March 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “New Proposal for Massachusetts House Caucus Funding Raises Fears of Legislative ‘Slush Fund’” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com Elections California: “L.A. City Council Candidate Sues to Stop Former Ethics Commissioner from Running” by Emily Alpert Reyes for […]
Massachusetts: “New Proposal for Massachusetts House Caucus Funding Raises Fears of Legislative ‘Slush Fund’” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com
California: “L.A. City Council Candidate Sues to Stop Former Ethics Commissioner from Running” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
National: “Appeals Court Judges Appear Skeptical of Emoluments Case Against Trump” by Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) for MSN
Indiana: “Complaint Could Cost Attorney General Curtis Hill His Law License – and Elected Position” by Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange for Indianapolis Star
Missouri: “Voters Approved Clean Missouri, but Lawmakers Want Them to Reconsider” by Galen Barcharier for Columbia Missourian
Oregon: “Cylvia Hayes Settles with Oregonian Over Legal Fees” by Ted Sickinger for Portland Oregonian
Washington D.C.: “D.C. Council Votes to Reprimand Jack Evans Over Ethics Issues” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
New York: “9 Fund-Raisers in 1 Night: Democrats vow reform in N.Y., but money still flows” by J. David Goodman for New York Times
Oklahoma: “Do You Hire Lobbyists? Agencies Face Deadline from Stitt” by Tres Savage for NonDoc
March 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette […]
Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times
Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Illinois: “Debt Collector Indicted on Pay-to-Play Charges Linked to Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown” by Patrick O’Connell and Megan Crepeau for Chicago Tribune
Minnesota: “Lawmakers Look to Close Campaign Finance Loophole Affecting Minneapolis Elections” by Peter Callaghan for MinnPost
National: “Workers on Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Campaign Have Unionized” by Juana Summers for AP News
Kentucky: “Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections” by Jessica Huseman for ProPublica
California: “California Is Awash in Cannabis Cash. Some Is Being Used to Bribe Public Officials” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times
National: “Trump-Connected Lobby Firms Cash in With Foreign Governments” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
National: “Lobbying Case Against Democrat with Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage” by Kenneth Vogel and Katie Benner for New York Times
March 18, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
Political candidates in Oklahoma will be able to accept $2,800 per election from individuals the next time they run. The Federal Election Commission increased the individual contributions limit $100 to account for inflation. It is the first increase in four […]
Political candidates in Oklahoma will be able to accept $2,800 per election from individuals the next time they run.
The Federal Election Commission increased the individual contributions limit $100 to account for inflation. It is the first increase in four years.
The limit increase applies to primary, runoff primary, and general election ballots in 2020, as well as candidates in any special election this year.
March 18, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
March 18, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Nevada: Municipal Election Voters Blind to Campaign Donors by Shea Johnson for Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada: Municipal Election Voters Blind to Campaign Donors by Shea Johnson for Las Vegas Review-Journal
California: ‘We Got Our Clocks Cleaned’: GOP quietly works to expand ballot-harvesting in California while criticizing Democrats for the practice by Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for San Jose Mercury News
National: Former Spa Owner and Frequent Mar-a-Lago Guest Sparks Concerns About ‘Porous’ Environment at President’s Club by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Emily Rauhala, Lori Rozsa, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: GAO Urges More Transparency of Political Appointments, Compliance with Agency Ethics Programs by Nicole Ogrysko for Federal News Network
Arkansas: Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Pugh Didn’t Disclose Seat on Maryland Medical System Board, as Required on City Ethics Forms by Doug Donovan and Luke Broadwater for Baltimore Sun
Missouri: Missouri Considers Trimming Impeachment After Greitens’ Case by David Lieb for AP News
New Mexico: Legislature Seals Deal on Independent Ethics Commission by Trip Jennings for New Mexico In Depth
March 15, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: After Week of Infighting, Democrats Wonder Where to Draw Line on Speech MSN – Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/10/2019 A House resolution that condemned anti-Semitism and virtually every other form of bigotry, […]
After Week of Infighting, Democrats Wonder Where to Draw Line on Speech
MSN – Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/10/2019
A House resolution that condemned anti-Semitism and virtually every other form of bigotry, passed with unanimous Democratic support. The measure, which began as a rebuke to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and ended as a catchall declaration of tolerance that did not mention her by name, seemed to satisfy no one. Ultimately, the intraparty fight left unanswered a question that transcends partisan politics: In an era of shouting and provocation, how should Congress respond when its members say hateful or hurtful things? Many Democrats worry they have set a new standard, creating a precedent that mandates a major response every time a member transgresses rules of rhetorical decorum that are ill-defined and subject to dispute.
