September 8, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say” by Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Network of News Sites […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say” by Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Network of News Sites Must Register as a Political Committee Due to Democratic Links, Complaint Alleges” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post

Colorado: “‘LLCs Are Not Constituents’: Fort Collins council puts new caps on election” by Jacy Marmaduke for Fort Collins Coloradoan

Elections

Missouri: “After Two Court Losses, State Doesn’t Ask High Court to Weigh in on ‘Clean Missouri’ Question” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ethics

National: “Judge Won’t Force Disclosure of Key Parts of Mueller Interviews” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

California: “CalPERS May Force Next CIO to Unload Personal Holdings” by Bloomberg for Los Angeles Times

Illinois: “Former ComEd VP Charged with Bribery Conspiracy in Scheme to Sway House Speaker Michael Madigan” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

Lobbying

Michigan: “Pandemic Takes Bite Out of Lawmakers’ Free Food from Lobbyists” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News

Oregon: “Reporting on Timber Lobbying Prompts Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Call for Audit of State Institute” by Tony Schick and Rob Davis for OPB

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September 4, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 4, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal 1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020 More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about […]

National/Federal

1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says
MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020

More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November. In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to August 13, the agency’s inspector general found election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of the election, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted. Hundreds of ballots were mailed after elections were over, meaning they could not be counted, and only a small percentage used the proper tracking procedures, the audit found.

As Clashes Between Armed Groups and Leftist Protesters Turn Deadly, Police Face Complaints of Tolerating Vigilantes
MSN – Joshua Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2020

As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days. The incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training, and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.

As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2020

The Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939, applies on paper at least to civil servants and political appointees alike. But the top Trump administration officials showcased in prime-time appearances and speaking slots at the Republican National Convention serve as a reminder that when it comes to flouting the separation between governing and politicking, there appears to be a two-tiered system of consequences. Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who was appointed by President Trump, cited at least nine high-level Trump appointees for abusing their government roles to further the president’s reelection or disparage his rivals. They have largely thumbed their noses at the law. Career employees, meanwhile, have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government.

Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett | Published: 9/1/2020

Attorney General William Barr imposed new rules tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers, a move likely to cheer conservatives who have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said before the FBI and Justice Department seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor the communications of an elected official, a declared political candidate, or any of their staff and advisers, officials must first consider warning that person foreign governments may be targeting them, and if they choose not to give such a warning, the FBI director must spell out in writing the reasons for not doing so.

D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/31/2020

A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the U.S. House’s investigative power, ruling the House cannot go to court to enforce subpoenas because there is no statute giving that chamber the authority to do so. The ruling marked the second time a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals panel essentially voided a subpoena the House issued last year to Donald McGahn demanding the former White House counsel testify about his dealings with President Trump related to the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the decision stands, it could cripple the House’s ability to demand information from sources unwilling to give it up readily.

Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

Foreign governments such as Russia and China continue to try to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, but officials have seen no evidence of countries trying to manipulate or manufacture mail-in ballots, officials said. Federal authorities are ramping up their efforts to keep state and local election systems secure, particularly in light of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which led to criticism the government had been slow and soft in its response. Those assurances are in contrast to statements by President Trump, who has repeatedly argued mail-in voting is so ripe for abuse that he would block additional funds for the U.S. Postal Service to handle a surge in mail ballots this year.

Facebook Will Block New Political Advertising the Week Before Election Day
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg | Published: 9/3/2020

Facebook announced it would ban new political advertisements from its platform in the week leading up to the November election. The move to limit ads, part of a spate of election-related announcements, is an attempt to reduce misinformation that is expected to flood social networks as Election Day draws near. The company also said it would label posts by any candidate or campaign that tries to declare victory before the results are in, directing people to the official results from Reuters. It will do the same for any posts that try to delegitimize the outcome of the election. It has also started to limit users’ ability to forward articles on its Messenger platform to large groups of people.

Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden
New York Times – Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/2/2020

The Department of Homeland Security declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joe Biden’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department. Before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson asked the inspector general for the department to review the matter. The department’s leaders and its intelligence office have already attracted criticism for appearing to shape decisions around the political whims of the White House, such as actions at the U.S.-Mexican border and the deployment of tactical teams to Portland and Washington, D.C., against the wishes of local governments.

How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2020

Donald Trump has now visited his own properties 270 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally. Through these trips, he has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups. Federal spending records show taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. New documents give more detail about how the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service – a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.

Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment
MSN – Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a series of missteps recently, following flip-flops earlier this year on authorizing and then revoking clearance for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its initial decision not to regulate Covid-19 antibody tests. It also feeds a long-running narrative of a White House repeatedly undermining its health and science experts, not just at the FDA but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “I’ve been following health regulatory decisions for decades and have never seen this amount of White House arm twisting to force agencies … to make decisions based on political pressure, rather than the best science,” said Jerome Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 9/1/2020

Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under scrutiny for his alleged role in a campaign to persuade high-level Trump administration officials to drop an investigation of Malaysian government corruption, as well as for his attempt to push for the extradition of a Chinese dissident back to his home country. He has been in discussions with the Justice Department and could ultimately reach a plea deal in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. After the 2016 election, Broidy served as a national deputy finance chairperson for the Republican National Committee. He resigned in the wake of a report he had paid a woman $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged.

Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/31/2020

A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, allowing the legal saga to continue. The decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the go-ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. The decision by the full court reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to close the case. Judge Thomas Griffith said it would be premature for the appeals court to intervene and force Sullivan’s hand before he had rendered a decision.

Postal Chief DeJoy Has Long Leveraged Connections, Dollars
Associated Press News – Matthew Daly, Brian Slodysko, and Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 8/30/2020

How Louis DeJoy was hired as postmaster general is among the questions Congress is trying to unravel as lawmakers scrutinize a series of operational changes at the Postal Service that have resulted in widespread mail delays and fears the agency will not be able to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration denies any impropriety in the selection of DeJoy, a former supply chain chief executive who is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades not to be a career postal employee. DeJoy’s prolific giving to organizations and Republican candidates, including $1.2 million to President Trump, has also drawn a spotlight to the transactional appearance of some of his contributions.

PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/28/2020

The Paycheck Protection Program is not accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in. The law firm where U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works – and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million – received a loan between $5-$10 million. Conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion CARES Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck – Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.

Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/28/2020

Five lobbying and public affairs firms have set up their own holding company, an unconventional partnership in the influence industry that allows them to expand their businesses while remaining independent. The Public Policy Holding Company will specialize in advocacy and is owned by the participating firms, a contrast to the more common practice of massive multinationals gobbling up K Street firms. The benefits for the firms include being able to offer clients a suite of lobbying, public affairs, and state-level advocacy without sacrificing their individual brands or businesses.

Canada

Canada Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 9/1/2020

For the first time in four years, the federal government added a new company to its blacklist of suppliers. Les Industries Garanties Limitée is banned from bidding on federal contracts for a decade after an employee admitting bid-rigging in 2017. The company, which bills itself as “Montreal’s largest and most innovative leader in air conditioning services for commercial, industrial, residential and institutional sectors,” is only the fourth company to be deemed ineligible for federal contracts or real property agreements under the Integrity Regime. The regime aims to weed out and sanction any potential federal supplier who has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery, bid-rigging, or illegal lobbying.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison
Associated Press News – Kim Chandler | Published: 8/31/2020

The Alabama Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision upholding much of the 2016 ethics conviction of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and the state attorney general said it is time for the once-powerful Republican to report to prison. The court this spring overturned five of the counts in Hubbard’s ethics convictions while upholding six others. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of leveraging his powerful public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. His defense lawyers maintained the transactions were all aboveboard.

