June 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Montana: “U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law” by Holly Michels for Bozeman Daily Chronicle Pennsylvania: “Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court” by Matt […]
Montana: “U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law” by Holly Michels for Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Pennsylvania: “Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court” by Matt Miller for PennLive.com
National: “As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion” by Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Interior Watchdog: Agency official pressed EPA to hire relative” by Ben Lefebvre for Politico
National: “Judge Asks Court Not to ‘Short Circuit’ His Review of Flynn Case” by Charlie Savage for New York Times
California: “Lawyer at Center of Tax-Sharing Deals Being Probed on Ethics Law” by Laura Mahoney for Bloomberg Tax
Michigan: “Gov. Whitmer: I didn’t OK Dem firm for coronavirus project, despite emails” by Jonathan Oosting for Bridge Michigan
West Virginia: “This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.” by Ken Ward Jr, and Alex Mierjeski for ProPublica
National: “Lawmakers Have Been Sleeping in Their Capitol Offices for Years, Coronavirus Is Reviving a Push to End It” by Cristal Hayes for USA Today
Florida: “Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China” by John Haughey for The Center Square
May 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal ‘A Game-Changer’: Pandemic forces shift in black voter outreach Roll Call – Bridgett Bowman | Published: 5/21/2020 Success in November for Democrats may depend on turning out black voters, but a history of facing voter suppression has fueled skepticism among […]
‘A Game-Changer’: Pandemic forces shift in black voter outreach
Roll Call – Bridgett Bowman | Published: 5/21/2020
Success in November for Democrats may depend on turning out black voters, but a history of facing voter suppression has fueled skepticism among African Americans about voting by mail and a preference to vote in person. Strategies to ensure black turnout are being redrawn as Democratic groups and grassroots organizations test messages in real time to determine how best to educate African American voters reluctant about casting mail-in ballots and reassure them it is safe and secure. It is a three-front battle, playing out in the courts, in federal and state Legislatures, and on the campaign trail.
America’s Economic Pain Arrives on K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Daniel Lippman | Published: 5/23/2020
A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Association Executives – essentially a trade group for people who lead trade groups – found 35 percent of trade groups estimated they would lose at least a quarter of their revenue because of canceled events and conferences. The cuts have hit trade groups even as many of their lobbyists have been busier than ever, hustling to secure a piece of the trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid for their members. The cuts show Washington’s influence industry is not immune to the economic pain afflicting much of the rest of the country. While much of K Street has experienced a boom as companies have rushed to hire lobbyists to help them secure relief loans, others are hurting.
Appeals Court Denies Lobbyists’ Efforts to Access Small-Business Loan Program
The Hill – Harper Neidig | Published: 5/26/2020
A federal appeals court rejected an effort by a group of lobbyists and political consultants to obtain access to the Paycheck Protection Program and its emergency loans for small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. A three-judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision not to grant a request by the American Association of Political Consultants for a preliminary injunction. The panel rejected the group’s argument that excluding lobbyists and political consultants from the loans violated the First Amendment.
Appeals Court Ruling Suggests Little Legal Traction for Trump’s Anti-Twitter Campaign
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/27/2020
A ruling that emerged from a federal appeals court recently is strong evidence the courts are unlikely to be receptive to President Trump’s claims that he and his political supporters are being silenced by social media platforms like Twitter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a lawsuit the conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer filed against four major technology companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple. Platforms have banned Loomer, citing anti-Muslim statements. The appeals court judges said despite the companies’ power, they cannot violate the First Amendment because it regulates only governments, not the private sector.
As Residents Perish, Nursing Homes Fight for Protection from Lawsuits
Politico – Maggie Severns and Rachel Roubien | Published: 5/26/2020
As an unprecedented catastrophe unfolds in which more than 28,000 people have died of Covid-19 in care facilities, the nursing home industry is responding with an unprecedented action of its own: using its multi-million dollar lobbying machine to secure protections from liability in lawsuits. The industry is one of the lobbying world’s quiet powerhouses. The state actions came after it spent tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and other advocacy per year. At the federal level, the industry has spent more than $4 million on lobbying over the past year, employing more than a dozen full-time lobbyists and drawing on an army of contract lobbyists.
As Trump Removes Federal Watchdogs, Some Loyalists Replacing Them Have ‘Preposterous’ Conflicts
MSN – Lisa Rein and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2020
For the first time since the system was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, inspectors general find themselves under systematic attack from the president, putting independent oversight of federal spending and operations at risk. Inspectors general, some in acting roles to begin with, have been fired and demoted with no notice, leaving their staffs in disarray, multiple inspectors general said. Adding to their alarm, several White House nominees awaiting Senate vetting for permanent roles do not meet traditional qualifications for the job. Some say the 40-year era of independent oversight of the executive branch is under threat more than ever.
‘Dark Money’ Groups Dodge Reporting Requirement in New Regulations
Politico – Toby Eckert | Published: 5/26/2020
The Treasury Department and IRS released final regulations under which certain tax-exempt groups will no longer be required to provide the names and addresses of major donors on annual returns filed with the IRS. The rules will affect groups organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Those organizations have no legal obligation to publicly disclose their donors’ identities, but they previously had to give the IRS the names and addresses of donors who gave them more than $5,000. Under the new regulations, the groups will not have to provide the information to the IRS at all.
Facebook Ran Multi-Year Charm Offensive to Woo State Prosecutors
Bloomberg Law – Naomi Nix | Published: 5/27/2020
Facebook went to great lengths to develop friendly relationships with powerful state prosecutors who could use their investigative and enforcement powers in ways that could harm the company’s revenue growth. While state attorneys general are law enforcement officials, they are also politicians, and many see the post as a stepping-stone to higher office. Corporate lobbyists often donate to their campaigns and meet with them at legal conferences, while also pressing their case on state regulatory issues. In the end, the company’s charm offensive met with mixed results: most of those state attorneys general are now investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations.
Horsford’s Extramarital Affair with Former Senate Staffer Shows How Narrow House Rules Are
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 5/21/2020
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford had an extramarital affair with a former Senate intern spanning several years, an example that highlights how narrow the House prohibition against lawmakers sleeping with congressional staffers is. Gabriela Linder said the affair began in 2009 and continued sporadically until 2019. When they met, Horsford was a state senator in Nevada; Linder worked as an intern for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Horsford did not begin his first stint representing Nevada’s 4th Congressional District until 2013, after Linder stopped working for Reid. If Horsford were to have had a sexual relationship with Linder while he was a member of Congress and she was working in the Senate, although there is no indication he did, it would have been permissible under House rules.
Justice Dept. Ends Inquiries Into 3 Senators’ Stock Trades
New York Times – Katie Benner and Nicholas Fandos | Published: 5/26/2020
The Justice Department notified U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler, James Inhofe, and Dianne Feinstein it will not pursue insider trading charges against them after an investigation into stock transactions from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic did not find sufficient evidence that they had broken the law. All three had sold substantial amounts of stock when lawmakers were being briefed on the coronavirus threat but before the pandemic began roiling financial markets or was fully understood by the public. Law enforcement officials appear to still be investigating Sen. Richard Burr, whose own stock sales have drawn scrutiny from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.
Lawmakers Press GSA on Trump Hotel’s Request for Financial Relief During Pandemic
Government Executive – Ccourtney Buble | Published: 5/19/2020
House Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration (GSA) for information on the Trump Organization’s request for rent relief during the pandemic for its hotel in a federally leased building. The Trump Organization, for which President Trump’s sons run the daily operations, asked the GSA to treat it like other federal tenants and provide financial relief during the pandemic. Following the news about the request for financial relief, two House committees pressed the GSA for information on the potential conflict-of-interest. The lawmakers said the president is “serving as both tenant and landlord” for the hotel. They also pointed out the hotel is banned from receiving relief loans from the CARES Act under a conflict-of-interest provision.
Lobbyist Register to Be Tightened After Monsanto Case
EU Observer – Nikolaj Nielson | Published: 5/27/2020
Updated European Union (EU) transparency rules set for the end of this year means lobbyists will have to declare much more accurate, and thus likely larger, figures on what they spend to influence decision-making. The EU’s joint transparency register is shared between the European Commission and the European Parliament and lists thousands of entities that work to influence EU legislation. The authority that oversees the register recently announced in a letter it would impose clearer rules to make sure lobbyists do not skirt their reporting obligations.
Republicans Sue Pelosi to Block House Proxy Voting During Pandemic
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt | Published: 5/26/2020
Republican leaders sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top congressional officials to block the U.S. House from using a proxy voting system set up by Democrats to allow for remote legislating during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it unconstitutional. Republicans argued new rules allowing lawmakers to vote from afar during the coronavirus outbreak would be the end of Congress as it was envisioned by the nation’s founders. The lawsuit will face an uphill battle in the courts, where judges have been reluctant to second-guess Congress’s ability to set its own rules. But it fits into a broader push by Republicans to put a cloud of suspicion over Democratic efforts to find alternative ways to vote during the pandemic, both in the House and in elections across the country.
Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder
MSN – Peter Baker and Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 5/26/2020
President Trump smeared a prominent television host from the Rose Garden with an unfounded allegation of murder. Trump all but accused Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress who now hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe,” of killing a staff member in 2001 even though he was 800 miles away at the time and the police ruled her death an accident. The president’s charge amplified a series of Twitter messages in recent days that have anguished the family of Lori Klausutis, who died when she suffered a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk. Trump doubled down on the false accusation even after Timothy Klausutis pleaded unsuccessfully for Twitter to take down the posts about his late wife because they were causing her family such pain.
Twitter Labels Trump’s Tweets with a Fact Check for the First Time
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/26/2020
For the first time, Twitter called tweets from Donald Trump “potentially misleading,” a decision that prompted the president to accuse the company of election meddling. Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims. It linked to a fact-check page filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion. Twitter, which has long grappled with how to address Trump’s tweets, may now find itself under even greater pressure than before to act in a consistent and transparent manner.
Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers
MSN – Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Sara Kliff (New York Times) | Published: 5/24/2020
The Providence Health System, one of the country’s largest and richest hospital chains, received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program. So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – NoDDC PAC Violated Campaign Laws, Lawyer Rules
Scottsdale Progress – Wayne Schutsky | Published: 5/27/2020
The NoDDC PAC and its co-founder Jason Alexander committed multiple campaign finance law violations, according to a report by Phoenix City Attorney Cris Meyer, who proposed 1 $3,000 fine. Meyer found Alexander and NoDDC failed to report some payments over $250 and legal expenses, including a $5,000 city fine for a previous campaign violation that was paid for by Alexander’s personal account and then reimbursed through the PAC.
Arkansas – Ruling Ends Wait for Political Donors
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 5/21/2020
A federal judge made his temporary injunction permanent in allowing Arkansas candidates for statewide office to accept campaign donations more than two years before an election. U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr.’s move reinforced his initial ruling that it is unconstitutional for the state to bar those contributions. In January, a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Moody’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period” for accepting political donations
California – Blind Spot: Lobbying behind California coronavirus contracts can stay secret
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 5/26/2020
California law, despite all the disclosures it demands from lobbyists, does not require they report procurement work – including the $3 billion committed so far to masks, ventilators, and other supplies related to the coronavirus pandemic. As the state has signed hundreds of no-bid procurement contracts over the last two months, the public has very little information about the players involved in landing these deals and how much they are being paid. No lobbyist has been publicly accused of wrongdoing in connection with these contracts. A bill to require lobbyists to disclose procurement clients was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.
Colorado – Hickenlooper Says He Won’t Appear Before Colorado Ethics Body for Video Trial in June
Denver Post – Alex Burness | Published: 5/22/2020
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is running for the U.S. Senate, says he will not appear for his own ethics trial if it proceeds by video, as currently scheduled. Hickenlooper’s attorney, Marc Grueskin, said their camp is prepared to sue in District Court if the state Independent Ethics Commission does not delay the hearing and allow for a new one at which Hickenlooper can consult in real time with his attorney. Hickenlooper was accused in 2018 of violating Amendment 41 of the Colorado Constitution, which bars state employees and officials from accepting gifts worth more than $53 per year.
Connecticut – Dalios Pull Out of State Education Partnership, Attack GOP Reps
Connecticut Post – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 5/20/2020
Barbara and Ray Dalio are exiting the Partnership for Connecticut, ending the arrangement that was touted in 2019 as a unique way to reach troubled youths, although they will maintain their commitment to the cause with at least $100 million. The partnership was plagued by problems almost from the start including criticism that Gov. Ned Lamont and the General Assembly made it exempt from Freedom of Information and state ethics laws.
Florida – Federal Judge Guts Florida Law Requiring Felons to Pay Fines Before They Can Vote
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2020
A federal judge eviscerated a Florida law requiring felons to pay all court fines and fees before they can register to vote, clearing the way for thousands of Floridians to register in time for the November presidential election. Republican lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed the measure after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to expand voting rights to felons who have completed “all terms of their sentence including probation and parole.” The law’s backers said it was necessary to clarify the amendment, while critics said Republicans were trying to limit the effects of what would have been the largest expansion of the state’s electorate since poll taxes and literacy tests were outlawed during the civil rights era.
Florida – Lobbyist Tied to Curry, JEA Bidder Paid City Hall’s Bar Tab at Jaguars Games
Florida Times Union – Staff | Published: 5/22/2020
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration allowed a company owned by his political strategist Tim Baker, who lobbied for companies seeking money from the city and was contracted by a company that tried to purchase JEA, to cover the bar tab at City Hall’s private suite at TIAA Bank Field during the last two football seasons. Taxpayers purchased more than $13,000 in food that was ordered for city officials and their guests during the last two seasons, but they did not pay for the $4,642 worth of alcohol ordered. Instead, the stadium’s concession vendor discounted 50 percent of the alcohol purchases, and the remaining $2,300 was paid for by Bold City Strategic Partners, a firm owned by Baker.
Illinois – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Wins Latest Round in Suit Alleging Sham Candidates
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long | Published: 5/23/2020
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan won a federal court victory as he worked on wrapping up the shortened legislative session in Springfield. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly denied a motion asking for him to reconsider his decision to dismiss a lawsuit that contended Madigan conspired to put up two “sham” candidates with Hispanic names to confuse voters in a 2016 Democratic primary.
Kentucky – Citing Misuse of Funds, Kentucky Auditor Refers 3 County Attorney Offices to Law Enforcement
Louisville Courier Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 5/21/2020
A report from state Auditor Mike Harmon identifies possible misuse of public funds in the offices of three county attorneys in Kentucky, including a lieutenant governor candidate in last year’s primary election. Harmon is referring his findings to the FBI and state Attorney General. The report found that of the $134,500 in bonuses Lawrence County Attorney Michael Hogan gave to his staff from delinquent tax fees from 2017 to 2019, 94 percent was paid to his wife, a secretary in the office. The audit report also found new information related to the former supervisor of the Boyd County Attorney’s Child Support Enforcement office, who was indicted on 77 charges last year relating to more than $113,000 allegedly fraudulently taken over a seven-year period.
Louisiana – Judges’ Financial Disclosure Now Easily Available to the Public
KPLC – Staff | Published: 5/26/2020
For years, the public has been able to access financial disclosures of elected officials except for judges. But after being nudged by a watchdog group, the state Supreme Court is making such information more easily available to the public. The information is now easily searchable on the high court’s web site using the judge’s name or judicial district, while other elected state officials are on the state Board of Ethics site.
Maine – Ethics Panel Wants to Look at Anti-Corridor Group’s Donors
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/23/2020
A group that opposes a hydropower transmission corridor in Maine must disclose financial information so the state ethics commission can continue investigating whether campaign finance laws were broken. Stop the Corridor spent more than $1 million on television and Facebook ads opposing the 145-mile transmission line earlier this year. But it never disclosed the source of the money.
Maryland – Extra-Long Primary Season with Baltimore Mayoral Voters Behind Closed Doors Sees Spending on Mailers, Ads
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 5/26/2020
Under normal circumstances, Baltimore likely would know already who its next mayor is. The deep-blue city’s Democratic primary was supposed to be a month ago. But the coronavirus pandemic delayed the election, and that left candidates seeking funding for another 35 days of expensive campaigning. While earlier finance reports were peppered with $6,000 donations, the maximum amount a donor can directly give a candidate under state law, no candidate received more than a handful of such contributions during the most recent filing period. “If you were a low-financed candidates that was really going to be grassroots, you’re really stuck in a bad position [because of the pandemic],” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “Now you need more money because you have to be able to able to appeal on the airwaves.”
Michigan – Feds Charge Ex-Macomb Public Works Boss Marrocco in Extortion Indictment
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/27/2020
Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, alleging he teamed with an underling to extort county contractors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The indictment portrays Marrocco as a tough-talking bully and a political kingmaker during a decades-long reign. He threatening to revoke municipal contracts, withhold permits and, in May 2016, removed an unidentified excavation firm from a multi-million-dollar sinkhole repair project because the company held a fundraiser for Marrocco’s political opponent, according to the government. Builders and contractors bought hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets to fundraisers and some of the money financed Marrocco’s luxury lifestyle, prosecutors said.
Michigan – Where Coronavirus Help on Facebook Is ‘Inherently Political’
New York Times – Jennifer Medina | Published: 5/28/2020
The coronavirus pandemic has unmoored already fragile institutions across the country, forcing many Americans to turn to one another for help instead of to the government or nonprofit organizations. With the belief that the system is so broken that assistance will never come, hundreds have formed mutual aid societies, designed to allow people to find help themselves. Though the groups’ efforts vary widely, similar attempts to offer assistance have formed in dozens of states. The groups are something of a throwback; such networks were popular in the heydays of communal activity, in the early 20th century and again in the 1960s and 1970s. The newest crop has been formed largely by young progressives, and their proliferation points to a new kind of organizing that could reshape politics long after the pandemic.
Mississippi – Mississippi Lawmakers Approved $300M in Small Business Grants. Can They Apply for the Money?
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/22/2020
The Mississippi Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that commits $300 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses. But can lawmakers who operate small businesses themselves apply for the money? That is the question Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wants the state Ethics Commission to answer. The legislation specifically said lobbyists, businesses that hired a lobbyist, or ones involved in partisan political activities, could not apply for the program. But the bill did not say anything about the people who passed the bill.
Missouri – No Lobbyist Gifts for State Lawmakers, But Local Officials in Missouri Still Get Freebies
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 5/21/2020
Although Missouri lawmakers are banned from accepting all but the smallest gifts from lobbyists, local officials continue to rake in freebies from companies doing business with cities and counties. A review of reports filed with state ethics regulators shows tickets to St. Louis Cardinals and Blues games remain a popular staple with lobbyists and local officials.
Missouri – Suit Against Missouri Governor Over Public Records Gets New Life
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 5/26/2020
A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Missouri Gov. Mike Parson alleging his office violated the state’s public records laws. At issue is a 2018 lawsuit filed by Elad Gross, who is running for state attorney general. The suit accused Parson’s administration of breaking the Sunshine Law by requiring Gross pay more than $3,600 for a cache of records relating to former Gov. Eric Greitens, who left office under a cloud of scandal. In tossing the suit Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce said Parson’s administration, under Missouri law, had the discretion to charge or waive fees. But the appeals court said Joyce erred on five of the 10 points Gross made during an appeal.
Nebraska – Nebraska Sees Increase in Lobbyists, Spending on Lobbyists
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/22/2020
Lobbyists in Nebraska raked in more cash than ever last year and more people joined their ranks to try to influence public officials, according to a new report. Lobbyists collected $19.4 million in gross earnings in 2019, Common Cause Nebraska said. The watchdog group said the total is a record, up from $17.8 million in 2018.