Election Watchdog Hits Jeb Bush’s Super-PAC with Massive Fine for Taking Money from Foreign Nationals
Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 3/11/2019
The FEC issued a record fine to Right to Rise USA, the super PAC that backed Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid, for accepting a seven-figure donation from a company owned by Chinese nationals who were in business with Bush’s brother, Neil. It is illegal for foreign nationals to be involved in making donations to political committees. Neil Bush solicited a $1.3 million contribution from American Pacific International Capital (APIC), an international investment holding company where he is a board member. Although the contribution to the super PAC came from the American arm of APIC, the company’s owners are Chinese, and Neil Bush initially solicited the money from two Chinese nationals. The FEC fined APIC $550,000 and Right to Rise $390,000.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Brnovich to Rule on Legality of Tempe’s Ban Against ‘Dark Money’ in Politics
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/13/2019
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich will rule whether cities can impose their own prohibitions on “dark money” in local campaigns. The move comes because Sen. Vince Leach invoked a state law that requires the attorney general to investigate allegations by lawmakers of violations of state laws by local officials. In this case, Leach contends a Tempe initiative approved by voters in 2017 requiring public disclosure of the true source of campaign donations is illegal. What Brnovich decides could affect the ability of cities and towns throughout the state to enact similar laws.
Florida: Former City Manager Rick Fernandez Fined $6K in Ethics Case
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/7/2019
The Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to settle civil charges against former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez that he solicited and accepted free Florida State University football tickets from a city vendor or lobbyist and did not report a catering discount on gift forms. Fernandez will pay $6,000 in fines and face public censure and reprimand as part of the settlement. The commission found probable cause Fernandez committed 20 ethics violations when he accepted the football tickets from lobbyist Adam Corey’s firm and took a nearly $7,000 catering discount at The Edison restaurant for his daughter’s wedding reception. The Edison, which Corey co-owns, got $2.1 million from the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency to rehabilitate the area where the restaurant is located.
Florida: Miami-Dade Ethics Board Dismisses Lobbying Complaint Against Beckham Group
Miami Herald – Joey Flechas | Published: 3/13/2019
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust dismissed a complaint against David Beckham and associates trying to launch a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in Miami. A complaint alleged Beckham, his partners, and their lawyers had failed to properly register to lobby elected officials on matters related to the proposal to build a $1 billion soccer stadium and office park on city-owned land. One part of the complaint involved disclosure of stakeholders owning companies that employ lobbyists in the city. Lobbyists representing the Beckham group were not disclosing the identities of people or entities who own five percent or more of the corporations they are representing, a disclosure required under county law. But it turns out almost nobody was disclosing this due to the poorly formatted forms.
Illinois: Bombshell Filing Details FBI’s Two-Year Probe of Alleged Corruption by Ald. Daniel Solis
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Jeff Coen, Stacy St. Clair, and Christy Gutowski | Published: 3/13/2019
A search warrant lays out a laundry list of alleged federal crimes the FBI had compiled against Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis by the time he was confronted and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Solis had received a “steady flow of personal benefits” in exchange for official action as an alderman or the promise of official action, the affidavit alleged, including Viagra pills and prostitution services from a political operative who represented a company seeking an exemption from the city’s water ordinance. As the powerful head of the Zoning Committee, Solis directed a legislative aide to maintain a running list of people and entities he would seek campaign contributions from, along with corresponding information about what official action each contributor needed from him, the affidavit alleged.
Iowa: County Officials Vacationed at Vendor’s Florida Beach Condo
AP News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/13/2019
Two county treasurers from Iowa recently vacationed with a businessperson they have supported for a lucrative tax website contract, staying at his Florida beach property for free in an apparent violation of state ethics law. The trip highlighted a long, cozy, and ethically questionable relationship between county officials and an important vendor. Iowa law bans public employees from accepting gifts and favors worth three dollars or more from “restricted donors,” who include vendors, lobbyists, and others affected by their official actions. Vendors are barred from offering gifts, and the law does not contain an exception for friends.
Kansas: White Linen Restaurant Bans Lawmakers, Lobbyists After Altercation
Topeka Capital-Journal – Sherman Smith | Published: 3/8/2019
A group of Kansas lawmakers and lobbyists were asked to leave the White Linen restaurant in Topeka and were banned from returning after co-owner Adam Vandonge said they “completely disrespected everyone” with loud, drunken behavior. Vandonge described a boisterous scene that intensified in response to pleas to the 12-person party, which included House Speaker Ron Ryckman to be quiet. “They showed up and just started drinking and drinking and drinking,” said Vandonge. At one point, a manager told Rep. Blaine Finch that he would not be served any more alcohol. After that, servers heard cursing at the table. One member of the party entered the kitchen and began yelling at the sous chef, asking if he knew who Finch was.
