February 13, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes Elections Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun […]
National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes
Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
Washington: “Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting” by Jay Greene for Washington Post
Wisconsin: “81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion” by Molly Beck for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Florida: “Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided” by Jeff Schweers for Florida Times-Union
Washington DC: “D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History” by Jenna Portnoy for Washington Post
National: “When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills” by Rachana Pradhan for Kaiser Health News
New York: “Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
North Carolina: “NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer
February 12, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
David Thiele became the Executive Director of the newly formed Ethics Commission at the beginning of the year and chaired the first meeting of the commission January 22. Thiele, a Bismarck resident and former judge advocate for the U.S. Army, […]
David Thiele became the Executive Director of the newly formed Ethics Commission at the beginning of the year and chaired the first meeting of the commission January 22.
Thiele, a Bismarck resident and former judge advocate for the U.S. Army, said his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard will help him establish ethics rules.
State law gives the commission nine months from its creation (April 2020) to take preliminary steps to create the new rules.
Thiele believes he can meet this goal, but noted the Commission will give members of the public a chance to comment and could ask for an extension, if necessary.
February 12, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by […]
Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times
Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by Sean Collins Walsh for Philadelphia Inquirer
Nevada: “Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process” by Holly Bailey (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post
National: “Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate
National: “Justice Dept. to Reduce Sentencing Recommendation for Trump Associate Roger Stone, Official Says, After President Calls It ‘Unfair’” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Washington Post
Missouri: “Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider” by Jaclyn Driscoll for KCUR
National: “Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
Colorado: “Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette
February 11, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by […]
Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant
Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by Jacob Barker for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
National: “Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules” by Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
Arizona: “Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita” by Julia Shumway for Arizona Capitol Times
Oregon: “Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
California: “California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In” by Ryan Sabalow for Sacramento Bee
New Mexico: “The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts” by Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) for New Mexico In Depth
Texas: “Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law” by Steve Miller for Texas Monitor
February 10, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat Ethics National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, […]
Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat
National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate
Florida: “Dozens of Ethics Cases, Including Matt Shirk’s, Are Languishing on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Desk” by Jeffrey Schweers (Tallahassee Democrat) for Florida Times-Union
Mississippi: “Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds” by Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus for AP News
Pennsylvania: “PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff” by Max Marin for Bily Penn
South Dakota: “Some Fear New Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent” by Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) for Watertowwn Public Opinion
Maryland: “The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.” by Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III for Baltimore Sun
Ohio: “Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer
February 7, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020 In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to […]
Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020
In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to help arrange a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and the president of Ukraine at the time Trump sought to have Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump gave the instruction, Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in May that included Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The New York Times cited statements from Bolton detailing that Trump directly tied his hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine with investigations into the Bidens. The report led the administration to issue a formal threat to Bolton’s attorney. The letter said some portions of the manuscript contained information at the “top-secret level” and ordered that information removed before publication.
Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/28/2020
Away from the political party conventions’ main stage, K Streeters are booking concert halls, hotel ballrooms, and chic restaurants in the host cities for brunches, receptions, and late-night concerts to fete their favorite politicians and bring them together with the corporate clients they represent. That tradition will carry on this summer with the Democrats in Milwaukee and the GOP in Charlotte, North Carolina. But as lobbyists and executives mull their presence at the conventions, some are not convinced the show is worth the investment, sometimes into the six figures.
Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads
The Fulcrom – Sara Swann | Published: 1/30/2020
With the FEC ending its fifth month without a quorum, a bipartisan group of former members of Congress says enough is enough. Two former senators and seven former House members pressed Senate leadership to confirm new members of the commission right away, so it can revive oversight of campaign donations and spending in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. The group joins coalitions of good-government groups and campaign finance lawyers who have issued similar appeals in recent weeks. But President Trump and Senate leaders are showing no signs of breaking their impasse and allowing the FEC to get back to work.
House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Team Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Bublé | Published: 2/5/2020
The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which has passed the U.S. House and Senate, amends the law to improve the transfer of executive power between administrations. If President Trump signs the bill, the General Services Administration, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The bill would require 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 ethical conduct all members must sign.
