March 17, 2020 •

Maryland’s April Primary Elections Postponed

Maryland Capitol Building - Jimmy Emerson

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced the April primary elections have been postponed until June 2. The special election for the 7th Congressional District held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings will still take place on April 28. However, the election […]

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced the April primary elections have been postponed until June 2.

The special election for the 7th Congressional District held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings will still take place on April 28.

However, the election will be a mail-in only election, becoming the first federal election to shift to mail voting in response to COVID-19.

The Board of Elections will mail ballots out to all eligible voters later this month.

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March 17, 2020 •

FEC Will Delay Processing Reports and Requests Submitted by Mail

On March 17, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced it will be receiving but not processing mail. The FEC closed its offices to visitors on March 13. The delay in processing is due to the bulk of the agency’s staff […]

On March 17, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced it will be receiving but not processing mail.

The FEC closed its offices to visitors on March 13.

The delay in processing is due to the bulk of the agency’s staff teleworking in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

This affects all documents submitted on paper, including:

    • Non-electronically filed reports
    • Advisory opinion requests
    • Enforcement complaints
    • Court-case documents

While campaign finance reports filed electronically will be processed in the normal fashion, the FEC will not be processing campaign finance reports filed by mail or other delivery services until the agency resumes normal mail operations.

The FEC maintains filers should still continue to file their reports on time.

The FEC does not have legal authority to extend any deadlines, but it “may choose not to pursue administrative fines against filers prevented from filing by reasonably unforeseen circumstances beyond their control,” according to its press release.

All electronic filing systems, web-based programs, and the agency’s website remain online and functional.

The FEC staff will still respond to all telephone and email inquiries.

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March 17, 2020 •

Texas Governor Postpones Senate District 14 Special Election

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Gov. Greg Abbot has postponed the special election for the Austin area Texas Senate District 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The election will replace retiring state Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat leaving office at the end of April. […]

Gov. Greg Abbot has postponed the special election for the Austin area Texas Senate District 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The election will replace retiring state Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat leaving office at the end of April.

The election has been moved from May 2 to July 14.

It is unclear whether additional action will be taken to delay municipal elections across the state, which are scheduled for May 2.

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March 17, 2020 •

Kentucky Delays Primary Until June 23

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the Kentucky primary election scheduled for May 19 will be delayed until June 23. The election is being delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Beshear made the announcement Monday evening at a press conference at […]

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the Kentucky primary election scheduled for May 19 will be delayed until June 23.

The election is being delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Beshear made the announcement Monday evening at a press conference at the Capitol.

Secretary of State Michael Adams hand-delivered a letter to Beshear in the afternoon recommending all Kentucky elections scheduled for May 19, including primaries, special elections, and local option elections, be delayed 35 days.

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March 17, 2020 •

NYC Mayor de Blasio Postpones Queens Special Election

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio - Gage Skidmore

On March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the postponement of the Queens Special Election for Borough President scheduled for March 24. Mayor de Blasio postponed the special election due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. No new date has been set […]

On March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the postponement of the Queens Special Election for Borough President scheduled for March 24.

Mayor de Blasio postponed the special election due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

No new date has been set and acting Borough President Sharon Lee will continue her tenure until the special election is rescheduled.

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March 17, 2020 •

Ohio Primary Delayed By Health Department Order

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine has delayed Ohio’s in-person voting by order of the state’s Health Department after a day of uncertainty about the status of the presidential primary election. DeWine indicated earlier in the day at a press conference he did […]

Gov. Mike DeWine has delayed Ohio’s in-person voting by order of the state’s Health Department after a day of uncertainty about the status of the presidential primary election.

DeWine indicated earlier in the day at a press conference he did not have authority to unilaterally delay the primary and a lawsuit would be filed to move the election to June 2 over concern about COVID-19.

On Monday evening, Judge Richard A. Frye of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas rejected the request.

After the court ruling allowing the election to proceed and an evening of conflicting information, DeWine ended speculation with a tweet at 10:11 p.m.

The Health Department ordered all polling places not to open for Tuesday’s primary elections to protect voters and poll workers from the coronavirus outbreak.

