September 18, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 18, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response
New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020

Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict, and other emergencies around the world. As President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed almost 200,000 lives nationwide, the USAID has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries, and disengaged the U.S. from the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response.

Barr Accuses Justice Department of Headhunting and Meddling with Politics
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/16/2020

Attorney General William Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. The attorney general directly addressed the criticism that has been building for months inside the department toward his heavy hand in politically sensitive cases, particularly those involving associates of President Trump. Barr’s comments were remarkable in that the head of the Justice Department catalogued all the ways in which he thought his agency had gone astray over the years, and in its current formulation harms the body politic.

Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 9/11/2020

A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case, called Attorney General William Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.” Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation September 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump advisor to plead guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/15/2020

A federal grand jury is investigating potential disclosures of classified information in the book former national security adviser John Bolton published over objections from the Trump administration. The development signals Bolton may face much more severe legal trouble than just the pending lawsuit that seeks to strip him of the proceeds from “The Room Where It Happened,” the tell-all account that generated a slew of critical press coverage for President Trump. The judge assigned to that suit rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block publication of the book, but said Bolton appeared to have deliberately violated nondisclosure agreements he signed and could face criminal jeopardy.

Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Wald | Published: 9/11/2020

Watchdogs are concerned with super PACs, which can accept donations of unlimited size but must reveal the names of their donors and regularly disclose their activity. But they are more worried about “dark money” groups: nonprofit organizations that cannot be as explicitly political as super PACs but can keep their donors secret forever and do not have to reveal much about activities before elections. While concerns about campaign finance reform that once animated Democratic voters have been eclipsed by the desire to oust President Trump, advocates are left to wonder if the party can really be trusted to follow through on its promises to dismantle a system that may help them get elected.

Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 9/14/2020

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has had little success in the battery of lawsuits he filed against media organizations and critics, but his efforts are running up legal bills for the groups he considers his adversaries. Altogether, Nunes has filed seven lawsuits against media organizations, anonymous online critics, and other political actors. The only case that has concluded is one his campaign filed and dropped against a retired farmer in Nunes’ congressional district who challenged the Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters. Judges have dismissed or greatly diminished three of the cases. Each time, Nunes appealed the decision or attempted to file an amended complaint to restart the case.

Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/14/2020

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has begun reviewing the controversial handling of the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump who was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s treatment has long drawn criticism from legal observers and lawmakers who said Attorney General William Barr seemed to be inappropriately affording favorable treatment to a friend of the president.  Earlier this year, when Stone was still awaiting his sentence, Barr personally intervened to overrule the sentencing recommendation career prosecutors had offered to the court, prompting all four of them to withdraw from the case.

Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 9/11/2020

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned, at least partly out of concern the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Postal Service and State Officials Feud Over Mail Voting as Election Looms
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Haley Fuchs, Nick Corasaniti, and Luke Broadwater | Published: 9/16/2020

The Postal Service postcard urging voters to “plan ahead” if they intended to vote by mail seemed innocuous enough. But not to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued the agency to halt its delivery, arguing the mailer was filled with misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Such is the toxic state of the relationship between some state and local election administrators in both parties and the Postal Service six weeks before Election Day, as officials throughout the country scramble to prepare for what is expected to be an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots in an extraordinary pandemic-era election. The feuding suggests a pre-emptive blame game between the nation’s mail-delivery agency and those charged with administering and counting the vote.

Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2020

Social media messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views, standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to people with independent knowledge of the effort.

Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says
Associated Press – Frank Bajack | Published: 9/10/2020

Microsoft said the same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants. The intrusion attempts reflect an increased effort to infiltrate the American political establishment, the company said. Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified. Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.

Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 9/11/2020

The Department of Health and Human Services’ politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained the agency’s reports would undermine President Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails.

Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/10/2020

Twitter announced it is expanding its policies against election-related misinformation, setting new rules that will likely force the platform to more aggressively fact-check President Trump during the final months of the 2020 campaign. Trump has more than 85 million Twitter followers, and the company has previously flagged misleading claims from the president, including the assertion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s expanded policies come as social media has become the central electoral information battlefield, as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning. The tech companies have heeded the advice of experts who predict the election result may not be settled quickly in part because of mail-in ballots this year, leading to potential confusion about who wins.

Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 9/15/2020

A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that said private-sector unions cannot charge non-members for costs related to lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions cannot force dissenting employees to contribute to them at all because this would violate the First Amendment. That decision overruled more than 40 years of precedent. But the First Amendment does not apply in the private sector, where a union-security agreement can force dissenters to pay for union activities that relate to collective bargaining, contract administration, or handling grievances. The First Circuit panel ruled lobbying does not fall into any of those categories.

Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/15/2020

A new assessment of congressional staffing, concludes that relatively low compensation, leading to high turnover among aides, fuels the dysfunction and diminished clout of today’s legislative branch. But with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil of this year’s elections, has the private sector lost some of its sheen for these aides? Is the revolving door from Congress to K Street still a viable option for congressional aides looking to cash in?

Canada

Canada Canada’s Ethics Czar Says Former Envoy to Washington Broke Conflict-of-Interest Law in His Work for Palantir
Politico – Angy Blatchford | Published: 9/16/2020

Canada’s ethics watchdog says former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton broke conflict-of-interest law and is ordering nine senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to cease all official dealings with him for one year. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion published the order following his investigation of MacNaughton, a close ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The probe was launched amid complaints about MacNaughton’s interactions with cabinet ministers and other key officials after leaving his ambassador’s job to take on a senior role last year with data analytics firm Palantir.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/15/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of misusing his campaign checking account and resign from the Senate, according to a plea deal. Burkette agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and to not run for or accept a public office for 10 years. The plea agreement says that when Burkette was a candidate for the Montgomery City Council he intentionally put $3,625 in campaign funds in his personal checking account.

California 13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants
San Bernardino Sun – Beau Yarbrough | Published: 9/11/2020

On September 4, 2007, San Bernardino County prosecutors indicted former Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt and California Charter Academy founder Charles Steven Cox on suspicion of misappropriating $5.5 million in state and federal funds. Thirteen years later, they have never been tried, have not taken a plea deal, and their case has never been dismissed. The case has faced years of delays, due in part to its complexity and Honeycutt’s political connections, and now complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, the prosecutor on the case.

California San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/10/2020

San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia vetoed legislation that on would have set a yearly $4,700 limit on how much someone can give a candidate for county or city office. The item is expected to be taken up again in October. Signed into law last fall, Assembly Bill 571 on January 1 will set the default contribution limit at $4,700 per year per individual for cities and counties without their own laws regulating campaign donations. Jurisdictions can adopt their own rules before then to avoid defaulting to the limits already in place for state Assembly and Senate candidates.

California San Diego Ethics Commission Taps Deputy City Attorney as New Chief
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 9/16/2020

San Diego’s Ethics Commission, which oversees the city’s campaign and election laws, selected a deputy city attorney with expertise in those areas to serve as the commission’s new executive director. Sharon Spivak, a former journalist and private sector attorney, will replace longtime Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst if the city council approves the selection. Fulhorst is scheduled to retire in February after more than 17 years leading the agency. Spivak is expected to start work in early November, which would allow for a three-month overlap and transition period.

Colorado A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 9/14/2020

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formed Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit organization that can accept unlimited personal and corporate contributions and not disclose its donors, after he won the 2018 election in order to help him recruit members of his administration and form the policy platform for his first term. Now, it has shifted its focus to support efforts to lower the cost of living in the state, including expanding access for early childhood education and addressing rising health care costs. The language echoes the governor’s policy priorities, and his ties to such a group raise concerns with watchdogs who suggest it amounts to a “shadow governance group.” The move comes as the governor campaigns for a key 2020 ballot initiative to achieve one of his campaign promises and two years before he faces reelection.

Connecticut Report: Public financing has added women, minority legislators in CT
San Francisco Chronicle – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/14/2020

About 85 percent of candidates for the General Assembly used public funds to seek office in 2018, helping to make Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program a national model, according to a new analysis by Common Cause. The watchdog group said the law fostered competitive races, advanced progressive public policy, and landed more women and minorities in the Legislature. The report found that in the 2018 races, 99 percent of candidate funding came from individuals, with minuscule amounts from other sources. In 2006, nearly half of the $9.3 million raised by candidates came from lobbyists, PACs, and other entities.

Florida County Commissioners Move Forward with Changes to Lobbying Regulations
Tallahassee Reports – Lexie Pitzen | Published: 9/16/2020

The Leon County Commission approved an ordinance amending lobbying regulations. The ordinance clarifies definitions related to lobbying and who qualifies as a lobbyist. It also outlines new regulation enforcement models, including processes for filing and investigating complaints as well as guidelines for lobbying violation penalties. The ordinance modifies lobbyist exemptions.

Florida Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 9/11/2020

A federal appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that people with felony convictions do not have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not prove a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs included more than a dozen people with felony convictions who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers of imposing a “poll tax” by requiring them to pay off all court-ordered costs relating to their felony convictions before voting. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it virtually guarantees the estimated 800,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who owe fines, fees, or restitution to victims will not be allowed to vote in the November election.

