June 25, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Colorado: “Colorado Dems Have a Plan to Shine A Light on Dark Money. Could It Work?” by Sam Brasch for Colorado Public Radio Elections Pennsylvania: “Voting Rights and Election Reform Are Hot Topics with Pa. Lawmakers. It’s a […]
Colorado: “Colorado Dems Have a Plan to Shine A Light on Dark Money. Could It Work?” by Sam Brasch for Colorado Public Radio
Pennsylvania: “Voting Rights and Election Reform Are Hot Topics with Pa. Lawmakers. It’s a Moment Three Decades in the Making.” by Jonathan Lai for Philadelphia Inquirer
Utah: “Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Will Distance Himself from Making Calls on Election Complaints in the Governor’s Race in Which He’s a Candidate” by Dan Harrie for Salt Lake Tribune
Illinois: “Ex-Lincoln-Way Superintendent Has Amassed Nearly $600K in Pension Income Since Being Indicted, Records Show” by Zak Koeske for Chicago Tribune
Minnesota: “New Documents Revisit Questions about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Marriage History” by J. Patrick Coolican and Stephen Montemayor for Mineapolis Star Tribune
New York: “A Profound Democratic Shift in New York: ‘We seized the moment’” by Vivian Wang and Jesse McKinley for New York Times
Connecticut: “Life Gets Harder Minus Gavel for Brendan Sharkey, the House Speaker-Turned-Lobbyist Who Sued Dissatisfied Client That Fired Him” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant
Florida: “When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
June 14, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019 In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named […]
A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel
MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019
In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and spent 26 nights in a suite, a visit estimated to have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kasnazan said his choice of the Trump hotel was not part of a lobbying effort. His long visit is an example of how Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the administration.
As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder
New York Times – Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/11/2019
Of the 23 Democratic candidates for president, only eight routinely break one percent in national polls. Most have not yet qualified for the fall debates. And cable news channels, which have emerged as an early driving force in the race, have only so many hours of programming each day. That has moved the campaign into a new, yet familiar, phase: the ritual airing of grievances. Weeks’ worth of pent-up frustration is beginning to trickle into the public arena, as a way for candidates to explain their lowly positions, both to themselves and to the voters. The rules around participation in the primary debates are a sore spot for second- and third-tier candidates, who fear getting shut out of the biggest stage in the race.
Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/10/2019
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation that would give the Department of Justice more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak. The bill would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent. It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.
Chao Created Special Path for McConnell’s Favored Projects
Politico – Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snider | Published: 6/10/2019
The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell, including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications. The circumstances highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically.
DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest
Politico – Michael Stratford | Published: 6/11/2019
The Education Department appointee who oversees the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan being asked about a potential conflict-of-interest. Mark Brown, a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, was selected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be the new head of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Until recently, he also served as an unpaid member of the board of directors of KnowledgeWorks, a non-profit foundation that holds about $30 million in federally guaranteed student loans. Several ethics experts said that arrangement raised concerns about a potential conflict because Brown’s unit is responsible for regulating and overseeing student loans backed by the government, including those that are owned by KnowledgeWorks.
Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate
Anchorage Daily News – Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 6/5/2019
Joe Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 amid questions about a value he had worked hard to convince voters he had: authenticity. The collapse had begun with news that Biden had lifted phrases and mannerisms from a British Labour Party politician while making closing remarks at a debate. Examples soon surfaced of Biden using material from other politicians without attribution, and he acknowledged he had been accused of plagiarism in law school. Now, those events are back in the spotlight for the former vice president, who is one of the most visible Democrats in a crowded field vying to run against President Trump. Biden’s campaign acknowledged it had lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.
Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 6/6/2019
One year out from the 2020 elections, presidential candidates face legal roadblocks to acquiring the tools and assistance necessary to defend against the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 campaign. Federal laws prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidates. The same law also blocks political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an in-kind donation. The issue took on added urgency after lawyers for the FEC advised the agency to block a request by Area 1 Security, asked the company to refile the request with a simpler explanation of how it would determine what campaigns qualified for discounted services.
NRA Money Flowed to Board Members Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending by Top Officials and Vendors
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members, the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. Eighteen members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years. The payments deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. The payments, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.
Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel
USA Today – Maureen Groppe | Published: 6/11/2019
U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, reported spending more than $7,600 in campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in the first few months after his election in November, although lawmakers are supposed to pay for their own housing in Washington, D.C. Hours after USA Today pressed for details on the nature of the lodging expenses, Rep. Pence’s campaign filed an amended FEC report that changed the designation of the expenses to “fundraising event costs.” Federal election rules allow campaign funds to be spent on hotels for fundraising events. And Greg Pence separately reported more than $15,000 in catering and reception costs at Trump’s hotel in December and January.
Top AI Researchers Race to Detect ‘Deepfake’ Videos: ‘We are outgunned’
San Francisco Chronicle – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2019
Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers warn that computer-generated fake videos could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they did not really do. And researchers fear it is only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage – to sow confusion, fuel doubt, or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote. Even simple tweaks to existing videos can create turmoil, as happened with the recent viral spread of a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, distorted to make her speech stunted and slurred. That video was viewed more than 3 million times.
Trump 2020 Campaign Ad Payments Hidden by Layers of Shell Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/13/2019
The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission records. The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. Trump’s reelection campaign quietly continued to funnel money to the same individuals through payments to Harris Sikes Media.
Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/9/2019
As the special counsel’s investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence – a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness – that might have led to him. An attorney for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump, while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. Dowd never said whether Trump directed him to make the overture. And investigators for Robert Mueller declined to question Dowd about his message. Legal experts were divided on whether Mueller’s team should have sought to question Dowd.
Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents
Keene Sentinel – Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/13/2019
President Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it and he would have no obligation to call in the FBI. The president’s comments come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. Although special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign in his probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, his report said the Russian government interfered in the election in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” and that Trump’s campaign was open to assistance from Russian sources.
What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/11/2019
A handful of governors presiding over one-party states are now taking serious hits from legislators and leaders in their own political parties. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is engaged in a feud with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that has led to threats of a primary challenge. In Kentucky, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanne Hampton warned recently about “dark forces” operating within Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Craig Blair, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee in West Virginia, called on Republican Gov. Jim Justice to resign. In states with divided governments, it is almost to be expected that governors and legislators will sometimes sling arrows at each other. But most states are dominated by a single party, and their most powerful politicians are finding that it can still be difficult to get along.
With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 6/11/2019
It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state Legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones. Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic. Analysts said issues addressed by state Legislatures this year, which included gun control and health care, might have more lasting effect than anything approved in Washington, D.C., where government is divided.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Democrats Say They Don’t Take Big Tobacco Money. But JUUL Had a Sponsorship at Convention
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 6/7/2019
JUUL Labs, maker of a line of e-cigarette products in popular use among middle and high school students, had a prominent sponsor slot on the stage of the California Democratic Party’s state convention, where politicians like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a bevy of presidential candidates and state officials spoke. State Sen. Jerry Hill, an outspoken critic of tobacco companies, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the sponsorship. “I was baffled because it’s a long-standing policy of the Democratic Party not to take money from Big Tobacco,” Hill said. JUUL is one-third owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA.
