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.
May 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Ethics National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a […]
Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive
New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment” by Isaac Stanley-Baker for Washington Post
California: “Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort” by Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do for Los Angeles Times
Oregon: “Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
Nevada: “Where Women Call the Shots” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for Washington Post
Mississippi: “How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers” by Giacomo Bologna for Jackson Clarion-Ledger
May 17, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019 A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash […]
At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering
MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash infusions and other transactions involving its affiliated foundation, at least $206 million worth since 2010. The role of the foundation is among the issues being examined in a new investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status by the New York attorney general. At issue for investigators, tax experts say, would be whether that money was being used for charitable purposes, as required by law, and not to help finance the NRA’s political activities.
‘Being Governor Ain’t What It Used to Be’: How their road to the White House became an uphill climb
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 5/8/2019
Governors were once a dominant force in presidential politics, winning seven of the eight elections between 1976 and 2004. Those days appear to be over. In 2016, no fewer than 10 current or former governors ran for president. None of them came close to winning a major-party nomination. This year, the Democratic field is dominated by U.S. senators, while governors are at the back of the pack in the polls. Historically, governors fared well in national politics when voters were fed up with Washington, noted Saladin Ambar, a political scientist at Rutgers University. Yet the public’s trust in the federal government is near an all-time low, and governors are still failing to gain any traction.
Complaints Grow That Trump Staffers Are Campaigning for Their Boss
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 5/15/2019
A Trump appointee displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat at her Housing and Urban Development office. A top official at the Office of Management and Budget used his official Twitter account to promote President Trump’s campaign slogan. And White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway delivered a scathing and unprompted attack on Trump’s potential opponent, Joe Biden, during a television interview. Those three instances, all in the last few months, are just a few of the growing number of complaints since Trump took office that federal employees are using their platform to campaign for the president or his allies, a violation of the Hatch Act. In Trump’s first year on the job, formal complaints to the government office that oversees compliance with the 80-year-old law jumped nearly 30 percent.
Donald Trump Jr. Strikes Deal for ‘Limited’ Interview with Intelligence Committee
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal for the president’s eldest son to return for a time-limited private interview with senators in the coming weeks, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff. The terms of the compromise include an appearance by Trump Jr. in mid-June, with the questions limited to about a half-dozen topics and the time limited to no longer than two to four hours. Senate investigators are particularly interested in asking the younger Trump about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, as well as about his knowledge of a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Some Democrats have accused Trump Jr. of potentially misleading other congressional committees.
Duped into Making a Bogus Campaign Donation? Call a Prosecutor
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/8/2019
It seems to be equally true that federal authorities are cracking down on grifters who live large on money Americans thought they gave to legitimate political campaigns, and federal authorities might be encouraging scammers by doing nothing about misleading appeals for political money. The first set of authorities work for the U.S. Justice Department. The other is the FEC, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. When their views clash, it is a tie and nothing can happen. “The Justice Department has become the primary enforcer of campaign finance laws because the FEC is unable to do its job,” said election attorney Brett Kappel. A potential downside, he said, is that prosecutors focus on the most egregious cases that can lead to a criminal conviction, so many other cases can slip through the cracks.
Evidence of Illegal Campaign Donations by Boston’s Thornton Law Firm Found, Case Dismissed Anyway
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 5/15/2019
Staff lawyers at the FEC found Boston’s Thornton Law firm likely used a phony program to repay partners for political donations, but the case was dismissed after commissioners deadlocked on whether to pursue it. FEC staff found extensive evidence that Thornton, a major supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, illegally reimbursed partners for more than $1 million in donations. But commission voted along party lines and produced a tie vote, which dismisses the complaint instead of opening a full-scale investigation. Now, the group that filed the complaint against Thornton, the Campaign Legal Center, is considering pursuing the matter in federal court.
Federal Election Commission Lays Bare Internal Conflicts and Challenges in Letter to Congress
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 5/9/2019
The FEC’s four leaders are offering lawmakers clashing perspectives on the agency’s very purpose. The commissioners’ comments are part of 171 pages’ worth of responses to dozens of questions Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren sent the agency. Lofgren has openly doubted the FEC’s ability to function as it struggles with deadlocked votes, internal conflict, chronic vacancies, and low morale. Her inquiries come at a time when “dark money” and the specter of foreign election interference have captured the attention of the public amid historically long and expensive federal campaign seasons.
