April 23, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian Elections Wisconsin: “Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories” by Reid Epstein […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian

Elections

Wisconsin: “Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories” by Reid Epstein for New York Times

Ethics

National: “The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests” by Kenneth Vogel, Jim Rutenberg, and Lisa Lerer (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Ethics Guidance on Coronavirus Relief Package: Lawmakers may be able to apply for some loans” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call

National: “Donna Shalala, Lone Democrat Overseeing $500B Virus Fund, Didn’t Disclose 2019 Stock Sales” by Alex Daugherty for Tampa Bay Times

Michigan: “Michigan Cancels Contract with Two Democratic-Linked Firms That Had Been Tapped to Track Coronavirus” by Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post

Lobbying

National: “Cory Gardner Attended Pricey Champagne Party in Palm Beach. A Colorado Lawmaker Wants an Investigation.” by Jason Wingerter for Denver Post

National: “Small Business Rescue Cash Isn’t for Lobbyists, Judge Rules” by Erik Larson (Bloomberg) for Washington Post

Illinois: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot Introduces Plan to Change Chicago’s City Ethics Rules, Again Allowing Some Elected Officials to Lobby City Government” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune

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April 22, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting” by Scott Bland for Politico California: “San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune Elections […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting” by Scott Bland for Politico

California: “San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune

Elections

Wisconsin: “At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Trump Team’s Use of Big Insurer to Dispense Recovery Funds Comes Under Scrutiny” by Maggie Severns and Daniel Lippman for Politico

New Mexico: “Ex-Rio Arriba Official Faces Allegations” by Edmund Carrillo for Albuquerque Journal

Texas: “More Than Half of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Coronavirus Panel on Reopening Texas Are Campaign Donors” by Allie Morris, Ariana Giorgi, and Robert Garrett for Dallas Morning News

Legislative Issues

National: “‘All of It Is Happening All at Once’: When Congress works from home” by Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg for New York Times

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April 21, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics Elections Connecticut: “Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics

Elections

Connecticut: “Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to Coronavirus Concerns” by Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant

North Carolina: “Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit Over Allegedly Insecure North Carolina Voting Machines” by Maggie Miller for The Hill

Ethics

National: “GOP’s Growing ‘Open It Up’ Caucus Urges Fewer Virus Restrictions Amid Warnings from Fellow Republicans” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “A Watchdog Out of Trump’s Grasp Unleashes Wave of Coronavirus Audits” by Kyle Cheney for Politico

Ohio: “Appeals Court Entertains Arguments on Whether Jimmy Dimora Should Receive New Trial” by Eric Heisig for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Lobbying

National: “K Street Is Booming. But There’s a Creeping Sense of Dread.” by Theodoric Meyer and Elena Schneider for Politico

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April 20, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser for Washington Post Texas: “Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation” by […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser for Washington Post

Texas: “Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation” by Ryan Autullo for Austin American-Statesman

Washington: “Justices: $18M campaign finance penalty to be reconsidered” by Gene Johnson for AP News

Elections

Louisiana: “Louisiana’s Presidential Primary, Local Elections to Be Delayed Again Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” by Sam Karlin for New Orleans Advocate

Wisconsin: “After Losing Election, State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly Signals He Will Participate in Voter Rolls Case” by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ethics

National: “Matt Gaetz Rents Office Space from Longtime Friend and Donor – at Taxpayer Expense” by Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan for Politico

National: “Trump Interior Official Helped Clear Way for Payments to Ex-Employer” by Adam Cancryn for Politico

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April 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 17, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020 Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped […]

National/Federal

Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020

Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped pave the way for super PACs, filed a petition with the FEC asking regulators to create new rules to limit the amount of leftover money that a self-funded federal candidate can transfer to the national party once the candidate has dropped out of the race. The request followed two FEC complaints filed by other groups that alleged Michael Bloomberg made an improper transfer of $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. Bloomberg was the biggest self-funded candidate in U.S. history.

‘Choosing Winners and Losers’: Behind the battle to be deemed essential
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Anna Gronwold | Published: 4/10/2020

As states and cities have forced what they consider “nonessential businesses” to close to slow the spread of coronavirus, lobbyists for industries have been hustling to make the case that they are too important to be shut down, a designation that could mean millions of dollars for companies and the employees who keep them running. Companies and trade groups seeking to shape the rules are lobbying governors, most of whom have issued executive orders detailing which businesses can remain open and which must close. They have also appealed to the Trump administration, which has put out recommendations outlining which industries it considers essential, although states and cities are not bound by the recommendations.

Democrats Scramble to Close YouTube Deficit Amid Quarantine Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 4/13/2020

Joe Biden is not much of a YouTuber. But his campaign and Democrats are hastily trying to address a longstanding weakness and reach the millions of Americans who are. The 2020 presidential campaign’s transition to a mostly digital experience, with the nation on lockdown, has spotlighted a long-term progressive deficit on YouTube that some concerned Democrats compare to the right’s command of talk radio. The country’s leading video platform is also one of its largest search engines and a key battlefield in campaigns’ fight to reach new voters and earn free media attention. While Democratic campaigns and groups spend heavily on advertising on YouTube, they lag in organic content, with dozens of conservative and right-wing figures cultivating enormous followings not yet matched by equivalents on the left.

GOP Pushes Voting by Mail – with Restrictions – While Trump Attacks It as ‘Corrupt’
MSN – Amy Gardenr and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2020

Despite President Trump saying that voting by mail is “corrupt,” state GOP leaders across the country are aggressively urging their voters to cast ballots by mail. In addition, Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that do not have all-mail elections are encouraging people to vote absentee during the coronavirus pandemic. Their moves come after decades in which Republicans have encouraged their voters to take advantage of absentee ballot rules, running sophisticated mail programs that targeted GOP supporters most likely to vote from home. The apparent conflict between Trump’s attacks and his party’s long embrace of the tactic comes as the health crisis has spurred Democrats and civil rights groups to push to loosen restrictions on mail voting in many jurisdictions.

Lobbyists, Political Consultants Sue U.S. for Coronavirus Bailout
Washington Post – Robert Burnson (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/14/2020

A group representing political consultants, pollsters, and lobbyists sued the U.S. government for a slice of the $2.2 trillion Covid-19 bailout pie. The American Association of Political Consultants says it is unconstitutional for its members to be excluded from the small business loans provided by the CARE Act, which Congress passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The group says its members should be granted access to $349 billion in “forgivable loans” provided under the Paycheck Protection Program. The program excludes various businesses including nonprofits, strip clubs, and those “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.”

