giving at least $200. The information is published on the FEC’s website. Some transparency advocates worry the increasing attacks on donors could spark a backlash against the disclosure of information. They fear the attacks will discourage voters from giving or steer them into contributing to political nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors.

How Elizabeth Warren Raised Big Money Before She Denounced Big Money
MSN – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2019

Early this year, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren vowed not to attend private fundraisers or call rich donors anymore. Admirers and activists praised her stand, but few noted the fact that she had built a financial cushion by pocketing big checks the years before. The open secret of Warren’s campaign is that her big-money fundraising through 2018 helped lay the foundation for her anti-big-money run for the presidency. Last winter and spring, she transferred $10.4 million in leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to underwrite her 2020 run, a portion of which was raised from the same donor class she is now running against. As Warren has risen in the polls on her populist and anti-corruption message, some donors and, privately, opponents are chafing at her campaign’s purity claims of being “100 percent grassroots funded.”

IRS Issues Proposed Rules to Reduce Donor Disclosure Requirements Following Court Ruling
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 9/6/2019

The Treasury Department and IRS issued proposed rules to reduce donor disclosure requirements for certain tax-exempt groups after a federal judge set aside guidance the agencies had previously released on the topic because it had not gone through a notice and comment period. Under the proposed rules, certain tax-exempt groups – including groups such as the National Rifle Association, as well as labor unions and business leagues – would no longer be required to provide the names and addresses of major donors on annual tax forms. Charities that have tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, as well as political organizations, would still be required to report the names and addresses of donors.

Mayors Are Harassed and Threatened, But Just How Often?
Governing – Mike Maciag | Published: 9/1/2019

Demeaning comments, harassment and, less commonly, threats of violence all come with the job of being a mayor. A new national survey assesses how frequently mayors experience various forms of abuse. The survey, the basis of a study published in the journal State and Local Government Review, finds most mayors contend with verbal hostility or physical intimidation at rates above those of the general workforce. Disrespectful comments or images on social media were by far the most frequent means of abuse. More serious acts of violence were far less common. About 11 percent of mayors reported property damage.

Nevada, SC, Kansas GOP Drop Presidential Nomination Votes
AP News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 9/7/2019

Republican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina, and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging President Trump. Primary challenges to incumbents are rarely successful, and Trump’s poll numbers among Republican voters have proved resilient. Nonetheless, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed reelection campaigns.

Redistricting Fights Rage with Future of Congress at Stake
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/6/2019

Strategists and observers who track state legislative races say tensions are already running at election-year levels, a reflection of the unusually high stakes in contests that immediately precede the decennial redistricting cycle. The difference between just a handful of local elections across the country could mean a long-term shift in partisan control of Congress. If one party makes big gains in state Legislatures, they would have the power to use the decennial reapportionment and redistricting process to substantially alter the partisan makeup of Congress. The high stakes in states across the country are reminiscent of the 2010 election, which became a Republican wave that swept the GOP to power and handed them control of the redistricting process.

Retiring Lawmakers Will Face Tough Market on K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/9/2019

K Street recruiters are poring over the list of 21, and counting, lawmakers planning to exit Congress, but the lobbying sector may offer a shrinking supply of big-money gigs heading into the 2020 elections. As more House members and senators consider making their escape from Capitol Hill, the realities of the K Street economy and the “revolving door” will be among their considerations, say insiders at lobbying firms and headhunters. Those who make hiring decisions on K Street say ex-lawmakers can sometimes struggle in the lobbying sector where they no longer receive the trappings that come with elective office, such as a team of staff members. Many former members also balk, at least initially, at the idea of registering as a federal lobbyist or foreign agent, setting out limitations that firms find increasingly frustrating. In most cases, it is the congressional staff members that K Street really clamors for.

Trump Had Deal with Scotland Airport That Sent Flight Crews to His Resort
MSN – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2019

President Trump sought to tamp down a growing controversy over a stay at his golf resort in Scotland by U.S. military personnel who were traveling through the local airport in March. He said he was not involved in any decision to put an Air Force flight crew at the resort, known as Trump Turnberry. But documents obtained from Scottish government agencies show the Trump Organization, and Trump himself, played a direct role in setting up an arrangement between the Turnberry resort and officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The government records show the Trump organization, starting in 2014, entered a partnership with the airport to try to increase private and commercial air traffic to the region.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Some Push for Scottsdale to End Prayer at Council Meetings Amid Legal Showdown with Satanists
Arizona Republic – Lorraine Lonhi | Published: 9/10/2019

A Scottsdale resident and activists petitioned a city commission to recommend replacing invocations with moments of silence at city council meetings. The move comes as Scottsdale and Satanists are locked in a legal battle over the city’s decision three years ago to block Satanists from leading a council meeting invocation. The Satanic Temple, an international Satanist group, has been asking city councils across the country to lead their invocations for several years. Some cities, such as Pensacola, Florida, allowed Satanists to give the invocations, but faced public backlash. Scottsdale resident Sandy Schenkat said she has asked the Human Relations Commission three times this year to recommend that council adopt a moment of silence in place of invocations, but her requests have gone ignored.

California Ex-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, Developers Due in Court After Grand Jury Indictment
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Christopher Damien | Published: 9/11/2019

Former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney will be arraigned following their indictments in connection with a long-running corruption case. More than four years have passed since agents from the FBI, IRS, and the Riverside County district attorney’s office raided Palm Springs City Hall. In bringing charges against the three men in 2017, the district attorney alleged Pougnet accepted bribes in exchange for city council votes and contracts in favor of their projects. The three have previously pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, Pougnet could be sentenced to as much as 19 years in prison, while the developers, if convicted, could face up to 12 years in prison each.

California Insider Lunch and a London Party: California Democrat cozied up to industry he regulates
MSN – Hannah Wiley (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/10/2019

Three months after taking office, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara scheduled a lunch with insurance company executives with a pending matter before his department. A memo to Lara said the meeting had a specific purpose: “Relationship Building to benefit Ricardo Lara for Insurance Commissioner 2022.” He pledged not to take money from the insurance industry as he ran for the post but broke his promise this year by accepting more than $50,000 from insurance representatives and their spouses. Some of the money came from donors who ties to one of the companies scheduled to be represented at the lunch. Social media posts show Lara also counts insurance lobbyists among his friends. He partied with a Farmers Insurance lobbyist on New Year’s Eve a week before his inauguration.

