May 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Idaho: “Belated Campaign Finance Report Filed by Pro-Gun Group” by Betsy Russell (Idaho Press) for Idaho Falls Post-Register Oregon: “Campaign Finance Limits Lose Twice in Oregon” by Rebecca Ellis and Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting Tennessee: “Media […]
Idaho: “Belated Campaign Finance Report Filed by Pro-Gun Group” by Betsy Russell (Idaho Press) for Idaho Falls Post-Register
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Limits Lose Twice in Oregon” by Rebecca Ellis and Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting
Tennessee: “Media Groups Sue Campaign Finance Board Over Email Vote, Contend Violation of Open Meetings Law” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean
National: “Should News Organizations Take Coronavirus Bailout Loans? While Some Fear a Conflict of Interest, Many Are Desperate for Cash” by Paul Fahri (Washington Post) for Greenwich Times
National: “Joe Biden Denies He Sexually Assaulted a Former Senate Aide, Calls on National Archives to Release Complaint If One Exists” by Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate
Texas: “Texas AG Helped Donor Fight Virus Lockout” by Paul Weber and Jake Bleiberg for AP News
National: “Southern Company’s Lobbying Disclosures Obscure State-Level Information from Investors, Public” by Daniel Tate for Energy and Policy Institute
May 1, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Democrats Press General Services Administration Over Trump Hotel Payments Greenwich Time – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2020 Congressional Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration for information about President Trump’s District of Columbia […]
Democrats Press General Services Administration Over Trump Hotel Payments
Greenwich Time – Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2020
Congressional Democrats are pressing the General Services Administration for information about President Trump’s District of Columbia hotel lease after Trump’s company said it asked the federal government to include it in any accommodations it may make for private tenants during the coronavirus shutdown. The letter is the latest attempt by congressional Democrats to prevent Trump from using his administration to benefit his business, which he owns but which his adult sons are running while he is in office. The renewed oversight comes at a time when the Trump Organization, like virtually all hotel and golf companies in the country, has seen business plummet to a small fraction of what it was due to shutdowns from the pandemic, and has been looking to cut costs.
Donna Shalala, on Coronavirus Oversight Board, Pays Fine for Not Revealing Stock Sales
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/28/2020
U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who admitted she broke federal law requiring the disclosure of stock sales, will pay a $1,200 fine for six violations because she failed to report hundreds of transactions made last year by a broker setting up a blind trust. A report details 556 stock transactions made by Shalala n in 2019. She did not make any stock transactions in 2020. There is no indication Shalala engaged in insider trading, though her stock holdings on her previous financial disclosure, from 2018, led to criticism that her portfolio conflicted with her work on an oversight committee set up oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses.
Government Watchdog Seeks Ethics Investigation of Jared Kushner’s ‘Shadow’ Coronavirus Task Force
MSN – Jerry Lambe (Law & Crime) | Published: 4/28/2020
In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the agency to conduct a review of whether members of a coronavirus task force overseen by Jared Kushner have complied with the disclosure obligations and conflict-of-interest restrictions required of special government employees under federal law. Kushner in March formed his own “shadow” coronavirus task force, separate from the official effort headed by Vice President Mike Pence, composed largely of private sector advisors whose primary focus was supposed to be expanding access to testing and acquiring life-saving personal protective equipment.
How a Digital Ad Strategy That Helped Trump Is Being Used Against Him
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 4/28/2020
In the fast-paced world of digital advertising, the availability of real-time data beyond mere engagement is fairly small, leaving campaigns with a patchwork of clicks, old polling, and hunches to assess the impact of the millions of dollars they are spending on digital platforms. Facebook, with about 220 million users in the country, remains the central digital vehicle for reaching Americans who are spending more time online during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has also forced campaigns to rely on a nearly entirely digital infrastructure, from fundraising to organizing to persuasion. Having fresh data to inform campaign arguments online is essential. A real-time testing project aims to help fill that gap.
Judges Worry Trump Position on McGahn Testimony Could Force Congress into Extreme Measures
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 4/28/2020
A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claim that Congress can never go to court to enforce its oversight and spending powers. The discussion occurred as lawyers for the U.S. House and Justice Department sparred over efforts by Democrats to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify about his knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by Trump. Throughout the arguments, judges raised concerns about whether cutting off the courts to Congress would remove any incentive for future presidents to cooperate or negotiate with lawmakers trying to check executive power.
Pollo Tropical, Which Employs Florida Congresswoman’s Husband, Gets Small Biz Loan
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/23/2020
The publicly traded parent company of Miami restaurant chain Pollo Tropical, which employs the husband of U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell as an executive, received a taxpayer-funded loan intended for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Fiesta Restaurant Group, with more than 10,000 employees, was granted a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan, money that does not have to be paid back if it is used to keep employees on the job. Fiesta said it is “currently reviewing” the money to determine whether it is appropriate to keep it in light of new Treasury Department guidelines that will prevent most publicly-owned large companies from receiving loans.
Sen. Richard Burr Is Not Just a Friend to the Health Care Industry. He’s Also a Stockholder.
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis | Published: 4/28/2020
In his 15 years in the U.S. Senate, Richard Burr has been one of the health care industry’s staunchest friends, advocated for legislation to benefit the industry. Burr also trades in and out of the industry’s stocks. Since 2013, he and his wife bought and sold between $639,500 and $1.1 million of stock in companies that make medical devices, equipment, supplies, and drugs. With weak laws and little oversight, such trading rarely trips any wires. Burr is also one of the Senate’s biggest beneficiaries of the industry’s largesse. Medical companies, trade groups, and their executives and lobbyists regularly donate to his political committees.
Spotify and Text-a-Thons: How the census is reaching out during coronavirus
Poilitico – Maya King and Danielle Muoio | Published: 4/23/2020
As the coronavirus bears down on cities and states across the nation, the Census Bureau has scrubbed in-person get-out-the-count work in favor of ad buys on Spotify, thousand-person text-a-thons, and virtual speakers series. But despite an extensive statistical database and h$500 million ad strategy to get a proper count, local officials warn millions could still slip through the cracks. The people who are not counted can lose political representation at both the state and federal levels. Legislative and congressional districts are drawn based on population, and the areas where people are hardest to count skew Democratic.
Start-Ups Pursue ‘Free Money’ with Relief Funds, Prompting Backlash
MSN – Erin Griffith and David McCabe (New York Times) | Published: 4/27/2020
Scrutiny of the Paycheck Protection Program, the $349 billion plan to save jobs at small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, has reached technology start-ups. While many of these young companies have been hurt by the pandemic, they are not ailing in the same way that traditional small businesses are. Many mom-and-pop enterprises, which tend to employ hourly workers and operate on razor-thin margins, are shutting down immediately because of economic pain. But start-ups, which last year raised more than $130 billion in funding, have sometimes turned to the government loans not for day-to-day survival but simply to buy useful time. The start-up rush to tap the finite pool of government aid has stirred debate in Silicon Valley over whether these companies should have applied.
Supreme Court Casts Some Doubt on Whether It Should Settle Trump’s Fight with Congress Over His Finances
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/28/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court called for additional briefing on whether the court was authorized to settle a dispute about congressional subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records. The case is set to be argued May 12, and briefing was completed weeks ago. So the order from the court caught lawyers by surprise and raised at least the possibility the justices were looking for a way to avoid deciding the case’s merits. It may also be less dramatic than that. The request could reflect the interest of just one or a small group of the nine justices. Trump has raised sweeping arguments that the president is protected from investigation by congressional committees and, separately, a New York district attorney. The lower courts are considering the power of Congress to demand executive branch compliance with its investigations.
Thousands of Candidates Reinventing Politics on the Fly for the Age of Pandemic
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2020
There is a new reality for political professionals across the country as the social distancing clampdown has transformed the art and logistics of politicking. While much of the attention has focused on former Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, hunkering down in his basement to record his podcast, or President Trump seeking to monopolize the evening television airwaves, Covid-19 has transformed all corners of the political universe. Local candidates and name-brand leaders alike have been forced to abandon rallies, community centers, and campaign offices. Volunteers, organizers and operatives have been quarantined into virtual meetings, letter-writing campaigns, and mobile-texting blitzes. Entire organizations have pivoted to meet the moment.
Trump Allies Highlight New Claims Regarding Allegations Against Biden
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2020
Some allies of President Trump pointed to new claims by a woman who said she was told about sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden decades ago, renewing attention to questions about the past behavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Apparent corroboration recently for elements of two accusations made by Biden’s former Senate aide Tara Reade, one involving harassment and the second a sexual assault. Biden has not commented on the allegations, but his campaign has denied them and pointed to his record on women’s rights and promotion of women in his offices.
Trump Appointees Manipulated Agency’s Payday Lending Research, Ex-Staffer Claims
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Stacy Cowley | Published: 4/29/2020
Last summer, on his final day of work at the nation’s consumer finance watchdog agency, a career economist sent a colleague a blunt memo. He claimed that President Trump’s appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had manipulated the agency’s research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have curtailed high-interest payday loans. The departing staff member, Jonathan Lanning, detailed several maneuvers by his agency’s political overseers that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed.
Under Pressure, House Leaders Scrap Plans for Speedy Return to the Capitol
New York Times – Emily Cochrane and Nicholas Fandos | Published: 4/28/2020
Democratic leaders scrapped a plan to call the U.S. House back into session in the near future, abruptly reversing themselves after some rank-and-file lawmakers complained that doing so constituted an unnecessary risk as coronavirus continues to spread in the capital and throughout the country. The delay will give House leaders more time to try to reach a bipartisan agreement on rules changes that would allow remote voting and hearings for the first time in history. Democratic leaders were hoping to build Republican support for their plan to permit lawmakers who could not or did not want to travel to Washington during the pandemic to designate another member to vote by proxy in their stead.