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March 17, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post National: “Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’” by Jacqueline Thomson for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post

National: “Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’” by Jacqueline Thomson for Law.com

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Tests American Democracy as Planning Begins for ‘Worst Case’ in November Election” by Isaac Stanley-Baker and Amy Gardner for Washington Post

Georgia: “Georgia Delays Primary Election” by Zach Montellaro for Politico

Ethics

National: “Full Appeals Court to Hear McGahn, Border Wall Cases” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Florida: “Andrew Gillum Entering Rehab to Treat Alcohol Abuse After Hotel Incident” by David Smiley and Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times

Lobbying

New York: “Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News

Procurement

Missouri: “Amid FBI Inquiry, Controversial Figures in Play for Another Huge City Power Project” by Kevin Hardy, Steve Vockrodt, and Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

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March 16, 2020 •

Gov. Mike DeWine Seeks to Delay Ohio Primary Election

Ohio Statehouse

Less than 24 hours before the scheduled primary election, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced a lawsuit will be filed in Franklin County today. This will be requesting Tuesday’s in-person primary election […]

Less than 24 hours before the scheduled primary election, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced a lawsuit will be filed in Franklin County today.

This will be requesting Tuesday’s in-person primary election be postponed until June 2.

The proposal will extend the deadline for requesting absentee ballots for voters who are unforeseeably confined or hospitalized.

In turn it will offer curbside voting for anyone concerned about entering their polling place as the state’s primary election rolls on during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Husted explained the June 2 date would allow anyone who had planned to vote in person to request an absentee ballot and return it in time to vote in the election.

Whether or not the election will be postponed will be decided by court order.

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March 16, 2020 •

South Carolina Governor Postpones County Elections

South Carolina Capitol Building

On Sunday March 15, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has announced all county elections will be postponed until after May 1. Additionally, this announcement comes will a list of measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19. These guidelines include […]

On Sunday March 15, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has announced all county elections will be postponed until after May 1.

Additionally, this announcement comes will a list of measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

These guidelines include the closing of all schools within the state for the remainder of March.

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March 16, 2020 •

Georgia March Primary Postponed

Georgia State Capitol Building

Due to concerns over COVID-19, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has postponed the March 24 presidential primary election to May 19. The rescheduling moves the presidential primary to the same day as the state’s general primary.

Due to concerns over COVID-19, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has postponed the March 24 presidential primary election to May 19.

The rescheduling moves the presidential primary to the same day as the state’s general primary.

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March 16, 2020 •

Alabama Secretary of State Seeks Postponement of March 31 Runoffs

Alabama State Capitol Building

Citing concern for the health and well-being of the citizens, Secretary of State John Merrill is urging the state’s March 31 runoff elections be postponed. In a statement over the weekend, Merrill requested an emergency opinion on whether the Governor’s […]

Citing concern for the health and well-being of the citizens, Secretary of State John Merrill is urging the state’s March 31 runoff elections be postponed.

In a statement over the weekend, Merrill requested an emergency opinion on whether the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency would authorize this postponement.

Merrill also stated there is no provision or process in Alabama’s Code or Constitution allowing changes to election dates after being set.

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March 16, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance New York: “Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette Tennessee: “Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Fines Stay at $80K, Board Rejects Request” by Scott Broden and Joel Ebert for […]

Campaign Finance

New York: “Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette

Tennessee: “Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Fines Stay at $80K, Board Rejects Request” by Scott Broden and Joel Ebert for MSN

Elections

National: “Some Democrats Urge Party to Weigh Alternatives for National Convention Amid Coronavirus Outbreak” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer for MSN

Louisiana: “Louisiana’s Presidential Primary Election to Be Delayed Because of Coronavirus” by Sam Karlin for Baton Rouge Advocate

Ethics

Florida: “Andrew Gillum Linked to Meth Overdose Incident in Miami Beach Hotel, Police Reports Say” by Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) for Palm Beach Daily News

Maryland: “States Are Banning Discrimination Against Black Hairstyles. For Some Lawmakers, It’s Personal.” by Ovetta Wiggins for Washington Post

North Carolina: “‘Tip of an Iceberg’: Evidence in NC bribery case hints at more intrigue” by Travis Fain for WRAL

Lobbying

National: “Coronavirus Shakes Up K Street” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

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March 13, 2020 •

Louisiana Postpones Presidential Primary

Louisiana will postpone its presidential primary originally scheduled for April 4. The state is the first to do so in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana will push the election to June 20, from the planned date of April 4. […]

Louisiana will postpone its presidential primary originally scheduled for April 4.

