February 5, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star

Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen Klas for Tampa Bay Times

Oregon: “Why a Bill Intended to Avoid a Legally Messy Election Season Has One Campaign Finance Advocate Worried” by Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) for Blue Mountain Eagle

Elections

Wisconsin: “Democratic Convention Host Committee Leaders Put on Leave” by Scott Bauer for AP News

Ethics

Canada: “RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC

Lobbying

National: “Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

National: “US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying” by Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo for AP News

National: “Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Florida: “Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd” by Douglas Hanks for Miami Herald

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February 3, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom New Mexico: […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News

National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom

New Mexico: “Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule” by Victpria Preiskop for Courthouse News Service

Ethics

National: “Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN

Illinois: “Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation” by Peter Hancock for Southern Illinoisan

New Jersey: “Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics” by Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald for Bergen Record

Texas: “DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows” by Miles Moffeit for Dallas News

Lobbying

California: “Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist” by Matt Fountain for San Luis Obispo Tribune

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January 31, 2020 •

Santa Fe Campaign Disclosure Ordinance Ruled Constitutional

A federal judge in New Mexico ruled on January 30 that a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending more than $250 on a ballot proposition is constitutional. Santa Fe Campaign Code 9-2.6, passed in 2015, states that a […]

A federal judge in New Mexico ruled on January 30 that a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending more than $250 on a ballot proposition is constitutional.

Santa Fe Campaign Code 9-2.6, passed in 2015, states that a person or entity spending $250 or more in support or defeat of a ballot proposition must disclose all expenditures made and contributions received with the city clerk.

Senior U.S. District Court judge Judith C. Herrera’s ruling stems from a 2017 lawsuit brought by nonprofit Rio Grande Foundation.

The suit claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation was an infringement on free speech.

While the foundation argued that anonymity protects donors from potential harassment from those who disagree with the issues being advocated, the judge found that the disclosure requirements of the ordinance serve substantial governmental interests.

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January 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020 Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her […]

National/Federal

House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020

Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.

How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020

In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.

How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020

Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.

Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020

There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020

Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.

Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020

Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020

An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.

Arkansas Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020

A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.

California L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020

The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

California Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020

San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.

California Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020

Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.

Colorado Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020

When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020

A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.

Florida Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020

Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.

Florida Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020

Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.

Illinois Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020

The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.

Indiana Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020

Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.

Kentucky These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020

At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.

Louisiana Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020

The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.

Maine Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020

A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.

Maryland After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020

With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government.  Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.

Maryland Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020

Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.

Massachusetts Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020

A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.

Massachusetts Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020

John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.

Michigan Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.

Michigan Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020

Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.

Missouri Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020

Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.

Missouri Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.

Missouri Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020

Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.

New York Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.

New York Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020

The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.

North Carolina Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020

Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.

Ohio Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.

Oregon Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020

Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.

Pennsylvania Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020

Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.

Texas Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020

San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.

Washington Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020

There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.

Washington DC Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020

Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration  in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.

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January 30, 2020 •

Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021

Oregon State Capitol Building

House Democrats introduced a bill putting the 2006 voter approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021. House Bill 4124 would give lawmakers more time to pass new campaign contribution limits to replace those approved by voters. […]

House Democrats introduced a bill putting the 2006 voter approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021.

House Bill 4124 would give lawmakers more time to pass new campaign contribution limits to replace those approved by voters.

The bill would allow the Legislature to appoint a task force to study campaign finance and make recommendations on how to best establish effective political contribution limits.

Currently, Oregon has no campaign contribution limits because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative voters passed almost two decades ago.

The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to rule on Multnomah County’s voter approved campaign finance limits at some point this year.

A ruling in favor of the campaign finance limits would likely revive statewide donation caps as well.

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January 30, 2020 •

Oakland Public Ethics Commission to Consider Adjusting Contribution Limits

The Public Ethics Commission will consider annual adjustments to the contribution limits at their regular meeting next week. Commission staff will present an updated list of the campaign contribution limits and expenditure ceiling amounts, as adjusted according to the increase […]

The Public Ethics Commission will consider annual adjustments to the contribution limits at their regular meeting next week.