California Insurance Commissioner Charging Rent for Second Residence to Taxpayers
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Angela Hart | Published: 9/5/2019

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has stuck taxpayers with thousands of dollars in bills to cover the cost of renting an apartment in Sacramento while he maintains his primary residence in Los Angeles, a break from other statewide elected officials that is alarming ethics watchdogs. Lara is already under scrutiny for his campaign fundraising and perceived coziness with the insurance industry. Lara spokesperson Michael Soller said Department of Insurance legal counsel concluded Lara’s rental expenses comply with state law because he only bills taxpayers for days spent in Sacramento. Soller declined to provide the legal memo or the name of the lawyer.

Colorado Chief Storytellers: Community engagement or PR?
Governing – Graham Vyse | Published: 8/29/2019

It looked like a conventional public meeting as a city employee in Denver stood before half a dozen people in a community center. Yet this was not a typical community forum, and Rowena Alegría was not a typical city employee. “I am the chief storyteller for the city and county of Denver,” she told the group, and she had come for one of her regular “storytelling labs.” They are a chance for residents to record personal stories about their city, using text, audio, and video to help local government preserve community history. Denver’s alternative paper Westword called into question how the chief storyteller “just happens to be a former Mayor Michael] Hancock aide,” raising concerns that she was running “a taxpayer-funded office designed to polish PR for Denver.” But Alegría is quick to say her storytelling is “community engagement, not PR.”

Connecticut State Employee Fined for Hiring Daughter for Temporary Summer Job
Hartford Courant – Russell Blair | Published: 9/9/2019

A former Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) employee was fined $2,500 for using her position to hire her daughter for a temporary summer job and failing to disclose the conflict-of-interest. Andrea Lombard was an epidemiologist in the hepatitis C program at DPH. In the summer of 2018, DPH was looking to fill administrative assistant positions in the program and hired an outside vendor to help with process. Lombard’s daughter became a candidate for one of those positions and she personally selected her daughter to fill one of the positions. While her daughter was employed, Lombard directly supervised her, including assigning and evaluating her work, approving her timecards, and approving overtime.

Florida Broward Lawmaker in Line to Lead Senate Democrats Is in Relationship with Lobbyist Paid to Influence Florida Legislature
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Anthony Man | Published: 9/9/2019

Florida Sen. Gary Farmer, chosen by his colleagues to be the Democratic Party leader after the 2020 elections, recently told them he has been involved with a woman who lobbies the state Legislature. Florida law and Senate rules do not ban such relationships. A senator cannot “vote on any matter that the officer knows would inure to his or her special private gain or loss.” Senate rules require disclosure of a conflict if the special private gain or loss applies to an immediate family member or business associate.

Florida NRA’s Marion Hammer Got Illegal Loans from Nonprofit She Runs, Unified Sportsmen of Florida
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 9/6/2019

National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer obtained several apparently illegal loans over the years from Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the Tallahassee nonprofit she founded and runs. The most recent loan in 2017, for $200,000, was given to Hammer, who earns $110,000-a-year as the group’s executive director, so she could “refinance and purchase” real estate, according to Unified Sportsmen’s regulatory filings. Florida law prohibits not-for-profit corporations like Unified Sportsmen from loaning money to their directors or officers. And while Unified Sportsmen solicits contributions from the public, the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has not made it register, disclose certain information, or pay fees as the law requires of nonprofits.

Illinois Watchdog Accuses County Clerk Karen Yarbrough of Running ‘Illegal Patronage’ Operation, Wants Court Oversight
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long | Published: 9/11/2019

Less than a year into office, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough faces potential federal court oversight of hiring amid a watchdog’s accusations that she is “running an illegal patronage employment system.” Veteran anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman said in a new legal filing that Yarbrough has put the politically connected into jobs that are supposed to be free from such influence, asked her employees for campaign contributions on their private cellphones and transferred certain supervisors to far-flung offices in hopes they would quit. Yarbrough, who was under federal court oversight in her previous job as recorder of deeds, called Shakman’s latest allegations “preposterous.”

Iowa A Family Affair: As their parents campaign in Iowa, kids of 2020 candidates get a taste of the trail
Des Moines Register – Ian Richardson | Published: 9/5/2019

As 2020 presidential hopefuls traversed Iowa this summer to woo voters, their families have often tagged along for the ride. Candidates say bringing their families along helps them spend more time with them during their grueling campaign schedules. It also gives Iowans a more up-close look at the candidates’ personal lives, which can make them more relatable in a process that puts a high value on person-to-person interaction. Even when their kids are not around, the children of candidates make frequent appearances in their speeches, with candidates sharing the impact they have made on their policies like health care and childcare.

Kentucky Gov. Bevin Asks Kentucky Supreme Court to Remove Judge from Case over Facebook ‘Like’
Louisville Courier-Journal – Phillip Bailey | Published: 9/11/2019

Gov. Matt Bevin wants the Kentucky Supreme Court to remove Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd from hearing the teacher “sickout” lawsuit, saying he is too biased to preside over the case. The governor’s legal team says the integrity of the state’s judicial branch is on the line and requests Chief Justice John Minton appoint a special judge. The Bevin administration points to an August Facebook post Shepherd “liked” that praises campaign volunteers for Andy Beshear, who is running against Bevin in the fall election. Bevin used Twitter to slam Shepherd for “his blatant partisan support for Democrats.” Shepherd declined to remove himself from the case, saying he had liked posts from Republicans and was supporting the political process in general.

Massachusetts Mayor Charged with Taking Bribes to Help Pot Businesses
AP News – Philip Marcelo | Published: 9/6/2019

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested on charges he conspired to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies seeking to operate marijuana businesses. Correia brazenly accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain a license to set up a pot business, authorities alleged. They said at least four business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes to the mayor, and he used the money to support a lavish lifestyle and cover mounting legal bills. Correia was already facing charges on accusations he stole investor funds. He has pleaded not guilty. The latest investigation, which also involved agents from the FBI and IRS, highlighted the potential for abuse in Massachusetts’ nascent retail marijuana industry, authorities said.

Minnesota DFL Lawmaker Resigns from University of Minnesota Post After Questions About Hiring
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 9/11/2019

State Rep. Jamie Long announced he is resigning from a paid fellowship at the University of Minnesota after Republicans raised questions about preferential treatment in filling the post. Long accepted a seven-month research fellowship at the Institute on the Environment’s Energy Transition Lab in July. The $50,000 temporary role was set to end just after the Legislature returns to work in February. In a statement announcing his resignation, Long, an attorney, said he was “honored” to accept the job after “a competitive public hiring process.” He cited his long history of working on environmental and climate issues. But e-mails and internal documents show Long and Ellen Anderson, a former state senator now at the helm of the Energy Transition Lab, discussed creating the position months before it was publicly posted.