The state is the first to do so in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Louisiana will push the election to June 20, from the planned date of April 4.

It has also delayed its municipal elections scheduled for May 9 to July 25.

States such as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio, which hold primaries on March 17, have so far moved forward with their election events as planned.

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March 13, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 13, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020 When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients […]

National/Federal

Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020

When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients girding them for what a Sanders administration might look like. Less than three weeks later, the same firm is preparing clients for a much less worrying prospect: the likelihood that Joe Biden, a more conventional candidate, will win the Democratic nomination after he rocketed past Sanders with a string of big victories. “There’s an immense amount of relief – make no mistake,” said Democratic lobbyist Scott Eckert. But a Biden administration, if he were to secure the nomination and defeat President Trump in November, could pose its own problems for K Street.

Bloomberg Aides Cut Loose Despite Yearlong Employment Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 3/10/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s shuttered presidential campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and inviting them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee, despite extending guarantees of being paid through the November election when they were hired. The former New York mayor is now underwriting an outside effort to help Democrats defeat President Trump. The Bloomberg campaign has said it plans to remain active in six battleground states and could give priority to the aides still on payroll. But it is unclear how many positions the new independent expenditure will have. Federal rules require Bloomberg to designate a new vehicle to fund Democratic efforts and pay staffers.

Business Money Flows Through Gaps in Anti-Corporate PAC Pledge
Roll Call – Kate Ackley and George LeVines | Published: 3/11/2020

More than 50 sitting federal lawmakers have taken a pledge not to accept direct donations from the PACs of corporations. The pledge has led to growing concerns among corporate PAC leaders about what it means for their future. Yet a review of contribution records found the political money of business interests – to the tune of $2.6 million last year alone – continued to find a way to most of the lawmakers who have taken the pledge. Typically, that route is through the PACs of trade associations and professional organizations. Trade association and member organization PACs are not designated as corporate PACs under the FEC’s classification process and therefore do not violate the no-corporate-PAC pledge as crafted by advocacy groups promoting it.

Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck | Published: 3/9/2020

Presidential campaigns, parties, and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions. The virus suddenly brought every assumption about the unfolding of the 2020 race into question, even the viability of activities as core to campaigning as knocking on doors. It also intensified fears about election interference and disinformation.

Democrats Boost National Fundraising for State Legislatures
Roll Call – Jacob Fischler | Published: 3/11/2020

After nearly a decade of virtually ceding state legislative races to Republicans, the Democratic Party organization dedicated to winning those seats and other allied groups nationally are ramping up fundraising in a bid to win control of state chambers ahead of census-driven redistricting. But funding disadvantages in individual races show the headwinds that persist. Flipping chambers as the Democrats did in Virginia in 2019 is about flipping individual seats. And the boost in funding to outside groups has not trickled down to individual Democratic candidates in key states.

Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 3/10/2020

House Democrats scored a legal victory as a federal appeals court panel granted them permission to access grand jury secrets from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The ruling from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the House’s ability to see the deleted passages in the public version of the Mueller report, the tome that describes the two-year investigation into potential links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report also examines Trump’s attempts to stymie the Russia probe. If it stands, the ruling would give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and entire pages – nearly 1,000 portions in all – as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s review.

Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2020

Erik Prince, a security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, and other groups. Two operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has used hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Trump’s agenda.

Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads
Reuters – Elizabeth Culliford and Mark Brown | Published: 3/5/2020

Facebook removed ads by President Trump’s re-election campaign that asked users to fill out an “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” because the ads violate the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census. The ads, which come from the pages of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, link to a survey on an official campaign website and then to a page asking for donations. “We need Patriotic Americans like YOU to respond to this census, so we can develop a winning strategy for YOUR STATE,” the ad read. The online newsletter Popular Information, which first reported on the ads, said Facebook had originally said they did not violate its policy.

GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC Probe into His Father
Politico – Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan | Published: 3/6/2020

The FEC is investigating potentially improper straw donations to U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ 2018 campaign that were paid for by his father, the latest political headache for the embattled Republican. At the heart of the FEC probe is whether Watkins’ father made illegal contributions to boost Watkin’s congressional bid. Steve Watkins Sr. confirmed the FEC is investigating him for giving thousands of dollars to his daughters, a home-building contractor, and the contractor’s wife, which they then used to max out to Watkins’ campaign. Those types of contributions violate campaign finance laws. The elder Watkins, who also dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a super PAC to support his son’s election, insisted he did not know what he was doing was illegal.

