September 6, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 6, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal

Andrew Yang’s Speaking Fees, Including from JPMorgan, Raise Campaign Finance Questions: Experts
ABC News – Armando Garcia | Published: 8/30/2019

Months after announcing his bid for the presidency as a Democrat, Andrew Yang was paid for a number of speaking engagements. Yang described the speaking engagements as speeches about the subject matter of his book, “The War on Normal People.” But a PowerPoint presentation that Yang used shows his 2020 campaign logo on the opening slide and an abbreviated campaign symbol on most of the other slides. While campaign finance law allows candidates to be compensated for work independent of their campaigns, payments may be considered campaign contributions and subject to federal rules, unless “the compensation results from bona fide employment that is genuinely independent of the candidacy,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations. It is unclear whether Yang’s speaking engagements would in fact be considered campaign-related activities and subject to FEC regulations, experts said.

Biden Taps Influence Industry Despite Pledge on Lobbyists
AP News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 9/3/2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden promised not to accept political contributions from lobbyists during his latest campaign for president. Yet hours after his campaign kickoff, Biden went to a fundraiser at the home of a lobbying executive. It is difficult to quantify how much Biden has raised from the lobbying industry, but the roughly $200,000 he accepted from employees of major lobbying firms is far more than any of his rivals has received. The money demonstrates a comfort with an industry that is the object of scorn of Democratic activists and some of Biden’s principal opponents. Biden’s pledge to reject money from lobbyists is a change for him. Before he entered the 2020 race, his American Possibilities PAC had no such prohibition.

‘Business as Normal’: Pence’s stay at Trump hotel in Ireland follows a trend
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/3/2019

During his taxpayer-funded trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence did not stay in Dublin, where he had meeting with Irish officials, but 181 miles away at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg. The person who suggested he stay there was the hotel’s owner himself, President Trump. Pence’s stay at the Trump hotel may have been the highest-profile example of a member of the president’s inner circle patronizing one of his businesses. But it was far from the first time that a top American official in Trump’s administration had picked one of the president’s hotels when needing a place to stay or to be seen. Trump himself has visited one of his family-owned properties on at least 293 days, or just over 30 percent of the days he has been in office.

Democrats Examining Impeachment Target Trump’s Pardon Offers to Immigration Officials
ENM News – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2019

The House Judiciary Committee ordered homeland security officials to hand over records related to reported offers by President Trump to pardon aides willing to break the law to carry out his immigration policies. House Democrats indicated they were continuing to expand the scope of their investigation into whether to impeach the president beyond the special counsel’s core findings on Russian election interference and possible presidential obstruction of justice. A president who knowingly directed government officials to break the law and dangled pardons to appease them would constitute an abuse of power, Judiciary Committee Chairperson Jerrold Nadler said.

Former Highland Heights Mayor Admits to Stealing $160,000 from Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce’s Campaign
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Eric Heisig | Published: 8/29/2019

Former Highland Heights Mayor Scott Coleman admitted he embezzled $160,000 from U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce’s campaign when he worked as the campaign treasurer. Coleman pleaded guilty to a grand theft charge that carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison. Joyce’s attorneys sent a letter to the FEC in February that said Coleman embezzled from the campaign between 2015 through 2018. The letter said an investigator used bank camera footage to confirm Coleman used the campaign’s ATM card to make unauthorized withdrawals.

Former Obama Counsel Found Not Guilty of Lying to Investigators Probing Work to Aid Ukraine President
Duluth News Tribune – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 9/4/2019

A jury acquitted former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig over allegations he lied to the federal government about his work with Ukrainian officials. Prosecutors accused Craig of violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act by misleading authorities about the nature of his work and whether it required him to register. The acquittal marks a setback for the Justice Department’s crackdown on foreign lobbying the U.S., exposing flaws in a difficult prosecution of events from 2012 that was handed off among several investigative offices before Craig’s indictment. The trial revealed the involvement of a half-dozen powerful Washington, D.C. public relations, lobbying, consulting, and law firms in the project to rehabilitate Ukraine’s image.

Judge Tells White House to Reinstate Reporter’s Pass
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/3/2019

A judge blocked the White House’s decision to revoke the press pass of Playboy correspondent Brian Karem over a Rose Garden showdown with former White House aide Sebastian Gorka. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras granted a preliminary injunction restoring Karem’s so-called hard pass because the reporter had no clear notice of the rules governing press behavior at events like the presidential appearance that preceded the heated exchange. In imposing a 30-day suspension, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Karem’s behavior had violated widely accepted standards of “professionalism” and “decorum.” Contreras said precedent regarding White House press credentials requires such rules be clear and that they be laid out in advance.

Pro-Trump PAC Paid Thousands to Firm Owned by Campaign Manager’s Wife
San Jose Mercury News – Vicky Ward (CNN) | Published: 8/30/2019

A company owned by the wife of Brad?Parscale,?President?Trump’s campaign manager, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the president’s flagship PAC, which is barred from coordinating with the campaign. FEC records show Red State Data and Digital, which was founded by Candice?Parscale, has received?$910,000 from?America First Action,?the super PAC formed in 2017 to support Trump’s agenda and Republican?candidates. Brad Parscale and his wife insist their arrangement is legitimate and there is no coordination. Experts in federal election law say the appearance of a connection between Trump’s main super PAC and a firm set up by his campaign?manager’s?spouse that handles political ads walks right up to the line.

Top Interior Official Who Pushed to Expand Drilling in Alaska to Join Oil Company There
MSN – Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson (Washington Post) | Published: 9/3/2019

Joe Balash, who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands before resigning from the Interior Department recently, is joining a foreign oil company that is expanding operations on Alaska’s North Slope. The company is drilling on state lands that lie nearby, but not inside, two federal reserves where the Trump administration is pushing to increase oil and gas development. During his time at Interior, Balash oversaw the department’s work to hold lease sales on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Balash declined to disclose his specific role and said while he would oversee employees who would work with the federal government on energy policy, he would abide by the Trump ethics pledge barring appointees from lobbying their former agencies for five years.

