May 21, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Courts Hamper Efforts to Shine Light on Digital Campaign Ads” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Law National: “Election Watchdog, Dormant for Months, Can Finally Move into Action” by Rebecca Ruiz for New York Times Montana: “Dark Money […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Courts Hamper Efforts to Shine Light on Digital Campaign Ads” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Law

National: “Election Watchdog, Dormant for Months, Can Finally Move into Action” by Rebecca Ruiz for New York Times

Montana: “Dark Money Group Ordered to Disclose Details on Campaign Spending in Montana” by Tom Lutey for Billings Gazette

Elections

New York: “New York Democratic Presidential Primary to Proceed Following Federal Appeals Panel Ruling” by Shayna Jacobs and John Wagner for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Democrats Open Investigation into Trump’s Replacement of Acting Transportation Department Inspector General” by Ian Duncan and Michael Laris (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Targeting Hunter Biden, Senate Panel Approves Subpoena for Lobbying Firm Over Democrats’ Objections” by Mike DeBonis for Washington Post

National: “Susan Pompeo Draws Scrutiny in Inquiry Over Dry Cleaning and Dog Walking” by Lara Jakes (New York Times) for MSN

California: “Here’s a Closer Look at the Ex-Deputy Mayor Enmeshed in City Hall Corruption Probe” by Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin for Los Angeles Times

Lobbying

California: “Newsom Raises Record $26M in Donations for Covid-19, Some from Companies Lobbying State” by Katy Murphy and Carla Marinucci for Politico

Mississippi: “Nonprofit Officials Spent $400,000 in Welfare Dollars to Lobby State Government. Public Education Funding Flowed Their Way.” by Anna Wolfe for Mississippi Today

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May 20, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Phantom Super PAC Says It Returned Donations” by Zach Montellaro for Politico Elections California: “San Diego Ballot Measures for Ranked Choice Voting, ‘Clean Elections’ Take Key Step Forward” by David Garrick for San Diego Union Tribune Ethics […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Phantom Super PAC Says It Returned Donations” by Zach Montellaro for Politico

Elections

California: “San Diego Ballot Measures for Ranked Choice Voting, ‘Clean Elections’ Take Key Step Forward” by David Garrick for San Diego Union Tribune

Ethics

National: “House Tells Supreme Court That Mueller Grand Jury Material Is Needed Now” by Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for Laredo Morning Times

National: “Barr Installs Top DOJ Aide, Prosecutor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Trespasser, Over U.S. Prosecutors in Washington” by Spencer Hsu and Keith Alexander (Washington Post) for Beaumont Enterprise

National: “Pompeo’s Moves Against Inspector General Leave a Trail of Questions and a Department Divided” by John Hudson and Carol Morello (Washington Post) for MSN

Michigan: “Bribery Case Against Detroit Councilman Could End in Plea Deal 3 Years After He Took Money” by M.L. Elrick for Detroit Free Press

Missouri: “Clean Missouri Proponents Sue to Have Lawmaker-Approved Repeal Question Rewritten” by Crystal Thomas for Kansas City Star

New Jersey: “Katie Brennan Settles Lawsuit Against State and Murphy Campaign for $1 Million Following Rape Allegation” by Kelly Heyboer and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger

Oregon: “Oregon High Court Halts Ruling Nixing Virus Restrictions” by Gillian Flaccus and Andrew Selsky for AP News

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May 19, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Donors Can Now Give $620,600 to Biden and DNC, Expanding Democratic Big-Money Fundraising” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post Oklahoma: “Controversial Oklahoma Bill That Would Have Reversed Campaign Contribution Rules Permanently Killed” by Cassandra Sweetman […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Donors Can Now Give $620,600 to Biden and DNC, Expanding Democratic Big-Money Fundraising” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post

Oklahoma: “Controversial Oklahoma Bill That Would Have Reversed Campaign Contribution Rules Permanently Killed” by Cassandra Sweetman for KFOR

Elections

National: “Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting” by Michael Wines for New York Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Company Has Received at Least $970,000 from U.S. Taxpayers for Room Rentals” by David Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for MSN

Alaska: “Alaska Lawmaker Says Hitler Was Not White Supremacist After Comparing Coronavirus Measures to Nazi Rule” by Hannah Knowles and Candace Buckner (Washington Post) for MSN

Legislative Issues

National: “Work from Home Congress? House OKs Proxy Votes” by Lisa Mascaro for AP News

Lobbying

National: “EPA Emails Reveal Talks Between Trump Officials, Chemical Group Before 2017 Settlement” by Rachel Frazen for The Hill

New York: “Who Exactly Is a Lobbyist?” by Rebecca Lewis for City & State

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May 18, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Liberals Embrace Super PACs They Once Shunned” by Max Greenwood for The Hill Maryland: “Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Shuts Down After Email Details Strategy to Attract White Voters” by Talia Richman and Luke […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Liberals Embrace Super PACs They Once Shunned” by Max Greenwood for The Hill

Maryland: “Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Shuts Down After Email Details Strategy to Attract White Voters” by Talia Richman and Luke Broadwater for Baltimore Sun

Ethics

National: “Appeals Court Greenlights Emoluments Suit against Trump” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

National: “Fired Inspector General Was Examining Whether Pompeo Had a Staffer Walk His Dog, Handle Dry Cleaning, Official Says” by Mike DeBonis and John Hudson for Washington Post

National: “Sen. Richard Burr Stepping Aside as Intelligence Committee Chair Amid FBI Investigation of His Stock Sales” by Devlin Barrett, Seung Min Kim, and Katie Shepherd for Washington Post

Florida: “Curry’s Former Chief Administrator, Political Strategist Worked for JEA Bidder, According to Documents” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times Union

Lobbying

National: “K Street, PACs Not Eager to Attend In-Person Fundraisers Yet” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Auditor General Probing ‘Undue’ Outside Influence on Business Waivers” by Christen Smith (The Center Square) for Clearfield Progress

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May 15, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 15, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020 Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national […]

National/Federal

Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign
AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020

Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national presidential election can be won by a candidate communicating almost entirely from home. The virtual campaign Biden is waging from Wilmington, Delaware, is a stark contrast with President Trump, who is planning travel despite warnings from public health experts about the coronavirus’s spread. It also intensifies the spotlight on how Biden will manage his campaign, with some in his party fretting his still-developing approach is not reaching enough voters.

Court Asks Retired Judge to Oppose Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Michael Flynn Case, Examine Whether Ex-Trump Adviser Committed Perjury
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Matt Zapotosky, and Devlin Barrett | Published: 5/13/2020

Michael Flynn’s sentencing judge asked a former federal judge to oppose the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s guilty plea and examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s requested a nonbinding recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt hearing for pleading guilty to a crime of which he now claims to be innocent: lying to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

The Democratic Party opened the door to remote delegate voting for its summer presidential convention, a clear indication the party is moving toward either a scaled-back event or a virtual gathering in August as the coronavirus threat continues to transform the election year. With a vote of the rules and bylaws committee, Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaders agreed to give convention planners broad flexibility to change the structure and tradition of the nominating convention. The proposal passed unanimously, and it will be taken up in the coming weeks for ratification by a vote by mail of the full DNC.

