August 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020 When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to […]
Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020
When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to purge their influence from his future administration. Joe Biden does not appear to have the same concerns. The DNC started accepting checks from lobbyists again in 2016 and has continued to do so as Biden accepted the Democratic nomination. While the Biden campaign has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, it has dispatched top staffers to headline at least four Zoom fundraisers benefiting the DNC and hosted by prominent Democratic lobbyists.
‘Climate Donors’ Flock to Biden to Counter Trump’s Fossil Fuel Money
New York Times – Lisa Friedman | Published: 8/18/2020
The changing climate is now a core campaign issue and a focus for fundraising. Joe Biden has raised more than $15 million in contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause. That climate-specific fundraising may make up about five percent of the total he has raised so far. It is dwarfed by fossil fuel donations to President Trump, who took in $10 million from a single fundraiser held by oil billionaire Kelcy Warren. It is not known how much unregulated money is going to super PACs aligned with Democrats from other self-identified climate donors. But the hard money climate donations represent a growing counterweight to oil, gas, and coal money that has long warped the energy conversation in Washington. D.C.
Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl
NBC News – Ginger Gibson | Published: 8/17/2020
The absence of in-person nominating conventions this year means lobbyists have been effectively sidelined. Washington, D.C. lobbying has been turned upside because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventions are no exception, leaving the influence industry to assess how it will operate when life returns to normal. Much of the work of lobbying generally involves making the trek up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to explain a client’s point of view. But with the halls of Congress closed, meetings have shifted to Zoom calls. So, with this year’s conventions, lobbyists will be grappling not only with the inability to secure face time with decision makers but also with corporate clients trying to survive the pandemic-induced recession.
Democrats, Election Watchdogs See ‘Glaring Hole’ in Postal Service Pledge to Roll Back Recent Changes
Washington Post – Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, and Jacob Bogage | Published: 8/19/2020
The U.S. Postal Service will pause its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election. The about-face announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halted a series of cost-cutting measures, including the removal of machines that sort mail and the public boxes that collect it. But confusion persisted after the move. It is unclear whether Americans would receive their ballots on time, or if they would be able to return them easily. Nor was it clear whether DeJoy would promptly restore the sorting machines he had ordered removed from some postal facilities, or if the changes he has made across the agency under the watch of President Trump would introduce delays into one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history.
Ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged in Border Wall Scheme
Associated Press News – Larry Neumeister, Colleen Long, and Jill Colvin | Published: 8/20/2020
Federal prosecutors arrested Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and three other men they alleged defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors using a crowdfunding campaign that was advertised as raising money to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. But according to the criminal charges, very little of the wall was constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.
FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Lawmaker, Family in Corruption Probe
Associated Press News – Danica Coto | Published: 8/17/2020
FBI agents arrested Puerto Rico Rep. María Milagros Charbonier after the legislator who once presided over the island’s House Ethics Committee was charged in a public corruption case that officials say also involved her son, husband, and an assistant. U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said it was a simple scheme in which Charbonier allegedly received some $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks after increasing the pay of her assistant, Frances Acevedo, from $800 every two weeks to nearly $3,000, and then received between $1,000 to $1,500 in return for every paycheck.
Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say
CNN – Marshall Cohen | Published: 8/12/2020
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict-of-interest. Outside experts were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings. DeJoy and USPS have said he fully complied with the regulations. Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price. This could lead to a separate conflict, given President Donald Trump’s disdain for Amazon.
GAO Finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli Are Ineligible to Serve in Their Top DHS Roles
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/14/2020
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure. The GAO referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for further review and potential action. The office also urged the inspector general to consider the consequences of actions taken by invalidly appointed officials.
‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’
Politico – Eli Okun and John Harris | Published: 8/13/2020
Four years ago, after most journalists were caught surprised by Donald Trump’s victory, there was an almost universal critique about how the profession needed to do better next time. Reporters needed to get off Twitter and cable and get into the field. Journalists needed to liberate themselves from conventional wisdom and the distorting effects of their cultural bubbles and learn what is really happening in the country. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, journalists are spending more time in their own homes than ever, a phone in one hand and television remote in the other. The presidential campaign has gone remote in multiple senses of the word, the most dramatic shift in the rhythms and day-to-day logistics of newsgathering that political journalism has seen in decades.
Judge Balks at White House’s Executive Privilege Claim over Ukraine Emails
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/10/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold a batch of emails about a hold President Trump put on U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2019. Jackson said the government had failed to make a convincing case showing the messages between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey were eligible for protection under legal privileges protecting the development of presidential advice or decisions made by other government officials. The messages are considered key evidence about the event that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year: his decision to halt aid to Ukraine in what critics and even some administration officials said was an attempt to pressure that country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden.
Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker | Published: 8/16/2020
Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington, D.C. for federal help that could increase its profits. Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies, including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds, have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.
Senate Report Details Security Risk Posed by 2016 Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Karoun Demirjian, and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 8/18/2020
An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee portrays Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as posing counterintelligence risks through its contacts with Russia, eager to exploit assistance from the Kremlin and seemingly determined to conceal the extent of its conduct. The report contains new findings that appear to show more direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence, and it pierces the president’s attempts to dismiss the Kremlin’s intervention on his behalf as a hoax. Like the Mueller report, the Senate document does not explicitly accuse the Trump campaign of direct collusion with Russian intelligence. But it carries weight because it is the first major investigation of Russian interference in 2016 to be conducted by a Republican-controlled committee and endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.
Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC
The Fulcrom – Sarah Swann | Published: 8/18/2020
Sixty-six staff members, about one-fifth of the FEC workforce, sent a letter asking President Trump to nominate and the Senate to confirm at least one person of color for the three vacancies on the commission, which has been shut down for the past eight weeks for lack of a quorum. In its 45-year history, the FEC has had 31 commissioners – all but one of them white. The complaint from the nonpartisan civil servants suggests how beleaguered the agency is these days, and how the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism this year has taken root in most every corner of society. The letter was an outgrowth of a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion the agency staff held this summer.
Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 8/18/2020
Democrats’ biggest donors are used to being feted at the party’s national convention, breezing through a maze of tiered luxury suites and V.I.P. rooms with free-flowing appetizers, access, and alcohol. This year, though, even those who have given $500,000 and up were stuck watching the virtual event from home. Ahead of the virtual gathering, the party and the Biden campaign mailed along a care package to tide over any forlorn financiers: notebooks embossed with the number 46 (as in the potential for Biden to be the 46th president), hats, buttons, posters, and a bag of “Cup of Joe” coffee. Like nearly everything else in American life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the already cloistered world of political fundraising, as campaigns and contributors alike figure out how to raise tens of millions of dollars.
They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 8/14/2020
A grassroots fundraising group known as 31st Street Swing Left, a chapter of the national organization Swing Left, is focused on flipping red seats blue. It is one of countless such fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle. But the group also stands out for its evolution, growing from a Washington, D.C.-area assemblage of 30 political novices knocking on doors to support Democratic candidates in Virginia into a fundraising army of nearly 1,200 members in three years.
With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 8/16/2020
With Democrats wary of traditional door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic, and with the Biden-Harris campaign discouraging it, conservatives have less competition. The Americans for Prosperity’s operation started weeks ago, at an initial cost of nearly $900,000 across the country. Their targets included U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina. and Texas, as well as a few congressional races. Since kicking off, they had contacted 6 million voters, but unlike the GOP, they were not mentioning the president in their messaging or surveys.
Canada – Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal
Politico – Lauren Gardner | Published: 8/17/2020
Finance Minister Bill Morneau will resign his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Commons amid an ethics controversy surrounding a charity with ties to his family and that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Morneau’s recent high-profile troubles are centered on his failure to recuse himself from a Cabinet decision awarding a no-bid contract to WE Charity to administer a student grant program as part of the Trudeau government’s Covid-19 response. He admitted to repaying the charity for costs incurred during a 2017 trip to Ecuador with his family just before testifying in front of a parliamentary committee.
Canada – WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees
HuffPost Canada – Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/13/2020
WE Charity registered as a lobbyist of the federal government months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program. The controversy has triggered investigations into potential breaches of conflict-of-interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/16/2020
An Arizona city official making $107,000 a year resigned after an investigation found he used city workers for an outside job involving an attempt to secure irrigation water for farmers who paid him with a goat. The inquiry found the possibility of cash down the road also was discussed by Frank Stevens, the now-former former water resource portfolio manager for the city of Surprise. One of the farmers told an investigator they gave Stevens the goat because “he liked the animal and [Stevens said] it would keep his kids happy when they came home from school.”
California – California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 8/17/2020
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed it is opening an investigation into two complaints regarding former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng. He resigned abruptly on August 5 after being on the job overseeing the pension fund’s $412 billion investment portfolio for less than two years. Meng’s departure followed an anonymous complaint to the FPPC that Meng had approved a $1 billion deal with Blackstone Group, a financial firm in which Meng was a shareholder.
California – Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims
Sacramento Bee – Kim Bojorquez | Published: 8/19/2020
Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement to resolve a complaint charging it misused government funds to promote a 2017 sales tax increase, marking one of the largest-ever financial penalties considered by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The county’s potential penalties are even greater if the FPPC rejects the settlement. It faces up to $2.4 million in penalties stemming from money the county spent promoting Measure H without reporting it as a political contribution.
Colorado – Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 8/12/2020
The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes, a question the company helped write. Altria was part of the negotiations that led to House Bill 1427, which placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years. The question also would require retailers to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. The discount tobacco company Liggett Group is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.
Florida – A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 8/14/2020
Darryl Daniels, the sheriff of Clay County, Florida, dialed his deputy while driving with an urgent plea for backup: He was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger.” But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: it was Cierra Smith, his former employee and mistress of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair. Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up behind bars. Following a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.
Florida – Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/18/2020
A federal appeals court spent more than two hours weighing whether to overturn a contentious Florida law restricting felon voting rights, with one judge suggesting doing so would paradoxically require the court to strike down a public referendum that eliminated the state’s ban on felon voting. The judges, sitting the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered lawyers with questions about whether the state law constitutes an illegal poll tax because it requires people who have served time for a felony to pay off any court debts before they can register to vote. It remains unclear if the court will make a decision before the November election.
Illinois – Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 8/14/2020
Proposed revisions to Cook County’s ethics ordinance, which the ethics board voted to recommend in January, include forbidding both nepotism in county hiring and county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs. They also would mandate lobbyists disclose if they have relatives who work for the county, introduce new rules to clamp down on sexual harassment, prohibit the state’s attorney from settling ethics lawsuits without the ethics board’s approval, and increase fines for certain violations. Now, three of the board members who crafted the reforms are gone, and their recommendations have not moved forward.
Illinois – Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes
Chicago Tribune – Jamie Munks | Published: 8/13/2020
A group of Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois issued a series of ethics proposals ahead of the fall veto session, including term limits for legislative leaders and a process for temporarily removing members from leadership posts if they are caught up in a criminal investigation. The Democrats also want to prohibit lawmakers from lobbying at other levels of government and an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist :revolving door”; a requirement for more comprehensive disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income; and a more robust Legislative Inspector General’s office. They also noted the ongoing federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several legislators makes this an opportune time to pass a large-scale ethics package.
Illinois – State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/13/2020
Illinois Sen. Terry Link was charged with a federal count of income tax evasion, the third Democratic state senator to face felony charges in a little more than a year. The criminal information accused Link of failing to report income on his 2016 tax return to the IRS. Defendants are typically charged via an information if they intend to eventually plead guilty. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Link wore a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Federal prosecutors alleged Arroyo had sought an unnamed state senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
Missouri – Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading
Associated Press News – David Lieb | Published: 8/17/2020
A judge rewrote the summary for a legislative redistricting measure that will appear on the November ballot, ruling Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature tried to misleadingly entice voters into repealing an anti-gerrymandering reform that voters approved two years ago. The decision by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the Legislature’s ballot summary for Amendment 3 as insufficient, unfair, and partly false. She replaced it with a ballot summary suggested by a group that sponsored the successful 2018 measure and is opposed to this year’s revision. Like the 2018 measure, the Legislature’s revision combines the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.