Canada – Alberta Premier Cleared in Ethics Probe Tied to Firing of Election Commissioner
National Post – Canadian Press | Published: 4/27/2020
Alberta’s ethics commissioner rejected accusations that Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative caucus broke the rules when they fired an election official investigating the party. Marguerite Trussler said there is no evidence the United Conservative Party (UCP) directly benefited when its caucus passed a bill late last year to fire Lorne Gibson as election commissioner. The New Democratic Party alleged that firing Gibson boosted the UCP’s long-term reputation and re-election prospects given that Gibson was investigating the party and had already levied more than $200,000 in fines tied to the 2017 leadership race won by Kenney.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – 14 PACs Sign Settlements, Accept Fines to Resolve Ethics Complaints, State Records Show
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 4/21/2020
Fourteen PACs represented by attorney Brenda Vassaur-Taylor signed settlements of complaints in which the committees acknowledge violations of state ethics law in 2016, according to Arkansas Ethics Commission records. They agreed to pay fines collectively totaling $1,450 and each received a public letter of caution. Kendall Bond filed about 30 ethics complaints in January against these PACs, as well as candidates in the 2016 primary election over unregistered PACs making contributions to other PACs and candidates, and unregistered PACS receiving contributions before they were registered as a PAC.
California – California Republicans Prepared to Match Democrats on ‘Ballot Harvesting.’ Then Came Coronavirus
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 4/28/2020
Leaders of the embattled California Republican Party are reversing course during the coronavirus pandemic to demand Gov. Gavin Newsom ban a voting practice they until recently endorsed. The Republican leaders vowed to boost their “ballot harvesting” efforts, to allow people to pick up and deliver absentee ballots that others have cast, after a Democratic thumping in the 2018 midterms. But they are now arguing it is “an intolerable risk to public health and safety.” The practice allows party volunteers to collect mail-in ballots and submit them in groups to polling places or election offices. Republicans blame the Democrats’ ballot collecting as one factor for their 2018 midterm woes, which saw them lose seven congressional seats.
California – National City Passes Campaign Contribution Limits
San Diego Union-Tribune – Gustavo Solis | Published: 4/27/2020
National City officials adopted campaign contribution limits recently. Individuals, businesses, and labor unions can now contribute up to $1,000 to candidates while political parties can give $2,000. The take effect in January 2021. Part of the reason behind limiting campaign contributions was the significant increase in outside money pouring into local elections in National City in recent years.
California – Newsom Executive Orders Test Constitutional Bounds – and Legislative Goodwill
Politico – Debra Kahn | Published: 4/22/2020
Residents and leaders from both parties have given Gov. Gavin Newsom high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic so far, especially after his early stay-at-home order was widely credited for helping control the spread of infection in California. But state lawmakers who have been on recess for more than a month are starting to bristle at the governor’s seemingly unilateral decision making. As Newsom shifts from crisis mode to managing the long-term economic fallout, his orders are coming under more scrutiny not just from lawmakers but industry groups, who are likewise re-engaging in Sacramento policymaking. The legislative branch has likewise shut down most activities for the time being. That leaves Newsom nearly alone to decide how to flex California laws in the coronavirus emergency.
Florida – Federal Grand Jury Casts Wide Net for JEA Records, Communications
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 4/23/2020
A federal grand jury subpoena orders JEA to provide documents, communications, and records from top utility and Jacksonville City Hall officials related to a failed push to privatize the city-owned utility and the hiring of former Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn. Federal prosecutors also are looking for communications and documents from lobbyists, JEA’s contracted legal and financial firms and consultants involved in the utility’s invitation to negotiate and failed stock option style-employee bonus plan.
Georgia – Supreme Court Rules States Can’t Copyright Annotated Laws
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan | Published: 4/27/2020
Extending a 19th century doctrine of copyright law to legal materials created by Legislatures, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled annotated versions of state codes cannot be copyrighted. Georgia contracts with Matthew Bender & Co., which is part of LexisNexis, to publish and distribute an annotated version of its official state code. LexisNexis publishes the full code without the annotations for free online and members of the public can access annotated versions for free at places like libraries and universities. Public.Resource.Org publishes official legal codes and other government documents online, bought 186 volumes of the annotated code and posted them online. Georgia sent the nonprofit cease and desist letters, but Public Resource refused to take the code down so the state filed a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Idaho – IFF Accused of Disobeying IRS Rules by Encouraging Idahoans to Disobey Governor
Idaho Statesman – Cynthia Sewell | Published: 4/28/2020
A complaint filed with the IRS alleges Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian policy group, violated nonprofit organization rules by “supporting illegal activities” and “engaging in excessive lobbying activities.” After Gov. Brad Little extended the statewide stay-home order through April 30 to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the foundation encouraged people to disobey the order. The foundation helped organized the “Disobey Idaho” protest at the Capitol, which a few hundred people attended and continued to organize, promote, or participate in several stay-at-home violations. The complaint says one way the foundation directly attempts to influence legislation is through its “Freedom Index,” which grades how each state legislator’s voting record meshes with the group’s agenda.
Illinois – Bid to Strengthen Legislative Ethics Code on Sexual Harassment Blocked by Senate
State Journal-Register – Dalton Stokes | Published: 4/24/2020
Legislation to expressly prohibit sexual harassment by legislators and lobbyists in Illinois was one of many bills that did not become law in the 2020 session that was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. The reasons for its failure in the state Senate remain unclear. After the bill passed the House, Senate leaders assigned it to the State and Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Wil Schroder. He said, “There were some Senate members who had questions regarding the new definitions contained in the bill and were not comfortable handling that section this session.”
Kansas – Kansas Ethics Panel Fines Former Corrections Secretary for Taking $100K Job with CoreCivic
Topeka Capital-Journal – Sherman Smith | Published: 4/27/2020
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined former corrections secretary Joe Norwood $5,000 for taking a job with CoreCivic after authorizing a lucrative state contract for the company. The commission also recommended authorities further investigate Norwood’s dealings with CoreCivic. As corrections secretary under former Gov. Sam Brownback, Norwood helped orchestrate a 20-year agreement for CoreCivic to build and operate a new prison facility, a $362 million deal panned by lawmakers and auditors as overly costly for the state. Norwood immediately went to work for CoreCivic after Gov. Laura Kelly took office in January 2019. Norwood said he was paid $100,000 by CoreCivic for consultant work last year.
Maryland – Ex-NAACP Leader Kweisi Mfume Wins Maryland Seat in Congress
Miami Herald – Brian Witte and Julio Cortez (Associated Press) | Published: 4/28/2020
Democrat Kweisi Mfume won a special election to finish the term of the late Elijah Cummings, retaking a Maryland congressional seat he held for five terms before leaving to lead the NAACP. Mfume defeated Kimberly Klacik in the heavily Democratic Seventh Congressional District, capping a race reshaped by the coronavirus. Maryland opened just three polling stations and sent ballots weeks in advance to encourage mail voting because of the pandemic. Earlier in April, thousands of Wisconsin primary voters waited hours outside overcrowded polling stations, and Maryland’s contest could be a test for future races in a key election year.
Michigan – Michigan Senator Apologizes for Mask That Looked Like Confederate Flag
New York Times – Sandra Garcia | Published: 4/26/2020
A Republican state senator in Michigan apologized for wearing a homemade mask that resembled the Confederate battle flag on the Senate floor. Dale Zorn said he told his wife, who made the mask, that it “probably will raise some eyebrows,” but he initially told a local television station that it was not a Confederate flag. He said his wife told the mask’s pattern was “more similar to” the state flags of Kentucky or Tennessee. The mask he wore, however, appeared to have more in common with the Confederate battle flag, which is all red and features a blue “X” with white stars inside it drawn across the flag.
New Mexico – Coalition Asks for $8,000 Reimbursement from Legislator, Former Executive Director
Albuquerque Journal – T.S. Last | Published: 4/27/2020
The Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities (RCLC) is asking New Mexico Rep. Andrea Romero to pay back $8,000 in reimbursements paid to her while she served as the organization’s executive director and before her election in 2018. Romero previously reimbursed RCLC $2,200, but that was before the state auditor’s office released a report that included impermissible reimbursements for travel, meals, and alcoholic beverages and lobbying activities. The audit said more than $50,000 in improper payments were made to Romero, members of the coalition’s board, and third parties. More than half of those payments went to Andrea Romero Consulting.
New York – New York Board of Elections Cancels Democratic Presidential Primary
New York Times – Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 4/27/2020
New York officials canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary, prompting an immediate backlash from the campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters who had hoped to amass convention delegates and help shape the party’s platform in August. In making the decision against holding a primary, which had been scheduled for June 23, the chairperson of the New York State Board of Elections called the primary “essentially a beauty contest” that the state could ill-afford in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic primary will be held for other races, but because of the decision, voters in about 20 counties with no other contests will have no need to go to the polls, and no choice for president will appear on ballots in the remainder of the state’s 62 counties.
Ohio – Biden Wins Ohio Primary, but the Real Contest Was Its Attempt at Mail-In Voting
WUSA – Will Weissert and Julie Carr-Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 4/28/2020
Joe Biden won Ohio’s presidential primary, clinching a contest that was less about the Democratic nomination and more about how states can conduct elections in the era of the coronavirus. The primary was the first major test of statewide elections via mail amid an outbreak, and the results were mixed. There were reports of confusion but no widespread disruption. It was not like Wisconsin earlier in April, when voters were forced to overlook social distancing guidelines to stand in line wearing masks to cast a ballot. Still, overall turnout appeared to be off.