Commission staff will present an updated list of the campaign contribution limits and expenditure ceiling amounts, as adjusted according to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as required by the Oakland Campaign Finance Reform Act.

The limitations on contributions from persons to candidates who adopt the voluntary expenditure ceiling will increase to $900 per election.

If approved, the adjusted limits will be in effect for the 2020 elections.

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January 30, 2020 •

Missouri Contributions Limits Increased for Legislative Candidates

Missouri Capitol Building

The Missouri Ethics Commission increased contribution limits for state House and Senate candidates. The per election limits have increased from $2,000 to $2,046 for House candidates and from $2,500 to $2,559 for Senate candidates. The inflationary adjustments are the first […]

The Missouri Ethics Commission increased contribution limits for state House and Senate candidates.

The per election limits have increased from $2,000 to $2,046 for House candidates and from $2,500 to $2,559 for Senate candidates.

The inflationary adjustments are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018.

The $5 lobbyist gift limit for members of the General Assembly remains unchanged.

There are several bills pending in the House and Senate that would lower contribution limits.

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January 30, 2020 •

Injunction Upheld in Arkansas Campaign Contribution Blackout Case

Arkansas State Capitol

A panel of federal appellate judges held on January 27 that a campaign contribution blackout law that has been in place in Arkansas since 1996 is likely unconstitutional. The panel upheld a preliminary injunction that U.S. District Judge James Moody […]

A panel of federal appellate judges held on January 27 that a campaign contribution blackout law that has been in place in Arkansas since 1996 is likely unconstitutional.

The panel upheld a preliminary injunction that U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. imposed June 17 to prohibit Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203(e) from being enforced while its constitutionality is determined.

The law, part of a package of campaign-finance measures approved by voters in 1995, bars candidates for state offices from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election.

The constitutionality of the law was challenged as an infringement on the right of political expression by preventing contributions to potential candidates in the 2022 election cycle.

The state argued that the purpose of the blackout period is to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption, but the panel said it hadn’t shown that early contributions present a greater risk of corruption than later contributions.

The Office of the Attorney General could seek a rehearing before the full 8th Circuit within 14 days.

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January 30, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico

National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters

Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Elections

National: “How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard” by Reid Epstein (New York Times) for Chicago Tribune

Massachusetts: “Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature” by Jo Goode for Fall River Herald News

Ethics

California: “Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe” by Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez for San Francisco Chronicle

Kentucky: “These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors” by R.G. Dunlop for WFPL

Maryland: “After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws” by Ovetta Wiggins for Washington Post

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January 29, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News Elections California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle […]

Campaign Finance

Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service

Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News

Elections

California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind” by Ben Christopher for CALmatters

Ethics

Florida: “New Tallahassee Ethics Officer in Hot Seat After Politically Charged Tweets Surface” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat

Texas: “Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial” by Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) for San Angelo Morning-Times

Washington DC: “Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post

Lobbying

North Carolina: “Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation” by Nick Ochsner for WBTV

Procurement

Maryland: “Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects” by Talia Richmond for Baltimore Sun

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January 28, 2020 •

Progress Michigan Seeking to Amend State Constitution to Ban Lobbyist Gifts, etc.

Michigan State Capitol

Progress Michigan is seeking to amend the state constitution to Ban lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts, including meals, drinks, and trips, to public officials Require lobbyists and public officials to make a public record of their phone calls, […]

Progress Michigan is seeking to amend the state constitution to

    • Ban lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts, including meals, drinks, and trips, to public officials
    • Require lobbyists and public officials to make a public record of their phone calls, meetings, and other communications with each other
    • Require a two-year cooling off period before public officials could become lobbyists
    • Ban contingency pay for lobbyists

Progress Michigan is part of the Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, which filed proposed language with the state for the November 2020 ballot.

A constitutional amendment requires the group to collect signatures of registered voters equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast for all candidates in the last gubernatorial election, or at least 425,055 valid signatures by July 6.

The group is seeking a constitutional amendment, rather than a legislative initiative, which requires fewer signatures, to prevent the Legislature from amending the proposal.

