February 18, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service Texas: “Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions” by Zach Despart for […]

Campaign Finance

California: “Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service

Texas: “Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions” by Zach Despart for Houston Chronicle

Ethics

California: “Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law” by Scott Shafer for KQED

Indiana: “Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.” by Chris Sikich for Indianapolis Star

Maine: “Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald

New York: “NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds” by Anna Sanders for New York Daily News

West Virginia: “Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry” by Peter Jamison (Washington Post) for MSN

Lobbying

Canada: “Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire” by Jean Laroche for CBC

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February 17, 2020 •

Judge Set to Confirm Most of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules

San Francisco, California - Noahnmf

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will uphold the bulk of a San Francisco ordinance requiring political ads to disclose top donors and secondary funding sources. Proposition F requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who […]

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will uphold the bulk of a San Francisco ordinance requiring political ads to disclose top donors and secondary funding sources.

Proposition F requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a PAC, the committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed.

The judge rejected claims the ad disclosure law hinders political speech.

Yes on Prop B argued the law unconstitutionally burdens its right to free speech and cited an en banc Ninth Circuit panel decision in American Beverage Association v. San Francisco blocking the city from requiring health warnings taking up 20% of billboard ads for sodas and sweetened drinks.

Judge Breyer found the court decision was not really on point because Proposition F was passed by a voter referendum and regulates political speech as opposed to commercial speech.

The judge also rejected an argument donor information is easily accessible on the San Francisco Ethics Commission website stating putting the onus on voters to look up the information would not match the law’s intent.

While refusing to block most of the law, Judge Breyer agreed requiring lengthy disclaimers for small print and short length political ads is likely unconstitutional and indicated he will issue a partial injunction blocking those types of restrictions.

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February 17, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics Missouri: “‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission” by Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star North Carolina: “Political […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics

Missouri: “‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission” by Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

North Carolina: “Political Corruption Trial of Big N Carolina Donor to Start” by Gary Robertson for AP News

Elections

National: “Bloomberg’s Meme Spree Prompts Changes in Facebook, Instagram Rules” by Nancy Scola for Politico

Ethics

National: “Mike Bloomberg for Years Has Battled Women’s Allegations of Profane, Sexist Comments” by Michael Kranish (Washington Post) for MSN

Arizona: “Scandals Reveal Murky Workplace Standards in Legislature” by Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Julia Shumway for Arizona Capitol Times

Illinois: “Aldermen Close Another Loophole in Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance” by Fran Spielman for Chicago Sun-Times

Vermont: “Lawmakers Take a Step on Ethics Code, but Enforcement Still a Ways Off” by Colin Meyn and Mark Johnson for VTDigger.org

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February 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020 Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential […]

National/Federal

Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020

Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential election. K Street had expectations for some bipartisan actions in 2020, but those hopes are on hold after the feud between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a turn for the worse at the State of the Union address. Now businesses and their lobbyists are worried about being drawn into the political crossfire. That is likely to prove even more difficult this year. Businesses already have a complicated relationship with Trump over his trade wars and with Democrats, whose presidential candidates are targeting many industries. One Republican lobbyist said the fresh turmoil in Washington is unnerving businesses.

Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. Justice Department lawyers defending the president said the ban refers narrowly to compensation in exchange for official action or in an employment-type relationship and does not broadly include any profit, gain, or advantage.

Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals
Forbes – John Scott Lewinski | Published: 2/11/2020

An app and web service designed to peer inside the world of corporate campaign finance is catching the ire of companies who would rather not share such information publicly. Goods Unite Us makes public who gives how much to whom on an industry-wide level. The user can view various scores on how much a brand invests on the left or right. The best numbers are reserved for firms that stays out of the fray entirely as the app’s creators would like to see dollars from public firms step out of politics in favor of individual donations. Clothing retailer Chico’s hired the national law firm of Arent Fox to send a legal request that changes be made to the Goods Unite Us data and reports.

Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term
Stamford Advocate – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

The entire prosecutorial team on Roger Stone’s case resigned after the Department of Justice asked a federal court to reduce the seven-to nine-year prison sentence the lawyers had initially recommended, sparking new questions about potential White House interference. In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Stone. The move coincided with President Trump’s declaration on Twitter that the government was treating Stone too harshly. Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties
Stamford Advocate – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Secret Service personnel traveling with President Trump to his private properties pay rates as high at $650 per night for lodging. Records show more than $471,000 in such payments from taxpayers to Trump’s business between January 207 and April 2018. The full extent of the spending is not known. The Secret Service has not listed the payments in public databases, as is usually required for expenditures over $10,000. Instead, documents have come out piecemeal through public records requests. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump said in 2019.

The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash
The World News – Rebecca Ruiz (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2020

Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg LP, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms. In under 12 weeks, Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events. Such spending has helped make Bloomberg an increasingly strong contender in the Democratic primary.

Trump’s Rhetoric Has Changed the Way Hundreds of Kids Are Bullied in Classrooms
MSN – Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2020

Since Donald Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language, often condemned as racist and xenophobic, has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as six mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies, and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black, or Muslim. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped.

When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills
Kaiser Health News – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 2/11/2020

Federal lawmakers are grappling over several approaches to curtail the practice of surprise medical billings, which can leave patients on the hook for huge costs, even if they have insurance. As it has emerged as a hot-button issue for voters, doctors, hospitals, and insurers have been lobbying to protect their own money flows. Television and internet ads are the most visible manifestation of the battle. But in taking their cause to politicians, physicians have waged an on-the-ground stealth campaign to win over members of Congress. Their professional credentials give them a kind of gravitas compared with other lobbyists.