How William Barr, Now Serving as a Powerful Ally for Trump, Has Championed Presidential Powers
Connecticut Post – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2019
Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Attorney General William Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power. Back at the helm of the Justice Department, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. Critics say Barr is providing the intellectual framework to enable Trump’s view of an imperial presidency and stonewall legitimate requests for information from Congress.
Rudy Giuliani Cancels His Trip to Ukraine, Blaming Democrats’ ‘Spin’
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/11/2019
Facing accusations of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph Giuliani announced he had canceled a trip to Kiev in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Trump. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt as if he was being “set up” by Ukrainians critical of his efforts, and he blamed Democrats for trying to “spin” the trip. The Ukrainian trip raised the specter of a lawyer for Trump pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations his allies hope could help him win re-election. And it comes after Trump has spent more than half of his term facing scrutiny about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with Ukraine’s hostile neighbor, Russia.
Scrutiny of Russia Investigation Is Said to Be a Review, Not a Criminal Inquiry
MSN – Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
The federal prosecutor tapped to scrutinize the origins of the Russia investigation is conducting only a review for now and has not opened any criminal inquiry. U.S. Attorney John Durham is broadly examining the government’s collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians. The additional details about the scope and limits of his role emerged a day after it was reported that Attorney General William Barr had put Durham in charge of scrutinizing the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation during the 2016 election. The distinction means Durham for now will not wield the sort of law enforcement powers that come with an open criminal investigation, such as the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify.
Trump and His Allies Are Blocking More Than 20 Separate Democratic Probes in an All-Out War with Congress
MSN – Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2019
President Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats into his actions as president, his personal finances, and his administration’s policies, according to a Washington Post analysis, amounting to what many experts call the most expansive White House obstruction effort in decades. Trump’s noncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces mounting inquiries from the Democratic-controlled House, a strategy many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. House Democrats say the administration has failed to respond to or comply with at least 79 requests for documents or other information.
Trump’s Lawyers Question Congress’ Power to Investigate Him, Battle House Over Demand for Financial Records
USA Today – Bart Jansen | Published: 5/14/2019
Lawyers for President Trump and the U.S. House clashed in federal court over the extent of Congress’ power to investigate him in the first legal test of Trump’s effort to block sprawling probes of his finances and private business. Trump wants a judge to prevent a congressional committee from obtaining financial records from his longtime accountant, Mazars USA. It is the first court test of how much information the half-dozen committees conducting investigations of Trump and his businesses might be able to obtain. Trump’s personal lawyer argued Congress was seeking the president’s financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose, which was outside its authority, rather to work on legislation. Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House, argued that Congress has broad investigative authority.
Want a Bridge? Trump Blurs Line Between Governing, Campaign
AP News – Jill Colvin | Published: 5/15/2019
President Trump stood before a Louisiana crowd at an official taxpayer-funded event and tossed out an enticing promise. “If we win this election, which is just 16 months away, we’re giving you a brand new I-10 bridge.” Trump’s commitment drew cheers from his audience. But it generated immediate criticism from ethics experts who have already sounded alarms about Trump’s apparent willingness to put the federal bureaucracy to work for his own political gain. All presidents benefit from the trappings of the office. But as Trump heads into his re-election campaign, historians and observers are wondering just how far the president might be willing to go in using the levers of presidential power to energize his supporters and help bolster his election chances, especially if the polls are tilting against him.
White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2019
White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald McGahn, to say publicly he never believed the president obstructed justice. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller about Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. But after Meuller’s report was released, detailing the range of actions Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, McGahn decided to pass on putting out a statement supportive of the president.
Canada – Watchdog Warns Lobbyists About Partisan Fundraisers, Expressing Political Views
National Observer – Carl Meyer | Published: 5/13/2019
Federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger warned lobbyists in Canada to be careful about participating in partisan activities such as fundraising events and expressing personal political views in public, to avoid placing themselves in a conflict-of-interest. She delivered the warning in updated guidelines for lobbyists posted a few days after a significant court ruling that also appeared to expand the scope of the federal Lobbying Act. The new guidelines shift some activities that Bélanger’s office had previously considered to hold “no risk” into a new category she said does carry risks of placing a lobbyist in a conflict-of-interest situation.
From the States and Municipalities
Florida – Former Palm Bay Deputy Manager Dave Isnardi Arrested, Charged with Racketeering, Other Felonies
Florida Today – John McCarthy | Published: 5/10/2019
Former Palm Bay Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi was arrested on charges of racketeering and conspiracy. Isnardi is the husband of Brevard County Commission Chairperson Kristine Isnardi. A second man, Jose Aguiar, a former candidate for the Palm Bay City Council, also was arrested. The arrest warrants show the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been investigating allegations of corruption and undue influence on city officials in Palm Bay since at least 2015. Though not arrested or charged, the warrants allege city Councilperson Jeff Bailey had an addiction to oxycodone and former Councilperson Tres Holton had sex with prostitutes and used cocaine. It also alleges Holton obtained prostitutes for Mayor William Capote while the men were in Tallahassee.