In Historic Vote, Trump Acquitted of Impeachment Charges
MSN – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2020
The U.S. Senate acquitted President Trump of charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end. The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings. Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney, voted to convict the president of abuse of power. in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality, which members of both parties conceded would come only after the November election.
Investigations Into 2020 Candidates Must Be Cleared by Top Justice Dept. Officials
ENM News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 2/5/2020
Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the FBI inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race. The order by Barr comes after a critical report by the inspector general showed how FBI agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate. The memo said the FBI and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.
Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2020
Hours after the U.S. Senate voted against seeking new evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump, the administration acknowledged the existence of two dozen emails that could reveal the president’s thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine. In a midnight court filing, the Justice Department explained why it should not have to unredact copies of more than 100 emails written by officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Defense Department about the hold on funds to Ukraine. Heather Walsh, an OMB lawyer, wrote that of the 111 redacted emails in the lawsuit, 24 are protected by “presidential privilege.”
Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/4/2020
Democratic presidential contenders – including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren – have official policies of rejecting campaign donations from registered federal lobbyists, but lobbyists still donated to all of them in recent months, new disclosures show. Some of the K Street cash has already been refunded to the contributors, lobbyists said. Other donations may be on their way back, as some of the campaigns said they would return any newly identified contributions from registered federal lobbyists.
Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse
AP News – Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz | Published: 1/31/2020
Before Election Day, politicians across party lines are expected to spend more than $1 billion to inundate voters with millions of these cheap online ads, which can be tailored to a voter’s most personal details – down to one household or even a single individual. Experts warn this ad-targeting system is still vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments and domestic actors trying to influence the election, just as they did in 2016. Those attempts could become more sophisticated this year as tech companies wrestle with a dysfunctional Federal Election Commission and deploy haphazard safeguards that still offer plenty of loopholes.
US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying
AP News – Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo | Published: 2/4/2020
The Justice Department official leading the investigation of big tech companies’ market dominance, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, is stepping aside from the department’s Google probe because of his previous lobbying work for Google as a private attorney. Delrahim lobbied on Google’s behalf in 2007 when the company faced antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a competitor in digital advertising. The Justice Department’s ethics office apparently found no potential conflict-of-interest when Delrahim sought guidance as the investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple began last spring.
YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election
AP News – Matt O’Brien | Published: 2/3/2020
YouTube said it will ban misleading or doctored videos that could impact elections, tightening its rules ahead of the crucial presidential vote. The video-streaming site said it will remove videos that spread misinformation such as deepfakes or patently false information. It will also target videos that attempt to mislead the public about the voting or election process. YouTube said it will also crack down on any attempts to artificially increase the number of views, likes, and comments on videos. It changed its systems for recommending what videos users watch last year in a push to curb harmful misinformation.
Canada – Lynn Beyak Claimed She Was Métis During Her Anti-Racism Training Sessions
CBC – John Paul Tasker | Published: 2/3/2020
Sen. Lynn Beyak claimed racism does not exist in her northern Ontario hometown and displayed “overtly biased views, prejudiced opinions, and insolent behaviors” during unsuccessful Indigenous cultural competency training last year, according to an educator who administered the training. Beyak undertook training from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on separate occasions in June and August. Nicole Meawasige said Beyak not only failed to complete the program but was also asked to leave due to the nature of her behavior and comments. Beyak’s colleagues ousted her from the upper chamber temporarily last spring after condemning as racist several letters she had posted to her website.
Canada – RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 2/4/2020
The cost to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) wrote a check for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations, and jet ski rentals. The RCMP, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he or she travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval. Watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2020
The way Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe notes it is illegal for foreigners to try to use their money to influence elections in the U.S. So, he wants to enact the same law in Arizona, but with a twist: Hose Bill 2718 would make it a crime for anyone who does not live in the state to contribute to campaigns for or against candidates and for or against ballot measures. Critics have called the bill unconstitutional, but Thorpe hopes the Legislature enacts his proposal anyway as a method of mounting a legal challenge, one that likely would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arizona – Lobbyist: Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed her before Shooter expulsion
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/4/2020
State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who became the face of Arizona’s #MeToo movement when her claims led to a fellow lawmaker’s expulsion, sexually harassed a female lobbyist so severely it took a toll on the woman’s mental health and career, the lobbyist alleged in a sworn deposition. Repercussions from unwanted advances by Ugenti-Rita and her now-husband, Brian Townsend, led the woman to seek therapy, turn down job offers, and miss workdays, she said. The woman describes her fear of Ugenti-Rita, and her struggles to balance her personal discomfort with her professional need to maintain a good relationship with the senator, who she said served as a “prominent vote” for her employer’s interests.
California – Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Matt Fountain | Published: 1/30/2020
Morro Bay City Councilperson Dawn Addis, who is running for a seat in the California Assembly, accepted a $250 donation from a registered state lobbyist. Campaign spokesperson Gail Bunting said once the campaign realized the error, the donation was immediately returned. Candidates for elected office are prohibited from accepting money or in-kind donations from lobbyists. Since returning the money, Addis’ campaign has added a disclaimer on her fundraising website explaining campaign finance rules, including that lobbyist contributions are prohibited. The donation of $250 came from Steven Black, who is registered as a lobbyist with clients in the wind energy industry.
Colorado – New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators
Complete Colorado – Scott Weiser | Published: 1/31/2020
In late December, Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold issued new lobbying rules that may put private citizens at risk of being legally sanctioned if they do not follow the complex regulations, with one former staffer calling the rules potentially unconstitutional. Traditionally, private individuals who discussed legislation with officials on their own behalf were exempt from the definition of “lobbying” in the rules. The previous rules explicitly excluded “a political committee, volunteer, lobbyist, or citizen who lobbies on his or her behalf” from the definition of lobbying for the purposes of regulation. The new rules repeal that language and create two new categories exempt from the definition of lobbying.
Florida – FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/30/2020
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board moved swiftly to find a new ethics officer after its incoming one bowed out amid controversy over his Twitter feed. The board voted unanimously to extend an offer to a previous finalist: Dwight Floyd, retired bureau chief for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which Floyd accepted. The decision came during an emergency meeting called after political tweets came to light written by Keith Powell, a veteran state ethics investigator who was set to start work as the city’s new independent ethics officer. The tweets included barbs against Democrats and a complaint about a gay kiss shown during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Florida – From $1 to $1,500: Cost of alleged nepotism just went up for former Midway Mayor Wanda Range
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2020
The Florida Commission on Ethics took a rare step in changing an administrative law judge’s recommended one dollar fine in favor of $1,500 against a former Midway mayor who voted to appoint her first cousin to step into her role whenever she could not perform her duties. The commission also found probable cause that Wanda Range used a city vehicle and credit card for personal use and failed to report their use as gifts. Residents of Midway elect the five members of the city council, who in turn vote on the mayor and mayor pro tem positions.
Florida – Lobbyists Tried to Pay for Mayor Lenny Curry’s Trip to Atlanta to Watch Baseball Game with JEA’s Former CEO
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 2/4/2020
A company run by Tim Baker and Sam Mousa, two lobbyists who have both worked for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, organized and attended a secret trip to Atlanta on a private plane to watch a playoff baseball game along with Curry, his top administrator Brian Hughes, JEA’s then-Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and city council President Scott Wilson. Curry, who cannot accept gifts from lobbyists worth more than $100, said he initially covered his $400 portion of the trip by accepting it as in-kind contribution from Baker and Mousa’s company that was made in October to a political committee that has no official ties to Curry or his campaigns. He said he decided in December to personally pay for the trip.
Florida – Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/3/2020
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said he accepted one $4,000 ticket to the Super Bowl from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and bought a second for his wife. Ross also offered $3,000 tickets to county commissioners ahead of a vote on his plan to bring Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium. At least one commissioner accepted the offer. The county’s top ethics lawyer cleared Gimenez to accept the tickets, saying the $8,000 gift did not qualify as the kind of quid pro quo offer that would trigger a violation of Miami-Dade law. The Dolphins’ lobbying team is fighting county legislation that would block Ross from bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium, and Gimenez is a key ally in that effort.