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January 28, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” […]

Campaign Finance

Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star

Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” by Kavahn Mansouri for Belleville News-Democrat

Elections

National: “Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN

Massachusetts: “Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery” by Milton Valencia for Boston Globe

Michigan: “Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say” by Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger for Detroit News

New York: “Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo” by Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Legislative Issues

Colorado: “Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio

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January 27, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill Elections National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison […]

Campaign Finance

National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill

Elections

National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison for Washington Post

Ethics

Arizona: “David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says” by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic

Illinois: “Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair” by Lolly Bowean for Chicago Tribune

Pennsylvania: “Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail” by Julie Shaw for Philadelphia Inquirer

Lobbying

Michigan: “Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News

New York: “Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist” by Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Procurement

California: “L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times

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January 24, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 24, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020 Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to […]

National/Federal

A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers
The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020

Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to victory can still be difficult for those who cannot afford to dedicate all their time to campaigning. Under federal guidelines, candidates running in a general election are permitted to use some of their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. But FEC members worried candidates would just game the system. A compromise was reached whereby candidates can pay themselves at a per-diem rate equal to the salary of the job they had before entering the race, or the salary of the office they are seeking, whichever is less. Another FEC restriction on candidates who draw salaries makes campaigning particularly tough for primary challengers.

Bloomberg’s Billions Stay Veiled While Funding 2020 Campaign
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/22/2020

Michael Bloomberg has bought his way into the 2020 presidential race with hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune. But he may not provide any details about where that money comes from until more than half of the Democratic primary is over. While his rivals have disclosed years of financial details on everything from book deals to vacation homes, Bloomberg has not released any financial information since launching a late campaign fueled entirely by his $60 billion in wealth. The former New York City mayor was granted an extension on filing mandatory financial disclosure forms until March 20, more than halfway through the delegate race and after Super Tuesday, when Bloomberg hopes to make his first splash in delegate-rich states like California and Texas.

Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates
Politico – Maya King | Published: 1/21/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s big television ad campaign has made politicking more expensive for everyone from his 2020 rivals to Senate, House, and state legislative candidates around the country. Eight weeks into his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has already spent more money on advertising, $248 million, than most candidates could spend in years. That amount has squeezed TV ad inventory in nearly every state, lowering supply and causing stations to raise ad prices at a time of high demand, as candidates around the country gear up for their primaries. On average in markets around the country, prices for political TV ads have risen by 20 percent since Bloomberg began his campaign. Meanwhile, some local politicians have already found difficulty trying to reach their own constituencies.

Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/17/2020

Hoping to bypass the paralyzed FEC, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit after the agency lost a quorum of at least four commissioners needed to vote on enforcement matters. It targets the FEC’s failure to act on alleged disclosure violations by two federal super PACs that funneled almost $6.4 million to aid the 2016 election of Eric Greitens as Missouri governor. If successful, the legal strategy could help CREW and other groups press for more transparency and enforcement of other rules in an election year expected to see record campaign spending, even if the FEC continues to be hobbled.

Dem Debates Are Magnet for Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/20/2020

Many of those flocking to the Democratic presidential debates are lobbyists with campaign experience, allowing them the chance to relieve their glory days on the trail and catch up with old friends. But it is also an opportunity to make connections and learn from the insiders working with each campaign. Clients want information about the primary including the inside scoop on who is gaining or losing steam, one Democratic consultant noted. “Clients care about how political the atmosphere is going to affect their business or their issue sets,” the consultant said. But attending the debates can also be a complicated decision for lobbyists as the industry face attacks from Democrats and progressive groups. With lobbyists and donations from special interest groups under scrutiny, campaigns also are careful to not appear too cozy with lobbyists.

Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/15/2020

Unprepared Democrats got bulldozed in 2010 by a $30 million Republican campaign to win state Legislatures, and the right to draw political maps that would help them hold power for the next decade. Now, Democrats are readying a massive $50 million effort of their own to shape the next 10 years of elections by flipping state legislative chambers in places as red as Texas and West Virginia. The plan represents a sea change for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a former backwater in Democratic politics that has transformed as the party grappled with the importance of redistricting. In 2020, the last election before states redraw their political boundaries using new Census data, the winners of many state Legislatures get the power to draw congressional lines that will last an entire decade.