Florida – NRA Pays Lobbyist Marion Hammer Big Bucks, But You Won’t Find That Disclosed in Tallahassee
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/14/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA) paid Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer more than $250,000 last year in the wake of the Parkland school massacre. But that payment is not disclosed on quarterly compensation reports that lobbying firms and contract lobbyists are required to file with the Florida Senate. Hammer, both an NRA board member and a registered NRA lobbyist in Florida, has not filed any compensation reports with the state since at least 2007. During Hammer’s tenure with the NRA, the Florida Legislature passed the landmark “Right to Carry” law, allowing weapons, including handguns, to be carried in public in a concealed manner. She also helped secure many other pro-gun laws, including the “Firearms Preemption Law” that eliminated hundreds of gun-control ordinances in cities and counties across the state.
Georgia – Georgia Insurance Commissioner Indicted on Fraud Charges
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 5/14/2019
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering that stem from alleged crimes that preceded his election. The indictment accuses Beck of devising an elaborate fraudulent invoicing scheme to defraud his employer out of more than $2 million over a five-year period just prior to his election. The charges relate to Beck’s time as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriting Association. The indictment says Beck used the money for personal expenses and to fund personal investment, retirement, and savings accounts, as well as his statewide election campaign. The indictment also says he used the funds to buy and improve personal rental property and for personal state and federal income taxes.
Louisiana – Why the ‘Most Egregious’ Ethics Case in Louisiana Remains Open Nine Years Later
ProPublica – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 5/16/2019
In 2010, the Louisiana Board of Ethics accused former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. of failing to disclose he was being paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University (LSU). The lack of transparency was only part of the problem. Marionneaux offered to get the Legislature to steer public money toward a settlement, according to charges the board later filed against him. The money would also help pay off his contingency fee, which an LSU lawyer pegged at more than $1 million. The case is pending and Marionneaux has not been punished. Watchdogs and ethics advocates say the glacial pace of the Marionneaux case and its limited scope exemplify the weaknesses of Louisiana’s ethics enforcement system.
Massachusetts – New Rules Mean Chick-fil-A Is Now a Registered Lobbyist at City Hall – Along with Many Others
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 5/15/2019
Under a first-of-its-kind lobbying ordinance that went into effect this year, more than 230 lobbyists, firms, and their clients have registered in Boston, and the list reads like a who’s who of players in local politics. The new regulations are intended to make public those who influence city business, especially at a time when Boston has been regulating burgeoning industries, such as cannabis and short-term rentals. Prior to this, only a handful of lobbying and law firms complied with a little-known and unenforced city ordinance that required them to notify the clerk’s office that they had be doing business with the city council. Any lobbyists or advocates who dealt with the city otherwise went virtually undetected.
Massachusetts – Regulators Slash the Dollar Amount Unions Can Donate to Candidates in Mass.
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 5/9/2019
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released a new regulation that reduces how much unions and nonprofit groups can contribute to individual candidates in Massachusetts. It limits contributions to $1,000 per candidate, $5,000 per party, and $500 per PAC. Currently, labor unions can give up to $15,000 annually to a single candidate. Derided by critics as a loophole for unions, the $15,000 cap survived a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court when the justices upheld the longstanding ban on direct corporate gifts. But the court implied the OCPF should review the regulation about the cap. The limits take effect May 31.
Michigan – Michigan Lawmaker Indicted on Bribery Charge Over Prevailing Wage Repeal Vote
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/15/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is facing federal charges for allegedly soliciting bribes and attempted extortion ahead of a 2018 vote to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law for construction workers. A grand jury indictment includes text messages from Inman that show the him seeking campaign contributions from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union, which opposed the initiated legislation. Authorities are accusing Inman of unlawfully and corruptly soliciting those contributions in exchange for a potential “no” vote on the legislation, which he ended up voting for instead. “We only have 12 people to block it,” Inman said in a text to a union representative. “You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote.”
