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.

July 15, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico Elections Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico

Elections

Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job” by Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.” by Tina Nguyen for Politico

California: “L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Missouri: “FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government” by Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

New Jersey: “New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation” by Nancy Solomon (WNYC) for ProPublica

Lobbying

Florida: “Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus” by Staff for Florida Politics

Procurement

National: “Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?” by Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz for ProPublica

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July 14, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign […]

Campaign Finance

South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier

Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean

Elections

National: “The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force” by Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them” by Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker for New York Times

National: “White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15” by David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami for Washington Post

Alabama: “Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law” by Tim Howe for Yellowhammer News

Lobbying

National: “Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons” by Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Florida: “NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog

Procurement

Illinois: “Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

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July 13, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds” by David Moore for Sludge

Colorado: “Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun

Ohio: “Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations” by Tom Troy for Toledo Blade

Ethics

National: “Trump Commutes Sentence of Confidant Roger Stone Who Was Convicted of Lying to Congress and Witness Tampering” by Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Toluse Olorunnipa for Washington Post

Canada: “PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events” by Rachel Gilmore for CTV

Florida: “Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal” by Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon for Politico

Lobbying

National: “States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show” by Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook” by Associated Press for KJZZ

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July 10, 2020 •

Alabama Ethics Commission Challenges Circuit Court’s Public Employee Ruling

Birmingham International Airport

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders. The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act. The Ethics […]

The Alabama Ethics Commission has filed a motion asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to revise one of their orders.

The Court recently ruled that airport authority employees are not public employees, or subject to the Ethics Act.

The Ethics Commission has proposed rather than looking to whether someone is paid through taxpayer contributions, the standard should be whether their salaries were paid out of revenue from negotiated “commercial arms-length” transactions.

The Birmingham Airport Authority has filed a response arguing the commission’s new standard inconsistent with the facts of the case.

Joining them in opposition, the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute has also filed a brief arguing this new standard.

The institute argues the standard would create a burden on public corporations and their employees.

Therefore, this would cause an attempt to untie a tangled knot of revenue and determine the status of each employee.

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July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 9, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Elections National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New […]

Elections

Elections

National: “Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots” by Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Maine: “Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine” by Emily Cochrane (New York Times) for Boston Globe

Wisconsin: “Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings” by Todd Richmond for AP News

Ethics

National: “Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski for Washington Post

California: “Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Ohio: “Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave” by Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade

Pennsylvania: “Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban” by Kathleen Carey for Delaware County Times

Lobbying

Arizona: “Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists” by Jeremy Duda for Arizona Mirror

 

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July 8, 2020 •

Minnesota Legislature to Hold Another Special Session Beginning July 13

Gov Tim Walz with Ly Gov Peggy Flanagan

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

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13. Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that […]

Gov. Tim Walz announced on July 7, he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session beginning July 13.

Walz stated the session will coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency ending July 12, and added that other issues should get top billing.

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

The Senate tried to revoke the governor’s executive power during the first special session ending June 19.

However, the attempt failed because it requires the vote of both chambers.

In the first special session, no deals were reached on legislation both parties said was necessary and everything will be on the agenda again.

The Legislature will determine the length of the session.

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July 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]

Elections

National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico

National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call

Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post

National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN

Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN

Lobbying

California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times

Redistricting

Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com

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