Democrats Accuse Conservatives of a ‘Dark Money’ Bid to Influence Judges
New York Times – Ben Protess and Rebecca Ruiz | Published: 5/12/2020

Some top Democratic senators accused the Federalist Society of supporting a conservative “dark money” campaign to influence the federal judiciary, including who gets selected to become a judge and how he or she rules once on the bench. In a sharply worded letter, the senators said they supported a proposal by a judicial ethics panel that would ban membership among judges in the conservative legal group. The Federalist Society has been instrumental in identifying judicial nominees with legal careers focused on causes that have appealed to Republicans, such as opposition to gay marriage and to government funding for abortion.

Ethics Committee Sitting on Alleged Misconduct Report Due to COVID-19
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 5/12/2020

The House Committee on Ethics is unable to vote because of the coronavirus pandemic, an impediment that is restricting action on alleged lawmaker misconduct. Until its members can physically reconvene to vote, the ethics panel cannot issue a subpoena, empanel an investigative subcommittee, nor discipline members for conduct unbecoming of the chamber. These actions all require an affirmative vote of a majority of committee members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that ethics committee work should be done in-person and not use technology, like Zoom, because the material is so sensitive and open to cybersecurity breaches.

Federal Watchdog Backs Reinstating Ousted Vaccine Expert
Politico – Sarah Owermohle | Published: 5/8/2020

A federal watchdog is recommending that ousted vaccine expert Rick Bright be reinstated while it investigates whether the Trump administration retaliated against his whistleblower complaints when it removed him from a key post overseeing the coronavirus response, Bright’s lawyers said Friday.  The Office of Special Counsel is recommending that Bright be temporarily reinstated for 45 days as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a multibillion-dollar agency that funds companies to develop tests, treatments and vaccines.

Federal Watchdog to Examine Official’s Role in Tribal Fund Distribution
New York Times – Emily Cochrane and Mark Walker | Published: 5/11/2020

A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official – Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs – violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical portion of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed. Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native corporations, for-profit businesses that support tribal villages in Alaska, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes. Lawmakers have raised concerns about Sweeney’s involvement in that decision, given she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations.

House Democrat Reintroduces Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/11/2020

U,S, Rep. Jimmy Gomez reintroduced a bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called revolving door. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act, would, among other provisions, prohibit former officials who oversaw federal contracts from joining private sector contracting firms and ban senior government officials from lobbying the agencies they worked for two years after leaving the federal government.

House Democrats’ Relief Package Would Give Washington Lobbying Giants Access to Small Business Aid
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/13/2020

House Democrats’ newest coronavirus relief proposal would allow influential Washington lobbying groups to access forgivable small business loans.  The bill would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief to states, cities, and tribal governments and authorize a second round of direct payments to American families. Buried in the 1,815-page bill is a provision that allows trade associations, unions, and 501(c)(4)s, not just charities, to access coveted small business loans. The legislation sets aside a portion of small business loans specifically for nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. The Democratic Policy Center found that over 99 percent of trade associations and chambers of commerce have fewer than 500 employees.

Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Case Against Michael Flynn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 5/7/2020

The U.S.  Justice Department said it is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Russia investigation. The action was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. It comes even though prosecutors have maintained Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn himself admitted as much, pleading guilty before asking to withdraw the plea, and became a key cooperator for Mueller as the special counsel investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes
AP News – Mark Sherman | Published: 5/13/2020

U.S. Supreme Court justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos to suggest they think states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College. The justices heard arguments on an unusual voting issue that could have important consequences for the 2020 presidential election in an era of intense political polarization. So-called faithless electors have not been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a contest with a razor-thin margin.

On the Same Day Sen. Richard Burr Dumped Stock, So Did His Brother-in-Law. Then the Market Crashed.
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis | Published: 5/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, also dumped tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares. In 2017, President Trump appointed Fauth to the three-person panel of the National Mediation Board. Fauth avoided between $37,000 and $118,000 in losses by selling off when he did, considering how steeply the companies’ shares fell in recent weeks.

Pence’s ‘Special Envoy’ in Foreign Aid Office Sparked an Ethics Complaint Just Weeks After He Started His Job
ProPublica – Yageneh Torbati | Published: 5/13/2020

In 2018, an incoming Trump political appointee and ally of Vice President Mike Pence made an unusual suggestion to a United Nations agency whose funding hinged on support from a skeptical Trump administration: he pitched them to do business with one of his private-sector clients. “Might merit your team’s consideration,” Max Primorac wrote in January, weeks before he formally started at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he would eventually become an adviser to Pence. The client pitch by an incoming official sparked a complaint a month later from an anonymous State Department official. The U.N. agency, the United Nations Development Program in Iraq, had by then received over $190 million in funding from USAID, the complaint said.

Senate Committee Advances Nomination of FEC Commissioner
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 5/7/2020

A U.S. Senate committee voted to advance President Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the FEC, which would restore the agency’s ability to conduct official business. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee voted along party lines to nominate James Trainor III and move his nomination to the full Senate. The nomination of Trainor had been in limbo amid questions over his social media postings and a standstill among Senate leaders on the logistics of appointing commissioners. Government transparency groups widely oppose Trainor’s confirmation.

Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2020

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom paid $11 million to avoid being sued by Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister. The law firm paid the money after Tymoshenko accused it of writing a report that was used to help justify her imprisonment by a political rival, former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. The payments come after Skadden paid $4.6 million to settle an investigation by the Justice Department into whether its work for the Yanukovych government violated foreign lobbying laws. The firm subsequently revealed in it had been paid a total of more than $5.2 million for its work. One of the lawyers who assisted with the report, Alex van der Zwaan, admitted lying to federal investigators year about his communications related to the firm’s work for Yanukovych’s government.

States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 5/9/2020

In Connecticut, a long-fought battle for paid sick leave resulted in the state becoming the first in the nation to pass a mandate in 2011. According to researchers who interviewed lawmakers and lobbyists, the state’s public financing program for governor and legislative campaigns was instrumental in electing officials who implemented paid sick leave policies. In several other states that have adopted paid sick leave policies, key players responsible for pushing the measures forward participated in the public financing system for their campaigns.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Releasing Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 5/12/2020

The very nature of the presidency was under scrutiny at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments on whether House committees and prosecutors may obtain troves of information about President Trump’s business affairs. The court’s ruling could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry. But some of the justices’ questions raised a third possibility: that the court could return the cases to lower courts for reconsideration under stricter standards. That would have the incidental effect of deferring a final decision beyond the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Judge Puts Justice Department’s Move to Drop Charges Against Michael Flynn on Hold
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan said he would allow interested parties to weigh in on Michael Flynn’s case, delaying the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) effort to drop the charges against the former national security adviser. The case was upended recently when the DOJ moved to dismiss its charge against Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016. The attempt to dismiss the case prompted accusations the criminal justice system was caving to political pressure from the Trump administration. Legal experts said the order would permit requiring both sides to produce evidence and revisit the case for and against Flynn.

Canada

Canada Former Canadian Envoy to Washington Defends Work Pitching for Palantir
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 5/7/2020

Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, says has done nothing wrong in his senior role with the data-analytics firm Palantir amid questions about whether he has been lobbying the top ranks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. A member of Parliament is drafting a letter to the federal lobbying regulator following suggestions MacNaughton has been engaging Canadian officials on how Palantir can help with the Covid-19 response. MacNaughton became president of Palantir’s Canadian branch shortly after leaving his envoy’s post last summer. Neither MacNaughton nor Palantir are registered as lobbyists with the Canadian government and, as a former designated public office holder, he is subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying activities.