Ohio – Former ODNR Chief Cited for Ethics Violation Over Free Fishing Trip
Toledo Blade – Mike Markey | Published: 4/28/2020
Former Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer is among nearly 40 current and former state employees and elected officials who the state inspector general has determined violated ethics guidelines by accepting a free charter fishing trip in July 2018. While ethics laws prohibit public officials and employees from accepting gifts of substantial value, state officials wrongly employed a “questionable” interpretation of state law that the fishing trip could be accepted as a donation to the agency to promote tourism, the report said. It instead constituted a “wrongful act” on which natural resources officials also spent public money on lodging and meals for the walleye fishing trip out of Ashtabula County.
Ohio – Ohio’s G.O.P. Governor Splits from Trump, and Rises in Popularity
MSN – Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 4/28/2020
The coronavirus crisis has made Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine something that decades in elected offices never did: a household name. A Republican, he took early and bold actions to lock down his state, even as President Trump dismissed the threat of the pandemic. DeWine’s decisiveness sent his popularity soaring. Now, DeWine is charting a way out of the shutdown, taking cautious steps while facing pressure from business leaders, conservative activists, and some GOP lawmakers who question the economic costs of a state in quarantine. DeWine is being guided by health experts while avoiding partisan fissures over stay-at-home orders that have been encouraged by Trump, who hopes a rebounding economy will carry him to re-election.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Campaign Contribution Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 4/23/2020
Campaign contribution limits are legal in Oregon. The state Supreme Court said limits do not violate the Oregon Constitution, a ruling that potentially signals major reform in one of the few states that does not restrict how much donors, including corporations and labor unions, can give to the candidates. The court ruled in favor of the $500 cap adopted by Multnomah County voters in 2016. The decision sends the case back to a lower court to decide whether Multnomah County’s limits themselves are too low, while tossing out limits that county voters set on campaign expenditures.
Oregon – Portland to Begin Enforcing $500 Campaign Donation Limit Next Week, But It Won’t Apply Retroactively
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 4/28/2020
In the wake of an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that campaign contribution limits do not violate the state constitution, Portland election officials say they will enforce a voter-approved $500-per-donor limit starting May 4 but would not retroactively enforce the cap. In their ruling, the justices asked lower courts to decide if $500-per-donor limits, approved first by Multnomah County voters and then by Portland voters, are too low. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said his campaign would limit donations going forward to $500 overall in light of the Supreme Court ruling. He also called on state lawmakers to establish uniform political contribution rules in 2021.
Rhode Island – Ethics Commission Dismisses GOP Complaint vs. Raimondo
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 4/28/2020
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission voted to dismiss allegations that Gov. Gina Raimondo crossed a line when she negotiated a no-bid, 20-year lottery deal with International Game Technology (IGT). The complaint the state Republican Party filed against Raimondo centers on her relationship with former IGT Chairperson Donald Sweitzer, who was both an IGT lobbyist in Rhode Island and treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association while Raimondo led the group. The complaint alleges Raimondo violated the prohibition against public officials using their public positions to benefit a “business associate,” in this case Sweitzer.
Rhode Island – Former State Representative-Elect Laufton Ascencao Charged with Felony Embezzlement
UpriseRI – Staff | Published: 4/28/2020
Former state Rep.-elect Laufton Ascencao was charged with embezzlement of funds from the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club, as well as not reporting expenditures on campaign finance filings and failing to appoint a treasurer to certify his campaign filings in 2017 and 2018. The state attorney general’s office said Ascencao, without authorization, diverted $16,379 from the checking account of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Sierra Club while he was serving as treasurer of that organization. Ascencao used the money to pay for expenses during his 2018 campaign for state representative.
South Carolina – SC Officials Troubled by Senator’s Financial Ties to Richland County Church’s Nonprofit
The State – Andrew Kaplan | Published: 4/24/2020
The revelation that a prominent South Carolina senator sent nearly $500,000 in public money to help with the construction of a private development has some lawmakers and ethics experts crying foul. The money sent to a church’s nonprofit in 2007 was approved by state lawmakers, including state Sen. Darrell Jackson, who is pastor of the church and founder of its nonprofit. It is part of a long-held practice in which legislative leaders stash millions of dollars in the state’s budget each year, then send the earmarked money to pet projects. While a majority of legislators voted in favor of sending money to the private development, several recently interviewed issue with the vote and said they would not have supported later earmarks for the nonprofit had they known about its ties to their fellow lawmaker.
South Dakota – 2 South Dakota Lawmakers Reprimanded for Intoxication at Capitol
Dickinson Press – Shannon Marvel | Published: 4/24/2020
State Sens. Brock Greenfield and Kris Langer apologized during an investigative committee meeting for drinking and returning to the South Dakota Capitol drunk in the early morning hours of April 1. March 31 was the scheduled Veto Day, and the actual legislative session ended at about 3 a.m. on April 1. House Speaker Steve Haugaard testified he witnessed Langer and Greenfield slur their words during a meeting with Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden. Rep. Fred Deutsch tweeted that the lawmakers should apologize to all of South Dakota. “We are elected to do the people’s work, not to booze it up – the tradition of lobbyist-provided all-you-can-drink free booze needs to stop,” Deutsch tweeted.
Virginia – Va. Gun Range Wins First Victory Against Order Requiring Businesses to Close
Laredo Morning Times – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2020
A Virginia Circuit Court judge ruled Gov. Ralph Northam exceeded his authority by forcing an indoor gun range in Lynchburg to close as part of his order shuttering some nonessential businesses. The decision to grant a temporary injunction allowing Safeside Tactical to reopen marks the first victory by a business challenging the restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The judge ruled the state law that allowed Northam to declare a state of emergency gives him broad powers, but it specifically prohibits him from limiting the right to keep and bear arms, and found accessing indoor gun ranges falls under that right. Legal experts said the case could spur others as businesses begin to chafe under restrictive shutdown orders in Virginia and across the country.
Wisconsin – Justice Daniel Kelly Rejoins Voter Purge Case After Losing Election
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/29/2020
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly rejoined a lawsuit over the state’s voter rolls after earlier keeping away from the case. Kelly recused himself from the case last year because he was on the April 7 ballot. The justice lost the election but will stay on the bench until the end of July, when his term ends. Days after the election results were announced, Kelly asked parties involved in the case to say what they thought he should do and on April 29 he issued an order saying he would participate in the case. His decision to participate in the case means the court will not deadlock on it, as it did in December.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Health Department: 36 people positive for coronavirus after primary vote
Politico – Noland McCaskill | Published: 4/27/2020
The state health department said at least three dozen Wisconsin voters and poll workers have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Shortly after the state held an in-person election on April 7, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced “new tracing mechanisms” to help local officials track residents who might have been exposed to the virus while working the polls or casting a ballot. Health department spokesperson Jennifer Miller said “several” people within that group reported additional possible exposures, making it unclear whether the election itself is responsible for their contraction of the disease. If those people contracted the virus prior to the election, they could have also spread it to others who went to the polls that day.
April 30, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Portland to Begin Enforcing $500 Campaign Donation Limit Next Week, But It Won’t Apply Retroactively” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian Elections New York: “New York Board of Elections Cancels Democratic Presidential Primary” by Stephanie Saul […]
Oregon: “Portland to Begin Enforcing $500 Campaign Donation Limit Next Week, But It Won’t Apply Retroactively” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian
New York: “New York Board of Elections Cancels Democratic Presidential Primary” by Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
National: “Supreme Court Casts Some Doubt on Whether It Should Settle Trump’s Fight with Congress Over His Finances” by Robert Barnes for Washington Post
National: “Judges Worry Trump Position on McGahn Testimony Could Force Congress into Extreme Measures” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Sen. Richard Burr Is Not Just a Friend to the Health Care Industry. He’s Also a Stockholder.” by Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis for ProPublica
New Mexico: “Coalition Asks for $8,000 Reimbursement from Legislator, Former Executive Director” by T.S. Last for Albuquerque Journal
Ohio: “Former ODNR Chief Cited for Ethics Violation Over Free Fishing Trip” by Mike Markey for Toledo Blade
Ohio: “Ohio’s G.O.P. Governor Splits from Trump, and Rises in Popularity” by Trip Gabriel (New York Times) for MSN
Idaho: “IFF Accused of Disobeying IRS Rules by Encouraging Idahoans to Disobey Governor” by Cynthia Sewell for Idaho Statesman
April 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “How a Digital Ad Strategy That Helped Trump Is Being Used Against Him” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Health Department: 36 people positive for coronavirus after primary vote” by Noland McCaskill for Politico Ethics […]
National: “How a Digital Ad Strategy That Helped Trump Is Being Used Against Him” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times
Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Health Department: 36 people positive for coronavirus after primary vote” by Noland McCaskill for Politico
National: “Trump Allies Highlight New Claims Regarding Allegations Against Biden” by Matt Viser (Washington Post) for MSN
Kansas: “Kansas Ethics Panel Fines Former Corrections Secretary for Taking $100K Job with CoreCivic” by Sherman Smith for Topeka Capital-Journal
Michigan: “Michigan Senator Apologizes for Mask That Looked Like Confederate Flag” by Sandra Garcia for New York Times
Rhode Island: “Ethics Commission Dismisses GOP Complaint vs. Raimondo” by Katherine Gregg for Providence Journal
Virginia: “Va. Gun Range Wins First Victory Against Order Requiring Businesses to Close” by Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) for Laredo Morning Times
Georgia: “Supreme Court Rules States Can’t Copyright Annotated Laws” by Tim Ryan for Courthouse News Service
April 28, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “Thousands of Candidates Reinventing Politics on the Fly for the Age of Pandemic” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN National: “Ballot Scramble: Maryland, Ohio test rapid shift to all-mail voting” by Stephanie Akin and Jessica Wehrman for […]
National: “Thousands of Candidates Reinventing Politics on the Fly for the Age of Pandemic” by Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Ballot Scramble: Maryland, Ohio test rapid shift to all-mail voting” by Stephanie Akin and Jessica Wehrman for Roll Call
National: “Start-Ups Pursue ‘Free Money’ with Relief Funds, Prompting Backlash” by Erin Griffith and David McCabe (New York Times) for MSN
California: “Newsom Executive Orders Test Constitutional Bounds – and Legislative Goodwill” by Debra Kahn for Politico
South Dakota: “2 South Dakota Lawmakers Reprimanded for Intoxication at Capitol” by Shannon Marvel for Dickinson Press
Illinois: “Bid to Strengthen Legislative Ethics Code on Sexual Harassment Blocked by Senate” by Dalton Stokes for State Journal-Register
April 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Campaign Contribution Limits” by Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting Ethics National: “Spotify and Text-a-Thons: How the census is reaching out during coronavirus” by Maya King and Danielle Muoio for […]
Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Campaign Contribution Limits” by Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting
National: “Spotify and Text-a-Thons: How the census is reaching out during coronavirus” by Maya King and Danielle Muoio for Poilitico
National: “Pollo Tropical, Which Employs Florida Congresswoman’s Husband, Gets Small Biz Loan” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald
National: “Democrats Press General Services Administration Over Trump Hotel Payments” by Jonathan O’Connell, David Fahrenthold, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) for Greenwich Time
National: “Biden Sexual Assault Allegation Roils #MeToo Movement” by Molly Otterbein and Marc Caputo for Politico
South Carolina: “SC Officials Troubled by Senator’s Financial Ties to Richland County Church’s Nonprofit” by Andrew Kaplan for The State
Florida: “Federal Grand Jury Casts Wide Net for JEA Records, Communications” by Mike Mendenhall for Jacksonville Daily Record
April 24, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the State Ethics Commission announced a filing deadline extension for lobbyist monthly and quarterly reports until July 10. This extension affects monthly reports due on April 10, May 10, and June 10, in which […]
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the State Ethics Commission announced a filing deadline extension for lobbyist monthly and quarterly reports until July 10.
