March 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Former Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison for Campaign Finance Violations” by Morgan Cook and Greg Moran (San Diego Union-Tribune) for Los AngelesTimes California: “‘Team Newport’ Pays $27,000 to Settle with State Over Allegations of […]
National: “Former Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison for Campaign Finance Violations” by Morgan Cook and Greg Moran (San Diego Union-Tribune) for Los AngelesTimes
California: “‘Team Newport’ Pays $27,000 to Settle with State Over Allegations of Campaign Finance Disclosure Violations” by Hillary Davis for Los Angeles Times
New Jersey: “Controversial N.J. Law to Unmask Secret Campaign Donors Is Officially Dead” by Brent Johnson and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
National: “Biden’s Promise to Choose a Woman Veep Reignites Hopes of a Female President” by Annie Linsky (Washington Post) for MSN
Maryland: “Maryland Postpones Primary, Shifts Special Election to Mail Voting Over Coronavirus” by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Zach Montellaro for Politico
Ohio: “Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Move to Close Primary Polls Due to Coronavirus Spawns Confusion, Criticism” by Timothy Bella for Washington Post
National: “Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Charges Against Russian Firms Filed by Mueller” by Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) for MSN
National: “K Street Looks to Ride Coronavirus Relief Efforts” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
March 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
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 […]
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
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
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
New York: “Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
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
March 16, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
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 […]
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
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
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
National: “Coronavirus Shakes Up K Street” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
March 13, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
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 […]
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.
March 11, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Washington: “Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case” by Gene Johnson for AP News Elections National: “Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck for Washington […]
Washington: “Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case” by Gene Johnson for AP News
National: “Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck for Washington Post
National: “How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP” by Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States” by Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman for AP News
National: “Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.” by Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Maryland: “Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker” by Regina Garcia Cano for AP News
Maryland: “Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts” by Lance Lucas for Baltimore Sun
March 10, 2020 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission announced the fundraising window for the regular 2022 primary election. The window for citywide candidates will open March 8, 2020, while primary election are scheduled for March 8, 2022. City law specifies the primary election […]
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission announced the fundraising window for the regular 2022 primary election.
The window for citywide candidates will open March 8, 2020, while primary election are scheduled for March 8, 2022.
City law specifies the primary election fundraising window for citywide races will be 24 months.
Additionally, the window for City Council and Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education (LAUSD) races will be 18 months.
The fundraising window for City Council and LAUSD candidates in the regular 2022 primary election will open September 8, 2020.
The Ethics Commission has not changed the campaign contribution limits for candidates at this time.
March 10, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds” by Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker for Washington Post National: “GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC […]
National: “Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds” by Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker for Washington Post
National: “GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC Probe into His Father” by Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan for Politico
National: “Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups” by Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman (New York Times) for MSN
National: “House Democrats Request Appeal Asking Court to Enforce Subpoena for Former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn” by Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
California: “Ex-L.A. Councilman Englander Charged with Obstruction in Probe Alleging Lavish Spending and Escorts” by Joel Rubin and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
National: “Juul Labs Sought to Court AGs as Teen Vaping Surged” by Matthew Perrone and Richard Lardner for AP News
National: “Watchdog Group Says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Hong Kong Lobbying Broke the Law” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald
Florida: “Lobbyist Sought City Benefits for Westside Property He Owned with Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times-Union
March 9, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Louisiana: “In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law” by Patrick Madden (WWNO) for Houston Public Media Ethics National: “Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads” by Elizabeth Culliford and […]
Louisiana: “In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law” by Patrick Madden (WWNO) for Houston Public Media
National: “Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads” by Elizabeth Culliford and Mark Brown for Reuters
National: “Newly Obtained Documents Reveal More Secret Service Payments to Trump Properties” by David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
National: “Judge Cites Barr’s ‘Misleading’ Statements in Ordering Review of Mueller Report Redactions” by Spencer Hsu and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) for MSN
Missouri: “Businessman Involved in St. Louis County Scheme Sentenced” by Jim Salter for AP News
North Carolina: “Durham Businessman Found Guilty of Bribing NC Official” by Travis Fain for WRAL
Connecticut: “Lawmakers Question Funding Behind Anti-Vaccine Groups Who Swarmed State Capitol” by Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant
March 6, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020 A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on […]
Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas
AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020
A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.
Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/4/2020
Michael Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a surprising collapse for the former New York City mayor, who pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign. Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere.
Cashing in On Justice
Roll Call – Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms | Published: 3/3/2020
Before they put on their robes, dozens of federal judges appointed during the Trump and Obama administrations made significant campaign contributions to Senate Judiciary Committee members and their home-state senators, the very people who could make or break their nominations. Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed. Home-state senators who have not served on the panel also wield considerable influence on who becomes a federal judge. They have received significant contributions from donors who ended up on the bench.
Inspector General to Probe Whether VA Chief Robert Wilkie Tried to Discredit Woman Who Reported Sex Assault
Fayetteville Observer – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2020
The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington, D.C. hospital. Inspector General Michael Missal, after a preliminary review of Wilkie’s conduct following the woman’s report last fall, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he has decided to move forward with a full-blown inquiry. Wilkie, who previously ran the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness operation, has denied making inquiries about the woman, Andrea Goldstein.
Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post
National Public Radio – James Doubek | Published: 3/1/2020
A federal judge ruled Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to a top immigration position in the Trump administration was unlawful, saying several directives issued by Cuccinelli to tighten asylum rules must now be “set aside.” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when it tapped Cuccinelli in June 2019 to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees legal immigration into the country. The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and the former attorney general of Virginia, that introduced new restrictions on the asylum process.
Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden
AP News – Sara Burnett | Published: 3/2/2020
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president’s White House bid. Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she could not turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests. Klobuchar could not match her top competitors in fundraising. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant she was not able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals.
Pete Buttigieg Is Ending His Presidential Bid
MSN – Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2020
Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who rose from virtual unknown to top-tier Democratic contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in the primary. Buttigieg’s departure may help add some clarity to a Democratic presidential field that at one point included more than two dozen candidates but has dwindled to just a handful.
Rep. Matt Gaetz Wore Gas Mask While House Voted on Coronavirus Response Bill
USA Today – Savannah Behrmann | Published: 3/4/2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor while the chamber voted on a coronavirus funding bill. It was not clear whether Gaetz was wearing the gas mask to troll those panicking over the outbreak, as multiple health organizations have repeatedly stated not to wear face masks. But Gaetz, one of President Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, reportedly told journalists that he believes “members of Congress are human petri dishes.”
Sanders’s Rise Unnerves K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/28/2020
The rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary is unnerving K Street lobbyists and their clients. The self-described democratic socialist, who has touted an ambitious agenda to rein in special interests and corporations, has been gaining in the polls and is the Democratic frontrunner after wins in two primary states. While there is a long road ahead in the 2020 election, the senator’s new status is provoking sharp reactions on K Street, where lobbyists say clients are already asking about the fallout of a Sanders nomination, and maybe even presidency. Sanders has vowed to shake up how the influence world does business, with proposals to ban donations from federal lobbyists and corporations and to prohibit the corporate funding of party conventions.
Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/4/2020
Senate Republicans are set to advance a Republican nominee to the FEC, which would restore a working quorum to the agency but break with a tradition of confirming nominees in bipartisan pairs. The Rules and Administration Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing March 10 on President Trump’s nomination of James Trainor, an election lawyer from Austin, Texas, who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. If the committee approves him, Trainor could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an FEC staff attorney, for a Democratic commission vacancy, but Trump has not nominated her.
Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Buble | Published: 3/4/2020
President Trump signed into law a bill to clarify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) responsibilities during changes in presidential administrations as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before elections. The GSA, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will now have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The law requires presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethics that all members must sign.
Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 2/29/2020
A divided three-judge panel handed President Trump a victory by dismissing a congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the dispute between the executive and legislative branches. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives. The panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to McGahn was lawful. In that ruling, Jackson declared “no one is above the law.”
Union Lobbying Question Confounds at 1st Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 3/4/2020
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared conflicted as to whether private-sector unions can ever force members to subsidize lobbying. Appearing skeptical of the National Labor Relations Board’s holding that lobbying is not germane to a union’s legal duty to represent workers, Judge Bruce Selya emphasized in oral arguments that “lobbying activity is not monolithic.” But when the court then tried to come up with a rule as to what specific types of lobbying were germane, it struggled.
Warren Ends 2020 Presidential Bid after Super Tuesday Rout
AP News – Will Weissert | Published: 3/5/2020
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner could not win a single Super Tuesday state, not even Massachusetts. For much of the past year, Warren’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising, and a political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance. Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday.