House Democrats Request Appeal Asking Court to Enforce Subpoena for Former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2020

House Democrats asked a federal appeals court to reconsider enforcing a congressional subpoena for President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn. The request comes after a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the courts have no authority to resolve the separation-of-powers dispute between the White House and Democrats in Congress. Lawyers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want a full complement of judges on the appeals court to overturn the ruling from a three-judge panel of the same court. If the ruling stands, it means the president’s former White House counsel can defy the subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. Even if the full appeals court agrees to take a second look, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP
MSN – Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 3/9/2020

President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fundraising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure. Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee (RNC), the operatives have consolidated power – and made money – in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the RNC, and a range of other Republican clients.

Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence
New York Times – Julian Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Adam Goldman | Published: 3/10/2020

Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence. President Trump attacked the briefings earlier in the day, accusing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, of dwelling too much on Russian election interference. Two intelligence officials pushed back on any suggestion the officials were politicizing their assessments. They said career professionals had made the conclusions about Russia and they represented the current view of various intelligence agencies.

Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States
AP News – Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman | Published: 3/11/2020

Joe Biden decisively won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory there, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, dealt a serious blow to Sanders and substantially widened Biden’s path to the nomination. Biden again showed strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders’ narrow hopes for good news rested on North Dakota and Washington state. Washington’s primary was too early to call, and because all votes there are cast by mail or by dropping them off in a ballot box, many ballots were marked for candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2020

A federal appeals court is wrestling with the powers of House investigators to get accurate information when pursuing ethics investigations into members of Congress and their staff. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments stemming from the prosecution of David Bowser, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, on charges of misleading investigators about the hiring of a House-paid employee to do political work for Broun. The appeals judges who took up Bowser’s case offered some glimmers of hope for his defense, but it sounded unlikely he would see a ruling that wipes out all the guilty verdicts against him. Judge Robert Wilkins expressed concern that the court not be seen as criminalizing the widespread practice of congressional staffers moonlighting for campaigns.

Juul Labs Sought to Court AGs as Teen Vaping Surged
AP News – Matthew Perrone and Richard Lardner | Published: 3/9/2020

The nation’s largest electronic-cigarette company, Juul Labs, has met with state attorneys general from around the country and donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns, part of an effort to build relationships with these powerful officials and potentially head off legal challenges over how Juul promoted and sold its vaping products. The company also donated $50,000 each to the Republican and Democratic fundraising committees that support the election of attorneys general candidates. Those donations won Juul corporate membership in both groups, a status that came with invitations to semiannual retreats and conferences attended by attorneys general and their staff. These events provide opportunities for companies to lobby state officials.

Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.
MSN – Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2020

Days after U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore an enormous gas mask during a floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, he announced he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel virus. He said he will close his Washington office while he is in quarantine. Gaetz said he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested and expects results soon. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Douglas Collins, who attended the same conference, also announced they would self-quarantine.

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal More Secret Service Payments to Trump Properties
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2020

The U.S. Secret Service was billed $157,000 more than was previously known by President Trump’s clubs and properties for nightly room rentals in the last three years, documents show. In total, the agency – and by extension, taxpayers – has been billed at least $628,000 by the properties since Trump took office in 2017. The payments show Trump has an unprecedented, and still partially hidden, business relationship with his own government. The Secret Service accompanies the president and family members wherever they go, and while on protective duty its agents are exempt from federal limits on hotel room spending. But there appears to be no requirement that presidents must charge the Secret Service. In fact, most recent presidents and vice presidents have allowed the Secret Service to use space on their properties free.

Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds
Washington Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/6/2020

Experts at New York University performed a security audit of Facebook’s online ad archive between May 2018 and June 2019. Their conclusions, spelled out in a new paper, point to myriad opportunities malicious actors may have had to exploit the platform’s powerful targeting tools while hiding their tracks, misleading users and evading Facebook’s enforcement. In the years after Russian agents weaponized the social-networking platform as part of their efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election, Facebook developed verification measures designed to prevent foreign actors from purchasing political ads. It also undertook transparency initiatives that placed paid posts in a public archive. But researchers found a series of defects that still could “enable a malicious advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their political ads,” as they wrote.