Nevada – Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 8/18/2020
Former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter agreed to pay $24,406 in ethics fines for violating state laws prohibiting him from using his longtime public position to enrich himself. The fines stem from Ralenkotter’s use of LVCVA-bought airline gift cards on personal travel and his negotiation of a consulting contract with the tax-funded agency before he retired, according to a proposed agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
New Jersey – Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash
Bergen Record – Steve Janoski | Published: 8/14/2020
Five more people have been charged in a years-long corruption investigation that already ensnared a former state Assembly member and a Jersey City school board president. The new defendants allegedly gave a total of $239,000 to political parties and candidates before being secretly reimbursed by a law firm, the attorney general’s office said. The firm then claimed it had made no reportable contributions in towns where it sought lucrative contracts. New Jersey law prohibits political donations on behalf of others.
New Jersey – Trump Campaign Sues New Jersey Over Mail-In Voting
The Hill – Morgan Gstalter | Published: 8/19/2020
President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring every voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot, in addition to being allowed to vote in-person if desired, as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign claims Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey Legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.
New York – Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 8/20/2020
A federal judge rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, dismissing Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith. The ruling marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has been seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.
North Dakota – North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes
Ballotpedia – Jackie Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020
North Dakota voters will decide on three constitutional amendments in November. One would amend the state constitution to make multiple changes to election and redistricting procedures. The measure would establish top-four open primaries for all statewide, legislative, and congressional races. The measure would also make the state’s ethics commission, which was created by voters through a 2018 citizen initiative, responsible for state legislative redistricting. Another provision would require a paper record for all ballots and audits of each election within 120 days by the secretary of state.
Ohio – Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff | Published: 8/13/2020
Although indicted in a criminal case and removed as House speaker, state Rep. Larry Householder is still a member of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), the body that investigates and rules on ethics and lobbying matters for the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp removed Householder as vice chairperson of JLEC, but state law prohibits removal of a member from the ethics panel. Householder was arrested in July by FBI agents and charged with racketeering.
Ohio – Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/14/2020
The Ohio House turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena but withheld 30 documents, claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege. The House released some of the records in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many involve routine constituent correspondence, various versions of the nuclear power-plant bailout bill, and proposed amendments to the measure at the heart of a $60 million public corruption scandal. Federal authorities have charged former Speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering in a scheme to pass and protect House Bill 6 from repeal and advance his political power.
Rhode Island – Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic
National Public Radio – Laura Wamsley | Published: 8/13/2020
An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it. The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2. The court said in this case, state officials were defending what is already the status quo from the last election, “and many Rhode Island voters may well hold that belief.”
South Dakota – Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules
Sioux Faslls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020
The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics recommended the city council review and update their policies after an investigation found third parties are paying for councilors’ travel expenses and it was an “apparent common practice.” In their investigation of a councilperson, the board said the accused council member “acknowledges attendance at a seminar for which travel and other expenses were paid by third parties,” noting it was hosted by “a group with an acknowledged political agenda” and there were “multiple settings for attendees to be potentially influenced by commercial or political interests.”
Tennessee – Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2020
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will sign a bill that toughens penalties on some protests in response to continued demonstrations in the state and nationwide over racial injustice. Lee also said he would have crafted some components differently than the Legislature, including the increased penalty on those who illegally camp on state property to a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee additionally result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote. The governor said the requirement that law enforcement offer an initial warning on camping violations strengthened the bill. He also cited the discretion of district attorneys and judges.
Virginia – Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Served with Arrest Warrant over Confederate Statue Protest as Some Decry Charges
Washington Post – Emily Davies, Laura Vozzella, and Gregory Schneider | Published: 8/18/2020
Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was charged with damaging a Confederate monument during protests in Portsmouth. She faces two felonies: conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument causing more than $1,000 in damage. Lucas, who is the first African American president pro tempore in the Virginia Senate, is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. Legal experts say the way the Portsmouth police went about pursuing felony charges against Lucas and others is highly unusual given the political nature of the incident.
Washington DC – Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 8/15/2020
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university. Rashad Young abruptly left his position as city administrator after running day-to-day government operations since the mayor took office in 2015. He told on July 31 that he was in talks for a job at Howard University and sought ethics guidance. The mayor wrote that she directed her general counsel to review the circumstances of the job offer and the city ethics board’s opinion on the matter.
Washington DC – Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short
Patch – Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) | Published: 8/17/2020
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side job. The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long hearing process. The agreement also states if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the city ethics board could seek maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000.
August 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times National: “Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrom California: […]
National: “Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
National: “Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrom
California: “Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims” by Kim Bojorquez for Sacramento Bee
Florida: “Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law” by Gary Fineout for Politico
Missouri: “Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading” by David Lieb for Associated Press News
National: “Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say” by Marshall Cohen for CNN
Arizona: “Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job” by Staff for Associated Press News
Nevada: “Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal” by Jeff German for Las Vegas Review-Journal
Virginia: “Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Charged with Felonies Over Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument Protest” by Laura Vozzella and Gregory Schneider for Washington Post
Canada: “WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees” by Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) for HuffPost Canada
August 19, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.” by Amy Gardner for Washington Post Elections National: “G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and […]
National: “They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.” by Amy Gardner for Washington Post
National: “G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia” by Mark Mazzetti and Nicholas Fandos for New York Times
North Dakota: “North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes” by Jackie Mitchell for Ballotpedia
National: “Postmaster General Announces He Is ‘Suspending’ Policies That Were Blamed for Causing Mail Delays” by Jacob Bogage for Washington Post
Canada: “Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal” by Lauren Gardner for Politico
California: “California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief” by Andrew Sheeler for Sacramento Bee
Illinois: “Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms” by Alice Yin for Chicago Tribune
Washington DC: “Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short” by Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) for Patch
National: “Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker for New York Times
August 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New Jersey: “Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash” by Steve Janoski for Bergen Record Elections National: “With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking” by David Weigel for […]
New Jersey: “Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash” by Steve Janoski for Bergen Record
National: “With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking” by David Weigel for Washington Post
National: “State Officials Rush to Shore Up Confidence in Nov. 3 Election as Voters Express New Fears About Mail Voting” by Amy Gardner and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) for MSN
Rhode Island: “Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic” by Laura Wamsley for National Public Radio
Illinois: “State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Ohio: “Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena” by Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
Washington DC: “Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University” by Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler for Washington Post
National: “Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl” by Ginger Gibson for NBC News
South Dakota: “Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules” by Trevor Mitchell for Sioux Faslls Argus Leader
August 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico Elections National: “Postal Service Warns 46 States Their Voters Could Be Disenfranchised by Delayed Mail-In Ballots” by Erin Cox, Elise Viebeck, Jacob Bogage, and Christopher […]
National: “Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
National: “Postal Service Warns 46 States Their Voters Could Be Disenfranchised by Delayed Mail-In Ballots” by Erin Cox, Elise Viebeck, Jacob Bogage, and Christopher Ingraham for Washington Post
National: “‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’” by Eli Okun and John Harris for Politico
Florida: “A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.” by Teo Armus for Washington Post
Illinois: “Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes” by Jamie Munks for Chicago Tribune
New York: “Trump Is Not Entitled to Details of Tax Returns Inquiry, D.A. Says” by Nicole Hong and William Rashbaum for New York Times
Ohio: “Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel” by Laura Bischoff for Dayton Daily News
Tennessee: “Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests” by Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) for Memphis Commercial Appeal
Colorado: “Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market” by Jesse Paul for Colorado Sun
August 14, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020 Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end […]
Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020
Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end the decennial count a month earlier than expected will result in a dramatic undercount of Black and Latino communities across the country, which could have grave effects on federal funding and political representation in their neighborhoods. The census represents an important fault line in the battle over structural racism and equity, with high stakes. It dictates the allocation of federal dollars and influences everything from infrastructure investments to education programs like free and reduced lunch to public health-care spending. The data is also used when deciding the boundaries of legislative districts.