Illinois – Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Introduce Ethics Package Aimed at Fighting City Hall Corruption
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 6/5/2019
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to follow through on her campaign pledge to clean up a City Hall that for months has been rocked by an FBI investigation and racketeering charges against Ald. Edward Burke by introducing an ethics reform package. The former federal prosecutor’s proposal looks to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and would require nonprofits lobbying City Hall to register as lobbyists. It also would give city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the power to audit city council committees. Lightfoot is also pushing for more modest increases to fines for ethics violations than the city Ethics Board has proposed.
Indiana – Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/11/2019
Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the city of Fort Wayne in a case regarding its controversial “pay-to-play” ordinance. DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts. The ordinance prohibited any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.
New Hampshire – Top N.H. Lawmaker Says No Lobbying Involved in His Union Job, But His Predecessor Was a Lobbyist
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 6/6/2019
House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant he has not broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature. He has also maintained his work on the union’s behalf – testifying at public hearings, rallying support or opposition for specific bills, and sending out “legislative bulletins” to union members – does not count as lobbying. But Ley’s predecessor at the union, Laura Hainey, said she did consider much of the same kind of advocacy work she did at the statehouse to constitute lobbying. And, unlike Ley, she registered as a lobbyist during her term as the union’s president.
New Jersey – Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure
Burlington County Times – Dave Levinsky | Published: 6/10/2019
Facing the likelihood that lawmakers would vote to override his earlier veto, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to sign a “dark money” disclosure bill originally sent to him. Lawmakers agreed to vote again on the original legislation and Murphy has agreed to sign it with no changes. The bill mandates the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by dark-money groups in recent years.
New York – Inside the Stealth Campaign for ‘Responsible Rent Reform’
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 6/10/2019
Confronted with a Democratic takeover of the state Legislature and emboldened progressive activists, the city’s landlords and developers, long accustomed to ruling New York through political donations and expensive lobbyists, are adopting the tactics of their activist foes. They have sent buses of electricians and boiler repair workers to Albany to protest the proposed changes, organized rallies outside public hearings, formed groups with generic names to run social media advertisements, and paid for mailers urging constituents to call their representatives. The goal is to deliver the industry’s message that too-strict rent regulations would affect not only wealthy landlords, but also the working class in a way that does not seem like it is coming from the industry.
Wisconsin – Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 6/11/2019
The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated most of the lame-duck laws Republican lawmakers approved in December to trim the powers of the state’s top Democrats. With a pair of orders, the high court canceled a trial and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal. After the rulings, just two provisions of the lame-duck laws have been kept from going into effect. One would have limited early voting; the other would have required a public commenting period for older government documents. The status of the laws could change in the months ahead because the Supreme Court has to make more rulings in the case. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages.
June 13, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Indiana: “Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance” by Dave Gong for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette New York: “Amid Controversy, City Council Moves Ahead with Campaign Finance Bill Extending Public Match” by Caitlyn Rosen for Gotham […]
Indiana: “Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance” by Dave Gong for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
New York: “Amid Controversy, City Council Moves Ahead with Campaign Finance Bill Extending Public Match” by Caitlyn Rosen for Gotham Gazette
National: “As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder” by Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein for New York Times
National: “Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel” by Maureen Groppe for USA Today
National: “DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest” by Michael Stratford for Politico
Washington: “Washington Supreme Court Weighing Legislative Records Case” by Rachel LaCorte for AP News
National: “What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common” by Alan Greenblatt for Governing
Wisconsin: “Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws” by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 12, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Indiana: “Are Watchdogs Over Indiana Campaign Donations Really Watching?” by Thomas Langhorne for Evansville Courier and Press New Jersey: “Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure” by Dave Levinsky for Burlington County Times Ethics National: […]
Indiana: “Are Watchdogs Over Indiana Campaign Donations Really Watching?” by Thomas Langhorne for Evansville Courier and Press
New Jersey: “Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure” by Dave Levinsky for Burlington County Times
National: “Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside” by Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) for MSN
California: “FPPC Rejects GOP Complaint About Union Donations for California Lieutenant Governor’s Furniture” by Sophia Bollag for Sacramento Bee
Texas: “Two Years After Bribery Scandal, Sreerama Welcomed Back as Harris County Vendor” by Zach Despart and Mike Morris for Houston Chronicle
Virginia: “‘A Rare Position’: Va. Gov. Ralph Northam could wind up with great power, months after almost resigning” by Gregory Schneider for Washington Post
National: “With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided” by Timothy Williams for New York Times
National: “Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
June 7, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019 Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in […]
A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet
MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in her family’s shipping business, Foremost Group, which has deep ties to the economic and political elite in China. But she and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, who ran the company until last year. And McConnell’s re-election campaigns have received more than $1 million in contributions from Chao’s extended family. Over the years, Chao has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile of the company. Now, Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is overshadowed by its Chinese competitors. Her efforts on behalf of the family business have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.
FEC to Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and 48 More Zombie Campaigns: Why are you still here?
Tampa Bay Times – Christopher O’Donnell, Eli Murray, Connie Humburg, and Noah Pransky | Published: 5/31/2019
The FEC demanded explanations from about 50 politicians who are operating zombie campaigns – political committees that keep spending contributions long after the campaign has ended. The agency sent letters to the campaigns asking why their campaign accounts were still open. It flagged specific expenses by at least 17 campaigns and asked them to justify the spending. It is the first action taken by the FEC since it announced in April 2018 that it would start scrutinizing the spending of what it called “dormant” campaigns. Federal law does not allow campaign money to be spent improving politicians’ personal lives.
How Payday Lenders Spent $1 Million at a Trump Resort – and Cashed In
ProPublica – Alice Wilder (WNYC) and Anjali Tsui | Published: 6/4/2019
In March, the payday lending industry held its annual convention at the Trump National Doral hotel outside Miami. A month earlier, Kathleen Kraninger, who had just finished her second month as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had delivered what the lenders consider an epochal victory: Kraninger announced a proposal to eviscerate a crucial rule that had been passed under her Obama-era predecessor. This year was the second in a row the industry’s trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, held its convention at the Doral. In the eight years before 2018, the organization never held an event at a Trump property.
In Need of Cash, Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Turn to Wealthy Donors
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2019
Across the Democratic field, presidential candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on – a sign of increasing doubt the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders. Many of the candidates previously had held a handful of high-dollar fundraisers or avoided them altogether, seeking to tap into the populist sentiment that has animated the Democratic base. But after a disappointing fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, and as the primary drags on with no clear front-runner, many of the candidates are turning their focus to wealthy donors, a strategy that could help keep their campaigns viable but may hamper their ability to connect with base voters.
Liberals Rip Democratic Leaders for Writing Drug Pricing Bill in Secret
The Hill – Peter Sullivan | Published: 6/6/2019
Progressive House Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with their party’s leadership, accusing them of writing Democrats’ signature bill to lower prescription drug prices in secret and without their input. At issue is a plan Pelosi’s office has been working on for months that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a top priority for Democrats and one the party stressed in its campaign last year to win back the House. There is now an intense debate within the Democratic caucus over the details of that proposal, with the Progressive Caucus pushing for a bill that it says is stronger because it would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if the manufacturer refuses to agree to a reasonable price in Medicare negotiations.
Meet the GOP Operatives Who Aim to Smear the 2020 Democrats – but Keep Bungling It
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 6/4/2019
Like notorious dirty tricksters before them, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl operate in a realm where it matters little whether their outrageous claims against political opponents are proved – they hardly ever are – but only whether they somehow slip into the national consciousness. But today it is a more dangerous game: they operate in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended and in which many Americans get their information from self-affirming, partisan silos, making their brand of political cyberwarfare hyper-relevant.