Canada Illegal Lobbyist Donations Not Significant Enough to Warrant Prosecution: Report
Powder River Peak – Graeme Wood | Published: 5/12/2020

Lobbyists and others who violated the Elections Act by filing their company’s donations under their own name will face no consequences. The investigation began in March 2017 in the lead up to British Columbia’s provincial election. A Globe and Mail article spurred the probe by reporting how some lobbyists were donating in their own names but being compensated by their employer, which is illegal. Mitigating factors played a role where there were violations. For instance, police concluded “many of the lobbyists identified in the reports quickly filed corrections with Elections BC, confirming that donations made by corporations or union employees were in fact made by their employees.”

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Bid by Groups to Gather Online Initiative Petition Signatures
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 5/13/2020

The Arizona Supreme Court will not let initiative campaigns collect signatures online to qualify for the ballot in November, a move several campaigns had urged as a public health precaution as the coronavirus pandemic upended the usual practices of circulating petitions in public places or door-to-door. The court rejected a request by four ballot measure campaigns to use the same website, known as E-Qual, that candidates for state offices use to get signatures for their nominating petitions.

California Desperate for Coronavirus Help, California Spending Billions on No-Bid Contracts with Little Accountability
Los Angeles Times – Melody Gutierrez, Adam Elmahrek, Ben Poston, and Kim Christensen | Published: 5/7/2020

In a frantic effort to secure face masks and respond to the coronavirus crisis, California has committed to spend more than $3.7 billion on no-bid contracts, scores of them with businesses that have no track record with the state. There have already been examples of questionable deals and alleged fraud across the country. Spending watchdogs acknowledge state governments are under immense pressure to secure medical supplies during times of crisis. But they caution that if officials do not adhere to accepted purchasing protocols, such as dealing only with companies that have direct lines to manufacturers and proven track records in government contracts, they could result in bad deals.

California L.A. City Hall Corruption: Consultant agrees to plead guilty in bribery scheme
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and Joel Rubin | Published: 5/13/2020

A real estate consultant agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering charge in the ongoing federal “pay-to-play” corruption probe at Los Angeles City Hall. George Chiang will admit to playing a lead role in a scheme in which a Chinese real estate company allegedly bribed a Los Angeles City Council member in exchange for help on a major development project. Under the agreement, Chiang will fully cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation into cash payments, air travel, free tickets, and other perks prosecutors say were provided to the council member and other city officials.

Florida In Florida, Felons Must Pay Court Debts Before They Can Vote. But with No System to Do So, Many Have Found It Impossible.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa | Published: 5/13/2020

The promise of an amendment to Florida’s state constitution seemed huge when it was overwhelmingly approved in November 2018: as many as 1.5 million felons previously barred from casting ballots in the state would soon be able to vote. But Republican-backed legislation circumscribing the reach of Amendment 4 had made it virtually impossible for most felons to participate. The law requires felons to pay all court-related fines, fees, and restitution before registering to vote and to swear, under penalty of perjury, that the debts are paid. But a vast number of felons are too poor to pay their fines. And even if they can afford to do so, a patchy system of court records does not always allow them to know what they owe or whether they have paid.

Florida Lee County Sheriff’s Office Classified Retirement Event Expenses as ‘Career Development’ Training
Fort Myers News-Press – Devan Patel | Published: 5/13/2020

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and six high-ranking agency members spent thousands of taxpayer dollars earlier this year to attend the retirement celebration of Florida Highway Patrol Chief Derek Barrs, classifying their trip as a training course for “career development”” Between wages, per diems, transportation costs, and lodging, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office used more than $5,000 in public funds for its members to attend the event. Other than the two-hour celebration, no other training or educational purposes were noted or disclosed. Under Florida law, public funds must be spent for a public purpose with past advisory opinions stating expenditures need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Idaho Lobbying Disclosure Complaint Filed Against Ada GOP Chairman
KPVI – Thomas Plank (Idaho Press) | Published: 5/6/2020

Ada County Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Davidson, who is running for a seat on the county commission, is the target of a lobbying disclosure complaint filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. The complaint alleges Davidson has breached a number of disclosure laws, including failing to report lobbying-related expenses for 2018 and for an $11,532 legislative event in 2019, as well as not registering as a lobbyist within 30 days after agreeing to work as one.

Illinois Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment
Peoria Journal Star – Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 5/9/2020

A judge ruled against an Illinois organization that claimed restrictions implemented to combat the coronavirus made it impossible to gather the necessary signatures to place a constitutional amendment on November’s general election ballot. The Committee for the Illinois Democracy Amendment is advocating for a constitutional change that would obligate the General Assembly to take roll call votes on bills proposing “stronger ethical standards for Illinois public officials.” It would also allow residents to propose related bills by submitting a petition with at least 100,000 signatures. The committee’s attorneys argued in a court document that social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions forced voters to weigh their health against their First Amendment rights.

Indiana Indiana Attorney General’s Law License Suspended for Groping
AP News – Tom Davies | Published: 5/11/2020

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will have his law license suspended for 30 days over allegations he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled. The decision said the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that [Hill] committed the criminal act of battery.” But the court gave Hill a less serious punishment than a a suspension of at least 60 days recommended by a hearing officer for his actions during a party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Kentucky Bill Banning Statehouse Sexual Harassment Fails to Pass, Again
WKYU – Ryland Barton | Published: 5/8/2020

The Kentucky Legislature again declined to pass a bill explicitly banning lawmakers from sexually harassing their employees during this year’s legislative session. The Legislature’s ethics rules do not currently ban sexual harassment, though lawmakers have been punished for harassing employees under a rule that bans misuse of their official positions. House Bill 168 would have defined sexual harassment as an ethical violation and created a process for the Legislative Ethics Commission to review sexual harassment complaints.

Maryland Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Seeks to Win with White Votes in Majority-Black City
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 5/13/2020

A PAC supporting Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller is seeking to win the race by attracting white voters in the majority-black city. In an email sent in recent weeks to potential donors, Martin Knott Jr., treasurer for the Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC, laid out the group’s strategy: use negative campaigning to lure white voters away from two candidates regarded by some as Miller’s chief rivals for white voters, former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and city council President Brandon Scott. Miller is the only white candidate among the leading Democratic contenders. Baltimore’s population is about 63 percent black and 30 percent white.

Michigan Armed Militia Helped a Michigan Barbershop Open, a Coronavirus Defiance That Puts Republican Lawmakers in a Bind
MSN – Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

Members of a militia group, the Michigan Home Guard, stood watch over Karl Manke’s business in case the police came to shut him down. They were determined to reopen his barbershop in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders designed to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. Protests over Whitmer’s actions forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance. GOP lawmakers, who hold narrow margins in both the state House and Senate, have tried distancing themselves from the most vocal protesters while being careful not to appear to hew too closely to Whitmer’s shutdown policies.

Missouri Missouri Lawmakers Send New Redistricting Proposal to Voters
AP News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 5/13/2020

Missouri lawmakers sent a ballot proposal to voters asking them to reconsider their earlier backing of a redistricting system that stresses fairness and competitiveness over everything else. The new plan would ask voters later this year to make those the least important criteria, reversing key parts of the earlier ballot initiative. The proposal is backed largely by Republicans, who argue the 2018 ballot initiative deceptively packaged popular ethics reforms with a redistricting plan that they say will split up communities and lead to gerrymandering. Senate Joint Resolution 38 also includes ethics changes, including a total ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and campaign contribution limits.