Pentagon Looks to Undo Parts of McCain Anti-Lobbying Law
Roll Call – John Donnelly | Published: 4/14/2020

The Pentagon asked Congress to reverse key parts of a recent law that tightened the rules governing retired Defense Department officials influencing their former government colleagues on behalf of defense contractors. The new rules were authored by the late U.S, Sen. John McCain. They lengthened from one year to two years the period during which the most senior Pentagon officials were banned, upon leaving office, from lobbying their former colleagues. The McCain provisions added new limits on whom in the Defense Department former officials could lobby and how. A coalition of groups that monitor government spending urged congressional committee leaders to not only keep McCain’s provisions but to strengthen them.

Senator Richard Burr Sold D.C. Townhouse to Donor at a Rich Price
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi | Published: 4/14/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold his Washington, D.C. townhouse for what, by some estimates, was for an above market price of $900,000 to a team led by lobbyist John Green. That is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value by tax assessors, a real estate website, and a local real estate agent. Green is a longtime donor to Burr’s political campaigns and has co-hosted at least one fundraiser for him. In 2017, the year of the sale, Green lobbied on behalf of a stream of clients with business before Burr’s committees. If the home was purchased for more than the fair market value, it would be considered a gift. Senate ethics rules generally ban gifts of significant value from lobbyists, and those that are not are typically required to be publicly disclosed.

Sexual Assault Allegation by Former Biden Senate Aide Emerges in Campaign, Draws Denial
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, Matt Viser, and Alice Crites (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

A woman who last year said Joe Biden touched her neck and shoulders when she worked in his Senate office in 1993 is now accusing him of sexually assaulting her that year in a semiprivate area of the Capitol complex, an allegation the Biden campaign strongly denies. At the time, Tara Reade was a  staff assistant. The Washington Post has interviewed Reade on multiple occasions as well as people she says she told of the assault claim and more than a half-dozen former staffers of Biden’s Senate office. Reade filed a complaint recently with District of Columbia police. She said she did so because she is being harassed online and wanted law enforcement to be aware of her claim. A public record of the complaint does not name Biden but says Reade “disclosed that she believes she was the victim of a sexual assault” in 1993.

Sidelined by Coronavirus Pandemic, Congress Cedes Stage and Authority to Trump
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2020

Congress has responded to the incessant spread of the coronavirus and its devastating impact on the economy by passing, so far, three progressively larger relief bills, culminating in the $2 trillion Cares Act. While President Trump has commanded the stage at White House briefings, Democratic Party leaders have conducted frequent media interviews, committee chairpersons have sent flurries of letters, and individual members have scrambled to help their districts. But with lawmakers dispersed across the country, and with rules frequently out of step with modern telecommunications, the House and Senate are only starting to come to terms with how to conduct many of their most essential functions amid an extended national emergency.

Supreme Court for First Time to Hold Arguments Via Teleconference Next Month
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/12/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hold oral arguments via teleconference for the first time in its history in May, on a set of cases that had been postponed in March and April, including President Trump’s legal battle to prevent congressional committees and a New York prosecutor from obtaining his financial records. The justices will hear another time-sensitive case involving whether presidential electors can be required to honor their state’s instructions to vote for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.

Treasury’s Mnuchin ‘Properly’ Followed Guidance in Refusing to Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Congress, Inspector General Finds
MSN – Jeff Stein, Erica Werner, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/10/2020

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin followed internal protocols when he refused to give President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, Richard Delmar, deputy inspector general of the Department of Treasury, found in a report. Lawyers for the legal counsel’s office wrote in a 2019 opinion that House Democrats’ demands for Trump’s return should be denied because they did not serve a legitimate “legislative purpose.” Delmar’s opinion is a setback for congressional Democrats who have for years said the administration broke a 1924 law that appears to explicitly give congressional tax writing committees the authority to obtain the president’s returns.

Who’s Getting These Hundreds of Billions in the Government Aid? For Now, the Public May Be in the Dark.
Beaumont Enterprise – Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

The Cares Act requires that the names of recipients of some forms of federal aid be published, but those requirements do not extend to significant portions of the relief. Though most of the $2.2 trillion in spending has yet to begin, disputes already have arisen about who will be responsible for making sure it is done ethically. The law requires several layers of oversight. It calls for a special inspector general, a congressional review commission, and a group that will be composed of inspectors general armed with enhanced powers to subpoena documents and testimony. But President Trump already has taken steps that undermine these reviewers. Regardless of what happens to the oversight panels, the public disclosure of who receives the trillions in emergency money could play a critical role in the public debate over the programs.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Supreme Court Upholds 6 Counts Against Mike Hubbard, Reverses 5
Montgomery Advertiser – Melissa Brown | Published: 4/10/2020

The Alabama Supreme Court overturned five of the ethics convictions that ended the political career of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, while upholding six others. Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 but has remained free on appeal. Prosecutors accused him of monetizing his public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. \The overturned counts dealt largely with several $150,000 investments in Hubbard’s troubled printing company. The court upheld other ethics counts involving Hubbard’s side work as a consultant, rejecting defense claims that those contracts were unrelated to his position as House speaker.

Arizona November Ballot Measures Threatened by Lack of Public Gatherings, Backers Warn. Judge Weighs Online Petitions
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 4/14/2020

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented ballot initiative campaigns from gathering signatures outside libraries, on college campuses, and at other places people used to congregate. But does that mean they should be allowed to collect signatures online as an alternative? That is the question in front of a federal judge, who heard arguments from campaigns backing ballot proposals and lawyers from the Arizona attorney general’s office, which opposes the idea. The campaigns say social distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have squelched their usual methods for gathering the more than 200,000 signatures they need to qualify for spots on the general election ballot in November.

California Federal Investigation into L.A. City Hall Corruption Involves Downtown Project
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 4/15/2020

When federal prosecutors filed their latest corruption case involving Los Angeles City Hall, they filled their court filings with lurid details: a paper bag filled with cash for a council member, a bathroom meeting to discuss the alleged bribe, and insistent texts from that council member angling for the money. What investigators did not say was who allegedly provided a $500,000 bribe meant for a sitting council member in order to smooth the way for a new project. In court filings, prosecutors identified that figure only as “Developer C.” But numerous details in the case point to the project at the heart of the matter: a 20-story residential tower planned at the corner of Hill Street and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.