Ethics Expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said. The experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairperson of the NRCC, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to Emmer facing an investigation by the House ethics committee. A complaint sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleges Emmer violated House rules when the NRCC repeatedly filmed Democrats in the halls of Congress, which are considered official resources, for campaign or political purposes and in violation of chamber rules and federal law.

Former Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Just Over Two Years in Federal Prison
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison for insider trading crimes he committed, ending a legal process that evolved from the New York Republican calling the charges “meritless” shortly after he was indicted to him pleading guilty and proclaiming embarrassment for his actions. Collins pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to commit insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal his illegal activity. He resigned from Congress the day before his guilty plea. The former lawmaker also must pay a $200,000 fine and will be under one year of supervised release.

High Court to Rule on ‘Faithless Electors’ in Presidential Vote
Yahoo News – Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/17/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else. Advocates for the court’s intervention say the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and the prospect of a close margin in a presidential election, although so-called faithless electors have been a footnote so far in American history. About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the popular vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. The Supreme Court accepted cases from Washington and Colorado in time to hold oral arguments this spring and decide the outcome by June.

K Street Firms Post Big Earnings Gains for 2019
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/21/2020

K Street’s top-tier firms posted sizable gains last year, fueled by technology, pharmaceutical, and big-business interests concerned with such policy matters as trade, health care, taxation, and government spending. Lobbyists say impeachment proceedings and the 2020 campaigns have not yet derailed the influence industry’s agenda this year.

Lev Is Talking. So Where Is Igor?
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Natalie Gryvnyak | Published: 1/21/2020

Lev Parnas, Rudolph Giuliani’s fixer in the Ukraine saga, has dominated the airwaves on the eve of President Trump’s impeachment trial, turning over text messages to House lawmakers and pointing the finger at the president in prime-time cable interviews. Meanwhile, his onetime sidekick and fellow Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, is nowhere to be seen. Under house arrest in Miami and facing federal campaign finance charges, Fruman has split with Parnas, retained counsel from Trump’s world, and stayed true to his reputation as the quiet partner in the duo who stumbled into a presidential impeachment scandal. Behind Fruman’s silence are many of the answers to how the two business executives cracked elite GOP donor circles, and possessed the right connections in Ukraine to connect Giuliani with high-level officials who offered to aid Trump and damage Democrats.

Park Strategies Execs Draw Ire of OFAC in Settlement
Compliance Week – Kyle Brassuer | Published: 1/22/2020

The lobbying firm Park Strategies paid $12,150 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. While the settlement amount is relatively minor compared to most enforcement actions, the penalty could have been much larger given the way in which the alleged violations were carried out. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Park Strategies entered a contract with Al-Barakaat Group of Companies Somalia in August 2017. Al-Barakaat was added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List in 2001 and characterized as a global terrorist organization.

Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/17/2020

A PAC operator whose company raised more than $20 million in recent years but spent almost no money on political activity was sentenced to three years in prison. Kelley Rogers, former president of the consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in one of the first cases of its kind, a sign federal authorities are beginning to crack down on “scam PACs” that raise money from donors in the name of political causes but keep most of those funds for profit. Often, Rogers and others at Strategic Campaign Group reinvested the money they raised into finding more donors, with the help of a circle of preferred vendors that received large sums for their services.

Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2020

Our Revolution is a nonprofit founded by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders that has caused some awkwardness for him in his second run for president. While the group is supporting Sanders’ candidacy, it accepts large donations without fully disclosing who made them, a practice at odds with his calls for greater transparency and stated desire to curtail the power of the wealthy in elections. Sanders said he would “have no problem” with the group opting to provide more information about its donors. But he suggested he would not call on its leaders to do so while his opponents continue to rely on similar organizations. Though barred by federal laws from coordinating with his campaign, the group has emerged as a potent part of Sanders’ grassroots army, with hundreds of thousands of members and activists working across the country to promote his presidential bid.