Michigan: Dark Money Used to Evade Donor Disclosure Laws in Michigan
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 3/7/2019
A dark money group that spent more than $2 million to help promote Gretchen Whitmer successful gubernatorial bid in the 2018 exploited a legal loophole to avoid disclosing any donors to the state or federal governments, and it is not alone. Progressive Advocacy Trust is one of at least five local Democratic Party accounts in Michigan that have operated in the shadows since at least 2002, according to an investigation. The groups can accept unlimited corporate or union contributions but have evaded all disclosure requirements. It is not clear if the Michigan Democratic Party could shut down local dark money accounts, but the party also utilizes an administrative account that is not subject to disclosure rules for running issue-ad campaigns.
Nevada: RJ Investigation Finds Violations, No Enforcement of County Lobbying Disclosures
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Michael Scott Davidson | Published: 3/9/2019
On hundreds of occasions last year, lobbyists may have failed to disclose communications within five days of meeting with a Clark County commissioner as required by law. The Las Vegas Review-Journal discovered the meetings by comparing lobbying disclosure forms submitted to the county clerk’s office with commissioners’ work calendars and check-in logs outside their offices. The lack of compliance shows the vulnerability of a county lobbying program that operates without a watchdog. Even an easy-to-monitor rule – whether filed disclosure forms are submitted on time – is not tracked. Penalties for noncompliance, written into law a decade ago, have never been imposed by officials. Presented with the newspaper’s findings, county commissioners pledged to keep better tabs on lobbying efforts.
New Mexico: GOP Lawmakers Blast Campaign Finance Bill
Albuquerque Journal – Colleen Heild | Published: 3/13/2019
Campaign finance reporting legislation on its way to the governor is touted as a way to increase transparency and accountability in New Mexico elections. But some Republican lawmakers are crying foul because the measure was amended just days before final consideration to give top legislative leaders of both parties authority to create, in the words of one lawmaker, “super-caucus PACs,” that would be allowed to accept contributions up to $25,000 from a single donor for a primary election and another $25,000 for the general. Further, there would be no limit to in-kind contributions to a candidate from a legislative caucus committee. The additional fundraising ability, which also applies to political parties, puts legislative leaders in position to help boost political campaigns for chosen candidates and initiatives.
New Mexico: Senate Committee Spikes Lobbying Disclosure Bill
New Mexico Political Report – Andrew Oxford (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 3/13/2019
A New Mexico Senate committee shot down legislation that would have required lobbyists to report which bills they are working on. House Bill 131 also would have barred lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators while they are in session. The bill had passed the House with broad support, but the Senate Rules Committee voted to table it after little discussion.
New York: Lobbyists Accused of Misconduct Create Quandary at Capitol
Albany Times Union – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 3/11/2019
Former New York Sen. Jeff Klein was hired by Mercury Public Affairs after he lost his seat in the September primary. He remains under investigation by the Joint Committee on Public Ethics in response to an allegation he forcibly kissed a female staff member. Klein has denied the woman’s claim. Several lawmakers said they have serious reservations about meeting with any lobbyist who has faced allegations of sexual harassment, but they stopped short of saying they would cease doing business with those firms. In a Twitter campaign, a group of former legislative aides have taken aim at some of Mercury’s clients, urging them to ask the firm what it is doing to support employees. The women testified at a hearing, describing a culture that too often tolerates and protects harassers while maligning and ostracizing victims.
Tennessee: How Little-Known Meetings in Hard-to-Find Locations Can Make or Break Legislation in Tennessee
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 3/12/2019
Legislative pre-meetings in the Tennessee General Assembly are informal gatherings where lawmakers and stakeholders openly discuss legislation. Defenders of pre-meetings, which lawmakers refer to as bill review, say they are beneficial because they provide legislators an opportunity to become more informed on legislation, but critics say pre-meetings are the antithesis of how the Legislature should operate. Although they are official meetings, audio and video livestreaming is absent and no notes are taken to provide members of the public with knowledge of what transpires. While much of what happens inside these often hard-to-find rooms is unknown to the public, what is clear is that pre-meetings can make or break a bill.
