August 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Hawaii: “Alleged Oahu Crime Boss’ Nightclub Was a Popular Place for Political Fundraisers” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Star Advertiser Elections Idaho: “Supreme Court Halts Idaho Online Signatures for Initiative” by Keith Ridler (Associated Press) for Jacksonville Journal […]
Hawaii: “Alleged Oahu Crime Boss’ Nightclub Was a Popular Place for Political Fundraisers” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Star Advertiser
Idaho: “Supreme Court Halts Idaho Online Signatures for Initiative” by Keith Ridler (Associated Press) for Jacksonville Journal Courier
National: “DHS Compiled ‘Intelligence Reports’ on Journalists Who Published Leaked Documents” by Shane Harris (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Full Appeals Court Agrees to Wade into Michael Flynn Case” by Eric Tucker for Associated Press News
National: “Misuse of Taxpayer Funds Leads Ethics Committee to Reprimand and Fine Rep. Schweikert” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
Canada: “Trudeau Defends Work on Contract Now Engulfing His Government” by Andy Blatchford for Politico
California: “Charges Added to LA City Councilman in Corruption Probe” by Nathan Solis for Courthouse News Service
Maryland: “Judge Sentences Former Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn to 2 Years, Says She ‘Sold Her Office to Pay the Bills’” by Jessica Anderson for Baltimore Sun
Florida: “Florida Commission on Ethics Lifts NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Off the Hook” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
July 31, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn | Published: 7/23/2020 Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making big money from businesses trying to tap coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. His […]
Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn | Published: 7/23/2020
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making big money from businesses trying to tap coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. His firm pulled in $240,000 in less than three months for lobbying the Trump administration on coronavirus aid on behalf of three New Jersey hospital systems and a Tennessee-based chain of addiction treatment centers. Christie is hardly the first former governor to land on K Street. But it is unusual for a former presidential candidate who has not ruled out running again to become a lobbyist, especially without joining a major Washington firm, Christie appears to be leaning on his ties to the administration as he makes his way on K Street.
Cities, Advocates Sue Trump to Block Census Immigrant Memo
Roll Call – Michael Macagnone | Published: 7/24/2020
President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census figures that will be used to determine congressional apportionment has been challenged in federal court, the first of what experts believe could be many legal battles for the administration’s order. Common Cause, along with and other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit arguing Trump’s effort “flouts the plain language of the constitution” and tries to do with a memorandum what should take a constitutional amendment. The complaint tied the memorandum to Trump’s previous effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and a broader strategy to “manipulate the census and apportionment process to deprive immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities of political power.”
Democrats Investigating Why White House Ended Ban on Some Gun Silencer Sales
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/28/2020
Congressional Democrats said they were investigating the Trump administration’s decision to lift a ban on firearm silencer sales to foreign private buyers that had been enacted to prevent the devices from being used against American troops. Democrats are focusing in part on the involvement of Michael Williams, a White House lawyer who had worked for two years for a trade group representing silencer manufacturers that had lobbied to overturn the ban. The administration move paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new foreign sales for companies that Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association.
Dems Rebuke Culture of Sexism in Defense of Ocasio-Cortez
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/23/2020
More than a dozen House Democrats lined up recently to support U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the floor of the chamber, issuing a chain of rebukes to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho for aggressively confronting the New York Democrat outside of the Capitol. Ocasio-Cortez recounted the confrontation with Yoho, which was witnessed by a reporter, in a speech lamenting the incident as an outgrowth of a toxic and sexist culture that some lawmakers still perpetuate on Capitol Hill.
DeVos Aide Played Role in Helping Failing For-Profit Colleges, Texts and Emails Show
Washington Post – Danielle Douglas-Gabriel | Published: 7/28/2020
For the past year, the Education Department has denied a top official went out of her way to help Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the Art Institutes, South University, and Argosy University, as the company spiraled into insolvency. But a batch of text messages, emails, and letters shed new light on Dream Center’s relationship with Diane Auer Jones, the head of higher education policy at the department, and her efforts to help the company regain accreditation at two of its schools. The Trump administration had a keen interest in staving off the collapse of the troubled chain of for-profit colleges, even though congressional investigators found Dream Center deceptively enrolled students at campuses that had lost accreditation and raked in taxpayer money in the process.
How the Republican National Convention Came Undone
MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2020
The chaotic unraveling of the Republican presidential nomination convention bears many of the hallmarks of the tumultuous Trump presidency: the public dismissal of scientific expertise, allegations of political conspiracy, and advisers run ragged to carry out a task that was next to impossible from the start. Even as Democrats began to rethink their event last spring, GOP planners moved forward at Trump’s urging. But ultimately, the rising coronavirus caseload, and the political cost of forcing risky behavior on thousands just months before the election, proved too great. Advisers convinced Trump that canceling the convention could help him politically as he tries to pay closer attention to the pandemic.
‘I’m Going to Answer the Damn Question’: Barr, House Democrats face off over Portland, politicization
USA Today – Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson | Published: 7/28/2020
Attorney General William Barr’s recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Barr came as Democrats investigate alleged political interference at the Justice Department, claiming the attorney general has turned it into a political annex of the Trump White House. The hearing touched on a year’s worth of grievances, from the widely criticized rollout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report in 2019, to interference in criminal investigations involving Trump’s allies, to the controversial ouster of Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor, to the use of force against protesters in Portland and at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.
Kimberly Guilfoyle Under Fire for Trump Fundraising Disarray
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/23/2020
There is upheaval within the fundraising unit that Kimberly Guilfoyle oversees, which is primarily responsible for cultivating networks of donors who cut checks in increments up to $2,800 fort President Trump’s reelection. Interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans familiar with the campaign’s fundraising depict an operation beset by departures, staffers with no prior fundraising experience, and accusations of irresponsible spending. There are growing concerns among senior Republicans about whether the dysfunction within Guilfoyle’s team is translating into money left on the table for what has become an uphill fight for a second term.
Pelosi Mandates Wearing Masks on the House Floor After Gohmert Case
Politico – Heather Cayglde and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/29/2020
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would now require all members to wear masks on the House floor after U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for the coronavirus. Lawmakers are currently encouraged to wear masks in the chamber and required to wear them in committee rooms, although some Republicans openly defy that rule and have yet to be punished. Gohmert, who frequently refuses to wear a mask around the Capitol, tested positive during a pre-screening by the White Houser before a scheduled flight with President Trump to Texas, news that quickly reverberated across Capitol Hill.
Political Donors Whose Businesses Got PPP Loans Injected $52 Million into 2020 Election
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 7/23/2020
Government rescue loans meant for struggling small businesses went to a number of well-connected firms whose executives are major contributors to lawmakers’ campaigns and political parties. Employees and PACs connected to firms that received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, and in some cases the companies themselves, contributed at least $52 million to federal committees during the 2020 election cycle. Republicans and conservative groups got $27 million from these donors, while Democrats and liberal groups received $24 million. Powerful lobbying firms, hedge funds, and real estate companies received aid while tens of thousands of small businesses closed for good.