Recent Ex-Members of Congress Head to K Street as ‘Shadow Lobbying’ Escalates
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/30/2019
Nearly two dozen former members of the 115th Congress have already found jobs at lobbying firms. Lobbying is a natural next step for recently departed members who spent years cultivating relationships with their colleagues and interest groups. While former members of Congress must wait two years before lobbying their respective chamber’s ex-colleagues, they often engage in so-called shadow lobbying – participating in activities that might be considered lobbying but declining to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). “[The] LDA is nothing more than an honor system,” said Paul Miller, president of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics.
Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle
New York Times – Cecilia Kang and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/5/2019
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built themselves into some of the largest players on K Street as they confront threats from the Trump administration and both parties on Capitol Hill. Amazon’s expansion has been met with unease over labor conditions and the company’s effect on small businesses. The four companies spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year. Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the companies in the first three months of this year, both in-house employees and those on contract from lobbying and law firms, about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns. Amazon’s Washington office is led by a former Federal Trade Commission official, Brian Huseman. Its roster of contract lobbyists includes three Democratic former members of Congress and two former Justice Department lawyers.
Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Team Up to Ban Lawmakers from Lobbying
National Public Radio – Sasha Ingber | Published: 5/31/2019
Two lawmakers who have often been at odds found common ground in a place that often highlights polarizing opinions: Twitter. That is where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vowed to set aside their differences and work on new lobbying restrictions for lawmakers. Now an unlikely coalition is forming around their joint effort. Craig Holman, who lobbies on ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying on behalf of Public Citizen, said it is “heartening” that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez moved to bridge the deep partisan divide. “I am not sure if Congress will be willing to adopt their proposed lifetime ban, but the sheer fact of a left-and-right agreement that the revolving door is a grave problem that must be addressed is going to move the ball forward,” Holman said.
The Campaign Finance of Women’s Suffrage
WHYY – Kimberly Adams | Published: 6/4/2019
Women’s suffrage took more than seven decades of political struggle and included marches, hunger strikes, and arrests. And, like political campaigns of today, it required a lot of money. While women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were on the front lines of the movement, there were other women working behind the scenes to fund it. “We don’t tend to teach about the suffrage movement as a major lobbying force, a major well-funded organization in American political history, but it was,” said Corrine McConnaughy, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and author of “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment.”
Trump Resort Revenue Has Gone Up After Presidential Visits
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 6/6/2019
President Trump’s week-long trip to Europe included a tour of his own businesses. Trump traveled to his luxury resort on Ireland’s west coast for a visit that brought world-wide publicity and increased security to the location, and, if past trends hold, more revenue. The president’s trip to Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg, Ireland has once again led to criticisms that he is using his office to make money for his own business. It marks the second time he has visited one of his properties outside the United States since he was sworn into office. “U.S. foreign relations should never rise and fall on the financial interests of the president and the ability to promote his own property,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which examined his financial disclosures.
Trump Urges Customers to Drop AT&T to Punish CNN Over Its Coverage of Him
Portland Press Herald – Craig Timberg, Taylor Telford, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2019
President Trump called for a boycott of AT&T, the corporate owner of CNN, saying the network paints a “false picture” of the U.S. The comment, which Trump tweeted in response to seeing CNN coverage while traveling during a European tour, fueled criticisms the president was using his power inappropriately to intimidate critics. Historians struggled to cite an equivalent threat even from presidents such as Richard Nixon renowned for their hostility toward the press. Less democratic nations with more tenuous press freedoms often use government regulatory power, criminal investigations or tax audits to punish news organizations seen as providing unflattering coverage, but past U.S. presidents rarely have taken such public shots at the businesses of the owners of major American news organizations, historians said.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Dunkin’ Donuts Owner Accuses Ethics Commission Investigator of Abuse of Power
Montgomery Advertiser – Kirsten Fiscus | Published: 5/31/2019
When Damon Dunn received notification of a discrimination complaint against his Dunkin’ Donuts store, he was concerned at first, then confused, and then angry. It is corporate policy that customer complaints are reviewed and handled in a timely manner, but the majority of those are disgruntled customers upset about a long wait time or food prepared incorrectly. Byron Butler, a man Dunn would learn is an investigator with the Alabama Ethics Commission, accused the store of charging black customers more for extra pumps of coffee flavoring known as “swirl” at the restaurant, a claim that Dunn says is unfounded. Butler told an employee he was an investigator and took a verbal statement from her about the charging practices. The employee, who is 18, thought she would face legal trouble if she did not talk with him.
Florida – Lawmakers Call for Probe of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer’s Failure to Disclose Payments
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross | Published: 5/30/2019
Some Democratic lawmakers in Florida are calling for an investigation into whether prominent National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer violated state law by failing to disclose payments from her organization while lobbying on NRA priorities like banning the sale of bump stocks. According to Florida law, non-employee lobbyists for both legislative and executive branches are required to register and disclose their total compensation. Hammer is not an in-house lobbyist for the NRA, and therefore is required under law to submit a compensation report for each quarter during which she was registered to lobby. The Florida Bulldog reported Hammer failed to file any compensation reports with state since at least 2007.
Florida – Top City Law Firm Broke County Lobbying Rules
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 5/31/2019
One of the region’s biggest law firms is among several business interests that did not meet required deadlines for registering as lobbyists, Lee County’s inspector general said in an investigative report. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, a Fort Myers based law firm; John Gucciardi, a consultant to Fort Myers Beach developer TPI Hospitality; and Waldrop Engineering each missed filing deadline. Waldrop went seven years without filing the statement. It has since filed registrations for its employees.
Georgia – Abrams Probe Highlights Wide Reach of State Ethics Commission
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Stephan Fowler | Published: 6/5/2019
Lawyers for former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams say the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission did not follow its own rules in an investigation of her 2018 campaign. The commission alleges illegal coordination between the Abrams campaign and four outside organizations. The campaign argued the ethics panel failed to follow its rules for opening an inquiry and sharing probable cause for the allegations. But according to state law, the commission is following the rules. Rick Thompson, a former executive secretary of the commission, said in terms of procedure, the subpoenas are above board. The full scope of the probe will not be made clear until it is put before a meeting of the full commission.
Illinois – Ald. Edward Burke Indicted on Expanded Federal Racketeering, Bribery Charges
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Todd Lighty, and Gregory Pratt | Published: 5/30/2019
Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was meeting with a fellow alderman in October 2017 when he allegedly expressed his displeasure over the way developers of the old main Chicago post office had so far failed to throw any business to Burke’s private law firm. “As far as I’m concerned, they can go f— themselves,” Burke told Ald. Daniel Solis, who was secretly recording the conversation. The conversation is at the center of a 14-count indictment outlining a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city. Also charge Burke in attempting to shake down two businesspeople seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the ward.
Kentucky – Appellate Court Upholds State Ban of Gifts, Money to Kentucky Lawmakers
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 5/30/2019
A federal appeals court upheld a Kentucky law that prohibit lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators or donating to their campaigns. The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman, who struck down the bans, ruling Kentucky’s laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association. The appeals court reversed the ruling and said the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution.”