New York – De Blasio’s NYC Campaign Account Hit with $16K Fine by Regulator
New York Post – Nolan Hicks | Published: 5/23/2020
The Campaign Finance Board hit New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign with a $16,000 fine for violating a slew of regulations, including failing to promptly return excessive contributions from individuals with business before City Hall. It also determined de Blasio’s reelection effort broke other rules, including failing to report expenses or in-kind contributions that came from hosting 22 fundraisers, failing to disclose a dozen donations from late in the campaign cycle on required daily reports, and shelling out $6,700 in expenses it could not prove were in “furtherance of the campaign.”
Oklahoma – Bill Could Hide Donor and Lobbyist Info from the Public
The Express-News – Ben Felder (The Frontier) | Published: 5/19/2020
A bill pushed through the Oklahoma Legislature in the final days of the session could prevent the public from knowing who is donating to PACs or who lobbyists are working for, a move that would bring significant secrecy to the legislative process. House Bill 3613 could result in the state’s electronic campaign reporting system being taken offline, according to Ashley Kemp, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. The bill would prevent state agencies from collecting any information that “identifies a person as a member, supporter, or volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to, any entity organized pursuant to Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.”
Rhode Island – R.I. Senate Leaders Propose Allowing Email Voting
Providence Journal – Patrhick Anderson | Published: 5/26/2020
More than two months after Rhode Island General Assembly sessions were put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, the state Senate is moving toward allowing lawmakers to vote remotely. A resolution sponsored by Senate Democratic leaders would give lawmakers who do not feel comfortable gathering at the statehouse the option of voting by email.
Washington – Wash. Campaign Finance Watchdog Blocks Some Online Access in Wake of Unemployment Fraud
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Austin Jenkins | Published: 5/26/2020
At the request of a powerful state senator who warned of “foreign intrusion,” the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) temporarily suspended online access to the personal financial statements of elected officials, candidates, and other public officials. The F-1 statements, as they are known, include information about an individual’s income, assets, property holdings, debt, and business associations. Sen. Sam Hunt said he had both warned that the “PDC is being assaulted by international data thieves from China, Russia, and Germany.”
Washington DC – Jack Evans Fined $35,000 by Ethics Board as Voters Weigh Returning Him to Office
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 5/22/2020
The District of Columbia’s ethics board fined former city council member Jack Evans $35,000 for violations related to his outside employment while in office, as voting started in the primary election where Evans is attempting to reclaim his old seat. The negotiated settlement wraps up a probe that started more than two years ago scrutinizing the ties between Evans and businesses that employed him as a lawyer or consultant. The board found Evans violated the city code of conduct governing conflicts-of-interest.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Elections Commission Votes to Send Absentee Ballot Applications to 2.7 Million Voters
Wisconsin Public Radio – Shawn Johnson | Published: 5/27/2020
The state would send about 2.7 million registered voters absentee ballot applications under a motion approved by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The state would send absentee ballot applications to nearly all registered voters to prepare for Wisconsin’s November election. Roughly 62 percent of all votes in Wisconsin’s April election were cast by mail as voters heeded advice from both state and federal government to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Turnout for the November election is expected to double that of the spring election.
May 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “‘Dark Money’ Groups Dodge Reporting Requirement in New Regulations” by Toby Eckert for Politico Elections National: “‘A Game-Changer’: Pandemic forces shift in black voter outreach” by Bridgett Bowman for Roll Call Ethics National: “Trump Pushes a Conspiracy […]
National: “‘Dark Money’ Groups Dodge Reporting Requirement in New Regulations” by Toby Eckert for Politico
National: “‘A Game-Changer’: Pandemic forces shift in black voter outreach” by Bridgett Bowman for Roll Call
National: “Trump Pushes a Conspiracy Theory That Falsely Accuses a TV Host of Murder” by Peter Baker and Maggie Astor (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Twitter Labels Trump’s Tweets with a Fact Check for the First Time” by Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justice Dept. Ends Inquiries Into 3 Senators’ Stock Trades” by Katie Benner and Nicholas Fandos for New York Times
Colorado: “Hickenlooper Says He Won’t Appear Before Colorado Ethics Body for Video Trial in June” by Alex Burness for Denver Post
Connecticut: “Dalios Pull Out of State Education Partnership, Attack GOP Reps” by Kaitlyn Krasselt for Connecticut Post
National: “Republicans Sue Pelosi to Block House Proxy Voting During Pandemic” by Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt for New York Times
Europe: “Lobbyist Register to Be Tightened After Monsanto Case” by Nikolaj Nielson for EU Observer
National: “As Residents Perish, Nursing Homes Fight for Protection from Lawsuits” by Maggie Severns and Rachel Roubien for Politico
National: “Facebook Ran Multi-Year Charm Offensive to Woo State Prosecutors” by Naomi Nix for Bloomberg Law
May 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New York: “De Blasio’s NYC Campaign Account Hit with $16K Fine by Regulator” by Nolan Hicks for New York Post Elections Illinois: “Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Wins Latest Round in Suit Alleging Sham Candidates” by Ray Long […]
New York: “De Blasio’s NYC Campaign Account Hit with $16K Fine by Regulator” by Nolan Hicks for New York Post
Illinois: “Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Wins Latest Round in Suit Alleging Sham Candidates” by Ray Long for Chicago Tribune
National: “Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers” by Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Sara Kliff (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Lawmakers Press GSA on Trump Hotel’s Request for Financial Relief During Pandemic” by Ccourtney Buble for Government Executive
Mississippi: “Mississippi Lawmakers Approved $300M in Small Business Grants. Can They Apply for the Money?” by Luke Ramseth for Jackson Clarion-Ledger
National: “Appeals Court Denies Lobbyists’ Efforts to Access Small-Business Loan Program” by Harper Neidig for The Hill
California: “Blind Spot: Lobbying behind California coronavirus contracts can stay secret” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters
Florida: “Lobbyist Tied to Curry, JEA Bidder Paid City Hall’s Bar Tab at Jaguars Games” by Staff for Florida Times Union
Nebraska: “Nebraska Sees Increase in Lobbyists, Spending on Lobbyists” by Staff for AP News
May 26, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Ruling Ends Wait for Political Donors” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Maine: “Ethics Panel Wants to Look at Anti-Corridor Group’s Donors” by Staff for AP News Elections Florida: “Federal Judge Guts Florida Law Requiring Felons to […]
Arkansas: “Ruling Ends Wait for Political Donors” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Maine: “Ethics Panel Wants to Look at Anti-Corridor Group’s Donors” by Staff for AP News
Florida: “Federal Judge Guts Florida Law Requiring Felons to Pay Fines Before They Can Vote” by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Horsford’s Extramarital Affair with Former Senate Staffer Shows How Narrow House Rules Are” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “As Trump Removes Federal Watchdogs, Some Loyalists Replacing Them Have ‘Preposterous’ Conflicts” by Lisa Rein and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) for MSN
Kentucky: “Citing Misuse of Funds, Kentucky Auditor Refers 3 County Attorney Offices to Law Enforcement” by Joe Sonka for Louisville Courier Journal
Washington DC: “Jack Evans Fined $35,000 by Ethics Board as Voters Weigh Returning Him to Office” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
National: “America’s Economic Pain Arrives on K Street” by Theodoric Meyer and Daniel Lippman for Politico
Missouri: “No Lobbyist Gifts for State Lawmakers, But Local Officials in Missouri Still Get Freebies” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Appeals Court Greenlights Emoluments Suit against Trump Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/14/2020 A lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government money through his Washington, D.C. hotel can proceed to fact-gathering about Trump’s profits, […]
Appeals Court Greenlights Emoluments Suit against Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/14/2020
A lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government money through his Washington, D.C. hotel can proceed to fact-gathering about Trump’s profits, a federal appeals court ruled. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to reject Trump’s bid to shut down the lawsuit the governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia brought alleging violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Trump will now need relief from the U.S. Supreme Court if he wants to block Maryland and the District of Columbia from pressing demands for his business records as his reelection campaign gets into full swing.
Barr Installs Top DOJ Aide, Prosecutor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Trespasser, Over U.S. Prosecutors in Washington
Beaumont Enterprise – Spencer Hsu and Keith Alexander (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2020
Attorney General William Barr installed a new top deputy over the federal prosecutor’s office for Washington, D.C., raising concerns that a key U.S. attorney’s office handling multiple investigations of interest to President Trump is becoming further politicized. The arrival of Associate Deputy Attorney General Michael Sherwin triggered new accusations that Justice Department leaders are bypassing career prosecutors in the office and intervening in cases favoring the president’s allies, current and former federal prosecutors in the office said.
Courts Hamper Efforts to Shine Light on Digital Campaign Ads
Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/19/2020
Partisan divisions in Congress and on the FEC have stalled efforts to require more disclosure of who is funding paid messaging on Facebook and other internet platforms. A recent ruling could set back efforts by states including California, New York, and Washington to fill the breach left by federal regulators. A court decision required Maryland to permanently cease enforcing parts of its online ad disclosure law against newspapers and television stations that have websites selling political ads. More than $600 million has been spent on online ads so far in the 2020 election cycle, according to Advertising Analytics, whose data includes only ads on Facebook and Google. The firm estimates about half of all digital political ads are on those platforms.
Democrats Open Investigation into Trump’s Replacement of Acting Transportation Department Inspector General
MSN – Ian Duncan and Michael Laris (Washington Post) | Published: 5/19/2020
Three leading House Democrats said they plan to open an investigation into the replacement of the Transportation Department’s acting inspector general, concerned the move was tied to an ongoing investigation of Secretary Elaine Chao’s dealings with Kentucky. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has faced questions about whether her department has given preferential treatment to projects in the state. In October 2019, Transportation Committee Chairperson Peter DeFazio said he first requested the inspector general’s office look into Chao’s influence on a discretionary grant program called Infrastructure For Rebuilding America.