This extension affects monthly reports due on April 10, May 10, and June 10, in which the lobbyist has expended or agreed to expend $100 or more in furtherance of lobbying activities to influence legislative action in the preceding month.
The filing deadline for the first quarterly report was also extended until July 10.
The commission is expected to send out further details by email to notify all filers.
April 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Watchdog Out of Trump’s Grasp Unleashes Wave of Coronavirus Audits Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 4/20/2020 Lawmakers handed President Trump $2 trillion in coronavirus relief and then left town without activating any of the powerful new oversight tools […]
A Watchdog Out of Trump’s Grasp Unleashes Wave of Coronavirus Audits
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 4/20/2020
Lawmakers handed President Trump $2 trillion in coronavirus relief and then left town without activating any of the powerful new oversight tools meant to hold his administration accountable. But with little fanfare, Congress’ independent, in-house watchdog is preparing audits that will become the first wide-ranging check on Trump’s handling of the national rescue effort. Even as Trump has gone to war against internal watchdogs in his administration, the Government Accountability Office remains largely out of the president’s grasp because of its home in the legislative branch.
‘All of It Is Happening All at Once’: When Congress works from home
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 4/18/2020
With the Capitol shuttered until at least early May and the House now considering instituting remote voting to facilitate a more prolonged absence from Washington, D.C, members of Congress are sequestered at home like the rest of America, forced to reimagine how to do their jobs virtually. It is a singular challenge for lawmakers, whose tasks typically revolve around human contact with a rotating cast of constituents, staff, lobbyists, and fellow lawmakers. They have come up with creative (some more than others) solutions.
Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser | Published: 4/16/2020
Joe Biden’s campaign signaled to donors that Priorities USA would be its main big-money partner for the general election, a move that has alarmed some of Biden’s ardent backers, who fear the campaign has given outsize influence to a super PAC that many donors associate with the party’s loss in 2016. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in independent spending for Biden by super PACs and politically active nonprofits that can raise and spend unlimited sums to try to influence elections. Democrats are scrambling to build an operation to compete with President Trump, who has been fundraising for his reelection since 2017. But as they seek to put up a unified front, Democrats have been dogged by internal battles over how to avoid the mistakes of 2016.
Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage
MSN – Annie Linsky (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2020
Homebound at his estate in Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden’s quarantined campaign is adjusting to a new reality in which the prime-time television slots that would carry his rallies and speeches under normal conditions are now largely dedicated to subjects other than the 2020 presidential campaign. Making matters worse for Biden, President Trump dominates each evening with his coronavirus task force briefings, which mostly are carried live by cable and can have the feel of a daily campaign rally. That has left Biden with little choice but to spread his message around – bracketing the president by offering himself to local newscasts in battleground states that run his interviews. Biden’s appearances aim at groups of voters that he must attract to win in November, including suburbanites, younger voters, and nonwhite voters.
City Leaders to Trump: Help us fight the coronavirus by paying your bill
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Leventhal | Published: 4/16/2020
Fourteen municipal governments want President Trump’s campaign committee to clear a combined $1.82 million worth of public safety-related debt connected to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign rallies. Cities are girding for a coronavirus-induced financial disaster, with a new study indicating more than 2,100 U.S. cities are anticipating significant budget shortfalls and widespread cuts to local government programs and staff. These cuts are likely to fall hardest on low-income residents, people of color, the homeless, and the disabled, who are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. “… During this [Covid-19] crisis, that loss is even more pronounced – $150,000, for instance, could pay for emergency rental assistance for 100 Minneapolis families,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
Cory Gardner Attended Pricey Champagne Party in Palm Beach. A Colorado Lawmaker Wants an Investigation.
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 4/19/2020
A February party in Palm Beach, whose gust list included U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, was put on by Krug Champagne, a French company owned by a multinational conglomerate of luxury brands called LVMH. For the past 20 years, LVMH has lobbied the Senate on a range of issues related to its brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Hennessy, and Krug Champagne. State Sen. Tom Sullivan says Gardner’s appearance at the party is an ethics violation. Sullivan claimed in a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee that Gardner violated a ban on gifts of more than $50, as well as a ban on gifts from companies that hire lobbyists.
Donna Shalala, Lone Democrat Overseeing $500B Virus Fund, Didn’t Disclose 2019 Stock Sales
Tampa Bay Times – Alex Daugherty | Published: 4/22/2020
Rep. Donna Shalala, the lone U.S. House Democrat on the committee set up to oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses, violated federal law when she failed to disclose stock sales while serving in Congress. Shalala said she sold a variety of stocks throughout 2019 to eliminate any potential conflicts-of-interest after she was elected to Congress in November 2018. But the transactions were not publicly reported as required by the STOCK Act, which prohibits members of Congress and their employees from using private information gleaned from their official positions for personal benefit and requires them to report stock sales and purchases within 45 days. Shalala’s office said the she and her financial adviser made a mistake.
Ethics Guidance on Coronavirus Relief Package: Lawmakers may be able to apply for some loans
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/21/2020
The U.S. House ethics committee is recommending that lawmakers and their families exercise “caution” before applying for economic relief through the massive relief packages passed into law to quell the financial ruin caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies in which members of Congress or family members, such as a spouse or child own at least 20 percent equity interest cannot get any loans or other investments from the pool of funds to be disbursed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But those conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to other components of the law, including the Paycheck Protection Program.
House Democrats Retreat on Remote Voting as Republicans Clamor to Reopen
New York Times – Catie Edmonson and Emily Cochrane | Published: 4/22/2020
Democratic leaders backed away from a plan to change the rules of the U.S. House to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely for the first time in history, after Republicans who are clamoring to reopen Congress registered their opposition. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would no longer vote on a proposal to allow members to designate another lawmaker to cast votes for them by proxy. Instead, she said she and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would have a bipartisan group of lawmakers consider remote voting proposals and plans to reopen the House.
K Street Is Booming. But There’s a Creeping Sense of Dread.
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Elena Schneider | Published: 4/19/2020
Business is booming on K Street due to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but lobbyists are also dreading what might be on the horizon if the economy slumps into a protracted recession, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists. Several privately expressed worry that business could dry up if the companies with falling revenue move to cut expenses. Some lobbying firms could even go under. But for now, the chaos has been unmistakably good for business. Hospitals, casinos, Indian tribes, pharmaceutical interests, and private equity firms have all hired lobbyists for help, along with companies from 3M to Ticketmaster to Six Flags. with companies from 3M to Ticketmaster to Six Flags.
Matt Gaetz Rents Office Space from Longtime Friend and Donor – at Taxpayer Expense
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 4/17/2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor, and legal client. Both men said Gaetz paid below market rent for the space, although Gaetz later shifted, saying the rent was “at or below market rate.” House rules explicitly state such arrangements are not allowed. The agreement between Gaetz and Collier Merrill highlights how a decades-long relationship can become intertwined with a lawmaker’s congressional duties. On top of being Merrill’s tenant, Gaetz attended fundraisers at Merrill’s restaurants and sought his counsel on policy matters.
Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 4/17/2020
President Trump’s official super PAC, America First Action, recently unveiled its first independent expenditures in the 2020 presidential election attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on his response to the coronavirus pandemic. But critical information about financial dealings of Trump’s re-election campaign remains hidden by shell companies, obscuring details critical to determine if the campaign is coordinating with his official super PAC. The FEC considers shared vendors when determining if communications constitute illegal coordination between a campaign and an outside group supporting it. The Trump campaign’s disclosure of payments through shell companies keeps the identities of sub-vendors it might share with its super PAC hidden.
Small Business Rescue Cash Isn’t for Lobbyists, Judge Rules
Washington Post – Erik Larson (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/23/2020
Political consulting and lobbying firms were rebuffed in an effort to tap coronavirus rescue money, as a federal judge ruled the funds for small businesses are essentially subsidies that lobbyists cannot receive from the government. The firms cannot tap Paycheck Protection Program loans disbursed by the Small Business Administration because a decades-old regulation bars the agency from subsidizing political speech, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said.
The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests
MSN – Kenneth Vogel, Jim Rutenberg, and Lisa Lerer (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2020
Among those fighting the state and local orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus are FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots. Also involved are a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials, a network of state-based conservative policy groups, and a coalition of conservative leaders known as Save Our Country that has advised the White House on strategies for a tiered reopening of the economy. The fight has emerged as a galvanizing cause for a vocal element of President Trump’s base and others on the political right. Organizers see it as unifying social conservatives, who view the orders as targeting religious groups; fiscal conservatives who chafe at the economic devastation wrought by the restrictions on businesses; and civil libertarians who contend the restrictions infringe on constitutional rights.
Trips to Ski Slopes, Beaches and Golf Courses Popular with House Leadership PACs
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/20/2020
U.S. Rep. K. Michael Conaway has spent $285,000 since 2011 from his leadership PAC, Conservative Opportunities for a New America PAC, on things such as golf, spring training tickets and meals in Florida, and stays at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Conaway is not alone in using leadership PAC money for luxuries that ethics experts consider questionable. Added together, he and six House colleagues spent nearly $800,000 over the past 11 years on elaborate expenditures. Ski trips to mountain resorts were popular. So were fishing, golf, whitewater rafting, and plenty of food and drink.
Trump Interior Official Helped Clear Way for Payments to Ex-Employer
Politico – Adam Cancryn | Published: 4/16/2020
An Interior Department official is under fire over her role in securing access to billions of dollars in coronavirus aid for a handful of wealthy Alaska corporations, including one that previously employed her as a lobbyist and top executive. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney is among a group of Interior officials advising the Treasury Department on how to distribute $8 billion in rescue funding Congress earmarked for Native American tribes, an allocation that some lawmakers now say they intended solely for the 574 federally recognized tribes hit hard by the economic shutdown. But the Trump administration indicated it also plans to include more than 200 for-profit Alaska Native corporations among the eligible recipients.
Trump Team’s Use of Big Insurer to Dispense Recovery Funds Comes Under Scrutiny
Politico – Maggie Severns and Daniel Lippman | Published: 4/18/2020
A senior economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, whose nomination to a post overseeing health insurance floundered in the wake of revelations of his financial ties to UnitedHealth Group, is now playing a key role overseeing a $30 billion recovery program being administered by UnitedHealth. The choice of UnitedHealth, a leading health insurer, to serve as a conduit in funneling billions of dollars to hospitals and other providers, surprised many in health care, including employees at the Department of Health and Human Services who had assumed their department would administer the program itself. Though UnitedHealth says it will make no profit off of the deal, its role in handing the money to hospitals could boost its relationships with the White House and the public during a tumultuous year and possibly provide it with valuable health care data, experts say.
Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting
Politico – Scott Bland | Published: 4/17/2020
The GOP online donation platform endorsed by President Trump is opening up to state legislative candidates and others outside federal office, hoping to drive a financial boost for Republicans in the states ahead of the 2020 elections and next year’s redistricting. WinRed, which launched last year, is partnering with the Republican State Leadership Committee to make the platform available to state-level candidates, another step in the group’s drive to get the entire Republican Party using one system for digital fundraising. While the presidential race will command the most attention in 2020, this election is also particularly consequential because state Legislatures will play a key role in the decennial redistricting process that starts next year, with the potential in some states to enact maps that favor one party for the next decade.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Here’s Why L.A. County Plans In-Person Voting During Coronavirus Crisis While Riverside, Orange Went All-Mail
Los Angeles Daily News – Ryan Carter | Published: 4/22/2020
On May 12, Los Angeles County voters will decide who replaces former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill for her remaining term in Congress. Despite countywide “stay at home” orders spurred by the coronavirus outbreak, nine polling places will be available for residents to register and cast their ballots in person. Meanwhile, Riverside County plans its own May 12 special election in the 28th Senate District, but it will be mail-only with no in-person balloting. Orange County will stage a May 19 city council recall election in Santa Ana by mail only. In Los Angeles County, elections officials say it is one of 15 counties in California mandated under the Voter’s Choice Act to offer early-voting options by mail and by polling place. Those options include enabling voters to cast ballots in person at the voting center of their choice.
California – San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 4/19/2020
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer solicited $35,000 in so-called behested payments so far this year for One San Diego, the tax-exempt organization he set up after he was elected mayor in 2014. In total he has raised more than $3 million in donations, with $1.6 million earmarked for One San Diego. State law requires they be disclosed so the public can see who is donating money to a public official’s favored cause. Many of the contributions have been made by people and companies with direct business interests before the city. Lani Lutar, a registered lobbyist who regularly meets with the mayor’s senior aides on behalf of her clients, has served as the One San Diego board chairperson for several years.
Connecticut – Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to Coronavirus Concerns
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 4/17/2020
In a second delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Connecticut’s presidential primary will be pushed back to August 11. Gov. Ned Lamont made the announcement that he was acting in concert with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to postpone the date by an additional two months. The state has already set aside August 11 as the day for Republican and Democratic primaries for Congress, state Legislature, and local offices. As a result, towns will save money by opening polling places once, instead of twice. Since local conventions have not yet been held, the candidates for those primaries will not be settled until the coming weeks and months.
Illinois – Mayor Lori Lightfoot Introduces Plan to Change Chicago’s City Ethics Rules, Again Allowing Some Elected Officials to Lobby City Government
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 4/22/2020
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a proposal to weaken rules against elected officials lobbying the city that was passed last year. Lightfoot’s amendment to the lobbying ordinance would allow elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving Chicago. That change would partially walk back the stricter standards the council passed following an impassioned debate in December, which barred all elected officials in Illinois from lobbying the city.
Louisiana – Louisiana’s Presidential Primary, Local Elections to Be Delayed Again Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
New Orleans Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 4/14/2020
Louisiana’s presidential primary and other local elections have been delayed again until late summer as state leaders offer up a plan that includes expanded access to early voting and mail-in ballots but is expected to still feature in-person voting for most people. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to delay the presidential primary election originally set for April 4th until July 11th to give Ardoin’s office more time to prepare. The subsequent general election for some local races was delayed until August 15th.
Michigan – Brenda Jones Took Illegal Campaign Cash from Donors Doing Business with the City of Detroit
The Intercept – Matthew Cunningham-Cook | Published: 4/21/2020
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones accepted campaign contributions that violate Michigan’s “pay-to-play rules, according to a review of campaign finance records and interviews with ethics experts. During her 2017 bid for reelection to city council, Jones accepted $5,500 in campaign contributions from then-First Independence Bank Chief Executive Officer Barry Clay, and an additional $4,000 in political donations from First Independence Bank board member Douglas Diggs. The donations occurred as First Independence had a contract with the Detroit police and fire pension fund, of which Jones, as president of the council, is a trustee. First Independence runs a loan program for the pension fund.
Michigan – Michigan Cancels Contract with Two Democratic-Linked Firms That Had Been Tapped to Track Coronavirus
Connecticut Post – Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2020
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration canceled a no-bid contract to help track the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan, a day after announcing the hiring of a state Democratic consultant and a national firm that has worked for prominent Democratic causes. The reversal comes amid complaints the governor tapped politically connected firms to collect health data on state residents and monitor sensitive medical information. The episode illustrates the political and ethical pitfalls involved in the large amounts of money suddenly being spent across the country to curb the pandemic and boost the economy. Companies receiving aid and contracts have been criticized in recent weeks for ties to one party or the other, and Democrats and Republicans have wrangled over the best way to oversee the process.
New Mexico – Ex-Rio Arriba Official Faces Allegations
Albuquerque Journal – Edmund Carrillo | Published: 4/19/2020
Former Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo made over $100,000 from three contracts with Española Public Schools, yet did so without the proper business licenses, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office says. As a contract holder with the school district, he also never disclosed he contributed to the campaigns of two school board members, which is a violation of governmental conduct laws, according to the attorney general’s office. Trujillo faces three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and one count of failing to disclose campaign contributions. He could face up to six years in prison.
North Carolina – Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit Over Allegedly Insecure North Carolina Voting Machines
The Hill – Maggie Miller | Published: 4/15/2020
A group of voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit alleging that voting machines used in almost two dozen North Carolina counties are not secure and could lead to voter disenfranchisement in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleges the use of the ExpressVote XL voting machine violates the constitutional right of individuals in the state to free and fair elections and has cyber vulnerabilities that could lead to election interference. The machines involve the voter inputting their choices digitally, with the machine then printing out a paper sheet with a barcode embedded with the voter’s choices. The voting rights advocates point to this system as making it impossible for the average voter to ensure their vote was not changed and was accurate.