Canada

Canada Federal Court of Appeal Dismisses Challenges of Ethics, Lobbying Commissioners Appointment
iPolitics.ca – Marco Vigliotti | Published: 2/13/2020

The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a complaint from a watchdog challenging the government’s appointment of new ethics and lobbying commissioners in Canada. The presiding judges said they were not convinced by Democracy Watch’s arguments that the actions of the governor-in-council in making the appointments were “unreasonable.” Democracy Watch argued the governor-in-council acted inappropriately in naming the commissioners because both offices were actively investigating complaints implicating the government.  Democracy Watch said the governor-in-council was inextricably biased in naming the new commissioners as they would ultimately be responsible for ruling on the appropriateness of the actions of officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Bill Seeks to Tighten Rules on Recall Efforts
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 2/6/2020

An Arizona Senate committee voted to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Senate Bill 1434 adds new requirements for paid circulators and those from other states to first register with the secretary of state. This mirrors changes the Republican-controlled Legislature already imposed on those proposing new laws through initiatives. The legislation also spells out in detail exactly how petitions must be formatted, with language allowing legal challenges if the forms are not in “strict compliance” with those standards.

Arizona Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/6/2020

Republican leadership in the Arizona Senate has no interest in investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Senate Democrats said they hoped Senate President Karen Fann would investigate allegations that Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed a lobbyist in 2016 and threatened the woman in 2018. But Fann and Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray dismissed calls for an investigation in separate interviews and rank-and-file Republicans largely declined to comment. Gray said Democrats can file a complaint if they want. But he warned Democrats to be careful because one of their own members, whom he declined to name, also could be investigated.

California California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In.
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 2/10/2020

The San Francisco Chronicle’s request to Sutter County’s sheriff for information about every concealed weapon permit holder in the conservative county set off threats and vitriol – after the sheriff announced he was legally obligated to provide the names. The Chronicle has been forced to increase security at its newsroom and for its reporters. Gun owners across the country are livid, fearing a newspaper in one of America’s most liberal cities wants to “dox” the state’s gun owners by releasing a list of names of people with a concealed-carry weapons permit. The Chronicle says it will use the information to look for trends and ensure the concealed weapons system is not being abused. The blowback is the latest flare-up in tensions between defenders of the Second Amendment and the news institutions protected by the First Amendment.

Colorado Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 2/10/2020

A new Colorado law requires more immediate reporting of lobbyists’ activity. But problems with the online system impede the ability to look up electronic registrations and activity records for some of those required to file the disclosures. Even though the system allows the public to search for lobbyists and activity reports using the name of the client, the search results omit some filings. Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s staff acknowledged the problems, but because of them, the agency’s spokesperson could neither identify who the agency’s own registered lobbyist was in 2017 and 2018, nor locate their activity reports for those years for four days. The agency’s staff estimated the problem affects more than one out of every 25 of the state’s registered lobbyists.

Connecticut Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature
Hartford Courant – Amanda Blanco | Published: 2/6/2020

After state election officials rejected a candidate’s request to use her publicly financed election grant to pay for childcare, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed legislation that would allow candidates to be reimbursed for such costs. Under the bill, candidates in the Citizens’ Election Program would be reimbursed for childcare services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. Clarkson Pereira, who ran for a House seat in 2018, brought the issue to the commission when a lawyer advised her not to use her public campaign funds to hire a babysitter for her young daughter.

Florida Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided
Florida Times-Union – Jeff Schweers | Published: 2/12/2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed penalties against 14 public officials for ethics code violations, cutting by half the number of final orders from the Florida Commission on Ethics that had been languishing on his desk. DeSantis’ failure to act had left $50,000 in uncollected civil fines in limbo and public officials not held accountable months and sometimes years after they were found guilty. Among those final orders was a $5,000 fine and public reprimand against his one-time political rival, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who lost to DeSantis in 2018. Six months after DeSantis took office, the commission had approved a joint settlement agreement in June with Gillum for accepting gifts from former lobbyist Adam Corey.

Florida Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 2/10/2020

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, already facing a federal probe into his 2018 campaign, may have more trouble on his hands. The Florida Bar is also investigating whether alleged campaign finance violations by Spano ran afoul of the rules of conduct for state lawyers. If they did, Spano could face punishment from the Bar. Spano acknowledges his campaign likely broke the law, but he insists it was a mistake and not malicious. Complaints to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged Spano illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from two friends. Those loans should have been considered contributions to his campaign and subject to donation limits. In a recent interview, Spano offered a new explanation for why he took the loans: He saw someone else do it.

Illinois Yanking Out the Chair? Bill Would Strip Criminally Charged Legislators from Key Posts
Chicago Sun-Times – Neal Earley | Published: 2/12/2020

After Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, he was removed as chairperson of the Senate Labor Committee. But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions. The bill would allow the legislative inspector general to issue subpoenas without needing approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission and require reports on current and former lawmakers be made public.

Maine Company That Studied Grid May Have Had Conflict of Interest
Associated Press – Staff | Published: 2/12/2020

A company paid $500,000 by Maine regulators to study the state’s electric grid may have been ineligible to receive the contract based on conflict-of-interest rules. London Economics International was the winning bidder on the study and was tasked with evaluating the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, to consumer ownership. To avoid any conflicts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said any firm that had worked for either utility in the past five years would be ineligible. But London Economics International was paid $37,000 for work done for Emera in 2018.

Maine Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 2/7/2020

Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based company that received an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine, appears to be linked to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for re-election. That donation, which came through another Hawaii based entity, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, is now the subject of an official complaint before the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center says the $150,000 donation appears to be illegal, in part because there is no record of the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers having legitimate income. Instead, the watchdog argued, it appears the company was set up as a “dark money” front to mask the true identity of the donor to a pro-Collins super PAC.

Maryland More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/12/2020

The national wave of women running for public office following President Trump’s election has hit Baltimore with almost 20 women running for city council in the Democratic primary, waging campaigns in a majority of districts. There has been a surge in women holding public office across the region over the past two years. The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council flipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, and women now outnumber men in Howard County, as well. Prince George’s County elected its first female executive and Carroll County  choose a woman to sit on its Circuit Court bench for the first time.

Maryland The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III | Published: 2/7/2020

The owner of a historic industrial property in Middle River, Maryland, is getting help with his redevelopment efforts from a lobbyist who knows plenty about Baltimore County government: John Olszewski Sr., a former county council member who is the father of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. Olszewski Sr. has been leading Blue Ocean Realty’s efforts to get the General Assembly to approve a tax break for the project, which would turn a warehouse into a sports, entertainment, and retail complex. The arrangement does not appear to violate any ethics laws or restrictions on lobbying, experts say, but it is unusual to have close relatives working as a lobbyist and a top politician.