Vermont:Lawmakers Seek to Modify Ethics Commission Procedures After Scott Ruling
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 3/14/2019
The Vermont State Ethics Commission mishandled a case involving Gov. Phil Scott, according to key lawmakers who plan to “clarify” one of the commission’s few tools. Chairpersons of the House and Senate committees that created the commission said the ethics panel went beyond its legal authority and improperly injected politics into its advisory opinion that said Scott had violated state ethics law. The commission ruled Scott’s ongoing financial relationship with a construction company he owned that still does business with the state was improper. A draft bill would make clear that advisory opinions be general and not involve a specific person or case. They also said advisory opinions should only be issued by the commission’s executive director and not at the request of an outside individual or advocacy group.
March 12, 2019 • Written by Michael Beckett, Esq.
District of Columbia Act 22-578 passed Congressional review and is now effective. The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018 removes the Office of Campaign Finance from the Board of Elections and establishes an independent five-member Campaign Finance Board (CFB). […]
District of Columbia Act 22-578 passed Congressional review and is now effective.
The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018 removes the Office of Campaign Finance from the Board of Elections and establishes an independent five-member Campaign Finance Board (CFB).
The Act restricts political contributions by contractors doing business with the district and addresses improper coordination between campaigns, political action committees, and independent expenditure committees.
The pay-to-play component of the bill bans campaign contributions by businesses seeking contracts of $250,000 or more.
The pay-to-play provisions take effect after the November 2020 general election.
March 11, 2019 • Written by Carlo Aguja
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced special elections for Senate Districts 33 and 41 on May 21, the same day as the state primary. The seats are vacant after Senators White and Alloway retired effective February 28. Each winner of the […]
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced special elections for Senate Districts 33 and 41 on May 21, the same day as the state primary.
The seats are vacant after Senators White and Alloway retired effective February 28.
Each winner of the special election will serve the remainder of the term through 2020.
March 8, 2019 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On March 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, and election gerrymandering reform bill. Introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, House Bill 1, the For the People Act of 2019, requires any organization involved in […]
On March 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, and election gerrymandering reform bill.
Introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, House Bill 1, the For the People Act of 2019, requires any organization involved in political activity to disclose its largest donors, creates a multiple matching system for small donations for political campaigns, and amends rules governing super PACs.
Additionally, the bill restructures the Federal Election Commission, amends the federal conflict of interest law, and expands the revolving door provision by prohibiting Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards.
If enacted, the bill also requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, prohibits partisan gerrymandering, increases oversight over election vendors, creates an automatic voter registration across the country, and changes registration requirements for lobbyists and foreign agents.
March 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019 Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make […]
Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure
Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make sure the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires disclosure of lobbying on behalf of foreign interests, is more aggressively enforced. One focal point may be Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies say waged a disinformation campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. Assistant Attorney General John Demers also warned that law firms should take FARA registration seriously, citing the example of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which agreed to pay $4.6 million and admitted it should have registered for a report aimed at discrediting a former Ukrainian prime minister.
From the States and Municipalities:
Connecticut: Election Officials: State contractor ban on political donations applies to marijuana producers, but not dispensaries
Hartford Courant – Neil Vigdor | Published: 3/7/2019
The State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled that a prohibition on campaign donations from state contractors extends to marijuana producers – but not dispensaries – because the value of licensing agreements they have with the state exceed $50,000. Medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012. In anticipation of the legislative debate over recreational marijuana, the industry asked for guidance from last year about whether political contributions to legislators and statewide office holders comply with Connecticut’s 2005 clean elections law. A ban on state contractor contributions is a hallmark of the program.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Member Jack Evans’ Use of Government Office for Personal Gain Inappropriate, Chair Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Peter Jamison | Published: 3/4/2019
District of Columbia Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said council member Jack Evans acted inappropriately when he emailed business proposals to potential employers and offered them his influence and connections as an elected official. Evans faces growing scrutiny after The Washington Post reported he sent solicitations on his government email to law firms that lobby city government, offering his contacts and sway as the council’s longest serving lawmaker and as chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The authority’s board of directors directed its ethics officer to investigate Evans. The Post reported a federal grand jury has also been investigating Evans and issued a subpoena to officials for documents related to legislation that Evans promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital sign company.
Kentucky: Kentucky Secretary of State Staff Searched Voting Records for Investigators and Rivals, Records Show
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 3/6/2019
Kentucky officials released records that show employees in the secretary of state’s office used the voter registration system to look up political rivals, state investigators, and a range of political operatives. It is not clear in many instances why Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office was looking up people and their personal information such as political affiliation, and some Social Security numbers but it has led critics to conclude her office abused its access to the system to gain information about her political opponents and those involved in multiple investigations of her conduct while in office. Grimes had maintained her office had done no inappropriate searches.