California FPPC Offers Guidance on Lobbying Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 4/13/2020

In light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is encouraging individuals subject to lobbying registration and reporting requirements to continue to make the best efforts to timely file all legally required reports and statements. If circumstances caused by COVID-19 inhibit the filing of a lobbying report or statement, the filer should communicate these issues to the secretary of state’s office and document all attempts to file and the issues faced. While quarterly lobbying reports are filed electronically, the law requires certain other statements be filed on paper with an original signature.

Florida Florida Ethics Panel Rejects COVID-19 Announcements Plan, Upholds Ban on Free Publicity or Exposure
Orlando Weekly – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 4/10/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics blocked a request from Charter Communications to put public officials in coronavirus-related public service announcements. The use of public officials in such ads is a violation of the state’s gift ban, which prohibits elected officials and top appointees from taking anything of value from lobbyists or entities that employ them. Charter did not argue that point, but asked commissioners to make an exception because of the dire nature of the pandemic.

Florida Herald Drafted a Suit Seeking ALF Records. DeSantis Aide Pressured Law Firm Not To
Miami Herald – Daniel Chang | Published: 4/11/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ general counsel called a representative of The Miami Herald’s law firm seeking to quash a public records lawsuit that would force the state to divulge the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a positive test for the coronavirus. The back-door pressure, through an attorney who had no involvement in the case, paid off. The law firm, Holland & Knight, told Sanford Bohrer, a senior partner with decades of representing The Herald, to stand down and abandon the lawsuit. The suit will still be filed, but by another law firm, said Miami Herald publisher Aminda Marqués González.

Georgia Ethics Commission Accuses Fulton DA of Disclosure Violations
AP News – Staff | Published: 4/16/2020

Georgia’s ethics commission filed a complaint against an Atlanta-area district attorney and accused him of violating public disclosure laws, including by not listing his supplemental salary funded by a nonprofit. It was reported that discrepancies were found between Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s personal financial disclosures and tax filings submitted to the IRS by a nonprofit Howard runs. The complaint said Howard committed several violations on five years of disclosure forms.

Georgia Ga. Lawmakers in COVID-19 Campaign Fundraising Limbo
Rome News-Tribune – Beau Evans (Capitol Beat News Service) | Published: 4/15/2020

A divided state ethics commission upheld a longstanding ban on campaign fundraising when Georgia lawmakers are still in session, even if the legislative session has been indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 30-year-old ban was designed to curb the influence of money on lawmakers, but in the age of COVID-19, it has creating anxiety among incumbents who face opposition in the June 9 primary. They must continue to idle their fundraising while their challengers can raise money. The governor’s public health emergency declaration now runs through May 13 and there is no assurance the order will expire at that point.

Georgia Georgia Further Delays Primary Election to June
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 4/9/2020

Georgia delayed its primary elections again, this time to June 9, amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak may continue to pose a high risk to public health through most of May. Georgia was originally supposed to hold its primaries on March 24. But state officials postponed the contests until May 19 as the pandemic worsened and health officials urged the public to avoid large crowds and gatherings.

Kentucky Kentucky Legislature Overrides Veto of GOP Voter ID Measure
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 4/15/2020

Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode a veto of a new voter ID law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, setting the stage for the requirement to be enacted for the November general election. The move by lawmakers prompted an outcry from Democrats and voting-rights groups. They said the measure would suppress the vote and accused Republicans of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to impose restrictions, even as other states seek to make voting easier. GOP legislators argued the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot would prevent voter fraud.

Michigan Chanting ‘Lock Her Up,’ Michigan Protesters Waving Trump Flags Mass Against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Coronavirus Restrictions
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 4/16/2020

If all roads in Michigan lead to the Capitol, conservative protesters made sure they were closed. For miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work. They drowned downtown Lansing in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows: President Trump flags, American flags, and the occasional Confederate flag. But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order, which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority, the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the Capitol, with some chanting, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!”

Michigan Michigan Republican Party Loses Appeal in Attempt to Stop Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Ryan Boldrey | Published: 4/15/2020

The Michigan Republican Party was again denied in an attempt to overturn the result of a November 2018 ballot proposal that changed how the state’s political districts are drawn. A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Proposal 2 shifted the responsibility of drawing Michigan’s state and federal districts every 10 years to a new commission. Redistricting was previously handled by the Michigan Legislature and approved by the governor, something Proposal 2 supporters equated to politicians picking their own district lines.

Missouri Amid COVID-19 Funding Scramble, Missouri Senate Gets Ethics Panel Back on Track
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 4/9/2020

After three weeks in limbo, the commission that regulates Missouri’s campaign finance laws will be able to meet again following a rushed effort to appoint a new member. Maneuvering by Gov. Mike Parson and the state Senate resulted in the Legislature’s upper chamber confirming the appointment of Robert Cook to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The commission had been unable to meet after the terms of three of its six members expired on March 15.

New Hampshire New Hampshire Governor to Allow Absentee Voting in November Because of Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Amy Gardner and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the state will allow voters to cast mail-in ballots in the November general election if the coronavirus is still a factor this fall. The decision is a significant departure from Sununu’s past stance against widespread absentee voting and stands in contrast to the rhetoric coming from some Republicans, including President Trump. Sununu said the state is considering other voting alternatives, too, including “drive-up voting,” in which a voter would not have to leave his or her vehicle.

New Jersey NJ Lawyer-Lobbyists Saw Big Payday in 2019, See Uncertainty For 2020
Law.com – Suzette Parmley | Published: 4/10/2020

Being heard has never been more expensive in Trenton, or lucrative for lobbyists. Last year’s booming economy, an activist governor, one-party rule, and more than 11,000 bills in the New Jersey Legislature generated a windfall of clients, and made 2019 a banner year for lobbying in the state, with expenditures by clients topping $100 million for the first time ever. And law firms with lobbying arms staffed by lawyers, typically those with extensive experience in dealing with or working in government, or lobbying firms made up of lawyers by trade, made out quite well, according to data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

New York New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/13/2020

Included in the bills to approve a state budget in New York was the creation of a new campaign finance system with a public-matching program, lower individual contribution limits, and various other changes to campaign finance law. But the controversial inclusion of changes to ballot thresholds could prove to be a poison pill, not for the law but for the several minor political parties that operate in New York’s electoral system. The new thresholds to secure an automatic ballot line will be daunting for most, if not all, minor parties in the state, considering their showing in recent elections for governor and president. Only the Conservative Party has been able to consistently garner the number of votes the new thresholds would require for a party to easily nominate candidates for offices across the board for years at a time.