Politics at the Point of a Gun
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow | Published: 7/28/2020
Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view – marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors – and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups. In the pandemic stay-at-home orders, they see government overreach that restricts their freedoms and harms their businesses. Many members of these armed groups consider this pre-election period a defining moment. In the months of volatile street protests, they see local authorities who lost the nerve to confront violent agitators.
The Husband Is a Top Public Health Official. The Wife Does Lobbying. She Deleted a Tweet That Showed Them Together at a Public Event.
BuzzFeed News – Paul McLeod | Published: 7/27/2020
The wife of the second-ranking official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared with her husband during an official business trip at a time she was being paid to lobby the department. Emily Hargan tweeted a photo from a July 10 press conference at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center centered around a visit by her husband, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. She has since deleted the tweet. Emily Hargan has been paid by three healthcare companies to lobby HHS. All three contracts were still active on the day she appeared with her husband on an official business trip. She has no lobbying disclosures before her HHS work in June of this year.
Trump Campaign Accused of Using ‘Pass-Through’ Vendors to Obscure $170 Million in Payments
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Will Steakin | Published: 7/28/2020
A watchdog group accused President Trump’s reelection campaign of obscuring nearly $170 million worth of campaign spending through “pass-through” vendors linked to campaign leadership instead of disclosing the true recipients of the funds. In an FEC complaint, the Campaign Legal Center said American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, two companies set up and by run by campaign leadership, including former campaign manager Brad Parscale, have been disguised as providing a variety of services to the campaign, when in reality they have essentially served as “clearing house” firms that dole out contracts and payments to various subcontractors and vendors without revealing the ultimate recipients of the donor money.
Trump’s Assault on Election Integrity Forces Question: What would happen if he refused to accept a loss?
Anchorage Daily News – Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2020
President Trump’s unwillingness to commit to a smooth transition of power has forced academics and political leaders to contemplate possible scenarios if loses the election in November. The resulting turmoil could surpass the contention over the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, confounding the legal system, Congress, and the public’s faith in how the country picks its leaders. Such a crisis could also have long-lasting consequences for a nation that has already been rocked this year by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic collapse, and a reckoning over racial injustice.
Wealthy Donors Pour Millions into Fight Over Mail-In Voting
AP News – Brian Slodysko and Thomas Beaumont | Published: 7/27/2020
Wealthy and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Trump’s fate in the November election. In the battleground of Wisconsin, cash-strapped cities have received $6.3 million from an organization with ties to left-wing philanthropy to help expand vote by mail. Meanwhile, a well-funded conservative group best known for its focus on judicial appointments is spending heavily to fight cases related to mail-in balloting procedures in court. That is just a small slice of the overall spending, which is likely to swell far higher as the election nears.
Canada – Trudeau Strains to Contain Political Scandal Engulfing His Family
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/24/2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is embroiled in another controversy of his own making that is inflicting political damage on him and his administration. He is struggling to contain the rapid spread of a firestorm sparked by his plan to award a sole-source contract to a powerful charity and fueled by revelations that members of his family have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by the organization over the past half-decade. The dustup also threatens to cost Trudeau his trusted finance minister. The public and parliamentary reaction in Canada to the news and further revelations of speaking fees and travel expenses paid to family members of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been swift and harsh.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – GOP Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Arizona Voting Rules Deemed Racially Biased
The Hill – John Kruzel | Published: 7/29/2020
Arizona Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to revive a pair of voting restrictions, struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory, that could make it harder for people of color to cast ballots in the battleground state this fall. In its ruling siding with Democratic challengers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals went so far as to conclude that one of the two voting rules under review was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. In their Supreme Court petition, Arizona Republicans argue the Ninth Circuit was wrong to invalidate the restrictions, which they say are needed to protect the integrity of the vote.
California – A San Jose Commission Will Decide on Strong Mayor, Moving Mayoral Elections
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 7/28/2020
Just one month after the plan was devised, San Jose leaders have scrapped a November 2020 ballot measure that could have awarded Mayor Sam Liccardo considerably more power and two extra years in office. Instead, the Charter Review Commission was created to help decide whether San Jose should adopt a strong mayor system, whether mayoral elections should be aligned with presidential elections, and campaign finance reforms, including prohibiting contributions from lobbyists and requiring lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes involving organizations that have donated $250 or more to their campaigns.
California – Developers Allegedly Bribed an L.A. Councilman. What Happens to Their Building Plans?
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/27/2020
Federal officials have charged Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe, accusing him of running a criminal enterprise fueled by bribes from real estate developers seeking to build in his downtown district. It is unclear, however, what might happen to the as-yet unbuilt skyscrapers planned by the executives who allegedly provided those bribes. Several council members have called for the city to reassess approvals for real estate projects mentioned in the criminal case, arguing the building plans have been tainted by the scandal.
California – Former L.A. County Assessor John Noguez Again Faces Corruption Charges
Los Angeles Times – Matt Hamilton | Published: 7/28/2020
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office refiled charges against former county Assessor John Noguez, reviving the long-running bribery and public corruption case after an appellate court ordered its dismissal on a technical violation. In the new complaint, prosecutors accused Noguez, along with Mark McNeil, a top official in the assessor’s office, and tax consultant Ramin Salari of participating in a scheme in which Noguez would accept bribes to illegally lower the values of properties across greater Los Angeles so Salari’s clients would pay less in taxes.
Florida – NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Takes on First Amendment in Appeal
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 7/29/2020
A federal appeals court appeared skeptical of prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer’s arguments in a lawsuit stemming from graphic emails she received following the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed Hammer’s claims against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to Hammer that included photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds. The judge’s ruling came four months after Hammer filed a lawsuit against Sorensen and three other unrelated men because of emails she received. As Florida lawmakers considered legislation in the aftermath of the school shooting, Hammer lobbied against measures that would restrict gun owners’ rights.
Georgia – Georgia Senator Is Criticized for Ad Enlarging Jewish Opponent’s Nose
MSN – Rick Rojas (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2020
U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia has taken down a digital campaign ad featuring a manipulated picture of his Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, with an enlarged nose. Before being removed, the Facebook ad showed grainy pictures of Ossoff and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who is also Jewish. “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” the ad said, adding that Schumer had poured millions of dollars into the race. Perdue’s campaign said the alteration had been an outside vendor’s error. But critics said it reflected something more insidious, arguing the campaign had employed imagery long used to malign Jews at a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the country has seeped into politics.
Illinois – Feds Subpoena AT&T as Part of Investigation into Speaker Madigan and Lobbying
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Hal Dardick, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long | Published: 7/23/2020
AT&T has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors amid a widening criminal probe encircling Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political operation. The subpoena is part of an inquiry into whether companies improperly used a stable of consultants with ties to Madigan as they pushed for legislation in Springfield. The revelation comes after prosecutors asked Madigan’s office for “any and all documents and communications” concerning AT&T, including contracts and correspondence related to the hiring of anyone to provide consulting or lobbying services to the public utility.