Tech Giants Led by Amazon, Facebook and Google Spent Nearly $500 Million on Lobbying in 10 Years, Data Show
San Francisco Chronicle – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

Ten years ago, Google executives rarely spoke to Congress, Amazon employed just two of its own registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and Facebook had only recently graduated to a real office after running its Washington operation out of an employee’s living room. Since then, these companies have evolved into some of the most potent political forces in the nation’s capital, with just seven technology giants accounting for nearly $500 million in lobbying over the past decade. The data tell the story of a sector that increasingly has tapped its wealth to beat back regulatory threats and boost its bottom line. Despite scandals that exposed users’ personal information and left democratic elections in digital disarray, Congress has failed to adopt new laws to limit the industry, a reality some critics attribute in part to the Silicon Valley’s evolving lobbying prowess.

Trump Hotel’s Mix of GOP Insiders and Hangers-on Helped Give Rise to Impeachment Episodes
Anchorage Daily News – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020

For three years, President Trump’s hotel near the White House has been a relaxed hangout for Republicans. Candidates raise money in the ballrooms and members of Congress and lobbyists dine in the steakhouse. Hangers-on wait at the bar, taking selfies in “#americaslivingroom.” That arrangement worked for Republicans because it compressed a city’s worth of networking into one room. It worked for Trump because he converted political allies into private customers. But the hotel’s atmosphere of blurred lines – mixing the public interest with Trump’s private interests and mixing the GOP’s leaders and its wannabe fringes – helped give rise to a scandal that threatens to overshadow Trump’s presidency.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Agriculture Group Puts Arizona Lobbyist on Leave as Lawmaker Denies Romantic Relationship
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Published: 1/22/2020

A lobbyist was put on leave from her job with the Western Growers Association after questions were raised about a possible romantic relationship with an Arizona lawmaker. State Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr said in separate interviews that they are friends and their relationship did not cross ethical lines. The Arizona Republic received a batch of handwritten letters that portray a close relationship between Cook, a married rancher representing a rural Pinal County district, and Knorr, who works on legislation backed by the agricultural industry and is the daughter of an influential lobbyist.

Colorado Hickenlooper Faces Renewed Pressure and Questions About His Administration’s Spending in Final Months
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 1/17/2020

A little-noticed government account that is paying ongoing legal bills related to an ethics complaint against U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is facing renewed scrutiny even as his allies continue to block requests for an audit of the spending. In its final months, the former Colorado governor’s administration used federal funds from a 2003 account to cover a prominent attorney $525-an-hour fee and spent $13,385 for a legacy website designed to tell the story of how Hickenlooper and his team “paved the way for Colorado’s journey and growth.” Hickenlooper’s top rival in the Democratic primary is joining the call for the audit. And now a state lawmaker is pursuing legislation to get better answers about the off-budget spending by the executive branch.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Want Same Privacy as Cops and Judges, But Why?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/22/2020

Senate Bill 832 would give Florida lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private. But while threats made against police and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Senate committee approved the bill along party lines that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers. Under the bill, the personal information and places of employment of their spouses and children would be exempt. So, too, would be information that lawmakers do not disclose when they run for office, such as the names and locations of the schools their children attend.

Florida Florida Supreme Court Issues Setback for Amendment 4 Supporters
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/16/2020

The Florida Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers who have argued that felons must pay back all court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution before registering to vote. In a narrow opinion requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis, justices gave their answer on one of the questions at the heart of the historic ballot measure voters passed in 2018. Celebrated as one of the greatest expansions of voting rights in decades, it restored the right to vote to most non-violent felons who completed “all terms of sentence.”  But the phrase “all terms of sentence” became a flash point in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers lined up behind Senate Bill 7066, which defined “all terms” to include all financial obligations.