Florida – St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 2/3/2020
A St. Petersburg ordinance that is serving as a national model for “dark money” reform would be preempted under a last-minute proposal attached to a bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes. He introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1372, a measure that updates election law. The revision takes aim at a 2017 ordinance passed by the St. Petersburg City Council that abolishes super PACs and prohibits spending by foreign-influenced corporations in city elections. The bill would ban cities and counties from “adopting any limitation or restriction” on contributions to political committees or expenditures from political committees in city elections.
Georgia – Sentence Reduced for Man Who Cooperated in Corruption Case
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 2/4/2020
A judge agreed to reduce the prison sentence for a former Atlanta contractor, Elvis Mitchell, by a year after prosecutors said he “substantially assisted” them in a federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. In January 2017, Mitchell was the first in a string of people to be charged in the federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed. Prosecutors have said Mitchell and another city construction contractor, Charles Richards Jr., bribed Mitzi Bickers to represent their businesses and to steer lucrative city construction contracts to their companies. During much of the that time, prosecutors have said, Bickers was a city employee.
Illinois – Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation
Southern Illinoisan – Peter Hancock | Published: 1/30/2020
Government reform advocates told a panel of state lawmakers that Illinois has some of the weakest governmental ethics rules in the country and lawmakers should put more teeth into them if they hope to regain the trust of the public. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform was formed in the wake of federal investigations that led to indictments against three sitting state lawmakers, two of whom have since resigned. The panel’s most recent hearing focused on the state’s Governmental Ethics Act, and specifically its provisions dealing with conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure requirements.
Iowa – Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2020
Shadow’s vote-recording app stands at the center of one of the biggest technical failures of the 2020 campaign, producing only partial and unreliable results during Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic contest for president. Shadow grew from an effort by Democrats to give their party newfound digital might. But the software was largely untested, and it proved difficult to use when it was most needed at the February 3 caucus, raising concerns about the technology undergirding American democracy and prompting pointed questions about why Iowa Democratic Party officials chose it in the first place. To developers and tech specialists, Shadow’s ambition – to build a secure and foolproof mobile app for quickly relaying vote results – seemed doomed from the beginning.
Kansas – After Kobach’s 2018 Bid, Kansas Lawmakers Weigh Making Secretary of State Non-Partisan
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 2/5/2020
When then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer, won the 2018 Republican primary for governor by a razor-thin margin, it prompted concerns about conflicts-of-interest. A bill to prevent that scenario, in which a Kobach-like figure could oversee elections while campaigning for governor or Congress, is drawing some interest from Kansas lawmakers. The legislation is sponsored by a Democrat but nevertheless set to receive a hearing in a Republican-controlled committee, a sign that legislators want to at least explore the proposal.
Maryland – Baltimore Comptroller’s Vote to Sell City Lots to Her Church Was Conflict of Interest, Inspector General Says
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/5/2020
Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted to sell city property to her church, representing a conflict-of-interest that illuminated “administrative oversights” in her office, according to the city’s inspector general. Members of the city’s Board of Estimates, which signs off on all spending over $25,000, are supposed to abstain from voting on items that pose a conflict for them. Ahead of that 2017 meeting, Pratt says she verbally told a staff member that she wanted to abstain from a vote to sell properties to her church, but that person did not properly note the abstention and so it was not announced during the spending panel’s weekly meeting. Pratt ended up approving the sale as part of the Board of Estimate’s routine agenda.
Massachusetts – Search Begins for New Campaign Finance Chief
Newburyport Daily News – Colin Young (State House News Service) | Published: 2/6/2020
As a new election year unfolds, candidates interested in becoming the next head of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) have about two weeks to submit their resumes and applications to the bipartisan commission formed to find a new director. At the end of 2019, after nearly a quarter-century in the post, Michael Sullivan retired from the agency that oversees campaign finance law in the state. For Secretary of State William Galvin, who chairs the commission that must unanimously choose the next director, the ideal candidate is someone who shares similar traits as Sullivan.
New Jersey – Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald | Published: 1/30/2020
A New Jersey mayor who got drunk at a party and took off his pants before falling asleep in an employee’s bed exemplifies a larger problem that women working in politics face, according to two women leading the state’s fight against sexual misconduct. Mahwah Mayor John Roth’s contention that the episode was a private matter irked state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who recently launched a working group of women to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. Roth confirmed he drank too much and removed his clothes at the party and apologized to the township employee. He also questioned whether his actions were worthy of news coverage.