Maine – Maine Lawmakers Want Hydro-Quebec to Stop Trying to Influence Voters on CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Lori Valigra | Published: 7/29/2020
A group of 25 current and former Maine lawmakers wrote a letter to Quebec’s premier and Hydro-Quebec’s chief executive officer asking that they stop trying to influence the outcome of a referendum this November on Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor. So far, Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-linked group, and Hydro-Quebec have spent close to $14.7 million to promote the corridor. The lawmakers said they are concerned Hydro-Quebec is exploiting a loophole in Maine ethics laws they sought to close when the pandemic hit and the Legislature adjourned abruptly in March. A bill would prohibit contributions, expenditures, and participation by foreign nationals to influence referendum questions.
Maryland – Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Asks Inspector General’s Office to Investigate Her Travel, Businesses
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/23/2020
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asked the city Inspector general’s office to investigate her travel and financial disclosures. It is unusual for an official to seek an investigation of themselves, but the move comes as Mosby weathers criticism of her trips and business arrangements. The request comes after Mosby filed financial disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission, which revealed she traveled at least 20 times for events over the past two years, including trips abroad. Most of the travel, which totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars, was paid for by outside organizations.
Maryland – Montgomery Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine Fined for Ethics Violation, But Officials Want More Action
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 7/29/2020
Montgomery County lawmakers are calling for greater disciplinary action against Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine, who admitted to violating an ethics law by using public dollars to promote a book he wrote and maintaining business relationships with two companies that landed county contracts shortly after he took his job. Kleine, who is the top aide to County Executive Marc Elrich, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for the ethics violations. Some county council members say the fine is not sufficient.
Michigan – Mystery Money Fuels Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Emergency Powers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/27/2020
The group collecting petitions to limit Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers is primarily being funded by a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, an organization with ties to Senate Republicans, gave $660,200 to Unlock Michigan from June 9 through July 20. Unlock Michigan is the ballot committee that wants to repeal a 1945 law that allows the governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without input or approval from the Legislature. The group’s board has also featured employees of a consulting firm that works with Senate Republicans. The nonprofit is listed at the same address as the consulting firm in Lansing.
Missouri – Documents Say Political Consultants Tied to Mantovani Tried to Help Polish Stenger Lies about Northwest Plaza
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 7/25/2020
Two political consultants working to support Mark Mantovani’s bid for St. Louis County executive were part of an effort in 2018 by advisors to the former executive, Steve Stenger, to mislead the public about the cost of a real estate deal involving some of Stenger’s biggest campaign donors. County officials submitted statements to the county council’s ethics committee in 2019 as part of a probe into the county’s lease for office space in the former Northwest Plaza in St. Ann. A newspaper investigation would reveal the lease was far more costly than previously known, sparking an inquiry by the ethics committee. Those hearings revealed how Stenger circumvented procurement staff by placing political appointees in charge of lease negotiations. The owners of the site were among his largest campaign supporters.
Missouri – Marijuana Licensing Woes Dog Missouri’s Governor
Politico – Mona Zhang | Published: 7/27/2020
After Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana in November 2018, the state’s new governor, Mike Parson, moved quickly to certify tens of thousands of patients and begin licensing cannabis businesses. But what seemed at first to be an easy source of voter satisfaction and a new cache of revenue to the state has boomeranged badly. A flood of complaints led to state and federal corruption probes that now threaten Parson’s 2020 campaign. The governor’s friend and fundraiser, Steve Tilley, is at the center of the probes. He represented clients who appeared to receive a boost in the licensing process.
Missouri – PAC Money to Page from Lobbyist Under FBI Scrutiny Draws Interest in St. Louis County Executive Race
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/23/2020
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page last year accepted $2,049 in campaign contributions from a PAC tied to a Jefferson City lobbyist and company under FBI investigation in Kansas City. The contribution came the month after Page lent his support to a low-income housing project in Dellwood that listed Gardner Capital as its developer, and whose financial backers are the Centene Charitable Foundation and Sterling Bank. The project developers were seeking $615,000 in annual low-income housing tax credits and ultimately won approval. Gardner Capital, Sterling Bank, and Centene Corp. all retain the same lobbyist, Steve Tilley, who also is a former Missouri House speaker. It has been reported the FBI was investigating Gardner Capital and Tilley, among others, in a possible “pay-to-play” scheme in Independence.
New Jersey – Gannett Reporter Faces Ethics Questions After Repeated Asks of N.J. Governor About Indoor Dining
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 7/24/2020
Dustin Racioppi is a statehouse reporter for The Bergen Record. He also moonlights as a bartender at Murphy’s Tavern, an old speakeasy and restaurant that is owned by his wife. Occasionally, the two jobs intersect, and alarm bells go off about a potential conflict-of-interest. As a reporter, part of Racioppi’s job is to cover Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Racioppi frequently peppers Murphy with questions about the reopening of indoor restaurant dining but has not publicly disclosed the governor’s decision to close eating establishments, including his own, has had an effect on his family’s personal income.
New Jersey – Trump Keeps Touting New Jersey Fraud Case to Attack Mail Voting. Local Leaders Say He’s Not Telling the Whole Story.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2020
Days before the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, selected new members of their city council in May, a postal employee in a neighboring town spotted something suspicious in a local post office: 347 mail-in ballots, bundled together. Four men, including a city councilperson, have been charged with fraud. The county election board disqualified 19 percent of ballots cast in the race. The episode probably would have remained a local dust-up but for the interest of President Trump, who has attacked voting by mail as susceptible to massive fraud. But those involved in the Paterson case said the president is vastly oversimplifying what took place in a local election, using it to serve his own political purposes and overstating the extent to which problems in their city serve as some kind of national cautionary tale.
New York – Trump Lawyers Renew Legal Assault on Tax Records Subpoena
AP News – Larry Neumeister | Published: 7/27/2020
President Trump’s lawyers filed fresh arguments to try to block a criminal subpoena for his tax records, saying it was issued in bad faith, might have been politically motivated, and calling it a harassment of the president. Attorneys filed a rewritten lawsuit in Manhattan federal court to challenge the subpoena by a state prosecutor on grounds they believe conform with how the U.S. Supreme Court said the subpoena can be contested. The high court ruled Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could subpoena tax records from Trump’s accountant over his objections.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Requests Attorney General Opinion; Bill Drafts in Works for 2021
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/23/2020
The North Dakota Ethics Commission is asking for a state attorney general opinion amid its rulemaking process. Commission Executive Director David Thiele said the agency is seeking clarification on “our authority to expand on the definition of ‘lobbyist’ as it relates to gifts.” A time frame for receiving an opinion is unclear. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved the Ethics Commission in a constitutional initiative that also included a lobbyist gift prohibition that takes effect in January. Related rules are to be adopted by then. The 2019 Legislature passed Republican majority leaders’ framework for implementing the measure.