Florida Hillsborough’s Lobbying Rules Get Tweaked
Tampa Bay Times – Anastasia Dawson | Published: 1/19/2020

Hillsborough County was one of the first local governments in the nation to create its own lobbying ordinance, a measure meant to protect the public’s right to know when elected officials interact with people paid to influence them. But county officials say a loophole in the ordinance afforded prominent operative Ed Turanchik access to county commissioners that fell outside rules requiring public oversight – and later, got him an official warning from the county attorney’s office. Going forward, parties that contract with the county will be required to provide written justification for why retaining the services of a lobbyist is essential to the project. And lobbyists looking to work as consultants with the county will be scrutinized for possible or perceived conflicts of interest, Lobbyist Registration Manager Dave Couvertier said.

Florida What’s a ‘Lobbyist’? Tallahassee Ethics Board May Recommend Broader Definition
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/22/2020

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is likely to make recommendations to ensure public officials are being transparent about who they are meeting with and what effect those meetings have on official action. Although the board does not have the power to regulate lobbyists, it could ask city officials to expand who falls under the definition. The board could also make recommendations on the calendars that elected officials keep and expand who needs to register to include developers, and public relations and communications firms. City commissioners ultimately would have to approve any changes to the ethics ordinance.

Iowa Chaos Feared Despite Iowa Democrats’ Caucus Fixes
Fairfield Citizen – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

With at least four Democratic candidates seemingly in contention to win Iowa’s presidential caucus, some in the party fear reforms put in place to prevent the disarray of 2016 may create an entirely new set of problems in 2020. It has been the tradition that voting plays out in school gyms and church basements, with multiple vote tabulations as supporters of candidates who do not reach a threshold on the initial vote scramble to make a second choice among the remaining contenders. This year, for the first time, the state party will release the initial raw vote totals as well as the final delegate allocation. The change will mean more transparency, but it also raises the possibility that multiple campaigns could claim a victory of sorts, with supporters of one candidate seeing another’s triumph as illegitimate.

Maryland Former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges. Then She Hugs FBI Agents.
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/22/2020

Seven months after reaching a secret deal with federal prosecutors, and a month after suddenly resigning from the Maryland Legislature, former Del. Cheryl Glenn admitted taking bribes in exchange for political favors in court. In her plea, Glenn admitted she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company. She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license.

Michigan Ballot Plan Bans Lobbyists from Buying Food for Michigan Lawmakers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

Lobbyists in Michigan would no longer be able to buy meals or provide anything of value for state lawmakers under a ballot proposal by Progress Michigan. The initiative, which aims to amend the state constitution, would also create a two-year waiting period before former elected officials could become lobbyists and would require lobbyists to publicly log what topics they are discussing with lawmakers. In addition to buying food for lawmakers, lobbyists can now provide them with gifts as long as the gifts do not cost more than $63 and fund trips for them.

Missouri Proposed Measures Tackle Initiative Petitions
Jefferson City News Tribune – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/23/2020

Two years after Missouri voters approved two constitutional amendments that began as initiative petitions, some state lawmakers are trying to make it harder to pass more in the future. Sen. David Sater proposed a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments by petition, and a bill that would change several parts of the initiative process, including adding a $500 fee to file a petition, among other provisions. Missouri is one of 16 states that allow voters to put proposed constitutional amendments directly on the ballot by initiative petition. Sater said he wants to keep that process intact but wants to make it harder to change the state constitution.

New Jersey He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi | Published: 1/20/2020

A former member of the New Jersey Assembly named in two federal search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Orange, once collected more than $21,000 in campaign funds for a race he never ran for, and what happened with the money is unclear, records show. An NJ Advance Media review of campaign finance records show Willis Edwards III created an election fund more than 10 years ago in a bid for East Orange mayor. But Edwards never ran in the June 2009 primary or any other East Orange race. It is unknown what happened to the thousands of dollars in his campaign coffers. No expenditure reports were filed, as is required by law.