Missouri Probe into Roll Out of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Expands
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/7/2020

A legislative probe into the roll out of Missouri’s medical marijuana program has expanded into Gov. Mike Parson’s office. A House panel is seeking records involving the governor’s deputy chief of staff, chief operating officer, and a longtime adviser to the governor who has been under FBI scrutiny. The House Special Committee on Government Oversight sent a letter to the Department of Health and Senior Services demanding records of interactions with industry insiders and details on how key decisions were made.

Nevada Las Vegas Mayor Faces Recall Effort Over Coronavirus Response
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 5/6/2020

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is facing a recall effort in the wake of her response to the coronavirus pandemic, including controversial comments she made recently on national television. Former professional poker player Doug Polk filed a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition with the city clerk’s office, the first step in seeking to oust a public official from their seat. From the start of the pandemic, the mayor has resisted measures to slow the spread of the virus. She said statewide business closures would be “total insanity.” But it was her appearances on national television in April that prompted the fiercest criticism.

New Jersey U.S. Supreme Court Throws Out Bridgegate Convictions, 6 Years After an Epic Traffic Jam
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/7/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the convictions of two government officials implicated in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal, in which then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s allies schemed to punish a local mayor. The justices said in their unanimous decision that while the scheme involved deception and corruption, it did not violate federal law. The case centered around convictions of Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to Christie, and Bill Baroni, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, for their role in a scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create traffic problems for the mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse Christie’s reelection. They were convicted of fraud for lying about a fake traffic study to justify the lane closures.

North Carolina The Southern Democrat with the Power to Shut Down Trump’s Convention
Politico – Maya King | Published: 5/8/2020

North Carolina’s Roy Cooper is a Democratic governor, up for reelection in a Republican-leaning Southern swing state, pushing a go-slow approach to reopening the economy as protests intensify and neighboring states move quicker. How the governor handles his state’s reopening will likely dictate whether President Trump and the Republican Party can forge ahead with a full-fledged convention in Charlotte this summer. Trump has been adamant about having a full-scale in-person convention, but as those plans forge ahead, Cooper will have to walk a fine line between protecting and alienating his constituents.

North Dakota North Dakota Governor Funds PAC Targeting Fellow Republican
AP News – James MacPherson | Published: 5/13/2020

North Dakota Gov. Burgum is helping bankroll a PAC that so far has set its sights on defeating one of the state’s most powerful legislators, a member of his own party. The move to campaign against House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Jeff Delzer in the June primary has drawn criticism that the first-term Republican governor and wealthy former software executive is crossing the separation-of-powers-line by reaching deep into his own pockets to buy a Legislature more obliging to his wishes. Political and election law experts say such a move by a governor to oust a member of his own party is unusual.

Rhode Island R.I. Ethics Panel Says Ex-IGT Chairman Had Nothing to Gain from Proposed Contract, Despite His 38,000 Shares
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 5/12/2020

A week after dismissing a complaint alleging unethically close ties between Gov. Gina Raimondo and former International Game Technology (IGT) chairperson-turned-lobbyist Donald Sweitzer, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission disclosed its reasoning. The complaint alleged Raimondo violated the state’s ethics code when she negotiated and promoted a stalled 20-year, no-bid extension of IGT’s contract that would potentially benefit a “business associate.” It was filed at a time when Raimondo chaired the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Sweitzer was the veteran Democratic fundraiser she chose as DGA treasurer. The commission decided neither had anything personal to gain from the contract extension.

South Carolina SC Statehouse Corruption Probe Has Concluded but Fight Over Its Methods Rages On
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith | Published: 5/13/2020

South Carolina’s long-running statehouse corruption probe has apparently run its course, with no new targets in the offing. But the special prosecutor leading the investigation is still taking on critics and defending his decision to allow companies to sidestep prosecution in return for financial payments. First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe revealed the state grand jury last met on the case about a year ago. No more sessions or indictments are anticipated. The probe will conclude once pending cases are resolved in court, Pascoe said. He also challenged a state Supreme Court justice’s description of the probe as a “prosecutive mess.”

Wisconsin Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Wisconsin’s Stay-at-Home Order That Closed Businesses to Limit Spread of Coronavirus
MSN – Molly Beck and Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 5/13/2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and struck down the decision by Gov. Tony Evers to extend a stay-at-home order intended to quell the spread of the coronavirus, marking the first time a statewide order of its kind has been knocked down by a court of last resort. The decision curbed the power of Evers’ administration to act unilaterally during public health emergencies. Although the opinion centered on the technical method by which the limits had been set, several conservative justices conveyed their dismay at the restrictions themselves.

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May 14, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes” by Mark Sherman for AP News National: “Biden Plans to […]

Elections

National: “Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes” by Mark Sherman for AP News

National: “Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign” by Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples for AP News

Florida: “In Florida, Felons Must Pay Court Debts Before They Can Vote. But with No System to Do So, Many Have Found It Impossible.” by Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “U.S. Judge Puts Justice Department’s Move to Drop Charges Against Michael Flynn on Hold” by Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Pence’s ‘Special Envoy’ in Foreign Aid Office Sparked an Ethics Complaint Just Weeks After He Started His Job” by Yageneh Torbati for ProPublica

Michigan: “Armed Militia Helped a Michigan Barbershop Open, a Coronavirus Defiance That Puts Republican Lawmakers in a Bind” by Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) for MSN

Missouri: “Missouri Lawmakers Send New Redistricting Proposal to Voters” by Summer Ballentine for AP News

Rhode Island: “R.I. Ethics Panel Says Ex-IGT Chairman Had Nothing to Gain from Proposed Contract, Despite His 38,000 Shares” by Katherine Gregg for Providence Journal

Lobbying

National: “What Strip Clubs and Political Consultants Have in Common: They’re fighting for PPP loans.” by Jim Morrill (Charlotte Observer) for MSN

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May 13, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Canada: “Illegal Lobbyist Donations Not Significant Enough to Warrant Prosecution: Report” by Graeme Wood for Powder River Peak Elections North Carolina: “The Southern Democrat with the Power to Shut Down Trump’s Convention” by Maya King for Politico Ethics […]

Campaign Finance

Canada: “Illegal Lobbyist Donations Not Significant Enough to Warrant Prosecution: Report” by Graeme Wood for Powder River Peak

Elections

North Carolina: “The Southern Democrat with the Power to Shut Down Trump’s Convention” by Maya King for Politico

Ethics

National: “Federal Watchdog to Examine Official’s Role in Tribal Fund Distribution” by Emily Cochrane and Mark Walker for New York Times

National: “Democrats Accuse Conservatives of a ‘Dark Money’ Bid to Influence Judges” by Ben Protess and Rebecca Ruiz for New York Times

National: “Ethics Committee Sitting on Alleged Misconduct Report Due to COVID-19” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call

National: “Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Releasing Trump’s Financial Records” by Adam Liptak for New York Times

Kentucky: “Bill Banning Statehouse Sexual Harassment Fails to Pass, Again” by Ryland Barton for WKYU

Lobbying

National: “House Democrat Reintroduces Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

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May 12, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Illinois: “Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment” by Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) for Peoria […]

Campaign Finance

National: “States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies” by David Moore for Sludge

Elections

Illinois: “Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment” by Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) for Peoria Journal Star

Ethics

National: “Federal Watchdog Backs Reinstating Ousted Vaccine Expert” by Sarah Owermohle for Politico

Indiana: “Indiana Attorney General’s Law License Suspended for Groping” by Tom Davies for AP News

Missouri: “Investigation of Medical Marijuana Roll Out Expands to Missouri Governor’s Office” by Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

Lobbying

National: “Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute” by Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Zoom Beefs Up Lobbying as Privacy Concerns Accompany Growth” by Megan Wilson for Bloomberg Government