New Mexico – Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule
Courthouse News Service – Victpria Preiskop | Published: 1/30/2020
A federal judge ruled a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending over $250 on a ballot issue passes constitutional muster. The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the Rio Grande Foundation, which claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation chilled free speech. The foundation became involved in a campaign opposing a proposed soda tax in Santa Fe. In the course of the campaign, the group set up a website, a Facebook page, and a link to a YouTube video explaining its objections to the tax. Because the group was deemed to have spent more than $250 in costs and in-kind contributions from third parties on the campaign, it was required by Santa Fe’s campaign code to disclose its donors and was officially reprimanded by the city for failing to do so.
New York – JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/2/2020
The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators, a nonprofit run by state lawmakers, in ways mirrors a nonprofit founded to push the agenda of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the de Blasio group has been subjected to continuing investigation by New York’s ethics regulators, that does not mean the association will get the same scrutiny. In a draft advisory opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) apparently sought to “thread the needle” to cover de Blasio’s activities, while exempting the association, said David Grandeau, who spent a dozen years as New York’s top lobbying regulator. Good-government groups have long charged the governor and state lawmakers that appoint JCOPE’s members have undue influence over its operations.
New York – State Police Had Role in Lobbying Investigation of Rape Survivor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/3/2020
Last September, a State Police official placed a phone call to the owner and manager of the South Albany Airport, Ted Zabinski. The call concerned a flight from the airstrip in 2018 that passed over the Capitol, towing a banner asking the New York Legislature to pass the Child Victims Act. The flight had been chartered by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape victim turned activist. Both the State Police and Zabinski maintain the phone call was benign. But others, including Sullivan’s attorney, contend Zabinski was intimidated by the call, to the point he did not allow Sullivan to hire another flight from there in December, with a new banner criticizing state government. The call came as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics was ramping up its controversial probe into Sullivan for potential violations of state lobbying law.
North Dakota – North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Bill Drafts to Resolve Conflicts in Ethics Laws
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/4/2020
Proposed legislation would change new North Dakota ethics laws that apparently conflict with a voter-passed constitutional amendment for state government ethics. Rep. Karla Rose Hanson provided fellow members of the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee with two bill drafts related to procedures and authority of North Dakota’s Ethics Commission and transparency in campaign spending. The committee is studying the 2018 ethics measure that created the new five-person panel and other ethics mandates.
Ohio – Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 1/31/2020
A former food-services consultant for the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority faces up to 10 years in prison after signing an agreement to plead guilty to bribery. Rodney Myers, who was hired by the authority for $5,000 a month to help evaluate contracts submitted by potential food vendors, admitted he helped steer a $700,000-a-year contract to a vendor identified as “Company A.” The Columbus Dispatch has identified “Company A” as Connecticut-based Centerplate through public records. Myers later billed that company for his services. The Myers case involved former Columbus City Hall lobbyist John Raphael, who was good friends with Myers and served on the authority’s board of directors at the time while also serving as Centerplate’s paid lobbyist.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Quickly Launch New Fight Over Campaign Finance Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 2/4/2020
Oregon Rep. Dan Rayfield wants to keep the campaign field for candidates level this year as courts and legislators untangle campaign finance reforms, but he wants to short circuit a voter-approved measure to do that. Dan Meek, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate, said Rayfield’s proposed legislation would overturn the wishes of voters while undermining efforts to rein in the way state’s politicians raise money. Oregon is one of a handful of states with no limits on how much money can be donated to candidates. Rayfield’s legislation, House Bill 4124, comes at a time when the state could be on the cusp of enacting campaign finance reform.
Pennsylvania – A Group That Championed Pa.’s Lobbying Law Was Fined $19,900 for Breaking It
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Daniel Simmons-Ritchie (Spotlight PA) | Published: 2/6/2020
The state Ethics Commission imposed a $19,900 fine on Common Cause Pennsylvania after the group filed a quarterly lobbying report 112 days past the deadline. The organization has also been late in filing four other reports since the beginning of 2018. In Pennsylvania, groups are required to disclose the names of any lobbyists they employ, the subject matter they lobbied on, and the total amount of money they spent. Though Common Cause Pennsylvania reports spending only a few thousand dollars each year on lobbying, the Ethics Commission nonetheless expressed its disappointment over the group’s failures, especially since it had helped champion the current law.