Donors Can Now Give $620,600 to Biden and DNC, Expanding Democratic Big-Money Fundraising
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 5/16/2020
Joe Biden will ask donors to give as much as $620,600 to support his White House bid and down-ballot candidates, expanding his fundraising capability to compete with President Trump’s big-money machine. The Biden Victory Fund, a committee that raises money with the Democratic National Committee, filed an agreement that allows wealthy donors to give large checks that will be shared by the campaign, the party, and 26 state parties, the latest move by Democrats to ramp up the former vice president’s fundraising for the general election. The agreement is the latest example of the dramatically expanding fundraising power of national party committees, made possible through legal changes in 2014 that loosened restrictions on individual contributions.
Election Watchdog, Dormant for Months, Can Finally Move into Action
New York Times – Rebecca Ruiz | Published: 5/19/2020
The Senate confirmation of James Trainor to the FEC means the agency now will have a quorum to hold meetings and conduct official business. With Trainor, the FEC will have an equal number of Republican and Democratic appointees, so it likely will still be deadlocked on major action. Routine actions, including the collection and publication of campaign finance disclosures, continued to be performed by staff. But any effort to investigate or punish violations required action by the full commission, which could not meet. Trainor’s nomination had been in limbo since 2017 amid questions over his social media postings and a standstill among Senate leaders on an approach to appointing commissioners.
EPA Emails Reveal Talks Between Trump Officials, Chemical Group Before 2017 Settlement
The Hill – Rachel Frazen | Published: 5/17/2020
When the chemical company Brenntag received a fine in 2017, the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) asked for help from two new Trump administration appointees who previously worked in chemical lobbying. The two appointees were Mandy Gunasekara, a former NACD lobbyist who is now chief of staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Nancy Beck, former president of the American Chemistry Council. Beck, now detailed at the White House, has been nominated by President Trump to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Brenntag was ultimately fined, although the penalty it received was roughly 20 percent lower than the one initially proposed by the EPA.
Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting
MSN – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 5/17/2020
Six months before a presidential election in which turnout could matter more than persuasion, the Republican Party, the Trump campaign, and conservative activists are mounting an aggressive national effort to shape who gets to vote in November and whose ballots are counted. Its premise is that a Republican victory in November is imperiled by widespread voter fraud, a baseless charge embraced by President Trump, but repeatedly debunked by research. Democrats and voting rights advocates say the driving factor is politics, not fraud, especially since Trump’s narrow win in 2016 underscored the potentially crucial value of depressing turnout by Democrats, particularly minorities.
K Street, PACs Not Eager to Attend In-Person Fundraisers Yet
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 5/14/2020
Many lobbyists and corporate executives, cloistered in their home offices during the coronavirus pandemic, said they were unlikely to sign up for in-person political events in the coming weeks, and some were dismayed that lawmakers would even send invitations for so near in the future. Others, though, said they long for a return to the intimacy of real-life events that virtual events cannot replace. One lobbyist invited to upcoming events said it was appalling to see such solicitations now, adding, “Why expose members of the lobbying community to unnecessary risk?”
Liberals Embrace Super PACs They Once Shunned
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 5/17/2020
Progressives are embracing super PACs with newfound vigor as they look to put their political influence and organizing tactics to use in the aftermath of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. A handful of new liberal outside groups have cropped up in recent weeks, many of them founded by former aides and allies of Sanders and other prominent progressives. Their goals range from boosting Joe Biden’s presidential campaign of to patching what they see as electoral holes in the Democrats’ organizing strategy. But the proliferation of super PACs has come at a cost for some in the progressive movement, which has long denounced the existence of such groups and the influence of money in politics.
Phantom Super PAC Says It Returned Donations
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/18/2020
A phantom super PAC that reported dropping millions of dollars on the battle for the U.S. Senate said in a report it was returning money to its alleged donors following a media investigation. Politico reported there was little evidence that Americans for Progressive Action USA was spending the large outlays it reported to the FEC. The super PAC reported it returned more than $4.8 million in donations it said it received from three donors with Texas addresses. In memo lines explaining why the contributions were being returned, three reasons were listed: “refund due to Politico”, “refund,” and “refund after Montellaro” – the last name of a Politico reporter.
Pompeo’s Moves Against Inspector General Leave a Trail of Questions and a Department Divided
MSN – John Hudson and Carol Morello (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2020
The circumstances of Steve Linick’s removal as the State Department’s internal watchdog remain contentious. The nature of his work, which involved interviewing various officials and uncovering acts of wrongdoing, means any investigation could be suspected of causing his downfall and his list of enemies is long. Before he was fired, Linick was investigating an emergency declaration President Trump made last year to approve an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a decision Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved, said U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel. Pompeo’s vague criticisms of Linick have left questions about whether one of the inspector’s past or current investigations agitated Pompeo enough to prompt the decision to remove him.
Sen. Richard Burr Stepping Aside as Intelligence Committee Chair Amid FBI Investigation of His Stock Sales
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett, Seung Min Kim, and Katie Shepherd | Published: 5/14/2020
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is stepping down as chairperson of the Intelligence Committee, following the seizure of his cellphone by FBI agents investigating whether any laws were broken when Burr sold a significant share of his stocks before the coronavirus outbreak crashed financial markets. The decision to step aside acknowledges the awkward, ethically fraught dynamic that would have existed if Burr had continued to lead a committee with oversight responsibilities for an agency conducting a criminal investigation of his conduct. But it also has implications for the delicate balance of power between the government’s executive and legislative branches, suggesting an investigation alone may be enough to remove a senior lawmaker from a key post.
States Push Millions of People Toward Absentee Voting Amid Pandemic
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 5/21/2020
State and local election administrators are pushing millions of voters to cast their ballots by mail in upcoming elections amidst a pandemic that could spread widely where people gather. The applications raise the prospect of a massive surge of ballots pouring into election administration offices in the days leading up to the presidential election. They have also raised the ire of President Trump, who accused two states of acting illegally and raised the prospects of punishing those states by withholding funding.
Supreme Court Stops House Democrats from Seeing Secret Mueller Material for Now
Stamford Advocate – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court stopped House Democrats for now from seeing secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. The court, without noted dissent, agreed to a request from the Justice Department to put on hold a lower court’s decision granting the House Judiciary Committee some previously undisclosed material from Mueller’s probe. The action could mean that Congress will not receive the full Mueller report, without redactions of certain grand jury material, until after the November election, or perhaps not even during lawmakers’ current term, which ends January 3.
Susan Pompeo Draws Scrutiny in Inquiry Over Dry Cleaning and Dog Walking
MSN – Lara Jakes (New York Times) | Published: 5/19/2020
Susan Pompeo, the wife of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is now under scrutiny after the firing of the State Department’s inspector general at her husband’s behest. A whistle-blower tipped off Democrats in Congress that she had her own security guards, and agents with the Diplomatic Security Service had been tasked with running errands for the family like picking up takeout food and collecting the family dog from a groomer. Before he was fired, the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, was examining, among other issues, the potential misuse of an aide to do personal errands for both Pompeos.
Targeting Hunter Biden, Senate Panel Approves Subpoena for Lobbying Firm Over Democrats’ Objections
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis | Published: 5/20/2020
A Senate committee moved to subpoena documents related to the son of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in an election-year escalation of Republican congressional scrutiny of Biden’s time as vice president. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the subpoena on a party-line vote, more than two months after its chairperson, Sen. Ron Johnson, indicated he planned to seek the documents concerning Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Johnson’s quest has generated fierce objection from Democrats, who argue the inquiry is simply an election-year witch hunt meant to sling mud at President Trump’s likely opponent.
Trump’s Company Has Received at Least $970,000 from U.S. Taxpayers for Room Rentals
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2020
The U.S. government has paid at least $970,000 to President Trump’s company since he took office, including payments for more than 1,600 nightly room rentals at Trump’s hotels and clubs. The payments create an unprecedented business relationship between the president’s private company and his government, which began in the first month of Trump’s presidency and continued into this year. Records show taxpayers have now paid for the equivalent of more than four years’ worth of nightly rentals at Trump properties, including 950 nights at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and 530 nights at the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
Trump’s Vaccine Chief Has Vast Ties to Drug Industry, Posing Possible Conflicts
New York Times – Sheila Kaplan, Matthew Goldstein, and Alexandra Stevenson | Published: 5/20/2020
The scientist brought in to lead the Trump administration’s efforts to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus has spent the last several days trying to disentangle pieces of his stock portfolio and ties to big pharmaceutical interests as critics point to the potential for significant conflicts-of-interest. Moncef Slaoui is a venture capitalist and a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline. Most recently, he sat on the board of Moderna, a biotechnology firm that is pursuing a coronavirus vaccine. Slaoui did not come on board as a government employee. Instead, he is on a contract. That leaves him exempt from federal disclosure rules that would require him to list his outside positions, stock holdings, and other potential conflicts. And the contract position is not subject to the same conflict-of-interest laws and regulations that executive branch employees must follow.
Work from Home Congress? House OKs Proxy Votes
AP News – Lisa Mascaro | Published: 5/15/2020
The U.S. House approved a package of historic rules changes so Congress can keep functioning even while it is partly closed. The shift will dramatically change the look, if not the operation, of the legislative branch. Under the new rules, House lawmakers will no longer be required to travel to Washington to participate in floor votes. They will be allowed to vote by proxy – assigning their vote to another lawmaker who will be at the Capitol to cast it for them. Eventually, a provision allows for direct remote voting once the technology is approved. House committees be able to fully function remotely.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Lawmaker Says Hitler Was Not White Supremacist After Comparing Coronavirus Measures to Nazi Rule
MSN – Hannah Knowles and Candace Buckner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2020
An uproar began when Alaska Rep. Ben Carpenter emailed all 39 of his statehouse colleagues to compare health-screening stickers to the badges that singled out Jews during the Holocaust, sharing his dismay at a new requirement for legislators returning to the Capitol amid the coronavirus outbreak. Carpenter dug in against the criticism and sparked another backlash when he said Hitler was not a white supremacist. The comments echo comparisons made by some protesters opposed to stay-at-home orders who argue strict public health measures are akin to slavery and genocidal dictatorships, governors have been likened to Nazis, in rhetoric many view as inappropriate in a national debate about measures to curb the pandemic.