Ohio – Bribery Case Shines Light on Ohio’s Campaign Finance Laws, Nonprofits
Toledo Blade – Jim Provance | Published: 7/25/2020
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers outlined a scheme by which authorities allege Ohio’s largest utility company used a series of nonprofit entities to funnel millions of dollars to the benefit of Columbus lawmakers who eventually approved a $1 billion citizen-backed bailout of the state’s nuclear power industry. But neither Ohio nor federal campaign finance laws currently require such disclosure by nonprofits. Such secrecy has long obscured the extent to which money influences politics in the Buckeye State, but it appears to be under newfound scrutiny as taxpayers take stock of the sweeping racketeering and bribery probe. Gov. Mike DeWine now says he would support closing that “dark-money” loophole in the law.
Ohio – Criminal Charges Against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Echo Past Pay-to-Play Allegations
MSN – Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/28/2020
More than a decade before Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s July 21 arrest in a federal bribery probe of the state’s nuclear bailout law, his aggressive fundraising practices came under law enforcement scrutiny. But no charges resulted from that case. According to previous news reports, Householder’s operatives raised millions of dollars for him and House Republicans by threatening to withhold financial support from those who did not vote with Householder on key pieces of legislation. The reporting also revealed allegations they strong-armed members to embrace no-new-taxes pledges, using political nonprofits to wage campaigns against Democrats and uncooperative Republican primary opponents.
Ohio – Householder Probe Generates Campaign Cash Problem for House Republicans
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 7/29/2020
Without Speaker Larry Householder’s fundraising operation, Ohio House Republicans find themselves in a disastrous financial spot heading into competitive fall races. With fewer than 100 days until the November election, House Republicans’ campaign fund should total millions of dollars, GOP campaign operatives said. But the House Republican Campaign Committee’s (HRCC) latest financial report shows $384,000 and the current total could be even less. That is because House Republicans’ campaigns, by and large, were not bankrolled by the HRCC. Instead, money flowed through Householder’s personal campaign fund and “dark money” groups to elect Republicans loyal to the speaker.
Ohio – Ohio House Ousts Top Leader After Arrest in Bribery Scheme
AP News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 7/30/2020
The Ohio House ousted its speaker as the chamber’s top leader in a historic, unanimous, and bipartisan vote after he was charged in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme. Rep. Larry Householder is the first Ohio House speaker ever removed by lawmakers. For now, he still retains his seat in the Legislature. Remaining members of Householder’s leadership team had said he deserves the presumption of innocence but “lost the trust of his colleagues and the public” and could not effectively lead the House
Pennsylvania – Former Congressman Ozzie Myers Caught in 1970s Abscam Sting Has Been Indicted Again – This Time for Election Fraud
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 7/23/2020
Former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, previously sent to prison in the 1970s Abscam investigation, was charged with new allegations that he bribed a poll worker to stuff ballot boxes in local elections in Philadelphia. Federal prosecutors allege Myers, now working as a campaign consultant, paid a judge of elections to fraudulently add votes to candidates who had hired him to represent him in their races between 2014 and 2016. Prosecutors did not say whether those candidates went on to win their elections or whether the votes added by DeMuro, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in March, were decisive in tipping the outcome.
Rhode Island – RI Supreme Court Justice Wins Appeal of $200 Ethics Violation
WPRI – Eli Sherman and Walt Bateau | Published: 7/27/2020
A Superior Court judge overturned the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s decision to fine state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose that he was president of a Catholic legal group while ruling on a priest sexual abuse case. Judge Brian Stern concluded the commission failed to show Flaherty’s actions were “deliberate or intentional” or that he was aware he needed to list his position as president of the St. Thomas More Society of Rhode Island on his yearly financial statements.
Tennessee – Former House Speaker Glen Casada Pays $10,500 Fine with Money from Political Action Committee
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/28/2020
Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada skirted around state law to use campaign money held by his PAC to pay a civil penalty of $10,500 levied fine by the Registry of Election Finance. Using money maintained in a candidate’s personal campaign account to pay off a fine is illegal under Tennessee law. The law, however, only applies to candidates’ campaign committees and not PACs controlled by candidates, said Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. “The law is silent on PACs,” Young said.
July 30, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Ohio: “Householder Probe Generates Campaign Cash Problem for House Republicans” by Jessie Balmert for Cincinnati Enquirer Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Pays $10,500 Fine with Money from Political Action Committee” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean Elections […]
Ohio: “Householder Probe Generates Campaign Cash Problem for House Republicans” by Jessie Balmert for Cincinnati Enquirer
Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Pays $10,500 Fine with Money from Political Action Committee” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean
Arizona: “GOP Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Arizona Voting Rules Deemed Racially Biased” by John Kruzel for The Hill
California: “A San Jose Commission Will Decide on Strong Mayor, Moving Mayoral Elections” by Carly Wipf for San Jose Spotlight
New Jersey: “Trump Keeps Touting New Jersey Fraud Case to Attack Mail Voting. Local Leaders Say He’s Not Telling the Whole Story.” by Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Politics at the Point of a Gun” by Joshua Partlow for Washington Post
National: “‘I’m Going to Answer the Damn Question’: Barr, House Democrats face off over Portland, politicization” by Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson for USA Today
California: “Former L.A. County Assessor John Noguez Again Faces Corruption Charges” by Matt Hamilton for Los Angeles Times
National: “Democrats Investigating Why White House Ended Ban on Some Gun Silencer Sales” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times
July 29, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
After a month long debate over a proposed strong mayor measure and outrage over lack of community involvement in the decision, San Jose leaders unanimously approved putting decisions about the city’s future into the hands of community members. The Charter Revision […]
After a month long debate over a proposed strong mayor measure and outrage over lack of community involvement in the decision, San Jose leaders unanimously approved putting decisions about the city’s future into the hands of community members.
The Charter Revision Commission, created Tuesday, will consist of residents appointed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council.
The committee will help decide whether or not San Jose should adopt a strong mayor system, whether mayoral elections should be aligned with presidential elections and campaign finance reforms, including prohibiting contributions from lobbyists and requiring lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes involving organizations donating $250 or more to their campaigns.
While campaign finance reform, measures to move the mayoral election and increase the mayor’s powers won’t go to voters this November, the Charter Revision Commission would have until March 2022 to research what systems would be best for the city and make recommendations for a 2022 ballot measure.