Canada – Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website
Edmonton Journal – Canadian Press | Published: 2/27/2020
The Senate has voted to suspend Lynn Beyak a second time over derogatory letters about Indigenous Peoples posted on her website. Senators approved a report from the upper house’s ethics committee, which recommended Beyak be suspended without pay for the duration of the current parliamentary session. Beyak, a senator from Ontario appointed in 2013, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and eventually suspended without pay last May after refusing to remove the offensive letters from her website. She apologized recently, after which some of her Conservative colleagues tried unsuccessfully to refer the matter back to the ethics committee. But Independent senators took the position that Beyak needed to be suspended again while undergoing anti-racism training and that the matter could be revisited after that.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House’s Minority Republicans Put Controversial Wasilla Representative on Probation
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 3/4/2020
The Republican minority in the Alaska House will temporarily remove Rep. David Eastman from legislative committees for disrupting the work of fellow members and delaying legislative action in order to draw public attention. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the action is a one-month “pause” that is a step short of ejecting Eastman from the caucus. While Eastman has a reputation as an iconoclast willing to challenge established norms, members of the GOP said two recent actions stood out and prompted the action.
Arizona – Agriculture Industry Lobbyist Out of Job Amid Ethics Investigation into Arizona Lawmaker
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 3/5/2020
An agricultural trade association said it no longer employs a lobbyist at the center of an ethics investigation into alleged conflicts-of-interest at the Arizona Legislature. The House is looking into two complaints regarding state Rep. David Cook. The first involves an allegation he carried on a romantic relationship with the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr. Another complaint alleges Cook intervened to stop the local sheriff from seizing property from her family’s farming business to pay for back taxes. Knorr worked for the Western Growers Association. When intimate letters from Cook to Knorr emerged in January, the group said it had placed her on administrative leave and was probing allegations of professional misconduct. The association recently said Knorr is no longer its lobbyist.
Arizona – Lobbyists Navigate Lawmakers’ Bad Behavior, Professional Relationships
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway and Andrew Nicla | Published: 2/28/2020
At the Arizona Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior. And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.
Arkansas – Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 3/4/2020
In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election, in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Moody then agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction in January, leading the plaintiffs’ attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. Moody lifted the stay on March 3, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.
California – Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/2/2020
As CalMatters reported in its series of articles, nonprofits created by individual California lawmakers or special caucuses of lawmakers are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said these affiliated nonprofits “can provide valuable resources” and he has no problem with them “if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.” But even as he called for transparency, Rendon did not endorse changing any laws or rules of the Assembly, nor did he call on his members to change their conduct.
California – Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Recruiting Ownership Group in Effort to Buy Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Lillis | Published: 3/4/2020
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is working to form a local ownership group that could purchase The Sacramento Bee, separating the 163-year-old publication from its parent company and more than two-dozen sister newspapers across the U.S. The Bee’s current owner, McClatchy Co., is moving through Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt. If the restructuring plan is approved by a judge, the likely owner of The Bee and 29 other publications would be Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. “Are we better off in any way if we lose one of the most important voices for independent journalism? The answer is obviously no, and so it’s my job to rally and to organize and to help bring forward some real ideas that might … save the day,” Steinberg said.
California – SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens
San Francisco Chronicle – Dominick Fracassa | Published: 2/27/2020
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s recent arrest on fraud charges. Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. FBI agents raided Wong’s offices on the same day that Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested. Federal officials have alleged Nuru accepted a trip to China and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of wine, from a billionaire Chinese developer in exchange for help with a development deal. The San Francisco Chronicle has previously reported Zhang was the billionaire developer referenced anonymously in the federal complaint against Nuru and Bovis.
Florida – Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/4/2020
The Department of Children and Families filed a lawsuit against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) as ongoing investigations reveal millions of dollars were funneled into bonuses for the nonprofit’s staff. Since 2003, the coalition has managed about $52 million annually as the single state clearinghouse for 42 domestic violence centers. The suit accuses the FCADV of misrepresenting how state and federal funds were used to pay its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years. The investigations show a small group of members of the coalition’s board, as appointed by Carr, operated as the compensation committee and allowed Carr to claim she had a brain tumor while she padded her compensation and produced no evidence of a medical condition.