Missouri Parson’s Longtime Friend Is a Lobbyist, and Their Money Ties Could Cloud Governor’s Bid
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock and Crystal Thomas | Published: 9/8/2019

As Missouri Gov. Mike Parson kicks off his quest to win a full term as governor, his long-standing friendship and political partnership with lawmaker-turned-lobbyist Steve Tilley is once again under the microscope. So far this year, a quarter of every dollar raised to elect Parson governor in 2020 is connected to Tilley. A large part of that money has come from lobbying clients engaged in industries regulated by the state agencies Parson oversees, ranging from gaming to medical marijuana to low-income housing tax credits. Before Parson took over as governor in June 2018, Tilley had 25 lobbying clients. In the year since Parson took the oath of office, that number has ballooned to more than 70.

Missouri Stenger’s Former Right-Hand Man Gets 15 Months in Prison for His Role in Pay-To-Play Scheme
St. Louis Public Radio – Rachel Lippmann | Published: 9/6/2019

William Miller, the chief of staff to disgraced former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for working to make sure a campaign donor to Stenger got a lobbying contract. Miller had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery. The prosecution’s sentencing memo outlines several instances in which Miller used his clout as chief of staff to bully and threaten lower-level employees into doing Stenger’s bidding. By contrast, Miller’s attorney, Larry Hale, portrayed Miller as someone who was simply following the orders of Stenger, a “vindictive person known to threaten to terminate or otherwise punish those who did not follow his directives.”

Montana Court Strikes Down Montana Law Barring Political Robocalls
AP News – Matt Volz | Published: 9/10/2019

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Montana cannot ban political robocalls based on their content alone, marking the latest in a string of court decisions against states that attempt to restrict automated phone calls promoting political campaigns. The judges said Montana’s law is a violation of the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. The court has previously upheld other state laws that regulate robocalls, such as those that aim to protect consumers from scams, but those laws were based on how robocalls are made and not on what they say, the judges said.

Montana Montana Ethics Chief Recommends Bringing Lobbying Code ‘Into the 21st Century’
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Eric Dietrich (Montana Free Press) | Published: 9/5/2019

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan told a legislative committee that lawmakers should consider updating state lobbying rules to bring them “into the 21st century” by, for instance, requiring electronic filing for lobbying reports and clarifying whether regulations apply to grassroots lobbying like social media campaigns. “You will find the word ‘telegraph’ in the current code as far as what lobbyists should be reporting, telephone and telegraph expenses; you won’t find the word ‘internet’ in there,” Mangan said. Lawmakers on the State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Committee voiced concern about the cost of administering new lobbying regulations but voted to study the issue and potentially draft bills for consideration in the 2021 Legislature.

New Jersey ACLU Files Suit in Favor of ‘Dark Money,’ Says Donors Should Be Able to Give Money Anonymously
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/10/2019

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went to federal court seeking to overturn a law that would require political organizations that accept so-called dark money in New Jersey to disclose their donors. The ACLU said the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and called for an order to restrain the state from enforcing the act. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law despite his reservations over its constitutionality. The law requires independent expenditure commissioners to publicly disclose donors contributing more than $10,000 to the organization and bar any person who chairs a political party committee or a legislative leadership committee from serving as that committee’s chairperson or treasurer. The ACLU argued it would fall under the restrictions, and said because it often works on controversial issues of public interest, many of its donors avail themselves of anonymity.

New York Alleged Rape Victim’s Case Shakes Up JCOPE
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/10/2019

The normally staid monthly meeting of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) featured a first: two women dressed in red cloaks and white wimples stationed outside the agency’s offices, reading a satiric children’s book detailing the panel’s alleged failings. The protest, with costumes inspired by the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was organized by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape survivor who has been targeted for possible lobbying violations while advocating for passage of the Child Victim’s Act. Sullivan took out ads on billboards criticizing the state’s molestation laws. JCOPE determined the billboards amounted to lobbying and threatened Sullivan with fines if she refused to pay the registration fee. Sullivan’s attorney went before JCOPE to demand that it drop the case against Sullivan since she did not spend enough on the billboards to qualify as a lobbyist under state law.

New York Marijuana Legalization Opponent Directed to Identify Donors
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 9/10/2019

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) denied a request from the New York chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM-NY) to keep its donors private. SAM-NY contended it should be exempt from the state’s semi-annual disclosure because its supporters would be subject to harassment and economic reprisal if they were identified. New York law has a blanket disclosure exemption for charitable organizations engaged in lobbying, including the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance. JCOPE has denied disclosure exemption requests in the past from the New York Civil Liberties Union, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and Family Planning Advocates of New York, only to have those decisions overturned by a judicial hearing officer, who described the rulings as “clearly erroneous.”

North Carolina Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican, Wins Special Election
MSN – Richard Fausset and Jonathan Martin (New York Times) | Published: 9/10/2019

Dan Bishop, a Republican state senator, scored a narrow victory in a special U.S. House election in North Carolina that demonstrated President Trump’s appeal with his political base but also highlighted his party’s deepening unpopularity with suburban voters. Bishop defeated Dan McCready, a moderate Democrat, by two percentage points in a district Trump carried by nearly 12 points in 2016. The fight for the Ninth Congressional District also brought to an end a tortured political drama: The 2018 midterm race for the seat, in which McCready barely lost against a different Republican, was in question for months because of evidence of election fraud on the GOP side. The election was finally thrown out, an embarrassing conclusion for state Republicans who had carved the lines of the deeply red district.

North Carolina House Overrides Budget Veto in Surprise Vote with Almost Half of Lawmakers Absent
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, Loren Horsch, and Paul Specht | Published: 9/11/2019

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina abruptly voted to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, sparking chaos in the chamber by bypassing Democratic lawmakers. Democrats said they did not expect a voting session that morning. Only 12 Democrats were present, and only nine voted, with several not even at their seats, party leader said. Cooper accused Republicans of pulling “their most deceptive stunt yet” at a time when many North Carolinians were focused on honoring those killed in the September 11 attacks, though it was not clear how many lawmakers may have been attending memorials. The override is not complete as the Senate still must hold a vote on the issue, but Republicans there need only one Democrat to join them to secure victory.

North Dakota Little to No Business for North Dakota State Ethics Boards in Recent Years
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 9/11/2019

North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission is preparing to meet for the first time. Other state ethics have taken up little to no business in recent years. State lawmakers have an ethics committee, but there is no indication it has ever met. The new five-member commission is tasked with investigating ethics complaints against elected state officials, candidates for office, and lobbyists, and is expected to write its own administrative rules. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the lack of ethics meetings and complaints indicates nothing has risen to the level of a perceived violation. “I think overall most legislators pull a pretty fine line and stay away from stuff like that, and so I appreciate that as leader,” Wardner said.