Vin Weber, Longtime Washington Lobbyist and Consultant, Resigns from Lobbying Firm
Danbury News Times – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2019

Former U.S. Rep. Vin Weber resigned his position as a partner in a prominent consulting firm amid ongoing questions about lobbying work he did for Ukrainian interests. Weber’s activities at Mercury LLC have been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in New York investigating whether he and others complied with laws requiring those working for a foreign country or political party to register with the Justice Department. Weber’s resignation is the latest turn in a drama that has engulfed several top Washington figures as a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Canada

Canada 2 Montreal Companies Told to Pay Nearly $450K Over Illegal Election Donations
Global News – Christian Paas-Land (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/29/2019

Two companies have agreed to pay almost $450,000 in fines after admitting they made illegal political donations between 2004 and 2009. Groupe AXOR Inc. acknowledged a senior executive, who is no longer employed with the company, asked some employees and their families to make donations totaling about $66,000 while offering to reimburse them for the contributions. A similar scheme happened at Axor Experts-Conseils Inc. In both cases, the companies reimbursed donors through personal expense claims, and in the case of Axor Experts-Conseils Inc., also through bonuses and other benefits. Because of those reimbursements, the companies acknowledged that what they made amounts to corporate donations, which are not allowed in Canada.

Canada Unlike U.S., Canada Plans Coordinated Attack on Foreign Election Interference
Politico – Alexander Panetta and Mark Scott | Published: 9/3/2019

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election rattled America’s next-door neighbor so badly that Canada spent the last three years developing the most detailed plan anywhere in the Western world to combat foreign meddling in its upcoming election. But with the country’s national campaign to begin in a matter of weeks, one question remains: Will the efforts pay off? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed new transparency rules for online political ads, tougher than what is required in the U.S. Canada also housed a G-7 project to share the latest intelligence between allies about possible foreign disinformation and created a non-partisan group to warn political parties and the public about outside interference.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama’s Republican Governor Apologizes for Wearing Blackface in College, Refuses to Resign
Stamford Advocate – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 8/29/2019

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologized for wearing blackface decades ago, becoming the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their university days. Ivey issued the apology after a 1967 radio interview surfaced in which her now-ex-husband describes her actions at Auburn University. In the interview, Ben LaRavia describes Ivey as wearing coveralls and “black paint all over her face” while pretending to search for used cigars on the ground in a skit at the Baptist Student Union party. Ivey joins the collection of white politicians to face scrutiny and scorn for their caricatures of black people.

Arizona AZGOP Chair’s Consulting Firm Working on Legislative Races
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 8/29/2019

A political consulting firm owned by Arizona Republican Party Chairperson Kelli Ward and her husband is soliciting work for legislative campaigns, raising questions among Republicans about conflicts-of-interest.  State political parties are generally expected to remain neutral in intra-party fights. One hallmark of that neutrality is not taking sides in contested primary elections. Michael Ward said Atlas Alliance does not get involved in races with contested primaries, and the firm would not stay engaged in any race in which a primary challenger emerges. But the Wards and the state GOP refused to answer other questions, including whether the involvement of a consulting firm owned by the state party chair would discourage potential candidates and give people the impression that the candidates it works for are officially backed by the party.

California After a PAC Donated $16,000 to an El Rancho Board Member’s Campaign, Its Controlling Officer Won a Contract
Whittier Daily News – Bradley Bermont | Published: 9/3/2019

El Rancho Unified School District board member Leanne Ibarra’s campaign accepted more than $16,000 from a PAC whose principal officer and major donors were all seeking, and later received, contracts with the district. In a $96,000 contract approved for Presidio Strategic Communications, Ibarra provided the critical third vote to renew the public relations company’s annual contract. It is a $39,000 pay bump for the firm, which has been operating as the district’s public information officer for more than a year. The company’s owner, Daniel Fierro, is the principal officer for Citizens for Leadership in Education, which donated to Ibarra’s 2018 campaign. “I know how it looks, but from my perspective as a board member, I’m there to trust in the process,” Ibarra said. “If people want to perceive [impropriety], there’s nothing I can do.”

California California Democrat Halts Fundraising Amid Scrutiny into Donations from Industry He Regulates
Sacramento Bee – Hannah Wiley | Published: 9/3/2019

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is halting fundraising while his staff reviews how he vetted contributions from the industry he regulates. Lara has faced scrutiny in recent months for accepting more than $50,000 from industry executives in April, with most of the money coming from out-of-state donors. Lara then admitted to meeting in May with the chief executive of Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation agency with pending matters before the department. Lara promised to increase oversight of future donations and said he terminated his “longtime contractual relationship” with unnamed fundraising personnel.

California LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa Failed to Disclose Income from City Contracts
Los Angeles Times – Mark Puente | Published: 8/30/2019

Los Angeles Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa failed to disclose income from a nonprofit she runs that received millions of dollars from the city to work with police on gang initiatives, records show. Figueroa-Villa has never reported her income or the nonprofit’s funding from the city on annual financial disclosures required by the city. She also did not disclose a donation a controversial technology firm with ties to the police department made to her group. Individuals who fail to report information on disclosures could face stiff fines from the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Figueroa-Villa has not been fined to date.

Connecticut Lamont, Legislators: Quasi-publics are here to stay
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 9/5/2019

Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders said after a closed-door meeting that mismanagement and contracting irregularities at the Connecticut Port Authority demonstrate a need for greater oversight of quasi-public agencies, not their abandonment. The Connecticut Lottery Corporation is one of several quasi-publics whose severance packages to departing employees have been flagged by state auditors, and Lamont recently ordered a review of the relatively new port authority. All of the state’s 15 quasi-public agencies are subject to audits, and their operations fall under the state ethics code and freedom of information act. But they have more freedom than state agencies in personnel, purchasing, and contracting decisions.