Louisiana: Entergy Fined $5M, Can Move Forward with New Power Plant
Louisiana Weekly – Michael Issac Stein (The Lens) | Published: 3/4/2019
The New Orleans City Council approved a new Entergy power plant in city limits while imposing a $5 million fine against the company for using paid actors to influence its decision during the approval process. The council concluded Entergy “knew or should have known” that one if its subcontractors was paying people to fill seats and speak in favor of the project at public hearings. Entergy agreeing to the fine was contingent on the council not revoking its prior approval of the plant. Critics of the vote noted most council members have either worked for Entergy or received campaign donations from their PAC. Councilperson Cyndi Nguyen’s non-profit received at least $27,625 from Entergy. Councilperson Jay Banks revealed he once worked for the company as a government relations consultant.
Maryland: Maryland Delegate Says She Won’t Resign after House Censures Her for ‘Racist and Hateful Slur’
MSN – Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 2/28/2019
The House of Delegates censured Del. Mary Ann Lisanti for her use of a racial slur, which members said, “brought dishonor to the entire General Assembly of Maryland.” After the vote, Lisanti said she would not resign, despite calls for her to do so. She also said she did not believe she had used an offensive term to describe African-Americans, although she acknowledged earlier in the week that she had done so. Lisanti came under fire after it was reported she used the racial slur during an after-hours gathering in January at an Annapolis bar. Lisanti told a fellow lawmaker that when he helped a candidate in Prince George’s County, he was knocking on doors in a “n—– district,” according to the report.
Nevada: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson Resigns
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer | Published: 3/5/2019
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned after admitting to using campaign funds for personal use and said he will plead guilty to federal charges. Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro was elected by Senate Democrats as the new leader of the majority. Cannizzaro becomes the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader in the state’s history. Details of the investigation, including how much money was misappropriated and what exactly Atkinson used the money for, remain unclear. Atkinson’s resignation marks the first time a lawmaker has left mid-session since 2013. But it is far from the first time a state lawmaker has recently found themselves on the wrong side of campaign finance laws.
New Hampshire: GOP Lawmakers in N.H. Wore Pearls While Gun Violence Victims Testified. Activists Were Outraged.
Boston Globe – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2019
Republican members of the New Hampshire House are drawing scrutiny for wearing pearl necklaces while activists with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America shared their experiences with gun violence at a recent hearing on a bill that would make it easier to take weapons away from potentially dangerous people. Critics who posted the images on social media said the implication was clear: the politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage – and, specifically, female outrage. Some pro-gun advocates argued the legislators’ intent was to represent opposition to the bill. Kimberly Morin, president of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, said opponents of gun control measures have been wearing pearls at gun-related hearings since 2016.
New Mexico: Former Public Servants Lobby Ex-Colleagues
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/28/2019
Former Rep. Debbie Rodella Rodella is one of a few former officials who were public servants during the last legislative session and lobbyists this year, including Keith Gardner, the chief of staff under then-Gov. Susana Martinez. Also making the immediate transition are former Reps. Bealquin Gomez and Jim Smith. New Mexico law does not prohibit ex-lawmakers from lobbying once their terms end. Some legislators have tried repeatedly to change that, with proposals to impose a one- or two-year waiting period. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said a “cooling-off” period would be appropriate. “It just doesn’t feel right to immediately be in a position where you’re coming back to your colleagues, who you were an equal with, and the next day you’re lobbying them on behalf of a client,” said Wirth.
North Carolina: Why a Judge Ruled That the Entire North Carolina Legislature Is Illegitimate
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/27/2019
Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins struck down two constitutional amendments that had been approved by North Carolina voters in November. One regarded voter ID requirements and the other a cap on state income taxes. The amendments had been placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Collins ruled the lawmakers had no standing to approve constitutional amendments because they were elected using maps that federal courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. “An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” Collins wrote.
Oregon: Lawmakers Come and Go, but the Lobby Remains a Powerful Constant in Oregon Legislature
Portland Tribune – Claire Withycombe, Aubrey Wieber, and Paris Achen | Published: 3/1/2019
Interest groups in Oregon spent $12 million more on lobbying in 2017 than they did a decade earlier. That spending is only part of the cost of doing business in Salem. Donating to campaigns and other political operations is routine – interest groups sank $25 million into last year’s state elections. Now that the legislative session is underway, the focus is on trying to shape the laws and spending that will affect every Oregonian. The lobbyists return year after year, some decade after decade. In contrast, some legislators last only one term. “In a Legislature that has extremely high turnover, there are different institutional forces that have impact on the outcomes of legislation … but the one constant in Salem is gonna be the lobby,” said state Rep. Dan Rayfield.