Missouri – St. Louis Aldermen Push New Lobbyist Gift Limits, Campaign Donation Rules
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Mark Schlinkmann | Published: 5/14/2019
A ban on lobbyist gifts of more than five dollars to elected city officials and restrictions on campaign donations from individuals or entities seeking city contracts are part of a set of ethics proposals to be introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The package also bars contributions to candidates for city offices made with the intent of concealing the identity of the money’s source. The three city charter amendments, if endorsed by the board, would go before voters at the November 2020 election.
New Jersey – Will Murphy’s CV Deal a Death Blow to NJ’s Dark-Money Bill?
NJ Spotlight – Colleen O’Dea | Published: 5/14/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a conditional veto of a bill that would have required certain independent expenditure committees to disclose their donors. The legislation required groups to disclose all spending over $3,000, and said donors giving over $10,000 must be listed. Murphy said because the measure applied to groups influencing legislation and regulations, it could go beyond the scope of disclosure allowed under the Constitution. The governor also said those who receive tax credits over $25,000 should be required to disclose donors, and any entity with $17,500 or more in contracts with a public body should disclose all contributions to outside advisory groups. Lawmakers can vote to agree with Murphy’s conditions, in which case it would become law. They could also try to override the veto.
South Dakota – Federal Judge Strikes Down IM 24 as Unconstitutional
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Lisa Kaczek | Published: 5/9/2019
A federal judge struck down a ban on out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question committees. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann issued an order declaring Initiated Measure 24 as unconstitutional because it violates “the First Amendment rights to engage in political speech and to associate with others to fund political speech.” It is also unconstitutional because it interferes with the “free flow of money” between people and entities from another state, Kornmann wrote in his judgment. Kornmann ordered that the state is barred from implementing or enforcing the law, which was scheduled to take effect July 1.
Tennessee – After Bragging About Sex at Party Fowl, Former Chief of Staff’s Tab May Have Been Paid by Glen Casada Donors
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/15/2019
When Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s former chief of staff boasted to his boss in 2016 about having sex with a woman at Party Fowl, the food and drink purchases made at the restaurant may have been paid for by campaign donors. The finding comes amid a larger review of spending by lawmakers, including Casada, who utilize PACs. The review highlights a loophole in state law that allows lawmakers to create PACs and spend thousands of dollars on items they would normally be prohibited from purchasing using traditional campaign funds. Casada faces calls for his resignation as he reels from a scandal involving a series of racist and misogynistic text messages sent by his former chief of staff, including the exchange about sex in a bathroom at a Nashville restaurant.
May 10, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
The 123rd General Assembly adjourned at 5 p.m. Thursday after approving a resolution allowing lawmakers to reconvene for a statewide session beginning May 20. Concurrent Resolution 785 provides that the General Assembly meet in a statewide session to consider special […]
The 123rd General Assembly adjourned at 5 p.m. Thursday after approving a resolution allowing lawmakers to reconvene for a statewide session beginning May 20.
Concurrent Resolution 785 provides that the General Assembly meet in a statewide session to consider special matters including any vetoes by Gov. Henry McMaster.
Additionally, the Assembly will consider bills that have passed both Houses in different versions and are in a conference committee.
The General Assembly will return at noon on May 20 and continue until not later than 5 p.m. on May 22.
May 6, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Dark Money Under Spotlight as Campaign Finance Law Changes Right Before Philly Primary” by Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan for Philadelphia Inquirer Elections National: “F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016” […]
Pennsylvania: “Dark Money Under Spotlight as Campaign Finance Law Changes Right Before Philly Primary” by Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan for Philadelphia Inquirer
National: “F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016” by Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt, and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Watergate Had the Nixon Tapes. Mueller Had Annie Donaldson’s Notes.” by Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
Indiana: “Casino Company Turned to State Lawmaker for Title Work. He Voted for Massive Gaming Bill.” by Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange for Indianapolis Star
Kentucky: “‘He Is a Whiny, Off-Topic Social Media Troll.’ Why Bevin Banned Critics on Social Media.” by John Cheves for Lexington Herald-Leader
Maryland: “Baltimore Mayor Pugh Resigns After Month on Leave Amid Investigation into Her Business Deals” by Ian Duncan, Jean Marbella, and Luke Broadwater (Baltimore Sun) for MSN
New Mexico: “Padilla Claims AG Concealed Recording Device in Coffeepot” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal
California: “How Powerful Lawmakers Are Killing California Bills – Without a Peep” by Laurel Rosenhall for CALmatters