Oregon Campaign Money Limits in 2020? Oregon Supreme Court Leaves Possibility Open
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 9/5/2019

The Oregon Supreme Court rejected a request to delay arguments in a major campaign finance case, a decision that leaves open the possibility that political donations could be capped in statewide races next year, even though lawmakers have stumbled in their own attempts to set them. Business groups wanted the court to postpone hearing a case to decide the legality of limits adopted by Multnomah County voters in 2016. The groups argued it was inappropriate for the court to rule on limits with voters set to do the same thing next November. Supporters of limits characterized the request as an attempt to allow unlimited contributions to dominate another election cycle. Chief Justice Martha Walters denied the industry groups’ request without specifying why.

Oregon Oregon Open Records Bill Dies After Governor’s Staff Privately Contradicts Her Transparency Pledge, Documents Show
Portland Oregonian – Molly Young | Published: 9/11/2019

Top staffers for Gov. Kate Brown privately worked against a pro-transparency bill that ultimately failed in June, according to records released by Oregon’s public records advocate in the wake of her resignation. Brown has pledged to increase transparency under her watch since she was sworn in as governor in 2015. Yet memos and emails show staffers and lobbyists working on her behalf opposed a proposal to make state agencies track and disclose information about records requests they receive from the public. The documents say Brown’s staffers told public records advocate Ginger McCall her work to support the bill contradicted the governor’s interests and was a bad idea. Then, by action or inaction, Brown’s office got in the way of the bill’s progress while publicly maintaining its support for transparency and the concept of government accountability.

Pennsylvania Deal to End Ex-Philly Deputy Mayor’s Bribery Case with One-Year Sentence Crumbles in Court
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 9/5/2019

After his conviction for bribing then-U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was overturned, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman made a deal with the Justice Department that would send him to prison for only one year – half of what he originally had received – instead of risking a second trial. But U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III had other ideas. Calling the agreement “far too lenient” and “not just,” the judge rejected the proposal and ordered Vederman, whom prosecutors once described as Fattah’s “human ATM machine,” to spend two years in prison. The turn of events capped what already had been an unusual proceeding that brought into the open rarely seen discord between Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C. and their local counterparts.

Rhode Island Rhode Island House Employee Has Sexual Assault Conviction, Records Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 9/9/2019

A former police sergeant who was convicted of committing sexual assault while in uniform in the 1980s has been employed by the Rhode Island Legislature for more than a decade. Michael Burke, a former North Kingstown police officer who served prison time on two counts of first-degree sexual assault, has worked as “manager of House operations” since 2007 but is now out on workers’ compensation. The House speaker when Burke was hired, William Murphy, said Burke was recommended to him by a former state representative, whom he declined to identify, and he interviewed Burke. “I gave him a second chance,” Murphy said. “When I was speaker, he always comported himself as a gentleman in the statehouse. I never received any complaint about him. … I am glad I gave Mr. Burke a second chance.”

Tennessee Rep. Andrew Farmer Changes Billboards Over Concerns He Used His Elected Office to Promote Private Business
Knoxville News Sentinel – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 9/9/2019

Earlier this year, Rep. Andrew Farmer changed billboards for his personal business over concerns from residents he was using his elected office to benefit his law firm. Farmer has several billboards in East Tennessee for his law firm, which provides criminal defense and personal injury services.  One of the billboards read, “Who better to argue the law than an actual lawmaker?” Paying for the billboards for his personal business out of campaign money would be illegal. Farmer said he does not use his position as a lawmaker to help attract more clients or influence the outcome of cases.

Tennessee Tennessee Campaign Finance Officials Urge Revamp of Website, More Auditors to Scrutinize Lawmaker Spending
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 9/11/2019

State watchdogs want to revamp Tennessee’s campaign finance reporting website and hire additional auditors. The Registry of Election Finance approved a plan to start talks with the secretary of state’s office about updating its website, which provides the public and the media a view into the activities of candidates. After discovering the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance had more than $1 million available in reserves, registry board member Tom Lawless suggested an update to the state’s website is necessary. Registry Auditor Jay Moeck said he is currently unable to fulfill 18 outstanding audits before the end of the year. He was tasked with coming up with hiring recommendations prior to the panel’s November meeting.

Texas New Disclosures Show Texas Sen. Royce West Making Big Bucks from Government Contracts
Texas Tribune – Jay Root | Published: 9/5/2019

For years, Texas Sen. Royce West raked in millions of dollars in legal fees representing governmental entities such as the Dallas and Houston independent school districts, metropolitan transportation agencies, and major Texas cities, sparking criticism he is using his influence as a state lawmaker to score business deals average citizens cannot get. Until now, it was nearly impossible for voters to quantify the number of governmental contracting deals or estimate how much he has been personally making from his private business interests. But because West running for the U.S. Senate, which requires more robust disclosure than Texas, he is finally pulling back the curtain on his considerable wealth.

June 5, 2020 •

Rhode Island General Assembly Extends Postponement

Rhode Island State House

Rhode Island State House - by Farragutful

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has canceled legislative sessions for the week of June 8 to June 12. In addition, the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force is expected to meet on Tuesday, June 9. The […]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has canceled legislative sessions for the week of June 8 to June 12.

In addition, the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force is expected to meet on Tuesday, June 9.

The meeting will be televised and live streamed online here.

Both chambers of the General Assembly are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, June 16.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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June 5, 2020 •

Louisiana Lawmakers Call Special Session to Address State Budget

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana State Capitol

Louisiana lawmakers called themselves into a 30-day special session that began on June 2, immediately following the adjournment of the regular session. The special session agenda focuses on piecing together a more than $30 billion operating budget for the financial […]

Louisiana lawmakers called themselves into a 30-day special session that began on June 2, immediately following the adjournment of the regular session.

The special session agenda focuses on piecing together a more than $30 billion operating budget for the financial year that begins on July 1.

The session will also center on tax credit considerations, exemptions, and suspensions for businesses that were forced to reduce operations since March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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June 5, 2020 •

DOJ FARA Unit Publishes Letters of Determination

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

On June 4, the Foreign Agents Registration Acts (FARA) Unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated its public list “Letters of Determination” it has issued since 2017. The list was initially published on the DOJ’s website on June 1. […]

On June 4, the Foreign Agents Registration Acts (FARA) Unit of the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated its public list “Letters of Determination” it has issued since 2017. The list was initially published on the DOJ’s website on June 1.

The 15 letters made public were sent by the FARA Unit to potential registrants after evaluations were completed by the unit to determine whether registration was required. The letters, issued between 2017 and 2019, set forth relevant facts, applicable statutory and regulatory provisions, and the unit’s analysis.