Alaska – Complaint Alleges Dunleavy Violated Ethics Law by Auctioning Breakfast at Governor’s Mansion
Alaska Public Media – Andrewe Kitchenman | Published: 5/20/2020
A complaint alleges Gov. Mike Dunleavy violated state ethics law when an Alaska Republican Party fundraiser auctioned a breakfast with Dunleavy at the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau. The law prohibits the use of state facilities for partisan political purposes. It allows two exceptions for the mansion: meetings to discuss political strategy and the use of “communications equipment … so long as there is no charge to the state.” State GOP Chairperson Glenn Clary said the breakfast would fall under the legal exemption for political strategy meetings at the mansion. Clary also said the party used the gala to raise funds for party operations, rather than to benefit the governor or political candidates.
California – Here’s a Closer Look at the Ex-Deputy Mayor Enmeshed in City Hall Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 5/20/2020
Raymond Chan earned praise at City Hall for his eagerness to smooth out city bureaucracy for developers, both as the head of Los Angeles’ building department and later as a deputy mayor focused on economic development. Now court records in an ongoing federal probe into corruption at City Hall tell a different story. Prosecutors have alleged a deputy mayor was paid by a real estate consultant to help shepherd a major project and leveraged his power as a city official to aid the development. Although federal investigators did not name the former deputy mayor in court papers, details about his employment history make clear it is Chan.
California – Newsom Raises Record $26M in Donations for Covid-19, Some from Companies Lobbying State
Politico – Katy Murphy and Carla Marinucci | Published: 5/19/2020
Prominent business interests have poured nearly $26 million into fighting Covid-19 at California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request, a record amount that came as some of the companies lobbied the governor’s office on regulatory matters, state disclosures show. Informing citizens about how to protect themselves and others during the pandemic has clear societal benefits, government and ethics experts say. But, they add, the public should view any such private-sector assistance with a critical eye. Businesses or individuals lending a hand to government may enhance their ability to influence policymakers by generating goodwill, said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause.
California – San Diego Ballot Measures for Ranked Choice Voting, ‘Clean Elections’ Take Key Step Forward
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 5/14/2020
San Diego residents may get a chance this November to vote on ballot measures that would shift city elections to ranked-choice voting, provide public funding for local candidates, and change contracting laws in favor of union labor. The city council’s Rules Committee voted to allow further evaluation of those measures so the full council can decide this summer whether they should appear on the ballot. The ballot measure that would provide public funding for city elections aims to reduce the impact of campaign contributions on local elections. Supporters say such a system would encourage more qualified candidates to run for city office and reduce the influence of corporate interests and labor unions.
Colorado – Two Lawsuits Filed Against Colorado Governor’s Decision to Allow Signature Collection Through Email, Mail
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 5/18/2020
Two groups, including one hoping to ask voters in November to ban abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks of gestation, filed separate lawsuits challenging Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order allowing signatures to be gathered for ballot initiatives through email and mail. The lawsuits appear to be the first direct legal challenges to Polis’ use of his executive powers under his disaster emergency declaration. Some critics say he has gone too far in reacting to the pandemic. The governor said the order is aimed at preventing the disease from compromising Coloradans’ democratic right to access the ballot during a time when groups are unable to canvas and gather signatures. The abortion-ban effort is the only pending ballot initiative that cannot benefit from the order issued by Polis, who supports abortion access.
Connecticut – Lamont and His Party Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Secrecy Rules for Partnerships with Private Sector
Connecticut Mirroir – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 5/20/2020
Some in Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s party are not enthusiastic about continuing to ease transparency and ethics rules to leverage private-sector resources. Lamont has tried to shield hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic arm, as well as dozens of private volunteers planning Connecticut’s economic re-emergence from the coronavirus pandemic, from the transparency rules that otherwise guide government functions. “… We were trying to create a hybrid of government officials and private officials and the lesson here is that’s just not possible,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter.
Florida – Curry’s Former Chief Administrator, Political Strategist Worked for JEA Bidder, According to Documents
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 5/15/2020
NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power and Light, hired Sam Mousa and Tim Baker, two local lobbyists with close ties to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, in connection to their attempt to purchase JEA. The revelation that Baker and Mousa worked for NextEra raises a number of questions, including whether Baker was offering policy advice to JEA while working for the company considered to be the front-runner to win the competition to buy the city-owned utility.
Maryland – Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Shuts Down After Email Details Strategy to Attract White Voters
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman and Luke Broadwater | Published: 5/14/2020
A PAC that supported Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller is shutting down and returning unspent money after a leaked email revealed a strategy to target white voters in a majority-black city. The Baltimore Sun reported on the email Martin Knott Jr., treasurer for the Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC, sent to potential donors in which he laid out the group’s plans for the June 2 primary. He said the PAC would use negative ads to take voters away from former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and city council President Brandon Scott, candidates who, like Miller have polled well among white voters.
Michigan – Bribery Case Against Detroit Councilman Could End in Plea Deal 3 Years After He Took Money
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 5/18/2020
Three years after Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland allegedly shook down a businessperson, Leland’s bribery case could end with a plea deal or a new felony charge in state court. Leland was indicted on three counts of bribery after a federal grand jury determined he demanded $15,000 from a businessperson in a land dispute with the city. Steve Fishman, Leland’s attorney, had vowed to take the case to trial, but recent court records signed by prosecutors and Fishman say “the parties have discussed a resolution of the matter and need additional time to determine whether a resolution is possible.”
Mississippi – Nonprofit Officials Spent $400,000 in Welfare Dollars to Lobby State Government. Public Education Funding Flowed Their Way.
Mississippi Today – Anna Wolfe | Published: 5/19/2020
Prominent special education figure Nancy New spent hundreds of thousands of welfare dollars her nonprofit had received from the state to cull favor and lobby state government in Mississippi for her private school interests, according to interviews and documents. The nonprofit, at the center of what is now called the largest alleged public embezzlement scheme in state history, spent at least $400,000 in welfare funds to “maintain governmental revenue streams or to lobby on behalf of their organization,” the state auditor reported. She and her son’s separate private school companies received nearly $1.3 million from direct legislative appropriations. But as is the case with many of the purchases her Mississippi Community Education Center made, investigators have found little public documentation exists to show what influence their efforts may have had.
Missouri – Clean Missouri Proponents Sue to Have Lawmaker-Approved Repeal Question Rewritten
Kansas City Star – Crystal Thomas | Published: 5/18/2020
A proposal to undo key portions of a redistricting plan passed by Missouri voters two years ago will mislead the public if it appears on the ballot, according to a lawsuit filed by supporters of the original measure. The lawsuit by backers of the Clean Missouri initiative contends the summary for the 2020 ballot proposal approved by the state Legislature should be struck down as insufficient and unfair. It asks a Cole County judge to either rewrite the summary or order lawmakers to do so. The revision by lawmakers included ethics provisions like lowering the limit for lobbyists gifts by five dollars and reducing contribution limits to state senators by $100.
Montana – Dark Money Group Ordered to Disclose Details on Campaign Spending in Montana
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 5/19/2020
A secretive group airing election ads featuring state Attorney General Tim Fox has been violating Montana campaign finance laws, the state’s political practices commissioner found. Ads by American Prosperity Group (APG) began airing on cable television in March. There is still no record of a group by that name either with state or federal elections regulators. That lack of information puts APG in violation of laws intended to prevent “dark money” spending in state politics.
New Jersey – Katie Brennan Settles Lawsuit Against State and Murphy Campaign for $1 Million Following Rape Allegation
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/15/2020
Katie Brennan, the former campaign volunteer whose rape allegations led to legislative hearings and promised reforms, has settled her lawsuit against the state and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign. The state and Murphy for Governor, Inc. will pay a total of $1 million, with $600,000 going to a charity of Brennan’s choice and $400,000 to her attorneys. Neither side admitted any wrongdoing. The settlement also says Brennan and Al Alvarez, the former Murphy campaign adviser she accused of raping her, will participate in a “restorative justice” program. Her case prompted conversations in Trenton about non-disclosure agreements in campaigns, how sexual assault cases are handled in state government, and an underlying culture of sexual harassment and misogyny in New Jersey politics.
New York – New York Democratic Presidential Primary to Proceed Following Federal Appeals Panel Ruling
Washington Post – Shayna Jacobs and John Wagner | Published: 5/19/2020
New York’s Democratic presidential primary will take place after a federal appeals panel upheld the ruling of a judge who determined that scrapping it violated the constitutional rights of former candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders. The three-judge appeals panel affirmed the May 5 ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres that the plaintiffs “had made a strong showing of irreparable harm.” Doug Kellner, co-chairperson of the state elections board, said the board will not appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for the June 23 Democratic primary to proceed.
New York – Who Exactly Is a Lobbyist?
City & State – Rebecca Lewis | Published: 5/17/2020
Lobbying plays a key role in city and state government, but it is not limited to the stereotypical operator working out deals in smoke-filled back rooms. That is because the scope of actions that require individuals to register as lobbyists is especially broad in New York. According to New York City and state law, the definition of a lobbying covers a wide array of avenues through which someone may attempt to influence just about any decision that requires some form of action by a government body or agency.
Oklahoma – Controversial Oklahoma Bill That Would Have Reversed Campaign Contribution Rules Permanently Killed
KFOR – Cassandra Sweetman | Published: 5/15/2020
A controversial bill in Oklahoma was pulled off the table almost as quickly as it was introduced after the state Senate author said it was never meant to become law in the first place. Sen. Roger Thompson amended House Bill 3996 to would allow campaign contributions to be used for personal expenses, including mortgages, vacations, athletic events, concerts, and country club dues.