Florida A Pasco Roofer and School Official Had an Affair. Corruption Investigation of $1.5 Million School Roofing Job Followed
Tampa Bay Times – C.T. Bowen | Published: 9/4/2019

Kevin Ryman, a building contractor and appointed Pasco County planning commissioner, carried on an intimate relationship with the former purchasing director for the Pasco County School District and was suspected of colluding with another contractor to win a $1.5 million school roofing job. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office determined it had probable cause to arrest Ryman, but state prosecutors declined to file charges, citing the civil lawsuits facing Ryman. Prosecutors also said they would not charge former school purchasing director Nicole Westmoreland. There was probable cause to pursue a bribery case, a sheriff’s office report said, because evidence showed Westmoreland received gifts from Ryman after working with him to create a pool of five companies, including Ryman’s, to bid on roofing jobs.

Georgia Ex-Contract Chief Pleads Guilty in Atlanta Corruption Case
AP News – Jeff Amy | Published: 9/4/2019

Larry Scott, who helped control contracting for the city of Atlanta pleaded guilty to federal crimes in connection with his efforts to hide his consulting activities with businesses seeking contracts from the city. Scott, who resigned from his post as director of the Office of Contract Compliance, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Scott is the sixth person to plead guilty in a probe of city government corruption under former Mayor Kasim Reed. Scott incorporated Cornerstone U.S. Management Group in 2011 with Reed’s sister-in-law. The ex-mayor’s brother in 2013 became the registered agent for the consulting company, which prosecutors said advised vendors seeking government work across the Atlanta region. The Georgia secretary of state’s office dissolved Cornerstone in August for failure to register.

Kentucky How Kentucky Gambled for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from a Broadband Program It Didn’t Qualify For
ProPublica – Alfred Miler (Louisville Courier Journal) | Published: 9/4/2019

In 2015, KentuckyWired, the state’s plan to bring high-speed internet access to rural areas, had ground to a halt. Officials were in talks with Macquarie Capital to build and manage the new network. But the bank wanted $1.2 billion over three decades, money Kentucky did not have on its own. To make the public-private partnership work, then-Gov. Steve Beshear and his administration needed to tap into a federal program that awarded money for broadband projects. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had already signaled concern over Kentucky’s eligibility. That is when Macquarie brought in a consultant to help: Frank Lassiter. Neither Lassiter nor his consulting firm had any experience in telecommunications or in navigating the FCC rules. But Lassiter had connections. His wife was Beshear’s cabinet secretary, the highest appointed position in the executive branch.

Kentucky Top KY Democratic Consultant Was Targeted in FBI Probe. Candidates Still Hired Him.
Lexington Herald-Leader – Daniel Desrochers | Published: 8/30/2019

The trial of Jerry Lundergan and Dale Emmons has dragged on in a Frankfort courthouse as federal prosecutors make their case the two men violated campaign finance laws by illegally funneling corporate money to Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ 2014 U.S. Senate campaign. There was a third man, however, who allegedly helped them skirt the law, according to court documents – Jonathan Hurst, Grimes’ 2014 campaign manager. Hurst became the key cooperating witness for the government. As the saga unfolded, Hurst’s political consulting business did not dry up. Hurst Consulting was the most used campaign consultant for Democrats elected to the Kentucky House in 2018.

Massachusetts How One Routine Zoning Vote Turned into a Federal Investigation
Boston Globe – Tim Logan and Milton Valencia | Published: 9/1/2019

A nondescript piece of land is the focal point of a federal investigation that has again reached into Boston City Hall and shows signs of spreading beyond the one official who has already been charged. The property had been owned by developer Steven Turner when it received an extension of some zoning permits in 2017. While Turner was not named in court records, two people familiar with the case say it was he who paid then-Boston Planning & Development Agency staffer John Lynch $50,000 to encourage a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals to vote in favor of Turner’s plan to build a condominium on the property. While the board’s public votes are often unanimous, many of its decisions are first hashed out through backroom negotiations among developers, neighborhood groups, and city officials.

Michigan Michigan Ranks Dead Last for Transparency: How bills could change that
Detroit Free Press – Kathleen Gray | Published: 9/4/2019

The Michigan Legislature has tried for years to extend transparency to the House, Senate, and statewide elected officials by requiring elected officials to file financial disclosure reports and open themselves up to Freedom of Information laws. The bills have gotten widespread support in the House but stalled in the Senate. And that could be the fate of another package of financial disclosure bills that were approved with bipartisan support in the House Elections Committee. The Center for Public Integrity ranks Michigan 50th in the nation in terms of transparency because the governor and Legislature are exempt from disclosure of documents through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as for the lack of any financial disclosure.

New Jersey Assemblyman Ryan Peters to Introduce EDA, Lobbying Reforms
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 9/3/2019

State Assemblyperson Ryan Peters will introduce a multi-bill package to boost accountability and oversight within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Peters wants to create an independent inspector general’s office within the agency, along with a permanent auditor to ensure recipients awarded tax incentives comply with and deliver the promised jobs and investment. The package includes two bills to revise the state’s requirements for lobbyists. Peters proposes changing the registration threshold to anything more than lobbying one hour in a calendar year. He also proposes extending a $250 limit on any gifts made to lawmakers or government officials to local officials.

New Mexico Residents to Weigh in on Democracy Dollars Proposal This Fall
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 9/3/2019

Albuquerque voters will decide this fall whether to overhaul the city’s public financing system by giving candidates another way to access taxpayer dollars, albeit one that routes the money through individual citizens. The November ballot will ask voters to weigh in on “Democracy Dollars,” a program that would provide each eligible city resident with a $25 coupon to give to the publicly financed candidate of their choice. Advocates contend the vouchers would reduce wealthy donors’ influence in local government and give more voice to citizens who might not otherwise be able to contribute. But some say it could make public financing less fair and create new disparities in the system.