Mississippi Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
AP News – Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 2/7/2020

Mississippi’s state auditor said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former professional wrestler, according to indictments, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million. Federal welfare money was once spent mostly on cash assistance to poor families, but after changes in the 1990s, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money is given to states in block grants, and states can use the money on other activities meant to help people.

Missouri Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider
KCUR – Jaclyn Driscoll | Published: 2/10/2020

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item that would change how state legislative districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. The proposal now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They will choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. The new initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a five-dollar maximum for each one. The measure also lowers contribution limits for state Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.

Missouri Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 2/9/2020

In October 2018, a campaign committee that was helping then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger finance his political efforts reported a $250,000 donation from a nonprofit that supports fire districts. But it did not really come from the fire district nonprofit. It came from Great St. Louis, a nonprofit whose president is an operative for philanthropist and political donor Rex Sinquefield. The true source of the contribution sheds more light on how Sinquefield’s operation was able to funnel approximately $700,000 to Stenger. It also raises questions about why the disclosure was made over a year later, and whether the organizations tried to conceal Sinquefield’s support for Stenger, who pleaded guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme in May.

Montana Montana Supreme Court: Political cop wrong to censure regents
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/12/2020

The Montana Supreme Court ruled against the state commissioner of political practices for censuring Montana’s Board of Regents. The justices concluded that Commissioner Jeff Mangan erred when concluding the regents were illegally politicking for the six-mill levy during board meetings. The levy is a voter-approved property tax that raises about $20 million a year for Montana’s public universities and colleges. Mangan ruled the regents were public employees who were politicking on government time and using government property to do so. He fined the Regents $3,000. But the state Supreme Court ruled education boards have the right to discuss levies at meetings, and also take public positions on levies.

Nevada Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process
Connecticut Post – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. Party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing. Multiple campaign officials have complained about a lack of transparency from the party. Though there have been multiple conference calls between the state party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “tight-lipped” and slow to offer specific information about how the state’s ambitious early-voting plan would work without the use of the apps.

New Hampshire Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary; Buttigieg, Klobuchar Are Top Moderate Candidates
MSN – Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party’s left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary as two moderates, Pete Buttigieg and a newly surging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days. Sanders and Buttigieg marked their second straight strong showings – they essentially tied in the Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates. The night brought devastating returns for Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom appeared to have lost support to Klobuchar and Buttigieg and were not on course to earn any delegates.

New Mexico The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts
New Mexico In Depth – Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 2/10/2020

In a small state where face-to-face connections are critical and political ties almost inescapable, potential conflicts abound in New Mexico. It is no surprise to learn of state lawmakers who are married to lobbyists, or have lobbyists within their own families, or who regularly vote or even sponsor legislation that would support an industry in which the lawmaker has a personal business interest. “Conflict of interest is built into the New Mexico Legislature by virtue of the fact that it’s a citizens’ Legislature where legislators keep their day jobs,” said former state Sen. Dede Feldman.

New York Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/11/2020

State Sen. Robert Ortt is calling for a Senate investigation of the New York State Police’s unusual involvement in a controversial lobbying investigation of activist Kat Sullivan. “It is my hope that our highly-esteemed State Police are not being weaponized to stifle free speech,” Ortt said. A major in the State Police called the owner of the South Albany Airport last September inquiring about a flight flown out of the airport in 2018. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, had hired the plane to fly over the Capitol, which towed a banner pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) then investigated whether Sullivan had spent more than $5,000 on her efforts, which would require her to register as a lobbyist. The State Police say the call to the airport, as JCOPE was ramping up its inquiry, was made as a “courtesy” to someone at the commission.

North Carolina NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/12/2020

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger sold his townhouse in Raleigh to a lobbyist for an $80,000 profit. Berger was previously the subject of an ethics complaint for paying himself monthly rent for that townhouse with campaign funds. State ethics officials knew ahead of time that this sale was in the works and signed off on it, saying it did not appear to violate ethical rules. But Bob Hall, the former Democracy North Carolina leader who filed the complaint, says it deserves a closer look from a different set of officials. Norma Houston, a legislative ethics expert at the University of North Carolina, said while there is a prohibition against lawmakers taking gifts from lobbyists, state law specifically exempts contracts and other commercial arrangements that are “made in the normal course of business if not made for lobbying.”

Ohio Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 2/7/2020

At the back of a Starbucks in a hotel across the street from the Ohio Statehouse, there is a narrow space that is just large enough to fit three chairs and a small table. But this semi-secluded area is where a surprising amount of government and political business gets done, according to Capitol Square regulars. It is a convenient meeting spot for many politicians and lobbyists. And as it is frowned upon (though not technically illegal) for state lawmakers to accept campaign contributions on public property, they often head across the street from the Statehouse for donors to hand them checks.

Oregon Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/9/2020

A bill was introduced to enshrine the independence of Oregon’s public records advocate in law and end the governor’s role in hiring and firing the advocate. The Public Records Advisory Council pitched the idea of shielding the records advocate from the governor’s control last fall. It did so in the wake of news that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told then-Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, or report with the governor’s office before releasing them.

Pennsylvania PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff
Bily Penn – Max Marin | Published: 2/6/2020

As executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, Micah Sims aids the nonprofit’s mission to “create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest” in the Keystone State. In an unusual arrangement, however, Sims has been moonlighting as a consultant for an elected official in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to his employers at Common Cause, Sims has been working on the side as a senior advisor to Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal as she sets out to transform the scandal-plagued office left behind by her predecessor. Sims first said his consulting for Bilal was business, then switched to a claim that it was “pro bono” as a favor to a friend. Other potential questions have risen around Sims’ work.

