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.

April 3, 2020 •

Lawsuit Challenges New Ohio Presidential, State Primary Election Date and Procedures

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.

The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.

In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.

Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.

The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.

Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.

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April 3, 2020 •

North Carolina Secretary of State to Allow Late Filing of First Quarter Reports

North Carolina State Legislative Building

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22. This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing, Penalties for failure […]

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing,

Penalties for failure to timely file will not be levied if report is filed on or before July 22; is accompanied by a sworn and notarized statement that a notary could not be obtained prior to the date the report was filed; and all other reports due by July 22 are timely filed.

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April 3, 2020 •

Idaho’s May Primary Election Won’t Be Delayed, Deadline for Absentee Ballots Pushed Back

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2. […]

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2.

Idahoans will be able register to vote and request an absentee ballot up until 8 p.m. on May 19.

The extension pushes back voters’ deadline to submit ballots to county clerks to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Normally that deadline would have been 8 p.m. May 19.

The Office of the Secretary of State will be sending out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter who has not already requested one.

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April 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020 President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part […]

National/Federal

A History of the Trump War on Media – the Obsession Not Even Coronavirus Could Stop
Washington Post – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison | Published: 3/29/2020

President Trump’s initial downplaying of the spread of Covid-19 was due in part to his belief, stoked by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that the media was using the pandemic as yet another way to attack him, according to four Trump advisers. The administration’s anti-media antagonism can manifest like an organized crusade in some cases but also more like a culture, a vernacular shared by the president and his allies on the right. Their battles are waged in the courts, on social media, and at rallies where Trump’s rants against the journalists who cover him goad his fans into taunting the camera crews and booing the press pens.

Bernie Sanders Says He’s Staying in the Presidential Race. Many Democrats Fear a Reprise of Their 2016 Defeat.
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer, and David Weigel | Published: 3/30/2020

Behind the growing fear among many Democrats that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential race could spell doom in November is the belief they have seen it happen before – in the 2016 campaign. To some Democrats in that campaign, it was a lesson learned the hard way about the limitations of Sanders’ promises of support and the ferocity of his backers. Four years later, with the senator still running against former Vice President Joe Biden despite almost impossible odds of victory, some party leaders are increasingly worried about a reprise of the bitter divisions that many Democrats blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Biden Faces a Cash Gap with Trump. He Has to Close It Virtually.
Salt Lake Tribune – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden’s finance operation is plotting how to keep the checks coming. Top Biden fundraisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC, and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. they expressed deepening concern the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs. President Trump and Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their shared committees. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million.

Campaigning in the Age of Pandemic: Biden and Sanders as amateur video hosts
MSN – Annie Linskey and Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 3/31/2020

Joe Biden is hosting a podcast from his Wilmington, Delaware, home, while Bernie Sanders is emceeing a live-streamed talk show from the first floor of his house in Burlington, Vermont. Welcome to campaigning in the age of pandemic. For Americans accustomed to candidates delivering lofty speeches before crowds of thousands or embracing voters in emotional moments, this new era of campaigning is yet another example of traditions upended, and expectations disrupted. But is what campaigning will look like for the foreseeable future, as candidates who spent years honing a sense of spectacle and rhetoric are reduced to amateur-style programs in their homes. Without studios or large event staffs, the programs do not so much resemble political events as they do, at best, local-access cable shows.

Campaigns Hit Up Lobbyists for Cash with In-Person Events Ending
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/27/2020

The regular scramble for congressional campaigns to quickly amass funds before the March 31 reporting deadline has been hindered by anti-gathering rules put in place to slow the coronavirus outbreak or put aside because of the legislative rush to stop the bleeding in the economy. But it has not stopped completely. Money from wealthier donors and lobbyists, in addition to small-dollar grassroots contributors, are likely to fall as the country faces a recession and unemployment rises to historic levels. It could also impact the amount of money contributed to the PACs run by corporations, trade associations, unions, and lobbying firms, which are funded by employees to donate.

Democrats Postpone Convention Until August Because of Coronavirus
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/2/2020

The Democratic National Committee postponed its national convention because of the coronavirus, moving it from mid-July to mid-August. It is the largest political event to be moved so far because of the public health crisis, which has already led to the cancellation of hundreds of state and local conventions from both parties. The convention will still be held in Milwaukee, as planned, the week of August 17, officials said, a week before Republicans plan to gather in Charlotte to renominate President Trump. An August convention is likely to be smaller than the planned July event. One senior Democratic official said the event would probably be a “bare minimum” convention, with scores of people who had planned to come staying away either because of health concerns.