May 2, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Nevada: “One Month Left: Nevada Democrats still haven’t heard a single campaign finance reform bill” by James DeHaven for Reno Gazette Journal Elections Florida: “Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure” by […]
Nevada: “One Month Left: Nevada Democrats still haven’t heard a single campaign finance reform bill” by James DeHaven for Reno Gazette Journal
Florida: “Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure” by Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell for Tampa Bay Times
National: “Congressional Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Targeting President Trump’s Private Business Can Proceed, Judge Says” by Jonathan O’Connell, Ann Marimow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Mueller Complained That Barr’s Letter Did Not Capture ‘Context’ of Trump Probe” by Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “State Officials Keep Hiring Their Relatives. Will Newsom Crack Down on Nepotism?” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times
Kansas: “Former Salina Senator Pads State Salary with Travel, Food Vouchers” by Tim Carpenter for Topeka Capital Journal
Ohio: “Ex-Dayton Commissioner, State Lawmaker Arrested; More Arrests Coming, Feds Say” by Laura Bischoff, Josh Sweigart, Thomas Gnau, Cornelius Frolick, and Mark Govaki for Dayton Daily News
Colorado: “Colorado Lawmakers Have a Dog Office for Dog Business (De-stressing)” by Kevin Beaty for Deverite
Massachusetts: “For Sale in the Pot Industry: Political influence” by Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dam Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallach, and Patricia Wen for Boston Globe
New Jersey: “The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520.” by Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag for New York Times
May 1, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Aren’t Always So Pure” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call National: “As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation” by Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Indiana: “Contractor […]
National: “‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Aren’t Always So Pure” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: “As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation” by Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher for New York Times
Indiana: “Contractor Sues to Halt Pay-to-Play Ordinance” by Matthew LeBlanc (Associated Press) for Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Colorado: “Another Allegation of Harassment Against Colorado Lobbyist Benjamin Waters” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
Illinois: “A Federal Jury Convicts Former Top Aide to Dorothy Brown of Lying About an Alleged Bribes-for-Jobs Scheme” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Maryland: “Pugh’s Statement ‘Is Not True’: City Hall emails reveal how aides learned Baltimore mayor lied about book sales” by Doug Donovan, Talia Richman, and Jean Marbella for Baltimore Sun
New Hampshire: “Sununu Inaugural Team Releases Conflict of Interest Policy, Months After Declining to Do So” by Casey McDermott for New Hampshire Public Radio
Arkansas: “An Early Adopter, Arkansas Rethinks Lawmaker Term Limits” by Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) for Hot Springs Sentinel-Record
Nevada: “Disgraced Ex-Councilman Ricki Barlow Returns to Lobby City Hall” by Shea Johnson for Las Vegas Review-Journal
April 25, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Ex-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison in Case Tied to Allentown Corruption” by Peter Hall for Allentown Morning Call Ethics National: “Trump Says He Is Opposed to White House Aides Testifying to Congress, […]
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison in Case Tied to Allentown Corruption” by Peter Hall for Allentown Morning Call
National: “Trump Says He Is Opposed to White House Aides Testifying to Congress, Deepening Power Struggle with Hill” by Robert Costa, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Six Trump Interior Appointees Are Being Investigated for Possible Ethical Misconduct” by Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Divided on Impeachment, Democrats Wrestle with Duty and Politics” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos for New York Times
Alabama: “How a Lawyer, a Lobbyist and a Legislator Waged War on a Birmingham Superfund Site” by Steven Mufson (Washington Post) for AL.com
Alaska: “Lawmakers Strike Compromise on Scaling Back Conflict of Interest Restrictions” by Andrew Kitchenman for KTOO
Florida: “Andrew Gillum Agrees to Pay $5,000 Ethics Fine” by News Service of Florida for Tampa Bay Times
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Sheriff John Green Admits Taking Bribes: ‘I have betrayed the confidence’ of Philly citizens” by Jeremy Roebuck for Philadelphia Inquirer
Washington: “A State Senator Said Nurses ‘Probably Play Cards’ at Work. Facing Mass Outrage, She’s Apologized.” by Allyson Chiu (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
Alaska: “As Capitol Reporters Dwindle, Alaska Lawmakers Grapple with Rise of Political Blogs” by Nat Herz for KTOO
South Dakota: “S.D. House Speaker Paid $12,000 for Lobbyist’s Legal Fees” by Bob Mercer for KELOLAND
April 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “How the IRS Gave Up Fighting Political Dark Money Groups” by Maya Miller for ProPublica South Dakota: “Lobbyists Sue SD Officials Over Ban on Out-of-State Contributions to Ballot Measure Committees” by Sarah Mearhoff for Mitchell Republic Elections […]
National: “How the IRS Gave Up Fighting Political Dark Money Groups” by Maya Miller for ProPublica
South Dakota: “Lobbyists Sue SD Officials Over Ban on Out-of-State Contributions to Ballot Measure Committees” by Sarah Mearhoff for Mitchell Republic