New Mexico Report Flags ‘Outsized Influence’ of Lobbyists
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/17/2020

A report by New Mexico Ethics Watch describes a culture in which the lobbying ranks in the state are filled with relatives of legislators and even former lawmakers themselves. In the report, Ethics Watch recommended many measures to increase transparency and limit the influence of lobbyists. “Personal relationships and family ties between legislators and lobbyists are an important part of NM’s legislative culture,” the report says. “They are backed up by a formidable arsenal of campaign contributions, meals at fancy restaurants, and special events in Santa Fe and out-of-state cities where legislators gather for national conferences.”

New York After Court Rulings, Unclear Future for Push to Restrict State Legislators’ Outside Income
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 1/21/2020

After two years of legislative negotiations, commission reports, and lawsuits, parts of a planned salary increase for state officials in New York remain up in the air, and the fate of long-sought restrictions on legislators’ outside income sits entirely with lawmakers themselves. With rulings in the second half of 2019 striking down the outside income limits before they could go into effect, and other pending court decisions throwing the pay hikes into uncertainty, good government advocates and others are calling on the Legislature to take up the restrictions through statute in the 2020 legislative session.

New York Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Largely Upheld
Newsday – Yancey Roy | Published: 1/21/2020

A federal court dismissed some corruption counts against former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but upheld most of his 2018 conviction, meaning one of the most powerful New York lawmakers of the last generation is likely to serve prison time. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Silver on four counts of seven counts associated with allegations he pocketed money for doing political favors for people who had interests in Albany. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court for resentencing, giving Silver a chance to reduce the seven-year prison sentence a judge ordered two years ago. But the court’s affirmation of four charges means Silver would have to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the rest of the charges for him to go free altogether.

North Carolina State Lawmaker’s Failure to Disclose Business Ties Highlights Broader Ethics Enforcement Problem
NC Policy Watch – Joe Killian | Published: 1/15/2020

State Rep. Holly Grange failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years. In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest. Kathleen Edwards, interim director of the State Ethics Commission, said cases like Grange’s and others point to a larger problem. “We only have eight employees now, the entire commission,” said Edwards. She said the SEI unit will investigate complaints of non-disclosure, Edwards said. But beyond executive branch officials, which it is statutorily required to evaluate, it does not perform audits.

North Dakota New Director Aims to Help North Dakota Ethics Commission Make Rules
Fargo Forum – Jason Turley | Published: 1/22/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission has a new executive director who says he will try to help navigate the board through the choppy waters ahead. David Thiele once worked as a judge advocate for the U.S. Army before returning to his home state and joining the North Dakota National Guard, where he served as a lawyer and top administrator. Thiel said he will use his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard to help the commission create rules and procedures for handling complaints of ethical misconduct. The rules could also establish if certain topics, like campaign finance disclosures, fall under the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission does not yet have a detailed process for handling complaints or punishing those deemed guilty of violations.

Oklahoma Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules
Seattle Times – Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

Oklahoma Sens. Nathan Dahm and Marty Quinn proposed specialty license plates that, if approved by the Legislature, would display two of President Trump’s campaign slogans, “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.” The plates would be added to a list of 98 other specialty designs that Oklahoma drivers can choose to purchase for $35. Of that amount, $20 goes to the designated organization that matches the theme of the vanity plate. Although the money collected from purchases of the plates would go to veteran groups and not Trump’s reelection campaign, the proposal could still violate campaign finance laws if the state uses taxpayer dollars or resources to make the plates.

Oregon Big Out-Of-State Donations Have Oregon Lawmakers Mulling ‘Pay-To-Play’ Law
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/22/2020

State lawmakers looking into campaign finance regulations say Oregon should consider limiting how much public officials can accept from people or firms seeking state contracts. Such “pay-to-play” laws are designed to limit influence companies or individuals seeking work with a public agency can wield over officials with a say on who gets that work. Oregon is one of a handful of states that currently have no campaign finance limits whatsoever. That has created a situation in which out-of-state law firms are pouring cash into campaigns of incumbent of incumbent state treasurers and attorneys general, the two officials whose departments choose which firms receive potentially lucrative contracts representing the state in class-action suits.