Procurement

California: “Desperate for Coronavirus Help, California Spending Billions on No-Bid Contracts with Little Accountability” by Melody Gutierrez, Adam Elmahrek, Ben Poston, and Kim Christensen for Los Angeles Times

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May 11, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Senate Committee Advances Nomination of FEC Commissioner” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post Ethics National: “Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Case Against Michael Flynn” by Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky for Washington Post […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Senate Committee Advances Nomination of FEC Commissioner” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee for Washington Post

Ethics

National: “Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Case Against Michael Flynn” by Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky for Washington Post

National: “On the Same Day Sen. Richard Burr Dumped Stock, So Did His Brother-in-Law. Then the Market Crashed.” by Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis for ProPublica

Missouri: “Effort to Send Clean Missouri Back to Voters One Step from Final Approval” by Ashlyn O’Hara (Missouri News Network) for Call Newspapers

Nevada: “Las Vegas Mayor Faces Recall Effort Over Coronavirus Response” by Shea Johnson for Las Vegas Review-Journal

New Jersey: “U.S. Supreme Court Throws Out Bridgegate Convictions, 6 Years After an Epic Traffic Jam” by Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger

Lobbying

Canada: “Former Canadian Envoy to Washington Defends Work Pitching for Palantir” by Andy Blatchford for Politico

Idaho: “Lobbying Disclosure Complaint Filed Against Ada GOP Chairman” by Thomas Plank (Idaho Press) for KPVI

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May 8, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 8, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Both Parties Wonder: How much do conventions even matter anymore? MSN – Adam Nagourney and Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 5/4/2020 This year, political conventions may join the list of crowded events like concerts and baseball games forced […]

National/Federal

Both Parties Wonder: How much do conventions even matter anymore?
MSN – Adam Nagourney and Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 5/4/2020

This year, political conventions may join the list of crowded events like concerts and baseball games forced off the stage because of the coronavirus. And it may not matter. Some Democratic leaders are discussing replacing their convention with a virtual gathering, and some Republicans are unsure about holding the big spectacle that President Trump wants. Yet even before the pandemic, a more fundamental debate was playing out: has the American political convention become a ritual holdover from another age? For all the organizing, money, time, and energy poured into an extravaganza of parties, speeches, lobbying, and networking, there is an argument they have become among the less consequential events on the political calendar.

Cash-Starved Candidates Trade Swanky Cocktail Hours for $5K Zoom Meetings
Politico – Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 5/1/2020

Online fundraising events show that even with coronavirus bearing down, the money machine of electoral politics is still cranking, albeit at a distinctly lower gear and in dramatically different form. Candidates are having to adapt in real time to not only the stilted nature of online interaction but to the sensitivity of asking for money in the midst of a nosediving economy. Recreating the intimacy of big-money events is not easy, but consultants are testing strategies to come as close as they can. Many corporate PACs have preset budgets for donations to lawmakers. The venues where the money gets doled out is less important than ensuring it gets in the right hands.

Joe Biden Denies He Sexually Assaulted a Former Senate Aide, Calls on National Archives to Release Complaint If One Exists
Stamford Advocate – Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2020

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden denied he sexually assaulted a former Senate aide, delivering his first public comments about an allegation that has prompted a collision between the presidential race and the #MeToo movement and forced a difficult reckoning in a party determined to unseat President Trump in November. The allegation has pushed the topic of sexual assault to the forefront of the campaign after a primary cycle that featured a field with multiple female candidates and Biden’s pledge to name a woman as his running mate. Though Biden has prided himself on a long record of promoting women, his campaign also has been marked by struggles as the longtime politician has tried to keep up with cultural shifts reflected within his party.

K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout of Corporate Lobbyists
The Intercept – Lee Fang | Published: 5/5/2020

K Street may soon have its own taxpayer-funded bailout. Industries as varied as oil refining, construction, fast food restaurants, and chemical manufacturing are seeking federal cash to support their lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Many of the largest lobbying forces are organized under the 501(c)(6) section of the tax code as trade groups. Corporations with similar concerns pool their money together to fund trade groups, which in turn employ thousands of lobbyists to shape elections and legislation. But the Paycheck Protection Program, the centerpiece of the small business rescue program, excluded such organizations. That could change in the next round of stimulus legislation, which Congress is scheduled to debate later this month.

Knock, Knock, Who’s There? No Political Canvassers, for the First Time Maybe Ever
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 5/7/2020

For decades, showing up on a voter’s doorstep has been one of the most reliable ways to get people to the polls. Now political parties and candidates that put tens of millions of dollars into training and deploying door knockers are grappling with costly, consequential, and imminent decisions about whether they should even invest in traditional brick-and-mortar infrastructure that powers such operations. In the fall of 2020, volunteers might have to knock on a door and then sprint 10 feet away, making a pitch from a safe social distance. That is one tactic some strategists have floated as they consider a pandemic-safe update to the humble door knock.

Lawmakers Made Hundreds of Stock Transactions During Pandemic, Watchdog Finds
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 4/29/2020

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have bought and sold stocks hundreds of times throughout the coronavirus pandemic, some of them lucrative moves to invest in industries buoyed by the crisis and divest from sectors like restaurants and hotels that have tanked. From February 2 to April 8 of this year, the Campaign Legal Center found, 12 senators made a combined 127 purchases or sales, while 37 House representatives made at least 1,358 transactions. In most cases, the lawmakers have not been accused of wrongdoing, but the watchdog group says the frequency of such stock trades underscores the need for more transparency and ethics protections, particularly in a time of crisis.

Push to Revive FEC Could Curb Court Action on Campaign Finance
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/6/2020

Advocates of stricter campaign finance law enforcement fear a Senate Republican push to restore a quorum on the FEC could thwart their ability to pursue alleged violations in court. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is expected to advance James Trainor to fill a GOP vacancy on the panel. With his confirmation, an equally divided FEC could resume its pattern of deadlocking on enforcement cases, leading to dismissal of alleged violations of disclosure requirements and other campaign finance laws, says a watchdog. FEC staff lawyers would also be able to defend such dismissals in court and prevent alleged violators from being sued, said Adav Noti, chief of staff at the Campaign Legal Center.

Secret Service Paid Trump’s D.C. Hotel More Than $33,000 for Lodging to Guard Mnuchin in ’17
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2020

The Secret Service rented a room at President Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel for 137 consecutive nights in 2017, paying Trump’s company more than $33,000, so it could guard Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin while he lived in one of the hotel’s luxury suites. The Washington Post has identified dozens of instances where the Secret Service paid money to Trump’s businesses, spending taxpayer dollars, often with little or no disclosure at the time. Often, these payments were triggered by Trump’s own travel to his properties. This case is different because it was set in motion by Mnuchin, one of Trump’s top appointees. In 2017, he chose a living arrangement that produced two revenue streams for Trump’s company. One came from Mnuchin. The other came from taxpayers.

Should News Organizations Take Coronavirus Bailout Loans? While Some Fear a Conflict of Interest, Many Are Desperate for Cash
Greenwich Times – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2020

As advertising has collapsed, a handful of news organizations have taken the once unthinkable step of turning to the government for a lifeline. Media companies have traditionally resisted any such financial relationship, viewing it as a serious conflict-of-interest: how could they commit to independent and aggressive coverage of a government they are accepting money from? Some news companies that have snagged loans have had no such qualms amid layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that have slammed the industry. A coalition of newspaper and television trade groups is even lobbying Congress and President Trump to expand the program to include some of the industry’s biggest players, which have been ineligible for bailout money.