Oregon – Oregon High Court Halts Ruling Nixing Virus Restrictions
AP News – Gillian Flaccus and Andrew Selsky | Published: 5/19/2020
The Oregon Supreme Court halted a judge’s order which had tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Kate Brown in a case brought by churches arguing the governor exceeded her authority. Baker County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Shirtcliff ruled Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit. The Supreme Court’s decision stays Shirtcliff’s decree pending review by all the justices. Shirtcliff issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed by 10 churches around Oregon that argued the state’s social distancing directives were unconstitutional.
Oregon – Oregon Republican Senate Nominee Backs Away from Election Day Support for ‘Qanon’ Conspiracy Theory
Portland Oregonian – K. Rambo | Published: 5/20/2020
Oregon Republicans nominated financial adviser Jo Rae Perkins to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in November. Her Election Day address to voters ignited a social media firestorm. In a video posted on Perkins’ Twitter account, she expresses support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits a shadowy cabal of elites, often liberals, operates a global human trafficking ring and engages in the ritualistic abuse and sacrifice of children. Many supporters claim President Trump is carrying out a covert mission to break up the “deep state” and end the supposed trafficking ring. After her statements brought a wave of national attention, she appears to have retreated from her support and deleted the video from her Twitter account.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Auditor General Probing ‘Undue’ Outside Influence on Business Waivers
Clearfield Progress – Christen Smith (The Center Square) | Published: 5/17/2020
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his office will investigate whether outside influence, from lobbyists or legislators, played a role in which businesses received waivers to stay open during the pandemic shutdown. DePasquale said he has heard from confused business owners frustrated by the apparent inconsistencies in the state’s waiver decisions. Now, DePasquale said, his staff will focus on what impact communications with legislators and lobbyists had on the decisions the Department of Community and Economic Development ultimately made.
Wisconsin – Sweeping Federal Lawsuit Seeks Voting Changes in Wisconsin
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 5/18/2020
Advocates for people with disabilities and minority voters in Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to order that more poll workers be hired, every voter in the state receive an absentee ballot application, and a host of other changes be made to ensure the August primary and November presidential election can be held safely amid the coronavirus pandemic. Wisconsin has been at the center of the fight, both in court and out, over elections during the pandemic after it proceeded with its April 7 presidential primary even as other states delayed voting.
May 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Courts Hamper Efforts to Shine Light on Digital Campaign Ads” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Law National: “Election Watchdog, Dormant for Months, Can Finally Move into Action” by Rebecca Ruiz for New York Times Montana: “Dark Money […]
National: “Courts Hamper Efforts to Shine Light on Digital Campaign Ads” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Law
National: “Election Watchdog, Dormant for Months, Can Finally Move into Action” by Rebecca Ruiz for New York Times
Montana: “Dark Money Group Ordered to Disclose Details on Campaign Spending in Montana” by Tom Lutey for Billings Gazette
New York: “New York Democratic Presidential Primary to Proceed Following Federal Appeals Panel Ruling” by Shayna Jacobs and John Wagner for Washington Post
National: “Democrats Open Investigation into Trump’s Replacement of Acting Transportation Department Inspector General” by Ian Duncan and Michael Laris (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Targeting Hunter Biden, Senate Panel Approves Subpoena for Lobbying Firm Over Democrats’ Objections” by Mike DeBonis for Washington Post
National: “Susan Pompeo Draws Scrutiny in Inquiry Over Dry Cleaning and Dog Walking” by Lara Jakes (New York Times) for MSN
California: “Here’s a Closer Look at the Ex-Deputy Mayor Enmeshed in City Hall Corruption Probe” by Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin for Los Angeles Times
California: “Newsom Raises Record $26M in Donations for Covid-19, Some from Companies Lobbying State” by Katy Murphy and Carla Marinucci for Politico
Mississippi: “Nonprofit Officials Spent $400,000 in Welfare Dollars to Lobby State Government. Public Education Funding Flowed Their Way.” by Anna Wolfe for Mississippi Today
May 20, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
On May 19, The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the Southern District Court of New York’s decision to reinstate New York’s uncontested presidential primary on June 23. The presidential primary was previously canceled by the […]
On May 19, The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the Southern District Court of New York’s decision to reinstate New York’s uncontested presidential primary on June 23.
The presidential primary was previously canceled by the New York Board of Elections after Sen. Bernie Sanders announced the end of his presidential campaign.
After the ruling, commissioners for the Board of Elections stated New York would not appeal the decision of the Second Circuit.
May 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Phantom Super PAC Says It Returned Donations” by Zach Montellaro for Politico Elections California: “San Diego Ballot Measures for Ranked Choice Voting, ‘Clean Elections’ Take Key Step Forward” by David Garrick for San Diego Union Tribune Ethics […]
National: “Phantom Super PAC Says It Returned Donations” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
California: “San Diego Ballot Measures for Ranked Choice Voting, ‘Clean Elections’ Take Key Step Forward” by David Garrick for San Diego Union Tribune
National: “House Tells Supreme Court That Mueller Grand Jury Material Is Needed Now” by Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for Laredo Morning Times
National: “Barr Installs Top DOJ Aide, Prosecutor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Trespasser, Over U.S. Prosecutors in Washington” by Spencer Hsu and Keith Alexander (Washington Post) for Beaumont Enterprise
National: “Pompeo’s Moves Against Inspector General Leave a Trail of Questions and a Department Divided” by John Hudson and Carol Morello (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Bribery Case Against Detroit Councilman Could End in Plea Deal 3 Years After He Took Money” by M.L. Elrick for Detroit Free Press
Missouri: “Clean Missouri Proponents Sue to Have Lawmaker-Approved Repeal Question Rewritten” by Crystal Thomas for Kansas City Star
New Jersey: “Katie Brennan Settles Lawsuit Against State and Murphy Campaign for $1 Million Following Rape Allegation” by Kelly Heyboer and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
Oregon: “Oregon High Court Halts Ruling Nixing Virus Restrictions” by Gillian Flaccus and Andrew Selsky for AP News
May 19, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Donors Can Now Give $620,600 to Biden and DNC, Expanding Democratic Big-Money Fundraising” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post Oklahoma: “Controversial Oklahoma Bill That Would Have Reversed Campaign Contribution Rules Permanently Killed” by Cassandra Sweetman […]
National: “Donors Can Now Give $620,600 to Biden and DNC, Expanding Democratic Big-Money Fundraising” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post
Oklahoma: “Controversial Oklahoma Bill That Would Have Reversed Campaign Contribution Rules Permanently Killed” by Cassandra Sweetman for KFOR
National: “Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting” by Michael Wines for New York Times
National: “Trump’s Company Has Received at Least $970,000 from U.S. Taxpayers for Room Rentals” by David Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for MSN
Alaska: “Alaska Lawmaker Says Hitler Was Not White Supremacist After Comparing Coronavirus Measures to Nazi Rule” by Hannah Knowles and Candace Buckner (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Work from Home Congress? House OKs Proxy Votes” by Lisa Mascaro for AP News
National: “EPA Emails Reveal Talks Between Trump Officials, Chemical Group Before 2017 Settlement” by Rachel Frazen for The Hill
New York: “Who Exactly Is a Lobbyist?” by Rebecca Lewis for City & State
May 15, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020 Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national […]
Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign
AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020
Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national presidential election can be won by a candidate communicating almost entirely from home. The virtual campaign Biden is waging from Wilmington, Delaware, is a stark contrast with President Trump, who is planning travel despite warnings from public health experts about the coronavirus’s spread. It also intensifies the spotlight on how Biden will manage his campaign, with some in his party fretting his still-developing approach is not reaching enough voters.
Court Asks Retired Judge to Oppose Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Michael Flynn Case, Examine Whether Ex-Trump Adviser Committed Perjury
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Matt Zapotosky, and Devlin Barrett | Published: 5/13/2020
Michael Flynn’s sentencing judge asked a former federal judge to oppose the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s guilty plea and examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s requested a nonbinding recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt hearing for pleading guilty to a crime of which he now claims to be innocent: lying to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020
The Democratic Party opened the door to remote delegate voting for its summer presidential convention, a clear indication the party is moving toward either a scaled-back event or a virtual gathering in August as the coronavirus threat continues to transform the election year. With a vote of the rules and bylaws committee, Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaders agreed to give convention planners broad flexibility to change the structure and tradition of the nominating convention. The proposal passed unanimously, and it will be taken up in the coming weeks for ratification by a vote by mail of the full DNC.
Democrats Accuse Conservatives of a ‘Dark Money’ Bid to Influence Judges
New York Times – Ben Protess and Rebecca Ruiz | Published: 5/12/2020
Some top Democratic senators accused the Federalist Society of supporting a conservative “dark money” campaign to influence the federal judiciary, including who gets selected to become a judge and how he or she rules once on the bench. In a sharply worded letter, the senators said they supported a proposal by a judicial ethics panel that would ban membership among judges in the conservative legal group. The Federalist Society has been instrumental in identifying judicial nominees with legal careers focused on causes that have appealed to Republicans, such as opposition to gay marriage and to government funding for abortion.
Ethics Committee Sitting on Alleged Misconduct Report Due to COVID-19
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 5/12/2020
The House Committee on Ethics is unable to vote because of the coronavirus pandemic, an impediment that is restricting action on alleged lawmaker misconduct. Until its members can physically reconvene to vote, the ethics panel cannot issue a subpoena, empanel an investigative subcommittee, nor discipline members for conduct unbecoming of the chamber. These actions all require an affirmative vote of a majority of committee members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that ethics committee work should be done in-person and not use technology, like Zoom, because the material is so sensitive and open to cybersecurity breaches.
Federal Watchdog Backs Reinstating Ousted Vaccine Expert
Politico – Sarah Owermohle | Published: 5/8/2020
A federal watchdog is recommending that ousted vaccine expert Rick Bright be reinstated while it investigates whether the Trump administration retaliated against his whistleblower complaints when it removed him from a key post overseeing the coronavirus response, Bright’s lawyers said Friday. The Office of Special Counsel is recommending that Bright be temporarily reinstated for 45 days as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a multibillion-dollar agency that funds companies to develop tests, treatments and vaccines.