Pennsylvania Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 2/11/2020

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has primarily benefited Republicans on the federal level, in Philadelphia, it is the progressive left that has best capitalized on the campaign finance decision and other opinions. Liberals have been beating establishment Democrats with the help of outside groups that outspend the candidates themselves. And campaign finance reform is no longer the rallying cry it once was. “It’s an interesting reality to have folks or groups who may decry Citizens United then utilizing the tools that are made available by it,” said Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy. “But in campaigns, people play to win, and I don’t think that will ever change.”

South Dakota Concerns Arise That New S.D. Electronic Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent
Keloland – Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) | Published: 2/9/2020

A new online system for drafting, co-sponsoring, and tracking bills through the South Dakota Legislature has some people concerned that the modernized system has made the legislative process less transparent and removed some of the human element from lawmaking. State officials said the new system was needed to make legislative work more efficient. Jason Hancock, director of the Legislative Research Council, which manages the drafting and flow of proposed laws, said the new workflow system is housed within the Legislature’s website and replaced the old pen-and-paper-based system for drafting, seeking co-sponsors, and amending legislation.

Texas Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 2/8/2020

Local governments across Texas are resisting a state law that took effect in September requiring they publicly post their lobbying information on their websites. But the resistance does not appear to be based on opposition to the intent of the new law. Rather, cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments object to the statute’s admittedly murky language and differing reads on what it requires. For the most part, Senate Bill 65 relates to increasing oversight on state agencies’ contracting practices. The posting requirement for lobbying was added via an amendment co-authored by Rep. Mayes Middleton, who tried last session to make it illegal for many local governments to spend money on lobbying.

Washington Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting
Washington Post – Jay Greene | Published: 2/11/2020

The failure of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses led to days of partial and unreliable results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. But mobile voting is prone to cybersecurity breaches just as other forms of election technology are, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University who studies digital election security.

Washington DC D.C. Ethics Board Reopens Investigation into Former Lawmaker Jack Evans
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/12/2020

The District of Columbia’s ethics board reopened its investigation into former city council member Jack Evans. The revival of the probe raises the possibility of additional penalties for the Evans, who has been the subject of federal investigations and multiple examinations of his private business dealings. Evans resigned from the council days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.

Washington DC D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 2/11/2020

A divided U.S. House committee advanced a District of Columbia statehood bill to the floor for the first time in nearly three decades, bringing advocates closer to their goal of making the nation’s capital the 51st state. The bill has a good chance of passing the House because Democrats have a solid majority and the cause of statehood has become a favorite of Democratic leaders, national civil rights groups, and presidential candidates. But it faces almost certain death in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Wisconsin 81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck | Published: 2/11/2020

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin absentee voters will soon receive not one but two ballots to use in the spring election, laying the groundwork for potential confusion among the voters who receive them. Under federal law, absentee ballots for the April 7 presidential primary must go out on February 20, or two days after the February 18 primary for state and local races. That means there is no way to get a complete ballot to absentee voters that includes candidates who advance through the February 18 primary election without violating state law. Election officials’ solution is to send two ballots: One will be labeled by the letter “A” and will include just presidential candidates. A second “B” ballot will be mailed in March, after spring primary election results are certified. The B ballot will include presidential candidates and candidates competing in state and local races.

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February 13, 2020 •

Federal Lobbyist Bundling Disclosure Threshold Increased to $19,000

Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold. The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually. […]

Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold.

The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually.

Federal law requires authorized committees of federal candidates, leadership political action committees (PACs), and political party committees to disclose contributions bundled by lobbyists and lobbyists’ PACs.

Additionally, the FEC published its adjusted Coordinated Party Expenditure Limits for political parties for 2020.

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February 13, 2020 •

Idaho Election Filing Deadlines Extended

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

At the request of Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, and in consultation with the office of the Governor, the Idaho Office of the Secretary of State is extending the February 10 filing deadline for PACs and candidates under the […]

At the request of Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, and in consultation with the office of the Governor, the Idaho Office of the Secretary of State is extending the February 10 filing deadline for PACs and candidates under the Idaho Sunshine Laws to February 17, 2020.

Being the first report due under the new revisions of the Sunshine Law, various unanticipated issues have made achieving the deadline by midnight unlikely for some candidates and PACs.

The fines stipulated by the new laws will also be pushed back and not be assessed at this time.

Another contributing factor to the delayed deadline is for many in local and special district offices, this report represents their first time ever filing with the Office of the Secretary of State and many were not aware of the steps required to gain access to the state’s campaign finance filing system.

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February 13, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes Elections Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes

Elections

Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun

Washington: “Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting” by Jay Greene for Washington Post

Wisconsin: “81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion” by Molly Beck for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ethics

Florida: “Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided” by Jeff Schweers for Florida Times-Union

Legislative Issues

Washington DC: “D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History” by Jenna Portnoy for Washington Post

Lobbying

National: “When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills” by Rachana Pradhan for Kaiser Health News

New York: “Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

North Carolina: “NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer

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February 12, 2020 •

Maine Bill Expands Restrictions on Contributions from Lobbyists

Maine Capitol Building

Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature. The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a […]

Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature.

The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a lobbyist or lobbyist associate to all year-round.

Unless the lobbyist or lobbyist associate is eligible to vote on the day of the election in a district where the candidate will appear on the ballot, the lobbyist and lobbyist associate may not contribute to the governor or member of the Legislature when not in legislative session or to a gubernatorial or legislative candidate at any time during the year.

An intentional violation of the prohibition results in a civil penalty up to $1,000 for each violation and the return of the contribution in violation to the contributor.

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February 12, 2020 •

San Francisco Judge to Hear Challenge to New Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules

San Francisco, California - Noahnmf

A federal judge in San Francisco will hear arguments on February 14 on a free speech challenge to the new donor disclosure rules enacted by city voters in November. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will consider the Yes on B […]

A federal judge in San Francisco will hear arguments on February 14 on a free speech challenge to the new donor disclosure rules enacted by city voters in November.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will consider the Yes on B campaign committee’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the rules approved by voters as part of Proposition F.

The federal lawsuit was filed on January 28 claiming the rules violate the First Amendment free speech rights because the required disclosures occupy so much space in audio, video, and newspaper advertisements effectively drowning out the political message.