Southern Company’s Lobbying Disclosures Obscure State-Level Information from Investors, Public
Energy and Policy Institute – Daniel Tate | Published: 4/30/2020

Southern Company’s sparse disclosures have enabled lobbying activity that has conflicted with the policy objectives the utility company has espoused to investors and the public. Southern has actively lobbied against environmental regulations and action on climate change at the federal level. The company’s state-level disclosures offer almost no indications of whether its state lobbying follows its federal pattern or aligned with Southern’s stated corporate “low- to no-carbon” goals. Investors have led calls for the company to increase its lobbying disclosures, particularly at the state level, in light of its substantial federal lobbying. Southern has opposed shareholders’ calls for increased transparency.

The Bizarro Tale of a Phantom Super PAC – and Our Sleuthing to Find It
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 5/5/2020

A new super PAC made a splashy entrance onto the U.S. Senate battleground scene recently, reporting millions of dollars in spending backing Democrats in key races. There is just one problem: the ads do not exist. Americans for Progressive Action USA filed reports showing more than $2.5 million in advertising and associated costs. But six ad makers and advertising platforms listed in the filings said they have never heard of the super PAC and have no records of doing business with the group. It is not unheard of for people to make false filings with the FEC. But more than a dozen political operatives and campaign finance watchdogs contacted for this story were baffled why someone would file apparently made-up spending reports.

The ‘New Normal’ Takes Shape on Capitol Hill
The Hill – Scott Wong and Mike Lillis | Published: 5/4/2020

Lawmakers hoping for a return to pre-coronavirus life on Capitol Hill might find themselves waiting awhile. The pandemic has already upended daily routines and legislative calendars during the extended recess, forcing lawmakers to adapt to Zoom hearings and cloistered campaigning. But now Congress’s leading medical authority is warning the upheaval will extend to virtually all facets of life in the Capitol complex, and those changes are likely to last years. For lawmakers and their staffs, that means life when they resume a more regular schedule in Washington will be, in many aspects, almost unrecognizable.

Trump Sparks Fight Over IRS Relief Payments
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 5/2/2020

President Trump has sparked concerns about politicizing the IRS by putting his name on the coronavirus relief checks and letters sent to Americans informing them of their payments.  The moves are seen as a way for Trump to take credit for the pandemic aid that households are receiving just months before an election where his handling of the outbreak and the economic damage it has caused will play a prominent role. While presidents regularly tout their economic policies, critics say Trump’s actions unnecessarily inject partisanship into a government agency that should be viewed as nonpartisan. They also argue his move could backfire politically.

Virus Whistle-Blower Says Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 5/5/2020

A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump said top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant. Rick Bright, who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a whistleblower complaint that he had been protesting contract abuse since 2017. Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

Well-Connected Trump Alumni Benefit from Coronavirus Lobbying Rush
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswami (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2020

As businesses lobby Washington for a piece of the massive federal response to the global pandemic, a group of former Trump administration officials and campaign alumni are in the center of the action, helping private interests tap into coveted financial and regulatory relief programs. Businesses hit hard by the virus and health-care manufacturers seeking approval for their products have rushed to hire Trump alumni, who are leveraging their connections in a variety of ways. In all, at least 25 former officials who once worked for the Trump administration, campaign, or transition team are now registered as lobbyists for clients with coronavirus needs. The activity shows how, despite Trump’s repeated claim he would “drain the swamp,” his former aides and onetime administration officials have embraced Washington’s lobbying world.

Why Biden’s Choice of Running Mate Has Momentous Implications
MSN – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns (New York Times) | Published: 5/3/2020

The vice-presidential selection process has usually had an air of cloak-and-dagger to it. The party’s nominees would say little about their thinking, the would-be running mates would reveal even less, and an elaborate game of subterfuge would unfold that mostly captivated political insiders and usually had little bearing on the election. But a convergence of forces has transformed Joe Biden’s search for a running mate on the Democratic ticket. His pledge to pick a woman immediately limited the pool of potential candidates and intensified the competition. Biden himself has increasingly pushed into the political foreground the overwhelming reason his choice may be the most consequential in decades: the expectation that the 77-year-old would be a one-term president.

Will Americans Lose Their Right to Vote in the Pandemic?
New York Times – Emily Bazelon | Published: 5/5/2020

The April 7 election in Wisconsin showed the coronavirus pandemic can block access to the ballot just as it has closed stores and schools and so much other civic activity. “Ultimately, there were no provisions, no accommodations in state law for the pandemic when it came to our administration of this election,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. If states and the federal government do not do more to help voters in November, the barriers for some of them may be insurmountable. The outcome of the presidential contest will most likely be decided in a handful of swing states. But only one swing state is already set up for most people to vote by mail.

Canada

Canada Ontario Allowing ‘Secret Lobbying’ Amid COVID-19: Critic
National Post – Emma McIntosh | Published: 5/1/2020

The Ontario government is allowing businesses to do “secret lobbying” by inviting them to ask for temporary law changes during the coronavirus pandemic, Democracy Watch says. The Progressive Conservative government, which was elected on promises to reduce red tape, announced it would open an online portal where businesses could ask for regulation or rule changes to help them weather the pandemic. Democracy Watch, a non-profit which advocates for government accountability, said that portal is an invitation to use a loophole in Ontario’s lobbying rules, which is especially worrying given the government’s temporary rollbacks of some environmental protections.

From the States and Municipalities

California Dem vs. Dem: Do fractures in California presage a Democratic Party crack-up?
Politico – Jeremy White | Published: 5/5/2020

In modern California politics, the critical fault line is not between Democrats and Republicans. It is between Democrats, thanks to an election system that allows two Democrats to advance out of primaries and collide in the general election. There is no other state where Democrats wield the absolute power the party enjoys in California. Before 2011, when the state replaced party primaries with a general primary after which the top two vote-getters square off in the general election, establishment-backed Democrats running in safe seats could often sail to assured victories; now, they often find themselves fighting for their political lives against a rival from their own party.

Colorado Demoted Denver Firefighter Tried to Pass Off Hot Tub, Leather Sofa as Medical Expenses
Denver Post – Shelly Bradbury | Published: 5/5/2020

A Denver Fire Department lieutenant who fell through a floor and broke his hip while fighting a fire in 2016 subsequently tried to pass off purchases of a hot tub, stove, specialty mattress, and seven-piece leather sofa as medical expenses, according to a disciplinary action letter from the city Department of Public Safety. Lt. Demetrius Granado was demoted to the rank of firefighter first-grade and technically fired for his actions, although the firing will not take effect if he does not violate the fire department’s rules for two years.

Florida Florida Concedes It Has No Plan on Felon Voting
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 5/6/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle decided more than six months ago that Florida cannot deny the right to vote to felons who have served their time behind bars and are genuinely unable to pay “legal financial obligations” as required by a controversial state law passed last year. But as a trial in a challenge to the law draws to a close, a top Florida elections official told the judge the state has not settled on a process that will carry out his ruling and permit people who cannot afford to pay their court-ordered debts to vote.

Georgia GBI Opens Criminal Investigation into DA’s Nonprofit Funds
Lexington Herald-Leader – Associated Press | Published: 5/6/2020

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal probe into a district attorney accused of using at least $140,000 in city of Atlanta money paid to a nonprofit to supplement his own salary. The state ethics commission filed a complaint against The Georgia Ethics Commission filed a complaint against Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, accusing him of violating public disclosure laws.