New York Billboard Questions Role of JCOPE Chairman
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/4/2019

A new billboard advertisement asks why Michael Rozen, chairperson of the New York Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), has not recused himself from a controversial ongoing inquiry into possible lobbying violations committed by Kat Sullivan. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, spent a portion of her settlement money to lobby for the Child Victim’s Act, a law giving legal recourse to minors that were past victims of sexual abuse. JCOPE is investigating whether Sullivan’s advocacy violated the $5,000 annual threshold requiring her to register as a lobbyist in New York. Sullivan is now questioning why Rozen has not recused himself given his past work for Penn State University in response to a massive child sex abuse scandal a decade ago, and she suggests in the billboard advertisements that the motivation may be financial.

New York Fallout of Guilty Plea for Elected Officials Not Always Clear
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 8/28/2019

Following the recent guilty plea of Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse, city officials scrambled to determine whether his admission to a felony wire fraud charge in federal court would result in his immediate removal from elected office. The town’s common council swore in council President Chris Briggs as acting mayor, despite conflicting opinions on their ability to take the official action, and after Morse had reached out to his colleagues, warning he could remain in his position until his December sentencing. Morse may have been right: There is wide disagreement among state officials and legal experts on whether a guilty plea in federal court requires the immediate removal of an elected official in New York.

New York New York to Decide on Public Funding of Political Campaigns
Governing – Michael Gormley (Newsday) | Published: 9/2/2019

New Yorkers will soon provide up to $100 million in public financing to help fund campaigns, but exactly how the landmark reform will be implemented is up to a special commission. What it does will help determine whether it will succeed in reducing the influence of big-money donors or whether it will turn into what critics fear will be a taxpayer-paid boondoggle. The Public Financing of Elections Commission has the potential to drastically change New York politics more than at any moment in decades by making races more competitive and reducing a pipeline for money that has played a role in corruption scandals.

New York Second Judge Rejects Outside Income Restrictions on State Lawmakers
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 8/29/2019

A second judge has ruled New York lawmakers do not have to follow restrictions on outside income that were recommended by a special compensation committee. The same committee awarded the lawmakers pay raises, which they will get to keep, according to the ruling. State Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin said the committee exceeded its authority by imposing limitations on the private income earned by state legislators. The limits were set to take effect in 2020 and would have drastically curtailed outside employment options for members of the Senate and Assembly.

North Carolina North Carolina Judges Toss Districts Drawn for GOP Advantage
AP News – Emery Dalesio and Gary Robertson | Published: 9/3/2019

A North Carolina court struck down the state’s current legislative districts for violating the rights of Democratic voters, forcing districts to be withdrawn ahead of the 2020 election. The three-judge panel of state trial judges gave the General Assembly until September 18 to issue remedial maps. The judges unanimously ruled that courts can step in to decide when partisan advantage goes so far it diminishes democracy. Their ruling comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in a separate case involving North Carolina’s congressional map that it is not the job of federal courts to decide if boundaries are politically unfair, though state courts could consider whether gerrymandering stands up under state laws and constitutions.

North Dakota North Dakota Democratic Lawmaker Aims to Livestream Committee Meetings to ‘Shame’ Legislature into Increased Transparency
Dickinson Press – John Hageman | Published: 8/30/2019

A North Dakota lawmaker said he plans to livestream legislative committee meetings in an effort to “shame” the Legislature into improving transparency. Rep. Marvin Nelson said he is working out technical issues but plans to livestream meetings of his interim study committees and may recruit people to record others. He said he may continue airing committee meetings online during the next regular session, which begins in 2021. Nelson said the idea was sparked by his bill proposing a legislative study of disabled people’s access to the Capitol. “We have handicapped people around the state who literally cannot attend a legislative meeting,” Nelson said. “Government has a great deal of importance to them because they tend to rely on assistance from programs or laws that improve accessibility.”

Oregon Portland’s New Public Campaign Financing Software Faces Looming Deadlines
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Amelia Templeton | Published: 8/30/2019

With just weeks to go until candidates can opt into a new public campaign financing program, Portland is still testing the software that will run it. A recent oversight report shows the software, developed by the nonprofit Civic Software Foundation, is at risk of not being delivered on time before the 2020 primary election cycle starts. But city staff and technology advisors said the project is in better shape than the report suggests. They said the software should be ready in time to handle the influx of candidates, and the project, though not without risk, has been a significant innovation.

Pennsylvania In Lieu of Flowers, Elect My Son
Allentown Morning Call – Nicole Radzievich | Published: 9/1/2019

Over the years, candidates and their supporters have found myriad ways to raise money to get their messages out to voters. But obituaries? That is what emerged in the race for Northampton County district attorney. The father of the Republican nominee, Tom Carroll, died a week ago, and his obituary included a reference to the political race. The last line reads: “In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to – Elect Tom Carroll ….” It is perfectly legal – as long as expenses for obituaries are included on campaign finance reports as in-kind contributions, if done in coordination with a campaign, and if any resulting donations are reported). And it is not unprecedented.

Rhode Island A Small Campaign with a Six-Figure Problem
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 9/4/2019

Samuel Tassia only raised $50 – a single contribution from a friend – when he ran for the Rhode Island House in 2010. Tassia submitting one campaign finance report and then missed the deadlines for 36 subsequent filings. His campaign fund contained just $32.50, but since he never closed the account, he began racking up fines of two dollars per day per report. When he came before the state Board of Elections, Tassia owed $118,120 for failing to file his reports on time. His was one of nearly a dozen campaign finance cases that came before the board recently, prompting renewed calls to revise the state’s campaign fine structure and to establish a standardized system for appeals.