Massachusetts – Convicted of Corruption, DiMasi Now Wants to Be a Lobbyist. The State Has Other Ideas
Boston Globe – Matt Sout and Andrea Estes | Published: 6/5/2019
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office rejected former state House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s application to become a lobbyist just days after he registered to lobby both the Legislature and executive branch. DiMasi appealed and is due to appear before an administrative hearing officer. His attempt at entering the lucrative industry came after he completed his supervised release following his conviction on corruption charges. DiMasi argued that because lawmakers did not include any of the specific federal statutes on which he was convicted into the state law, he should not be prohibited from registering. Laurie Flynn, Galvin’s chief legal counsel, argued DiMasi’s criminal record includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws, which automatically bars him from lobbying for 10 years after his conviction, or until June 2021.
Michigan – Emails Show MDOT Let Lobbyist Steer Report on Gravel Shortage for Michigan Roads
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 6/6/2019
When Michigan gravel companies wanting to open or expand a mine are opposed by neighbors objecting to the noise and dust, they point to a 2016 consultant’s study, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), that says the state is running out of gravel to rebuild its busted roads. But in fact, the Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA) – the lobbying organization for the sand and gravel industry, which is pushing for legislation that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to deny permits for new or expanded gravel mines – was behind the study, records show. The MAA recommended the consultant MDOT hired, set out the scope of work and how to price the study, and even spelled out the expected findings. The group also had a role in initiating the study.
Missouri – Free Acupuncture and Eye Exams for Lawmakers Are No-Nos, Missouri Ethics Commission Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/3/2019
Two opinions from the Missouri Ethics Commission, which read as lists of dos-and-don’ts for lawmakers and their employees, were issued in response to questions following the passage of Amendment 1 last year. One of the provisions of what is known as “Clean Missouri” limits lobbyist gifts to five dollars. Accepting engraved plaques worth more than five dollars from lobbyists or organizations that lobby is prohibited, the commission said. It also said lawmakers should avoid free use of conference rooms owned by organizations that retain lobbyists. The opinion outlines a number of other scenarios in which lawmakers or their staffs may face ethical dilemmas.
New Jersey – Murphy Officials ‘Seriously Mishandled’ Katie Brennan Assault Allegation, Inquiry Finds
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 6/5/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s staff “seriously mishandled” a sexual assault claim by not investigating it and not telling Murphy before the hiring of the alleged assailant – details of which remain a mystery – for a top position, a legislative inquiry has found. The report by the Select Oversight Committee chronicles a series of missteps made by some of the highest-ranking officials in Murphy’s orbit in response to the allegation, made by former campaign volunteer Katie Brennan, and calls into question the “competence and culture of state government as a whole.” Brennan, now a housing official in the administration, had accused Al Alvarez, a former Murphy aide, of sexually assaulting her during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez was not charged and has denied the allegation.
New York – Nassau County Implements New Ethics Rules
Newsday – Candice Ferrette | Published: 6/5/2019
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed new rules for county vendors, including a ban on gifts to county procurement officials, aimed at stemming contracting abuses that were central to federal corruption cases involving prominent local officials. Under the new Vendor Code of Ethics, county employees involved with contracting cannot accept gifts “of any kind” from vendors, “no matter how small.” Contractors also cannot discuss or offer jobs to county employees involved with procurement or to their family members. Under the new rules, vendors will be required to certify they have read and accepted the terms of the ethics code and have distributed it to all subcontractors and suppliers.
Rhode Island – The Providence Mayor Raised Thousands of Dollars for a Nonprofit with Ties to His Campaign, Then He Reimbursed Himself from Its Coffers
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan | Published: 6/6/2019
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nonprofit organization with close ties to his political campaign and one that later reimbursed him and other high-ranking city employees for travel expenses to conferences all over the country. Now, the practice of soliciting donations for the Providence Tourism Fund – often from law firms and other companies that have contracts with the city – has come under fire from watchdogs who say Elorza is sidestepping Rhode Island’s strict campaign finance laws so he can collect unlimited amounts of money from corporations. Elorza did not create the fund. It was established in 2009 to raise money for a national conference that was held in Providence, but he has been far more aggressive about using it for travel than his predecessors.
June 5, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued ordinary and emergency administrative regulations in order to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 6. The changes to the administrative regulations involve the procedures for filing lobbyist forms and statements of financial disclosure. […]
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued ordinary and emergency administrative regulations in order to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 6.
The changes to the administrative regulations involve the procedures for filing lobbyist forms and statements of financial disclosure.
The commission established initial clarifications to help with the changes.
In the first clarification scenario, if a person filed an initial registration statement prior to July 1, 2019, then they will file the 2016 versions of the update forms during the upcoming filing period.
In the second clarification scenario, if a person files an initial registration statement after July 1, 2019, then they will file the 2019 versions of the update and termination forms during the proceeding filing periods.
There will be an open comment period from June 1, to June 30, with a public hearing on June 21.
June 4, 2019 • Written by Timothy Kilcullen
The Legislature adjourned sine die in the early morning hours of June 4. The final day of the session was spent passing a two-year state budget and multiple bills related to lobbying and campaign finance laws. Assembly Bill 452 imposes […]
The Legislature adjourned sine die in the early morning hours of June 4.
The final day of the session was spent passing a two-year state budget and multiple bills related to lobbying and campaign finance laws.
Assembly Bill 452 imposes more detailed registration requirements for lobbyists.
Additionally, the bill requires a supplemental registration to be filed for any changes to registration until the commencement of the next regular session.
The bill will become effective immediately if signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
June 4, 2019 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On June 3, the 4th Session of the 41st Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, which began on November 20, 2018, adjourned until October 2, 2019. Bill 2, The Municipal Amendment Act (Strengthening Codes of Conduct for Council Members), received Royal Assent […]
On June 3, the 4th Session of the 41st Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, which began on November 20, 2018, adjourned until October 2, 2019.
Bill 2, The Municipal Amendment Act (Strengthening Codes of Conduct for Council Members), received Royal Assent on June 3.
The new law amends The Municipal Act to require a code of conduct for members of municipal councils be adopted through by-laws.
The code must include procedures for receiving and dealing with reports of contraventions, relevant sanctions, and training on the municipality’s code of conduct.
The new legislation requires each member of a council to undergo training.
Lawmakers plan to adjourn the Assembly again on November 7.
June 4, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
Gov. Jim Justice amended his proclamation for the First Extraordinary Session of 2019, adding a bill relating to the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program. The special session was originally called to address improvements to public education and pay raises […]
Gov. Jim Justice amended his proclamation for the First Extraordinary Session of 2019, adding a bill relating to the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The special session was originally called to address improvements to public education and pay raises for school teachers.
The Senate has introduced the Student Success Act to address these issues.
The House is set to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. on June 17.
June 3, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
The first regular session of the 57th Legislature adjourned on May 31 at 5 p.m, one week ahead of its constitutional deadline. Senate Joint Resolution 22 was among the bills passed, rejecting amendments proposed by the Ethics Commission during the […]
The first regular session of the 57th Legislature adjourned on May 31 at 5 p.m, one week ahead of its constitutional deadline.
Senate Joint Resolution 22 was among the bills passed, rejecting amendments proposed by the Ethics Commission during the legislative session.
The resolution rejected a revolving door restriction that would have prohibited elected state officers and chief administrative officers from lobbying for two years following their terms of office.
Additionally, the resolution rejected a proposal to provide examples of activities that are not considered electioneering communications.
Examples include news or feature reporting activities and candidate debates.