July 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Campaign Accused of Using ‘Pass-Through’ Vendors to Obscure $170 Million in Payments” by Soo Rin Kim and Will Steakin for ABC News Michigan: “Mystery Money Fuels Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Emergency Powers” by Craig Mauger for […]
National: “Trump Campaign Accused of Using ‘Pass-Through’ Vendors to Obscure $170 Million in Payments” by Soo Rin Kim and Will Steakin for ABC News
Michigan: “Mystery Money Fuels Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Emergency Powers” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
Georgia: “Georgia Senator Is Criticized for Ad Enlarging Jewish Opponent’s Nose” by Rick Rojas (New York Times) for MSN
National: “DeVos Aide Played Role in Helping Failing For-Profit Colleges, Texts and Emails Show” by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for Washington Post
California: “Developers Allegedly Bribed an L.A. Councilman. What Happens to Their Building Plans?” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
Missouri: “Marijuana Licensing Woes Dog Missouri’s Governor” by Mona Zhang for Politico
New York: “Trump Lawyers Renew Legal Assault on Tax Records Subpoena” by Larry Neumeister for AP News
Ohio: “Criminal Charges Against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Echo Past Pay-to-Play Allegations” by Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) for MSN
National: “The Husband Is a Top Public Health Official. The Wife Does Lobbying. She Deleted a Tweet That Showed Them Together at a Public Event.” by Paul McLeod for BuzzFeed News
July 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Political Donors Whose Businesses Got PPP Loans Injected $52 Million into 2020 Election” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics National: “Kimberly Guilfoyle Under Fire for Trump Fundraising Disarray” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico Ohio: “Bribery […]
National: “Political Donors Whose Businesses Got PPP Loans Injected $52 Million into 2020 Election” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom for Center for Responsive Politics
National: “Kimberly Guilfoyle Under Fire for Trump Fundraising Disarray” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico
Ohio: “Bribery Case Shines Light on Ohio’s Campaign Finance Laws, Nonprofits” by Jim Provance for Toledo Blade
National: “Wealthy Donors Pour Millions into Fight Over Mail-In Voting” by Brian Slodysko and Thomas Beaumont for AP News
National: “Cities, Advocates Sue Trump to Block Census Immigrant Memo” by Michael Macagnone for Roll Call
Canada: “Trudeau Strains to Contain Political Scandal Engulfing His Family” by Andy Blatchford for Politico
Missouri: “Documents Say Political Consultants Tied to Mantovani Tried to Help Polish Stenger Lies about Northwest Plaza” by Jeremy Kohler for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New Jersey: “Gannett Reporter Faces Ethics Questions After Repeated Asks of N.J. Governor About Indoor Dining” by David Wildstein for New Jersey Globe
Rhode Island: “Judge Overturns $200 Ethics Fine for R.I. Supreme Court Justice” by Edward Fitzpatrick for Boston Globe
July 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Missouri: “PAC Money to Page from Lobbyist Under FBI Scrutiny Draws Interest in St. Louis County Executive Race” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Elections National: “How the Republican National Convention Came Undone” by Michael Scherer, Josh […]
Missouri: “PAC Money to Page from Lobbyist Under FBI Scrutiny Draws Interest in St. Louis County Executive Race” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “How the Republican National Convention Came Undone” by Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump’s Assault on Election Integrity Forces Question: What would happen if he refused to accept a loss?” by Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
Pennsylvania: “Former Congressman Ozzie Myers Caught in 1970s Abscam Sting Has Been Indicted Again – This Time for Election Fraud” by Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN
National: “Dems Rebuke Culture of Sexism in Defense of Ocasio-Cortez” by Caitlin Oprysko and Sarah Ferris for Politico
Maryland: “Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Asks Inspector General’s Office to Investigate Her Travel, Businesses” by Jessica Anderson for Baltimore Sun
North Dakota: “North Dakota Ethics Commission Requests Attorney General Opinion; Bill Drafts in Works for 2021” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
National: “Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying” by Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn for Politico
Illinois: “Feds Subpoena AT&T as Part of Investigation into Speaker Madigan and Lobbying” by Jason Meisner, Hal Dardick, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long for Chicago Tribune
July 24, 2020 • Written by Timothy Kilcullen
President Trump canceled the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention due to safety concerns over COVID-19. Delegates will still meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the president will give his renomination address. However, it will not be the scale […]
President Trump canceled the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention due to safety concerns over COVID-19.
Delegates will still meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the president will give his renomination address.
However, it will not be the scale typical of a party convention.
The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee has been similarly downsized.
July 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020 President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified […]
As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020
President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified talk among party donors and strategists about redirecting money to protect their narrow Senate Republican majority amid growing fear of complete Democratic control of Washington in 2021. Almost no one is talking openly about abandoning Trump at this point. A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder. Right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds but also in deep red states.
Dan Sullivan, Marco Rubio Pay Tribute to John Lewis Using the Photo of a Different Black Congressman
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2020
Like many of their colleagues, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan posted tributes to U.S. Rep. John Lewis and aimed to include photos of themselves with the civil rights icon who died on July 17. Rubio even made the image his Twitter profile picture. There was just one problem. The photos they each posted were of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in October.
Ethics Committee Clears Rep. Trahan in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Steve LeBlanc | Published: 7/17/2020
The House Committee on Ethics cleared U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan following an investigation into allegations she accepted excessive campaign contributions and reported them as personal loans even though they may not have been sourced from her personal funds. The investigation focused on allegations that Trahan’s husband, David Trahan, deposited funds into a joint checking account she then used to make $300,000 in loans to her campaign during the 2018 election. Lawyers for Rep, Trahan argued the funds were her personal funds because the couple signed a premarital agreement under which she and her husband have equal rights to the management of all marital property.
Financially Strapped Trucking Firm Tripled Lobbying Days Before Winning Coronavirus Relief Loan
Roll Call – Jessica Wehrman | Published: 7/21/2020
The trucking company that received a $700 million coronavirus relief loan spent $210,000 on lobbyists in the days before it reached an agreement with the Treasury Department on that loan. The money YRC Worldwide spent on lobbying during the second quarter of 2020 alone was more than three times what it spent on lobbying in 2019 and more than the $140,000 the company spent in 2018 and 2019 combined. Now, a bipartisan congressional panel is criticizing the loan the company received, saying “it is far from clear” that YRC Worldwide is eligible for a lending mechanism originally designed for companies critical to national security, such as Boeing.
GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform
The Hill – James Bikales | Published: 7/16/2020
A former House Democratic aide who was fired after two criminal convictions gained unauthorized access to a virtual Homeland Security subcommittee hearing recently, according to a Republican lawmaker. Isaac Lanier Avant, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson who is now a lobbyist, was on the WebEx platform designated for lawmakers and witnesses for an hour during the hearing, Homeland Security ranking member Mike Rogers said. Avant is a registered lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, whose chief executive officer George Zoley was testifying at the hearing.
House Lawmakers Agree That Secure Remote Voting Is Possible, but Implementation Still Divides
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 7/17/2020
House lawmakers agreed that the chamber could implement a comprehensive and secure electronic remote voting system, but divisions remain over whether such a move, even in the midst of a global health crisis, is prudent. The House Administration Committee heard from the House clerk, a pioneering former speaker, and a roster of academics and business leaders on the technological feasibility of electronic remote voting and keeping it safe from hackers and other bad actors aiming to sow distrust in government. In a historic move, the House made a temporary change to the chamber’s rules to allow for a proxy voting period. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still participate in floor votes and committee meetings.
‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them
Washington Post – Katie Shepherd | Published: 7/17/2020
Several men in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone during a protest in Portland, Oregon. He was detained and searched. They drove him to the federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Two officers read his Miranda rights and asked if Pettibone would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not. Almost as suddenly as they had grabbed him off the street, the men let him go. Pettibone said he still does not know who arrested him or whether what happened to him legally qualifies as an arrest. His detention and videos of similar actions by federal officials driving around Portland in unmarked cars have raised alarm bells for many. Legal scholars questioned whether the detentions pass constitutional muster.
Lobbyists Bundle Donations to Senate Democrats, Trump Victory
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/20/2020
Lobbyist bundlers rounded up $250,000 for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm during the second quarter of this year, even as many of the party’s candidates run against the corporate interests those K Street denizens represent. It highlights how even in a pandemic, advocates trying to influence federal policy are working in support of candidates who may someday vote on it, even though the candidates are keeping their distance from corporate PAC money. Campaigns are only required to disclose bundlers who are registered federal lobbyists, so it is not possible to track the ebb and flow of other people who gather contributions from groups of donors and pool them together, unless campaigns and committees release them voluntarily.
Matt Gaetz Appears to Run Afoul of House Ethics Rules
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 7/22/2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices that appear to conflict with House ethics rules. He improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant, in direct conflict with the chamber’s rules. A private company installed a television studio in his father’s home, which Gaetz uses when he appears on television. Taxpayers foot the bill to rent the television camera, and the private company that built the studio takes a fee each time he appears on air. It is unclear how much it cost the private company to construct the studio. This may run afoul of the House gift rule, which prohibits a lawmaker from accepting gifts worth more than $50. The official definition of a gift is broad and covers virtually any good or service with monetary value.
Michael Cohen to Be Released from Prison After Judge Sides with Claims of Retaliation
Washington Post – Shayna Jacobs | Published: 7/23/2020
A judge ordered the release from prison of President Trump’s former personal lawyer, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election. Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled. “I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” Hellerstein said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”
Pandemic Lobbying Tops K Street Agenda, but Spending Dips
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/21/2020
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a whirl of K Street activity during the first half of the year, but nine of the top 10 biggest spenders reported a decrease in their lobbying tabs during the second quarter, indicating a turbulent business environment in the months ahead. The pandemic has disrupted the K Street economy, as it has the rest of the nation’s businesses, thrusting most lobbyists into an all-virtual workspace and creating volatility as the November elections draw closer.
Senators Request Ethics Probe After Ivanka Trump’s Goya Endorsement
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 7/21/2020
Days after Ivanka Trump created an uproar for endorsing Goya Foods after its chief executive officer praised her father, a pair of U.S. senators want an investigation into whether she violated federal ethics rules. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics inquiring about possible disciplinary action for Ivanka Trump, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House. “The timing of her remarks creates the appearance, at least, that praise for Trump Administration officials may elicit later endorsements from these same officials,” according to the senators’ letter.
Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2020
As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the U.S. House and Senate. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems, and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which President Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”
Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts
MSN – Katie Rogers and Peter Baker (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
President Trump directed the federal government not to count undocumented immigrants when allocating U.S. House districts, a move that critics called a transparent political ploy to help Republicans in violation of the Constitution. The president’s directive would exclude millions of people when determining how many House seats each state should have based on the once-a-decade census, reversing the longstanding policy of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status. The effect would likely shift several seats from Democratic states to Republican states.
Trump’s Request of an Ambassador: Get the British Open for me
MSN – Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
In 2018, President Trump allegedly pressured the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson, to ask the United Kingdom government to relocate the lucrative British Open golf tournament to the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. While the ambassador’s deputy warned Johnson such a request would be an ethical violation, Johnson reportedly felt pressured to go forward with it. As president, Trump is immune from a federal statute making conflicts-of-interest involving “government matters that will affect your own personal financial interest” a crime. He is beholden to the emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibiting federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. As recently as 2017, Turnberry posted a seven-figure loss.
Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts
Hartford Courant – Kate Conger (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
Twitter said it had removed thousands of accounts that spread messages about the conspiracy theories known as QAnon, saying their messages could lead to harm and violated company policy. Twitter said it would also block trends related to the loose network of QAnon conspiracy theories from appearing in its trending topics and search and would not allow users to post links affiliated with the theories on its platform. The QAnon theories stem from an anonymous person or group of people who use the name “Q” and claim to have access to government secrets that reveal a plot against President Trump and his supporters. That supposedly classified information was initially posted on message boards before spreading to mainstream internet platforms and has led to significant online harassment as well as physical violence.
Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management
AP News – Richard Lardner | Published: 7/16/2020
Seema Verma, the head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, failed to properly manage more than $6 million in communications and outreach contracts, giving broad authority over federal employees to a Republican media strategist she worked with before joining the Trump administration, a government watchdog said. The contracts were for strategic communications services, such as public engagement and interacting with the media. But the inspector general said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services used them as personal services contracts and exerted a level of control over the contractors’ work that exceeded what is allowed under that type of a federal award.
Canada – How Washington Works: Inside an annual field trip for Canada’s senior bureaucrats
Maclean’s – Nick Taylor-Vaisey | Published: 7/21/2020
“How Washington Works” is a course offered by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), a training ground for that country’s federal employees that aims to “provide a broad range of learning opportunities and to establish a culture of learning.” The CSPS has for years sent senior executives south of the border. Until a few years ago, the course was conducted mostly within the confines of the Canadian embassy. But that all changed in 2015, when Maryscott Greenwood, a frequent guest speaker at the event took on a new role as facilitator. Greenwood heads up the Canadian American Business Council, an influential lobby group backed by some of the biggest corporations with cross-border business.
Canada – WE Organization Under Scrutiny for Not Registering as Lobbyist Before Pitching Proposals to Trudeau Liberals
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 7/17/2020
The WE organization is coming under new scrutiny over questions as to whether it should have officially registered to lobby the federal government before it pitched two separate programs to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government last April. WE is not listed in the federal lobbying registry. Conservative members of Parliament wrote the federal commissioner of lobbying, Nancy Bélanger, asking her to investigate if WE had possibly broken the Lobbying Act.
From the States and Municipalities
California – George Esparza, Ex-Aide to LA Councilman Jose Huizar, Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 7/22/2020
A former aide to now-suspended Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge arising from a purported City Hall corruption scheme in which real estate developers paid bribes to ensure building projects received favored treatment. From 2013 to 2018, Esparza worked as a special assistant to Huizar, who chaired the Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Prosecutors say Esparza and Huizar took bribes from the head of a major Chinese real estate company, who paid more than $1 million in exchange for Huizar’s support for a 77-story skyscraper the company wanted to build.