Vermont Ethics Commission Withdraws Opinion Critical of Gov. Scott
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 9/5/2019

The Vermont State Ethics Commission has taken back a controversial advisory opinion that was critical of Gov. Phil Scott’s financial relationship with his former company. The withdrawal comes after the commission concluded the “process used at the time was incorrect.” The commission in October 2018 ruled Scott violated the ethics code because the company he had co-owned, Dubois Construction, also did business with the state. Scott had sold his half of Dubois back to the company, but was being paid over a period of time, which the commission determined amounted to a continued financial stake in the firm. In withdrawing the opinion, the commission said it erred when it allowed an outside party to file a request for an advisory opinion.

Virginia Virginia Beach Leased Building from State Senator, Hoping to Make It New Elections Office
Virginian-Pilot – Peter Coutu and Marie Albiges | Published: 9/4/2019

Virginia Beach recently signed a lease worth nearly $3 million over the next decade to rent a building owned by state Sen. Bill DeSteph, raising conflict-of-interest questions for the local politician who is currently battling for re-election and used to serve on the city council. Officials had hoped to move the voter registrar’s office, and also set up an absentee voting location, in the space. The move to relocate absentee voting to that space is now on hold after the city council punted twice on deciding whether to change the address for the central precinct. But Virginia Beach leaders say they would still find another use for the building. Alex Keena, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, called the senator’s connection “troubling,” describing it as the “ugly mingling of personal business interests and public political decisions.”

Washington Some Corporate Donors Turn Away from Washington Rep. Matt Shea After Controversies
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 9/3/2019

In recent years, PACs and large corporations have funded the bulk of Washington Rep. Matt Shea’s reelection campaigns. Perhaps unwittingly, those donors have bankrolled a campaign operation used by Shea to air his far-right views on a regular radio program, advance plans to secede from Washington by forming a 51st state, and even travel to “anti-terrorism” training. Shea is now subject of a House investigation to determine whether he planned or promoted political violence and the extent of his association with those involved in such activities. Several big contributors, including AT&T, BNSF, and the Washington Association of Realtors, have asked for their money back. Shea has no legal obligation to do so.

Washington DC Corbett Price, Under Fire for Concealing Ethics Violation, Resigns from Metro Board
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Robert McCartney | Published: 8/30/2019

Corbett Price resigned as the District of Columbia’s second voting board representative for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) following growing demands for his ouster over his attempts to conceal an ethics violation by council member and former WMATA board chairperson Jack Evans. An investigation by the transit agency found Evans had failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest arising from his private consulting work for Colonial Parking, the city’s largest parking company that was secretly paying his consulting firm $50,000 per year. Records show both Evans and Price, in addition to falsely stating that Evans was cleared of wrongdoing, badgered WMATA’s general counsel and maneuvered in other ways to prevent the findings from becoming public.

Washington DC DC Government Contractor Gets Six Months for Illegal Contributions to DC Council Candidates
DC Post – Larry Hamilton | Published: 9/4/2019

Keith Forney was sentenced to six months in prison for making illegal campaign contributions to candidates for the District of Columbia Council. He also received a three-year suspended sentence for “committing fraud and perjury to illegally obtain contracting preferences.” Forney owns a general contracting company, He allegedly falsely stated that he lived at a Washington, D.C. address to obtain preference points for his company in bidding for city contracts.

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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October 26, 2020 •

Ohio Lobbyists Must Pay 2021 Registration Fees Electronically

Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees. The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019. […]

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee published a reminder they will not accept cash, money orders, or physical checks for payment of 2021 lobbying registration fees.

The online payment portal, accessible via the lobbyist’s OLAC account was established in 2019.

Registrations fees for 2021 must be paid electronically by VISA, MasterCard, or ACH.

Lobbyists may begin renewing registrations for legislative, executive, and retirement system engagements in OLAC on December 1.

The renewal option closes January 15, 2021.

Any lobbyist who does not complete the renewal process by January 15 must file a new initial registration statement.

The registration statement requires a signature page.

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October 26, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune Elections National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested […]

Campaign Finance

California: “SLO County Board Wants to Cap Campaign Conations at $25,000 – More Than 5 Times State Limit” by Lindsay Holden for San Luis Obispo Tribune

Elections

National: “Politicization of State Supreme Courts Looms Over Possibility of Contested Vote” by Olivia Rubin and Lucian Bruggeman for ABC News

National: “International Election Observers in the U.S. Consider This Year the Most Challenging Ever” by Carol Morello for Washington Post

Alabama: “Supreme Court Restores Ban on Curbside Voting in Alabama” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Pennsylvania: “Ballots Can’t Be Tossed Out Over Voter Signature, Court Says” by Marc Levy for Associated Press News

Ethics

Connecticut: “FBI Probes New Haven City Contract; Harp Wiretapped, Says Fraudster Tried to Set Her Up” by Paul Bass (News Haven Independent) for Connecticut Mirror

Lobbying

National: “COVID-19 Legislation, Postelection Prep Keep K Street Busy” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Illinois: “Flossmoor Trustee Resigns So He Can Keep Lobbying Chicago City Hall” by Heather Cherone for WTTW

Oregon: “Kate Brown Struck Secret Deal with Oregon Homebuilders Over Wildfire Codes, Lobbyists Say on Tape” by Chris May for Street Roots

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October 23, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 23, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020 A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a […]

National/Federal

Back from the Supreme Court, House Pushes DC Circuit for Trump Financials
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 10/20/2020

A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals indicated there is little need for a swift ruling in the legal battle over access to President Trump’s financial records The panel previously upheld the subpoena brought by the House but considered the case for the second time after the U.S. Supreme Court instructed it to reevaluate the House’s subpoena power. Democrats had hoped to have Trump’s past financial statements for campaign leverage. For Judge David Tatel, however, the more prudent move would be to wait until after the next Congress convenes on January 3. The case is one of several ongoing legal battles over the president’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.