The Legislature is schedule to reconvene on Monday, February 3, 2020.
May 31, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny AP News – Richard Laudner | Published: 5/27/2019 Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee and all he has to show for the money is […]
A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny
AP News – Richard Laudner | Published: 5/27/2019
Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee and all he has to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation. The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama. More than two years later, he still has not closed the deal. Haney’s donation to the inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.
Anti-Corruption Group Hits Congress for Ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill ‘Revolving Door’
The Hill – Mike Lillis | Published: 5/29/2019
An international anti-corruption group is criticizing Congress for what it considers an ongoing failure to restrict the “revolving door” between K Street and Capitol Hill. The Group of States Against Corruption, an offshoot of the Council of Europe of which the U.S. is a participant, charged that while Congress has taken steps to restrict influence peddling by sitting lawmakers, it has failed to put similar restrictions on those who migrate to the lobbying world upon leaving office. Watchdogs were quick to pile on, noting Congress has not enacted any new restrictions on the “revolving door” since 2007, when it adopted the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
Congressional Panel Calls for Lobbying Disclosure Reforms
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/23/2019
A bipartisan select committee is sending Congress a proposal on how to modernize the lobbying disclosure system. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted on recommendations they said would improve transparency for lobbyists, part of a larger package of congressional reforms the panel approved. The recommendations will be drafted into legislation and sent to the appropriate committees. Primarily it seeks to standardize how the disclosure system files and tracks the names of lobbyists, by giving each lobbyist a unique identifier. In addition, the House Clerk’s office would clarify and simplify the lobbying registration and disclosure process, to make filing the required paperwork easier.
Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 5/30/2019
After Thomas Hofeller died last summer, his daughter found hard drives in his home that revealed he played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Hofeller was prominent in Republican circles as the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country. Files on those drives showed he wrote a study concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. He wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision. Those documents have emerged only weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question.
Emails, Letters Detail Prosecution’s Case against Greg Craig
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/29/2019
Federal prosecutors have laid bare more of their most compelling evidence that former White House counsel Gregory Craig lied to and misled authorities about his work for Ukraine, but the newly disclosed proof also highlights one of the most glaring weaknesses in the government’s case. In court filing, prosecutors included copies of internal emails Craig sent to colleagues at his then-law firm Skadden Arps, as well as drafts of a letter he prepared for the Justice Department in response to its request that the firm register as an agent for Ukraine under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Prosecutors said the letters and emails show Craig crafting a false narrative that understated his involvement in distributing to the media a 2012 report Skadden prepared on the corruption trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Faked Pelosi Videos, Slowed to Make Her Appear Drunk, Spread Across Social Media
MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019
Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, altered to make her sound as if she is drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web. The video of Pelosi’s onstage at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The videos raised concerns about the roles of digital manipulation, misleading videos, and misinformation in politics going forward, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns
Lewiston Sun Journal – Joseph Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019
The FEC gave the go-ahead to a nonprofit organization seeking to offer free cybersecurity services to political campaigns, upending rules that typically consider such free services illegal campaign contributions. The agency’s reasoning was that it ordinarily bans such services due to the possibility people might try to cash in on political favors later. But in this case, the risk of Russian and Chinese hackers running roughshod over the 2020 elections is far worse. The nonprofit Defending Digital Campaigns, which made the appeal, now plans to run cybersecurity boot camps for staffers on presidential and congressional campaigns.
Freshman Lashes Out After House Ethics Rules Bar Promoting Bone Marrow Drive
Roll Call – Katherine Tully McManus | Published: 5/29/2019
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter learned recently that one of her constituents, Liyna Anwar, needed help finding a donor in her fight against myeloid leukemia. After her aides reached out to the House ethics committee, Porter learned she could not promote any of the nine bone marrow registry events happening in California on May 31, where Anwar’s possible match could join the database of donors. House rules include a blanket prohibition on lawmakers promoting events held by private entities, including nonprofits. That includes DKMS, an international organization that advocates for more people to register as blood stem cell donors. Now Porter is questioning whether rules designed to prevent misuse of taxpayer dollars need to be reviewed.
‘He Always Brings Them Up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm
MSN – Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019
President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a Republican Party donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials. Fisher sued the U.S. government after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars. Trump has latched on to the company’s public claims that a new design and innovative construction method would vastly speed up the project and deliver it at far less cost to taxpayers. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials.
Mueller Suggests Only Congress Can ‘Formally Accuse a Sitting President of Wrongdoing’
Anchorage Daily News – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller reiterated that his office could not clear President Trump of obstructing justice, asserting in his first public remarks about his investigation that federal prosecutors cannot accuse a president of a crime. Mueller, who noted he was closing his office and formally resigning from the Justice Department, said he hoped the news conference would be his last public comments and if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak beyond what he wrote in his report. He also said while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing, a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
Republicans Spend More Than $4 Million at Trump Properties
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 5/24/2019
Republican candidates and campaign committees have spent more than $4 million at hotel, golf, and other properties that bear President Trump’s name since he was inaugurated in 2017. More than three dozen members of Congress have held fundraisers or spent the night at Trump properties. Watchdogs have raised concerns over the propriety of Trump profiting off businesses as foreign governments and corporate interest groups currying favor in Washington book rooms at Trump hotels. There is nothing in the Constitution that bans a campaign from spending money at a company that benefits a candidate. But those good-government groups say the mixture of business and politics creates a combustible potion. “The behavior itself is corrupting, and it’s creating corruption and the appearance of corruption,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that advocates for ethics in government.
September Debate Rules Could Winnow 2020 Democratic Field
Washington Post – Michael Scherer | Published: 5/29/2019
The Democratic National Committee announced new criteria for the party’s September presidential debate that could dramatically winnow the sprawling field of 23 candidates, raising the stakes on the summer campaign season. To appear in the party’s third debate, candidates will have to earn two percent support in four party-sanctioned polls between late June and August. In addition, they will have to show they have attracted at least 130,000 donors since the start of the campaign, including at least 400 from 20 different states. As the race now stands, only eight candidates in the field would meet the two percent threshold in recent party-sanctioned polls. Many are also struggling to reach the donor requirements.
Transportation Secretary Failed to Sever Financial Ties to Construction Company
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 5/28/2019
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao failed last year to cash out her stock options in one of the nation’s largest suppliers of highway construction materials, despite a promise she had made to do so in a signed ethics agreement when she joined the Trump administration. Chao had served for about two years on the board of directors of the company, Vulcan Materials. She owned this stock because in April 2018 Vulcan paid her for her stock options in the company instead of cash. A Transportation Department official said there was no ethics violation because Chao continued to recuse herself from any agency decisions directly related to the company. Vulcan is mentioned as one of the stocks that would benefit from any big increase in federal infrastructure spending.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Chevron Executive Is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona
Arizona Republic – Ryan Randazzo | Published: 5/28/2019
A California lobbyist for Chevron Corp. is urging retirees of the oil company in Arizona to oppose electric-car policies there, saying the vehicles are too expensive for most people and should not be promoted. A handful of people who either retired from Chevron or from Unocal, which Chevron acquired in 2005, have used the form letter to urge Arizona Corporation Commissioners not to require electric companies here to build electric-car charging stations. Form letters are commonly used to lobby commissioners, but the secretive nature of this campaign has drawn criticism, including from a retiree who alerted commissioners to the lobbyist’s effort.
