September 8, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 8, 2017

 

 

 

National:

Software Glitch or Russian Hackers? Election Problems Draw Little Scrutiny
New York Times – Nicole Pearlroth, Michael Wines, and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 9/1/2017

After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state, and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers. The assaults on the vast back-end election apparatus – voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, e-poll books, and other equipment – have received far less attention than other aspects of the Russian interference, such as the hacking of Democratic emails and spreading of false or damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Yet the hacking of electoral systems was more extensive than previously disclosed.

Statehouses, Not Congress, Hosting Biggest Political Money Fights
Center for Public Integrity – Ashley Balcerzak | Published: 8/31/2017

Lawmakers in at least 18 states have introduced legislation this year to change the amount of money people can give to politicians. Half of the bills aim to increase contribution limits in attempts to keep pace with the rising number of outside forces that can spend unlimited amounts of cash. The other half try to decrease the limits to blunt the amount of money in politics. Meanwhile, national coalitions have swarmed statehouses and city halls. They are targeting disclosure laws, pay-to-play and lobbying rules, and the role corporations, unions, and nonprofits may play in elections, in addition to fundraising limits.

Federal:

A Two-Decade Crusade by Conservative Charities Fueled Trump’s Exit from Paris Climate Accord
Washington Post – Robert O’Harrow Jr. | Published: 9/5/2017

The story behind the Cooler Heads Coalition – an umbrella group in the vanguard of efforts to cast doubt on the gravity of climate change and thwart government efforts to address it – illuminates the influential, little-known role that tax-exempt public charities play in modern campaigns to sway lawmakers and shape policy while claiming to be nonpartisan educational organizations. It also offers insight into the forces behind a decision by President Trump that infuriated scientists and environmentalists, mystified U.S. allies, and went against the advice of some major corporations.

Democrats Say ‘Citizens United’ Should Die. Here’s Why That Won’t Happen.
Center for Public Integrity – Sarah Kleiner | Published: 8/31/2017

Seizing on the specter of Russian election influence, Democrats have ramped up their quixotic effort to blunt Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which unleashed a torrent of special interest spending on U.S. elections. They have introduced two dozen bills related to money in politics. Some are aimed at increasing donor transparency, others are targeting massive contributions from special interests. A couple are intent on reforming the FEC. None have had a single formal hearing, much less an up-or-down vote in either the House or Senate.

Trump Gets Millions from Golf Members. CEOs and Lobbyists Get Access to President
USA Today – Brad Heath, Fredreka Schouten, Steve Reilly, Nick Pezenstadler, and Aamer Madhani | Published: 9/6/2017

Members of clubs that Donald Trump owns and has visited most often as president include at least 50 executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials. Two-thirds played on one of the 58 days Trump was there. A USA Today shows that for the first time in U.S. history, wealthy people with interests before the government have a chance for close and confidential access to the president as a result of payments that enrich him personally. The arrangement is legal, and members said they did not use the clubs to discuss government business. Nonetheless, ethics experts questioned whether it is appropriate for a sitting president to collect money from lobbyists and others who spend their days trying to shape federal policy or win government business.

From the States and Municipalities:

California
SF’s Political Watchdog Agency Proposes Sweeping Reforms, Nonprofits Cry Foul
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabitini | Published: 9/4/2017

The San Francisco Ethics Commission is taking on the notorious “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall with proposed sweeping reforms. But some of the provisions have drawn the ire of nonprofits that warn it will deal a significant blow to their fundraising. One provision being discussed in the reform package would prohibit city commissioners from helping to raise money for candidates. Many nonprofit leaders blasted a portion of the sweeping reforms that would restrict so-called behested payments, which are contributions made to groups or causes at the request of elected officials.

Colorado
Denver Proposal Aims to Force Disclosure of Independent Spending in Elections as ‘Dark Money’ Trickles Down
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 9/4/2017

A Denver City Council proposal seeks to close transparency gaps that allow “dark money” to go unreported as long as the people behind it do not coordinate directly with a candidate’s campaign. The proposal would adopt the state definitions of “independent expenditure” and “electioneering communication.” The individual, company, or other group behind the independent spending would have to file public reports within two days after more than $1,000 is spent, including disclosing anyone who gives more than $25 to the effort. They also would have to make clear on any mailers, broadcast ads, or other advertising who paid for them and the independence from the candidate’s or issue’s official campaign. The proposal also would modify the city’s campaign finance ordinance in other ways.