Appeals Court Rejects Key Argument Against McGahn Subpoena
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/10/2020
A federal appeals court dealt a setback to President Trump’s bid to prevent his former White House counsel Don McGahn from being forced to testify to a House committee. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the House has legal standing to use the courts to compel McGahn to appear in response to a Judiciary Committee subpoena. But the appeals court left open other legal arguments against the subpoena to McGahn, leaving it unclear when or if the former White House lawyer will appear before the panel. The ruling also left open the issue of what questions McGahn would have to answer.
Disinformation for Profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley Becker | Published: 8/11/2020
The reality curated by “The Bearded Patriot” and “The Wolf of Washington” is dismal. The websites tell of nonstop riots and “crazed leftists.” They warn of online censorship and the wiles of an “anarchist billionaire,” a reference to George Soros, the liberal investor and Holocaust survivor. The material is tailor-made to inflame right-wing passions. But its underlying purpose is to collect email addresses and other personal information from impassioned readers, whose inboxes then fill up with narrowly targeted ads. The effect is to monetize the anger stoked by misleading political content, for as much as $2,500 per list of contacts.
Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Dan Simmons | Published: 8/11/2020
If election officials in Georgia and Wisconsin wanted to prove one thing during primary and runoff elections on August 11, it was that they could do a better job managing lines, operating equipment, and counting mail ballots than they did in earlier contests this year. They appeared to succeed, with voters trickling into the polls with virtually no wait times and election workers processing a crush of absentee ballots with no major difficulties. The contests in both states, as well as in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Vermont, drew much lower turnout than previous elections this year, a contributor to the relative quiet. But state and local officials said the bigger factor was what they learned from their earlier stumbles and how they used the intervening weeks to avoid them this time.
Federal Appeals Court Skeptical of Michael Flynn’s Effort to Immediately Dismiss Criminal Charge
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/11/2020
A federal appeals court appears poised to block an effort by former national security adviser Michael Flynn to immediately dismiss the criminal charge against him, raising the specter that the politically explosive case could continue to make headlines in the lead-up to the November 3 election. The court sounded sharply skeptical about arguments by Flynn’s attorney and the Justice Department that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan abused his authority by scheduling a hearing on efforts to drop the case, which came despite Flynn’s pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and later reaffirming his plea.
Former Clients of Acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf Received Millions in Department Contracts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/5/2020
Several former lobbying clients of Chad Wolf, now the acting secretary of Homeland Security, have received millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts while he has held senior positions within the department. Wolf was a lobbyist for over a decade at Wexler & Walker before he took leadership roles with the department under President Trump. Wolf served as the acting chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration in 2017 and later became the chief of staff for former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Since then, several of Wolf’s former clients reaped a total of at least $160 million in contracts, according to a CNBC analysis of the public filings.
How Hotel Chains Got a Slice of Government Aid for Small Businesses
ProPublica – Isaac Arnsdorf | Published: 8/6/2020
In March, as lawmakers raced to put together a stimulus package to cope with the pandemic-related shutdowns sweeping the country, a company that invests in hotels deployed a Washington lobbyist for the first time. The lobbyist’s mission was to secure an exception in the emerging relief program for small businesses so hotel chains would become eligible. EOS Investors had more than 500 employees, putting it above the limit in the original proposal by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. The lobbyist whom EOS called on for help was Michael Bopp, a former longtime aide to Collins. One of the main criticisms of the relief been it ended up favoring well-connected businesses over mom-and-pop concerns with scarce access to other resources.
Postal Service Overhauls Leadership as Democrats Press for Investigation of Mail Delays
Anchorage Daily News – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2020
The Postal Service announced a reorganization meant to increase efficiency as Democratic lawmakers demanded an inquiry into whether changes by President Trump’s officials could threaten the effective use of mail-in ballots for the November election. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump’s campaigns, and de-emphasizes institutional knowledge. The reshuffling threatens to heighten tensions between postal officials and lawmakers, who are troubled by delivery delays and wary of the Trump administration’s influence on the Postal Service as the coronavirus pandemic rages and election draws near.
Rep. Tlaib Directed to Reimburse Campaign for $10,800 in Postelection Paychecks
Roll Call – Niels Lesniewski | Published: 8/7/2020
The House ethics committee directed U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib to repay her campaign for salary she drew after Election Day 2018. Congressional candidates are allowed to draw paychecks from their campaigns, but as the committee explained in a report, the payments are only allowed during an active candidacy. Tlaib continued to be paid after the election was over. The ethics panel said no further action was necessary.