South Carolina SC Ethics Commission Launches Investigation into Horry County Chairman Over Campaign Loan
Raleigh News and Observer – Tyler Fleming | Published: 4/9/2020

The South Carolina Ethics Commission is investigating Horry County Council Chairperson Johnny Gardner for a loan and filings from his election campaign. A complaint claims Gardner, among other allegations, repaid too much money from a personal campaign loan. It also says the money used for the loan could not have belonged to Gardner and may count as an illegal campaign donation.

South Dakota South Dakota’s Governor Resisted Ordering People to Stay Home. Now It Has One of the Nation’s Largest Coronavirus Hot Spots.
MSN – Griff Witte (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem dismissed calls to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. She said it was up to individuals, not government, to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play – or to even stay at home.” Now, South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the U.S., with more than 300 workers at a giant ¬pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility, threatening the American food supply.

Utah Utah Lawmakers Tackling Coronavirus impact in First Online Session
Deseret News – Lisa Riley Roche | Published: 4/15/2020

Utah lawmakers are meeting online only for the first time after calling themselves into an emergency special session focused on dealing with the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. Only Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson are expected to be in the legislative chambers in the closed Capitol, facing new giant screens rather than lawmakers themselves, for the session, which can continue for up to 10 days. Because of technology constraints, work on the more than 20 items on the agenda will be tackled in one chamber at a time, starting in the House, Thomas said. Also, bills will not receive committee hearings, which are optional in a special session.

Washington Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 4/9/2020

Tim Eyman, the longtime anti-tax activist and initiative promoter, has until April 19 to pay $270,000 in fines and attorneys’ fees accrued for refusing to follow court orders in a Washington state campaign finance case. The payment will be due as part of a new plan approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge. Eyman owes more than $340,000 in contempt sanctions and related costs and has paid about $60,000. Sanctions continue to accrue. The new bankruptcy plan also will require Eyman to pay $10,000 a month starting in May and $13,500 a month starting in January 2022, until his debts have been satisfied.

Washington Washington AG Ferguson Sues Facebook Again, Saying It’s Still Selling Political Ads Without Adequate Disclosures
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 4/14/2020

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a second lawsuit against Facebook over political ads, saying the company once again failed to make disclosures required under the state’s campaign finance laws. Facebook already paid $238,000 in 2018 to resolve a previous dispute over political advertising. Facebook announced later that year it would stop accepting political ads related to state or local initiatives in Washington, although it still permitted advertisements around “issues of national importance” targeting people in the state. Ferguson said Facebook had continued selling hundreds of ads to at least 171 state political committees since 2018, in violation of its own policy.

Wisconsin ‘Not as Wisconsin Nice as We Used to Be’: The divisions in Dairyland
MSN – Dionne Searcey (New York Times) | Published: 4/11/2020

The political war being waged in Wisconsin shows how partisanship pushed to its most strategic outer limits can ensnare not only primary election voters but also cow manure, a Christmas tree, a tourism agency, and in particular, farmers who need help. The battle became particularly heated during the tenure of Gov. Scott Walker, who outraged Democrats by taking on a key liberal tenet: organized labor. After he lost the statehouse in 2018, Wisconsin Republicans, who now control both chambers, pushed through measures to strip the powers of newly elected Democrats. In November, Republicans opened a special session the current governor had called to take up gun control measures, and then pounded the gavel to close the session after only a few seconds.

Wisconsin Upset Victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Gives Democrats a Lift
MSN – Reid Epsein (New York Times) | Published: 4/13/2020

Democrats scored a significant victory in Wisconsin when a liberal challenger upset a Trump-backed incumbent to win a state Supreme Court seat, a down-ballot race that illustrated strong turnout and vote-by-mail efforts in a presidential battleground state. The large margin of victory came as a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike in Wisconsin, where contests for president, governor, and the state’s high court in the last four years have all been decided by about 30,000 votes or less. It followed weeks of Democratic anger over Republicans’ insistence on holding elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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April 16, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Georgia: “Ga. Lawmakers in COVID-19 Campaign Fundraising Limbo” by Beau Evans (Capitol Beat News Service) for Rome News-Tribune Washington: “Washington AG Ferguson Sues Facebook Again, Saying It’s Still Selling Political Ads Without Adequate Disclosures” by Jim Brunner for […]

Campaign Finance

Georgia: “Ga. Lawmakers in COVID-19 Campaign Fundraising Limbo” by Beau Evans (Capitol Beat News Service) for Rome News-Tribune

Washington: “Washington AG Ferguson Sues Facebook Again, Saying It’s Still Selling Political Ads Without Adequate Disclosures” by Jim Brunner for Seattle Times

Elections

Arizona: “November Ballot Measures Threatened by Lack of Public Gatherings, Backers Warn. Judge Weighs Online Petitions” by Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic

Kentucky: “Kentucky Legislature Overrides Veto of GOP Voter ID Measure” by Elise Viebeck for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Supreme Court for First Time to Hold Arguments Via Teleconference Next Month” by Robert Barnes for Washington Post

National: “Sexual Assault Allegation by Former Biden Senate Aide Emerges in Campaign, Draws Denial” by Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, Matt Viser, and Alice Crites (Washington Post) for MSN

Lobbying

National: “Pentagon Looks to Undo Parts of McCain Anti-Lobbying Law” by John Donnelly for Roll Call

National: “Senator Richard Burr Sold D.C. Townhouse to Donor at a Rich Price” by Robert Faturechi for ProPublica

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April 15, 2020 •

Campaign Finance Commission Upholds Ban of Contributions During Suspended Session

Georgia Capitol

Georgia State Capitol Building

The Georgia Campaign Finance Commission issued formal opinions to reiterate the General Assembly is still legally in session. Lawmakers have not officially adjourned sine die, nor has the governor issued an executive order adjourning both houses. Members of the General […]

The Georgia Campaign Finance Commission issued formal opinions to reiterate the General Assembly is still legally in session.

Lawmakers have not officially adjourned sine die, nor has the governor issued an executive order adjourning both houses.

Members of the General Assembly and other statewide elected public officers remain subject to the session ban on campaign contributions.

However, they are permitted to issue reimbursements to themselves and campaign staff for expenses incurred during the suspended session.