Hawaii Honolulu Ethics Commission OKs Gifts for First Responders
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 5/2/2020

The Honolulu Ethics Commission voted to allow city police officers and other first responders to accept gifts from the public that are considered :tokens of aloha and acts of kindness” for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak. The temporary change in ethics guidelines was triggered by the surge in public support for those on the front lines of the battle to stem the outbreak. The change applies only to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and lifeguards employed by the city, since other first responders are outside the jurisdiction of the commission.

Idaho Belated Campaign Finance Report Filed by Pro-Gun Group
Idaho Falls Post-Register – Betsy Russell (Idaho Press) | Published: 4/28/2020

After a campaign finance complaint was referred to the Idaho attorney general for investigation, Greg Pruett of the Idaho 2nd Amendment Alliance belatedly filed a campaign finance report on his television ad campaign in favor of Rep. Christy Zito, who is running for the state Senate. Pruett acknowledged that under Idaho law, he was required to file a report and disclose his donors of $50 or more when he distributed an “electioneering communication” that “unambiguously refers to any candidate,” and was sent out within 30 days before a primary election.

Iowa Court Upholds Dismissal of Suit Over Iowa Governor’s Flight
AP News – David Pitt | Published: 5/1/2020

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an attorney who challenged a 2017 flight that Gov. Kim Reynolds and her family took on a private jet to a football game in Memphis, Tennessee Gary Dickey filed a complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, alleging the $2,880 claimed for four seats on the private jet in campaign disclosure documents underestimated the flight’s value by thousands of dollars. The plane was owned by a company that has contracts with the state.

Maryland Progressive Maryland Files Complaint Against Super PAC Backing Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 5/5/2020

A nonprofit advocacy group filed an ethics complaint with the Maryland elections board, alleging campaign finance violations by a super PAC that is backing Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller. The Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC was established April 30, state records show, and is supporting Miller. The group recently circulated a memo describing a poll by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group of 500 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted April 13 to 16. Progressive Maryland’s complaint says the date of the poll signals a campaign finance violation.

Mississippi MS Welfare Scandal Audit: Money went to cars, family, paying Brett Favre for speeches he never gave
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/4/2020

Money meant to help poor Mississippians was instead used to buy expensive cars, sponsor a college baseball tournament, hire family members of a top state official, and pay Brett Favre for speeches he never gave, according to a report from State Auditor Shad White. The audit of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) shows how federal welfare grant funds flowed from DHS into two nonprofits, which then frequently spent the cash in inappropriate or suspicious ways.  More than $94 million in welfare money spending was “questioned” by auditors, according to the report, alleging either outright misspending or lack of documentation showing it was spent properly.

Nevada Ethics Complaint ‘Credible’ Against Ex-Las Vegas Planning Official
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 5/1/2020

Former Las Vegas Planning Commissioner Christina Roush voted several times on short-term rental applications presented by a City Hall lobbyist but failed to disclose that lobbyist had also reportedly been hired by her husband to secure a similar permit. Now Roush will have to attend ethics training if she returns to the public sector within two years under a proposed agreement with a state ethics panel. The panel, consisting of three members of the Nevada Commission on Ethics, recently said there was “credible evidence” for the full commission to weigh in on the accusations that Roush violated two conflict-of-interest laws by voting on short-term rental applications presented by lobbyist Nathan Taylor through much of 2018.

New Jersey Juul Donated to New Jersey Politicians Even as They Considered Vaping Restrictions
Politico – Matt Freidman | Published: 5/4/2020

As New Jersey lawmakers considered restrictions on vaping products, a leading e-cigarette maker donated to political organizations with close ties to both state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy.  The donations from Juul Labs came even after Sweeney called for a ban on all vaping products and then pushed a bill that would severely restrict their sales in New Jersey. Juul’s $7,500 donation to General Majority, a Sweeney-tied super PAC, was dated less than two weeks after the Legislature passed a Sweeney-backed bill that could have banned the company’s products from store shelves, and three days after Murphy vetoed it.

New York New York Must Hold Democratic Presidential Primary, Judge Rules
New York Times – Sean Sullivan and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 5/5/2020

A federal judge ordered elections officials in New York state to hold its Democratic primary election in June and reinstate all qualifying candidates on the ballot. The ruling came after the presidential primary was canceled over concerns about the coronavirus. Douglas Kellner, co-chairperson of the New York Board of Elections, said the board was “reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal. “The initial move to cancel the presidential primary sowed confusion around the state; though the statewide presidential primary was canceled, dozens of local elections were not, leaving some candidates and political operatives nervous that voters might presume the entire primary had been called off.

North Carolina Should NC Politicians Be Banned from Paying Themselves Rent with Campaign Money?
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 4/30/2020

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is considering whether politicians should be able to use their campaign donors’ money to pay for a home they already own after the board previously signed off on such arrangements. Specifically, the potential rule change  would ban politicians from using their campaign funds to pay the rent or mortgage of any residence owned by them or a family member. If state officials do decide to ban such practices, it would appear to be a change aimed one of the most powerful politicians in the state, Senate leader Phil Berger.

Ohio Ohio Elections Chief Pushes for Changes Before Fall Vote
AP News – Julie Carr Smyth | Published: 5/5/2020

Ohio needs to take the application process for mail-in ballots online, agree to pay postage on return applications and ballots, and make other voting-law changes in order to assure a smooth presidential election in November, the state’s top elections official said. Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he has begun lobbying lawmakers on the need to act quickly. The state’s primary election was postponed from March 17 to April 28 due to the public health threat posed by the coronavirus. The experience spotlighted several weaknesses in Ohio’s vote-by-mail system, already criticized as cumbersome of some voting-rights groups.

Ohio Ohio House Republicans Move to Limit Health Director Amy Acton’s Authority
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Seth Richardson | Published: 5/6/2020

The Ohio House moved to strip state Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton’s authority to issue lasting state orders, a direct attack on Gov. Mike DeWine and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. House Republicans amended and passed a 2019 regulatory reform bill that would limit health department orders to 14 days. Under the amended Senate Bill 1, an order could only be extended if it receives approval from the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. Republicans said they were trying to check the governor’s power through legislative oversight, saying Acton’s authority was too broad.

Oregon Campaign Finance Limits Lose Twice in Oregon
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis and Jeff Mapes | Published: 5/1/2020

Backers of strict curbs on campaign money in Oregon lost twice in their attempt to quickly impose limits on donations to candidates for public office. The actions, involving limits at the statewide level and in Portland’s mayoral campaign, came after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled strict limits do not violate state constitutional protections on freedom of expression. In doing so, the court reversed a long-standing ruling barring limits on political donations.

South Carolina SC Supreme Court Rules Against Statehouse Probe Prosecutor’s Call to Reverse Plea Deal
Charleston Post and Courier – Andy Shain | Published: 5/6/2020

The special prosecutor in South Carolina’s statehouse probe was dealt a blow when the state Supreme Court ruled against his efforts to throw out a guilty plea by a former lawmaker. The court also says it has questions about how First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe was able to get $352,000 from businesses and state agencies to avoid prosecution in the investigation. The case led to guilty pleas and convictions of five lawmakers and effectively ended one of South Carolina’s most influential political consulting firms.