While the names of the individuals and foreign principals who are the subject of the letters, and their respective activities being considered by the FARA Unit, are not redacted, the letters do contain some redactions.

According to the FARA Unit, “[The FARA Unit of the DOJ] regularly reviews information to determine whether an entity or individual has an obligation to register under FARA. Where such information suggests that a registration obligation may exist, the FARA Unit sends a letter advising the entity or individual of its potential obligations under FARA, and seeking additional information.”

FARA is a disclosure statute requiring persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make public disclosure of their relationship with and activities for the foreign principal.

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June 5, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 5, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020 President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort […]

National/Federal

As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion
MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020

President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort by conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls. The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome of the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 6/1/2020

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, and many states settled on a system in which the judge appoints the defendant’s attorney. That system has long been criticized for promoting cronyism and dampening the zeal of lawyers who want to stay in the good graces of judges. A new study documents a more troubling objection. Elected judges, the study found, tend to appoint lawyers who contribute to their campaigns. “Campaign finance is perverting the criminal justice system,” said Neel Sukhatme, a professor at Georgetown Law and an author of the study.

Houston Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Bestselling New Book Got Boost from Purchases by House GOP Campaign Arm
Dallas Morning News – Tom Benning | Published: 5/28/2020

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s bestselling new book, Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage, has been boosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) making a large bulk-order purchase. The House GOP’s campaign arm recently spent nearly $400,000 to buy more than 25,000 copies of the freshman Republican’s tome. The purchases were then used in a fundraising appeal that allowed donors to the NRCC to obtain a signed copy of the book. A Crenshaw aide would not answer if the lawmaker received royalties from the NRCC purchase. But the aide said the House ethics committee, signed off on Crenshaw’s book deal when he took office last year.

How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park
MSN – Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Katie Rogers, Zona Kanno-Youngs, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2020

After a day in which President Trump berated “weak” governors and lectured them to “dominate” demonstrators that were protesting the death of George Floyd, the president emerged from the White House and made his way to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed stern-faced, holding up a Bible. The resulting photographs of Trump striding purposefully across Lafayette Square satisfied his desire to project strength. The scene of mayhem that preceded the walk evoked images more commonly associated with authoritarian countries. Trump and his inner circle considered it a triumph that would resonate with many Americans turned off by scenes of urban riots and looting that have accompanied nonviolent protests. But critics were aghast at the use of force against Americans who posed no visible threat at the time.

Interior Watchdog: Agency official pressed EPA to hire relative
Politico – Ben Lefebvre | Published: 5/29/2020

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog said a senior appointed official violated federal laws by using his official email to push the Environmental Protection Agency to hire his son-in-law. The report General is the second time in six months the inspector general has found that Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas Doug Domenech broke federal ethics statutes. Domenech was earlier found to have met in 2017 with attorneys for his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, while the conservative think tank and the Interior Department were battling over a lawsuit, creating the appearance of a conflict-of-interest.

Judge Asks Court Not to ‘Short Circuit’ His Review of Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/1/2020

The Justice Department’s conduct in abruptly deciding to end the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was so unusual it raised a “plausible question” about the legitimacy of the move, a lawyer for the trial judge overseeing that case told a federal appeals court. In a court filing, the lawyer for U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan asked a three-judge panel not to cut short his review of the factual and legal issues surrounding the case. A defense lawyer for Flynn had asked the appellate panel to issue a so-called writ of mandamus ordering the judge to immediately dismiss it without letting him complete an assessment.

Lawmakers Have Been Sleeping in Their Capitol Offices for Years, Coronavirus Is Reviving a Push to End It
USA Today – Cristal Hayes | Published: 5/28/2020

Dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made their offices a second home, sleeping on couches, makeshift mattresses, or fold-out beds at night and getting ready for work before their staffs arrive the next morning. An estimated 100 lawmakers sleep in their offices, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But the coronavirus outbreak has reignited a years-old fight to stop what has become known as the “couch caucus,” with some lawmakers arguing that their colleagues sleeping in their offices is not only improper, it also increases the chances of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and staff at the Capitol.

Pence Chief of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict with Coronavirus Response
National Public Radio – Tim Mak | Published: 5/28/2020

Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, owns between $506,043 and $1.64 million worth of individual stocks in companies doing work related to the Trump administration’s pandemic response, holdings that could run afoul of conflict-of-interest laws. Many of the medical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing companies in which Short and his wife hold stock have been directly affected by or involved in the work of the Coronavirus Task Force, chaired by Pence. Other companies have been publicly touted by the White House for their work with the federal government on the coronavirus response.

Steve King Ousted on Historic Primary Night
Politico – Allie Mutnick, James Arkin, and Zach Montellaro | Published: 6/2/2020

Rep. Steve King will leave Congress after this year, ending a nearly two-decade-long career that included numerous inflammatory comments on race and immigration. The Iowa Republican lost his bid for a 10th term when GOP voters in his Iowa district awarded state Sen. Randy Feenstra with the nomination after a fierce primary battle. Feenstra’s decisive victory is a boon to leaders in both parties, including Republican leaders who stripped King of his committee assignments last year and had long felt his offensive and racist rhetoric cast a shadow on the party.

This Treasury Official Is Running the Bailout. It’s Been Great for His Family.
ProPublica – Justin Elliott, Lydia DePillis, and Robert Faturechi | Published: 6/2/2020

Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have become the public faces of the $3 trillion federal coronavirus bailout. Behind the scenes, however, the Treasury’s responsibilities have fallen largely to the deputy secretary, Justin Muzinich. A major beneficiary of that bailout so far: Muzinich & Co., the asset manager founded by his father where Justin served as president before joining the administration. He reported owning a stake worth at least $60 million when he entered government in 2017.

Trump Signs Order That Could Punish Social Media Companies for How They Police Content, Drawing Criticism and Doubts of Legality
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2020

President Trump signed an executive order aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms. The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most content shared by users on their sites. Trump has argued these protections allow Facebook, Google, and Twitter to censor conservatives. The order seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which the White House asked to probe whether the companies’ content-moderation policies adhere to their pledges of neutrality. It also created a council in cooperation with state attorneys general to probe allegations of censorship based on political views.

Veteran Lobbyists Flex Muscles in K Street’s New Normal
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/28/2020

K Street lobbyists are trying to deliver coronavirus relief funds for their clients while also learning to navigate the new digitally focused landscape, a change from their routine of attending fundraisers and meeting with lawmakers and their staffs in person on Capitol Hill. The difficulty in establishing new connections means many are relying on existing ties, making it harder for newcomers and those who desperately need to expand their networks. “The Zoom lobbying period had made it particularly difficult for starting a relationship with a member or staff and building the level of trust necessary to do our job,” said Ivan Zapien, a partner at Hogan Lovells. That has also put veteran lobbyists at an advantage.