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April 15, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Washington: “Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times Elections New York: “New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds” by […]

Campaign Finance

Washington: “Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times

Elections

New York: “New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette

Wisconsin: “Upset Victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Gives Democrats a Lift” by Reid Epsein (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Who’s Getting These Hundreds of Billions in the Government Aid? For Now, the Public May Be in the Dark.” by Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long (Washington Post) for Beaumont Enterprise

South Dakota: “South Dakota’s Governor Resisted Ordering People to Stay Home. Now It Has One of the Nation’s Largest Coronavirus Hot Spots.” by Griff Witte (Washington Post) for MSN

Lobbying

National: “Lobbyists, Political Consultants Sue U.S. for Coronavirus Bailout” by Robert Burnson (Bloomberg) for Washington Post

California: “FPPC Offers Guidance on Lobbying Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19” by Staff for Vallejo Times-Herald

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April 14, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN Elections National: “Democrats Scramble to Close YouTube Deficit Amid Quarantine Campaign” by Alex Thompson for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN

Elections

National: “Democrats Scramble to Close YouTube Deficit Amid Quarantine Campaign” by Alex Thompson for Politico

National: “GOP Pushes Voting by Mail – with Restrictions – While Trump Attacks It as ‘Corrupt’” by Amy Gardenr and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) for MSN

New Hampshire: “New Hampshire Governor to Allow Absentee Voting in November Because of Coronavirus Outbreak” by Amy Gardner and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

Wisconsin: “‘Not as Wisconsin Nice as We Used to Be’: The divisions in Dairyland” by Dionne Searcey (New York Times) for MSN

Legislative Issues

National: “Sidelined by Coronavirus Pandemic, Congress Cedes Stage and Authority to Trump” by Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) for MSN

Lobbying

Florida: “Florida Ethics Panel Rejects COVID-19 Announcements Plan, Upholds Ban on Free Publicity or Exposure” by Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) for Orlando Weekly

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April 13, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Launches Investigation into Horry County Chairman Over Campaign Loan” by Tyler Fleming for Raleigh News and Observer Elections Georgia: “Georgia Further Delays Primary Election to June” by Max Greenwood for The Hill Ethics […]

Campaign Finance

South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Launches Investigation into Horry County Chairman Over Campaign Loan” by Tyler Fleming for Raleigh News and Observer

Elections

Georgia: “Georgia Further Delays Primary Election to June” by Max Greenwood for The Hill

Ethics

National: “Treasury’s Mnuchin ‘Properly’ Followed Guidance in Refusing to Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Congress, Inspector General Finds” by Jeff Stein, Erica Werner, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN

Alabama: “Alabama Supreme Court Upholds 6 Counts Against Mike Hubbard, Reverses 5” by Melissa Brown for Montgomery Advertiser

Missouri: “Amid COVID-19 Funding Scramble, Missouri Senate Gets Ethics Panel Back on Track” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Lobbying

National: “‘Choosing Winners and Losers’: Behind the battle to be deemed essential” by Theodoric Meyer and Anna Gronwold for Politico

New Jersey: “NJ Lawyer-Lobbyists Saw Big Payday in 2019, See Uncertainty For 2020” by Suzette Parmley for Law.com

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April 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign Washington Post – Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes | Published: 4/8/2020 U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who rose from relative obscurity to build a movement and become a two-time runner-up for the […]

National/Federal

Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes | Published: 4/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who rose from relative obscurity to build a movement and become a two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, ended his 2020 campaign, clearing the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to be the party’s choice to take on President Trump in November. The exit by Sanders marked the apparent close of a roller-coaster primary race that started more than a year ago. Sanders’ departure presents Democrats with an immediate challenge: can the party unify as it failed to do in 2016, when a feud between supporters of Sanders and Hillary Clinton damaged its efforts to win the presidency?

Democrats Have Found a Coronavirus Bright Spot. Her Name Is Earnestine.
New York Times – Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 4/8/2020

Members of Congress grappling with how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic have few reasons to smile these days. But House Democrats have found one – Earnestine Dawson. She is kind of a mystery woman, Democrats agree. Most have never seen her, though they all know the sound of her voice. Dawson is the digital director for the House Democratic Caucus, but better known by lawmakers for her pandemic side-gig as moderator of a seemingly endless series of conference calls that have become the Democrats’ only means of communication and deliberation during the pandemic. She has brought them together through tense and serious business: the drafting of three coronavirus relief packages, hashed out during a series of calls that typically lasted two hours.

Foreign Governments Hire U.S. Lobbyists to Promote Their Efforts Fighting the Coronavirus Outbreak
NBC News – Andrew Lehren and Dan De Luce | Published: 4/2/2020

Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other foreign governments are hiring American lobbyists to promote their efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak and safeguard their countries’ reputations in the U.S. capital. Even amid a pandemic that has locked down countries and sent the global economy into a tailspin, foreign governments are seeking out K St. firms to burnish their images as leading the battle against COVID-19.

Lawmakers Granted Extension on Financial Reporting During Pandemic
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/7/2020

The House ethics committee is allowing lawmakers an extra 90 days to file their annual financial statements and will waive all late filing fees with issues “reasonably related” to the coronavirus. The panel’s guidance pushes the deadline for members and senior staffers to file their yearly rundown of financial assets back from May 15 to August 13. This does not eliminate the requirement for members to file periodic transaction reports for individual securities within 45 days of a trade execution.

Politics Through the Looking Glass: Virus scrambles the left-right lines
New York Times – Jim Rutenberg | Published: 4/5/2020

In this stage of the coronavirus crisis, the national political debate is inside out and upside down, sending both sides of the national divide scurrying to figure out where the new political and ideological lines will settle. As Republicans prepare for a re-election battle certain to hinge on perceptions of the Trump administration’s efficiency in performing its duty to protect American lives, the debate over government’s role in American life has entered an unfamiliar phase of discombobulation. A conservative president is now responsible for the largest federal disaster response since the Great Depression. At the same time, lingering right-wing distrust of government combined with a red-and-blue fissure over the severity of the crisis have surfaced national divisions.

Progressives Built an Organizing Juggernaut for 2020. Then the Virus Hit.
MSN – Astead Herndon and Ian Prasad Philbrick (New York Times) | Published: 4/5/2020

When it became clear that former Vice President Joe Biden would almost certainly win the Democratic nomination, many of the progressive Democrats who supported other presidential candidates were disappointed but not deterred. They quickly shifted their electoral focus to candidates lower on the ballot. The plan was straightforward: they would donate to a slew of insurgent congressional candidates, and a stable of grassroots groups would be ready and waiting to organize for the general election and beyond. But that was in a pre-pandemic America. Now many progressive candidates and the organizations that support them are struggling to adapt to a bleak reality – dried up fundraising, unclear election dates, and a moratorium on political tactics like in-person phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

SEC Rules Could Thwart Political Spending Disclosure Efforts
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/7/2020

Under pressure from big business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering new rules that could thwart efforts to mandate public disclosures of corporate political money. If adopted, the proposed regulations could block myriad shareholder resolutions targeting everything from companies’ political disclosures to environmental and corporate governance policies. Though the PACs of corporations must disclose the donations they make, there is no disclosure requirement for companies’ dues and other payments to trade associations that engage in election-related spending.