Arizona Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/31/2020

A charity founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported raising more than $50,000 during its first year in operation but has not reported how it spent a single penny during that time. Instead, tax filings by the American Sheriff Foundation are largely blank, leave at least $18,000 unaccounted for, and do not disclose business relationships between board members that must be reported to the IRS. While the organization touts itself as building bridges between community and law enforcement, records obtained by The Arizona Republic leave unclear how much money the foundation is spending on charity and where the rest of its funds are going.

Arkansas 2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – John Moritz | Published: 8/28/2020

The Arkansas Supreme Court removed a pair of proposed changes to the state constitution from the November ballot, halting attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. The court disqualified both measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the wording the groups behind the measures used to certify their paid canvassers met all the requirements to collect signatures. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas wrote in submissions they “acquired ” criminal background checks for each of their canvassers. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, however, said the groups needed to certify that the canvassers “passed” the background checks.

California Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract
Associated Press News – Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood | Published: 8/27/2020

The California agency that oversees elections has signed a $35 million contract with a firm linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to produce advertising to encourage voters to participate in the November election. Under the contract, SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, will help run the “Vote Safe California” campaign, which will urge people to vote during the pandemic. Anita Dunn, the firm’s managing director, is a senior strategist for Biden’s presidential campaign. The firm’s work for Biden is highlighted on its website, with a headline saying the company is “proud to be a part of Team Biden.”

California He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/30/2020

When a real estate developer proposed a $1.2-billion skyscraper near downtown Los Angeles, city council member Curren Price stepped forward to champion the project, despite warnings it would accelerate gentrification in the area. Price urged his colleagues to approve the development in 2016, saying it would create hundreds of jobs. He also ensured that developer Ara Tavitian received permission to install three digital billboards on a 12-story building already located on the site, over objections from city planning commissioners. Months later, three of Tavitian’s real estate companies poured $75,000 into a PAC working to reelect Price.

Connecticut Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care
Connecticut Post – Emilie Munson | Published: 8/28/2020

A Connecticut judge ruled candidates for elected office can use public campaign funding to pay for childcare while they are campaigning, clearing the way for more parents to run for office in the state. The plaintiff, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira ran for state representative in 2018. The state agency that oversees campaign finance laws rebuked her attempt to use public election grants to cover childcare. The grants can be used to pay for travel and other expenses produced by a campaign.

Georgia State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 9/2/2020

The fallout from a long and expensive 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is still being felt some three years later as ethics investigations dog the participants. In August, the Georgia’s ethics commission fined the losing candidate, Mary Norwood, $27,000 which she immediately paid off. But the commission said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not cooperating with its investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspected illegal campaign contributions. The commission notified Bottoms this past December they found evidence of nearly $400,000 of financial irregularities within the campaign.

Illinois Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/1/2020

Jeff Tobolski, a former Cook County commissioner and mayor, admitted he took “multiple extortion and bribe payments” worth a total of more than $250,000. He admitted conspiring with an unnamed McCook police officer to get cash payments from a restaurant owner in exchange for giving permission to the business to sell liquor. Media reports said a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commission while the businessperson’s application for a county property-tax break was pending. In one email, Tobolski said the tool-and-die business should contribute campaign cash annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost” of doing business in his district.

Illinois Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/31/2020

Federal prosecutors charged a central figure in their ongoing corruption probe in Chicago involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed. The one-count criminal information alleges Omar Maani, who was co-owner of the company, conspired with Patrick Doherty, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, and another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of red-light cameras there. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager. Maani’s cooperation with federal authorities already has led to charges against a number of politicians and power players, including then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.

Illinois Naperville Council Member Proposes Ethics Policy to Limit Influence of Campaign Donations on City Business
Chicago Tribune – Erin Hegarty (Naperville Sun) | Published: 9/2/2020

Naperville City Councilperson Theresa Sullivan requested the city look into whether it could enforce stricter ethics policies to keep campaign donations from influencing city council votes. Sullivan proposed city staff research amending Naperville’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on an agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to the mayor or council member’s most recent campaign.

Indiana Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say
Northwest Indiana Times – Lauren Cross | Published: 8/27/2020

Longtime Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts, and support his adult daughter, federal prosecutors said in announcing felony charges against him. Diane Stahura transferred money from the campaign committee’s bank account to the Stahuras’ personal bank account, authorities said. Prosecutors said Joe Stahura filed a false tax return in 2019, falsely listing his gross income and not accounting for $51,480 stolen from the campaign account in 2018. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the loan repayment amount to his campaign by approximately $40,000, prosecutors said.

Iowa Judge Voids 50,000 Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa County
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 8/28/2020

A judge ordered an Iowa county to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Trump’s campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling them with voters’ personal information. Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction ordering Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to notify voters in writing the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed. Instead, they will have to either fill out new requests for absentee ballots or vote on Election Day. Republicans said the ruling would hold a “rogue auditor” accountable and enhance voting security, while Democrats called it an act of voter suppression.

Kentucky Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/28/2020

When it passed a law in 2019 requiring candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically, the Kentucky General Assembly was aiming for increased transparency. The new system would let taxpayers know as soon as possible who was contributing to whom. The law went into effect this year, but so far has fallen short of that aim. The system delays run counter to the essential mission of the agency, providing timely transparency on who is bankrolling political campaigns. It makes any major financial push by special interest groups difficult to detect.

Missouri Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure
Associated Press News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 8/31/2020

A Missouri appeals court panel rewrote a summary for voters describing a November ballot measure that would revamp the state’s model for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. The Legislature’s combined the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved,” according to the ruling written by Judge Alok Ahuja.

Montana COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 8/28/2020

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices dismissed two complaints filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Steve Bullock, saying they did not meet ethics code violations. In one case, Commissioner Jeff Mangan warned that ethics complaints, with and without basis in law and fact, are on a “steep rise” and he will begin charging complaints when cases fail to meet legal standards. He said conclusory statements, assumptions, or opinions are not enough to support a proceeding under the ethics code.

Montana Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 8/31/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell upheld Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order that requires companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the order, which requires reporting of contributions even to “dark money” groups. Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if it exceeds $2,500.

New York Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election
ABC News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2020

A federal appeals court granted President Trump a temporary reprieve in the fight over his tax returns, barring Manhattan’s top prosecutor from getting the records while Trump’s lawyers embark on another bid to overturn the subpoena seeking them. With a temporary stay in place and Trump expecting a return to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely the case will be resolved or any tax returns will be turned over before the November election. A lawyer for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office argued further delays to the enforcement of a subpoena issued nearly a year ago would only hamper their investigation, which he said covers a wide range of business dealings connected to the Trump Organization.