National: “Mueller’s Report Paints a Portrait of a Campaign Intrigued by Russian Overtures” by Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian, and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News
California: “Lawmakers and Landlords: More than a quarter of California legislators are both” by Matt Levin and Elizabeth Castillo for CALmatters
South Carolina: “Richard Quinn, for Years Consultant to Top SC GOP Pols, Indicted on Perjury Charges” by John Monk andf Avery Wilkes for The State
Texas: “Conservative Group Empower Texans Sues Lawmaker to Gain State House Media Credentials” by Emma Platoff for Texas Tribune
Florida: “Ethics Complaint Accuses Kristen Rosen Gonzalez of Violating Lobbying Rules” by Kyra Gurney for Miami Herald
Indiana: “Scott Pruitt Left the EPA Mired in Scandal. Now He Is Lobbying Indiana Lawmakers.” by Emily Hopkins for Indianapolis Star
April 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Analysis: The many reasons to run for president when you probably don’t stand a chance
MSN – Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 4/14/2019
Presidential primaries tend to produce one nominee but many winners. Beyond the long-shot candidates effectively auditioning for cabinet positions or building a profile (and donor base) for future races, there are prospective books to sell and television contracts to sign, corporate boards to join, and paid speeches to make. Any setback is temporary. “There’s just absolutely no downside and only upside,” Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier said of quixotic presidential runs. “It is an industry of self-promotion. What better way to self-promote than run for president?”
Mueller Whacks Trump with Evidence of Obstruction
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 4/18/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed President Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller’s removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president. On numerous occasions, Trump’s impulses to stymie the investigators were only halted by staffers’ refusal to carry out orders. While the document confirms Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, it contains numerous unfavorable observations regarding potential obstruction of justice and sheds light on why the special counsel chose to neither exonerate Trump nor conclude he committed a crime.
Political Consultant Patten Sentenced to Probation After Steering Ukrainian Money to Trump Inaugural
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2019
An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced to probation by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with prosecutors. W. Samuel Patten admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort. U.S. District Court Judge Amy noted no federal sentencing guideline directly applies to his offense of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Prosecution of Former White House Counsel Sets K Street on Edge – Again
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/11/2019
The Justice Department’s indictment of Gregory Craig, who served as White House counsel under President Obama, sent a signal to K Street that lobbyists who work for foreign interests without registering have reason to be afraid. Some lobbyists have been on edge since Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, was indicted on charges of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, previously a rarely enforced law requiring lobbyists and others who work on behalf of foreign governments and political parties to disclose their activity. Some said Craig’s indictment is likely to reverberate on K Street as the crackdown continues. A letter from the FARA enforcement unit now “has to be taken as seriously as a heart attack,” said Matthew Sanderson, an attorney who advises clients on the law.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Lawmakers Pass Bill Saying Economic Developers Are Not Lobbyists
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 4/16/2019
A bill exempting economic developers from a requirement to register as lobbyists under the Alabama ethics law won final passage in the Legislature and could be signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. Lawmakers and the state’s industrial recruiters say the bill was needed to protect the confidentiality of site selection efforts by representatives of companies interested in coming to Alabama. Lobbyists are required to report to the Ethics Commission who they represent and information about their activities, reports that are available to the public. The bill proved controversial last year, with critics saying it would create two classes of individuals under the ethics law and open loopholes.
California: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Santa Clara Mayor in Conflict-of-Interest Case
San Jose Mercury News – Thy Vo | Published: 4/15/2019
Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce threw out a lawsuit that accused Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor of failing to divulge at least $180,000 in income on conflict-of-interest forms, ruling the documents are “political works” exempt from disclosure requirements. The forms require elected and appointed officials to report all their financial interests. But Gillmor’s attorney argued the lawsuit was hatched by political opponents and should be dismissed under a provision in the law concerning a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) that protects people against suits filed to intimidate them or silence their free speech rights. Pierce ruled Gillmor’s conflict-of-interest forms are related to her role as a politician and thereby qualify as “political works” that are protected speech under the anti-SLAPP statute.