Taking Protest to the Streets, and the Mayor’s Front Door
MSN – Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (New York Times) | Published: 8/10/2020
Public protests this year have most often featured marches and rallies through public gathering places, sometimes escalating into broken shop windows, torched cars, and clashes with the police. But as the nation navigates the triple turmoil of a pandemic, a ravaged economy, and a civil rights movement, civic activism is at times becoming more direct, more personal, and for some of its targets, more frightening. Some of these demonstrations have led to thoughtful conversations between public officials and the protesters who arrived at their doors. But others insist their front yards are inappropriate venues for boisterous public debate.
The Kamala Harris Pick: Geographic balance takes back seat to gender, race
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher, Adam Nagourney, and Jennifer Medina | Published: 8/12/2020
Joe Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate marks the latest evidence that gender and race have now surpassed geographic balance when it comes to building a ticket for the White House. Ever since Black voters resurrected his candidacy in South Carolina, Biden and his campaign team have made the pursuit of Black voters a centerpiece of his bid for the White House. And he had said from the start of the process he would choose a woman as the Democratic nominee for vice president. If Harris does not put any particular new state into play, strategists and Biden allies were hoping her spot on the ticket could increase turnout and Biden’s margins across the map and strengthen his position in states Hillary Clinton lost, in no small part because of a drop in votes in African-American communities.
There’s Been a Big Gray Area When It Comes to Cable News Contributors Dabbling in Political Campaigns
Washington Post – Jeremy Barr | Published: 8/8/2020
So-called contributors on cable news networks are essentially paid guests who sign contracts to appear exclusively on one network, generally agreeing to go on-air as frequently as the news cycle demands. But as former politicians and political consultants, they exist in a sort of gray zone between full-time employees and unpaid interviewees, which makes discerning what they are allowed to say and do off-camera challenging. That is especially so when network contributors step on the campaign trail. Some of the most in-demand contributors are often those who are still active in the political arena or harbor future campaign aspirations, creating potential conflicts-of-interest.
Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 8/8/2020
When President Trump talked recently with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the only person in the party who can cut a nine-figure check to aid his reelection, the phone call unexpectedly turned contentious. Adelson reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he was not doing more to bolster his reelection. A person familiar with the call said it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him. GOP officials were alarmed the president had antagonized one of his biggest benefactors at a precarious moment in his campaign.
Trump Long Has Relied on Nondisclosure Deals to Prevent Criticism. That Strategy May Be Unraveling
Washington Post – Michael Kranish | Published: 8/7/2020
For decades, Donald Trump has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements as a powerful weapon against anyone who would say something critical of him. Among those who have signed agreements are two ex-wives, contestants on “Th Apprentice,” campaign workers, and business associates. But this key element of Trump’s corporate and political strategy has shown signs of unraveling, even as his campaign spends heavily to enforce such agreements. Now, in one of the most sweeping efforts by a former associate to undo nondisclosure agreements, the Trump campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts.
Trump Teases a Gettysburg Convention Speech. Experts Say It’s an Ethics Breach.
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni | Published: 8/10/2020
After repeatedly throwing a wrench into plans for the Republican National Convention this summer, President Trump tried to offer something tantalizing about the upcoming gathering, saying his renomination speech would take place either at the White House or the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg. The battlefield, where Trump gave an indoor campaign speech in 2016, is federal property run by the National Park Service. This presents the same ethical conundrums his re-election team will face if the president delivers the speech from the South Lawn of the White House.
Trump’s Scottish and Irish Golf Resorts Spur a New Round of Scrutiny on His Businesses
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 8/11/2020
President Trump claimed his resorts in Scotland and Ireland brought in a total of about $179 million in revenue on U.S. documents where he is supposed to list his personal income. Records in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland indicate the revenues were millions of dollars less and they lost $77 million after accounting for expenses. Trump claimed the Scottish resorts alone were worth at least $100 million total in 2018 but the UK records indicate the resorts are not worth anywhere near that. The American Democracy Legal Fund is asking Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to probe whether Trump violated the law by filing false documents with the U.S. government to hide the financial health of himself and his company.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Two PSPRS Trustees Claim Ethics Allegations Hurt Their Businesses, Seek $624,999 from State
Arizona Republic – Craig Harris | Published: 8/6/2020
Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) board members Will Buividas and Mike Scheidt are seeking $624,999 from the state, claiming their businesses were damaged after the pension board’s chairperson publicly questioned their ethics for making commissions on real estate deals with agency staff. The notices of claim from Buividas, a Phoenix police officer, and Scheidt, a Tempe firefighter, against the PSPRS and Chairperson Scott McCarty allege defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with business relations.
California – CalPERS Chief’s Abrupt Resignation Preceded by Conflict of Interest Questions
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 8/6/2020
Questions regarding conflict-of-interest disclosures preceded the abrupt resignation of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng, according to the pension fund’s board members. The announcement came three days after financial blogger Susan Webber published a post alleging Meng filed incomplete and inconsistent conflict-of-interest disclosures, known as Form 700s, with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The forms show Meng has held investments in private equity firms and Chinese companies, two areas of investment in which his decisions have drawn scrutiny since his hiring in January 2019.
California – Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Jeff Horseman | Published: 8/5/2020
A new California law would limit campaign contributions from individual donors to those running for supervisor or countywide offices such as sheriff and district attorney in Riverside County. Right now, there is no donation cap, although contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported online within 24 hours during election season. Assembly Bill 571 limits donors to giving a maximum of $4,700 per election to a candidate for county office. The new law allows counties to set their own limits if they do so before January 1. To that end, the board of supervisors voted to start working on county-set limits, an ordinance setting those restrictions is expected to come back to the board before December 31.
California – Huizar’s Relatives Not Expected to Face Charges in Corruption Probe, Prosecutor Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/5/2020
A federal prosecutor said his office does not intend to charge family members of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar, identifying them as witnesses rather than targets of the ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Three members of the Huizar family – his wife Richelle, hi mother Isidra, and his brother Salvador – are mentioned repeatedly in the 113-page indictment against the council member, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery, money laundering, racketeering, and other charges. Prosecutors have alleged Huizar family members laundered his bribe proceeds, receiving cash from the councilperson and then paying his bills.