Arizona – Hot Mic Captures GOP Lawmakers’ Frustration with Colleagues Over State Budget
Arizona Republic – Rachel Leingang, Lily Altivina, and Yvonne Winget Sanchez | Published: 5/23/2019
Arizona House Republicans were caught on a hot microphone discussing how to penalize two of their colleagues for not going along with the state budget. An audio clip of the meeting features multiple members of the House GOP suggesting bills from two lawmakers not get hearings next year. The clip also suggests some lawmakers could be interested in pursuing an ethics inquiry involving state Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter. “I’ve got kids …. Once you give in and there are no repercussions, you’ve encouraged all kinds of bad behaviors. There has to be repercussions of some kind,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Ben Toma said.
Arkansas – Former Arkansas Senator Case Shows Gray Area in Ethics Rules
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Lisa Hammersly | Published: 5/26/2019
As federal prosecutors see it, a series of payments to former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson by former executives of Preferred Family Healthcare constituted bribery. Prosecutors say Hutchinson deposited the money before he filed an amendment to a bill that appeared to benefit the nonprofit. Hutchinson supporters have argued those checks and others like them were lawful compensation for services performed by the Little Rock lawyer outside of his legislative duties. After a string of corruption investigations targeted a half-dozen former state lawmakers, the Legislature has embraced new ethics-related laws. One focus has been a relatively unregulated practice in Arkansas politics: payments by lobbyists and their companies to lawmakers’ businesses, including their law and consulting firms.
Colorado – $120 Million in Requests and $40 Million in the Bank. How an Obscure Theory Helped Prioritize the Colorado Budget.
Colorado Sun – Brian Eason | Published: 5/28/2019
Midway through Colorado’s 2019 legislative session, the appropriations committees in each chamber faced backlogs totaling more than 100 bills carrying a cumulative price tag of more than $120 million. The supporters for each bill were fighting for a piece of the same $40 million that budget writers set aside. The limited pot of money forced unenviable decisions for the Democratic majority with the power to set spending priorities. To find an answer, Democrats attempted a novel approach to public policy: quadratic voting. The obscure economic theory is designed to do what seems impossible at the Capitol – limit the influence of politics and self-interest. The experiment made the Colorado House one of the nation’s first test cases for the theory in the political realm.
Illinois – Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers with Financial Ties to the Industry
ProPublica – Jason Grotto (ProPublica Illinois) and Dan Mihalopoulos (WBEZ) | Published: 5/28/2019
With the Illinois General Assembly poised to consider a tax hike on video gambling, some key lawmakers and their family members have developed previously undisclosed financial connections to the industry, meaning the fate of any proposal could lie in part on votes of legislators with a stake in the outcome. These ties, coupled with campaign donations by the industry, reveal how video gambling operators are building political influence at a time when the state is desperate to identify much-needed revenue to balance the budget. Those operators hope to block a tax increase, pushing instead to raise the maximum bet and increase the number of machines allowed in each location.
Michigan – 50 States of Financial Disclosure: How Michigan stacks up
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 5/24/2019
Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. The lack of financial disclosure requirements is one?of the biggest?reasons?Michigan ranked last?in a 2015 report that documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws. Although some form of disclosure is required almost everywhere else in the country, how those documents are tracked, enforced, and made accessible to the public vary widely. Experts say having the information available is a good step towards addressing potential conflicts-of-interest and corruption.
Michigan – Michigan Lobbyist for Polluter Wrote Law Easing Toxic Cleanups, Emails Show
Bridge Michigan – Jim Malewitz and Craig Mauger | Published: 5/29/2019
In a single year, a self-described “lawyer-lobbyist” went from working on behalf of a company accused of poisoning groundwater to writing a law that could weaken Michigan’s standards for pollution cleanups. A media investigation found attorney Troy Cummings last year represented Wolverine Worldwide in behind-the-scenes negotiations concerning litigation brought against the company by then-state Attorney General Bill Schuette over contamination from one of the company’s tanneries. At the same time, Cumings was involved with fundraising accounts tied to Schuette, who was running for governor. Emails also show Cumings, a lobbyist from Warner Norcross and Judd, later helped write legislation that makes it more difficult for state environmental regulators to update pollution cleanup standards for hundreds of chemicals.
New York – Connections Can Mean Business for Some Lobbyists, Records Show
Newsday – Michael Gormley | Published: 5/25/2019
Lobbyists and legislators said Bolton-St. Johns, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, and the Parkside Group are among what one veteran lobbyist called “the flavors of month” in New York’s $261 million lobbying industry – firms that attract clients and higher fees at least in part because of their relationships with state officials. There always have been a few lobbying firms with such relationships, which can ebb and flow with whomever is in power. But outside the system, there is concern. “It may be that money doesn’t buy politicians, but it certainly buys access and people without money don’t have that access,” said Peter Galie, professor emeritus of political science at Canisius College. “The appearance of power is a form of power.”
New York – ‘So Completely Compromised’: New York watchdog agencies Have a credibility problem
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 5/29/2019
Created to monitor the behavior of more than 250,000 public officials and to enforce state lobbying laws, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has become the epitome of New York state’s lax ethical oversight, and the agency’s opacity is a source of widespread consternation. As is the case with other watchdog entities, JCOPE must balance the privacy of individuals against its duty to inform the public and instill confidence it is effectively carrying out its work. By design, many of these agencies are not required to inform the public about the complaints they receive or are prohibited from doing so to prevent reputational harm against individuals or entities that may be the subject of a complaint. But good government groups say that must change in order to build trust in institutions, and the public would be better served if agencies provided more transparency about how they handle complaints and report on outcomes of investigations.
Tennessee – How a Large-Scale Effort to Register Black Voters Led to a Crackdown in Tennessee
Tulsa World – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019
The Tennessee Black Voter Project took credit for turning in more than 90,000 voter registration applications in 2018. But the surge of forms that landed in the months before Election Day was chaotic and consuming, according to elections officials. Thousands of applications had errors or omissions, they said, and their workers were overwhelmed by the task of verifying all the forms. A new law that takes effect on October 1 will impose fines on groups that employ paid canvassers if they submit incomplete or inaccurate voter registration forms. The fallout is part of a national clash between the two parties over access to the polls – one fueled by efforts on the left to expand the voting pool and new limits backed by Republican lawmakers, who often echo President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.