Colorado – Hickenlooper’s Ethics Defense Costs Taxpayers More Than $133,000
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 7/18/2020
Taxpayers spent $133,438 covering the cost of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s defense attorney in the 18 months before he was found to have violated the state’s ban on gifts to public officials. The legal costs have raised eyebrows because they were paid with leftover money from a 2003 federal fund. The fund was supposed to be for essential government services and federal mandates, but Hickenlooper and his predecessor used the money for a wide range of discretionary spending.
Florida – Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey’s Business Paid Thousands by County Contractor
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 7/22/2020
Since 2016, a business owned by Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey has been paid as much as $88,000 by an engineering firm that contracts with the county. But VanderLey did not disclose that until recently, after The Orlando Sentinel sent her questions about her income from the company and the accuracy of her public financial disclosures. VanderLey acknowledged she had made mistakes on her state- and county-mandated financial disclosure forms, which are meant to help voters understand their elected officials’ potential conflicts-of-interest. VanderLey called it a “clerical error.” County commissioners and other public officers are generally barred by state law from voting on any matter that would uniquely benefit them financially.
Florida – Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 7/18/2020
A Democratic super PAC and other groups agreed to drop their voting lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party on the eve of a federal trial. The groups pushed to change Florida voting laws due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there were signs the lawsuit was in trouble. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in June refused to order changes right away, including a request that taxpayers cover postage costs for mail-in ballots. The decision to end most or all of the legal battle is another win for Republicans in a key battleground state that could make or break President Trump’s reelection effort.
Florida – Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/16/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on Florida’s fight over felon voting, choosing not to overturn a lower court’s decision to keep hundreds of thousands of poor felons from joining the voter rolls ahead of this year’s elections. The decision, which was not accompanied by a written ruling, means felons who cannot afford to pay off all court fines, fees, and restitution to victims are still unable to register to vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the fight against allowing poor felons to vote, after nearly 65 percent of Floridians approved Amendment 4 in 2018. The amendment overturned Florida’s Jim Crow-era law meant to keep Blacks from voting.
Illinois – Federal Investigation Draws Closer to Madigan as ComEd Will Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme; Pritzker Says Speaker Must Resign If Allegations True
Chicago Tribune – Dan Hinkel, Rick Pierson, Alice Yin, Megan Crepeau, and Annie Sweeney | Published: 7/18/2020
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) settled a federal criminal investigation into a years-long bribery scheme in Illinois. According to the deferred prosecution, the company is charged with one count of bribery. As long as it pays a $200 million fine and complies with regulations for three years, that charge will be dropped. ComEd admits it arranged jobs, subcontracts, and pay-offs for associates of “a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois.” Prosecutors in a criminal filing say that elected official is House Speaker Michael Madigan. Prosecutors put a value of $150 million on the legislative benefits ComEd received.
Iowa – Iowa GOP Congressional Candidate Apologizes for Plagiarism, Cuts Ties with Consulting Firm
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 7/22/2020
Iowa congressional candidate Ashley Hinson apologized for plagiarism her opinion pieces and website and cut ties with a consulting firm she said was responsible. The New York Times reported Hinson, a former television news reporter and state representative, plagiarized passages from news outlets including The Times. Hinson repeated the passages word for word in op-eds and on her campaign site without giving credit to the original sources. She also used near-identical language as her opponent, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, used in her platform on veterans issues.
Kentucky – Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign
Louisville Courier-Journal – Deborah Yetter | Published: 7/16/2020
Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairperson and the father of former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for campaign finance violations related to his daughter’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Lundergan was convicted last year with Dale Emmons for being part of a scheme to funnel more than $200,000 in illegal campaign donations to the campaign in which Grimes ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Kentucky – Well-Connected Unemployment Director Quietly Fired Amid Crisis
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Eleanor Klibanoff and Jared Bennett | Published: 7/20/2020
Muncie McNamara, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance, was quietly fired on May 5 amid an unprecedented number of jobless claims, a race to overhaul an archaic computer system, and a belatedly reported data breach. McNamara had been on the job only four months. The lawyer had no experience with unemployment systems or state government before taking the job. But what he did have was connections. He volunteered for and donated to Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign. His wife, a recent chairperson of the Nelson County Democratic Party, considers Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman “a good friend.” Coleman called McNamara to offer him the job personally, he said. McNamara was paid $15,000 more than his predecessor, a career official who the cabinet kept on staff as a special assistant.
Maryland – Political Operative Used Maryland’s DC Lobbyist in Seeking $12.5M Coronavirus Supplies Contract That Went Sour
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 7/16/2020
A company that failed to deliver millions of dollars’ worth of masks and ventilators to Maryland landed the contested deal with the help of a political connection, documents indicate. An adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan helped Blue Flame Medical get its foot in the door with state purchasing agents. The company was founded in March by two Republican political operatives with no medical experience as the coronavirus swept across the country. Tiffany Waddell, Hogan’s director of federal relations, sent an email introducing Blue Flame Medical co-founder Mike Gula to Ellington Churchill, the state’s secretary of the Department of General Services.
Michigan – Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Charged with Misconduct in Office, a Felony
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 7/17/2020
The Monroe County prosecutor charged Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland with misconduct in office. The felony charge comes a month before Leland was scheduled to go to trial in federal court on three counts of bribery for allegedly demanding $15,000 from Bob Carmack to help the businessperson in a dispute with the city. The misconduct in office charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000, indicates Leland’s fate will be decided in state court rather than U.S. District Court. There are several reasons Leland may prefer to resolve the case in state court.
Montana – GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 7/21/2020
A primary election contest led to potential fines for the state auditor candidate who won and another Republican candidate. Montana Commissioner of Political Practice Jeff Mangan said the winning candidate, Troy Downing, had seven violations while another candidate who lost, Scott Tuxbury, had one violation. Downing failed to provide opposing candidates with copies of a campaign direct mail promotion and a television advertisement that mentioned them and were used within 10 days of the primary election. Mangan said Tuxbury failed to disclose details of a $79,000 in-kind contribution to his campaign.
New Mexico – Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work
New Mexico Political Report – Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 7/17/2020
As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District heated up in May, two mysterious groups began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive advertisements about Leger Fernandez but did not disclose who paid for them. Other candidates condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads. But a review of FEC filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race, Valerie Plame, the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign. It is not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups do not disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.
New York – NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office
Adirondack Daily Enterprise – Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 7/22/2020
A month after resigning as New York Senate Republican leader, John Flanagan is holding on to his campaign fund, which contains $376,018. Flanagan’s campaign account, though substantial, is dwarfed by the $1.3 million held former state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who retired from the Legislature at the end of 2018. While neither Flanagan or DeFrancisco has plans to seek office again, state allows former office holders to keep their campaign funds active, though good government groups have pushed for years for a requirement that they be dissolved anywhere from six to 18 months after they leave office. The law only requires the fund be dissolved when the person who held or is holding office dies, said John Conklin of the state Board of Elections.