Sen. David Perdue Bought Stock in a Company That Produces Protective Medical Equipment the Same Day Senators Received a Classified Briefing on the Coronavirus
Business Insider – Sonam Sheth | Published: 4/7/2020

U.S. Sen. David Perdue bought stock in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that produces personal protective equipment, on January 24, the same day the Senate received a classified briefing on the spread of the coronavirus. The revelation came from Perdue’s financial portfolio disclosures. The latest included 110 items related to stock trades. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Perdue engaged in heavy trading in March, when markets plunged, and the virus gained a stronger foothold in the U.S.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Her CEO Husband Will Sell All Individual Stock Shares After Coronavirus Trade Furor
CNBC – Dan Mangan and Thomas Franck | Published: 4/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said she and her husband will liquidate their individual stock share positions and related options after weeks of criticism of the couple for selling millions of dollars in stock amid the coronavirus pandemic. Loeffler reiterated her defense of the prior stock sales as legally and ethically proper, and her claim that the couple’s trading was handled by third parties without her prior knowledge. Loeffler, who is the richest member of the Senate, said in a Wall Street Journal opinion page article announcing her decision that her stock holdings would be converted to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds by third-party advisors who handle her investments.

Trump Calls Fired Watchdog in Impeachment Probe a ‘Disgrace’
ABC News – Mary Clare Jalonick and Deb Reichmann (Associated Press) | Published: 4/4/2020

President Trump criticized the ousted inspector general who handled an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked his impeachment as a “disgrace” and suggested the independent watchdog should have discussed the complaint with him. Trump informed Congress he was firing Michael Atkinson, saying in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he had lost confidence in him. Atkinson’s removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community under Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with skepticism.

Trump, GOP Challenge Efforts to Make Voting Easier Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Greenwich Time – Elise Viebeck, Amy Gardner, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2020

President Trump and a growing number of Republican leaders are aggressively challenging efforts to make voting easier as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts elections, accusing Democrats of opening the door to fraud – and, in some cases, admitting fears that expanded voting access could politically devastate the GOP. Around the country, election officials trying to ensure ballot access and protect public health in upcoming contests face an increasingly coordinated backlash from the right. Much of the onslaught of litigation has been funded by the Republican National Committee, which has sought to block emergency measures related to Covid-19, such as proactively mailing ballots to voters sheltering at home.

Trump’s Resistance to Independent Oversight Draws Bipartisan Scrutiny
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2020

Lawmakers are again confronting a president who has repeatedly defied oversight by the legislative branch, raising questions about whether new safeguards established amid the pandemic will be effective against Donald Trump. The president has shown little hesitation in dismissing independent watchdogs, ignoring congressional subpoenas, and barring current and former administration officials from cooperating with investigations. The resistance to the watchdog system come on two fronts that have largely defined the Trump presidency: his impeachment, which was triggered by his attempts to pressure Ukraine into conducting a political investigation of one of his domestic rivals; and his administration’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, in which trillions of taxpayer dollars are being disbursed.

With Campaigns in Remote Mode, Pandemic Upends Battle for Congress
New York Times – Carl Hulse | Published: 4/5/2020

The spread of Covid-19 has upended the nation’s congressional races as many were just getting started, altering the political landscape in unpredictable ways and forcing candidates in the battle for the Senate and House to adapt to unique circumstances. Campaign officials and strategists are trying to game out the new reality. The crisis could prove to be a boost for incumbents who have a built-in advantage in providing services to constituents at a time when voters are on edge and in need. But it is also shining a potentially unflattering spotlight on Washington’s response to the pandemic, which could hurt lawmakers who were already facing an uphill climb to re-election.

Canada

Canada Appeal Court Nixes Fresh Lobby Probe of Aga Khan in Trudeau Vacation Case
National Post – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 4/2/2020

There is no need for the federal lobbying commissioner to take another look at whether the Aga Khan broke the rules by giving Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas, an appeal court has decided. The Federal Court of Appeal says the commissioner’s original decision not to investigate a complaint about the matter is not subject to review by a judge, effectively making it final. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Mesa Politicians’ Spending Under Scrutiny After Spats Over Gift Cards, Las Vegas Trip
Arizona Republic – Alison Steinbach | Published: 4/8/2020

Mesa is tightening oversight of the city council’s $100,000 in yearly discretionary spending as members bicker over how the money is used. Some council members criticized Councilperson Jeremy Whittaker for what they say was a lavish trip he took to a technology conference at the city’s expense last year. Whittaker has his own concerns about numerous areas of council spending, including council members purchasing gift cards for firefighters. He asked the Goldwater Institute, a local conservative think tank, to investigate. Council members say they will no longer give gift cards and instead will find other ways to express their gratitude to public safety employees.

Colorado Colorado Election Officials Take Aggressive New Approach to Policing Campaign Violations
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 4/8/2020

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is taking a more aggressive approach against possible campaign finance violations. The stance is drawing criticism from some observers who question the state’s authority to pursue complaints and whether the law is being fairly applied. Griswold said she sought the attorney general’s opinion on the new enforcement team to ensure its legality, and the office received money in the budget to create three new positions for the enforcement staff. The reliance on the public to file complaints often resulted in a process that involved political retribution rather than compliance with the law. And the complaints did not always result in sanctions.

Florida Federal Judge Expands Voting Decision to Apply to All Ex-Felons in Florida
Washington Post – Lori Rozsa | Published: 4/7/2020

The federal judge overseeing the ongoing dispute between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and released felons who want to vote handed the governor another defeat. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle said a previous ruling he made that allowed felons to vote, even if they owe fines and fees stemming from their convictions, covers all individuals statewide, not just the 17 people who originally sued DeSantis. The order applies to an estimated 1.4 million people. Though Florida voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow automatic restoration of voting rights after prison, Republican lawmakers have sought to impose requirements that would block many from registering.