From the States and Municipalities

California Corruption Probe Takes Down Another at LA City Hall
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 5/27/2020

George Esparza, a former aide to Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar, agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall, becoming the closest associate of the councilperson so far to be snared in the federal “pay-to-play” probe. Esparza’s indictment details bribes paid to an unnamed councilperson to move ahead development projects in their district, to help a relative’s political aspirations, and settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The corruption probe has resulted in multiple arrests All previous indictments corroborate evidence that the unnamed council member in the money-making scheme is Huizar and Esparza’s cooperation and indictment furthers that theory.

California DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 6/1/2020

A coalition of current and former district attorneys called on the American Bar Association and the California State Bar to pass an ethics rule prohibiting prosecutors from accepting political donations and endorsements from law enforcement agencies and police unions. The request follows a weekend of mass demonstrations against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder. The district attorneys, who review use of force incidents and make charging decisions against police officers, said they must cut money and politics out of the equation to help build the public’s trust in the judicial system.

California Lawyer at Center of Tax-Sharing Deals Being Probed on Ethics Law
Bloomberg Tax – Laura Mahoney | Published: 5/28/2020

Robert Cendejas, a lawyer who has brokered sales-tax incentive deals between cities and major e-commerce companies that included multimillion-dollar payouts for himself, is being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for possible conflict-of-interest violations. In the case of the city of Ontario, Cendejas has represented or consulted for the city on tax policy. He has also represented a number of California cities in tax disputes with the state’s Board of Equalization. The deals typically last for decades and, in deals he helped negotiate, Cendejas has reached separate agreements to get a percentage of the additional tax collections for himself.

California Legislative Inquiry Finds Assemblyman Committed Sexual Harassment
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 5/27/2020

A Legislative Counsel investigation determined California Assemblyperson Bill Brough engaged in sexual misconduct on multiple occasions, including an offer of political help in exchange for going to his apartment. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon removed him from all of his committee assignments and suggested Brough would face additional punishment. In the meantime, Brough is required to take “additional harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention training.”

California More Costly Campaigns During COVID? Councilwoman Asks About Raising Contribution Limits
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 5/27/2020

A changing election landscape and a global pandemic has some Long Beach politicians asking how the city can raise its cap on political contributions to help fuel campaigns through a longer election cycle and, presently, one where volunteers may be hesitant about knocking on doors. Councilperson Mary Zendejas, who chairs the Elections Oversight Committee, asked the city attorney’s office to start looking at the issue. Zendejas said the city should look at increasing the $400 limit from individual donors to help those campaigning through the pandemic and beyond.

Colorado John Hickenlooper Must Testify in Ethics Complaint, Denver Judge Rules Hours Before Hearing
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 6/3/2020

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who is running for the U.S. Senate, must testify at a hearing about whether his travel on private planes amounts to a violation of the state’s gift ban. Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann issued a ruling that declined Hickenlooper’s request to block a subpoena and delay the remote hearing before the  Independent Ethics Commission. The judge dismissed Hickenlooper’s concerns about the format of the hearing and questioned the last-minute lawsuit given the remote hearing was initially scheduled in early May.

Connecticut Jon Lender: Despite COVID-19, legislators and PACs still put the touch on lobbyists, others for contributions; but now the touch is virtual
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 5/29/2020

While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down nations and states, it cannot stop the machinery of campaign fundraising whether in the presidential campaign or down at the level of Connecticut General Assembly candidates. And, just as experts now say that viruses adapt during a pandemic, so do political fundraising methods. Under the subject “Virtual Fundraiser” from Connecticut Deputy House Majority Leader Jeff Currey, read: “CURREY PAC was hoping to host a summer fundraiser, but in light of our social distancing efforts, I’d like to offer some 1-on-1 time, via Zoom. To donate, click the link below. If you would also like to schedule a 1:1 virtual chat, please reply to this email with the preferred time ….” The  email recipients included past donors and lobbyists.

Florida Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 5/28/2020

The Florida Department of Financial Services has requested 100,000 private companies registered as vendors authorized to bid on state contracts to verify within 30 days whether they are “majority-owned by United States interests.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said the goal of the query is to “better identify businesses that are majority Communist Party of China-owned that do business with the state of Florida.”

Idaho Ada Co. GOP Chair Used Party Funds on Private Expense, Allowed Questionable Audit
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 5/27/2020

Ryan Davidson, chairperson of the Ada County Republican Central Committee, used his own party’s money to pay for advice related to his private lobbying business in 2018. A review of the organization’s finances under Davidson’s watch has also been conducted by an insider who pleaded guilty to misusing public money in the past. Facebook messages show Davidson admitting he “inadvertently’ paid $100 from county GOP funds to Holly Cook, a public relations professional and political consultant.

Kansas Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law
McClatchy DC – Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/27/2020

Dave Lindstrom’s campaign for the U.S. Senate may be violating Kansas law by raffling a Kansas City Chiefs jersey signed by Patrick Mahomes, according to two state agencies. Lindstrom, a former Chiefs player, is running the Republican nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. The campaign began selling $20 tickets recently for a June 23 raffle of the Super Bowl MVP’s jersey. Kansas law only permits charities to conduct raffles. All other entities are restricted, including political campaigns, according to Zach Fletcher, spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue.

Kentucky Beshear Makes Appointments to Executive Ethics Commission
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2020

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is reorganizing a state commission that promotes ethical conduct by elected officials in the executive branch. The governor said he wanted to “restore the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to what it should be.” Beshear, a Democrat, made three appointments to the five-member board and said he would take recommendations from the state attorney general and state auditor for two more positions. Both the attorney general and the auditor are Republicans.

Michigan Bucci Pleads Guilty in Macomb Extortion Scandal
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/28/2020

Former Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci pleaded guilty to embezzling money, extorting contractors, and serving as the bagman for ex-county public works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco during a decades-long extortion conspiracy. The allegations were outlined in a new criminal case that accused Bucci of stealing public tax dollars and extorting businesspeople during a crime spree that spanned his tenure as a Republican politician and his county job working for Marrocco. The criminal case was filed hours after Marrocco was indicted and accused of orchestrating a conspiracy that extorted money from country contractors that prosecutors say was spent on personal luxuries.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer: I didn’t OK Dem firm for coronavirus project, despite emails
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disputed a health official’s characterization that her office gave a “green light” for the state to hire a Democratic campaign consultant’s firm to lead a volunteer COVID-19 contact tracing program. Whitmer said she did not personally learn about the contract until after it was signed on April 20, despite an email that showed her communications director discussing the “arrangement” days before the $194,250 deal was finalized. Her denial follows a news report about emails that appear to show Michigan officials tried to avoid controversy over the contact tracing contract by shifting planned work to apolitical subsidiaries of firms with known partisan leanings.