Ohio FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/27/2020

Interviews and a review of hundreds of pages of court documents and campaign finance reports, show FirstEnergy and its affiliates have used an army of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, as well as political contributions, to pressure Ohio lawmakers to get what they want when they want it. The companies have used a rough-and-tumble political style to gain legislators’ support through fear or favor, according to interviews and court records. The tactics have sought to mold even the most independent lawmakers into compliant followers. The strategy became clear when the racketeering indictment of Former Speaker Larry Householder and four associates linked to House Bill 6 underscored the political influence of FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020

The Ohio Elections Commission fined the group behind the failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law, for failing to disclose who funded their efforts. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a fine of at least $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since a January 31 campaign finance deadline. Commission members approved the fine recommended by staff after the group failed to file a routine report detailing donors and campaign expenses. Particularly since House Bill 6 was implicated in a federal corruption investigation, advocates and state lawmakers have cited the fight over the bill in calls for reforms to increase transparency in Ohio’s campaign finance system.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020

Larry Householder and his allies committed dozens of violations of state campaign finance law, including bribery, while helping Householder become and retain his power as speaker of the House, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. LaRose referred 162 elections complaints to the Elections Commission against Householder and four other men: his former top political aide Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Neil Clark. The alleged violations parallel a federal investigation, which has charged Householder and the others of accepting more than $60 million in bribes, funneled through a network of political groups, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to help Householder get elected as speaker in 2019.

Ohio Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/1/2020

The Ohio House is moving to remove state Rep. Larry Householder from his seat on a legislative ethics board, six weeks after Householder was arrested in a federal corruption probe. Republicans added language to an unrelated bill to make it possible to remove Householder from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), which oversees lobbying and ethics rules for the Legislature. Householder had gotten an automatic seat on the JLEC board when he was speaker, and state law otherwise was designed to prevent removing a lawmaker once they are on.

Oregon Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/30/2020

As the first state in the nation to adopt vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration, Oregon has built a reputation for high voter turnout. But while Oregon voters have their say at the ballot box, corporations have their say more frequently in the Legislature, by keeping the state’s politicians awash in campaign cash. Oregon is one of five states that lack any limits on campaign contributions made by corporations, and one of eleven that lack any limit on individual donations to a candidate. The result is the state is number one in per capita corporate political donations and sixth overall in total corporate political donations. Heading into the November election, a coalition of state groups is putting the issue of unlimited corporate money in state politics before voters in a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution.

Virginia Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/1/2020

For vision-impaired voters in Virginia, there was no easy way to vote. They would either have to risk their health during a pandemic to vote in person or forgo voter privacy by asking someone to fill in the blanks on their mail-in ballot forms. Now, after the center and several other groups advocating for the blind filed a federal lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Elections has agreed to offer a new option. A consent decree will allow vision-impaired individuals to electronically receive mail-in ballots compatible with screen-reader assistive technology. The agreement applies only to the November 3 election.

Washington Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone | Published: 9/2/2020

Nearly one in five of Washington’s roughly 800 registered lobbyists previously worked in state government or elected office. That includes about 60 lobbyists who came from high-ranking public positions. They include former chiefs of staff of governors, Cabinet secretaries, and deputy directors for state agencies. Several are former state lawmakers or attorneys for the Legislature. Government-reform advocates say the “revolving door” creates the potential for powerful interests to influence public servants who could be in line to land a job outside government. Then, as lobbyists, former officials can use their extensive knowledge and contacts to potentially exercise outsized influence on policy and legislation.

West Virginia Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama
Wheeling News-Register – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 8/30/2020

Depositions filed in federal court revealed the internal drama behind the selection of standardized tests and the rivalry between the former state superintendent of schools and a lobbyist. It was a rivalry that spilled into social media with attacks on the West Virginia Department of Education, state education officials allegedly threatening one major testing supplier and even pressuring another testing supplier to hire their own lobbyist to “combat” and “neutralize” the other lobbyist. The lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb against Steve Paine, former state superintendent of schools, and Jan Barth, assistant superintendent for the Division of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, showcases the fight between two companies to become the state’s new standardized test.

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September 3, 2020 •

Fort Collins City Council Approves New Campaign Finance Amendments

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Fort Collins City Council approved several campaign finance changes on September 1 that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election. The amendments include limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political […]

Fort Collins City Council approved several campaign finance changes on September 1 that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election.

The amendments include limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political committees to support or oppose city races.

City Council voted 5-2 on the political committee and LLC contribution changes. This included votes in opposition from Mayor Wade Troxell and council member Ken Summers. In addition, council unanimously approved several other election code changes. The changes will apply to municipal elections for council seats, the mayoral race, and city ballot measures.

Current code allows LLCs to donate up to $75 to a candidate committee for a City Council member, or $100 to a committee for a mayoral candidate, which is the same limit for an individual. Because one person can be a member of multiple LLCs, people could bypass individual donation limits. This bypass could be accomplished by donating through various LLCs. Election finance records show this has happened in previous Fort Collins elections.

The amendment will bring this requirement into alignment with the state election code. The current code requires donations from LLCs to include statements that attribute the donation to specific LLC members. The donations attributed through an LLC will then count toward individual donation limits.

The political committee amendment will place a $100 cap on donations to political committees. There is currently no limit on contributions to political committees. This occurs when two or more people who come together to accept contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidates.

The amendments will be presented for final passage on September 15.

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September 3, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Georgia: “State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation” by Richard Belcher for WSB Montana: “Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule” by Amy Beth Hanson for Associated Press News Elections National: “1 Million Primary […]

Campaign Finance

Georgia: “State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation” by Richard Belcher for WSB

Montana: “Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule” by Amy Beth Hanson for Associated Press News

Elections

National: “1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says” by Luke Broadwater (New York Times) for MSN

Missouri: “Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure” by Summer Ballentine for Associated Press News

Ethics

Illinois: “Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion” by Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ

New York: “Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election” by Michael Sisak (Associated Press) for ABC News

Ohio: “Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Lobbying

National: “Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy” by Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman for Washington Post

Washington: “Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists” by Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone for Seattle Times

West Virginia: “Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama” by Steven Allen Adams for Wheeling News-Register

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September 2, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post Ethics National: “PPP […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge

Elections

Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call

National: “D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

National: “Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers” by Devlin Barrett for Washington Post

Alabama: “AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison” by Kim Chandler for Associated Press News

Lobbying

National: “Guilty Plea in Hawaii Woman’s Lobbying of Trump Officials” by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher for Associated Press News

Illinois: “Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune

Procurement

Canada: “Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years” by Christopher Nardi for National Post

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September 1, 2020 •

Judge Upholds Montana Gov’s Political Spending Disclosure Rule

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock - Gage Skidmore

A federal judge on Monday upheld an executive order by Gov. Steve Bullock requiring companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not […]

A federal judge on Monday upheld an executive order by Gov. Steve Bullock requiring companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts.

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the governor’s 2018 order requiring reporting of contributions even to so called dark money groups.

Judge Lovell had dismissed the complaint in January due to lack of standing.

However, he gave the Illinois Opportunity Project another chance to prove the executive order would cause it to suffer an actual or imminent, as opposed to hypothetical, loss of a legally protected right.

Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if the spending exceeds $2,500.

The order allows Montana to bring transparency to spending by groups classified as social welfare organizations under the federal tax code.

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September 1, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times Kentucky: “Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays” […]

Campaign Finance

California: “He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

Kentucky: “Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays” by Joe Sonka for Louisville Courier-Journal

Montana: “COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims” by Phil Drake for Great Falls Tribune

Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ethics

National: “As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished” by Lisa Rein (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules” by Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu for Washington Post

National: “Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment” by Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) for MSN

Arizona: “Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending” by Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic

Lobbying

National: “Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company” by Megan Wilson for Bloomberg Law

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August 31, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care” by Emilie Munson for Connecticut Post Indiana: “Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say” by Lauren Cross […]

Campaign Finance

Connecticut: “Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care” by Emilie Munson for Connecticut Post

Indiana: “Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say” by Lauren Cross for Northwest Indiana Times

Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Elections

National: “Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting” by Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN

Arkansas: “2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot” by John Moritz for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

California: “Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract” by Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood for Associated Press News

Ethics

National: “U.S Political Divide Becomes Increasingly Violent, Rattling Activists and Police” by Tim Craig for Washington Post

National: “How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

Ohio: “FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse” by John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN

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August 28, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 28, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020 Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in […]

National/Federal

After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020

Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in Kenosha throughout the chaotic events that left two people dead and another wounded. This included the alleged shooter, who was captured on video running with an assault rifle near a gas station at the center of the unrest. Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed.

Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/21/2020

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found the FEC’s donor-disclosure regulations regarding groups that spend money on independent expenditures – ads that expressly support or oppose political candidates – were too weak to comply with federal law. While donors to super PACs are disclosed, even politically active nonprofits typically do not disclose their donors, creating the opportunity for some wealthy individuals to secretly spend tens of millions of dollars on political races. The appeals court decision appears to wipe out at least some of the methods groups and individuals have utilized to keep donations secret.

Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/25/2020

A battle is brewing on K Street over an effort by progressives to ensure a Biden administration is devoid of any former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. Black and Latino lobbyists say a ban of that sort would end up shutting out minorities and could make the administration less diverse if Democrats win back the White House. The tensions date back to April, when eight progressive groups wrote a letter calling on Joe Biden to vow not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, Cabinet, or as top aides. That demand did not sit well with some minority lobbyists, who argue corporate lobbyists should not be denied a spot in the administration.

Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials
Courthouse News Service – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Prominent Hawaii political fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis and several others are being accused of using their clout to thwart an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund. Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two fundraisers helped arrange a meeting between President Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars. Davis was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/19/2020

Democrats adopted a platform at their convention that calls for an overhaul of campaign finance laws, including forcing the disclosure of covert sources of political spending, money that right now is helping to boost the party’s candidates for the House, Senate, and White House.  Big donors, super PACs, and nonprofit groups that may shield their donors’ identities are going all in for the 2020 campaigns, funding ads and other efforts for candidates in both parties. Yet if Democrats hold the House and win control of the Senate and White House, activists say they plan to step up the pressure on the party to revamp the system, even though it would be that system that helped put them in charge.

Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns
Philadelphia Inquirer – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event violated federal law. The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said. While the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the law, they are subject to two criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act, said Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University.

Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider | Published: 8/25/2020

The Democratic Party is kicking off the most complicated get-out-the-vote campaign in history. The party’s virtual convention marked the unofficial start of a massive public education, voter contact, and legal strategy to make voting by mail a success in the fall. Record high numbers of people plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that group skews heavily Democratic, according to polling. But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party’s campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles.

Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family
Washington Post – Ashley Parker | Published: 8/23/2020

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving the White House at the end of August. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She and her husband became an object of fascination as George Conway ramped up his criticism of the president in 2018 while Kellyanne Conway remained a top adviser to Trump.

More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2020

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year, nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall, illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes, and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election. The stakes are high as the most chaotic presidential election in memory collides with a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has led 20 states to expand or ease access to voting by mail as a public health measure. The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.

New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows
Sludge – Donald Shaw | Published: 8/20/2020

U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ben Cline introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act of 2020, which would require companies, trade groups, and other entities that employ lobbyists to begin disclosing information about the “strategic lobbying services” they employ in support of their lobbyists. The bill would require reporting of individuals employed in strategic planning, polling, production of public communications, and encouraging people to take action to support or oppose a legislative or regulatory action through the formation of formal or informal coalitions. Requiring disclosure of strategic services will partially address “shadow lobbying” by former members of Congress who join lobbying firms without technically registering as lobbyists to comply with ethics laws.

The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 8/24/2020

Thousands of people are running for office this year, and while most made the decision well before the pandemic struck, a small crop of candidates have more recently jumped into political races after losing their jobs or dealing with other work-related fallout from the pandemic. These candidates have little political experience but have survived through the devastating economic fallout that caused more than 20 million workers to lose their jobs. There are no numbers on these candidates nor any guarantee of their chances to win, but they show how, increasingly, pandemic unemployment is becoming a major influence on politics.

Top U.S. Officials Told C.D.C. to Soften Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2020

Trump administration officials defended a new recommendation that people without Covid-19 symptoms abstain from testing, even as scientists warned the policy could hobble an already weak federal response as schools reopen and a potential autumn wave looms. The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump gave a boost to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he appreciated the support of its followers. At a briefing about the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, he claimed not to know anything about it other than the affection its adherents have for him. But when a reporter outlined the claims underlying the theory – “that you are secretly saving the world from this Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” – Trump seemed to embrace that role for himself. Though its followers have been heralding Trump for years, there is concern the philosophy is seeping into the mainstream as candidates who espouse its ideas are now competing in, and winning, congressional races.

Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 8/21/2020

More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, President Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color.

Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Julie Watson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Margaret Hunter, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. Prosecutors noted Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with the prosecution of her husband in arguing against putting her behind bars and for allowing her to serve the sentence at home. Duncan Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty.

Canada

Canada Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament
CBC – Kathleen Harris | Published: 8/19/2020

Conservative lawmakers are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a “coverup” by shutting down Parliament to dodge scrutiny of his government’s role in the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau announced Gov. Gen. Julie Payette granted his request to prorogue Parliament until September 23. He said the move will allow his government to present a long-term economic recovery plan for Canada after the Coronavirus pandemic and an opportunity for the House of Commons to vote on whether it has confidence in the government to move forward on that plan. WE Charity was awarded a $43.5 million contract to manage the $900 million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from talks on the deal, despite both having family ties to the organization.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/25/2020

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will not file charges after investigating allegations the husband of a state legislator sent explicit photographs of the lawmaker to a lobbyist, who believed the couple was trying to solicit her for sex. Records show state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and her now husband, former gubernatorial aide Brian Townsend, refused to speak with investigators about the photos. The records also show the lobbyist told investigators the images she received were unsolicited and unwanted and she believed the two were taking advantage of their positions of power. Rep. Anthony Kern raised questions about whether the incident involved violations of Arizona’s law against what is known as revenge pornography.

California Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy
Los Angeles Daily News – Chris Haire | Published: 8/20/2020

Los Angeles County will pay a $1.35 million settlement under an agreement approved by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to resolve claims that its board of supervisors misused taxpayer money when it hired a communication firm to promote a proposed sales tax hike. Supervisors hired TBWB Strategies to execute a public education campaign and advertising surrounding the ballot measure. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued the county spent money on what should be considered campaign-related activities. If that were the case, under state law, the county would have had to make various public disclosures, including having its name and “paid for by” on any advertisements.

California FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/25/2020

The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department inspector general’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet. Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food. Paul Delacourt was reassigned from his post overseeing the regional office. Delacourt disputed the report’s findings.

California Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 8/25/2020

Lobbyist and former :Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Federal prosecutors say Goldman was part of a bribery scheme in which one of his clients, a real estate developer, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a PAC in exchange for city Councilperson Jose Huizar taking steps to help a project. Prosecutors alleged Goldman pressured real estate developers to give to a committee that was set up to benefit a relative of Jose Huizar planning to run for his seat.

Connecticut Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 8/22/2020

At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s request, state utility regulators are investigating Eversource and United Illuminating over their failures in responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, to determine, among other things, whether civil penalties should be imposed on them. Yet at the same moment Lamont says he wants to hold the two big utility companies accountable, his chief of staff is Paul Mounds Jr., who three years ago had a $100,000 researcher’s job with Eversource, for which he registered as a company lobbyist in 2017 with the Office of State Ethics.