California – LA Leaders Want to Bar Themselves from Voting on Matters Affecting Their Campaign Donors
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Elizabeth Chou (Los Angeles Daily News) | Published: 8/12/2020
Los Angeles city officials would be barred from voting on any issue affecting individuals or organizations donating to their campaigns under an ethics proposal advanced by a handful of council members. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently expressed support for such a measure, which would be similar to the recusal rule he and others adhere to as board members of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The measure is being proposed as city leaders seek to restore public trust of City Hall amid an FBI probe into “pay-to-play” real estate development schemes involving public officials.
Florida – Florida NRA Lobbyist Loses in Latest Court Fight over Emails
Tampa Bay Times – Jim Saunders | Published: 8/11/2020
A federal appeals court rejected arguments by prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer in a lawsuit centered on graphic emails she received from an attorney after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court judge’s decision to dismiss Hammer’s lawsuit against Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to the lobbyist that included photos of gunshot wounds. Hammer raised a series of arguments in the case, including that Sorensen had violated Florida laws about cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Florida – Payments to Florida Lobbyist Flagged in Lawsuit Against NRA
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/6/2020
Marion Hammer, one of Tallahassee’s most well-known lobbyists, received payments from the National Rifle Association under contracts that were improperly handled, according to a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James is seeking to dissolve the gun rights group, which has been a major political force nationally and in Florida, where it successfully swayed the state Legislature to pass the state’s “stand your ground” law. without trying to retreat. The complaint describes payments made to “Board Member No. 5,” a person identified as the executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida. Records list Hammer as executive director of the group.
Georgia – QAnon Supporter, with Georgia Primary Victory, Is Poised to Bring Far-Right Conspiracy Theory to Congress
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2020
Republicans came a step closer to welcoming into their ranks a promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has endorsed the baseless theory and made a slew of other racist remarks on video, won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Her victory, in a swath of the state that has favored Republicans by wide margins, sets her up to become QAnon’s first devotee in Congress.
Illinois – Former City Official Signals He Will Plead Guilty in Bribery Case as Federal Corruption Probe Widens
Chicago Tribune – David Heinzmann | Published: 8/9/2020
A longtime Chicago political operative who was charged in March with bribing a state lawmaker in the ongoing federal probe of Illinois political corruption signaled he may make a plea deal in the case, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors have alleged William Helm, a former deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, paid at least $5,000 to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2018 to influence the development of a road project near land owned by a construction company who employed him as a lobbyist. At the time, Sandoval was head of the Senate Transportation Committee and held significant influence over the approval of state road projects and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Illinois – South Suburban Mayor Charged in Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Joe Mahr | Published: 8/7/2020
According to federal prosecutors, Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta was caught on a March 2018 recording accepting an envelope with $5,000 cash from a representative of the red-light camera firm SafeSpeed, and then lied to the FBI and IRS when asked about it that September. Prosecutors say Presta sought and received benefits from SafeSpeed representatives while company sought to expand its services in the Chicago suburb. SafeSpeed has denied doing anything wrong and portrayed any misdeeds as the work of a rogue partner, Omar Maani, who is now believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.
Iowa – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Executive Order Restoring Felon Voting Rights, Removing State’s Last-in-the-Nation Status
USA Today – Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson (Des Moines Register) | Published: 8/6/2020
Thousands of Iowans with felony convictions who have served their sentences can now participate in November’s presidential election after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring their voting rights. Iowa was the last state in the nation that still banned all people with felony convictions from voting, even after the completion of their sentences, unless they applied individually to the governor’s office to have their rights restored. The issue received heightened attention this summer as protests for racial justice swept across the country after the death of George Floyd. Activists with Des Moines Black Lives Matter made the voting rights issue one of their top demands for the governor.
Maryland – Maryland Gov. Hogan OKs Plan for Just 360 Voting Centers Statewide for November Election Amid Lack of Poll Workers
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood | Published: 8/10/2020
Gov. Larry Hogan has approved a plan to offer just 360 voting centers across Maryland for the November election despite what he said were “serious concerns” about the proposal. Hogan’s decision gives the State Board of Elections authority to proceed with the voting center plan as an alternative to opening about 1,600 polling places this fall. The voting centers, unlike polling places, could be used by any voter in a county, and would be placed primarily at public high schools across the state. The board voted to recommend the plan in response to lobbying from local election directors, who said they would not be able to staff a full complement of polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maryland – Top Montgomery County Aide Resigns After Being Cited for Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 8/12/2020
Montgomery County’s chief administrative officer, Andrew Kleine, resigned after being cited for ethics violations. Kleine admitted in July to promoting his book while attending conferences paid for by the county and to having relationships with two private companies that landed county contracts after he assumed his role. Kleine did not receive financial compensation for connecting the companies with the county, but his actions still violated ethics law. He agreed to pay the county $5,000 for the ethics violations, but lawmakers said the punishment was insufficient. At least five county council members questioned whether Kleine should be allowed to continue in his position.
Michigan – Michigan Official to Resign After Defending Racist Slur
Associated Press News – John Flesher | Published: 8/9/2020
An elected official in northern Michigan who used a racist slur prior to a public meeting will resign. Tom Eckerle, a member of the Leelanau County road commission, will step down after receiving criticism from across the U.S. A local road commission meeting started with one commissioner asking Eckerle why he was not wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit,” Eckerle said. Despite the backlash, Eckerle later doubled down on his comments, defending his position in an interview with the local public radio station. “I don’t regret calling it a n—-r,” Eckerle said. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”
Montana – Helena Judge Again Takes Green Party Off Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 8/7/2020
The Montana Green Party will not be on the ballot this year after an order from Helena District Court Judge James Reynolds. Enough people asked for their signatures to be removed from petitions qualifying the Green Party for the ballot that the effort no longer met the necessary threshold, Reynolds found. More than 560 people submitted signature withdrawal requests following news reports the state Republican Party paid for the petitioning that qualified the Green Party. In a separate matter, the state Commissioner of Political Practices has found the Montana GOP’s actions broke state campaign finance laws.
