September 25, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 25, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020

On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020

More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.

Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.

DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020

The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.

How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020

With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.

Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020

In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.

Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.

Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020

An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020

The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020

Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.

Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020

President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.

Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020

President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020

A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.

Alaska In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

California California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020

The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”

California CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.

California LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020

A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.

California San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020

San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.

Florida Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”

Illinois Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020

A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020

The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.

Illinois CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020

After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.

Illinois Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020

Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.

Kentucky Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020

As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.

Louisiana In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020

In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.

Maryland Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020

Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.

Minnesota Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020

Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020

Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.

New Jersey Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020

A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.

New York Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020

President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”

New York New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020

After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.

New York Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.

Ohio Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020

FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”

Pennsylvania Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020

Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.

South Carolina Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020

Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.

Virginia Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020

The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.

Washington DC D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020

A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.

October 30, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 30, 2020

News You Can Use

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

National/Federal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 29, 2020 •

American Samoa Ends Special Session After Passing Funding Gap Appropriations Bill

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

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

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

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

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

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October 29, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

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

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

Elections

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

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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October 28, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

Elections

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

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

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

Ethics

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

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

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

Lobbying

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

Redistricting

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

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October 27, 2020 •

The Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act Introduced to Amend FARA

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol - by Martin Falbisoner

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

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

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

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

The legislation would become effective 180 days after enactment.

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October 27, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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

Campaign Finance

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

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

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

Elections

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

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

Ethics

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

Lobbying

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

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

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

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October 26, 2020 •

American Samoa Governor Calls Additional Special Session

American Samoa Legislature

American Samoa Legislature - by NOAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 26, 2020 •

Missouri’s Second Special Session Set for November 5

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

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

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

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

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

The session does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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