Florida Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carolini | Published: 8/18/2020

The referendum amends the city’s charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for Naples’ ethics code. Once formed, the commission will be provided the authority to receive and investigate complaints and impose penalties. The ethics office will be responsible for items such as keeping records, filing complaints, and offering training programs. The referendum results are the outcome of years of debate and a court case regarding the city’s ethics rules and the legality of the proposed referendum.

Illinois Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 8/21/2020

In the latest in a series of public-corruption cases filed in the Chicago area, federal prosecutors leveled two felony counts against Jeff Tobolski, a former Democratic Cook County commissioner and mayor of the village of McCook. The charges of extortion and lying on his income taxes came nearly a year after investigators raided the village’s Town Hall on the same day they searched a variety of sites across the state, including a state lawmaker’s office at the Illinois Capitol and the municipal offices of other Chicago suburbs.

Kansas With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 8/25/2020

Aaron Coleman acknowledged sordid behavior in middle school, when he threatened to share a girl’s nude photograph if she did not send other pictures to him. He posted caustic messages to social media earlier this year, saying he would “giggle” when a former Republican lawmaker died of the coronavirus. Then he upended the established political order, defeating a longtime Wyandotte County lawmaker in the Democratic primary election. Coleman, a 19-year-old college student and dishwasher, vowed to campaign on to November. Coleman’s candidacy is forcing Democrats to confront uncomfortable questions about what should happen when voters choose someone whose past behavior has been universally condemned.

Maryland MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 8/25/2020

Members of the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors told a legislative committee the agency’s director, as he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, assured them the governor was on board with a proposal to give him a year’s salary as severance. Three members of the board told legislators they feel misled by Roy McGrath about his severance. They testified at an oversight hearing that McGrath assured them Hogan supported the plan to pay McGrath about $238,000. The governor said he had no role in the board’s decisions involving McGrath as he prepared to join his team.

Missouri GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 8/19/2020

Republican lawmakers asking voters to repeal changes they made to the state’s redistricting process on the 2020 ballot are not giving up on framing the question their way. The day after a Cole County judge called the way they summarized a proposal they put on for the November ballot as “misleading” and “unfair”
and wrote a new summary, the state attorney general’s office filed notice that lawmakers plan to appeal. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce tore into Republican legislators in a ruling, saying they failed “to even allude to” the main point of their plan in the language meant to describe it to voters on the ballot.

Missouri Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 8/20/2020

Weak oversight by the St. Louis County Council under then-Chairperson Sam Page and by County Auditor Mark Tucker contributed to the abuses of former County Executive Steve Stenger, according to a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office. The audit also found several instances, before and after Page succeeded Stenger as county executive, in which he and the council had shored up vulnerabilities Stenger had exploited. The audit said Stenger and his close advisers manipulated the county’s procurement process or meddled with contracts issued by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority.

Montana Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 8/25/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November, a move some argued would benefit Republicans by drawing votes away from Democrats. The decision follows a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state District Court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. More than 560 people asked for their names to be removed from ballot petitions after they learned the Republican Party funded the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and failed to disclose the spending in violation of campaign finance laws.

New Jersey N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/19/2020

Jeanmarie Zahore was indicted on public corruption charges after he allegedly made numerous cash payments to a city of Orange employee who helped the man’s company get a $350,000 contract with the city. According to authorities, Zahore allegedly “engaged in a scheme” starting in August 2015 to offer and give “corrupt cash payments” to an unnamed Orange public official in exchange for the city employee using their influence to reward Zahore’s computer consulting business, JZ Nettech, with a lucrative city contract to install a computer networking system at the municipal complex that houses the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.

New York N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim | Published: 8/24/2020

The New York attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months. The filings come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. State Attorney General Letitia James started the civil inquiry after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes.

New York Sheldon Silver Begins Prison Sentence in Corruption Case
Associated Press News – Tom Hayes and Michael Balsamo | Published: 8/26/2020

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, started his prison sentence after years of fending off going behind bars. He was sentenced earlier this year to six-and-one-half years in a corruption case. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and convicted later that year, but appeals had kept him out of prison. “His time has come,” District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said. “He needs to go to jail.”

North Carolina N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/19/2020

A federal judge sentenced North Carolina’s largest political donor to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme unearthed by an FBI sting. Businessperson Greg Lindberg was sentenced after the judge gave probation to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes for lying to FBI agents during the government’s investigation. Hayes and Lindberg were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give over $1.5 million to help state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s 2020 campaign, in exchange for Causey removing an official in his department. The third person convicted in the case, John Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

North Carolina Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 8/20/2020

One of the most powerful Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature was charged with federal financial crimes in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take money from his political donors for personal use. State Rep. David Lewis for the last several years has been chairperson of the influential House Rules Committee. The charges outline $65,000 he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018. Lewis had filed to run for re-election this year, but then in July surprised the political world with an announcement he would retire at the end of his term this year.

North Dakota North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 8/25/2020

The North Dakota Supreme Court sided with opponents who sued to keep off the November ballot a measure that would write many new election processes in the state constitution. The measure is a constitutional initiative that would enact new processes for military-overseas voting, election audits, open primaries, instant runoffs, subdivided state House districts, and new legislative districts drawn by the state’s Ethics Commission, which voters approved in 2018. Opponents disputed the petition’s title and cited the omission of the full text of a statute mentioned in the measure’s petition.

Ohio How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal
Akron Beacon Journal – Jesse Balmert (Concinnati Equirer) | Published: 8/24/2020

The man behind the scenes of Ohio’s largest bribery scheme might be the state’s most powerful political operative no one has ever heard of. Jeff Longstreth is called former Speaker Larry Householder’s “implementer” and “political guy” by federal investigators laying out detailed allegations of a nearly $61 million “pay-to-play” scheme. Longstreth was not a key player in Ohio politics until Householder needed someone to help him stage a political comeback. Together, they took control of the Ohio House, passed a $1.3 billion bailout for nuclear plants, and defended that law against a ballot initiative to block it, according to a complaint used to arrest the duo and three others.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/25/2020

The failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law now at the center of a federal corruption investigation, is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Elections Commission for not disclosing who funded the campaign. Commission members will consider a complaint against Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the well-financed political group that attempted to repeal the law through a citizen’s referendum. The group disbanded last year, shortly after it missed a deadline to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Commission staffers recommend the group be fined $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since January 31, the deadline to report for campaign groups that performed political work during 2019.

Ohio Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale Subject of Campaign-Finance Complaint from Secretary of State Frank LaRose
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/26/2020

Secretary of State Frank LaRose accused an outspoken state lawmaker of a series of campaign finance violations via a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. LaRose said the review began after Rep. Nino Vitale submitted a blank page on June 5, when the most recent campaign finance report was due. LaRose accuses Vitale of improperly using his campaign resources, including his website and social media account, to promote his personal concealed-carry firearms training business, and also alleges Vitale failed to properly report fundraising activity in his most recent report he filed in June.

Pennsylvania A Dark Money Mystery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 8/20/2020

Launched by Ray Zaborney, a political strategist who doubles as a lobbyist, the Growth and Opportunity Fund has been operating in Pennsylvania for six years. For those seeking to influence the agenda in Harrisburg without public scrutiny, such groups are particularly useful tools. They do not have to who bankrolls them and must only make public limited information on spending. Political operatives can move seamlessly and simultaneously between campaigns, dark money groups, and lobbying, capitalizing on a system with weak rules and little oversight.