Maryland
Facing Minor Fine, Hogan Campaign Lawyer Threatens Attorney General Frosh
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 8/31/2017

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s re-election campaign could be hit with a $250 fine for a minor violation of state election law, an inconvenience that has erupted into a partisan brawl. Hogan’s campaign attorney, Dirk Haire, who also chairs the Maryland Republican Party, will ask the state prosecutor’s office to launch an official misconduct investigation if state Attorney General Brian Frosh does not act to block the fine, which was proposed by staffers at the Board of Elections in response to a complaint from Maryland Democratic Party Chairperson Kathleen Matthews. Haire is also threatening to file a complaint alleging Frosh’s campaign illegally charged children for ice cream at a fundraiser.

Missouri
Councilwoman Repays Lobbyist, Concerned over Gifting
St. Joseph News-Press – Brendan Welch | Published: 9/6/2017

St. Joseph City Council Member Joyce Starr presented a check to a local lobbyist during a council meeting to avoid taking what she considered to be an unethical gift. Starr said council members often go out in a group after meetings to HiHo Bar and Grill, and Kenneth Reeder, a local political activist and lobbyist, is usually in attendance. She said after the August 11 council meeting, she discovered Reeder was being repaid for purchasing them dinner and drinks, and was not comfortable with it. Starr said the check was only for four dollars, “but it’s just the principle of the thing.”

South Carolina
Rep. Jim Merrill Pleads Guilty to Misconduct, Agrees to Assist Investigators in Statehouse Corruption Probe
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith and Andrew Brown | Published: 9/1/2017

South Carolina Rep. Jim Merrill pleaded guilty to using his office for personal profit, resigned his seat in the Legislature, and was sentenced to one year of probation. The plea agreement requires him to cooperate with state investigators and the FBI as they continue to probe corruption at the statehouse. Merrill was accused of using his office and his consulting firm to garner more than $1 million from trade groups and companies at a time when he was both a lawmaker and a consultant. He failed to report money he received from companies and groups that lobby legislators, did not file reports of campaign-related spending from the House Republican Caucus, and overcharged for his work.

Texas
Court: Texas Can Enforce New Voter ID Law in November
Governing – Allie Morris | Published: 9/6/2017

A federal appeals court panel ruled Texas can use its revised voter ID measure for the upcoming November elections, the latest in a series of winding legal battles on whether the state has intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters through its original law passed in 2011 In August, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos threw out Senate Bill 5, which the state Legislature passed earlier this year and in some ways softened the previous requirements that Texans present one of seven forms of photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Ramos said the state’s new voter ID law failed to fix the intentional discrimination against minority voters found in a 2011 law. The stay suspends that order until the appeals court can hear the merits for and against the state’s appeal.

Texas
Fred Lewis Appointment Stirs Controversy
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 9/1/2017

Fred Lewis, an attorney who served as the main architect of Austin’s new lobbying ordinance, surprisingly became the center of a controversy when the city council appointed him to serve on the Charter Review Commission. Lewis worked for many months on an ordinance specifically aimed at preventing lobbyists from serving on city commissions.

West Virginia
Charge Dropped Against Reporter Who Questioned Tom Price
New York Times – Matt Stevens | Published: 9/6/2017

West Virginia prosecutors dropped charges against a reporter who was arrested after peppering U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price with healthcare policy questions while following him down a hallway at the Capitol. Prosecutors said the reporter, Dan Heyman, broke no laws. Heyman was arrested and jailed for willful disruption of state government processes. The arrest drew condemnation from civil rights and journalists’ rights groups, who said Heyman was merely performing his constitutionally protected duties.

Wisconsin
Report: New Ethics Commission has conducted just 1 investigation, says compliance is up
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 9/3/2017

A new report shows Wisconsin’s Ethics Commission investigated just one alleged violation in its first year of operation. That is a far less active pace than its predecessor, the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker created the Ethics Commission, saying the GAB was too partisan. Much of the new commission’s workings are shrouded by law. Hidden from public view are complaints alleging violations of ethics, campaign finance, or lobbying laws, as well as deliberations by the commission on whether to investigate complaints.