Federal Watchdog to Examine Official’s Role in Tribal Fund Distribution
New York Times – Emily Cochrane and Mark Walker | Published: 5/11/2020
A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official – Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs – violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical portion of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed. Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native corporations, for-profit businesses that support tribal villages in Alaska, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes. Lawmakers have raised concerns about Sweeney’s involvement in that decision, given she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations.
House Democrat Reintroduces Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/11/2020
U,S, Rep. Jimmy Gomez reintroduced a bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called revolving door. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act, would, among other provisions, prohibit former officials who oversaw federal contracts from joining private sector contracting firms and ban senior government officials from lobbying the agencies they worked for two years after leaving the federal government.
House Democrats’ Relief Package Would Give Washington Lobbying Giants Access to Small Business Aid
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/13/2020
House Democrats’ newest coronavirus relief proposal would allow influential Washington lobbying groups to access forgivable small business loans. The bill would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief to states, cities, and tribal governments and authorize a second round of direct payments to American families. Buried in the 1,815-page bill is a provision that allows trade associations, unions, and 501(c)(4)s, not just charities, to access coveted small business loans. The legislation sets aside a portion of small business loans specifically for nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. The Democratic Policy Center found that over 99 percent of trade associations and chambers of commerce have fewer than 500 employees.
Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Case Against Michael Flynn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 5/7/2020
The U.S. Justice Department said it is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Russia investigation. The action was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. It comes even though prosecutors have maintained Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn himself admitted as much, pleading guilty before asking to withdraw the plea, and became a key cooperator for Mueller as the special counsel investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes
AP News – Mark Sherman | Published: 5/13/2020
U.S. Supreme Court justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos to suggest they think states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College. The justices heard arguments on an unusual voting issue that could have important consequences for the 2020 presidential election in an era of intense political polarization. So-called faithless electors have not been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a contest with a razor-thin margin.
On the Same Day Sen. Richard Burr Dumped Stock, So Did His Brother-in-Law. Then the Market Crashed.
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis | Published: 5/6/2020
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, also dumped tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares. In 2017, President Trump appointed Fauth to the three-person panel of the National Mediation Board. Fauth avoided between $37,000 and $118,000 in losses by selling off when he did, considering how steeply the companies’ shares fell in recent weeks.
Pence’s ‘Special Envoy’ in Foreign Aid Office Sparked an Ethics Complaint Just Weeks After He Started His Job
ProPublica – Yageneh Torbati | Published: 5/13/2020
In 2018, an incoming Trump political appointee and ally of Vice President Mike Pence made an unusual suggestion to a United Nations agency whose funding hinged on support from a skeptical Trump administration: he pitched them to do business with one of his private-sector clients. “Might merit your team’s consideration,” Max Primorac wrote in January, weeks before he formally started at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he would eventually become an adviser to Pence. The client pitch by an incoming official sparked a complaint a month later from an anonymous State Department official. The U.N. agency, the United Nations Development Program in Iraq, had by then received over $190 million in funding from USAID, the complaint said.
Senate Committee Advances Nomination of FEC Commissioner
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 5/7/2020
A U.S. Senate committee voted to advance President Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the FEC, which would restore the agency’s ability to conduct official business. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee voted along party lines to nominate James Trainor III and move his nomination to the full Senate. The nomination of Trainor had been in limbo amid questions over his social media postings and a standstill among Senate leaders on the logistics of appointing commissioners. Government transparency groups widely oppose Trainor’s confirmation.
Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2020
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom paid $11 million to avoid being sued by Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister. The law firm paid the money after Tymoshenko accused it of writing a report that was used to help justify her imprisonment by a political rival, former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. The payments come after Skadden paid $4.6 million to settle an investigation by the Justice Department into whether its work for the Yanukovych government violated foreign lobbying laws. The firm subsequently revealed in it had been paid a total of more than $5.2 million for its work. One of the lawyers who assisted with the report, Alex van der Zwaan, admitted lying to federal investigators year about his communications related to the firm’s work for Yanukovych’s government.
States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 5/9/2020
In Connecticut, a long-fought battle for paid sick leave resulted in the state becoming the first in the nation to pass a mandate in 2011. According to researchers who interviewed lawmakers and lobbyists, the state’s public financing program for governor and legislative campaigns was instrumental in electing officials who implemented paid sick leave policies. In several other states that have adopted paid sick leave policies, key players responsible for pushing the measures forward participated in the public financing system for their campaigns.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Releasing Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 5/12/2020
The very nature of the presidency was under scrutiny at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments on whether House committees and prosecutors may obtain troves of information about President Trump’s business affairs. The court’s ruling could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry. But some of the justices’ questions raised a third possibility: that the court could return the cases to lower courts for reconsideration under stricter standards. That would have the incidental effect of deferring a final decision beyond the 2020 presidential election.
U.S. Judge Puts Justice Department’s Move to Drop Charges Against Michael Flynn on Hold
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan said he would allow interested parties to weigh in on Michael Flynn’s case, delaying the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) effort to drop the charges against the former national security adviser. The case was upended recently when the DOJ moved to dismiss its charge against Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016. The attempt to dismiss the case prompted accusations the criminal justice system was caving to political pressure from the Trump administration. Legal experts said the order would permit requiring both sides to produce evidence and revisit the case for and against Flynn.
Canada – Former Canadian Envoy to Washington Defends Work Pitching for Palantir
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 5/7/2020
Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, says has done nothing wrong in his senior role with the data-analytics firm Palantir amid questions about whether he has been lobbying the top ranks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. A member of Parliament is drafting a letter to the federal lobbying regulator following suggestions MacNaughton has been engaging Canadian officials on how Palantir can help with the Covid-19 response. MacNaughton became president of Palantir’s Canadian branch shortly after leaving his envoy’s post last summer. Neither MacNaughton nor Palantir are registered as lobbyists with the Canadian government and, as a former designated public office holder, he is subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying activities.
Canada – Illegal Lobbyist Donations Not Significant Enough to Warrant Prosecution: Report
Powder River Peak – Graeme Wood | Published: 5/12/2020
Lobbyists and others who violated the Elections Act by filing their company’s donations under their own name will face no consequences. The investigation began in March 2017 in the lead up to British Columbia’s provincial election. A Globe and Mail article spurred the probe by reporting how some lobbyists were donating in their own names but being compensated by their employer, which is illegal. Mitigating factors played a role where there were violations. For instance, police concluded “many of the lobbyists identified in the reports quickly filed corrections with Elections BC, confirming that donations made by corporations or union employees were in fact made by their employees.”
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Bid by Groups to Gather Online Initiative Petition Signatures
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 5/13/2020
The Arizona Supreme Court will not let initiative campaigns collect signatures online to qualify for the ballot in November, a move several campaigns had urged as a public health precaution as the coronavirus pandemic upended the usual practices of circulating petitions in public places or door-to-door. The court rejected a request by four ballot measure campaigns to use the same website, known as E-Qual, that candidates for state offices use to get signatures for their nominating petitions.
California – Desperate for Coronavirus Help, California Spending Billions on No-Bid Contracts with Little Accountability
Los Angeles Times – Melody Gutierrez, Adam Elmahrek, Ben Poston, and Kim Christensen | Published: 5/7/2020
In a frantic effort to secure face masks and respond to the coronavirus crisis, California has committed to spend more than $3.7 billion on no-bid contracts, scores of them with businesses that have no track record with the state. There have already been examples of questionable deals and alleged fraud across the country. Spending watchdogs acknowledge state governments are under immense pressure to secure medical supplies during times of crisis. But they caution that if officials do not adhere to accepted purchasing protocols, such as dealing only with companies that have direct lines to manufacturers and proven track records in government contracts, they could result in bad deals.
California – L.A. City Hall Corruption: Consultant agrees to plead guilty in bribery scheme
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and Joel Rubin | Published: 5/13/2020
A real estate consultant agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering charge in the ongoing federal “pay-to-play” corruption probe at Los Angeles City Hall. George Chiang will admit to playing a lead role in a scheme in which a Chinese real estate company allegedly bribed a Los Angeles City Council member in exchange for help on a major development project. Under the agreement, Chiang will fully cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation into cash payments, air travel, free tickets, and other perks prosecutors say were provided to the council member and other city officials.
Florida – In Florida, Felons Must Pay Court Debts Before They Can Vote. But with No System to Do So, Many Have Found It Impossible.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa | Published: 5/13/2020
The promise of an amendment to Florida’s state constitution seemed huge when it was overwhelmingly approved in November 2018: as many as 1.5 million felons previously barred from casting ballots in the state would soon be able to vote. But Republican-backed legislation circumscribing the reach of Amendment 4 had made it virtually impossible for most felons to participate. The law requires felons to pay all court-related fines, fees, and restitution before registering to vote and to swear, under penalty of perjury, that the debts are paid. But a vast number of felons are too poor to pay their fines. And even if they can afford to do so, a patchy system of court records does not always allow them to know what they owe or whether they have paid.
Florida – Lee County Sheriff’s Office Classified Retirement Event Expenses as ‘Career Development’ Training
Fort Myers News-Press – Devan Patel | Published: 5/13/2020
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and six high-ranking agency members spent thousands of taxpayer dollars earlier this year to attend the retirement celebration of Florida Highway Patrol Chief Derek Barrs, classifying their trip as a training course for “career development”” Between wages, per diems, transportation costs, and lodging, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office used more than $5,000 in public funds for its members to attend the event. Other than the two-hour celebration, no other training or educational purposes were noted or disclosed. Under Florida law, public funds must be spent for a public purpose with past advisory opinions stating expenditures need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Idaho – Lobbying Disclosure Complaint Filed Against Ada GOP Chairman
KPVI – Thomas Plank (Idaho Press) | Published: 5/6/2020
Ada County Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Davidson, who is running for a seat on the county commission, is the target of a lobbying disclosure complaint filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. The complaint alleges Davidson has breached a number of disclosure laws, including failing to report lobbying-related expenses for 2018 and for an $11,532 legislative event in 2019, as well as not registering as a lobbyist within 30 days after agreeing to work as one.