South Dakota Asked by City Council to Clarify Report, Board of Ethics Says ‘Read It Again’
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/6/2020

Asked by the city council to clarify their report on a complaint against a councilor, a clearly frustrated Sioux Falls Board of Ethics added nothing to a report except a note saying the council should read it again. The complaint centers on a trip taken by Councilor Greg Neitzert to Dallas in October 2019 with Mayor Paul TenHaken. The two attended a conference of Republican municipal and county officials, hosted by the group Community Leaders of America. In a complaint against Neitzert, says he violated the city’s ethics policies when the group paid for his travel expenses.

Tennessee Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise | Published: 8/21/2020

A new Tennessee law makes it a felony for protesters to camp out overnight on state property. If convicted, they could lose their voting rights and face up to six years in prison. Although some states are moving towards restoring voting rights for felons, it remains illegal for felons to vote in Tennessee. Lawmakers advanced the bill amid nearly two months of frequent protests outside the Capitol. The mostly young Black activists who spearheaded the demonstration had been calling for racial justice reforms and for a meeting with Gov. Bill Lee. The governor and some lawmakers have defended the protest bill by pointing to a demonstration that resulted with some participants setting fires inside and outside a courthouse.

Wisconsin Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Alison Dirr | Published: 8/24/2020

Milwaukee’s Ethics Board voted to subpoena tax records from former Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Chairperson Steven DeVougas. He is still a member of the FPC but was replaced as chair. An ethics complaint brought by the Milwaukee Police Association raises concerns about DeVougas’ presence in the police interview of a powerful real estate developer accused of sexual assault. The complaint charges DeVougas’ presence with the developer, who was also his client, violated the public’s trust and was a misuse and abuse of his position at the FPC. The other counts allege DeVougas did not list his ties to the developer’s company on documents known as statements of economic interest.

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August 26, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption” by Julie Watson (Associated Press) for Riverside Press-Enterprise Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption” by Julie Watson (Associated Press) for Riverside Press-Enterprise

Ohio: “Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Elections

National: “More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.” by Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

California: “Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin for Los Angeles Times

Connecticut: “Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant

Florida: “Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples” by Brittany Carolini for Naples Daily News

Wisconsin: “Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records” by Alison Dirr for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lobbying

National: “Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

National: “Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials” by Eric Tucker (Associated Press) for Courthouse News Service

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August 25, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors” by Josh Gerstein for Politico North Carolina: “Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer Elections […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

North Carolina: “Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer

Elections

National: “Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation” by Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky for Washington Post

National: “The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers” by Eli Rosenberg for Washington Post

Tennessee: “Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests” by Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise for Associated Press News

Ethics

Missouri: “Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes” by Jeremy Kohler for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

New York: “N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony” by William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim for New York Times

Ohio: “How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal” by Jesse Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) for Akron Beacon Journal

Lobbying

National: “New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows” by Donald Shaw for Sludge

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August 24, 2020 •

Federal Appellate Court Upholds District Court’s Invalidation of FEC Disclosure Regulation

DC Court of Appeals

DC Court of Appeals - photo by AgnosticPreachersKid

On August 21, the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2018 federal District Court ruling invalidating a federal campaign finance regulation limiting the disclosure requirements of organizations making independent expenditures. On August 3, 2018, a federal district court […]

On August 21, the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2018 federal District Court ruling invalidating a federal campaign finance regulation limiting the disclosure requirements of organizations making independent expenditures.

On August 3, 2018, a federal district court had ruled a campaign finance disclosure regulation followed for decades by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) failed to uphold disclosure requirements required by a federal statute.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for The District of Columbia issued an order, in CREW v. FEC, vacating 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi), but stayed the vacatur to give time for the FEC to issue interim regulations comporting with the statutory disclosure requirements of 52 U.S.C. §30104(c). The court also has allowed the FEC 30 days to change an earlier FEC dismissal to conform with the court’s ruling. The FEC has not yet replaced the rule.

The case originated because of independent expenditures made in a 2012 Ohio senate race by the non-political social-welfare nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS), an affiliate of the American Crossroads Super PAC. Crossroads GPS did not report donors when reporting its independent expenditures, while it acknowledged receiving contributions over $200, arguing the donors did not donate funds directly tied to any specific reported expenditure, as the FEC interpreted 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi) to require.

Non-political committees making independent expenditures over $250 in a calendar year must comply with disclosure obligations closely analogous to those imposed on political committees.

The vacated regulation required the identification of each person who made a contribution in excess of $200 to the person filing a disclosure report, including for non-political 501(c)(4) non-profit entities making independent expenditures, if the contribution was made for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure. The district court found the regulation, as construed and applied by the FEC, did not require the disclosure of donors, absent the donor’s express agreement that the funds be used for the specific expenditures reported to the FEC, even though the donor may otherwise support and in fact contribute for the purpose of funding those expenditures.

The district court had found the regulation impermissibly narrows the mandated disclosure in 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2)(C), which requires the identification of such donors contributing for the purpose of furthering the non-political committee’s own express advocacy for or against the election of a federal candidate, even when the donor has not expressly directed that the funds be used in the precise manner reported.

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August 24, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call California: “Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy” by Chris Haire for Los Angeles Daily News Pennsylvania: […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

California: “Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy” by Chris Haire for Los Angeles Daily News

Pennsylvania: “A Dark Money Mystery” by Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch for Spotlight PA

Elections

Missouri: “GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote” by Austin Huguelet for Springfield News-Leader

Ethics

National: “Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers” by Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade for Washington Post

National: “Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family” by Ashley Parker for Washington Post

New Jersey: “N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract” by Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger

North Carolina: “N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation” by Staff for Associated Press News

Legislative Issues

Canada: “Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament” by Kathleen Harris for CBC

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August 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020 When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to […]

National/Federal

Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020

When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to purge their influence from his future administration. Joe Biden does not appear to have the same concerns. The DNC started accepting checks from lobbyists again in 2016 and has continued to do so as Biden accepted the Democratic nomination. While the Biden campaign has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, it has dispatched top staffers to headline at least four Zoom fundraisers benefiting the DNC and hosted by prominent Democratic lobbyists.

‘Climate Donors’ Flock to Biden to Counter Trump’s Fossil Fuel Money
New York Times – Lisa Friedman | Published: 8/18/2020

The changing climate is now a core campaign issue and a focus for fundraising. Joe Biden has raised more than $15 million in contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause. That climate-specific fundraising may make up about five percent of the total he has raised so far. It is dwarfed by fossil fuel donations to President Trump, who took in $10 million from a single fundraiser held by oil billionaire Kelcy Warren. It is not known how much unregulated money is going to super PACs aligned with Democrats from other self-identified climate donors. But the hard money climate donations represent a growing counterweight to oil, gas, and coal money that has long warped the energy conversation in Washington. D.C.

Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl
NBC News – Ginger Gibson | Published: 8/17/2020

The absence of in-person nominating conventions this year means lobbyists have been effectively sidelined. Washington, D.C. lobbying has been turned upside because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventions are no exception, leaving the influence industry to assess how it will operate when life returns to normal. Much of the work of lobbying generally involves making the trek up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to explain a client’s point of view. But with the halls of Congress closed, meetings have shifted to Zoom calls. So, with this year’s conventions, lobbyists will be grappling not only with the inability to secure face time with decision makers but also with corporate clients trying to survive the pandemic-induced recession.