Rhode Island – R.I. Legislature Waits Until End of Session to Act on Many Acts, Data Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 2/6/2020
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea office has launched a “Lobbying and Legislation Data Exploration Tool,” saying it will let the public easily sort years of lobbying and legislative information using dozens of search functions. All the lobbying and legislative information has been public in years past, but now it is easily sorted so that people can, for example, find out the number of registered lobbyists in a given year or the number of bills introduced on a particular subject. Users can also narrow their focus to explore the activity of an individual lobbyist or the progress of an individual bill.
Texas – DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows
Dallas News – Miles Moffeit | Published: 1/31/2020
Two weeks after DeSoto, Texas, officials Candice and Jeremiah Quarles took a controversial Disney World vacation funded largely by taxpayers, AT&T gave the couple free tickets to two exclusive Cotton Bowl dinners. Jeremiah Quarles, then head of economic development for the city, jumped at an offer to attend one hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. He also told the AT&T representative that his wife, Candice, who at the time was on a city zoning board, would be accompanying him. DeSoto ethics policies prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 to avoid improper outside influence over their public duties. The rules also warn officials to avoid practices that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. AT&T competes for major telecommunications services contracts that depend on the approval of city officials.
Washington – City Council Member to Pay $500 Fine for Violating Ethics Code
KOMO – Michelle Esteban | Published: 2/5/2020
City Councilperson Lisa Herbold will pay a $500 fine for what the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission calls a violation of the city code. Herbold acknowledged the wrongdoing after sending text messages to Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best last October over an RV parked on her street. instead of calling the Police Department’s non-emergency line to report what Herbold said she thought was a stolen RV parked in front or her home, she texted the chief directly. An investigation found Herbold not only thought the RV was stolen, but that it was a political stunt.
Wisconsin – 2 Leaders of Democratic Convention Host Committee Fired
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 2/5/2020
The two leaders of Milwaukee’s host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention – the group’s president, Liz Gilbert, and its chief of staff, Adam Alonso – were fired amid allegations they oversaw a toxic work environment, a dramatic shakeup less than six months before the showcase event in swing state Wisconsin. The host committee is a nonpartisan group responsible for raising the $70 million, recruiting the 15,000 volunteers, and providing the facilities needed to put on the convention in July. Alonso was fired less than a week after he was involved with a controversy in his home state of New Jersey, where both he and Gilbert are top-ranking Democratic operatives.
February 6, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections Iowa: “Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa” by Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) for Seattle Times Ethics National: “Trump Acquitted of Two Impeachment Charges in Near Party-Line Vote” by Nicholas […]
Iowa: “Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa” by Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
National: “Trump Acquitted of Two Impeachment Charges in Near Party-Line Vote” by Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) for MSN
Arizona: “Lobbyist: Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed her before Shooter expulsion” by Julia Shumway for Arizona Capitol Times
Florida: “From $1 to $1,500: Cost of alleged nepotism just went up for former Midway Mayor Wanda Range” by Jeffrey Schweers for Tallahassee Democrat
Georgia: “Sentence Reduced for Man Who Cooperated in Corruption Case” by Kate Brumback for AP News
Maryland: “Baltimore Comptroller’s Vote to Sell City Lots to Her Church Was Conflict of Interest, Inspector General Says” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
North Dakota: “North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Bill Drafts to Resolve Conflicts in Ethics Laws” by Jack Dura for Bismarck Tribune
Florida: “Lobbyists Tried to Pay for Mayor Lenny Curry’s Trip to Atlanta to Watch Baseball Game with JEA’s Former CEO” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times-Union
New York: “State Police Had Role in Lobbying Investigation of Rape Survivor” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
February 5, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen […]
Arizona: “Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
Florida: “St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.” by Mary Ellen Klas for Tampa Bay Times
Oregon: “Why a Bill Intended to Avoid a Legally Messy Election Season Has One Campaign Finance Advocate Worried” by Jake Thomas (Salem Reporter) for Blue Mountain Eagle
Wisconsin: “Democratic Convention Host Committee Leaders Put on Leave” by Scott Bauer for AP News
Canada: “RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC
National: “Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying” by Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo for AP News
National: “Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
Florida: “Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd” by Douglas Hanks for Miami Herald
February 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election” by Matt O’Brien for AP News National: “Iowa Reports No Caucus Winner After ‘Inconsistencies’ Bedevil Count” by Tyler Pager, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, and Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg Ethics National: “Justice […]
National: “YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election” by Matt O’Brien for AP News
National: “Iowa Reports No Caucus Winner After ‘Inconsistencies’ Bedevil Count” by Tyler Pager, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, and Jennifer Epstein for Bloomberg
National: “Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Lynn Beyak Facing Accusations of ‘Overtly Biased Views’ During Indigenous Racism Training” by Brett Forester for APTN News
Florida: “FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
New York: “JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme” by Bill Bush for Columbus Dispatch
Colorado: “New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators” by Scott Weiser for Complete Colorado
February 3, 2020 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On January 30, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to help its enforcement. House Bill 5733, introduced by Rep. Seth Moulton, would waive the application of the FARA […]
On January 30, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to help its enforcement.