Florida – Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/28/2020
Records show Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. Patronis faces a criminal investigation by the Leon County State Attorney’s Office for disclosing the sexual harassment complaint against the regulator, Ronald Rubin. An ethics complaint has also been filed against Patronis for disclosing another complaint. Rubin sued Patronis last year, accusing him and lobbyist Paul Mitchell, who represents financial companies that work with Patronis’ office, of fabricating the woman’s complaint against him. Phone records show Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.
Florida – Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/2/2020
Tallahassee’s former independent ethics officer, who exited her post amid acrimony, has been hired by the same firm representing her in her lawsuit against City Hall. Meadows-Keefe, who served more than five years as the city’s first ethics officer, recently announced on social media she has accepted a position as an attorney with the Mattox Law Firm. Last year, Meadows-Keefe said she would step down following controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed official. She later sued the city, saying she was forced out, and the Ethics Board, which she said did nothing to stop it.
Florida – Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 3/4/2020
North Miami’s parks and recreation director was not disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team. But now, after the details were exposed at a city council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave. Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.
Illinois – 3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 2/28/2020
Three members of the state board that oversees the Illinois horse racing industry were forced out after making campaign contributions that are prohibited under the major gambling expansion legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last summer. Illinois Racing Board Chairperson Jeffrey Brincat and commissioners Greg Sronce and Edgar Ramirez resigned at the governor’s request. The resignations come after the previous chair of the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the casino and video gambling industries, resigned over political contributions. Gaming board members have long been prohibited from engaging in political activity.
Illinois – Joe Berrios Must Pay $168,000 in Fines after Cook County Judge Dismisses His Complaint Against Ethics Board
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 2/27/2020
Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and his political committees must pay $168,000 in fines after a judge dismissed his complaints challenging the county Ethics Board’s findings and ability to sanction him. The board previously fined Berrios, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Cook County Assessor, and his 31st Ward Democratic Organization for accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits. At the center of the ethics board’s rulings was a 2016 county ordinance stating that donors who seek “official action” with the county may contribute no more than $750 in nonelection years. Attorneys for Berrios sought to overturn the rulings, arguing the county limits are unconstitutional and higher limits set by state law should apply, among other objections.
Iowa – State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding
Cedar Rapids Gazette – Erin Jordan | Published: 2/28/2020
In signing a $50 million contract for a new cloud-based computer system, Iowa sidestepped traditional competitive bidding procedures and chose Workday, a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ former chief of staff. What concerns some lawmakers is the way the state chose Workday. Instead of seeking proposals from multiple companies to see which best met Iowa’s needs and was most affordable, state officials chose a generic contract that Workday had signed in 2015 with a for-profit procurement organization in Texas. A company spokesperson said Jake Ketzner, Reynolds’ chief of staff for more than a year, had no role in Workday’s contracts, but there have been further questions.
Maryland – ‘Any Means Necessary to Win’: How prosecutors say Pugh used ‘Healthy Holly’ scam in 2016 Baltimore mayor’s race
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 2/28/2020
As federal prosecutors laid out what they described as a “shocking” corruption case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, they ticked off a list of victims: buyers who paid for her self-published children’s books that were never printed; schoolchildren who never received copies; and the federal government, which Pugh shorted of thousands of tax dollars. But there was another victim in the background: the voters of Baltimore. That is because the “Healthy Holly scam,” as prosecutors called it, was not just a years-long self-enrichment scheme. It also was a way for Pugh to try to illegally influence an election and achieve her dream of becoming mayor, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Michigan – Detroit Official Wooed Investment Dollars from Billionaire – Now He’s Going to Work for Him
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen | Published: 3/4/2020
Ryan Friedrichs, Detroit’s chief development officer who is tied to an ongoing criminal investigation into deleted government emails, is quitting his city job. Friedrichs will work for real estate mogul Stephen Ross in development of a new innovation center on the site of the aborted Wayne County jail project. Friedrichs is a central figure in the ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning deleted city emails related to conflict-of-interest and preferential treatment allegations against Mayor Mike Duggan. Friedrichs was one of two officials identified who carried out orders from Duggan’s chief of staff to delete the emails, which were later recovered. Friedrichs said that his decision to leave his city job was unrelated to the controversy involving the deleted emails.