Mississippi Lt. Governor Withdraws Request for Ethics Decision Over Small Business Grants for Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/27/2020

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann withdrew a request to the Mississippi Ethics Commission asking whether lawmakers could apply for coronavirus small business relief funding the Legislature approved. The panel discussed the issue at a special meeting and was expected to make a decision soon. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said no explanation was given for why the request was withdrawn. Sente Bill 2772 specified that lobbyists, businesses that hired a lobbyist, or ones involved in partisan political activities could not receive the grants. But the bill did not say anything about the people who passed the bill.

Montana U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Holly Michels | Published: 6/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that challenged Montana’s law on disclosing the spending for political ads within 60 days of an election. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state law that nonprofit groups running ads that mention candidates, political parties, or ballot issues in the 60-day window before an election have to report any spending of $250 or more and say who funded their efforts.

Nevada Nev. Elections Office Reviewing MedMen Donation Allegations
AP News – Michelle Price | Published: 5/27/2020

The Nevada secretary of state’s office is reviewing allegations made by a former executive of the cannabis company MedMen Enterprises that the company’s co-founders made illegal campaign donations to Gov. Steve Sioslak. In a lawsuit, MedMen Chief Financial Officer James Parker alleged board member Adam Bierman, the company’s co-founder, gave the maximum $10,000 campaign donation allowed by law to a Nevada politician. The lawsuit alleges Bierman illegally forced Parker to make a similar contribution and company funds were illegally used to buy furniture for co-founder and executive Andrew Modlin in order to reimburse Modlin for a similar campaign donation made in his name.

New Mexico Mixed Ruling on State’s Ethics Law
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 6/2/2020

The state Court of Appeals has ruled that part, but not all, of New Mexico’s anti-corruption law is too vague to be enforced. In a complex ruling, the court ordered the reinstatement of at least one ethics charge against three defendants: former Doña Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez, Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez, and former San Juan County Magistrate Judge Connie Lee Johnston. The judges did not rule on the defendants’ guilt or innocence, just that charges could proceed. By contrast, the court dismissed a series of other charges against them and against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.

New York New Round of Subpoenas Issued in Investigation into Mayor Warren Campaign Funds
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Craig | Published: 5/29/2020

The investigation into whether there were irregularities with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s 2017 re-election campaign is not over. The Monroe County district attorney’s office subpoenaed businesses and other entities that assisted the campaign. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in December 2018 that vendors who were contracted by the Warren campaign or political committees had been subpoenaed for campaign-related records. But, afterward, there was no public word on how the investigation was progressing, or whether it had or had not unearthed evidence of campaign financing fraud. However, the investigation was a joint probe with the state Board of Elections, which last year was locked in an internal struggle over whether it was sluggish or unwilling to aggressively pursue political investigations.

North Carolina A Confrontation Between NC Senators, a Police Report, and a Secretive Ethics Process
MSN – Jessica Huseman (ProPublica) and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/27/2020

North Carolina Sen. Erica Smith filed a complaint accusing other state lawmakers of bullying and making sexual comments and verbal insults to her and asked for expulsion from the Senate for two of them. The Legislative Ethics Assembly recently dismissed parts of her complaint. Documents show a conclusion by police that state Sen. Paul Lowe assaulted Smith during an altercation at a Democratic caucus meeting last September 11. He has not been charged. The records also reveal infighting between Senate Democrats and allegations against multiple senators that include sexually harassing comments.

North Carolina Raleigh Mayor Now Working for Company That Got $6M City Contract. No Conflict, She Says.
Raleigh News and Observer – Anna Johnson | Published: 5/28/2020

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin began interviewing for her new job with a construction company nine days after the company received a $6.3 million city contract. The job and its timing have some of the mayor’s frequent critics calling it a conflict-of-interest. Baldwin says she was not yet in touch with the company when the Raleigh City Council unanimously voted on the contract. A former five-term council member who was elected mayor in 2019, Baldwin is now director of Business Development for Barnhill Contracting’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions.  She was formerly vice president at Holt Brothers Construction and executive director of the Holt Brothers Foundation, which supports children who have a parent with cancer.

North Carolina Republicans Will Move Trump Convention Speech Out of Charlotte
New York Times – Annie Karni | Published: 6/2/2020

Republicans said they were moving President Trump’s convention speech out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and to another city, after coming to a stalemate with Democratic officials in the state about safety and crowd size restrictions because of the coronavirus. But Republican officials also said they could still hold other convention business in Charlotte, so as not to break a formal contract they signed with the city more than two years ago. Party officials are planning a visit to Nashville to assess its suitability for the convention. Other cities under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando, and Jacksonville, as well as sites in Georgia.

Pennsylvania A Congressman Caught in the 1970s Abscam Sting Is Now at the Heart of a Philly Election Fraud Probe, Sources Say
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck, Chris Brennan, and Andrew Seidman | Published: 5/27/2020

A central question lingered after federal recently disclosed a Philadelphia poll worker had admitted taking bribes to stuff ballot boxes in local elections: who was the unnamed “Campaign Consultant #1” described in court filings as the man who paid Domenick DeMuro to inflate vote totals on behalf of favored candidates between 2014 and 2016? Prosecutors have declined to say. But two sources briefed on the matter and an analysis of campaign finance data and court filings in DeMuro’s case point to one man: former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, who was a key figure in the Abscam scandal of the 1970s.

Pennsylvania Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 6/1/2020

A federal appeals court agreed that a provision of Pennsylvania law barring campaign contributions from individuals holding ownership stakes in businesses with gaming licenses ran violated constitutional free speech protections. That is so even though the prohibition included in the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act adopted in 2004 is aimed at preventing corruption in state politics, Judge Richard Nygaard wrote in the opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Pennsylvania officials have not proven their total ban is justified when those other states impose lesser restrictions that do not severely infringe free speech rights, Nygaard wrote.