Ex-Interior Official Violated Trump Ethics Pledge by Meeting with Former Associates: Watchdog
The Hill – Rebecca Bietsch | Published: 10/21/2020

A former top Interior Department political appointee violated his ethics pledge by taking a meeting with an organization he previously volunteered for, according to a report from the department’s watchdog. Sources said the employee in question is Todd Wynn, the former head of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Wynn, now a lobbyist for a major Arizona utility, took a meeting with Rich Lindsey, an energy committee policy consultant from the Council of State Governments. Wynn previously was on the board of trustees for the Council of State Governments 21st Century Foundation.

Former Top Trump Fundraiser Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty to Foreign Lobbying Charge
Miami Herald – Ben Wieder | Published: 10/20/2020

Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and, at the time, the Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has agreed to forfeit $6.6 million he was paid for his work. The charge is related to his efforts to arrange meetings with top American officials to help quash a U.S. investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian embezzlement scheme and to push for the deportation of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Broidy agreed he acted as a foreign agent in his efforts.

Full Federal Appeals Court in D.C. to Weigh House Subpoena to Ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 10/15/2020

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the House of Representatives’ attempt to enforce a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn but cautioned the case could go unresolved once this Congress’s term ends in January. The appeals court said it will revisit a three-judge panel decision to dismiss the House lawsuit, which came after the White House claimed key presidential aides are “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony to Congress. The panel found Congress has not passed a law expressly authorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.

How Trump Plowed Through $1 Billion, Losing Cash Advantage
Associated Press News – Brian Slodysko and Zeke Miller | Published: 10/20/2020

Some campaign aides for President Trump privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising, even though Trump’s political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy.

Lobbyists Face Challenges Meeting Newly Elected Lawmakers in November
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/15/2020

Lobbyists are preparing for the difficulty of virtually getting to know newly elected members of Congress when they come to Washington, D.C. for orientation in November. A victory by Joe Biden would make that task even harder given the influx of new aides and administration officials. In all, lobbyists could find themselves navigating the challenges of trying to meet new leadership, committee, agency, and administration staffers in a pandemic without in-person meetings or the fundraisers that typically populate K Street’s calendar shortly after a general election.

On the Job and On the Stump, Cabinet Officials Flout Hatch Act
Bloomberg Law – Stephen Lee, Megan Boyanton, Andrew Kreigbaum, Shaun Courtney, and Alex Ruoff | Published: 10/14/2020

Under President Trump, allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, which clamps down on political activities of government employees while they are on the job, have come at a rate not seen in previous administrations, but there have been few consequences. Two agencies have a role in enforcing Hatch Act violations: the Justice Department, which handles criminal cases, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which takes on civil violations. But while the OSC sometimes makes Hatch Act findings, the Justice Department rarely does, said David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Supreme Court Tees Up Census Case Over Whether Trump Can Exclude Undocumented Immigrants
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 10/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states. The court’s announcement teed up oral arguments in the case for November 30, an accelerated timeline that paves the way for a potential decision before the Census Bureau is set to deliver the population counts to Trump’s desk at the end of the year. In July, Trump issued a memorandum in July, asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment, the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years.

The Big Role That Big Donors Still Play, Quietly, for Joe Biden
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 10/20/2020

While Joe Biden’s campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine. As the size of checks has grown, the campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential bundlers. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months, about twice as much as President Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time.

Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig | Published: 10/20/2020

President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joe Biden as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there. But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. It turns out China is one of only three foreign nations where Trump maintains a bank account. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

Twitter Changes Policy That Blocked a New York Post Story About Biden’s Son
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 10/15/2020

Twitter changed a rule about hacked materials that resulted in blocking a controversial New York Post story about the alleged emails of Joe Biden’s son. The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information. Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving “feedback” that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, Twitter will remove content only if it is directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.

U.S. Government Concludes Iran Was Behind Threatening Emails Sent to Democrats
MSN – Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2020

U.S. officials accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election. The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

White House Was Warned Giuliani Was Target of Russian Intelligence Operation to Feed Misinformation to Trump
MSN – Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2020

The intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent. When national security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation, Trump dismissed concern about Giuliani’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”

Canada

Canada Campaign Donation Limits in B.C. Have Levelled Playing Field, CBC Analysis Finds
CBC – Tara Carman | Published: 10/21/2020

A ban on union and corporate donations to British Columbia political parties and a cap on the amount individuals can give has hurt the provincial Liberals the most, a CBC News analysis found. The ban was introduced by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in November 2017. Even though British Columbia’s two largest parties both used to accept tens of thousands of dollars from deep-pocketed donors – unions in the case of the NDP and businesses in the case of the Liberals, for the most part – the Liberals were more dependent on those contributions. Donations of $250 or less collectively form the biggest piece of the donation pie for all three parties. This was also true before the rule change, but the limits have made those types of contributions more important.

Canada Lobbyists Must Now Report Their Activities
Whitehorse Daily Star – Gabrielle Plonka | Published: 10/21/2020

Lobbyists are now required to report their activities in the Yukon Territory with the implementation of the Lobbyist Registration Act. Lobbyists are responsible for registering and entering their information online. A 90-day grace period from October 15 is in effect, to allow for lobbyists to learn and adhere to the new reporting requirements. All lobbyists must register by January 13, 2021. David Jones, the Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the Lobbyist Registry.

Canada Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Aga Khan Lobbying Case
CTV – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 10/15/2020

A new court ruling means the federal lobbying commissioner will not be taking a fresh look at whether the Aga Khan broke rules by giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal in the matter from Democracy Watch. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

California City Clerk Sent People’s Credit Card Numbers to Jailed Husband
Patch – City News Service | Published: 10/21/2020

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $7,500 against Lorena Saucillo, a former city clerk who sent people’s credit card information to her incarcerated husband. On two occasions, Saucillo recorded credit card information provided by landlords who were paying city fees. Using her city email address, Lorena sent the credit card information to a personal email account accessible to her husband, whom she knew was intending to use the information for fraudulent purposes, the commission said.