New Mexico – Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose Donors, and Suggests Connection to Prominent Lobbyist
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 8/8/2020
Over the course of May and early June this year, a new group called the Council for a Competitive New Mexico (CCNM) spent over $130,000 on a media campaign supporting a group of incumbent state senators, most of whom would go on to lose as part of a progressive wave in June’s Democratic primary. The media campaign included several negative mailers and automated phone calls against candidates opposing the incumbents while the public was left in the dark about who organized the group and who funded the media campaign. Now, an ethics complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office alleges CCNM broke New Mexico’s election code by not disclosing its donors.
New York – JCOPE Commissioner: Non-Cuomo appointees left out of loop
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/11/2020
State ethics commissioners appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are privy to information not available to others on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), a commissioner charged. The allegation was made by Commissioner Gary Lavine, a Senate Republican appointee to JCOPE. From 2011 through 2018, Lavine had served on the ethics panel as an appointee of the governor. There are six Cuomo appointees on the commission and eight legislative appointees. Lavine said there was a “super commission” made up of the Cuomo appointees, a “two-tier hierarchy” of JCOPE. Lavine said he was echoing remarks to that effect made years ago by Ravi Batra, a former Senate Democratic appointee to the panel who resigned in 2012. But Batra’s sentiment is still true, Lavine said.
New York – New York Attorney General Seeks to Dissolve NRA
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak, Larry Neumeister, and Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 8/6/2020
New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) following an 18-month investigation that found evidence the gun rights organization is “fraught with fraud and abuse.” The lawsuit alleges top NRA executives misused charitable funds for personal gain, awarded contracts to friends and family members, and provided contracts to former employees to ensure loyalty. Simultaneously, the Washington, D.C. attorney general sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by its top executives.
New York – Trump Moves to Force Manhattan D.A. to Reveal Details of Inquiry
New York Times – Nicole Hong, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 8/10/2020
President Trump, seeking to block a subpoena for his tax returns, plans to ask a federal judge to order the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., to disclose details about his investigation into the president’s business practices. The letter, which Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan, was in response to a filing from prosecutors in Vance’s office, who argued they had wide legal basis to subpoena eight years of the president’s tax records and other financial documents. The office suggested it was investigating the president and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than prosecutors had acknowledged in the past.
North Carolina – New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/11/2020
North Carolina legislators can no longer spend campaign committee money toward buying or renting homes or condominiums that they or family members own, a practice that powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger used for years. An administrative rule from the State Board of Elections that took effect recently bars such transactions for all state candidates or their campaign committees. The prohibition applies even if the residence is used as the result of holding office or if the payments are made to a business that the politician or officeholder owns. The Legislative Ethics Committee also approved new guidance in May that makes it “unethical” for a legislator to receive a daily expense check to cover lodging expenses while serving in Raleigh if the lawmaker gets them covered through another source.
Ohio – Householder Case: ‘Company C’ CEO Wayne Boich gave cash to HB 6 ‘dark money’ groups
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/5/2020
The leader of a Columbus-based firm that made its family fortune in Ohio coal provided $25,000 of the money used to open bank accounts for the “dark-money” nonprofit at the center of the House Bill 6 scandal. Wayne Boich, chief executive officer of Boich Companies, also later gave $100,000 to a for-profit company that spent nearly $1.5 million to support former House Speaker Larry Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. Boich is the chief executive of “Company C,” listed in a federal court criminal complaint charging Householder and four others with racketeering, The Columbus Dispatch confirmed with a source close to the investigation.
Ohio – New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/10/2020
After the House speaker was indicted for taking bribes from energy companies in what a U.S. Attorney called “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio,” a new speaker with deep financial ties to the same energy companies has been appointed. Republicans elected Rep. Bob Cupp to replace indicted Larry Householder as the House leader. The energy companies accused of bribing Householder and funneling “dark money” to Generation Now, a Householder-controlled 501(c)(4) group, have been major donors to Cupp over his career. Cupp has faced his share of ethics allegations stemming from his energy industry contributions.
Ohio – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose: No extra ballot drop boxes for November election
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/12/2020
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Wednesday he is banning county boards of elections from offering more than one drop box for completed absentee ballots this November, saying it is grown too late to make changes to how the state will administer this year’s presidential election. LaRose, a Republican, more than three weeks ago formally asked state Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, for a legal opinion on whether the extra drop boxes were allowed under Ohio law. Democrats accused LaRose of voter suppression, saying the request of Yost was just a charade that would allow LaRose to eventually run out the clock.
Oregon – Supreme Court Puts a Halt to Oregon Redistricting Ballot Measure
OPB News – Dirk VanderHart and Jeff Mapes | Published: 8/11/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court stopped an effort to alter how Oregon draws its legislative and congressional districts. The court granted an emergency stay that will halt, for now, a push to land a measure on the November ballot placing authority for those districts in the hands of a nonpartisan commission. In July, a coalition successfully argued that due to the coronavirus pandemic, it faced an undue burden in collecting enough signatures to place its redistricting measure on the ballot. Even though it had too few signatures to qualify, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled the group should face a lower standard. But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling.
August 13, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger confirmed a third measure to be on the November ballot. Measure 3, a constitutional amendment put forth by Fargo-based North Dakota Voters First, makes several changes to election procedures. This amendment creates paper […]
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger confirmed a third measure to be on the November ballot.
Measure 3, a constitutional amendment put forth by Fargo-based North Dakota Voters First, makes several changes to election procedures.
This amendment creates paper record and audit requirements for ballots; requires ballots to be sent to military and overseas voters at least 61 days before an election; and makes the Ethics Commission responsible for state legislative redistricting procedures.
The amendment would also introduce an open primary system in which all candidates, regardless of party, would appear on a single ballot.
This would also have the top four candidates advancing to the general election.
A ranked-choice vote would decide the winner.
Additionally, if implemented, North Dakota would become only the second state in the country, after Maine, to employ a statewide ranked-choice system.
A North Dakota-based 501(c)(4) called Brighter Future Alliance is challenging the measure’s eligibility for the ballot.
The alliance is seeking a writ of injunction from the North Dakota Supreme Court prohibiting Jaeger from placing Measure 3 on the November 2020, general election ballot.