Proposition F, also known as the Sunlight on Dark Money Initiative, requires ads list the contribution amounts as well as the names of the top three donors of $5,000 or more, plus the names and amounts of the top two donors of more than $5,000 to a secondary committee contributing to a primary committee.

The lawsuit also disputes the lowering of the donation threshold to $5,000 from the previous threshold of $10,000 and a requirement donation disclosures be made at the beginning rather than the end of an audio or video message or telephone call.

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February 12, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by […]

Campaign Finance

Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times

Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by Sean Collins Walsh for Philadelphia Inquirer

Elections

Nevada: “Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process” by Holly Bailey (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post

National: “Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate

Ethics

National: “Justice Dept. to Reduce Sentencing Recommendation for Trump Associate Roger Stone, Official Says, After President Calls It ‘Unfair’” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Washington Post

Missouri: “Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider” by Jaclyn Driscoll for KCUR

Lobbying

National: “Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Colorado: “Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette

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February 11, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by […]

Campaign Finance

Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant

Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by Jacob Barker for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ethics

National: “Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules” by Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita” by Julia Shumway for Arizona Capitol Times

Oregon: “Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Legislative Issues

California: “California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In” by Ryan Sabalow for Sacramento Bee

Lobbying

New Mexico: “The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts” by Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) for New Mexico In Depth

Texas: “Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law” by Steve Miller for Texas Monitor

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February 10, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat Ethics National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, […]

Campaign Finance

Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat

Ethics

National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate

Florida: “Dozens of Ethics Cases, Including Matt Shirk’s, Are Languishing on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Desk” by Jeffrey Schweers (Tallahassee Democrat) for Florida Times-Union

Mississippi: “Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds” by Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus for AP News

Pennsylvania: “PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff” by Max Marin for Bily Penn

Legislative Issues

South Dakota: “Some Fear New Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent” by Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) for Watertowwn Public Opinion

Lobbying

Maryland: “The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.” by Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III for Baltimore Sun

Ohio: “Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer

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February 7, 2020 •

GAO Issues Campaign Finance Report

United State's Government Accountability Office

On February 3, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 74-page report discussing current federal campaign finance issues. The report, Campaign Finance: Federal Framework, Agency Roles and Responsibilities, and Perspectives, offers observations from specialists on the issues. Specifically, the […]

On February 3, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 74-page report discussing current federal campaign finance issues.

The report, Campaign Finance: Federal Framework, Agency Roles and Responsibilities, and Perspectives, offers observations from specialists on the issues.

Specifically, the report covers the legal framework of the federal campaign finance law, various federal agencies’ roles, responsibilities, and enforcement challenges, and several perspectives on certain segments of the legal framework.

One conclusion reached is “campaign finance statutes and regulations have not kept up with the rapid expansion of campaign spending on the internet and do not regulate online political ads to the same extent as television, radio, and print ads.”

Another conclusion is that campaign finance laws related to prohibited activities for foreign nationals may be inadequate to prevent all types of foreign involvement, such as funds raised by and through 501(c) organizations or limited liability companies, which historically have not been required to publicly report their funding sources.

The report also raises the issue of differing and opposing views regarding whether the public disclosure of campaign contributions helps inform the electorate or stigmatizes those supporting unpopular candidates or organizations.

The GAO report recommends the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Department of Justice coordinate together to review policies and campaign finance guidance, while acknowledging the FEC currently doesn’t have a quorum to make changes to guidance.

The GAO was asked to review issues related to the enforcement of federal campaign finance laws by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

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February 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020 In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to […]

National/Federal

Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020

In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to help arrange a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and the president of Ukraine at the time Trump sought to have Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump gave the instruction, Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in May that included Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The New York Times cited statements from Bolton detailing that Trump directly tied his hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine with investigations into the Bidens. The report led the administration to issue a formal threat to Bolton’s attorney. The letter said some portions of the manuscript contained information at the “top-secret level” and ordered that information removed before publication.

Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/28/2020

Away from the political party conventions’ main stage, K Streeters are booking concert halls, hotel ballrooms, and chic restaurants in the host cities for brunches, receptions, and late-night concerts to fete their favorite politicians and bring them together with the corporate clients they represent. That tradition will carry on this summer with the Democrats in Milwaukee and the GOP in Charlotte, North Carolina. But as lobbyists and executives mull their presence at the conventions, some are not convinced the show is worth the investment, sometimes into the six figures.

Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads
The Fulcrom – Sara Swann | Published: 1/30/2020

With the FEC ending its fifth month without a quorum, a bipartisan group of former members of Congress says enough is enough. Two former senators and seven former House members pressed Senate leadership to confirm new members of the commission right away, so it can revive oversight of campaign donations and spending in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. The group joins coalitions of good-government groups and campaign finance lawyers who have issued similar appeals in recent weeks. But President Trump and Senate leaders are showing no signs of breaking their impasse and allowing the FEC to get back to work.

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Team Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Bublé | Published: 2/5/2020

The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which has passed the U.S. House and Senate, amends the law to improve the transfer of executive power between administrations. If President Trump signs the bill, the General Services Administration, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The bill would require presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethical conduct all members must sign.

In Historic Vote, Trump Acquitted of Impeachment Charges
MSN – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2020

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Trump of charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end. The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings. Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney, voted to convict the president of abuse of power. in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality, which members of both parties conceded would come only after the November election.

Investigations Into 2020 Candidates Must Be Cleared by Top Justice Dept. Officials
ENM News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 2/5/2020

Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the FBI inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race. The order by Barr comes after a critical report by the inspector general showed how FBI agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate. The memo said the FBI and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.

Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2020

Hours after the U.S. Senate voted against seeking new evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump, the administration acknowledged the existence of two dozen emails that could reveal the president’s thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine. In a midnight court filing, the Justice Department explained why it should not have to unredact copies of more than 100 emails written by officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Defense Department about the hold on funds to Ukraine. Heather Walsh, an OMB lawyer, wrote that of the 111 redacted emails in the lawsuit, 24 are protected by “presidential privilege.”

Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/4/2020

Democratic presidential contenders – including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren – have official policies of rejecting campaign donations from registered federal lobbyists, but lobbyists still donated to all of them in recent months, new disclosures show. Some of the K Street cash has already been refunded to the contributors, lobbyists said. Other donations may be on their way back, as some of the campaigns said they would return any newly identified contributions from registered federal lobbyists.

Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse
AP News – Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz | Published: 1/31/2020

Before Election Day, politicians across party lines are expected to spend more than $1 billion to inundate voters with millions of these cheap online ads, which can be tailored to a voter’s most personal details – down to one household or even a single individual. Experts warn this ad-targeting system is still vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments and domestic actors trying to influence the election, just as they did in 2016. Those attempts could become more sophisticated this year as tech companies wrestle with a dysfunctional Federal Election Commission and deploy haphazard safeguards that still offer plenty of loopholes.

US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying
AP News – Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo | Published: 2/4/2020

The Justice Department official leading the investigation of big tech companies’ market dominance, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, is stepping aside from the department’s Google probe because of his previous lobbying work for Google as a private attorney. Delrahim lobbied on Google’s behalf in 2007 when the company faced antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a competitor in digital advertising. The Justice Department’s ethics office apparently found no potential conflict-of-interest when Delrahim sought guidance as the investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple began last spring.

YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election
AP News – Matt O’Brien | Published: 2/3/2020

YouTube said it will ban misleading or doctored videos that could impact elections, tightening its rules ahead of the crucial presidential vote. The video-streaming site said it will remove videos that spread misinformation such as deepfakes or patently false information. It will also target videos that attempt to mislead the public about the voting or election process. YouTube said it will also crack down on any attempts to artificially increase the number of views, likes, and comments on videos. It changed its systems for recommending what videos users watch last year in a push to curb harmful misinformation.

Canada

Canada Lynn Beyak Claimed She Was Métis During Her Anti-Racism Training Sessions
CBC – John Paul Tasker | Published: 2/3/2020

Sen. Lynn Beyak claimed racism does not exist in her northern Ontario hometown and displayed “overtly biased views, prejudiced opinions, and insolent behaviors” during unsuccessful Indigenous cultural competency training last year, according to an educator who administered the training. Beyak undertook training from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on separate occasions in June and August. Nicole Meawasige said Beyak not only failed to complete the program but was also asked to leave due to the nature of her behavior and comments. Beyak’s colleagues ousted her from the upper chamber temporarily last spring after condemning as racist several letters she had posted to her website.

Canada RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 2/4/2020

The cost to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) wrote a check for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations, and jet ski rentals. The RCMP, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he or she travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval. Watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2020

The way Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe notes it is illegal for foreigners to try to use their money to influence elections in the U.S. So, he wants to enact the same law in Arizona, but with a twist: Hose Bill 2718 would make it a crime for anyone who does not live in the state to contribute to campaigns for or against candidates and for or against ballot measures. Critics have called the bill unconstitutional, but Thorpe hopes the Legislature enacts his proposal anyway as a method of mounting a legal challenge, one that likely would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Arizona Lobbyist: Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed her before Shooter expulsion
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/4/2020

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who became the face of Arizona’s #MeToo movement when her claims led to a fellow lawmaker’s expulsion, sexually harassed a female lobbyist so severely it took a toll on the woman’s mental health and career, the lobbyist alleged in a sworn deposition. Repercussions from unwanted advances by Ugenti-Rita and her now-husband, Brian Townsend, led the woman to seek therapy, turn down job offers, and miss workdays, she said. The woman describes her fear of Ugenti-Rita, and her struggles to balance her personal discomfort with her professional need to maintain a good relationship with the senator, who she said  served as a “prominent vote” for her employer’s interests.

California Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Matt Fountain | Published: 1/30/2020

Morro Bay City Councilperson Dawn Addis, who is running for a seat in the California Assembly, accepted a $250 donation from a registered state lobbyist. Campaign spokesperson Gail Bunting said once the campaign realized the error, the donation was immediately returned. Candidates for elected office are prohibited from accepting money or in-kind donations from lobbyists. Since returning the money, Addis’ campaign has added a disclaimer on her fundraising website explaining campaign finance rules, including that lobbyist contributions are prohibited. The donation of $250 came from Steven Black, who is registered as a lobbyist with clients in the wind energy industry.

Colorado New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators
Complete Colorado – Scott Weiser | Published: 1/31/2020

In late December, Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold issued new lobbying rules that may put private citizens at risk of being legally sanctioned if they do not follow the complex regulations, with one former staffer calling the rules potentially unconstitutional. Traditionally, private individuals who discussed legislation with officials on their own behalf were exempt from the definition of “lobbying” in the rules. The previous rules explicitly excluded “a political committee, volunteer, lobbyist, or citizen who lobbies on his or her behalf” from the definition of lobbying for the purposes of regulation. The new rules repeal that language and create two new categories exempt from the definition of lobbying.

Florida FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/30/2020

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board moved swiftly to find a new ethics officer after its incoming one bowed out amid controversy over his Twitter feed. The board voted unanimously to extend an offer to a previous finalist: Dwight Floyd, retired bureau chief for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which Floyd accepted. The decision came during an emergency meeting called after political tweets came to light written by Keith Powell, a veteran state ethics investigator who was set to start work as the city’s new independent ethics officer. The tweets included barbs against Democrats and a complaint about a gay kiss shown during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Florida From $1 to $1,500: Cost of alleged nepotism just went up for former Midway Mayor Wanda Range
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics took a rare step in changing an administrative law judge’s recommended one dollar fine in favor of $1,500 against a former Midway mayor who voted to appoint her first cousin to step into her role whenever she could not perform her duties. The commission also found probable cause that Wanda Range used a city vehicle and credit card for personal use and failed to report their use as gifts. Residents of Midway elect the five members of the city council, who in turn vote on the mayor and mayor pro tem positions.