Oregon: Oregon Legislature Reaches $1.3M Settlement Over Sexual Harassment
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/5/2019
Oregon legislative leaders announced they have signed a $1.3 million settlement with state labor regulators and nine women who experienced sexual harassment at the Capitol. The women will receive $1.1 million and the Legislature will pay the Bureau of Labor and Industries $200,000 to cover the agency’s legal costs. As part of the deal, the women agreed not to pursue legal action against the Legislature and other named defendants. For its part, the Legislature agreed to implement a list of reforms to make the Capitol a safer place to work, including adopting a definition of harassment with specific examples and using an independent lawyer to handle any discrimination and harassment complaints until it creates a new Equity Office.
South Carolina: SC Politicians, Lobbyists and More 0we $2.4M in Ethics Fines, But Many Will Never Pay
The State – Lucas Deprile | Published: 3/6/2019
There are 337 candidates, political parties, and lobbyists who owe the South Carolina Ethics Commission a total of $2.4 million in fines, many of which will likely never be collected. More than half of those who owed fines eight years ago still have not paid them, even though many large penalties have been reduced. The law says those who fail to file the appropriate forms must pay $10 per report every day after they are notified that they owe money. But after 10 days, that increases to $100 per missing report per day. The maximum fine is capped at $5,000, but until 2011, there was no ceiling to how much someone would owe.
West Virginia: Poster Linking Rep. Ilhan Omar to 9/11 Sparks Outrage at West Virginia Capitol
Los Angeles Times – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2019
The chairperson of the West Virginia Republican Party said the GOP does not condone an anti-Muslim poster displayed at the Capitol during a Republican event that linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The poster featured a picture of planes flying into the World Trade Center with the phrase “never forget, you said” and then under it, a picture of Omar with the words “I am proof you have forgotten.” Del. Michael Angelucci said he heard Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman, the chamber’s principal law enforcement official, call all Muslims terrorists. Lieberman disputed that accusation yet submitted a resignation letter. Del. Mike Caputo admitted to kicking open the chamber doors out of anger, an act that reportedly injured a doorkeeper.
March 7, 2019 • Written by Adrienne Borgstahl, Esq.
Gov. Kim Reynolds called a special election for Senate District 30. The special election has been called to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of State Sen. Jeff Danielson. After serving 15 years with the Iowa Senate, Danielson has […]
Gov. Kim Reynolds called a special election for Senate District 30.
The special election has been called to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of State Sen. Jeff Danielson.
After serving 15 years with the Iowa Senate, Danielson has resigned to work with the American Wind Energy Association.
Reynolds has set the special election for March 19, 2019.
March 4, 2019 • Written by Carlo Aguja
Gov. Ned Lamont announced a special election on April 16 for House District 19. The seat was vacated by the resignation of Derek Slap who won the special election for Senate District 5. The winner will serve the remainder of […]
Gov. Ned Lamont announced a special election on April 16 for House District 19.
The seat was vacated by the resignation of Derek Slap who won the special election for Senate District 5.
The winner will serve the remainder of Slap’s term until 2020.
March 1, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Federal: Cohen Tells Congress Trump Knew About WikiLeaks’ Plans, Directed Hush-Money Payments MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2019 Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, laid out for Congress […]
Cohen Tells Congress Trump Knew About WikiLeaks’ Plans, Directed Hush-Money Payments
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, laid out for Congress for the first time a series of deceptions by the president. He charged that Trump lied to the public about business interests in Russia, lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails, and told Cohen to lie about hush payments to cover up sexual misconduct. The accusations, aired at a daylong hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, exposed a dark underside of Trump’s business and political worlds in the voice of one of the ultimate insiders. Perhaps no close associate has turned on a president in front of Congress in such dramatic fashion and with such high stakes since John Dean testified against President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arkansas: Arkansas Grapples with Ethics Cleanup Amid Federal Probes
4029tv – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2019
A flurry of corruption cases in the past two years has been eye-popping, even for the most jaded veterans of Arkansas politics. Among those who have been charged are a nephew of the current governor, a champion of campaign finance reform, and a top county official who admitted to taking bribes funneled through the church where he was a pastor. The recent cases have stirred fears the Capitol is becoming better known as a hotbed of corruption than for any policy achievements, and legislative leaders are scrambling to repair that image and find ways of deterring future misdeeds.