Ohio – Appeals Court Entertains Arguments on Whether Jimmy Dimora Should Receive New Trial
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Eric Heisig | Published: 4/16/2020
Federal appeals court judges grilled a prosecutor and a defense lawyer on whether former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora should get another chance to prove his innocence. Dimora has argued that errors in the instructions a judge gave to the jury that convicted him in 2012, as well as the judge’s decision to disallow the former commissioner to present his Ohio ethics reports, means he should get a new trial. Dimora is serving a 28-year prison sentence for corruption-related convictions.
Oregon – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 4/21/2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler broke new city election rules by not properly disclosing his largest campaign contributors on his reelection website or two campaign social media accounts, the city auditor’s office ruled. Rules that took effect with this election cycle require candidates to prominently list the top five donors who have given more than $1,000 on campaign communications, said Elections Officer Deborah Scroggin. Wheeler announces “Paid for by Friends of Ted Wheeler” on his campaign website, but the top contributors are not identified there or on his re-election Facebook page or Twitter account.
Texas – More Than Half of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Coronavirus Panel on Reopening Texas Are Campaign Donors
Dallas Morning News – Allie Morris, Ariana Giorgi, and Robert Garrett | Published: 4/18/2020
Gov. Greg Abbott named 39 prominent Texans, most business and industry leaders, to a panel that will help guide a reopening of the state’s economy after the coronavirus. Many of them are also campaign donors. Thirty-one of the counci’’s 39 members have contributed to Abbott’s past runs for governor and attorney general, and since 2015, 25 have given Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign at least $5.8 million combined. The choices are drawing fire from government-transparency advocates, union officials, and Democratic leaders who fear that public health could be subordinated to profit motives as tough judgment calls are made in the coming weeks and months about easing isolation edicts.
Texas – Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation
Austin American-Statesman – Ryan Autullo | Published: 4/16/2020
State Senate candidate Sarah Eckhardt, the acting county judge in Travis County, acknowledged accepting political contributions in violation of finance law. Candidates in statewide races are prohibited by the Texas Ethics Commission from knowingly accepting a contribution at a time when a campaign treasurer is not in place. The person who filed the complaint is University of Texas student Blake Beatty, who said he discovered Eckhardt’s impermissible fundraising, because “I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands during the quarantine.”
Washington – Justices: $18M campaign finance penalty to be reconsidered
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 4/16/2020
A record fine levied against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing the identities of the food and beverage companies that spent $11 million to defeat a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013 was upheld by the Washington Supreme Court. In a five-to-four decision, justices overruled an appeals court and reinstated an $18 million fine against the trade group, now known as the Consumer Brands Association. The decision does not fully settle whether the penalty will stand. The court did not rule on whether the penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive punishment. The justices sent the case back to the appeals court to “scrutinize carefully” whether the fine is constitutional.
Wisconsin – After Losing Election, State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly Signals He Will Participate in Voter Rolls Case
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/16/2020
Days after learning he was losing his seat on the state Supreme Court, Justice Daniel Kelly signaled he would participate in a case over who should remain on Wisconsin’s voter rolls after earlier stepping away from the lawsuit. The case is expected to determine whether tens of thousands of voters who are suspected of having moved can stay on the state’s voter rolls. Kelly issued a court order saying it appears he no longer has a conflict in the case. He asked those involved in the case to file briefs on what they think he should do before he makes a final decision. Kelly had stayed away from the case because it could have affected who was a registered voter for the April 7 election, when he was on the ballot.
Wisconsin – At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting
MSN – Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 4/21/2020
Milwaukee health officials said they had identified at least seven people who contracted the coronavirus from participating in Election Day on April 7, which was held despite a stay-at-home order issued throughout the state. The officials say the number may be higher as they are still conducting testing. Other cities have not reported any cases tied to voting yet. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it would also be studying any voters or election workers who contracted the virus from voting.
Wisconsin – Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 4/21/2020
The liberal candidate in the April 7 Wisconsin Supreme Court race prevailed in voting by mail by a significant margin, upending years of study showing little advantage to either party when a state transitions from in-person to mail voting. The gap suggests Democrats were more organized and proactive in their vote-by-mail efforts in an election conducted under extraordinary circumstances, with voters forced to weigh the health risks of voting in person against the sometimes unreliable option of requesting and mailing in their ballots. Still, it is likely to add to the skepticism President Trump and Republicans have expressed bout mail voting, which they worry would increase Democratic turnout at Republicans’ expense.
April 23, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian Elections Wisconsin: “Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories” by Reid Epstein […]
Oregon: “Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Violated Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules, City Elections Official Says” by Everton Bailey Jr. for Portland Oregonian
Wisconsin: “Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories” by Reid Epstein for New York Times
National: “The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests” by Kenneth Vogel, Jim Rutenberg, and Lisa Lerer (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Ethics Guidance on Coronavirus Relief Package: Lawmakers may be able to apply for some loans” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “Donna Shalala, Lone Democrat Overseeing $500B Virus Fund, Didn’t Disclose 2019 Stock Sales” by Alex Daugherty for Tampa Bay Times
Michigan: “Michigan Cancels Contract with Two Democratic-Linked Firms That Had Been Tapped to Track Coronavirus” by Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post
National: “Cory Gardner Attended Pricey Champagne Party in Palm Beach. A Colorado Lawmaker Wants an Investigation.” by Jason Wingerter for Denver Post
National: “Small Business Rescue Cash Isn’t for Lobbyists, Judge Rules” by Erik Larson (Bloomberg) for Washington Post
Illinois: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot Introduces Plan to Change Chicago’s City Ethics Rules, Again Allowing Some Elected Officials to Lobby City Government” by John Byrne for Chicago Tribune
April 22, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting” by Scott Bland for Politico California: “San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune Elections […]
National: “Trump-Backed Online Donor Platform Launches at State Level Ahead of Redistricting” by Scott Bland for Politico
California: “San Diego Mayor’s Nonprofit a Prime Beneficiary of Political Donors’ Largesse” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune
Wisconsin: “At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Trump Team’s Use of Big Insurer to Dispense Recovery Funds Comes Under Scrutiny” by Maggie Severns and Daniel Lippman for Politico
New Mexico: “Ex-Rio Arriba Official Faces Allegations” by Edmund Carrillo for Albuquerque Journal
Texas: “More Than Half of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Coronavirus Panel on Reopening Texas Are Campaign Donors” by Allie Morris, Ariana Giorgi, and Robert Garrett for Dallas Morning News
National: “‘All of It Is Happening All at Once’: When Congress works from home” by Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg for New York Times
April 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics Elections Connecticut: “Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to […]
National: “Shell Companies Hide Trump Campaign’s Financial Dealings as Super PAC Coordination Rules Kick In” by Anna Massoglia for Center for Responsive Politics
Connecticut: “Connecticut Presidential Primary Pushed Back Two More Months to Aug. 11 Due to Coronavirus Concerns” by Christopher Keating for Hartford Courant
North Carolina: “Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit Over Allegedly Insecure North Carolina Voting Machines” by Maggie Miller for The Hill
National: “GOP’s Growing ‘Open It Up’ Caucus Urges Fewer Virus Restrictions Amid Warnings from Fellow Republicans” by Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “A Watchdog Out of Trump’s Grasp Unleashes Wave of Coronavirus Audits” by Kyle Cheney for Politico
Ohio: “Appeals Court Entertains Arguments on Whether Jimmy Dimora Should Receive New Trial” by Eric Heisig for Cleveland Plain Dealer
National: “K Street Is Booming. But There’s a Creeping Sense of Dread.” by Theodoric Meyer and Elena Schneider for Politico
April 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser for Washington Post Texas: “Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation” by […]
National: “Biden Campaign’s Selection of Preferred Super PAC Stokes Strife in Democratic Party” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, and Matt Viser for Washington Post
Texas: “Top Travis County Official Returns $5,000 After Campaign Ethics Violation” by Ryan Autullo for Austin American-Statesman
Washington: “Justices: $18M campaign finance penalty to be reconsidered” by Gene Johnson for AP News
Louisiana: “Louisiana’s Presidential Primary, Local Elections to Be Delayed Again Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” by Sam Karlin for New Orleans Advocate
Wisconsin: “After Losing Election, State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly Signals He Will Participate in Voter Rolls Case” by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
National: “Matt Gaetz Rents Office Space from Longtime Friend and Donor – at Taxpayer Expense” by Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan for Politico
National: “Trump Interior Official Helped Clear Way for Payments to Ex-Employer” by Adam Cancryn for Politico
April 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020 Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped […]
Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020
Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped pave the way for super PACs, filed a petition with the FEC asking regulators to create new rules to limit the amount of leftover money that a self-funded federal candidate can transfer to the national party once the candidate has dropped out of the race. The request followed two FEC complaints filed by other groups that alleged Michael Bloomberg made an improper transfer of $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. Bloomberg was the biggest self-funded candidate in U.S. history.
‘Choosing Winners and Losers’: Behind the battle to be deemed essential
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Anna Gronwold | Published: 4/10/2020
As states and cities have forced what they consider “nonessential businesses” to close to slow the spread of coronavirus, lobbyists for industries have been hustling to make the case that they are too important to be shut down, a designation that could mean millions of dollars for companies and the employees who keep them running. Companies and trade groups seeking to shape the rules are lobbying governors, most of whom have issued executive orders detailing which businesses can remain open and which must close. They have also appealed to the Trump administration, which has put out recommendations outlining which industries it considers essential, although states and cities are not bound by the recommendations.