Florida Lobbyists Tried to Pay for Mayor Lenny Curry’s Trip to Atlanta to Watch Baseball Game with JEA’s Former CEO
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 2/4/2020

A company run by Tim Baker and Sam Mousa, two lobbyists who have both worked for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, organized and attended a secret trip to Atlanta on a private plane to watch a playoff baseball game along with Curry, his top administrator Brian Hughes, JEA’s then-Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and city council President Scott Wilson. Curry, who cannot accept gifts from lobbyists worth more than $100, said he initially covered his $400 portion of the trip by accepting it as in-kind contribution from Baker and Mousa’s company that was made in October to a political committee that has no official ties to Curry or his campaigns. He said he decided in December to personally pay for the trip.

Florida Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/3/2020

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said he accepted one $4,000 ticket to the Super Bowl from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and bought a second for his wife. Ross also offered $3,000 tickets to county commissioners ahead of a vote on his plan to bring Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium. At least one commissioner accepted the offer. The county’s top ethics lawyer cleared Gimenez to accept the tickets, saying the $8,000 gift did not qualify as the kind of quid pro quo offer that would trigger a violation of Miami-Dade law. The Dolphins’ lobbying team is fighting county legislation that would block Ross from bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium, and Gimenez is a key ally in that effort.

Florida St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 2/3/2020

A St. Petersburg ordinance that is serving as a national model for “dark money” reform would be preempted under a last-minute proposal attached to a bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes. He introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1372, a measure that updates election law. The revision takes aim at a 2017 ordinance passed by the St. Petersburg City Council that abolishes super PACs and prohibits spending by foreign-influenced corporations in city elections. The bill would ban cities and counties from “adopting any limitation or restriction” on contributions to political committees or expenditures from political committees in city elections.

Georgia Sentence Reduced for Man Who Cooperated in Corruption Case
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 2/4/2020

A judge agreed to reduce the prison sentence for a former Atlanta contractor, Elvis Mitchell, by a year after prosecutors said he “substantially assisted” them in a federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. In January 2017, Mitchell was the first in a string of people to be charged in the federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed. Prosecutors have said Mitchell and another city construction contractor, Charles Richards Jr., bribed Mitzi Bickers to represent their businesses and to steer lucrative city construction contracts to their companies. During much of the that time, prosecutors have said, Bickers was a city employee.

Illinois Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation
Southern Illinoisan – Peter Hancock | Published: 1/30/2020

Government reform advocates told a panel of state lawmakers that Illinois has some of the weakest governmental ethics rules in the country and lawmakers should put more teeth into them if they hope to regain the trust of the public. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform was formed in the wake of federal investigations that led to indictments against three sitting state lawmakers, two of whom have since resigned. The panel’s most recent hearing focused on the state’s Governmental Ethics Act, and specifically its provisions dealing with conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure requirements.

Iowa Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2020

Shadow’s vote-recording app stands at the center of one of the biggest technical failures of the 2020 campaign, producing only partial and unreliable results during Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic contest for president. Shadow grew from an effort by Democrats to give their party newfound digital might. But the software was largely untested, and it proved difficult to use when it was most needed at the February 3 caucus, raising concerns about the technology undergirding American democracy and prompting pointed questions about why Iowa Democratic Party officials chose it in the first place. To developers and tech specialists, Shadow’s ambition – to build a secure and foolproof mobile app for quickly relaying vote results – seemed doomed from the beginning.

Kansas After Kobach’s 2018 Bid, Kansas Lawmakers Weigh Making Secretary of State Non-Partisan
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 2/5/2020

When then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer, won the 2018 Republican primary for governor by a razor-thin margin, it prompted concerns about conflicts-of-interest. A bill to prevent that scenario, in which a Kobach-like figure could oversee elections while campaigning for governor or Congress, is drawing some interest from Kansas lawmakers. The legislation is sponsored by a Democrat but nevertheless set to receive a hearing in a Republican-controlled committee, a sign that legislators want to at least explore the proposal.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller’s Vote to Sell City Lots to Her Church Was Conflict of Interest, Inspector General Says
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/5/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted to sell city property to her church, representing a conflict-of-interest that illuminated “administrative oversights” in her office, according to the city’s inspector general. Members of the city’s Board of Estimates, which signs off on all spending over $25,000, are supposed to abstain from voting on items that pose a conflict for them. Ahead of that 2017 meeting, Pratt says she verbally told a staff member that she wanted to abstain from a vote to sell properties to her church, but that person did not properly note the abstention and so it was not announced during the spending panel’s weekly meeting. Pratt ended up approving the sale as part of the Board of Estimate’s routine agenda.

Massachusetts Search Begins for New Campaign Finance Chief
Newburyport Daily News – Colin Young (State House News Service) | Published: 2/6/2020

As a new election year unfolds, candidates interested in becoming the next head of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) have about two weeks to submit their resumes and applications to the bipartisan commission formed to find a new director. At the end of 2019, after nearly a quarter-century in the post, Michael Sullivan retired from the agency that oversees campaign finance law in the state. For Secretary of State William Galvin, who chairs the commission that must unanimously choose the next director, the ideal candidate is someone who shares similar traits as Sullivan.

New Jersey Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald | Published: 1/30/2020

A New Jersey mayor who got drunk at a party and took off his pants before falling asleep in an employee’s bed exemplifies a larger problem that women working in politics face, according to two women leading the state’s fight against sexual misconduct. Mahwah Mayor John Roth’s contention that the episode was a private matter irked state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who recently launched a working group of women to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. Roth confirmed he drank too much and removed his clothes at the party and apologized to the township employee. He also questioned whether his actions were worthy of news coverage.

New Mexico Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule
Courthouse News Service – Victpria Preiskop | Published: 1/30/2020

A federal judge ruled a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending over $250 on a ballot issue passes constitutional muster. The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the Rio Grande Foundation, which claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation chilled free speech. The foundation became involved in a campaign opposing a proposed soda tax in Santa Fe. In the course of the campaign, the group set up a website, a Facebook page, and a link to a YouTube video explaining its objections to the tax. Because the group was deemed to have spent more than $250 in costs and in-kind contributions from third parties on the campaign, it was required by Santa Fe’s campaign code to disclose its donors and was officially reprimanded by the city for failing to do so.