New Hampshire – Proposal Advances to Strengthen N.H. Legislature’s Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Josh Rogers | Published: 3/4/2020
A committee in the New Hampshire House approved a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill’s outcome. The legislation spells out that lawmakers should recuse themselves when they or a member of their household have anything more at stake in the bill’s outcome than a member of the general public would. In November, the Legislative Ethics Committee found House Majority Leader Doug Ley violated ethics guidelines because of his involvement in legislation that affected the teachers union that employs him.
New York – Ethics Commissioner: Cuomo leak probe was a ‘sham’
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 3/1/2020
A longtime member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said the state inspector general’s investigation last year into the alleged unlawful disclosure of confidential information to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a “sham” that led him to refuse to sign a sworn statement affirming he was not responsible for the leak. Commissioner Gary Levine confirmed his decision to decline to sign the affidavit after The Albany Times Union, following a months-long Freedom of Information struggle with the inspector general’s office, was provided copies of the affidavits that had been signed by other commissioners and employees of JCOPE, affirming they were not responsible for the leak. The inspector general’s office had previously declined to identify any individuals who had declined to sign the affirmations.
New York – Ethics Office Lacks Some LIPA Lobbying Records
Huntington Now – Donna Deedy | Published: 3/4/2020
Taxpayers could save money under a New York Senate bill that prevents the Log Island Power Authority (LIPA) from collecting back taxes should the utility win its challenge to a power plant’s tax assessment. The Senate easily passed the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions. The Assembly’s companion bill has faced a different fate. Industry lobbyists have waged fierce opposition to the bill, including LIPA itself. Not all of it, though, appears to be as fully and publicly documented as state ethics laws that govern lobbying require. LIPA retained Millennial Strategies in 2019 specifically to fight the Assembly bill. But the state has no record of that activity.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn | Published: 3/2/2020
Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard resigned her office, less than a week after being arrested on federal charges that accuse her of trading votes on a development deal for cash. Dennard did not have to resign under the city’s charter, which has no provisions spelling out what happens when a council member is accused of a crime in office. Dennard is facing federal charges of bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion for what federal prosecutors say was an attempt to trade her votes for cash payments totaling $15,000. The votes were related to a complicated land swap and construction of a music venue at The Banks on Cincinnati’s riverfront.
Ohio – Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 2/28/2020
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther will return $66,000 in donations, including from city vendors, that funded his State of the City address. The decision came after the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the city attorney’s office to warn the practice could potentially violate state law. “There was a potential for a conflict-of-interest and that was an ongoing practice,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said. “It was a practice that we were not aware of, [and] no one had sought advice.” The city will work with the commission to clarify the process of how and under what circumstances the city solicits vendors, something that is happening in municipalities across Ohio, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said.
Rhode Island – Why A RI Supreme Court Justice Has Been Fighting a $200 Ethics Fine for Over A Year
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 3/4/2020
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2019 fined state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose he was the president of a Catholic legal group while he was ruling on a priest’s sexual abuse case. Flaherty has contested the fine, claiming the violation stemmed from an unknowing mistake that resulted in a decision denying him due process. Flaherty also argues former commission Chairperson Ross Cheit should have recused himself because Cheit, a professor who specializes in repressed memory and child abuse, has written extensively on the topic, including some cases involving sexual abuse of minors and the Catholic Church. The commission noted its members do not participate in the investigation or prosecution of ethics complaints. It also refuted the implication that Cheit is biased.
South Carolina – Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Potentially Reshaping the Democratic Race
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/29/2020
Former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary, as the first Southern contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year. What is not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, or result in a long slog to the convention.
Vermont – In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’
New York Times – Sarah Lyall | Published: 3/4/2020
It can seem like neighbors cannot speak to neighbors of differing political persuasions without rancor and recrimination. Though Super Tuesday should theoretically offer some relief to voters eager to have their voices heard, politics itself seems suffused by alarm and dread. And so, Vermont’s annual town meetings, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in March, provide a welcome corrective. They are a chance for voters in the state’s municipalities to discuss taxes, budgets, roads, schools, the environment, and whatever else might be on their minds.