Colorado: Denver’s Big 3 Lobbyists Have Deep Relationships with City Government and Mayor Michael Hancock
Colorado Public Radio – Ben Markus | Published: 4/11/2019
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking a third term this year, and on the campaign trail he is often criticized for his close ties to the business community, particularly developers. Even critics say there is nothing wrong with the mayor and his staff being in close quarters with the business community. But a Colorado Public Radio investigation found several lobbying groups that travel with the mayor also have contracts to work for the city. At the same time, they are actively lobbying the city on behalf of corporate clients. Lobbyists often stock their firms with former city workers, who sometimes go back to work for Denver, perpetuating the “revolving door,” which is legal under city rules. The lobbying firms are also among the largest donors to city campaigns.
Florida: Internet Intrigue: Blitz of lobbyists, consultants worked behind scenes before broadband vote
Tallahassse Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 4/16/2019
When talk of a city-owned broadband internet utility surfaced at the same time an out-of-town fiber-optic firm eyed Tallahassee as a potential new market, lobbyists, public relations people and industry consultants streamed into action. The debate during city commission meetings in March was contentious enough. But there was intrigue behind the curtain. By the time the dust settled, the commission reversed course on plans to explore creation of a new utility, something MetroNet, an Indiana-based company still considering coming to town, opposed. The drama that unfolded came after years of high-profile controversy involving lobbyists and consultants at City Hall. Watchdogs say it highlights the kind of murky dealings that undermine confidence in the city’s ability to police lobbying.
Indiana: Casino-Investor Ties Led Speaker Bosma to Skip Gaming Bill Vote. Here’s Why Questions Linger.
Indianapolios Star – Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 4/18/2019
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is recusing himself from votes on legislation that would make some of the biggest changes to Indiana’s casino laws in years because of a potentially lucrative contract arranged by a casino owner. Bosma said his law firm is providing legal representation to the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board, a local entity that stands to benefit from the legislation, which would allow a casino in Terre Haute. The contract was arranged by businessperson Greg Gibson, one of two principal investors in Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle is lobbying lawmakers for permission to move two casinos in Gary to more lucrative locations. Heightening the concerns are Bosma’s private discussions about the legislation with other lawmakers and casino companies, despite his decision to avoid any public votes on the topic.
Louisiana: Proposed Law Would Bar Legislators from Giving Tulane Scholarships to Immediate Family
New Orleans Times Picayune – Wilborn Nobles | Published: 4/16/2019
A new bill in the Louisiana Senate would bar close relatives of certain state politicians from being eligible to receive free tuition at Tulane University. Senate Bill 183 would make Tulane’s Legislative Scholarship unavailable for the immediate family members of a Louisiana legislator, statewide elected official, or an elected Louisiana official in Congress. The advantage of wealth and privilege in gaining access to elite universities has emerged as a hot topic following recent allegations that wealthy parents bribed university administrators and coaches at top schools to gain admission for their children. While no such payments are alleged in Tulane’s case, some critics say the university’s Legislative Scholarship Program is a “source of political patronage.”
Massachusetts: For the First Time, Boston Municipal Lobbyists Are Required to Register Their Work with City Hall
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 4/17/2019
Lobbyists in Boston will now have to register with the city clerk’s office. Those who do not register could face a fine of up to $300, according to an ordinance that was passed last year. Under the ordinance, the city will set up a five-member commission that will be charged with reviewing an individual or entity’s work with the city, determining whether that work would be subject to the new law, and whether to hand out penalties, said City Clerk Maureen Feeney. She said her office was communicating the new requirements to lobbyists who had inquired about the process. Feeney also said an online portal system the city set up is similar to the one used by the state.
Mississippi: Public Universities Spend Millions Wining, Dining, Lobbying Mississippi Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth and Geoff Pender | Published: 4/10/2019
Seven of Mississippi’s eight public universities and their private foundations spent nearly $2 million on lobbying over the past four years, a Jackson Clarion Ledger analysis found. That amount includes money for staff lobbyists and private lobbying firms, plus entertaining lawmakers. These public universities lavish money on public officials in hopes of getting more public dollars. And they spend more than most any other special interest groups seeking influence in the Capitol. In Mississippi, it is all completely legal. The state’s lack of restrictions on gifts to public officials means elected officials, their families, and even friends can benefit from unlimited largesse without worry.
Missouri: After Controversial MSD Vote, Winners Donated More Than $150,000 to Stenger Campaign
St. Louis Post Dispatch – David Hunn and Jacob Barker | Published: 4/15/2019
A contract to build the Deer Creek tunnel was one of the largest the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) had awarded in years. MSD staff recommended awarding it to the low bidder, Jay Dee Contractors. The district board’s practice, almost without exception, was to approve the professional staff’s recommendation. But SAK Construction mounted a lobbying effort over the contract, and the company’s concerns reached St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s office, which appoints three of MSD’s six members on its Board of Trustees. A top aide to Stenger met with two key trustees to discuss the matter. After the meeting with Stenger’s aide, one of those two MSD trustees switched his vote, and SAK ultimately won the contract. Less than a month after the vote, SAK executives did something they had never done before: they began pouring money into Stenger’s campaign.