California Community Newspaper Backed by Former Irvine Mayor and Current Council Candidate Draws Criticism
Los Angeles Times – Ben Brazil | Published: 10/20/2020

An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents. Some have called Irvine Community News & Views biased in favor of Larry Agran, the longstanding local politician who helped get the newspaper started. Agran said in an interview that the newspaper, which claims a circulation of 66,500, is legitimate and just like any other. Agran credited publisher and friend Frank Lunding with starting and running the paper. “I have written for it. I am proud of it. I help Frank wherever I can. I help recruit writers for him,” Agran said.

California Loops, Slants and Crossed ‘T’s’: How election workers verify voter signatures
San Diego Union Tribune – John Wilkens | Published: 10/18/2020

Election workers eyeballing the signatures of San Diego County voters are at the heart of a screening process that happens before mail ballots for the November 3 election are counted. Workers compare scanned images of voters’ return-envelope signatures with samples already on file at the county Registrar of Voters. It is how they verify the person returning a ballot is the person it was sent to, a safeguard against fraud. Exact matches are not required. Instead, the workers are checking similarities  in characteristics such as the slant of the letters, the spacing between the first and last names, and how the “I’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.

California Main Witness in Santa Clara County Concealed-Gun Bribery Case Pleads Guilty
San Jose Mercury News – Robert Salonga | Published: 10/19/2020

Former AS Solution security manager Martin Nielsen, the primary witness who implicated a sheriff’s captain and three others in an alleged bribery scheme to trade political donations supporting Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith for concealed-carry weapons permits, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for his role in the ploy. According to the indictment, Nielsen and two others conspired with the four main defendants to obtain up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits from the sheriff’s office in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith.

Colorado Facing a Deluge of Misinformation, Colorado Takes the Offensive Against It
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba | Published: 10/20/2020

In 2019, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold saw a tweet falsely claiming her state’s election system had been hacked. The flare-up was another reminder of how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election. To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos, and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado’s elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation. Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the impact of rumors and outright lies.

Florida Appeals Court Rejects NRA Lobbyist’s Case Over Graphic Parkland Massacre Emails
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 10/21/2020

A full federal appeals court rejected a request by National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer asked for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds. The request came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle and a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled against Hammer, who alleged Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida In Last-Minute Push, DeSantis Administration Urges Florida Election Officials to Remove Felons Who Owe Fines from Voting Rolls
Washington Post – Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa | Published: 10/20/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection. In a notice sent to local election officials, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day. A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

Florida Orlando Airport Leaders Will Review Their Lobbying Rules Following Sentinel Report
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 10/21/2020

The agency that runs Orlando International Airport will reexamine its lobbying rules after The Orlando Sentinel reported that a prominent lobbyist broke those rules over the summer but did not face any consequences. Christina Daly Brodeur, a lobbyist at Ballard Partners, called four board members in July on behalf of a client. The rules require lobbyists to report their contacts with board members within one week. Brodeur did not disclose her calls until nearly three months later.

Illinois Chicago Mayor Exchanged Emails with Lobbyist as City Ethics Board Declined to Enforce Lobbying Ban
MSN – John Byrne and Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/20/2020

Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanged emails with lobbyist and Flossmoor Trustee Gyata Kimmons months after a law took effect banning elected public officials from lobbying Chicago City Hall. Kimmons emailed Lightfoot on behalf of a real estate company with tenants at O’Hare International Airport. The back-and-forth occurred after Lightfoot introduced a proposal that would have rolled back part of the ordinance that prohibited elected officials such as Kimmons from lobbying city officials while keeping his elected post. Alderman rejected Lightfoot’s plan but while it was pending, Kimmons continued to lobby the city. During that time, the Chicago Board of Ethics declined to enforce the restrictions against lobbying by elected officials on the grounds that if Lightfoot’s proposal passed, it would nullify them.

Illinois Cook County Commissioner Is Part Owner of and Worked for a Cannabis License Applicant, Which Critics Say She Should Have Disclosed Sooner
Chicago Tribune – Robert McCoppin | Published: 10/15/2020

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, who is a former Illinois cannabis regulator, said she is part owner of a company that is applying for cannabis licenses and she was paid to write the applications. The state’s “revolving door” law, meant to keep state workers from immediately switching from regulating an industry to participating in it, prohibits any regulatory worker from accepting compensation from any entity which that person “substantially” regulated, within one year of their state employment. Effective next year, the law will prohibit any state workers who participated substantially in awarding cannabis licenses from holding ownership in any cannabis license for two years after they leave their state jobs. Degnen said she was out of her state job for two years before she joined AmeriCanna Dream late last year.

Illinois Illinois Dems Slam GOP Candidate for Taking Donations from Red-Light Camera Biz – but Madigan’s Ties to Industry Run Deep
Chicago Sun-Times – Robert Herguth | Published: 10/18/2020

The Illinois Democratic Party has been deluging potential voters in the general election with campaign mailers taking aim at Republican state Rep. Bradley Stephens for taking donations from one of the new bogeymen of Illinois politics: the red-light camera industry. But records also reveal House Speaker Michael Madigan, who runs the state Democratic Party and has been bankrolling the campaign of Stephens’ opponent, has accepted generous campaign checks from red-light camera companies and people affiliated with them for many years. Madigan’s campaign funds have also accepted donations from officials tied to SafeSpeed, which has been swept up in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Kansas Wichita Man Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kidnap and Kill Mayor Over City’s Mask Mandate, Police Say
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 10/19/2020

When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official, the mayor said he noticed the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him. The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty was arrested on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide.

Kentucky Ethics Problems in Kentucky County Government? Many Have No Ethics Boards to Look.
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 10/14/2020

Dozens of Kentucky counties are failing to fully follow a law requiring financial disclosure by officials and having local boards to handle ethics issues, according to state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office. Harmon said his office surveyed counties on the issue because it has referred findings about potential problems to county ethics boards, only to find there was no active board. In addition to violating the law, the widespread county shortcomings could undermine confidence in government, Harmon said.