August 13, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance North Carolina: “New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used” by Gary Robertson (Associated Press) for MSN Elections National: “Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests” by Amy […]
North Carolina: “New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used” by Gary Robertson (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests” by Amy Gardner and Dan Simmons for Washington Post
Georgia: “QAnon Supporter, with Georgia Primary Victory, Is Poised to Bring Far-Right Conspiracy Theory to Congress” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) for MSN
Oregon: “Supreme Court Puts a Halt to Oregon Redistricting Ballot Measure” by Dirk VanderHart and Jeff Mapes for OPB News
National: “Trump’s Scottish and Irish Golf Resorts Spur a New Round of Scrutiny on His Businesses” by Anita Kumar for Politico
National: “Federal Appeals Court Skeptical of Michael Flynn’s Effort to Immediately Dismiss Criminal Charge” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
California: “CalPERS Chief’s Abrupt Resignation Preceded by Conflict of Interest Questions” by Wes Venteicher for Sacramento Bee
New York: “JCOPE Commissioner: Non-Cuomo appointees left out of loop” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Florida: “Florida NRA Lobbyist Loses in Latest Court Fight over Emails” by Jim Saunders for Tampa Bay Times
August 12, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Ohio: “New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy” by David Moore for Sludge Elections National: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris Named as Joe Biden’s Running Mate” by Amanda Erickson for Washington Post Maryland: “Maryland Gov. Hogan […]
Ohio: “New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy” by David Moore for Sludge
National: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris Named as Joe Biden’s Running Mate” by Amanda Erickson for Washington Post
Maryland: “Maryland Gov. Hogan OKs Plan for Just 360 Voting Centers Statewide for November Election Amid Lack of Poll Workers” by Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun
National: “Taking Protest to the Streets, and the Mayor’s Front Door” by Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Disinformation for Profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash” by Isaac Stanley Becker for Washington Post
National: “Trump Teases a Gettysburg Convention Speech. Experts Say It’s an Ethics Breach.” by Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni for New York Times
National: “Appeals Court Rejects Key Argument Against McGahn Subpoena” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Illinois: “Former City Official Signals He Will Plead Guilty in Bribery Case as Federal Corruption Probe Widens” by David Heinzmann for Chicago Tribune
Michigan: “Michigan Official to Resign After Defending Racist Slur” by John Flesher for Associated Press News
New York: “Trump Moves to Force Manhattan D.A. to Reveal Details of Inquiry” by Nicole Hong, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser for New York Times
August 11, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico California: “Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County” by Jeff Horseman for Riverside Press-Enterprise New Mexico: “Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose […]
National: “Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico
California: “Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County” by Jeff Horseman for Riverside Press-Enterprise
New Mexico: “Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose Donors, and Suggests Connection to Prominent Lobbyist” by Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) for New Mexico Political Report
National: “Postal Service Overhauls Leadership as Democrats Press for Investigation of Mail Delays” by Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
Montana: “Helena Judge Again Takes Green Party Off Ballot” by Holly Michels for Helena Independent Record
National: “There’s Been a Big Gray Area When It Comes to Cable News Contributors Dabbling in Political Campaigns” by Jeremy Barr for Washington Post
National: “Trump Long Has Relied on Nondisclosure Deals to Prevent Criticism. That Strategy May Be Unraveling” by Michael Kranish for Washington Post
Illinois: “South Suburban Mayor Charged in Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme” by Joe Mahr for Chicago Tribune
Florida: “Payments to Florida Lobbyist Flagged in Lawsuit Against NRA” by Gary Fineout for Politico
August 10, 2020 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On October 5, the city of Ottawa will hold a byelection to fill the municipal council seat left vacant by Stephen Blais. The vacant Cumberland ward seat held by Blais, who left to serve as the Member of the Provincial […]
On October 5, the city of Ottawa will hold a byelection to fill the municipal council seat left vacant by Stephen Blais.
The vacant Cumberland ward seat held by Blais, who left to serve as the Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Orléans, could have been filled by an appointment made by the council itself.
While Blais was elected as MPP in February, the council held off deciding about whether to have an election or make an appointment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the Ottawa Council agreed to allow voters the choice to fill the seat.
For the first time, electors will be allowed to apply to vote by special mail-in ballot should they feel uncomfortable about voting in person or be unable to make it to a voting location.
August 10, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Tlaib Directed to Reimburse Campaign for $10,800 in Postelection Paychecks” by Niels Lesniewski for Roll Call Ohio: “Householder Case: ‘Company C’ CEO Wayne Boich gave cash to HB 6 ‘dark money’ groups” by Randy Ludlow (Columbus […]
National: “Rep. Tlaib Directed to Reimburse Campaign for $10,800 in Postelection Paychecks” by Niels Lesniewski for Roll Call
Ohio: “Householder Case: ‘Company C’ CEO Wayne Boich gave cash to HB 6 ‘dark money’ groups” by Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) for MSN
National: “Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities” by Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) for Philadelphia Inquirer
Iowa: “Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Executive Order Restoring Felon Voting Rights, Removing State’s Last-in-the-Nation Status” by Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson (Des Moines Register) for USA Today
National: “Former Clients of Acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf Received Millions in Department Contracts” by Brian Schwartz for CNBC
Arizona: “Two PSPRS Trustees Claim Ethics Allegations Hurt Their Businesses, Seek $624,999 from State” by Craig Harris for Arizona Republic
California: “Huizar’s Relatives Not Expected to Face Charges in Corruption Probe, Prosecutor Says” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
National: “How Hotel Chains Got a Slice of Government Aid for Small Businesses” by Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica
New York: “New York Attorney General Seeks to Dissolve NRA in Suit Accusing Gun Rights Group of Wide-Ranging Fraud and Self-Dealing” by Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger for Washington Post
August 7, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail. If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9. Return postage will be provided. Voters […]
Gov. Steve Bullock announced Thursday Montana counties have the option to hold the November general election by mail.
If counties decide to hold a mail-in ballot election, ballots will be sent on October 9.
Return postage will be provided.
Voters will still be able to vote in-person if they choose.
Gov. Bullock allowed counties to hold a mail-in ballot primary election in June.
Ultimately, all 56 counties used mail ballots for the primary, which had record turnout.
August 7, 2020 • Written by John Cetor
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis. The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, […]
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a special election to fill the 5th congressional district seat vacated by the late Representative John Lewis.
The special general election will be held on September 29, with a special runoff held on December 1, if necessary.