Trump FEC Pick Offers Mixed Messages on Donor Disclosure
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/10/2020

Trey Trainor, President Trump’s Republican nominee to the FEC, tried to quell concerns from Democrats and some good government groups that he would avoid enforcing campaign finance law if confirmed. During his nomination hearing, Trainor said he believes political donors should be disclosed despite his past support for secret election spending. He defended a “dark money” group from state regulators and previously invoked the Federalist Papers to defend undisclosed political spending. Trainor followed that statement by indicating he would abide by the FEC’s current system of tackling undisclosed election spending.

Watchdog Group Says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Hong Kong Lobbying Broke the Law
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 3/6/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen broke the law when she signed on as a consultant for the Hong Kong government during her one-year lobbying ban after she left office. In April 2019, Ros-Lehtinen was named a “team leader” for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as part of her work with Akin Gump, according to a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ros-Lehtinen retired from Congress in January 2019 and was barred from lobbying Congress for one year. The one-year lobbying ban also includes a blanket ban on any work for a foreign government for at least a year.

From the States and Municipalities

California Ex-L.A. Councilman Englander Charged with Obstruction in Probe Alleging Lavish Spending and Escorts
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 3/9/2020

Former Los Angeles City Council member Mitchell Englander was charged with obstructing an investigation into him accepting cash, escort services, hotel rooms, and meals from a businessperson. Englander is the first City Hall figure to be publicly charged in connection with a probe that has delved into the worlds of politics and real estate development. In 2017, Englander and one of his top aides went to a Las Vegas resort and casino with the businessperson. At the resort, Englander took an envelope containing $10,000 in cash from the businessperson in a bathroom, according to the charges. The indictment also details meetings Englander had with the businessperson in Palm Springs. Englander allegedly accepted an envelope with $5,000 in cash from the businessperson during a brief encounter in a casino bathroom while the men attended a golf tournament.

California Glendale Officials Now Must Disclose Familial, Business Relationships to Those Seeking the City’s Ear
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 3/10/2020

Glendale adopted a lobbyist and disclosure ordinance that imposes rules on how city officials and individuals attempting to influence them can interact, with the intent of bringing more transparency to City Hall. Lobbyists will now have to identify themselves, who they are working for, and how much they are being paid or risk being slapped with fines or a misdemeanor charge. Each year, lobbyists – whether they are individuals or firms – will now need to register with the city.

Connecticut Lawmakers Question Funding Behind Anti-Vaccine Groups Who Swarmed State Capitol
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 3/5/2020

Democratic senators in Connecticut said three groups that are working against a bill to end the state’s religious exemption to vaccines for schoolchildren “have active social media presences, have purchased billboard advertising, created professional websites, and have distributed paraphernalia such as stickers and posters at legislative hearings,” appearing to exceed the $3,000 threshold that requires such groups to register as lobbying organizations with the Office of State Ethics. The senators said the groups are also soliciting online donations.

Florida Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation into Nonprofit That Enriched CEO
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 3/11/2020

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, adding the prospect of criminal charges to the government actions mounting against former Chief Executive Officer Tiffany Carr and the agency’s board of directors, accused of misusing millions in taxpayer dollars. The investigation is the latest response to revelations that members of the board allowed Carr to be paid $7.5 million in executive compensation over three years. Florida lawmakers have passed a bill to end the state contract with the coalition, which had been the clearinghouse for $52 million in annual state and federal funding for 42 domestic violence shelters.

Florida Leon County Commission Gives Green Light to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 3/10/2020

The Leon County Commissioners moved forward changes to the lobbying ordinance that would clear up ambiguity on who is required to register and streamline enforcement efforts. The proposed language, which will go before a public hearing, comes after recent reporting that highlighted the blurry lines at the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy. No lobbyist has ever been cited for a violation in the county, said outgoing County Attorney Herb Thiele, who added that any instances that could have resulted in a fine were handled by instead reminding lobbyists to register. But he described the process, if a lobbyist were to be cited, as “cumbersome.”