Maryland Maryland Lawmakers Issue Subpoena to Hogan’s Former Chief of Staff Over Six-Figure Payout
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 10/15/2020

State lawmakers issued subpoenas for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, and Matthew Sherring, who worked for McGrath at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), to appear before a committee investigating McGrath’s six-figure payout from his prior job at a state agency. McGrath left his position as Hogan’s top aide four days after The Baltimore Sun reported he negotiated a payout worth more than $238,000 when he left the MES. It was also reported The Sun subsequently reported that McGrath and other executives earned tens of thousands of dollars in annual bonuses, and he was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements for travel, meetings, and meals after he left the agency.

Michigan Michigan Appeals Court Reinstates Election Day Mail-In Ballot Deadline as Early Voting Surge Continues
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck, John Glionna, and Douglas Moser | Published: 10/17/2020

A state appeals court in Michigan moved up the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots, reimposing a cutoff favored by Republicans during a continuing surge in early and mail-in voting around the country. A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country. Voters in the state now must return their mail-in ballots by eight p.m. on November 3.

Montana Montana’s Political Cop Finds Cooney Violated Campaign Finance Rules
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Perrin Stein | Published: 10/19/2020

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who is running for governor against U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, failed to properly report in-kind contributions from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and also accepted donations beyond the state limit from the group. The Cooney campaign and the DGA worked on a statewide advertising campaign criticizing Gianforte for his alleged support of a sales tax. Mangan said the Cooney campaign failed to disclose the costs associated with a website that was a component of the advertising campaign as an in-kind contribution from the DGA.

New Mexico NM Investment Scandal Winds Down
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 10/17/2020

The New Mexico Supreme Court effectively closed the books on state investment scandals involving “pay-to-play” schemes beginning in 2004 that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that went south. The court upheld earlier rulings that rejected a challenge to a $24.5 million settlement reached between lawyers for the Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and State Investment Council with Vanderbilt Capital Advisors. The state lost more than $100 million on its Vanderbilt investments, and the settlement had been challenged as inadequate by Frank Foy, former chief investment officer at the ERB.

North Carolina Federal Appeals Court Won’t Lift North Carolina Ballot-Receipt Extension
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 10/21/2020

A divided federal appeals court denied an attempt by Republicans to block an agreement by North Carolina officials allowing absentee ballots in the November election to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later. North Caolina typically counts absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after the election, but the State Board of Elections agreed to extend that window to nine days due to the increased ballot requests related to the coronavirus pandemic, as well concerns about mail delays due to recent Postal Service changes.

Ohio Ex-House Speaker Runs for Reelection Despite Federal Charges
Associated Press News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 10/17/2020

Ohio Rep. Larry Householder is likely to win reelection this year despite being indicted on racketeering charges in the alleged bribery scheme to pass a bailout of two nuclear power plants. House members considered removing Householder from the chamber immediately but, if they did so before November 3, voters would be able to reelect him and a lawmaker cannot be expelled twice. The only option now for both parties is to wait until the legislative session begins in January to consider expelling or impeaching him. If reelected, Householder would be automatically removed from office if he is convicted as state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or bribery charges from holding public office.

Ohio Indicted Lobbyist Caims Jay Edwards Is ‘Representative 8’ in HB6 Affidavit, Report Says
Athens News – Ben Peters | Published: 10/16/2020

Neil Clark, a longtime Columbus lobbyist who was indicted in a corruption probe, said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is “Representative 8” in the federal affidavit connected to the House Bill 6 scandal. Clark said he, Edwards, then-House Speaker Larry Householder, an aide, and two clients – who Clark reportedly believed to be working undercover with the FBI – met in September 2019 at the Aubergine Club, where they discussed the importance of defeating the ballot initiative campaign that aimed to repeal House Bill 6. Edwards, who served as majority whip, said he does not recall attending the meeting, but he never explicitly denied it occurred.

Oregon Oregon Public Employee Unions, Interest Groups Launch Neutral-Looking Election Website to Sway Voters
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/15/2020

Oregon voters who go online to search for information about the election are likely to find a website called the “2020 Oregon voter guide” at the top of their search results. Thanks to paid search engine ads, that website shows up before the state’s official voters’ guide. It looks neutral and informational, but it endorses only Democrats and urges a “yes” vote on all four statewide ballot measures. Campaign finance data shows at least one candidate and some state and local ballot measures endorsed by the guide are paying the PAC that produced it. That information is not listed on the website, nor on political mailers.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Pennsylvania to Count Ballots Received Up to 3 Days After Election Day
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 10/19/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well. The justices’ order establishes the ground rules for mail-in voting in one of the nation’s key battleground states. The ruling could have an impact in other states where the deadline for mail-in ballots has been the subject of court battles. Those include Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Indiana, and Montana.

Rhode Island What’s in a Semicolon? Punctuation Is Key as Lawyers Offer Last Arguments in Political Operative Jeffrey Britt’s Case
MSN – Kate Mulvaney (Providence Journal) | Published: 10/19/2020

Final written arguments were submitted in the trial of Jeremy Britt, a campaign operative for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The arguments did not focus solely on Britt’s guilt or innocence on the most serious charge he faces – allegedly funneling money through a once-rival Republican’s campaign to hide his own role in arranging and financing a mailer endorsing Mattiello. At the judge’s request, they also addressed the significance of the punctuation in the state’s money-laundering law. More specifically, whether placement of commas and semicolons should determine Britt’s fate.

Wyoming Secretary of State Will Require Gun Rights Group to Disclose Donors
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 10/20/2020

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office ordered a pro-gun lobbying organization to reveal its donors after a summer in which the group flooded Wyoming with dozens of ads disparaging a number of sitting lawmakers in competitive races. The office said Wyoming Gun Owners failed to comply with state campaign finance law by not reporting the electioneering communications. The gun owners group now has until November 4 to release the names of its donors or face a $500 fine. If the group refuses to comply, the case will then go to the state attorney general.

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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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