Florida Florida Election Officials Sound the Alarm Ahead of November
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 4/7/2020

Election supervisors in Florida warned Gov. Ron DeSantis that he needs to change the law to give them more flexibility to avoid a presidential election meltdown in the nation’s biggest swing state. The county officials, who issued the alert on the same day Wisconsin held a primary amid widespread fears and irregularities due to the coronavirus, said the changes are needed to accommodate more absentee ballot voters, who could be scared away from the polls if the coronavirus outbreak persists into the August primary or the November general election.

Florida ‘Open Government’ Moves Online Amid COVID-19 Thanks to Push from Jacksonville Ethics Director
WTLV – Shelby Danielson | Published: 4/4/2020

On March 20, an executive order went into effect across Florida temporarily changing how elected officials can conduct government business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, the Sunshine Law requires elected officials to meet in person. But with the social distancing standards in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, officials were unable to meet as usual. That concern only grew early on in Jacksonville when city Councilperson Sam Newby tested positive for Covid-19. Days before Newby tested positive, Jacksonville City Ethics Director Carla Miller had already sensed something needed to be done as soon as possible in order to keep government business moving and maintain the public’s access to meetings.

Idaho A ‘Liberty’ Rebellion in Idaho Threatens to Undermine Coronavirus Orders
Seattle Times – Mike Baker (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2020

In a state with pockets of wariness about big government and mainstream medicine, the sweeping restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus have run into rebellion in some parts of Idaho, which is facing its own worrying spike in cases. The opposition is coming not only from people like Ammon Bundy, whose armed takeover of a wildlife refuge with dozens of other men and women led to a standoff, but also from some state lawmakers and a county sheriff who are calling Gov. Brad Little’s statewide stay-at-home order an infringement on individual liberties. Health care providers have been horrified at the public calls to countermand social-distancing requirements, warning that failing to take firm measures could overwhelm Idaho’s small hospitals.

Michigan A Michigan Congresswoman, a Guy in Line in China and a Global Scramble to Find N95 Mask
Laredo Morning Times – Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2020

The race for masks and gowns to protect doctors, nurses, and paramedics from the coronavirus pandemic has consumed governors, presidents, prime ministers, and other politicians around the world. U.S. Rep. Elyssa Slotkin, the governor’s office, and the rest of the Michigan congressional delegation had been working closely with the Big Three auto manufacturers, which have long-standing relationships in China, to secure masks. But even with their help, the demand was far outpacing supply, leaving Slotkin to improvise as best she could as her office was being overwhelmed by increasingly desperate pleas from doctors and nurses begging for help.

Michigan As Coronavirus Scare Relaxes Michigan Transparency Laws, Experts Question Long-Term Effects
MLive.com – Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 4/8/2020

Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, both from 1976, set rules for meetings to ensure they are accessible to residents allow people to request and receive public documents. Neither transparency law was created with pandemics or internet capabilities in mind. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive orders in recent weeks to temporarily relax the laws due to the coronavirus pandemic. The changes are unprecedented, experts say, and happening across the country through executive order or legislative action. Michigan’s orders emphasize the need to keep up transparency and accountability more than many other states, said Robin Luce-Hermmann, Michigan Press Association general counsel.

Minnesota Lobbying on Hold as Minnesota Legislature Focuses on COVID-19
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jessie Van Berkel | Published: 4/7/2020

From social advocacy to corporate lobbying, the work of influencing state lawmakers in person has been largely put on hold as the pandemic demands the Minnesota Legislature’s full attention and forces people to temporarily abandon the Capitol. While COVID-19 has forced a surge in online advocacy, the struggle to contain the virus has taken precedence over the anticipated legislative battles over guns, insulin, legal marijuana, building projects, and other controversies that dominated the early days of the session. The focus, instead, turned to Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency orders temporarily closing schools and most public places, including many businesses that sought exemptions from the “stay-at-home” directive. But the old needs have not disappeared.

Minnesota Minnesota Lawmaker’s New College Job Sparks Conflict-of-Interest Questions
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 4/3/2020

As the legislative session got underway in mid-February, Minnesota Sen. Erik Simonson introduced a bill to secure nearly $1 million in state infrastructure bonds for a major expansion at Lake Superior College. On April 1, Simonson started a new $100,053-a-year job as executive director of continuing education and customized training at the college. While he applied months earlier, the transition, he said, was “accelerated” when cuts prompted by the coronavirus pandemic threatened his previous job as chief executive officer of the Lake Superior Zoo. The timing of Simonson’s new job with Lake Superior College has sparked questions from some experts on government ethics.

Missouri JoCo Official May Have Violated Ethics Code, Report Says. City Council Disregards It
Kansas City Star – Sarah Ritter | Published: 4/8/2020

An outside investigator found Olathe City Councilperson Karin Brownlee may have violated the city’s code of ethics when she spoke to the employer of a gay rights activist about his conduct. In a second opinion, a retired judge disagreed. Advocate Brett Hoedl, who led the push for the city to adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community, filed an ethics complaint against Brownlee in November. He accused the council member of complaining to his employer about his activism. He argued Brownlee used her position to silence residents with opinions that differ from her own. Brownlee has contended she engaged in a casual conversation.

New Jersey Murphy Officially Delays New Jersey Primary to July 7: ‘I don’t want a Wisconsin’
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 4/8/2020

Gov. Phil Murphy officially postponed New Jersey’s primary election from June 2 to July 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The widely expected delay allows the state more time to decide whether the election should be conducted solely by mail-in ballot or whether polling places will open. “Our democracy cannot be a casualty of Covid-19,” Murphy said.

New York Quest for COVID Gear Brings $119 Million Deal with de Blasio Donor
The City – Gabriel Sandoval | Published: 4/8/2020

New York City’s frantic hunt for protective masks and medical equipment to combat coronavirus led officials to sign emergency contracts totaling nearly $119 million with a firm run by a major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failed presidential campaign. Digital Gadgets entered into three contracts with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Before March 25, Digital Gadgets had never appeared in the city comptroller’s decade old CheckbookNYC tracking system. Company Chief Executive Officer Charlie Tebele and family members made donations totaling $32,000 to de Blasio’s now-abandoned campaign for the Democratic nomination and related PACs. Tebele and family members also contributed at least $12,750 to de Blasio’s 2017 reelection campaign.

Ohio ‘Coingate’ Convict Tom Noe Among Ohio Inmates Gov. Mike DeWine Wants to Release Early Amid Coronavirus Fears
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 4/7/2020

Tom Noe, the central figure in the 2005 “Coingate” scandal, is among 200-plus Ohio prison inmates Gov. Mike DeWine is recommending for early release because of the coronavirus threat. Noe was once a rising Republican star, chairing the Lucas County Republican Party and serving on the Ohio Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public colleges and universities. He was convicted of racketeering, money laundering, aggravated theft, forgery, and tampering with records. The jury estimated he stole $1.1 million from the state.