Florida Lobbyist Sought City Benefits for Westside Property He Owned with Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 3/6/2020

Local lobbyist Deno Hicks sought financial incentives from Jacksonville City Hall for a city property he co-owns with JEA’s now-fired chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and that he is now trying to sell to a company affiliated with Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida’s former lieutenant governor. Zahn’s business partnership with Hicks came under scrutiny in his final days at JEA – a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility – which had hired Hicks’ former lobbying firm during Zahn’s tenure. Zahn did not disclose his ownership stake in the land to JEA’s ethics department. City attorneys who investigated Zahn concluded he failed to disclose business and personal conflicts-of-interest, which was one of two dozen instances of misconduct the board of directors used as evidence to fire Zahn earlier this year.

Louisiana In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law
Houston Public Media – Patrick Madden (WWNO) | Published: 3/5/2020

In Louisiana, casinos are prohibited from making campaign contributions to state politicians or campaigns. But casinos can donate money to federal groups such as the Democratic and Republican governors associations. These outside groups can spend freely on state races.  This money can be hard to trace because governors. associations don not disclose their donors until months after an election. Many other states have similar “pay-to-play” laws that prohibit specific special interests from making campaign contributions. But with outside groups free to raise and spend unlimited money without the same restrictions, watchdog groups worry these state-level “pay-to-play” laws could lose their effectiveness.

Maine CMP Project Backers Urge Lawmakers to Defeat Bill Barring Foreign Influence in Maine Elections
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 3/11/2020

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar foreign nationals and certain foreign corporations from spending to influence ballot campaigns. It is designed to close a loophole in the election law, but it could also have an immediate impact on Hydro-Quebec, the electricity supplier for a controversial $1 billion transmission line through western Maine. Hydro-Quebec formed a ballot question committee to support the project, and it has since been buying print and digital ads, touting its purported environmental benefits to Maine. But the Canadian utility’s involvement immediately raised questions about foreign influence in a Maine election and highlights an election law loophole that allows foreign nationals and companies controlled by foreign governments to spend on state ballot initiatives.

Maryland Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 3/9/2020

A Baltimore businessperson Lance Lucas pleaded to federal charges stemming from bribes totaling $42,500 he paid to former state Del. Cheryl Diane Glenn while she was still in office. Glenn pleaded guilty to accepting more than $33,000 in bribes from people other than Lucas. Lucas made 11 payments to Glenn, starting with four money orders, each for $500, in May 2018 after he told her about the significant costs that an unnamed company had incurred in its pursuit of a medical marijuana dispensary license. During a lunch meeting, Glenn suggested she would have drafted a bill benefiting the company had he paid her the money spent in the effort to get the license, according to the charging document.

Maryland Maryland House of Delegates Passes Campaign Finance Reform Package
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/12/2020

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation. One bill would help the State Board of Elections investigate suspicious campaign donations by requiring the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to forward a list of businesses that have forfeited their registrations to the elections board. Another bill prohibits a candidate’s family member or employee of the candidate from serving as the campaign’s treasurer. The four bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts
Baltimore Sun – Lance Lucas | Published: 3/9/2020

A bill that would allow labor unions to set the terms for how employees are hired on city construction projects has run into early opposition from Baltimore’s minority and nonunion contractors. Speaking in front of City Hall, representatives of several construction firms said the proposed legislation would be a burden on the city’s nonunion shops, many of which are minority-owned and employ people rejected by union groups like those with criminal records. The proposed bill would require project labor agreements, a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement between a contractor and a labor organization that establishes a labor group to represent everyone who works on the project. It would apply to all city construction projects valued at $25 million or more, or long-term capital improvement plans of more than $15 million that involve projects at multiple locations.

Missouri Businessman Involved in St. Louis County Scheme Sentenced
AP News – Jim Salter | Published: 3/5/2020

A businessperson who admitted to providing bribes as part of a “pay-to-play” scandal that led to the downfall of St. Louis County’s former top elected official was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. John Rallo pleaded guilty to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. He is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison. Two others also pleaded guilty to federal crimes as part of the scheme.

Missouri Kansas City Mayor Is Turned Away from Polls, Told He ‘Wasn’t in the System’
Kansas City Star – Allison Kite, Robert Cronkelton, and Glenn Rice | Published: 3/10/2020

Moments after making a plea for people to get out and vote in the Missouri primary on March 10, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said as turned away from the polls and told he “wasn’t in the system.” Lucas tried to cast his vote at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, where he said he has voted since 2009. Election officials later blamed the incident on a mistake by a poll worker, and Lucas returned later in the day and voted. But the mayor said the incident pointed to a larger problem in how elections are run.