Forget Washington – Corporate America Is Focused on Governors Right Now
Politico – Sam Sutton | Published: 3/30/2020

With the Trump administration taking a backseat to state leaders on coronavirus mitigation, companies and trade associations that traditionally rely on relationships with Washington, D.C. power brokers are instead being forced to reckon with newly emboldened statehouse executives to deal with the crisis. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. and other business groups wrote to the National Governors Association asking governors take a uniform approach on stay-at-home orders that designate which “essential business” and “critical infrastructure” can operate. The sudden emergence of executive orders shutting down large components of the economy forced lobbying organizations, or their local affiliates, to play “whack-a-mole” as governors readied similar directives, said Jason Straczewski 0f the National Retail Federation.

Frustrated Gamblers Turn to Politics as the Only Game in Town
Politico – Tony Rehgan | Published: 3/30/2020

Gamblers have been sidelined as the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down sports in the U.S. But they have found an outlet for their need to wager – politics. Some savvy gamblers are finding they can chase shifting odds on the 2020 U.S. presidential election or turn a quick buck wagering on incidental proposition bets like whether Joe Biden will pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, and also a host of adjacent bets on the price of oil and the stock market. Interestingly, the surge in political betting has exposed a gray area in the law.

Georgia Senator Discloses Additional Stock Sales Worth Millions During Coronavirus Pandemic
Washington Examiner – Madison Dibble (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2020

Sen. Kelly Loeffler reported millions of dollars in stock sales this year as Covid-19 swept through the United States. Financial disclosures show the Georgia Republican, one of several senators accused of insider trading after reports showed they dumped stocks prior to the market plunge earlier this year, had even more stocks sold on her behalf. The latest transactions included $18.7 million in sales of stocks owned by her husband’s company Intercontinental Exchange in three separate dumps. The senator used to work for the same firm before taking office. These sales took place from mid-February through mid-March, when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy were already being felt.

Justice Department Reviews Stock Trades by Lawmakers After Coronavirus Briefings
CNN – David Shortell, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb, and Kara Scannell | Published: 3/30/2020

The Justice Department has started to investigate a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus. The inquiry, which is being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the pandemic. The sales have come under fire after senators received closed-door briefings about the virus over the past several weeks, before the market began trending downward.

Tech Giants Prepared for 2016-Style Meddling. But the Threat Has Changed.
New York Times – Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel, and Nicole Perlroth | Published: 3/29/2020

Big tech companies have spent the past three years working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were overrun by Russian trolls and used to amplify America’s partisan divide. The companies have since collectively spent billions of dollars hiring staff, fortifying their systems, and developing new policies to prevent election meddling. Although the companies are better equipped to deal with the types of interference that they faced in 2016, they are struggling to handle the new challenges of 2020. Their difficulties reflect how much online threats have evolved since the 2016 election. More problematic, partisan groups in the U.S. have borrowed Russia’s playbook to create their own propaganda and disinformation campaigns, forcing the tech companies to make tough calls about restricting the speech of American citizens.

The Race for Virus Money Is On. Lobbyists Are Standing By.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2020

The federal government is open for coronavirus business, and the scramble to get some of it is on. Across the country, companies see a chance to cash in, do some good for the country or both, making virus outbreak response one of the few thriving sectors of the economy. And because so much of the business runs through Washington, D.C., the rush has created new opportunities for those who can offer access, influence, and expertise in navigating bureaucratic hurdles and securing chunks of the relief package that President Trump signed into law. The law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight set up an entire “Covid-19 Response Team,” which is expected to grow to include as many as 60 lawyers.

Trump Administration Rules Gun Shops ‘Essential’ Amid Virus
AP News – Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 3/30/2020

The Trump administration ruled gun shops are considered “essential” businesses that should remain open as other businesses are closed to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Gun control groups are balking, calling it a policy that puts profits over public health after intense lobbying by the firearms industry. After days of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and other gun groups, the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory declaring firearms dealers should be considered essential services — just like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals – and allowed to remain open. The agency said its ruling was not a mandate but merely guidance for cities, towns, and states as they weigh how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump Won the Internet. Democrats Are Scrambling to Take It Back.
MSN – Jim Rutenberg and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/30/2020

Since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, Democrats have been scrambling to reorder the digital campaign equation, an effort that has drawn a range of new donors, progressive activists, and operatives together with veterans of the Obama campaigns and the old-line contributors and party regulars of the Bill Clinton era. So far, Democrats and their allies have produced new apps to organize volunteers and register voters, new media outlets to pump out anti-President Trump content, and a major new data initiative to drive what the party hopes will be the biggest voter-mobilization effort in its history. But while Trump and his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, have brought conservatives together to build a technological juggernaut for 2020, the Democratic effort has been slowed by the party’s rivalries and divisions.

Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Mississippi Congressman’s Campaign Spending
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/27/2020

The Campaign Legal Center is asking ethics officials to investigate campaign spending by U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo after the group found he channeled six figures of donors’ money to family-owned businesses. Palazzo used campaign funds to pay over $60,000 in rent to his own farm, according to FEC filings. His campaign also spent nearly $128,000 with his now ex-wife’s accounting firm. Federal election law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. But candidates can justify funneling contributions to themselves or family members if they make the case the spending is campaign related. The Campaign Legal Center argues Palazzo had an existing accounting firm and his campaign did not need the services of Palazzo & Co.

Canada

Canada New B.C. Lobbying Laws Come into Force in May
Business in Vancouver – Haley Woodin | Published: 3/31/2020

In just over a month, new legislation to make government lobbying in British Columbia more transparent will come into force. As of May 4, all government lobbyists will be required to register and begin reporting their monthly lobbying activities. The changes are part of the new Lobbyists Transparency Act, which replaces the Lobbyists Registration Act, and includes amendments already passed by the provincial government.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Campaign Finance Initiative Campaign Suspends Signature Gathering
Ballotpedia.com – Ryan Byrne | Published: 3/30/2020

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, co-chair of Outlaw Dirty Money, announced the campaign was suspending signature gathering efforts for its ballot initiative due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign needs to gather at least 356,467 signatures by the July 2 deadline. The ballot initiative would add language to the state constitution providing people with a right to know the identity of the original source of an aggregate contribution of $5,000 or more used for campaign media spending. Goddard called on the Legislature to allow for signatures to be gathered online.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Dakota Smith, and Joel Rubin | Published: 3/27/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander, accused of obstructing a public corruption investigation, agreed to plead guilty to scheming to falsify facts. He has been investigated for allegedly accepting gifts from a businessperson. According to the plea agreement, he schemed to cover up cash payments, meals, escort services, and other gifts. He admitted to accepting a total of $15,000 in cash from the businessperson among other things during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017. “Businessman A” worked for local companies related to major development projects while Englander was on the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees most of the significant development projects in the city.

California ‘They’re All Tainted by It.’ Federal Corruption Cases Deal New Blow to Trust in City Hall
Yahoo News – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 4/1/2020

As city leaders face urgent pleas for help from Los Angeles residents reeling from the ripple effects of a global pandemic, they are also confronting distrust and revulsion over the alleged bribe and other “pay to play” activities that are at the heart of a widespread corruption investigation. Even those who are doing good work at have been tarnished by the scandals, said former Councilperson Greig Smith. Corruption probes are not new to City Hall. What makes the ongoing federal investigations so unusual, and potentially damning for city government, is that they touch on so many politicians at once.

California Watchdog to Review Rules Letting California Politicians Raise Money for Charity
Calmatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/31/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is preparing to update the regulations and laws that govern “behested payments” – donations made to charities at a politician’s request. Such donations have become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. FPPC Chairperson Richard Miadich cited Calmatters’ recent “Sweet Charity Series,” which revealed the amount of money flowing to nonprofits controlled by California lawmakers or their staff has skyrocketed over the last decade to $2.9 million in 2019 and showed much of the money comes from corporations and unions that lobby the Legislature.

Florida Council Committee Plans to Subpoena Bidders, Investment Banks in JEA Probe
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/30/2020

A Jacksonville City Council committee investigating JEA will subpoena the private companies that bid in the city utility’s failed invitation to negotiate. It also will subpoena the investment banks that advised JEA senior leaders in the sale attempt. Special Investigatory Committee Chairperson Rory Diamond said the panel will issue subpoenas for the names of the lobbying firms hired by nine private companies.

Illinois Pandemic Derails Illinois’ Lobbying Reform Commission Ahead of Key Deadline
The Center Square – Greg Bishop | Published: 3/31/2020

Unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reforms missed its March 31 deadline to provide recommendations to clean up some questionable practices in Springfield, but a member of the commission said it will get back to business. The commission, made up of state lawmakers and members appointed by the offices of the Illinois governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, was created in the fall amid a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that included allegations of bribery involving lawmakers, lobbyists, and business leaders.

Massachusetts Sen. Dean Tran Stripped of Leadership Position After Committee Report Says He Used Public Staff for Campaign Work
MassLive.com – Steph Solis | Published: 3/26/2020

Massachusetts lawmakers voted to strip state Sen. Dean Tran of his leadership role after a committee report found he used his Senate staff for work related to his 2018 and 2020 re-election campaigns during business hours. Tran is also banned from interacting with his staff except for written communications, The Senate Committee on Ethics report states that Tran “received repeated advice” that it was inappropriate for his staff to do campaign work during regular business hours, funded at the taxpayer’s expense, and for staff to participate in most fundraising activities. But Tran did not heed the advice and his current campaign manager threatened at least one staffer with termination if the person did not work on the 2020 campaign.