Florida Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert
Washington Post – Jaclyn Pieser | Published: 9/16/2020

Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald, opened their papers recently to find a paid insert called “LIBRE.” In a column headlined, “American Jews and Israeli Jews” in the insert, an author claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The Herald apologized and promised to never again run the insert, which editors now say had included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Misinformation and racism are a growing concern in media targeting Florida’s Latino community. Radio Caracol, a news station in Miami, aired a 16-minute paid program claiming if Joe Biden won the election, the country would become a dictatorship run by “Jews and Blacks” and falsely saying he supports killing babies.

Georgia Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard Indicted for Fraud, Possessing Machine Guns and More
WXIA – Jonathan Raymond | Published: 9/16/2020

Jim Beard, the former chief financial officer for Atlanta, was indicted by the federal government under charges that include wire fraud, possessing a machine gun, and more. He is accused of defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars by using those funds in a range of inappropriate ways, including: personal purchases, “including two machine guns”; to pay for official travel which the host later reimbursed him for, which he then kept himself; and to pay for travel he then misrepresented in his tax filings.

Illinois Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 9/15/2020

After a four-month grace period, the Chicago Board of Ethics will start enforcing a ban on “cross-lobbying.” With federal investigators swarming around state and city government, the city council voted to prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and preventing their counterparts at those levels from doing the same at City Hall. Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin has said the board wanted to see if an amendment Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced this spring got passed. But board released a statement saying the mayor’s ordinance apparently will no proceed, and the new rules will be enforced starting October 1.

Illinois Former Chicago Firefighter Fined $2,000 for Violating City’s Ethics Ordinance
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 9/15/2020

A former Chicago firefighter was fined $2,000 for helping to draft bid documents for a $7.36 million fire training contract while negotiating a job with the company subsequently awarded the contract, then returning to work on the training in violation of the “revolving-door” provision. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the fine would have been higher if not for the extenuating circumstances. “… This guy only did it at the request of the Chicago Fire Department and only did it for the benefit of the city. While wrong, that mitigated the fine in our mind,” Conlon said.

Illinois Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/11/2020

A former top aide to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed secret bid information about a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders. Pedro Soto, who resigned as Jackson’s chief of staff before he was charged, admitted in a plea agreement he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.” Sources said it was an offshoot of the FBI’s investigation into then-Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis, who at the time had already been recorded on numerous wiretapped calls talking about exchanging favors for official action.

Kansas D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices
Kansas City Star – Matthew Kelly | Published: 9/14/2020

When Cynthia Herron received a mail-in ballot application from the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in August, she thought it seemed official enough. The request form, sent from a Post Office box in Springfield, Missouri, had Herron’s name and address already typed out. So, she signed and returned it in a prepaid envelope addressed to the Johnson County Election Office. Herron was confused when, three weeks later, she opened her mailbox to find a vote-by-mail request form from the county. Worried her initial request had not been accepted, Herron sent that one back too. When a third ballot application showed up in the mail, this one again from CVI, Herron began to suspect she was being intentionally misled.

New Jersey These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles
Newark Star Ledger – Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/13/2020

A review by NJ Advance Media revealed more than a dozen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans went to companies that have been sued or paid settlements over alleged fraudulent business practices in New Jersey. They included construction contractors, technology companies, and car dealerships that ran afoul of federal or state prosecutors, among them a builder once accused of cheating its workers and covering it up by falsifying payroll records, a key component of how lenders calculated PPP awards. Those businesses likely represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering the companies that received loans of less than $150,000, which number more than 65,000 in the Garden State alone, have never been named by the Treasury Department.

New York Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Graig | Published: 9/16/2020

Former lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft of $1,500 in government money, while agreeing to cooperate with investigations into “campaign finance matters.” Gaddy’s plea deal said he was approached by an FBI informant in September 2017 and was given cash to try to induce a New York Assembly member to introduce legislation that could impede a proposed development in Rochester. Gaddy recommended that Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo be approached. He assisted Errigo, who died earlier this year, with introducing legislation. Gaddy said he claimed he “greased the skids” with the late Assemblyperson David Gantt, but Gaddy had not done so. Instead, Gaddy kept $1,500 of the””intended bribe” for himself.

New York Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 9/14/2020

Just months after progressives in New York concluded one of their most successful primary seasons in history, a political party representing their interests is fighting for its survival. Because of rules backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning third parties, the Working Families Party must garner at least 130,000 votes or two percent of the total vote, whichever is higher, on its party line for the presidential election in November, or it will lose its automatic ballot line in New York. The rules present an unusual challenge for small parties in the state; the parties must encourage New Yorkers to vote for a presidential candidate on their line, even if that candidate is also running on the line of a mainstream party. So, the Working Families Party must persuade voters to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its column, not on that of the Democratic Party.