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

November 23, 2020 •

Missouri Special Session Continued Until After Thanksgiving Break

Missouri Capitol Building

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break. This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff. The special session began on November 5 to […]

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break.

This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff.

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

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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November 23, 2020 •

Third Cincinnati Council Member Arrested

Cincinnati Skyline

Cincinnati Skyline - by Mr. RNGAndreson

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges. He is the third council member to be arrested this year. Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign. If he […]

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges.

He is the third council member to be arrested this year.

Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign.

If he does resign, four members of the council will choose his successor by a majority vote.

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November 23, 2020 •

San Luis Obispo County Adopts Campaign Contribution Limits

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo - by MARELBU

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000. Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700. Opponents of the $25,000 […]

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000.

Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700.

Opponents of the $25,000 ceiling voiced concerns the higher limit would lead to corruption.

Others argued the county should not make a decision until a replacement for deceased Supervisor Adam Hill is seated.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation limiting campaign contributions to local candidates to $4,700 in cities and counties not having their own contribution limits.

Those limits go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

The $25,000 limit will apply to candidates for 10 county offices, including the five supervisors, the district attorney, and the sheriff.

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November 23, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico

California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose Mercury News

Nevada: “Las Vegas Judge Took Lawyer’s Campaign Donation Before Dismissals” by David Ferrara for Las Vegas Review-Journal

Elections

National: “Trump’s Escalating Attacks Put Pressure on Vote Certification Process” by David Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

New York: “Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations” by Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess for New York Times

Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Utah: “Audit Finds Free Spending and Cronyism by Ex-State Agency Head” by Bethany Rodgers for Salt Lake Tribune

Lobbying

National: “K Street Moves to Counter ‘Purity’ Test for Biden Administration” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Florida: “After Months of Work, Leon County Gives OK to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat

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November 20, 2020 •

COVID Has Affected State and Federal Communications

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing […]

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing masks when in the office. We have only had one staff member who tested positive and is back in the office after the required quarantine period.

I do have to say, this pandemic has affected an important publication. After 21 years, the quick desk reference, State and Federal Communications Guidebook, will not be printed. Due to the pandemic, our clients are not in the office and we are already in possession of the 2020 Congressional Directory we ordered for everyone and received in May, when offices closed and people started working from home.

The information in the Guidebook is included in the very robust State and Federal Communications website, www.stateandfed.com, which will have a redesign unveiled on December 1, 2020.

Jon Spontarelli and Kristi Hadgigeorge will be alerting the State and Federal Communications Community about the updates and upgrades on our new website and, especially where you can continue to find the valuable materials from the Guidebook.

We will continue to make sure you have all the valuable information you need for your work and please do not hesitate to give us a call if you need guidance along the road to compliance.

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November 20, 2020 •

Colorado Governor Calls for Special Session November 30

Colorado Capitol

Colorado Capitol Building

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m. Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct […]

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m.

Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct rental assistance, food insecurity, and public health response.

It is expected to take at least three days to approve the legislation. A professional lobbyist must disclose within 72 hours if a lobbyist agrees to lobby for an existing client or takes a new position in connection to legislation, standard, rules, or rates during a special session.

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November 20, 2020 •

New Mexico Governor Announces Special Session

New Mexico Capitol

New Mexico Capitol Building - Ken Lund

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief. The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the […]

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief.

The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the resources toward small businesses and unemployment.

The special session is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 24, and is expected to last one day. The Roundhouse will be closed to the public during that time.

A legislative report will be due within 48 hours for each separate expenditure of $500 or more made or incurred by a lobbyist or employer during the special legislative session.

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November 20, 2020 •

Illinois Cancels Veto Session due to the Surge in Coronavirus Cases

Illinois Capitol

Illinois State Capitol Building

The Illinois Legislature canceled the veto session originally scheduled for this week and December 1-3, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State lawmakers hope to meet in January, though no date has been set. Generally, the veto session, a short session […]

The Illinois Legislature canceled the veto session originally scheduled for this week and December 1-3, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State lawmakers hope to meet in January, though no date has been set.

Generally, the veto session, a short session in the fall, is used to override bills that have been vetoed and resolve conflicts with the governor.

There are no vetoes to address this year, but lawmakers could address other matters.

The next General Assembly will be inaugurated on January 13, 2021.

Therefore, the veto session would have to take place before then if it is held.

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