New York – Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/16/2020
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is accusing President Trump’s lawyers of deliberately stalling a legal battle over a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax records. During a court hearing held one week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s most sweeping arguments against the grand jury subpoena, an attorney from District Attorney Cy Vance’s office said it was evident Trump’s legal team was playing for time. The president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, did not respond directly to that claim but said there were strong indications that Vance’s investigation was a political errand on behalf of Democratic lawmakers in Washington seeking the same set of records.
North Dakota – ND GOP Fined $8,000 for Campaign Finance Violation
Grand Forks Herald – Barry Amundson | Published: 7/18/2020
The North Dakota Republican Party was fined $8,000 by the FEC for failing to report a major campaign contribution within the required timeframe during the 2016 election. Nick Hacker, who was treasurer of the party in October 2016 when the reporting violation was made, said a staff member for the party did not make the corrected report within the 30 days required. Instead, he said, it was corrected within 45 days.
Ohio – Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 Others Charged in $60M Bribery Case Tied to Bailout of Akron’s Energy Harbor
Akron Beacon Journal – USA Today Network Ohio | Published: 7/21/2020
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were arrested in a federal corruption investigation connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of the state’s two nuclear power plants. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme that had “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” Householder, chief political aide Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyists Matt Borges, Neil Clark, and Juan Cespedes used the bribe money to expand the speaker’s political power and enrich themselves by millions of dollars through “dark-money” groups and bank accounts.
Texas – If Texas Capitol Remains Closed, Lobbyists Say Special Interests Will Thrive Away from Public View
KXAN – John Enger | Published: 7/20/2020
Legislation is debated and voted on inside the Texas Capitol in Austin every other year. But it is two blocks down the road where much of the action takes place. At the corner of Ninth Street and Congress Avenue, buildings house dozens of lobbyists who welcome lawmakers to discuss their clients’ policy and financial goals. With the state’s biennial legislative session approaching, and the Capitol still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, some lobbyists say special interests could have an even greater role in the coming year.
Texas – Oil-and-Gas Money Flows to Railroad Commission Nominee Who Pledged to Recuse Himself
Austin American Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 7/16/2020
In March, when James Wright, with little money in his campaign account, remained an obscure Republican primary challenger to a sitting Texas oil-and-gas regulator, he pledged to recuse himself from matters involving campaign donors. But campaign finance reports show that after Wright’s out-of-nowhere upset primary victory, hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests flowed his way. Wright qualified his earlier pledge, saying should he be elected in November to the Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil-and-gas industry, he would recuse himself only on matters that involved donors who give money directly ahead of a commission vote.
Virginia – A Politician’s Return of a $10,000 Donation Was Never Cashed. The Transit Union Says It Lost the Check.
Washington Post – Patricia Sullivan | Published: 7/23/2020
The $10,000 donation that cost former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMTA) board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said. Dorsey, an Arlington County Board member, who served as one of WMTA’s appointed leaders until February, lost that unpaid job over his failure to disclose the union contribution within 10 days, as the board’s ethics policy requires.
Washington DC – Trump Attended a Fundraiser Without a Mask. The City Sent an Investigator to Inspect His Hotel.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Julie Zauzma | Published: 7/22/2020
The president’s recent maskless appearance at his Trump International Hotel, in apparent defiance of District of Columbia coronavirus regulations, caught the attention of local authorities, who inspected the hotel to check for compliance with city rules. The investigator found no violations at the time of the visit, but the agency pledged to continue monitoring the hotel. President Trump did not wear a mask while greeting Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn at his downtown Washington hotel, according to video of their interaction. Nor did multiple guests standing near one another in the lobby, the video shows.
July 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Montana: “GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines” by Mary Beth Hanson for AP News New York: “NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office” by Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) for Adirondack Daily Enterprise […]
Montana: “GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines” by Mary Beth Hanson for AP News
New York: “NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office” by Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) for Adirondack Daily Enterprise
National: “Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts” by Katie Rogers and Peter Baker (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Matt Gaetz Appears to Run Afoul of House Ethics Rules” by Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan for Politico
California: “George Esparza, Ex-Aide to LA Councilman Jose Huizar, Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe” by City News Service for Los Angeles Daily News
Florida: “Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey’s Business Paid Thousands by County Contractor” by Jason Garcia for Orlando Sentinel
Kentucky: “Well-Connected Unemployment Director Quietly Fired Amid Crisis” by Eleanor Klibanoff and Jared Bennett for Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
National: “Pandemic Lobbying Tops K Street Agenda, but Spending Dips” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Texas: “If Texas Capitol Remains Closed, Lobbyists Say Special Interests Will Thrive Away from Public View” by John Enger for KXAN
July 22, 2020 • Written by John Cetor
A special election for Mississippi State Senate District 39 has been set for September 22. The seat was vacated by Sally Doty after her appointment as Staff Director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff by Gov. Tate Reeves.
A special election for Mississippi State Senate District 39 has been set for September 22.
The seat was vacated by Sally Doty after her appointment as Staff Director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff by Gov. Tate Reeves.
July 22, 2020 • Written by John Cetor
Gov. Kay Ivey has scheduled a special election to replace Rep. Ron Johnson of House District 33, who passed away on July 14. The primary election for the seat will be held on October 6 with a runoff set for […]
Gov. Kay Ivey has scheduled a special election to replace Rep. Ron Johnson of House District 33, who passed away on July 14.
The primary election for the seat will be held on October 6 with a runoff set for November 3, if necessary.
The special general election will be held on January 19, 2021.
July 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Elections Florida: “Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida” by Gary Fineout for Politico Ethics National: […]
National: “As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
Florida: “Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida” by Gary Fineout for Politico
National: “Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts” by Kate Conger (New York Times) for Hartford Courant
National: “Trump’s Request of an Ambassador: Get the British Open for me” by Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) for MSN
Colorado: “Hickenlooper’s Ethics Defense Costs Taxpayers More Than $133,000” by Jason Wingerter for Denver Post
Michigan: “Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Charged with Misconduct in Office, a Felony” by M.L. Elrick for Detroit Free Press
Ohio: “Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 Others Charged in $60M Bribery Case Tied to Bailout of Akron’s Energy Harbor” by USA Today Network Ohio for Akron Beacon Journal
National: “Financially Strapped Trucking Firm Tripled Lobbying Days Before Winning Coronavirus Relief Loan” by Jessica Wehrman for Roll Call
Canada: “How Washington Works: Inside an annual field trip for Canada’s senior bureaucrats” by Nick Taylor-Vaisey for Maclean’s
July 20, 2020 • Written by John Cetor
Gov. Ralph Northam has announced the special election for the 29th House of Delegates District will be held on November 3. The seat became vacant when Delegate Chris Collins resigned on June 28.
Gov. Ralph Northam has announced the special election for the 29th House of Delegates District will be held on November 3.
The seat became vacant when Delegate Chris Collins resigned on June 28.