North Carolina Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going
Charlotte Observer – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 9/12/2020

A cascade of formal ethics complaints has flooded the city clerk’s office in Charlotte in recent weeks. It started with scrutiny on one Republican city council member and his nonprofit, which was poised to run a taxpayer-backed jobs training program, using COVID-19 relief funds. Soon after that, two Democrats on council who raised questions about the arrangement found themselves the target of ethics accusations. All council members, including the mayor, are facing at least one ethics complaint. The allegations range from elected officials luring campaign donations from developers to making racially charged comments during closed-door meetings, and to using city business for private business gain.

Ohio Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/15/2020

Prosecutors say they have a text message sent from then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder seeking to pressure a fellow lawmaker to vote for a bill at the center of a criminal “pay-to-play” scheme, a text an ally allegedly sought to get deleted. But the House said in response to a records request that the text could not be located from Householder’s phone as it was a “transient document” that did not need to be preserved. Householder, according to an FBI investigation, texted a male House Republican (only identified as “Representative 7”) on May 28, 2019, and pressured him to support House Bill 6, the beating heart of what prosecutors have called the largest bribery scheme in the state’s political history.

Ohio FirstEnergy’s PAC Reported Giving $158K to Ohio Politicians in July. They Say They Never Got the Money.
Akron Beacon Journal – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 9/16/2020

In the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians. FirstEnergy’s PAC reported giving the money to 65 politicians between July 6 and July 16, the same day a federal complaint was filed against Householder and four others in connection with what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers would call one of Ohio’s largest bribery schemes. To critics, the donations are an “insurance policy” as lawmakers now ponder repealing a scandal-scarred bailout, House Bill 6, that had helped FirstEnergy and its affiliates. The company says it is just working to help its customers and shareholders. But several Republicans and Democrats said their campaigns never received the money.

Ohio Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/15/2020

A judge ruled Ohio has no legal basis to limit drop boxes for completed absentee ballots to one per county, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose did in an order to county boards of election as they prepared for the November presidential election. Siding with arguments made by the Ohio Democratic Party, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye did not go so far as to block LaRose from enforcing the order. But Frye said he may do so, noting LaRose has said he would support allowing additional drop boxes if they were deemed legal.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 9/14/2020

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman tapped a lobbyist with a politically connected Harrisburg firm to serve as his new chief of staff, the latest example of the close relationship between elected officials in the Capitol and special interests trying to influence them. Corman, who is widely considered next in line to ascend to the chamber’s top leadership post, said he hired Krystjan Callahan, a partner at Maverick Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm run by Ray Zaborney, who also runs Corman’s campaigns. Callahan was once the top staffer to a Republican leader in the House. For the past five years, he has worked for Zaborney, who together with his wife runs a trio of companies known as The Mavericks.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs
Pennlive.com – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) | Published: 9/15/2020

The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign filed the suit seeking $6,070 from The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis. Scarnati’s campaign alleges the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.

South Dakota Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 9/11/2020

After a tense, and at times hostile, four-hour hearing, the Sioux Falls City Council dismissed an ethics complaint against Councilor Greg Neitzert, declaring there “is not clear and convincing evidence” he violated an ordinance when he made an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials last year. The hearing ended at least one leg of the saga, which has spanned two separate complaints, numerous public hearings and, finally, the transformation of Carnegie Town Hall into a sort of jury-rigged courtroom.

South Dakota State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says
Rapid City Journal – Arielle Zionts | Published: 9/15/2020

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will release its investigation into the state attorney general fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer but realized he killed a man when he searched the site the next morning while on his way to return the car he borrowed from the local sheriff. The Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS, is leading the investigation, DPS Secretary Craig Price said. He said the Highway Patrol often asks the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to help investigate fatal crashes but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this case since DCI is under Ravnsborg’s office.

Washington A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.
Washington Post – Jaclyn Peiser | Published: 9/15/2020

Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington Rep. Jenny Graham on August 27. The journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons. When Walters called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults. Walters and his editor tried calling Graham back a few times, asking what about his story was inaccurate. He also texted her, offering to talk off the record. But the representative did not respond. Instead, she turned to her Facebook page, where she posted about Walters about 15 times, he said. She called the reporter “pathetic,” “hateful,” “disgusting,” and a “lying piece of dung.”

Wisconsin GOP Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Advised Green Party
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 9/15/2020

A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state. The commission deadlocked on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.

October 22, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

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

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

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October 21, 2020 •

Michigan Lobby Registration Act 2021 Reporting Thresholds Published

Michigan Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol - By Brian Charles Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 21, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

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

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

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

Elections

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

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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October 20, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 19, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature’s Fifth Special Session Ends

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 19, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

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

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October 16, 2020 •

Yukon Lobbyist Registry Accepting Registrations

Yukon Legislature

Yukon Legislature

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

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

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

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

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

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October 16, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 16, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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