May 29, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny” by Richard Laudner for AP News New York: “Airport Bidding’s Unclaimed Baggage” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union West Virginia: “Elections Commission Fine-Tunes New Campaign Finance Law” […]
National: “A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny” by Richard Laudner for AP News
New York: “Airport Bidding’s Unclaimed Baggage” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
West Virginia: “Elections Commission Fine-Tunes New Campaign Finance Law” by Phil Kabler for Charleston Gazette-Mail
Texas: “Texas Secretary of State Resigns After Leading Botched Voter Purge That Questioned the Citizenship of Almost 100,000 People” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Should L.A. Curb Charitable Fundraising by Politicians? Council Members Aren’t So Sure” by Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times
Colorado: “$120 Million in Requests and $40 Million in the Bank. How an Obscure Theory Helped Prioritize the Colorado Budget.” by Brian Eason for Colorado Sun
Arizona: “Chevron Executive Is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona” by Ryan Randazzo for Arizona Republic
Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Case Shows Gray Area in Ethics Rules” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
New York: “Connections Can Mean Business for Some Lobbyists, Records Show” by Michael Gormley for Newsday
South Carolina: “SC Wildlife Agency Chief in Trouble with Governor, Regulators Over Seawalls Near Home” by Sammy Fretwell for The State
May 28, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns” by Joseph Marks (Washington Post) for Lewiston Sun Journal Elections Florida: “Deputy Filed to Run Against Osceola County Sheriff in 2020. The Next Day, He Was Fired” by […]
National: “FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns” by Joseph Marks (Washington Post) for Lewiston Sun Journal
Florida: “Deputy Filed to Run Against Osceola County Sheriff in 2020. The Next Day, He Was Fired” by David Harris for Orlando Sentiinel
Tennessee: “How a Large-Scale Effort to Register Black Voters Led to a Crackdown in Tennessee” by Amy Gardner for Washington Post
National: “‘He Always Brings Them Up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm” by Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Distorted Videos of Nancy Pelosi Spread on Facebook and Twitter, Helped by Trump” by Sarah Mervosh for New York Times
Michigan: “50 States of Financial Disclosure: How Michigan stacks up” by Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau for MLive
Arizona: “Hot Mic Captures GOP Lawmakers’ Frustration with Colleagues Over State Budget” by Rachel Leingang, Lily Altivina, Yvonne Winget Sanchez for Arizona Republic
National: “Congressional Panel Calls for Lobbying Disclosure Reforms” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
May 24, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019 A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court […]
9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, saying a “summary” U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 upholding the foreign-donation prohibition left lower-court judges obliged to turn down all First Amendment challenges to the statute. But that high-court decision, issued without briefs or argument, dealt with a lawsuit focused on federal elections. Critics of the ban have said allowing it to extend into state and local political contests intrudes on the right of states and municipalities to control their own electoral processes.
A Conservative Activist’s Behind-the-Scenes Campaign to Remake the Nation’s Courts
Anchorage Daily News – Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
At a time when President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reshaping federal courts by installing conservative judges and Supreme Court justices, few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now than Leonard Leo. He is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a nonprofit group for conservative lawyers that has close ties to Supreme Court justices. Behind the scenes, Leo is the maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to sway lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges. The story of Leo’s rise shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.
Bank CEO Charged with Bribing Manafort for Trump Administration Post
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 5/23/2019
A Chicago bank executive tried to bribe Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort with roughly $16 million in loans after the 2016 election in the hopes of scoring a top administration post, according to a federal indictment. Stephen Calk, then the chief executive officer of the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, “sought to leverage his control over” Manafort’s proposed loans in order to obtain a senior administration position, said court documents. And Calk approved the loans even though he “was aware of significant red flags regarding” Manafort’s ability to pay back the money. The loans were first mentioned during Manafort’s Virginia prosecution on bank- and tax-fraud charges, when one of Calk’s colleagues described the potential quid pro quo during courtroom testimony.
Cohen Told Lawmakers Trump Attorney Jay Sekulow Encouraged Him to Falsely Claim Moscow Project Ended in January
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, told a House panel during closed-door hearings that he had been encouraged by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to falsely claim in a 2017 statement to Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016. Cohen later admitted discussions on the Moscow tower continued into June of the presidential election year, after it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. Cohen’s closed-door testimony led Democrats to press Sekulow and other Trump family lawyers who were involved in a joint defense agreement for more information about work they did preparing Cohen’s statement. The lawyers have so far rebuffed the request, calling it a threat to the protection of communications between lawyers and their clients.
Confidential Draft IRS Memo Says Tax Returns Must Be Given to Congress Unless President Invokes Executive Privilege
MSN – Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
A confidential Internal Revenue Service (IRS) legal memorandum says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege. The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. The IRS memo says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.
Congressional Report: Purdue Pharma influenced World Health Organization’s opioid guidelines
Washington Post – Katie Zezima | Published: 5/23/2019
A new congressional report claims the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on treating pain were directly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, including a set of directions for prescribing powerful painkillers that appear to have been taken from Purdue Pharma. The investigation points to evidence that drug makers and those who profited from the increased prescribing of opioids aimed to push the WHO into endorsing use of the drugs across the globe. The WHO provides health guidance worldwide. The report alleges wo WHO reports that provide guidelines for treating severe pain, one in adults and the other in children, draw directly from Purdue’s strategies on how to market opioids.
DC Circuit OKs Payment-Plan Rules for Campaign Donors
Courthouse News Service – Brad Katner | Published: 5/21/2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will keep in place an installment plan for nearly $250,000 bequeathed to the Libertarian Party. When Joseph Shaber died in 2014, he left $235,000 to the Libertarian National Committee, the campaign arm of the party. While federal elections rules permit individuals to give up to $339,000 per year to such entities, that total comes with certain specifications. Shaber’s gift came with no strings attached, but the Libertarian Party says the $33,900 limit on general-expenditure donations forces it to collect the money in installments each year, leaving the rest in an escrow account. The party argued such limits are a violation of free-speech rights and spreading the payments out under the FEC-mandated plan would violate Shaber’s post-mortem wishes. U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel noting Congress created donation limits to avoid political corruption, even in death.
Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts
MSN – David Enrich (New York Times) | Published: 5/19/2019
Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.
Elizabeth Warren Decries Big Money in Politics. Her Campaign Treasurer Embodies It.
Center for Responsive Politics – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 5/23/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabet Warren has rejected traditional sources of campaign money, from PACs to lobbyists, in her bid for the White House. Everyone will have access to her, she says, not just wealthy donors. She has instituted “selfie lines” at rallies, and releases videos of herself personally calling donors who have contributed just a few dollars. But Warren has also selected for her presidential campaign treasurer a man whose contributions run counter to Warren’s statements, among the most emphatic among the more than 20 Democrats running for president, against big money in politics. Dubbed a “personal PAC machine” by The Boston Globe, retired software engineer Paul Egerman has quietly established himself as a key benefactor and rainmaker for Democratic political committees and liberal causes.
EPA Watchdog Suggests Agency Recover $124,000 in Pruitt’s ‘Excessive’ Travel Expenses
San Jose Mercury News – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should consider recovering nearly $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency’s inspector general recommended. The findings, issued nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel, and ties to lobbyists and outside groups, highlight the fiscal impact of his penchant for high-end travel and accommodations. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled during a 10-month period were excessive and cost taxpayers $985,037. The “questioned amount” the inspector general’s office identifies for possible recovery is the $123,941 that taxpayers spent on flying both Pruitt and a security agent in first- or business class, instead of coach.
‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2019
Seated behind a desk on Air Force One, the presidential seal over his left shoulder, President Trump shot a short video recently, blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race. “If you like high taxes and if you like crime, you can vote for him – but most people aren’t into that,” the president said to the camera. Trump’s use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime, some experts say, is the breakdown of norms.
Judge Orders Public Release of What Michael Flynn Said in Call to Russian Ambassador
MSN – Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal judge ordered prosecutors to make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan also ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s lawyer reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators. The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Judge Rejects Trump’s Request to Halt Congressional Subpoenas for His Banking Records
MSN – Renae Merle, Michael Kranish, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2019
A federal judge rejected a request by President Trump to block congressional subpoenas for his banking records, dealing the latest blow to the president in his bid to battle Democratic investigations into his personal finances. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York could clear the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president’s financial records to Democrats in the House. Trump’s attorneys could appeal the decision. But U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos said Trump’s lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.