South Dakota Ethics Board Dismisses Complaint Against Councilor After Trip to Republican Convention
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – JoeSneve | Published: 4/30/2020

The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics will not decide if a city councilor broke the rules by accepting an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials. Last October, Councilor Greg Neitzert, along with Mayor Paul TenHaken, attended the group Community Leaders of America’s convention in Dallas. The trip recently became the subject of scrutiny when Sioux Falls resident John Cunningham filed an ethics complaint against Neitzert, alleging he violated the city’s ethics rules when Community Leaders of America covered expenses for airfare and hotel stays.

Tennessee Media Groups Sue Campaign Finance Board Over Email Vote, Contend Violation of Open Meetings Law
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 4/29/2020

A coalition of media organizations filed a lawsuit against a state panel for violating Tennessee’s open meetings law. The lawsuit stems from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s decision to reduce previously issued fines against state Rep. Joe Towns. According to the suit, the email vote violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, as well as an executive order from Gov. Bill Lee seeking to allow government agencies to conduct business electronically during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Texas AG Helped Donor Fight Virus Lockout
AP News – Paul Weber and Jake Bleiberg | Published: 4/29/2020

When a small county in Colorado banished everyone but locals to blunt the spread of the coronavirus, an unlikely outsider raised a fuss: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who called it an affront to Texans who own property there and pressed health officials to soften the rules. A review shows Paxton’s moves stood to benefit an exclusive group of Texans, including a Dallas donor and college classmate who helped Paxton launch his run for attorney general and had spent days trying to get a waiver to remain in his $4 million lakeside home. Robert McCarter’s neighbors in the wealthy Colorado enclave of Crested Butte are also Paxton campaign contributors, including a Texas oilman who has given Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, more than $252,000.

Wisconsin Conservative Justices Appear Skeptical of ‘Safer at Home’ Extension
Madison.com – Ed Treleven | Published: 5/5/2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative justices expressed skepticism about the authority of a cabinet secretary to extend Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order for controlling the spread of COVID-19. “Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Justice Rebecca Bradley. Republican lawmakers are seeking to suspend the Department of Health Services’ extension of the order to May 26. Opponents say it has wrecked the state’s economy. Proponents counter that Wisconsin’s infection rate would be much higher if nothing had been done. One justice likening the restrictions to the World War II Japanese internment camps.

Wisconsin Unexpected Outcome in Wisconsin: Tens of thousands of ballots that arrived after Election Day were counted, thanks to court decisions
MSN – Amy Gardner, Dan Simmons, and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2020

In early April, Wisconsin voters navigated a number of rule changes governing the state’s spring elections as officials tussled over the risks of the coronavirus, prompting a backlog of absentee ballot requests and fears that many would not be able to participate. But in the end, tens of thousands of mail ballots that arrived after the April 7 presidential primaries and spring elections were counted by local officials, the unexpected result of last-minute intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court. What happened in Wisconsin has potentially far-reaching implications as the two parties square off in courtrooms across the country, hoping to notch legal victories that will shape the electorate in their favor before November.

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May 7, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “The Bizarro Tale of a Phantom Super PAC – and Our Sleuthing to Find It” by Zach Montellaro for Politico Maryland: “Progressive Maryland Files Complaint Against Super PAC Backing Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller” by Talia Richman […]

Campaign Finance

National: “The Bizarro Tale of a Phantom Super PAC – and Our Sleuthing to Find It” by Zach Montellaro for Politico

Maryland: “Progressive Maryland Files Complaint Against Super PAC Backing Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun

Elections

National: “Will Americans Lose Their Right to Vote in the Pandemic?” by Emily Bazelon for New York Times

New York: “New York Must Hold Democratic Presidential Primary, Judge Rules” by Sean Sullivan and Nick Corasaniti for New York Times

Ethics

National: “Virus Whistle-Blower Says Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) for MSN

South Carolina: “SC Supreme Court Rules Against Statehouse Probe Prosecutor’s Call to Reverse Plea Deal” by Andy Shain for Charleston Post and Courier

Wisconsin: “Conservative Justices Appear Skeptical of ‘Safer at Home’ Extension” by Ed Treleven for Madison.com

Lobbying

National: “K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout of Corporate Lobbyists” by Lee Fang for The Intercept

Canada: “Ontario Allowing ‘Secret Lobbying’ Amid COVID-19: Critic” by Emma McIntosh for National Post

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May 6, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Cash-Starved Candidates Trade Swanky Cocktail Hours for $5K Zoom Meetings” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico New Jersey: “Juul Donated to New Jersey Politicians Even as They Considered Vaping Restrictions” by Matt Freidman for Politico […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Cash-Starved Candidates Trade Swanky Cocktail Hours for $5K Zoom Meetings” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico

New Jersey: “Juul Donated to New Jersey Politicians Even as They Considered Vaping Restrictions” by Matt Freidman for Politico

North Carolina: “Should NC Politicians Be Banned from Paying Themselves Rent with Campaign Money?” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer

Elections

National: “Both Parties Wonder: How much do conventions even matter anymore?” by Adam Nagourney and Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Why Biden’s Choice of Running Mate Has Momentous Implications” by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Trump Sparks Fight Over IRS Relief Payments” by Naomi Jagoda for The Hill

Mississippi: “MS Welfare Scandal Audit: Money went to cars, family, paying Brett Favre for speeches he never gave” by Luke Ramseth for Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Nevada: “Ethics Complaint ‘Credible’ Against Ex-Las Vegas Planning Official” by Shea Johnson for Las Vegas Review-Journal

South Dakota: “Ethics Board Dismisses Complaint Against Councilor After Trip to Republican Convention” by JoeSneve for Sioux Falls Argus Leader

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May 5, 2020 •

North Dakota Ethics Commission Website Is Live

North Dakota Capitol

North Dakota Capitol Building

The North Dakota Ethics Commission website is now live. The website, ethicscommission.nd.gov, includes board information, meeting minutes, and complaint forms. At a recent meeting, the five-member board also discussed reconciling perceived conflicts in constitutional and statutory language related to commission […]

The North Dakota Ethics Commission website is now live.

The website, ethicscommission.nd.gov, includes board information, meeting minutes, and complaint forms.

At a recent meeting, the five-member board also discussed reconciling perceived conflicts in constitutional and statutory language related to commission procedures; additionally, they reviewed proposed 2021 ethics legislation covering legislators and executive branch officials.

The next meeting is scheduled in an online format for May 13.

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May 5, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections Wisconsin: “Unexpected Outcome in Wisconsin: Tens of thousands of ballots that arrived after Election Day were counted, thanks to court decisions” by Amy Gardner, Dan Simmons, and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN Ethics National: “Lawmakers Made Hundreds of […]

Elections

Wisconsin: “Unexpected Outcome in Wisconsin: Tens of thousands of ballots that arrived after Election Day were counted, thanks to court decisions” by Amy Gardner, Dan Simmons, and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Lawmakers Made Hundreds of Stock Transactions During Pandemic, Watchdog Finds” by Alice Miranda Ollstein for Politico

National: “Secret Service Paid Trump’s D.C. Hotel More Than $33,000 for Lodging to Guard Mnuchin in ’17” by David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for Seattle Times

Hawaii: “Honolulu Ethics Commission OKs Gifts for First Responders” by Gordon Y.K. Pang for Honolulu Star Advertiser

Iowa: “Court Upholds Dismissal of Suit Over Iowa Governor’s Flight” by David Pitt for AP News

Legislative Issues

National: “The ‘New Normal’ Takes Shape on Capitol Hill” by Scott Wong and Mike Lillis for The Hill

Lobbying

National: “Well-Connected Trump Alumni Benefit from Coronavirus Lobbying Rush” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswami (Washington Post) for MSN

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