Illinois – Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment
Peoria Journal Star – Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 5/9/2020
A judge ruled against an Illinois organization that claimed restrictions implemented to combat the coronavirus made it impossible to gather the necessary signatures to place a constitutional amendment on November’s general election ballot. The Committee for the Illinois Democracy Amendment is advocating for a constitutional change that would obligate the General Assembly to take roll call votes on bills proposing “stronger ethical standards for Illinois public officials.” It would also allow residents to propose related bills by submitting a petition with at least 100,000 signatures. The committee’s attorneys argued in a court document that social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions forced voters to weigh their health against their First Amendment rights.
Indiana – Indiana Attorney General’s Law License Suspended for Groping
AP News – Tom Davies | Published: 5/11/2020
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will have his law license suspended for 30 days over allegations he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled. The decision said the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that [Hill] committed the criminal act of battery.” But the court gave Hill a less serious punishment than a a suspension of at least 60 days recommended by a hearing officer for his actions during a party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session.
Kentucky – Bill Banning Statehouse Sexual Harassment Fails to Pass, Again
WKYU – Ryland Barton | Published: 5/8/2020
The Kentucky Legislature again declined to pass a bill explicitly banning lawmakers from sexually harassing their employees during this year’s legislative session. The Legislature’s ethics rules do not currently ban sexual harassment, though lawmakers have been punished for harassing employees under a rule that bans misuse of their official positions. House Bill 168 would have defined sexual harassment as an ethical violation and created a process for the Legislative Ethics Commission to review sexual harassment complaints.
Maryland – Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Seeks to Win with White Votes in Majority-Black City
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 5/13/2020
A PAC supporting Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller is seeking to win the race by attracting white voters in the majority-black city. In an email sent in recent weeks to potential donors, Martin Knott Jr., treasurer for the Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC, laid out the group’s strategy: use negative campaigning to lure white voters away from two candidates regarded by some as Miller’s chief rivals for white voters, former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and city council President Brandon Scott. Miller is the only white candidate among the leading Democratic contenders. Baltimore’s population is about 63 percent black and 30 percent white.
Michigan – Armed Militia Helped a Michigan Barbershop Open, a Coronavirus Defiance That Puts Republican Lawmakers in a Bind
MSN – Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020
Members of a militia group, the Michigan Home Guard, stood watch over Karl Manke’s business in case the police came to shut him down. They were determined to reopen his barbershop in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders designed to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. Protests over Whitmer’s actions forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance. GOP lawmakers, who hold narrow margins in both the state House and Senate, have tried distancing themselves from the most vocal protesters while being careful not to appear to hew too closely to Whitmer’s shutdown policies.
Missouri – Missouri Lawmakers Send New Redistricting Proposal to Voters
AP News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 5/13/2020
Missouri lawmakers sent a ballot proposal to voters asking them to reconsider their earlier backing of a redistricting system that stresses fairness and competitiveness over everything else. The new plan would ask voters later this year to make those the least important criteria, reversing key parts of the earlier ballot initiative. The proposal is backed largely by Republicans, who argue the 2018 ballot initiative deceptively packaged popular ethics reforms with a redistricting plan that they say will split up communities and lead to gerrymandering. Senate Joint Resolution 38 also includes ethics changes, including a total ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and campaign contribution limits.
Missouri – Probe into Roll Out of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Expands
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/7/2020
A legislative probe into the roll out of Missouri’s medical marijuana program has expanded into Gov. Mike Parson’s office. A House panel is seeking records involving the governor’s deputy chief of staff, chief operating officer, and a longtime adviser to the governor who has been under FBI scrutiny. The House Special Committee on Government Oversight sent a letter to the Department of Health and Senior Services demanding records of interactions with industry insiders and details on how key decisions were made.
Nevada – Las Vegas Mayor Faces Recall Effort Over Coronavirus Response
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 5/6/2020
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is facing a recall effort in the wake of her response to the coronavirus pandemic, including controversial comments she made recently on national television. Former professional poker player Doug Polk filed a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition with the city clerk’s office, the first step in seeking to oust a public official from their seat. From the start of the pandemic, the mayor has resisted measures to slow the spread of the virus. She said statewide business closures would be “total insanity.” But it was her appearances on national television in April that prompted the fiercest criticism.
New Jersey – U.S. Supreme Court Throws Out Bridgegate Convictions, 6 Years After an Epic Traffic Jam
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/7/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the convictions of two government officials implicated in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal, in which then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s allies schemed to punish a local mayor. The justices said in their unanimous decision that while the scheme involved deception and corruption, it did not violate federal law. The case centered around convictions of Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to Christie, and Bill Baroni, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, for their role in a scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create traffic problems for the mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse Christie’s reelection. They were convicted of fraud for lying about a fake traffic study to justify the lane closures.
North Carolina – The Southern Democrat with the Power to Shut Down Trump’s Convention
Politico – Maya King | Published: 5/8/2020
North Carolina’s Roy Cooper is a Democratic governor, up for reelection in a Republican-leaning Southern swing state, pushing a go-slow approach to reopening the economy as protests intensify and neighboring states move quicker. How the governor handles his state’s reopening will likely dictate whether President Trump and the Republican Party can forge ahead with a full-fledged convention in Charlotte this summer. Trump has been adamant about having a full-scale in-person convention, but as those plans forge ahead, Cooper will have to walk a fine line between protecting and alienating his constituents.
North Dakota – North Dakota Governor Funds PAC Targeting Fellow Republican
AP News – James MacPherson | Published: 5/13/2020
North Dakota Gov. Burgum is helping bankroll a PAC that so far has set its sights on defeating one of the state’s most powerful legislators, a member of his own party. The move to campaign against House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Jeff Delzer in the June primary has drawn criticism that the first-term Republican governor and wealthy former software executive is crossing the separation-of-powers-line by reaching deep into his own pockets to buy a Legislature more obliging to his wishes. Political and election law experts say such a move by a governor to oust a member of his own party is unusual.
Rhode Island – R.I. Ethics Panel Says Ex-IGT Chairman Had Nothing to Gain from Proposed Contract, Despite His 38,000 Shares
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 5/12/2020
A week after dismissing a complaint alleging unethically close ties between Gov. Gina Raimondo and former International Game Technology (IGT) chairperson-turned-lobbyist Donald Sweitzer, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission disclosed its reasoning. The complaint alleged Raimondo violated the state’s ethics code when she negotiated and promoted a stalled 20-year, no-bid extension of IGT’s contract that would potentially benefit a “business associate.” It was filed at a time when Raimondo chaired the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Sweitzer was the veteran Democratic fundraiser she chose as DGA treasurer. The commission decided neither had anything personal to gain from the contract extension.
South Carolina – SC Statehouse Corruption Probe Has Concluded but Fight Over Its Methods Rages On
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith | Published: 5/13/2020
South Carolina’s long-running statehouse corruption probe has apparently run its course, with no new targets in the offing. But the special prosecutor leading the investigation is still taking on critics and defending his decision to allow companies to sidestep prosecution in return for financial payments. First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe revealed the state grand jury last met on the case about a year ago. No more sessions or indictments are anticipated. The probe will conclude once pending cases are resolved in court, Pascoe said. He also challenged a state Supreme Court justice’s description of the probe as a “prosecutive mess.”
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Wisconsin’s Stay-at-Home Order That Closed Businesses to Limit Spread of Coronavirus
MSN – Molly Beck and Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 5/13/2020
The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and struck down the decision by Gov. Tony Evers to extend a stay-at-home order intended to quell the spread of the coronavirus, marking the first time a statewide order of its kind has been knocked down by a court of last resort. The decision curbed the power of Evers’ administration to act unilaterally during public health emergencies. Although the opinion centered on the technical method by which the limits had been set, several conservative justices conveyed their dismay at the restrictions themselves.
May 14, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring election officials to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter ahead of the November general election. Newsom acknowledged attempting traditional voting on a mass scale would likely still be too dangerous […]
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring election officials to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter ahead of the November general election.
Newsom acknowledged attempting traditional voting on a mass scale would likely still be too dangerous even in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In-person voting is still expected to occur, but the number of people voting at polling places is expected to decline.
May 14, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes” by Mark Sherman for AP News National: “Biden Plans to […]
National: “Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes” by Mark Sherman for AP News
National: “Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign” by Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples for AP News
Florida: “In Florida, Felons Must Pay Court Debts Before They Can Vote. But with No System to Do So, Many Have Found It Impossible.” by Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa for Washington Post
National: “U.S. Judge Puts Justice Department’s Move to Drop Charges Against Michael Flynn on Hold” by Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Pence’s ‘Special Envoy’ in Foreign Aid Office Sparked an Ethics Complaint Just Weeks After He Started His Job” by Yageneh Torbati for ProPublica
Michigan: “Armed Militia Helped a Michigan Barbershop Open, a Coronavirus Defiance That Puts Republican Lawmakers in a Bind” by Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “Missouri Lawmakers Send New Redistricting Proposal to Voters” by Summer Ballentine for AP News
Rhode Island: “R.I. Ethics Panel Says Ex-IGT Chairman Had Nothing to Gain from Proposed Contract, Despite His 38,000 Shares” by Katherine Gregg for Providence Journal
National: “What Strip Clubs and Political Consultants Have in Common: They’re fighting for PPP loans.” by Jim Morrill (Charlotte Observer) for MSN
May 13, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
Gov. John Carney issued the 15th modification of the state emergency declaration due to COVID-19. The modification postpones Delaware’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to July 7. Any elections for school board members scheduled for June 16 will be […]
Gov. John Carney issued the 15th modification of the state emergency declaration due to COVID-19.
The modification postpones Delaware’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to July 7.
Any elections for school board members scheduled for June 16 will be postponed to July 21.
Additionally, local elections to be conducted after May 7 and before the end of the state of emergency are to be conducted at the discretion of the municipality.
Originally scheduled for May 12, this is the second postponement of the presidential primary and school board elections.