Judge Rules Against Trump in Fight Over President’s Financial Records
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 5/20/2019
President Trump lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority. Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House Counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump. In his decision, Mehta flatly rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers that the House Oversight Committee’s demands for the records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, were overly broad and served no legitimate legislative function.
Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker | Published: 5/20/2019
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash said President Trump engaged in activity worthy of impeachment, becoming the first Republican on Capitol Hill to break with the party’s line on impeachment. Amash’s announcement on Saturday came after he had finished reading the report prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller, as the lawmaker explained in a lengthy Twitter thread. On Sunday, it prompted an intraparty rival, Michigan Rep. Jim Lower, to declare he would run in the Republican primary next year for Amash’s seat. Amash’s survival may now depend on whether he has cultivated devotion among voters sufficient to override their loyalty to the president.
Women Strive to Close Gender Gap at Biz Groups
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/21/2019
Trade associations have made strides in gender diversity, with more women taking on prominent roles at industry groups. It is a trend advocates are pushing to build on. Women account for 41 percent of the chief executives or executive directors of trade associations. K Street observers are hopeful these trends will continue, especially with a record number of female lawmakers in the current Congress and growing pressure on the influence world to expand its hiring practices.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do | Published: 5/20/2019
A conference of local government officials from California at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa erupted into violence over when several attendees began throwing punches, with at least one person apparently knocked unconscious. It was not immediately clear who started the fight, but it involved members of the Commerce City Council and other public officials, according to a written statement from Mayor John Soria and several witnesses. Some witnesses said the melee involved more than seven people and included political consultants, government vendors, and elected officials from the Los Angeles area. One or more women were screaming, the sources said. “It was a hectic scene,” one witness said.
Mississippi – How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 5/20/2019
Teachers in Mississippi shed pounds thanks to Weight Watchers courses paid mostly with state education money. But the biggest loser was taxpayers. Lawmakers gave Weight Watchers about $300,000 a year from 2011 to 2016, but documents from the Mississippi Department of Education show the voucher program at times needed about half that amount, or less, to operate. Weight Watchers never appeared in any education funding bills and never had a contract with the state. Weight Watchers paid $276,100 to lobbyist Beth Clay between 2010 and 2016. During that time, lawmakers directed nearly $1.5 million to New York-based Weight Watchers through a legislative side door.
Nevada – Where Women Call the Shots
Washington Post – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux | Published: 5/17/2019
Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state Legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices. A coordinated campaign of political groups and women’s rights organizations recruited women to run in Nevada. Emerge Nevada, said it trained twice as many female candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm election as it had in the preceding 12 years. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump mobilized Democratic women nationwide, including in Nevada, where women already held 40 percent of statehouse seats.
New Jersey – Governor’s Feud with Party Boss Rocks New Jersey Politics
Politico – Ryan Hutchins | Published: 5/21/2019
An intraparty fight among Democrats in New Jersey has turned into an open civil war, pitting the state’s novice governor against an old-school political boss who has ruled for more than two decades, and potentially reordering the political landscape in what has become a national Democratic stronghold. The protagonists are Gov. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who pledged to clean up state government, and George Norcross, an insurance executive who is the state’s most powerful unelected official. Murphy launched an unprecedented public attack on Norcross, who is among the people targeted by an inquiry into the state’s multi-billion-dollar tax incentive programs. Norcross has responded by opening fire on the governor, breaking his typical silence to compare Murphy to the king of England and call him a “liar” and “politically incompetent.”
New York – A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/19/2019
Beyond being a prolific campaign fundraiser, aviation magnate Adam Katz has himself been one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s largest campaign donors. Katz has given Cuomo six-figure sums though a wide array of limited liability companies, prompting business rivals to allege he has had undue influence with administration agencies. State records also indicate a more unusual pattern: many people with ties to Katz – lawyers, business associates, an extended family tree – have contributed to Cuomo’s campaign in large, often identical amounts and on the same days. Aside from the gifts to Cuomo, many of those people had never contributed similarly large amounts to New York candidates.
New York – New York Passes Bill Giving Congress a Way to Get Trump’s State Tax Returns
MSN – Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2019
New York lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would clear a path for Congress to obtain President Trump’s state tax returns, injecting another element into the battle over the president’s refusal to release his taxes. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will authorize state tax officials to release the president’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. The returns – filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters – would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, though it remained unclear whether congressional committees would use such new power in their investigations.
Oregon – Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/18/2019
Publicly, the governor’s office said there was a bright line drawn between the work of Kate Brown’s campaign, which was explicitly political and focused on her re-election, and the state-paid employees in the governor’s office, who are to administer state business. But newly released records show Brown’s state staff in fact shifted into overdrive during that period to lay out her policy positions and accomplishments on education and other central campaign issues. Her most influential aides orchestrated a series of “white papers” and planned public events designed to show her as someone who had gotten things done and had strong policy views, according to nearly public records.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to Resign Position After Sexually Charged Texts
USA Today – Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison (The Tennessean) | Published: 5/21/2019
Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada will resign from his leadership post following a vote of no confidence by his Republican caucus amid a scandal over explicit text messages. His political support began to waver when his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, was pressured into resigning after the release of racist texts and the sexually explicit messages, and Cothren’s admission that he used cocaine in his legislative office before becoming Casada’s top aide. Casada was included in one of the group texts with a racist message but has said he never saw it. Other allegations continued to pile up, ranging from accusations Casasda spied on legislative members to a colleague’s claim that Casada tried to “rig and predetermine” an ethics review regarding his controversies.
Virginia – Investigators Could Not Determine If Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Is in Racist Yearbook Photo
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella and Jim Morrison | Published: 5/22/2019
A nearly four-month inquiry into a racist photograph on the medical school yearbook page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was unable to determine whether Northam was in the image – which showed one man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface – deepening a mystery that threw the state government into chaos. But the investigation also found no evidence the photo had been mistakenly published in a yearbook section with Northam’s name and other pictures of him alone. The investigators, including a former state attorney general, noted, though, that they could not confirm “the origin” of the image. Northam spoke with investigators twice and told them he was “positive” he was not in the photograph.
Washington – ‘Gray Money’: New Washington law to lift the cloak on PAC funders
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/19/2019
Washington’s transparency law has tried to help voters determine funders for PAC ads. On the advertisements, PACs must disclose their top five contributors who meet a certain dollar threshold. That could be an individual or an entity such as a corporation or labor union. But what happens when the donor is another PAC with a generic, soft-focus name? It is a tactic called “gray money” and it is a popular strategy around the nation for shielding the flow of money. Through a series of “nesting doll” PACs, campaigns or political parties can cloak donations by individuals, corporations, industry associations, or labor unions. Now, a measure passed by state lawmakers this year could aid voters by revealing some of the top donors or organizations behind the cryptic groups.
Washington DC – Clients of D.C. Council Member Jack Evans Had Interests Before D.C. Government
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 5/23/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, one of the most powerful politicians in the city, has used his legislative position in ways that could benefit clients of his private consulting business, an examination of his record shows. Over several years, Evans has introduced legislation, championed projects and promoted tax incentives connected to his private clients. Some efforts have met with more success than others. Evans is the focus of an investigation by a federal grand jury, which subpoenaed records from the city related to Evans and his constellation of private legal and consulting clients. At least three of these businesses have had interests before the District of Columbia government.