New York Cuomo Resurfaces Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Plan
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/5/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again trying to require nonprofits and political advocacy organizations to publicly disclose their donors, after a similar law he spearheaded was struck down in October. But representatives from nonprofits fear the proposal would quash charitable giving and violate free speech protections. Nonprofits already disclose their major donors on tax forms to both the IRS and state attorney general’s office, but that information is currently kept confidential. This proposal in the state budget would require the state to list the donors online who give more than $5,000.

North Carolina Durham Businessman Found Guilty of Bribing NC Official
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/5/2020

A federal jury convicted businessperson Greg Lindberg on public corruption and bribery charges in a scheme to influence North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg offered Causey up to $2 million more to ease regulations on Lindberg’s insurance companies. The jury also found John Gray, a Lindberg consultant, guilty of helping set up the deal. Causey recorded those conversations for the FBI. Former North Carolina Republican Party Chairperson Robin Hayes had already pleaded guilty in this case, admitting he lied to federal investigators about the deal, which included money flowing through the state party but ultimately bound for Causey’s campaign coffers.

Vermont House Panel Seeks to Weaken Corporate Campaign Contribution Bill
Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 3/10/2020

Campaign finance reformers have spent years seeking to limit the flow of corporate money into Vermont elections. Now a bill that would do just that is being watered down by a House committee. Senate Bill 47 was originally drafted to prohibit corporations from making direct donations to Vermont candidates and political parties. It passed the Senate last March but has languished in the House thereafter. The House Committee on Government Operations is now poised to approve the bill with one major change: it would continue to allow political parties to accept corporate contributions.

Virginia PR Consultants Linked to Social Media Campaign Opposing Northern Va. Slots Won’t Say Who’s Behind It
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/11/2020

Someone has been running a social media campaign built to look like grassroots opposition to slot machines in Northern Virginia. In almost $50,000 worth of Facebook ads, a group called Not in Nova has warned that “out-of-state Big Gambling special interests and their lobbyists” were sneaking a bill through the General Assembly that would make the area more crowded and expensive. But none of the group’s public materials connect back to any identifiable citizen activists working against a proposal to allow Colonial Downs to operate hundreds of slots-like historical horse racing machines in Dumfries. The secretive nature of the advocacy campaign and the fingerprints of the public relations firms that seem to be carrying it out have fueled questions on social media and around the Capitol about who is actually behind it.

Washington Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/9/2020

Businessperson Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg agreed to pay $250,000 in fines and legal expenses after a judge found they violated Washington’s campaign finance law, but the defendants insist the case is a serious overreach by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder ruled Greene and Moberg unlawfully concealed they were responsible for spending $3,900 on political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor. Moberg was assessed the bulk of the settlement: $230,000. That includes $115,000 in fines and $115,000 for legal costs incurred by the state. “Intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Ferguson said.

Washington DC Jack Evans Probably Qualifies for Public Campaign Money in Comeback Bid, Records Show
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/11/2020

Jack Evans appears to qualify for public campaign funds in his bid to reclaim the District of Columbia Council seat he gave up amid an ethics scandal. The city’s new public financing program allows ward council candidates to receive taxpayer dollars if they collect at least $5,000 in small campaign contributions from 150 residents. Evans’ filing showed he raised nearly $10,000 from more than 200 residents. If regulators verify that he met the requirements to qualify for public financing and this summer’s election ballots, Evans would receive $40,000 in grants and up to $50,000 in matching donations. Public financing for Evans would mark a dramatic shift for the former council member, who has relied on raising money from developers, businesses, and moneyed interests over three decades.

West Virginia Ethics Panel Clears Justice’s Flights to, from Lewisburg
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/6/2020

Gov. Jim Justice may fly in the state plane from his home in Lewisburg to destinations other than Charleston to participate in official state business, and while in those locations, may take part in campaign activities before making the return flight home, the West Virginia Ethics Commission determined. In an advisory opinion, the commission said Justice has to meet several criteria to assure his travel does not violate the Ethics Act’s prohibition against using public office for private gain. The commission stressed it was not addressing a current legal challenge before the state Supreme Court contending that, by living in Lewisburg, Justice is violating a requirement in the state constitution that the governor reside at the seat of state government.

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