Oregon Campaign Donation Limits? Not This Year, Oregon Governor Says
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/20/2020

State lawmakers should not pass campaign contribution limits this year, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing on the upcoming short legislative session. As a result, voters will likely have to decide in November on a state constitutional amendment that would allow donation limits without knowing what those caps might be. Last year, the Oregon House passed a bill that would have capped contributions to legislative candidates at $1,000 and $1,500, and statewide candidates at $2,800. It died in the Senate and there was talk that lawmakers might pass a similar plan this year, to give voters a clear idea of the impact they could have if they pass a constitutional amendment to allow the limits.

Oregon Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 1/21/2020

Portland’s elections office will not be penalizing candidates in upcoming races for defying local campaign finance limits, which remain in legal limbo until the Oregon Supreme Court weighs in. The decision closes the first chapter on a push by Honest Elections, a local campaign finance reform group, to force candidates to cap the individual contributions they receive at $500. The group had filed three complaints with the city auditor accusing Mayor Ted Wheeler, city council candidate Jack Kerfoot, and mayoral candidate Ozzie Gonzalez of flouting the contribution limits passed by voters last year.

Texas Texas Lobbyists and Politicians Dodged $800k in Fines, Thanks to Weak Campaign Finance Laws
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldenstein and Allie Morris | Published: 1/23/2020

There are about a hundred candidates, lobbyists, and PAC treasurers in Texas each year who fail to file mandatory disclosures of their donors and expenses, racking up thousands of dollars in fines as a result. Candidates with unpaid fines can continue to run for office and the committees can go on operating, thanks to a weak enforcement system that allows them to dodge their responsibility to the state. The state attorney general’s office, which handles collections for the Texas Ethics Commission, since 2005 has won the right in court to collect $1.1 million from late filers, but the office has then written off $800,000 as uncollectible, effectively ending attempts to financially penalize candidates and political committees.

Utah Special Interests Provided 93.5% of Donations to Utah Legislators Last Year
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/20/2020

Utah lawmakers did not need to raise much campaign money in 2019, since it was not an election year for them. They still amassed plenty, and special interest groups supplied 93.5% of it. Academics say that is unusual because in most states, studies say lawmakers raise about half of their money from individual voters and half from special interests. Utah’s big disparity raises questions about what those special interests receive for their money. Some academics and donors say it purchases better access to the political process. Meanwhile, legislative leaders and other donors say it buys nothing and merely shows how some donors support politicians who tend to vote in ways they like.

Vermont Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults the Ethics Panel That Let Him Off the Hook
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 1/22/2020

Vermont’s House Ethics Panel had to wrestle with some unusual questions last year as it considered a wide-ranging complaint against state Rep. Chris Bates. Is it unethical for a Vermont lawmaker to have an outstanding felony arrest warrant from another state, or to misstate one’s criminal background during a radio call-in show? Critics of the first-term lawmaker and outdoor enthusiast, aka “The Fishin’ Politician,” paint Bates as a felon who won election in 2018 only after eluding justice and concealing his criminal past from voters. Bates admits he has made mistakes but says he started a new life in Vermont only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign by some of the same online trolls who harassed former Rep. Kiah Morris out of office.

Washington DC D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over $1 Million Booking at President’s Hotel
Anchorage Daily News – Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

The District of Columbia is suing President Trump’s inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel. The committee has maintained its finances were independently audited and all money was spent in accordance with the law. It is the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves, part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. District of Columbia law requires that nonprofit organizations not operate for the purpose of generating profits for private individuals.

Wisconsin After Rejection, Conservatives Try Again to Get Voter Purge Case to Supreme Court
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/20/2020

Conservatives suing over Wisconsin’s voter rolls tried to get their case before the state Supreme Court, even though the justices told them recently they would not take it. Those bringing the lawsuit effectively asked the justices to change their minds after they declined the case because of a deadlock. To gain footing, they would need at least one of the three justices who opposed taking up the matter to take a new view. That puts renewed attention on Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who sided with two liberal justices in saying the court should not consider the case. At issue is whether more than 200,000 people should be taken off the voter rolls because they have been identified as having likely moved. Both sides see the case as important because Wisconsin was so closely decided in the 2016 election.

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