Washington – Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/27/2020
The Public Disclosure Commission rejected a settlement to allow Facebook to walk away from charges of violating campaign finance law with a $75,000 fine, no admission of guilt, and no written promise to fully comply with Washington’s political ad disclosure law going forward. Commisssioners voted to refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further investigation and possible prosecution. The case has its roots in requests for local Facebook political ad data made by The Stranger and, separately, a private citizen. Facebook has refused to respond to those requests even though state law requires the company to disclose significant information on the financing and reach of election ads sold to influence this state’s local races and ballot measures.
Wisconsin – Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 3/3/2020
A day after a gunman shot and killed five co-workers and himself at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors facility, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign hosted a fundraiser at a shooting range. The fundraiser invited people to contribute by amounts tied to gun calibers: the “10mm” level of $1,000, the “0.25 ACP” level of $2,500, or the “50 Cal M2HB” level of $5,000. Donors had the opportunity to shoot and were advised to visit the range before the fundraiser to complete a background check.
March 5, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard resigned Monday. Her resignation comes less than a week after being arrested on federal charges accusing her of trading votes for cash on a development deal. Dennard, a Democrat, was not required to resign under […]
Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard resigned Monday.
Her resignation comes less than a week after being arrested on federal charges accusing her of trading votes for cash on a development deal.
Dennard, a Democrat, was not required to resign under the city’s charter.
However, if she did not, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stated he would take action.
Deters claims he would have filed a petition with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to remove her from office.
Dennard’s replacement will be selected by Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, a fellow Democrat.
Dennard, like all council members when they take office, had to name a fellow council member to select her replacement in the event she would be unable to complete her term.
March 5, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee (1)” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government Arkansas: “Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Wisconsin: “Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign […]
National: “Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee (1)” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government
Arkansas: “Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Wisconsin: “Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range” by Riley Vetterkind for Madison.com
National: “Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden” by Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe for AP News
National: “Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements” by Courtney Buble for Government Executive
Florida: “Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave” by Aron Leibowitz for Miami Herald
Florida: “Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M” by Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross for Tampa Bay Times
Rhode Island: “High Court Judge Spends a Year Fighting Low-Dollar Fine” by Edward Fitzpatrick for Boston Globe
Iowa: “State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding” by Erin Jordan for Cedar Rapids Gazette
March 4, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Illinois State District 28 Sen. Laura Murphy announced she is working with District 55 Rep. Martin Moylan on an omnibus bill for ethics reform to fight corruption. The bill will likely incorporate provisions from six existing bills, including recently passed […]
Illinois State District 28 Sen. Laura Murphy announced she is working with District 55 Rep. Martin Moylan on an omnibus bill for ethics reform to fight corruption.
The bill will likely incorporate provisions from six existing bills, including recently passed Senate Bill 1639 and House Joint Resolution 93.
Senate Bill 1639 increases disclosure requirements for registered lobbyists.
Meanwhile House Joint Resolution 93 establishes the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform.
The omnibus bill may also incorporate the following provisions:
- To require members of the General Assembly to be immediately removed from any leadership position if charged with a crime (Senate Bill 2488).
- To prohibit members of the General Assembly and members of his or her family from engaging in lobbying (Senate Bill 3020).
- To prohibit members of the General Assembly from engaging in lobbying for two years after leaving office (Senate Bill 3588).
- To create a uniform statement of economic interest for anyone required to file under the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act (Senate Bill 3318).
March 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Cashing in On Justice” by Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms for Roll Call California: “Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters Elections […]
National: “Cashing in On Justice” by Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms for Roll Call
California: “Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters
National: “Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas” by Steve Peoples and Will Weissert for AP News
National: “Bloomberg’s Online Tactics Test the Boundary of Disinformation” by Laura Barron-Lopez for Politico
National: “Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats” by Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley for Reuters
Florida: “Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
New Hampshire: “At Hearing Over Proposed Ethics Reforms, Reps Have Questions About Enforcement” by Casey McDermott for New Hampshire Public Radio
Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’” by Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn for Cincinnati Enquirer
March 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Illinois: “3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law” by Dan Petrella for Chicago Tribune Washington: “Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s […]
Illinois: “3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law” by Dan Petrella for Chicago Tribune
Washington: “Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office” by David Gutman for Seattle Times
National: “Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden” by Sara Burnett for AP News
National: “Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post” by James Doubek for National Public Radio
Canada: “Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website” by Canadian Press for Edmonton Journal
California: “SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens” by Dominick Fracassa for San Francisco Chronicle
Florida: “Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Time
Ohio: “Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning” by Bill Bush for Columbus Dispatch