Michigan Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith Resigns Amid Criminal Charges Against Him
Detroit Free Press – Christina Hall | Published: 3/30/2020

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, accused of embezzlement and misconduct in office over how drug and alcohol forfeiture funds were spent, resigned from office. The announcement came less than week after the longtime prosecutor was charged with 10 criminal counts by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in a nearly yearlong probe of how his office spent the funds. Investigators found Smith and other defendants used the money to buy flowers and makeup for select secretaries, a security system for Smith’s residence, garden benches for staffers’ homes, country club catering for parties, campaign expenditures, and more.

Michigan Whitmer to Clerks: Send all new registrants an absentee ballot for May 5
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 3/28/2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order temporarily changing state voting laws for jurisdictions with a May 5 election and allowing some May elections to be postponed to August 4 or later in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In those jurisdictions still holding elections, all clerks are required to send absentee ballots to new registrants under the order and absentee applications must be mailed to all currently registered voters in those areas. The order was opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who argued the May elections should be delayed instead.

New York Cuomo Pulls Back on Proposed Donor Disclosures for Nonprofits
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/31/2020

Changes to the state budget in New York ease reporting requirements for charities and nonprofits concerning their donors, though their financial reports may be made public. The latest budget language also includes new provisions expanding oversight of nonprofits through the Department of State. Certain nonprofits, such as those who have spent more than $10,000 in communication endorsing or opposing legislation, will have to submit annual financial disclosure reports to the agency. The department will then examine the relationship between charitable nonprofits and political advocacy organizations, filed as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofits, who share staff, office space, or supplies, among other provisions.

New York New York Delays Presidential Primary, Special Election to June
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/28/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s presidential primary and a special election in the 27th Congressional District will be postponed from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The elections will now coincide with the state’s primaries for congressional and state legislative races. The special election in the 27th District will replace former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned in September and was sentenced to prison for insider trading.

New York Organizing for Sanders in New York When the City’s on Lockdown and You Can’t Leave Your Apartment
Washington Post – Chelsea James | Published: 4/2/2020

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has spent two presidential cycles building a grassroots movement unparalleled among Democrats in reach and loyalty. For nearly eight years, that network has measured enthusiasm by doors knocked and rallies organized. Now though, as the coronavirus ravages the country, Sanders’ staffers and organizers have found themselves stuck in their homes, unable to hold, concertlike events that have become a staple of the campaign. Instead, they are reduced to connecting to people over Zoom, erasing a major advantage they had over Joe Biden, an ability to fill communities with volunteers and have thousands of conversations about their candidate.

New York Previously Struck Down in Court, New Campaign Finance System and Political Party Ballot Threshold Passed in Budget
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/1/2020

A new campaign finance system in New York, with public matching money for candidates who choose to participate and lower individual contribution limits, will be enshrined in law through inclusion in the new state budget. It is accompanied by controversial ballot-threshold requirements for political parties. The campaign finance system had been approved last year based on the recommendations of a state-created commission but was struck down in mid-March by a state Supreme Court judge who ruled such a commission could not be tasked with writing laws. The budget bill addressed that mistake and passed the same recommendations the commission made.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Moves Primaries to June 2 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/27/2020

Pennsylvania moved the state’s presidential and congressional primaries from April 28 to June 2. Gov. Tom Wolf made the move official by signing a bill moving the primary date into law. Pennsylvania, which President Trump narrowly won in 2016, will be a key state in the presidential race in November.

Washington Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle ‘Democracy Vouchers’
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/30/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” campaign finance program. Two local property owners said the vouchers violated their constitutional rights to free speech by forcing them through their tax dollars to support candidates they did not like. The Supreme Court has generally upheld the public financing of campaigns, within the limits of the First Amendment, saying “public financing as a means of eliminating the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest” of helping to eliminate corruption.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Goes It Alone, Holding Elections Next Week Amid Fears of Infection and Voting Chaos
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 4/1/2020

Across Wisconsin, voters, election officials, and civil rights leaders are angry the state Legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections even as the coronavirus continues its march across the country. The public-health risk is too high and asking voters to venture out of their homes directly contradicts state and local emergency orders to shelter in place, they say. Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature say moving the voting date so late in the process would sow confusion and create a leadership vacuum in cities and towns holding contests for municipal posts that will be vacant as early as mid-April.

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April 2, 2020 •

Mississippi Postpones House District 88 Special Election

Mississippi State Capitol - by Ken Lund

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23. The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January. Due to the House leadership ruling members could not […]

Gov. Tate Reeves has ordered the special election for House District 88 set for April 21 be postponed until June 23.

The seat was vacated when Ramona Blackledge resigned in January.

Due to the House leadership ruling members could not collect legislative pay while also receiving state retirement funds.

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April 2, 2020 •

West Virginia Postpones Primary until June 9

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those […]

On April 1, Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order postponing the state’s primary election scheduled from May 12 until June 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order also suspends the rules and regulations regarding municipal elections allowing those elections to be rescheduled as necessary.

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