Democrats Scramble to Close YouTube Deficit Amid Quarantine Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 4/13/2020
Joe Biden is not much of a YouTuber. But his campaign and Democrats are hastily trying to address a longstanding weakness and reach the millions of Americans who are. The 2020 presidential campaign’s transition to a mostly digital experience, with the nation on lockdown, has spotlighted a long-term progressive deficit on YouTube that some concerned Democrats compare to the right’s command of talk radio. The country’s leading video platform is also one of its largest search engines and a key battlefield in campaigns’ fight to reach new voters and earn free media attention. While Democratic campaigns and groups spend heavily on advertising on YouTube, they lag in organic content, with dozens of conservative and right-wing figures cultivating enormous followings not yet matched by equivalents on the left.
GOP Pushes Voting by Mail – with Restrictions – While Trump Attacks It as ‘Corrupt’
MSN – Amy Gardenr and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2020
Despite President Trump saying that voting by mail is “corrupt,” state GOP leaders across the country are aggressively urging their voters to cast ballots by mail. In addition, Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that do not have all-mail elections are encouraging people to vote absentee during the coronavirus pandemic. Their moves come after decades in which Republicans have encouraged their voters to take advantage of absentee ballot rules, running sophisticated mail programs that targeted GOP supporters most likely to vote from home. The apparent conflict between Trump’s attacks and his party’s long embrace of the tactic comes as the health crisis has spurred Democrats and civil rights groups to push to loosen restrictions on mail voting in many jurisdictions.
Lobbyists, Political Consultants Sue U.S. for Coronavirus Bailout
Washington Post – Robert Burnson (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/14/2020
A group representing political consultants, pollsters, and lobbyists sued the U.S. government for a slice of the $2.2 trillion Covid-19 bailout pie. The American Association of Political Consultants says it is unconstitutional for its members to be excluded from the small business loans provided by the CARE Act, which Congress passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The group says its members should be granted access to $349 billion in “forgivable loans” provided under the Paycheck Protection Program. The program excludes various businesses including nonprofits, strip clubs, and those “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.”
Pentagon Looks to Undo Parts of McCain Anti-Lobbying Law
Roll Call – John Donnelly | Published: 4/14/2020
The Pentagon asked Congress to reverse key parts of a recent law that tightened the rules governing retired Defense Department officials influencing their former government colleagues on behalf of defense contractors. The new rules were authored by the late U.S, Sen. John McCain. They lengthened from one year to two years the period during which the most senior Pentagon officials were banned, upon leaving office, from lobbying their former colleagues. The McCain provisions added new limits on whom in the Defense Department former officials could lobby and how. A coalition of groups that monitor government spending urged congressional committee leaders to not only keep McCain’s provisions but to strengthen them.
Senator Richard Burr Sold D.C. Townhouse to Donor at a Rich Price
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi | Published: 4/14/2020
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold his Washington, D.C. townhouse for what, by some estimates, was for an above market price of $900,000 to a team led by lobbyist John Green. That is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value by tax assessors, a real estate website, and a local real estate agent. Green is a longtime donor to Burr’s political campaigns and has co-hosted at least one fundraiser for him. In 2017, the year of the sale, Green lobbied on behalf of a stream of clients with business before Burr’s committees. If the home was purchased for more than the fair market value, it would be considered a gift. Senate ethics rules generally ban gifts of significant value from lobbyists, and those that are not are typically required to be publicly disclosed.
Sexual Assault Allegation by Former Biden Senate Aide Emerges in Campaign, Draws Denial
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, Matt Viser, and Alice Crites (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020
A woman who last year said Joe Biden touched her neck and shoulders when she worked in his Senate office in 1993 is now accusing him of sexually assaulting her that year in a semiprivate area of the Capitol complex, an allegation the Biden campaign strongly denies. At the time, Tara Reade was a staff assistant. The Washington Post has interviewed Reade on multiple occasions as well as people she says she told of the assault claim and more than a half-dozen former staffers of Biden’s Senate office. Reade filed a complaint recently with District of Columbia police. She said she did so because she is being harassed online and wanted law enforcement to be aware of her claim. A public record of the complaint does not name Biden but says Reade “disclosed that she believes she was the victim of a sexual assault” in 1993.
Sidelined by Coronavirus Pandemic, Congress Cedes Stage and Authority to Trump
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2020
Congress has responded to the incessant spread of the coronavirus and its devastating impact on the economy by passing, so far, three progressively larger relief bills, culminating in the $2 trillion Cares Act. While President Trump has commanded the stage at White House briefings, Democratic Party leaders have conducted frequent media interviews, committee chairpersons have sent flurries of letters, and individual members have scrambled to help their districts. But with lawmakers dispersed across the country, and with rules frequently out of step with modern telecommunications, the House and Senate are only starting to come to terms with how to conduct many of their most essential functions amid an extended national emergency.
Supreme Court for First Time to Hold Arguments Via Teleconference Next Month
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/12/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hold oral arguments via teleconference for the first time in its history in May, on a set of cases that had been postponed in March and April, including President Trump’s legal battle to prevent congressional committees and a New York prosecutor from obtaining his financial records. The justices will hear another time-sensitive case involving whether presidential electors can be required to honor their state’s instructions to vote for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.
Treasury’s Mnuchin ‘Properly’ Followed Guidance in Refusing to Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Congress, Inspector General Finds
MSN – Jeff Stein, Erica Werner, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/10/2020
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin followed internal protocols when he refused to give President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, Richard Delmar, deputy inspector general of the Department of Treasury, found in a report. Lawyers for the legal counsel’s office wrote in a 2019 opinion that House Democrats’ demands for Trump’s return should be denied because they did not serve a legitimate “legislative purpose.” Delmar’s opinion is a setback for congressional Democrats who have for years said the administration broke a 1924 law that appears to explicitly give congressional tax writing committees the authority to obtain the president’s returns.
Who’s Getting These Hundreds of Billions in the Government Aid? For Now, the Public May Be in the Dark.
Beaumont Enterprise – Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020
The Cares Act requires that the names of recipients of some forms of federal aid be published, but those requirements do not extend to significant portions of the relief. Though most of the $2.2 trillion in spending has yet to begin, disputes already have arisen about who will be responsible for making sure it is done ethically. The law requires several layers of oversight. It calls for a special inspector general, a congressional review commission, and a group that will be composed of inspectors general armed with enhanced powers to subpoena documents and testimony. But President Trump already has taken steps that undermine these reviewers. Regardless of what happens to the oversight panels, the public disclosure of who receives the trillions in emergency money could play a critical role in the public debate over the programs.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Supreme Court Upholds 6 Counts Against Mike Hubbard, Reverses 5
Montgomery Advertiser – Melissa Brown | Published: 4/10/2020
The Alabama Supreme Court overturned five of the ethics convictions that ended the political career of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, while upholding six others. Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 but has remained free on appeal. Prosecutors accused him of monetizing his public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. \The overturned counts dealt largely with several $150,000 investments in Hubbard’s troubled printing company. The court upheld other ethics counts involving Hubbard’s side work as a consultant, rejecting defense claims that those contracts were unrelated to his position as House speaker.
Arizona – November Ballot Measures Threatened by Lack of Public Gatherings, Backers Warn. Judge Weighs Online Petitions
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 4/14/2020
The coronavirus pandemic has prevented ballot initiative campaigns from gathering signatures outside libraries, on college campuses, and at other places people used to congregate. But does that mean they should be allowed to collect signatures online as an alternative? That is the question in front of a federal judge, who heard arguments from campaigns backing ballot proposals and lawyers from the Arizona attorney general’s office, which opposes the idea. The campaigns say social distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have squelched their usual methods for gathering the more than 200,000 signatures they need to qualify for spots on the general election ballot in November.
California – Federal Investigation into L.A. City Hall Corruption Involves Downtown Project
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 4/15/2020
When federal prosecutors filed their latest corruption case involving Los Angeles City Hall, they filled their court filings with lurid details: a paper bag filled with cash for a council member, a bathroom meeting to discuss the alleged bribe, and insistent texts from that council member angling for the money. What investigators did not say was who allegedly provided a $500,000 bribe meant for a sitting council member in order to smooth the way for a new project. In court filings, prosecutors identified that figure only as “Developer C.” But numerous details in the case point to the project at the heart of the matter: a 20-story residential tower planned at the corner of Hill Street and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
California – FPPC Offers Guidance on Lobbying Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 4/13/2020
In light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is encouraging individuals subject to lobbying registration and reporting requirements to continue to make the best efforts to timely file all legally required reports and statements. If circumstances caused by COVID-19 inhibit the filing of a lobbying report or statement, the filer should communicate these issues to the secretary of state’s office and document all attempts to file and the issues faced. While quarterly lobbying reports are filed electronically, the law requires certain other statements be filed on paper with an original signature.
Florida – Florida Ethics Panel Rejects COVID-19 Announcements Plan, Upholds Ban on Free Publicity or Exposure
Orlando Weekly – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 4/10/2020
The Florida Commission on Ethics blocked a request from Charter Communications to put public officials in coronavirus-related public service announcements. The use of public officials in such ads is a violation of the state’s gift ban, which prohibits elected officials and top appointees from taking anything of value from lobbyists or entities that employ them. Charter did not argue that point, but asked commissioners to make an exception because of the dire nature of the pandemic.
Florida – Herald Drafted a Suit Seeking ALF Records. DeSantis Aide Pressured Law Firm Not To
Miami Herald – Daniel Chang | Published: 4/11/2020
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ general counsel called a representative of The Miami Herald’s law firm seeking to quash a public records lawsuit that would force the state to divulge the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a positive test for the coronavirus. The back-door pressure, through an attorney who had no involvement in the case, paid off. The law firm, Holland & Knight, told Sanford Bohrer, a senior partner with decades of representing The Herald, to stand down and abandon the lawsuit. The suit will still be filed, but by another law firm, said Miami Herald publisher Aminda Marqués González.