House Bill 5733, introduced by Rep. Seth Moulton, would waive the application of the FARA law to agents representing foreign enterprises not under the control or direction of foreign governments or foreign political parties.
In his press release, Moulton argues the legislation would make it easier to enforce FARA by narrowing those who must register as foreign agents to include only those people working on behalf of foreign governments or foreign political parties.
The legislation would also exclude agents who represent foreign governments engaging in a pattern of gross violations of human rights from an exemption currently provided under the Act for agents engaged in scholastic and certain other pursuits and would add civil penalties for violations.
February 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom New Mexico: […]
National: “Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse” by Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz for AP News
National: “Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads” by Sara Swann for The Fulcrom
New Mexico: “Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule” by Victpria Preiskop for Courthouse News Service
National: “Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN
Illinois: “Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation” by Peter Hancock for Southern Illinoisan
New Jersey: “Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics” by Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald for Bergen Record
Texas: “DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows” by Miles Moffeit for Dallas News
California: “Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist” by Matt Fountain for San Luis Obispo Tribune
January 31, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020 Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her […]
House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020
Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.
How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020
In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.
How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020
Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.
Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020
There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.
Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020
Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.
Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020
President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.
Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020
Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020
An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.
Arkansas – Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020
A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.
California – L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020
The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
California – Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020
San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.
California – Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020
Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.
Colorado – Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020
When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.
Florida – Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020
A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.
Florida – Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020
Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.
Florida – Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020
Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.
Illinois – Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020
The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.
Indiana – Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020
Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.
Kentucky – These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020
At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.
Louisiana – Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020
The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.
Maine – Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020
A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.
Maryland – After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020
With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government. Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.
Maryland – Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020
Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.
Massachusetts – Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020
A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.
Massachusetts – Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020
John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.
Michigan – Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020
When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.
Michigan – Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020
Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.
Missouri – Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020
Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.
Missouri – Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020
The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.
Missouri – Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020
Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.
New York – Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020
The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.
New York – Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020
The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.
North Carolina – Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020
Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.
Ohio – Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020
Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.
Oregon – Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020
Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.
Pennsylvania – Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020
Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.
Pennsylvania – Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.
Texas – Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020
San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.
Washington – Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020
There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.
Washington DC – Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020
Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.
January 30, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek […]
National: “Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico
National: “How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators” by Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani for Reuters
Oregon: “Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
National: “How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard” by Reid Epstein (New York Times) for Chicago Tribune
Massachusetts: “Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature” by Jo Goode for Fall River Herald News
California: “Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe” by Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez for San Francisco Chronicle
Kentucky: “These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors” by R.G. Dunlop for WFPL
Maryland: “After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws” by Ovetta Wiggins for Washington Post
January 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News Elections California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle […]
Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service
Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News
California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind” by Ben Christopher for CALmatters
Florida: “New Tallahassee Ethics Officer in Hot Seat After Politically Charged Tweets Surface” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
Texas: “Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial” by Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) for San Angelo Morning-Times
Washington DC: “Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
North Carolina: “Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation” by Nick Ochsner for WBTV
Maryland: “Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects” by Talia Richmond for Baltimore Sun