Pennsylvania Pa. House Democrats Say They Were in the Dark for a Week About Republican’s Positive Coronavirus
Spotlight PA – Julia Terruso (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/28/2020

Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus in May, leading at least one of his Pennsylvania House colleagues, Russ Diamond, to self-quarantine. Diamond has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal opponents of mask-wearing, boasting on social media that he goes shopping without one. The admission immediately ignited outrage among Democrats in the chamber who said they were recklessly left in the dark for nearly a week about Lewis’s condition.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Rejects Staff Advice: Opens door for Sen. Lynch Prata to potentially get Supreme Court seat
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 6/2/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission ignored its own staff advice and opened the door for Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to seek a seat on the state Supreme Court. The “revolving door” ban requires a year out of office before a legislator can take a state job, including a judgeship. A 1991 Providence Journal investigation found 49 of the 311 people who had served in the General Assembly the previous decade had gotten state jobs, many of which had never been advertised, while in office or within a year of leaving.

South Carolina SC Republican House Member Sues His Own Party, Claiming It Helped Primary Opponent
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 6/3/2020

A Republican member of the South Carolina House is suing his own party after it allegedly paid for campaign ads assisting his political opponent in the leadup to the state’s primary election. Rep. Jonathon Hill filed the lawsuit, arguing the state GOP should not be allowed to contribute more than $5,000 to assist his primary opponent’s campaign. Hill has often clashed with the House’s Republican leadership. That animosity grew to the point that other members of the Legislature voted last year to kick him out of the Republican Caucus. Hill believes the spending shows the GOP is illegally influencing the election.

Tennessee Tennessee House Approves Measure Reducing Campaign Finance Disclosures in Election Years
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020

The Tennessee House approved a measure that would claw back campaign finance disclosures during election years. This year, like other election years, lawmakers are required to file five disclosures outlining how they raised and spend campaign money. An additional disclosure is required early next year outlining activity in the final months of 2020.In non-election years, lawmakers are required to file two disclosures. The bill would remove the requirement to file disclosures before the primary and general elections. Those reports currently must be filed no later than seven days before the elections.

Washington DC Brandon Todd Loses His D.C. Council Seat, and Voters Soundly Reject Jack Evans
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/3/2020

Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, who was trying to reclaim the seat he relinquished in January while facing expulsion for ethics violations, finished near the bottom of  a crowded field in the Democratic primary, with about 300 votes of nearly 8,000 ballots cast. Evans had asked voters to forgive his transgressions and return him to the office he held for nearly three decades. But two years of scandal, including an FBI search of his home and investigations finding he violated ethics rules at the council and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority where he served as board chairperson, proved too much to overcome.

West Virginia This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/28/2020

The billionaire governor of West Virginia, whose business empire has amassed more than $128 million in judgments and settlements against it for unpaid bills, lost another court case recently that adds millions more to that tally. Gov. Jim Justice’s Bluestone Resources was ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million to a financing company after it stopped making payments on a lease for a bulldozer used in coal mining. The ruling comes as Justice campaigns for a second term as governor, touting his experience as a longtime businessperson. But in advance of the state’s June 9 primary, opponents in both political parties are branding the Republican incumbent as a billionaire scofflaw.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voter Purge Case
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 6/2/2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a case seeking to purge about 129,000 voter registrations from the rolls ahead of the November presidential election after previously deadlocking on whether to get involved. Democrats oppose the voter purge, arguing it is intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Conservatives who brought the lawsuit argue the integrity of the vote is at stake, saying when records indicate voters may have moved, their registrations should be deactivated.

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June 4, 2020 •

Georgia General Assembly Set to Return on June 15

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston announced the Georgia General Assembly will resume its 2020 legislative session on June 15. The General Assembly’s session has been on pause since March 13 due to COVID-19 concerns. […]

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston announced the Georgia General Assembly will resume its 2020 legislative session on June 15.

The General Assembly’s session has been on pause since March 13 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Upon reconvening, a key issue will be the state budget.

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June 4, 2020 •

Governor Makes Appointment to Fill Idaho House Seat

Aaron von Ehligner

Aaron von Ehligner - by FinallyGoodIT

Gov. Brad Little appointed Aaron von Ehlinger to fill the Idaho House District 6 seat until November’s general election. The appointment was made one day after von Ehlinger challenged incumbent Rep. Thyra Stevenson, and won the Republican primary for the […]

Gov. Brad Little appointed Aaron von Ehlinger to fill the Idaho House District 6 seat until November’s general election.

The appointment was made one day after von Ehlinger challenged incumbent Rep. Thyra Stevenson, and won the Republican primary for the seat.

However, Stevenson passed away on May 11 following a heart attack.

She remained on the Republican primary ballot because it was too late to change forms.

The 6th Legislative District Republican Central Committee nominated von Ehlinger and two others as potential picks following the passing of Stevenson.

Von Ehlinger will now be the incumbent in the November general election, where he is running unopposed.

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June 4, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police” by Maria Dinzeo for Courthouse News Service Kansas: “Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law” by Bryan Lowry for McClatchy DC […]

Campaign Finance

California: “DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police” by Maria Dinzeo for Courthouse News Service

Kansas: “Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law” by Bryan Lowry for McClatchy DC

Tennessee: “Tennessee House Approves Measure Reducing Campaign Finance Disclosures in Election Years” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean

Elections

National: “Steve King Ousted on Historic Primary Night” by Allie Mutnick, James Arkin, and Zach Montellaro for Politico

North Carolina: “Republicans Will Move Trump Convention Speech Out of Charlotte” by Annie Karni for New York Times

Pennsylvania: “A Congressman Caught in the 1970s Abscam Sting Is Now at the Heart of a Philly Election Fraud Probe, Sources Say” by Jeremy Roebuck, Chris Brennan, and Andrew Seidman for Philadelphia Inquirer

Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voter Purge Case” by Scott Bauer for AP News

Ethics

National: “How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park” by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Katie Rogers, Zona Kanno-Youngs, and Katie Benner (New York Times) for MSN

National: “This Treasury Official Is Running the Bailout. It’s Been Great for His Family.” by Justin Elliott, Lydia DePillis, and Robert Faturechi for ProPublica

New Mexico: “Mixed Ruling on State’s Ethics Law” by Dan McKay for Albuquerque Journal

Rhode Island: “Ethics Commission Rejects Staff Advice: Opens door for Sen. Lynch Prata to potentially get Supreme Court seat” by Katherine Gregg for Providence Journal

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June 3, 2020 •

Republican Convention Will Not Be Held in North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper

N. Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper - by NCDOTcommunications

After a prolonged standoff with the state’s Democratic governor, President Donald Trump says Republicans will seek another state instead of North Carolina to hold its August convention. Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a proposal for a full convention and insisted on […]

After a prolonged standoff with the state’s Democratic governor, President Donald Trump says Republicans will seek another state instead of North Carolina to hold its August convention.

Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a proposal for a full convention and insisted on scaling back the event due to uncertainty as to what the status of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in August.

Several other locations are expected to or have already expressed interest in hosting the event, but the GOP is still weighing its options for the event.

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