Ohio Federal Judge Denies Voter Advocates’ Lawsuit to Change Ohio Primary Election
Columbus Dispatch – Rick Rouan | Published: 4/3/2020

A federal judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order sought by voter advocates who want to move Ohio’s voter registration deadline and make other changes to the state’s new election plan. The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Philip Randolph Institute argued the plan adopted by the Ohio General Assembly to extend absentee balloting until April 28, with limited in-person voting, violated the National Voter Registration Act and the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Attorneys for the state argued that changing the election again would sow more confusion among voters.

Tennessee Rep. Joe Towns Reaches Campaign Finance Violation Settlement After Board Takes Votes by Email
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 4/3/2020

Despite facing more than $66,000 in penalties for failing to file certain documents, Tennessee Rep. Joe Towns is set to once again appear on the ballot thanks to an agreement reached by a public agency that took votes via email. The behind-the-scenes decision is raising questions over whether the Registry of Election Finance violated the state’s open meetings law and a recent executive order from Gov. Bill Lee. The arrangement allowed Towns to pay $22,000 in order to become eligible to appear on the fall ballot.

Virginia Northam Reschedules Va. Primary Elections to June 23
Washington Times – Sophie Kaplan | Published: 4/8/2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam delayed the June 9 primary elections by two weeks and asked the General Assembly to push back May’s elections to November due to the coronavirus. Governors can reschedule only primary elections, so he recommended that lawmakers move the May 5 elections to November 3 when they reconvene on April 22.

Wisconsin Rulings on Wisconsin Election Raise Questions About Judicial Partisanship
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court both rejected efforts to delay the state’s April 7 elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. Election law experts said the stark divisions in the rulings did not bode well for faith in the rule of law and American democracy. When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on emergency applications, it almost never gives reasons. But the court’s conservative majority spent four pages explaining why it had refused to extend absentee voting. The contrasting visions of the two sides, one viewing the case as minor and technical and the other as an effort to vindicate a fundamental constitutional value, amounted to a deep disagreement about the judicial role in voting rights cases.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Now Waits for the Spring Election Results – and Then the Lawsuits
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind and Kelly Meyerhofer (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 4/8/2020

Wisconsin will not know the results of the April 7 election until April 13, but chances are the results will be challenged via a cascade of lawsuits in state or federal court if the margins in major races are as close as they have been in recent years. Possible legal challenges to the election results, fueled by voter complaints about voting hurdles, threaten to further undermine the perceived integrity of the election and the legitimacy of those elected as a result. Statewide, more than 10,000 voters who did not receive requested absentee ballots by Election Day, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission data, were forced to make the choice between sitting out the election or voting in person and risking their health.

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April 9, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Colorado: “Colorado Election Officials Take Aggressive New Approach to Policing Campaign Violations” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun Elections National: “Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign” by Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes for Washington Post Florida: “Federal Judge […]

Campaign Finance

Colorado: “Colorado Election Officials Take Aggressive New Approach to Policing Campaign Violations” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun

Elections

National: “Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign” by Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes for Washington Post

Florida: “Federal Judge Expands Voting Decision to Apply to All Ex-Felons in Florida” by Lori Rozsa for Washington Post

Wisconsin: “Rulings on Wisconsin Election Raise Questions About Judicial Partisanship” by Adam Liptak (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Her CEO Husband Will Sell All Individual Stock Shares After Coronavirus Trade Furor” by Dan Mangan and Thomas Franck for CNBC

National: “Trump Throws ‘Wrecking Ball’ Across Federal Inspectors General” by John Donnelly for Roll Call

Ohio: “‘Coingate’ Convict Tom Noe Among Ohio Inmates Gov. Mike DeWine Wants to Release Early Amid Coronavirus Fears” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Legislative Issues

National: “Democrats Have Found a Coronavirus Bright Spot. Her Name Is Earnestine.” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg for New York Times

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April 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “SEC Rules Could Thwart Political Spending Disclosure Efforts” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call Elections National: “Progressives Built an Organizing Juggernaut for 2020. Then the Virus Hit.” by Astead Herndon and Ian Prasad Philbrick (New York Times) […]

Campaign Finance

National: “SEC Rules Could Thwart Political Spending Disclosure Efforts” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Elections

National: “Progressives Built an Organizing Juggernaut for 2020. Then the Virus Hit.” by Astead Herndon and Ian Prasad Philbrick (New York Times) for MSN

Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Now Waits for the Spring Election Results – and Then the Lawsuits” by Riley Vetterkind and Kelly Meyerhofer (Wisconsin State Journal) for Madison.com

Ethics

National: “Sen. David Perdue Bought Stock in a Company That Produces Protective Medical Equipment the Same Day Senators Received a Classified Briefing on the Coronavirus” by Sonam Sheth for Business Insider

Idaho: “A ‘Liberty’ Rebellion in Idaho Threatens to Undermine Coronavirus Orders” by Mike Baker for New York Times

Lobbying

Minnesota: “Lobbying on Hold as Minnesota Legislature Focuses on COVID-19” by Jessie Van Berkel for Minneapolis Star Tribune

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April 7, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Tennessee: “Rep. Joe Towns Reaches Campaign Finance Violation Settlement After Board Takes Votes by Email” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean Elections National: “With Campaigns in Remote Mode, Pandemic Upends Battle for Congress” by Carl Hulse for New […]

Campaign Finance

Tennessee: “Rep. Joe Towns Reaches Campaign Finance Violation Settlement After Board Takes Votes by Email” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean

Elections

National: “With Campaigns in Remote Mode, Pandemic Upends Battle for Congress” by Carl Hulse for New York Times

Wisconsin: “As Nation Battles Coronavirus, Wisconsin Election Forges on with In-Person Voting” by Kendall Karson and Meg Cunningham for ABC News

Ethics

National: “Politics Through the Looking Glass: Virus scrambles the left-right lines” by Jim Rutenberg for New York Times

Florida: “‘Open Government’ Moves Online Amid COVID-19 Thanks to Push from Jacksonville Ethics Director” by Shelby Danielson for WTLV

Lobbying

Canada: “Appeal Court Nixes Fresh Lobby Probe of Aga Khan in Trudeau Vacation Case” by Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) for National Post

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