New York JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/2/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators, a nonprofit run by state lawmakers, in ways mirrors a nonprofit founded to push the agenda of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the de Blasio group has been subjected to continuing investigation by New York’s ethics regulators, that does not mean the association will get the same scrutiny. In a draft advisory opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) apparently sought to “thread the needle” to cover de Blasio’s activities, while exempting the association, said David Grandeau, who spent a dozen years as New York’s top lobbying regulator. Good-government groups have long charged the governor and state lawmakers that appoint JCOPE’s members have undue influence over its operations.

New York State Police Had Role in Lobbying Investigation of Rape Survivor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/3/2020

Last September, a State Police official placed a phone call to the owner and manager of the South Albany Airport, Ted Zabinski. The call concerned a flight from the airstrip in 2018 that passed over the Capitol, towing a banner asking the New York Legislature to pass the Child Victims Act. The flight had been chartered by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape victim turned activist. Both the State Police and Zabinski maintain the phone call was benign. But others, including Sullivan’s attorney, contend Zabinski was intimidated by the call, to the point he did not allow Sullivan to hire another flight from there in December, with a new banner criticizing state government. The call came as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics was ramping up its controversial probe into Sullivan for potential violations of state lobbying law.

North Dakota North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Bill Drafts to Resolve Conflicts in Ethics Laws
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/4/2020

Proposed legislation would change new North Dakota ethics laws that apparently conflict with a voter-passed constitutional amendment for state government ethics. Rep. Karla Rose Hanson provided fellow members of the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee with two bill drafts related to procedures and authority of North Dakota’s Ethics Commission and transparency in campaign spending. The committee is studying the 2018 ethics measure that created the new five-person panel and other ethics mandates.

Ohio Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 1/31/2020

A former food-services consultant for the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority faces up to 10 years in prison after signing an agreement to plead guilty to bribery. Rodney Myers, who was hired by the authority for $5,000 a month to help evaluate contracts submitted by potential food vendors, admitted he helped steer a $700,000-a-year contract to a vendor identified as “Company A.” The Columbus Dispatch has identified “Company A” as Connecticut-based Centerplate through public records. Myers later billed that company for his services. The Myers case involved former Columbus City Hall lobbyist John Raphael, who was good friends with Myers and served on the authority’s board of directors at the time while also serving as Centerplate’s paid lobbyist.

Oregon Oregon Lawmakers Quickly Launch New Fight Over Campaign Finance Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 2/4/2020

Oregon Rep. Dan Rayfield wants to keep the campaign field for candidates level this year as courts and legislators untangle campaign finance reforms, but he wants to short circuit a voter-approved measure to do that. Dan Meek, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate, said Rayfield’s proposed legislation would overturn the wishes of voters while undermining efforts to rein in the way state’s politicians raise money. Oregon is one of a handful of states with no limits on how much money can be donated to candidates. Rayfield’s legislation, House Bill 4124, comes at a time when the state could be on the cusp of enacting campaign finance reform.

Pennsylvania A Group That Championed Pa.’s Lobbying Law Was Fined $19,900 for Breaking It
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Daniel Simmons-Ritchie (Spotlight PA) | Published: 2/6/2020

The state Ethics Commission imposed a $19,900 fine on Common Cause Pennsylvania after the group filed a quarterly lobbying report 112 days past the deadline. The organization has also been late in filing four other reports since the beginning of 2018. In Pennsylvania, groups are required to disclose the names of any lobbyists they employ, the subject matter they lobbied on, and the total amount of money they spent. Though Common Cause Pennsylvania reports spending only a few thousand dollars each year on lobbying, the Ethics Commission nonetheless expressed its disappointment over the group’s failures, especially since it had helped champion the current law.

Rhode Island R.I. Legislature Waits Until End of Session to Act on Many Acts, Data Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 2/6/2020

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea office has launched a “Lobbying and Legislation Data Exploration Tool,” saying it will let the public easily sort years of lobbying and legislative information using dozens of search functions. All the lobbying and legislative information has been public in years past, but now it is easily sorted so that people can, for example, find out the number of registered lobbyists in a given year or the number of bills introduced on a particular subject. Users can also narrow their focus to explore the activity of an individual lobbyist or the progress of an individual bill.

Texas DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows
Dallas News – Miles Moffeit | Published: 1/31/2020

Two weeks after DeSoto, Texas, officials Candice and Jeremiah Quarles took a controversial Disney World vacation funded largely by taxpayers, AT&T gave the couple free tickets to two exclusive Cotton Bowl dinners. Jeremiah Quarles, then head of economic development for the city, jumped at an offer to attend one hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. He also told the AT&T representative that his wife, Candice, who at the time was on a city zoning board, would be accompanying him. DeSoto ethics policies prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 to avoid improper outside influence over their public duties. The rules also warn officials to avoid practices that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. AT&T competes for major telecommunications services contracts that depend on the approval of city officials.

Washington City Council Member to Pay $500 Fine for Violating Ethics Code
KOMO – Michelle Esteban | Published: 2/5/2020

City Councilperson Lisa Herbold will pay a $500 fine for what the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission calls a violation of the city code. Herbold acknowledged the wrongdoing after sending text messages to Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best last October over an RV parked on her street. instead of calling the Police Department’s non-emergency line to report what Herbold said she thought was a stolen RV parked in front or her home, she texted the chief directly. An investigation found Herbold not only thought the RV was stolen, but that it was a political stunt.

Wisconsin 2 Leaders of Democratic Convention Host Committee Fired
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 2/5/2020

The two leaders of Milwaukee’s host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention – the group’s president, Liz Gilbert, and its chief of staff, Adam Alonso – were fired amid allegations they oversaw a toxic work environment, a dramatic shakeup less than six months before the showcase event in swing state Wisconsin. The host committee is a nonpartisan group responsible for raising the $70 million, recruiting the 15,000 volunteers, and providing the facilities needed to put on the convention in July. Alonso was fired less than a week after he was involved with a controversy in his home state of New Jersey, where both he and Gilbert are top-ranking Democratic operatives.

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