Democrats, Election Watchdogs See ‘Glaring Hole’ in Postal Service Pledge to Roll Back Recent Changes
Washington Post – Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, and Jacob Bogage | Published: 8/19/2020

The U.S. Postal Service will pause its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election. The about-face announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halted a series of cost-cutting measures, including the removal of machines that sort mail and the public boxes that collect it. But confusion persisted after the move. It is unclear whether Americans would receive their ballots on time, or if they would be able to return them easily. Nor was it clear whether DeJoy would promptly restore the sorting machines he had ordered removed from some postal facilities, or if the changes he has made across the agency under the watch of President Trump would introduce delays into one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history.

Ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged in Border Wall Scheme
Associated Press News – Larry Neumeister, Colleen Long, and Jill Colvin | Published: 8/20/2020

Federal prosecutors arrested Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and three other men they alleged defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors using a crowdfunding campaign that was advertised as raising money to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. But according to the criminal charges, very little of the wall was constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.

FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Lawmaker, Family in Corruption Probe
Associated Press News – Danica Coto | Published: 8/17/2020

FBI agents arrested Puerto Rico Rep. María Milagros Charbonier after the legislator who once presided over the island’s House Ethics Committee was charged in a public corruption case that officials say also involved her son, husband, and an assistant. U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said it was a simple scheme in which Charbonier allegedly received some $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks after increasing the pay of her assistant, Frances Acevedo, from $800 every two weeks to nearly $3,000, and then received between $1,000 to $1,500 in return for every paycheck.

Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say
CNN – Marshall Cohen | Published: 8/12/2020

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict-of-interest. Outside experts were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings. DeJoy and USPS have said he fully complied with the regulations. Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price. This could lead to a separate conflict, given President Donald Trump’s disdain for Amazon.

GAO Finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli Are Ineligible to Serve in Their Top DHS Roles
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/14/2020

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure. The GAO referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for further review and potential action. The office also urged the inspector general to consider the consequences of actions taken by invalidly appointed officials.

‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’
Politico – Eli Okun and John Harris | Published: 8/13/2020

Four years ago, after most journalists were caught surprised by Donald Trump’s victory, there was an almost universal critique about how the profession needed to do better next time. Reporters needed to get off Twitter and cable and get into the field. Journalists needed to liberate themselves from conventional wisdom and the distorting effects of their cultural bubbles and learn what is really happening in the country. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, journalists are spending more time in their own homes than ever, a phone in one hand and television remote in the other. The presidential campaign has gone remote in multiple senses of the word, the most dramatic shift in the rhythms and day-to-day logistics of newsgathering that political journalism has seen in decades.

Judge Balks at White House’s Executive Privilege Claim over Ukraine Emails
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/10/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold a batch of emails about a hold President Trump put on U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2019. Jackson said the government had failed to make a convincing case showing the messages between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey were eligible for protection under legal privileges protecting the development of presidential advice or decisions made by other government officials. The messages are considered key evidence about the event that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year: his decision to halt aid to Ukraine in what critics and even some administration officials said was an attempt to pressure that country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden.

Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker | Published: 8/16/2020

Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington, D.C. for federal help that could increase its profits. Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies, including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds, have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.

Senate Report Details Security Risk Posed by 2016 Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Karoun Demirjian, and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 8/18/2020

An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee portrays Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as posing counterintelligence risks through its contacts with Russia, eager to exploit assistance from the Kremlin and seemingly determined to conceal the extent of its conduct. The report contains new findings that appear to show more direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence, and it pierces the president’s attempts to dismiss the Kremlin’s intervention on his behalf as a hoax. Like the Mueller report, the Senate document does not explicitly accuse the Trump campaign of direct collusion with Russian intelligence. But it carries weight because it is the first major investigation of Russian interference in 2016 to be conducted by a Republican-controlled committee and endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.

Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC
The Fulcrom – Sarah Swann | Published: 8/18/2020

Sixty-six staff members, about one-fifth of the FEC workforce, sent a letter asking President Trump to nominate and the Senate to confirm at least one person of color for the three vacancies on the commission, which has been shut down for the past eight weeks for lack of a quorum. In its 45-year history, the FEC has had 31 commissioners – all but one of them white. The complaint from the nonpartisan civil servants suggests how beleaguered the agency is these days, and how the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism this year has taken root in most every corner of society. The letter was an outgrowth of a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion the agency staff held this summer.

Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 8/18/2020

Democrats’ biggest donors are used to being feted at the party’s national convention, breezing through a maze of tiered luxury suites and V.I.P. rooms with free-flowing appetizers, access, and alcohol. This year, though, even those who have given $500,000 and up were stuck watching the virtual event from home. Ahead of the virtual gathering, the party and the Biden campaign mailed along a care package to tide over any forlorn financiers: notebooks embossed with the number 46 (as in the potential for Biden to be the 46th president), hats, buttons, posters, and a bag of “Cup of Joe” coffee. Like nearly everything else in American life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the already cloistered world of political fundraising, as campaigns and contributors alike figure out how to raise tens of millions of dollars.

They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 8/14/2020

A grassroots fundraising group known as 31st Street Swing Left, a chapter of the national organization Swing Left, is focused on flipping red seats blue. It is one of countless such fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle. But the group also stands out for its evolution, growing from a Washington, D.C.-area assemblage of 30 political novices knocking on doors to support Democratic candidates in Virginia into a fundraising army of nearly 1,200 members in three years.

With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 8/16/2020

With Democrats wary of traditional door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic, and with the Biden-Harris campaign discouraging it, conservatives have less competition. The Americans for Prosperity’s operation started weeks ago, at an initial cost of nearly $900,000 across the country. Their targets included U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina. and Texas, as well as a few congressional races. Since kicking off, they had contacted 6 million voters, but unlike the GOP, they were not mentioning the president in their messaging or surveys.

Canada

Canada Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal
Politico – Lauren Gardner | Published: 8/17/2020

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will resign his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Commons amid an ethics controversy surrounding a charity with ties to his family and that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Morneau’s recent high-profile troubles are centered on his failure to recuse himself from a Cabinet decision awarding a no-bid contract to WE Charity to administer a student grant program as part of the Trudeau government’s Covid-19 response. He admitted to repaying the charity for costs incurred during a 2017 trip to Ecuador with his family just before testifying in front of a parliamentary committee.

Canada WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees
HuffPost Canada – Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/13/2020

WE Charity registered as a lobbyist of the federal government months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program. The controversy has triggered investigations into potential breaches of conflict-of-interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/16/2020

An Arizona city official making $107,000 a year resigned after an investigation found he used city workers for an outside job involving an attempt to secure irrigation water for farmers who paid him with a goat. The inquiry found the possibility of cash down the road also was discussed by Frank Stevens, the now-former former water resource portfolio manager for the city of Surprise. One of the farmers told an investigator they gave Stevens the goat because “he liked the animal and [Stevens said] it would keep his kids happy when they came home from school.”

California California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 8/17/2020

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed it is opening an investigation into two complaints regarding former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng. He resigned abruptly on August 5 after being on the job overseeing the pension fund’s $412 billion investment portfolio for less than two years. Meng’s departure followed an anonymous complaint to the FPPC that Meng had approved a $1 billion deal with Blackstone Group, a financial firm in which Meng was a shareholder.

California Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims
Sacramento Bee – Kim Bojorquez | Published: 8/19/2020

Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement to resolve a complaint charging it misused government funds to promote a 2017 sales tax increase, marking one of the largest-ever financial penalties considered by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The county’s potential penalties are even greater if the FPPC rejects the settlement. It faces up to $2.4 million in penalties stemming from money the county spent promoting Measure H without reporting it as a political contribution.

Colorado Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 8/12/2020

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes, a question the company helped write. Altria was part of the negotiations that led to House Bill 1427, which placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years. The question also would require retailers to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. The discount tobacco company Liggett Group is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.

Florida A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 8/14/2020

Darryl Daniels, the sheriff of Clay County, Florida, dialed his deputy while driving with an urgent plea for backup: He was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger.” But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: it was Cierra Smith, his former employee and mistress of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair. Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up behind bars. Following a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.

Florida Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/18/2020

A federal appeals court spent more than two hours weighing whether to overturn a contentious Florida law restricting felon voting rights, with one judge suggesting doing so would paradoxically require the court to strike down a public referendum that eliminated the state’s ban on felon voting. The judges, sitting the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered lawyers with questions about whether the state law constitutes an illegal poll tax because it requires people who have served time for a felony to pay off any court debts before they can register to vote. It remains unclear if the court will make a decision before the November election.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 8/14/2020

Proposed revisions to Cook County’s ethics ordinance, which the ethics board voted to recommend in January, include forbidding both nepotism in county hiring and county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs. They also would mandate lobbyists disclose if they have relatives who work for the county, introduce new rules to clamp down on sexual harassment, prohibit the state’s attorney from settling ethics lawsuits without the ethics board’s approval, and increase fines for certain violations. Now, three of the board members who crafted the reforms are gone, and their recommendations have not moved forward.

Illinois Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes
Chicago Tribune – Jamie Munks | Published: 8/13/2020

A group of Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois issued a series of ethics proposals ahead of the fall veto session, including term limits for legislative leaders and a process for temporarily removing members from leadership posts if they are caught up in a criminal investigation. The Democrats also want to prohibit lawmakers from lobbying at other levels of government and an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist :revolving door”; a requirement for more comprehensive disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income; and a more robust Legislative Inspector General’s office. They also noted the ongoing federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several legislators makes this an opportune time to pass a large-scale ethics package.

Illinois State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/13/2020

Illinois Sen. Terry Link was charged with a federal count of income tax evasion, the third Democratic state senator to face felony charges in a little more than a year. The criminal information accused Link of failing to report income on his 2016 tax return to the IRS. Defendants are typically charged via an information if they intend to eventually plead guilty. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Link wore a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Federal prosecutors alleged Arroyo had sought an unnamed state senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.

Missouri Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading
Associated Press News – David Lieb | Published: 8/17/2020

A judge rewrote the summary for a legislative redistricting measure that will appear on the November ballot, ruling Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature tried to misleadingly entice voters into repealing an anti-gerrymandering reform that voters approved two years ago. The decision by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the Legislature’s ballot summary for Amendment 3 as insufficient, unfair, and partly false. She replaced it with a ballot summary suggested by a group that sponsored the successful 2018 measure and is opposed to this year’s revision. Like the 2018 measure, the Legislature’s revision combines the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.

Nevada Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 8/18/2020

Former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter agreed to pay $24,406 in ethics fines for violating state laws prohibiting him from using his longtime public position to enrich himself. The fines stem from Ralenkotter’s use of LVCVA-bought airline gift cards on personal travel and his negotiation of a consulting contract with the tax-funded agency before he retired, according to a proposed agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

New Jersey Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash
Bergen Record – Steve Janoski | Published: 8/14/2020

Five more people have been charged in a years-long corruption investigation that already ensnared a former state Assembly  member and a Jersey City school board president. The new defendants allegedly gave a total of $239,000 to political parties and candidates before being secretly reimbursed by a law firm, the attorney general’s office said. The firm then claimed it had made no reportable contributions in towns where it sought lucrative contracts. New Jersey law prohibits political donations on behalf of others.

New Jersey Trump Campaign Sues New Jersey Over Mail-In Voting
The Hill – Morgan Gstalter | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring every voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot, in addition to being allowed to vote in-person if desired, as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign claims Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey Legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.

New York Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 8/20/2020

A federal judge rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, dismissing Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith. The ruling marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has been seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.

North Dakota North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes
Ballotpedia – Jackie Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

North Dakota voters will decide on three constitutional amendments in November. One would amend the state constitution to make multiple changes to election and redistricting procedures. The measure would establish top-four open primaries for all statewide, legislative, and congressional races. The measure would also make the state’s ethics commission, which was created by voters through a 2018 citizen initiative, responsible for state legislative redistricting. Another provision would require a paper record for all ballots and audits of each election within 120 days by the secretary of state.

Ohio Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff | Published: 8/13/2020

Although indicted in a criminal case and removed as House speaker, state Rep. Larry Householder is still a member of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), the body that investigates and rules on ethics and lobbying matters for the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp removed Householder as vice chairperson of JLEC, but state law prohibits removal of a member from the ethics panel. Householder was arrested in July by FBI agents and charged with racketeering.

Ohio Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/14/2020

The Ohio House turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena but withheld 30 documents, claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege. The House released some of the records in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many involve routine constituent correspondence, various versions of the nuclear power-plant bailout bill, and proposed amendments to the measure at the heart of a $60 million public corruption scandal. Federal authorities have charged former Speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering in a scheme to pass and protect House Bill 6 from repeal and advance his political power.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic
National Public Radio – Laura Wamsley | Published: 8/13/2020

An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it. The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2. The court said in this case, state officials were defending what is already the status quo from the last election, “and many Rhode Island voters may well hold that belief.”

South Dakota Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules
Sioux Faslls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics recommended the city council review and update their policies after an investigation found third parties are paying for councilors’ travel expenses and it was an “apparent common practice.” In their investigation of a councilperson, the board said the accused council member “acknowledges attendance at a seminar for which travel and other expenses were paid by third parties,” noting it was hosted by “a group with an acknowledged political agenda” and there were “multiple settings for attendees to be potentially influenced by commercial or political interests.”

Tennessee Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2020

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will sign a bill that toughens penalties on some protests in response to continued demonstrations in the state and nationwide over racial injustice. Lee also said he would have crafted some components differently than the Legislature, including the increased penalty on those who illegally camp on state property to a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee additionally result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote. The governor said the requirement that law enforcement offer an initial warning on camping violations strengthened the bill. He also cited the discretion of district attorneys and judges.

Virginia Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Served with Arrest Warrant over Confederate Statue Protest as Some Decry Charges
Washington Post – Emily Davies, Laura Vozzella, and Gregory Schneider | Published: 8/18/2020

Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was charged with damaging a Confederate monument during protests in Portsmouth. She faces two felonies: conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument causing more than $1,000 in damage. Lucas, who is the first African American president pro tempore in the Virginia Senate, is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. Legal experts say the way the Portsmouth police went about pursuing felony charges against Lucas and others is highly unusual given the political nature of the incident.

Washington DC Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 8/15/2020

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university. Rashad Young abruptly left his position as city administrator after running day-to-day government operations since the mayor took office in 2015. He told on July 31 that he was in talks for a job at Howard University and sought ethics guidance. The mayor wrote that she directed her general counsel to review the circumstances of the job offer and the city ethics board’s opinion on the matter.

Washington DC Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short
Patch – Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) | Published: 8/17/2020

Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side job. The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long hearing process. The agreement also states if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the city ethics board could seek maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000.

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