California: The Political Playbook of a Bankrupt California Utility
MSN – Thomas Fuller and Ivan Penn (New York Times) | Published: 2/23/2019
Despite evidence Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was responsible for repeated safety violations and involved in deadly wildfires, lawmakers in California continued to benefit from political donations from the company. Investigators are now determining whether PG&E equipment was responsible for the state’s deadliest wildfire, the inferno in and around Paradise that killed 85 people and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. With the state’s tech giants focused on their influence in Washington, D.C., perhaps no company in California is more entangled with local Democratic politics than PG&E, which in January filed for bankruptcy. PG&E’s restructuring will test whether Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democratic leaders can push to create a company free from what critics say has been a culture of cronyism between regulators and the regulated.
Florida: The SWAT Team Showed Up at a Florida Mayor’s Door. Then He Started Shooting, Police Say.
Washington Post – Reis Thebault and Eli Rosenberg | Published: 2/21/2019
The mayor of a small Gulf Coast town in Florida was arrested after shooting at a SWAT team that had come to arrest him on charges of illegally practicing medicine. Dale Glen Massad, mayor of Port Richey, a town of around 2,600 north of Tampa, fired two shots at officers who raided his home in the early hours of the morning. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was investigating Massad, a former doctor who gave up his license in 1992, after being tipped off that Massad was still practicing medicine. No officers were injured and Massad was arrested without further incident. He is charged with two counts of attempted homicide, according to the complaint.
Georgia: Nine Lawyers in Running to Head State Ethics Commission
Yahoo Finance – R. Robin McDonald (Law.com) | Published: 2/28/2019
Nine lawyers are in contention to become the new head of Georgia’s ethics commission, which has moved to replace former Executive Secretary Stefan Ritter. He resigned following an internal investigation, which stemmed from the discovery of hundreds of pornographic images on his state-issued computer. Complaints also accused Ritter of squelching ethics inquiries of several Atlanta mayoral candidates and possible campaign violations by a gubernatorial campaign. Finalists for the job include Robert Lane, deputy executive secretary of the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, and Michael Sullivan, director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Illinois: At Chicago City Hall, the Legislative Branch Rarely Does Much Legislating
ProPublica – Mick Dumke | Published: 2/25/2019
From 2011 through 2018, Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell was the chief sponsor of more than 900 separate ordinances in the city council, most of them pertaining to such hyperlocal issues as business sign permits, driveway alley access, and parking meter hours for single addresses. That volume of ward-specific legislation is typical for aldermen. Except in rare instances, the council signs off on the mayor’s agenda, even letting the city’s executive pick its legislative leaders. In return, aldermen are allowed to reign over matters large and small in their wards, which some openly describe as “fiefdoms.” The structure of the council has received new attention over the last several months, as the city’s political establishment has been rocked by scandals involving aldermen.
Louisiana: Louisiana Cap on Legislative Wining and Dining Grows to $62
Tacoma News Tribune; Associated Press – | Published: 2/24/2019
When the new budget year begins in a few months, lobbyists can spend $62 per occasion on food and drink for a public official in Louisiana. The current cap is $61. The 2008 law that sets the limit allows annual adjustments tied to increases in the federal Consumer Price Index for food and beverages.
Maryland: Maryland Del. Mary Ann Lisanti Stripped of Leadership Post Over Use of Racial Slur
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 2/26/2019
A Maryland lawmaker who witnesses say used a racial slur to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s County has been stripped of her leadership position and will undergo sensitivity training. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti issued a public apology after addressing the executive committee of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Lisanti used the slur in front of several colleagues at an Annapolis cigar bar in January. She told another white lawmaker that when he campaigned in Prince George’s on behalf of a candidate last fall, he was door-knocking in a “n—– district,” said Del. Jay Walker, who witnessed the comment and represents the district in question.
New Hampshire: NH Lobbyists Paid Record Fees in 2018 But Info Hard to Track
Manchester Union Leader – Kevin Landrigan | Published: 2/23/2019
Unofficially, the nearly 500 private or public interests that hired lobbyists in New Hampshire last year paid out nearly $10.7 million in fees. The Manchester Union Leader constructed a database of the fees paid to these lobbyists from information available on the secretary of state’s website. But the state’s website is not searchable. State officials scan all the forms and post them online. This means anyone trying to aggregate all the fees paid to any firm has to total up all the individual forms. In 2018, more than 1,000 lobbying firms filed these reports because several firms have more than one associate working for them. For example, the Sheehan Phinney Capitol Group has five registered lobbyists who represent 40 clients. To find out what the firm got paid in total requires looking at more than 120 forms.