Georgia – Ethics Commission Accuses Fulton DA of Disclosure Violations
AP News – Staff | Published: 4/16/2020
Georgia’s ethics commission filed a complaint against an Atlanta-area district attorney and accused him of violating public disclosure laws, including by not listing his supplemental salary funded by a nonprofit. It was reported that discrepancies were found between Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s personal financial disclosures and tax filings submitted to the IRS by a nonprofit Howard runs. The complaint said Howard committed several violations on five years of disclosure forms.
Georgia – Ga. Lawmakers in COVID-19 Campaign Fundraising Limbo
Rome News-Tribune – Beau Evans (Capitol Beat News Service) | Published: 4/15/2020
A divided state ethics commission upheld a longstanding ban on campaign fundraising when Georgia lawmakers are still in session, even if the legislative session has been indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 30-year-old ban was designed to curb the influence of money on lawmakers, but in the age of COVID-19, it has creating anxiety among incumbents who face opposition in the June 9 primary. They must continue to idle their fundraising while their challengers can raise money. The governor’s public health emergency declaration now runs through May 13 and there is no assurance the order will expire at that point.
Georgia – Georgia Further Delays Primary Election to June
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 4/9/2020
Georgia delayed its primary elections again, this time to June 9, amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak may continue to pose a high risk to public health through most of May. Georgia was originally supposed to hold its primaries on March 24. But state officials postponed the contests until May 19 as the pandemic worsened and health officials urged the public to avoid large crowds and gatherings.
Kentucky – Kentucky Legislature Overrides Veto of GOP Voter ID Measure
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 4/15/2020
Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode a veto of a new voter ID law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, setting the stage for the requirement to be enacted for the November general election. The move by lawmakers prompted an outcry from Democrats and voting-rights groups. They said the measure would suppress the vote and accused Republicans of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to impose restrictions, even as other states seek to make voting easier. GOP legislators argued the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot would prevent voter fraud.
Michigan – Chanting ‘Lock Her Up,’ Michigan Protesters Waving Trump Flags Mass Against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Coronavirus Restrictions
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 4/16/2020
If all roads in Michigan lead to the Capitol, conservative protesters made sure they were closed. For miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work. They drowned downtown Lansing in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows: President Trump flags, American flags, and the occasional Confederate flag. But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order, which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority, the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the Capitol, with some chanting, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!”
Michigan – Michigan Republican Party Loses Appeal in Attempt to Stop Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Ryan Boldrey | Published: 4/15/2020
The Michigan Republican Party was again denied in an attempt to overturn the result of a November 2018 ballot proposal that changed how the state’s political districts are drawn. A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Proposal 2 shifted the responsibility of drawing Michigan’s state and federal districts every 10 years to a new commission. Redistricting was previously handled by the Michigan Legislature and approved by the governor, something Proposal 2 supporters equated to politicians picking their own district lines.
Missouri – Amid COVID-19 Funding Scramble, Missouri Senate Gets Ethics Panel Back on Track
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 4/9/2020
After three weeks in limbo, the commission that regulates Missouri’s campaign finance laws will be able to meet again following a rushed effort to appoint a new member. Maneuvering by Gov. Mike Parson and the state Senate resulted in the Legislature’s upper chamber confirming the appointment of Robert Cook to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The commission had been unable to meet after the terms of three of its six members expired on March 15.
New Hampshire – New Hampshire Governor to Allow Absentee Voting in November Because of Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Amy Gardner and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the state will allow voters to cast mail-in ballots in the November general election if the coronavirus is still a factor this fall. The decision is a significant departure from Sununu’s past stance against widespread absentee voting and stands in contrast to the rhetoric coming from some Republicans, including President Trump. Sununu said the state is considering other voting alternatives, too, including “drive-up voting,” in which a voter would not have to leave his or her vehicle.
New Jersey – NJ Lawyer-Lobbyists Saw Big Payday in 2019, See Uncertainty For 2020
Law.com – Suzette Parmley | Published: 4/10/2020
Being heard has never been more expensive in Trenton, or lucrative for lobbyists. Last year’s booming economy, an activist governor, one-party rule, and more than 11,000 bills in the New Jersey Legislature generated a windfall of clients, and made 2019 a banner year for lobbying in the state, with expenditures by clients topping $100 million for the first time ever. And law firms with lobbying arms staffed by lawyers, typically those with extensive experience in dealing with or working in government, or lobbying firms made up of lawyers by trade, made out quite well, according to data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
New York – New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/13/2020
Included in the bills to approve a state budget in New York was the creation of a new campaign finance system with a public-matching program, lower individual contribution limits, and various other changes to campaign finance law. But the controversial inclusion of changes to ballot thresholds could prove to be a poison pill, not for the law but for the several minor political parties that operate in New York’s electoral system. The new thresholds to secure an automatic ballot line will be daunting for most, if not all, minor parties in the state, considering their showing in recent elections for governor and president. Only the Conservative Party has been able to consistently garner the number of votes the new thresholds would require for a party to easily nominate candidates for offices across the board for years at a time.
South Carolina – SC Ethics Commission Launches Investigation into Horry County Chairman Over Campaign Loan
Raleigh News and Observer – Tyler Fleming | Published: 4/9/2020
The South Carolina Ethics Commission is investigating Horry County Council Chairperson Johnny Gardner for a loan and filings from his election campaign. A complaint claims Gardner, among other allegations, repaid too much money from a personal campaign loan. It also says the money used for the loan could not have belonged to Gardner and may count as an illegal campaign donation.
South Dakota – South Dakota’s Governor Resisted Ordering People to Stay Home. Now It Has One of the Nation’s Largest Coronavirus Hot Spots.
MSN – Griff Witte (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem dismissed calls to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. She said it was up to individuals, not government, to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play – or to even stay at home.” Now, South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the U.S., with more than 300 workers at a giant ¬pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility, threatening the American food supply.
Utah – Utah Lawmakers Tackling Coronavirus impact in First Online Session
Deseret News – Lisa Riley Roche | Published: 4/15/2020
Utah lawmakers are meeting online only for the first time after calling themselves into an emergency special session focused on dealing with the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. Only Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson are expected to be in the legislative chambers in the closed Capitol, facing new giant screens rather than lawmakers themselves, for the session, which can continue for up to 10 days. Because of technology constraints, work on the more than 20 items on the agenda will be tackled in one chamber at a time, starting in the House, Thomas said. Also, bills will not receive committee hearings, which are optional in a special session.
Washington – Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 4/9/2020
Tim Eyman, the longtime anti-tax activist and initiative promoter, has until April 19 to pay $270,000 in fines and attorneys’ fees accrued for refusing to follow court orders in a Washington state campaign finance case. The payment will be due as part of a new plan approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge. Eyman owes more than $340,000 in contempt sanctions and related costs and has paid about $60,000. Sanctions continue to accrue. The new bankruptcy plan also will require Eyman to pay $10,000 a month starting in May and $13,500 a month starting in January 2022, until his debts have been satisfied.
Washington – Washington AG Ferguson Sues Facebook Again, Saying It’s Still Selling Political Ads Without Adequate Disclosures
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 4/14/2020
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a second lawsuit against Facebook over political ads, saying the company once again failed to make disclosures required under the state’s campaign finance laws. Facebook already paid $238,000 in 2018 to resolve a previous dispute over political advertising. Facebook announced later that year it would stop accepting political ads related to state or local initiatives in Washington, although it still permitted advertisements around “issues of national importance” targeting people in the state. Ferguson said Facebook had continued selling hundreds of ads to at least 171 state political committees since 2018, in violation of its own policy.
Wisconsin – ‘Not as Wisconsin Nice as We Used to Be’: The divisions in Dairyland
MSN – Dionne Searcey (New York Times) | Published: 4/11/2020
The political war being waged in Wisconsin shows how partisanship pushed to its most strategic outer limits can ensnare not only primary election voters but also cow manure, a Christmas tree, a tourism agency, and in particular, farmers who need help. The battle became particularly heated during the tenure of Gov. Scott Walker, who outraged Democrats by taking on a key liberal tenet: organized labor. After he lost the statehouse in 2018, Wisconsin Republicans, who now control both chambers, pushed through measures to strip the powers of newly elected Democrats. In November, Republicans opened a special session the current governor had called to take up gun control measures, and then pounded the gavel to close the session after only a few seconds.
Wisconsin – Upset Victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Gives Democrats a Lift
MSN – Reid Epsein (New York Times) | Published: 4/13/2020
Democrats scored a significant victory in Wisconsin when a liberal challenger upset a Trump-backed incumbent to win a state Supreme Court seat, a down-ballot race that illustrated strong turnout and vote-by-mail efforts in a presidential battleground state. The large margin of victory came as a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike in Wisconsin, where contests for president, governor, and the state’s high court in the last four years have all been decided by about 30,000 votes or less. It followed weeks of Democratic anger over Republicans’ insistence on holding elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.
April 15, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Washington: “Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times Elections New York: “New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds” by […]
Washington: “Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times
New York: “New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette
Wisconsin: “Upset Victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Gives Democrats a Lift” by Reid Epsein (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Who’s Getting These Hundreds of Billions in the Government Aid? For Now, the Public May Be in the Dark.” by Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long (Washington Post) for Beaumont Enterprise
South Dakota: “South Dakota’s Governor Resisted Ordering People to Stay Home. Now It Has One of the Nation’s Largest Coronavirus Hot Spots.” by Griff Witte (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Lobbyists, Political Consultants Sue U.S. for Coronavirus Bailout” by Robert Burnson (Bloomberg) for Washington Post
California: “FPPC Offers Guidance on Lobbying Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19” by Staff for Vallejo Times-Herald