North Carolina: In N.C., a Surprise: In the end, everyone agreed it was election fraud
Chicago Tribune – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/23/2019
North Carolina will hold a new election in the Ninth Congressional District following a hearing that outlined how a political operative had orchestrated an absentee ballot scheme to try to sway the race in favor of Mark Harris, the Republican candidate. Harris was under scrutiny for hiring Leslie McCrae Dowless, who allegedly assembled a crew to illegally collect, fill out, and forge mail-in ballots in two rural counties in the district. Mark Harris’s son, John, testified before the State Board of Elections that he warned his father he believed Dowless had broken the law in a previous election and should not be hired for the 2018 campaign. The elder Harris had maintained in interviews with reporters that he was unaware of red flags about the operative’s alleged tactics.
Ohio: Even After FBI Probe of Ohio Speaker, Tracking Lawmakers’ Travel Remains Challenging
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 2/24/2019
Each year, several Ohio lawmakers spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on out-of-state travel. They meet legislators from other states, learn about how foreign countries tackle problems, and make connections that could help them professionally and politically. But figuring out how much each lawmaker travels and who pays for those trips is far from easy. Legislators must report some travel for official business on annual ethics forms but not all. Some lawmakers use campaign contributions to pay for travel and document trips there. But lawmakers can also receive free trips from national groups or pay for the trips themselves – it is impossible to tell.
Oregon: Polluted by Money
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 2/22/2019
Over the last few years, Oregon’s most powerful industries have defeated, weakened, or stalled efforts to deal with climate change, air pollution, and other environmental matters. An investigation by The Portland Oregonian found the failure to regulate campaign finance has made Oregon one of the biggest money states in American politics, and the ready cash creates an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants. A company might give as little as a few thousand dollars per lawmaker. But taken together, legislators receive millions from industries with a shared interest in weak environmental regulation. Some state lawmakers said the campaign finance system works by showing voters who is giving money and letting them judge whether it is significant.
Pennsylvania: How Philly’s Electricians Union and Johnny Doc Converted Payroll Deductions into Political Influence
Philadelphia Inquirer – Chris Brennan and Dylan Purcell | Published: 2/25/2019
From 2002 through 2018, small-dollar donations withdrawn from the paychecks of members of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers produced just under $41 million to invest in helping elect allies to local, state, and national offices. The yearly haul has increased six-fold over the last decade. The recent indictment on corruption charges of the union’s leader, Johnny “Doc” Dougherty, entangled only one elected official – Philadelphia City Councilperson Bobby Henon – and did not charge anyone with making or receiving improper campaign donations. For a probe that took at least two years, it also gave barely a nod to the breadth of the influence and impact that Local 98 and its leader have amassed.
Texas: Most Dallas City Council Members’ Campaign-Finance Reports Show Violations – But No One Enforces Rules
Dallas News – Corbett Smith | Published: 2/26/2019
Despite a limit on how much individuals and groups can donate to mayoral and council candidates, oversight by Dallas officials is essentially nonexistent. The Dallas News reviewed the past four years of campaign finance filings, finding more than 30 questionable donations reported by 10 of the 14 city council members. A dozen more issues showed up on reports of former council members and losing candidates, but no one is in charge of combing over the forms, raising questions or scrutinizing irregularities. And no one is filing official complaints that would prompt an investigation, city officials said. Even if someone filed a complaint about campaign finance violations, there’s disagreement whether the city’s own ethics panel can even investigate the matter.
February 28, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Regulators Now Have the Votes to Subpoena Utility’s Political Spending Records” by Howard Fischer (Arizona Daily Star) for Arizona Daily Star Texas: “Most Dallas City Council Members’ Campaign-Finance Reports Show Violations – But No One Enforces Rules” […]
Arizona: “Regulators Now Have the Votes to Subpoena Utility’s Political Spending Records” by Howard Fischer (Arizona Daily Star) for Arizona Daily Star
Texas: “Most Dallas City Council Members’ Campaign-Finance Reports Show Violations – But No One Enforces Rules” by Corbett Smith for Dallas News
West Virginia: “W.Va. Senate Passes Bill to Change to Campaign Finance Law, Opponents Say It Lacks Transparency” by David Mistich for West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Illinois: “Chicago Poised to Elect first African-American Female Mayor After Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle Advance” by Bill Ruthhart for Chicago Tribune
North Carolina: “Bladen County Operative at Center of NC Election Fraud Investigation Indicted, Arrested” by Ely Portillo and Jim Morrill for Raleigh News and Observer
National: “House Democrats Forge Ahead on Electoral Reform Bill” by Zach Montellaro for Politico
Pennsylvania: “Pa. Audit Says Officials Took Freebies from Voting Machine Firms” by Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New Hampshire: “NH Lobbyists Paid Record Fees in 2018 But Info Hard to Track” by Kevin Landrigan for Manchester Union Leader