Nevada: Nevada Lawmaker Paid Her Sister Thousands for Campaign Work, But We Can’t See the Details
Reno Gazette-Journal – James DeHaven | Published: 4/15/2019
Nevada has routinely ranked at or near the bottom of nationwide political transparency surveys. But ex-state Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson’s downfall under a cloud of admitted election spending misdeeds has sparked renewed interest in strengthening anti-corruption statutes. Now, weeks after Atkinson’s resignation, a Reno Gazette Journal analysis reveals state Sen. Pat Spearman paid nearly $103,000 in campaign funds to a consulting firm with close ties to her sister. Reports show Donna Spearman-Davis and Crawford Management Group were the two largest recipients of Spearman’s campaign cash, accounting for about 30 percent of the nearly $500,000 the former congressional hopeful and longtime state senator spent between 2012 and 2018.
April 17, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Colorado: “In Final Push, Democrats Rush Major Changes to Elections and Campaign Finance Disclosure in Colorado” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun
New York: “City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette
National: “Interior’s Watchdog Opens an Ethics Probe into Bernhardt Four Days after His Senate Confirmation” by Darryl Fears for Washington Post
California: “Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Santa Clara Mayor in Conflict-of-Interest Case” by Thy Vo for San Jose Mercury News
National: “A Record Number of Congresswomen are Mothers. Here’s a Glimpse Inside Their First-Ever Caucus.” by Kaitlin Gibson for Washington Post
Canada: “Ruling in Trudeau-Aga Khan Case Could Change Rules for Unpaid Lobbyists” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC
Florida: “Beckham Partner Has a Friend in Miami-Dade’s Mayor and a Lobbyist in the Mayor’s Son” by Douglas Hanks for Miami Herald
Florida: “Internet Intrigue: Blitz of lobbyists, consultants worked behind scenes before broadband vote” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassse Democrat
April 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Courts Have No Say When FEC Wants to Ignore Alleged Wrongdoing” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government Ethics California: “As Power of California Senate Leader Grows, So Does Her Spouse’s Consulting Business” by Liam Dillon for Los […]
National: “Courts Have No Say When FEC Wants to Ignore Alleged Wrongdoing” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government
California: “As Power of California Senate Leader Grows, So Does Her Spouse’s Consulting Business” by Liam Dillon for Los Angeles Times
Maryland: “Baltimore Board of Ethics to Investigate Mayor Pugh’s Sales of ‘Healthy Holly’ Books” by Doug Donovan and Meredith Cohen for Baltimore Sun
Michigan: “Mayor Mike Duggan Set Her Up to Succeed. That Raises Questions.” by Joe Guillen and Kat Stafford for Detroit Free Press
National: “You Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead.” by Rob O’Dell (Arizona Republic) and Mark Penzenstadler for USA Today
Alabama: “House Approves Permanent Economic Developer Lobbying Exemption” by Brian Lyman for Montgomery Advertiser
Illinois: “Court: Illinois union lobbyist can keep public pension windfall he got for one day of substitute teaching” by Ray Long for Chicago Tribune
Rhode Island: “Rhode Island Reaches Lobbying Disclosure Agreement with Mastercard” by Hazel Bradford for Pensions and Investments
March 25, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Campaign Finance National: “Following Citizens United, Foreign-Owned Corporations Funnel Millions into US Elections” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Raymod Arke for Center for Responsive Politics National: “‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind” by Kate Ackley for Roll […]
National: “Following Citizens United, Foreign-Owned Corporations Funnel Millions into US Elections” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Raymod Arke for Center for Responsive Politics
National: “‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy, but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction by Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Cummings Demands Docs on Kushner’s Alleged Use of Encrypted App for Official Business” by Andrwew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Illinois: “Ald. Willie Cochran Pleads Guilty — Finally — to Federal Fraud Charge for Misusing Campaign Funds” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Maryland: “University of Maryland Medical System CEO Placed on Leave Amid Review of Contracting Practices” by Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun
New Jersey: “‘Dark Money’ Groups Pour Tens of Millions of Dollars into N.J. elections. Lawmakers Want to Know Their Donors.” by Jonathan Lai for Philadelphia Inquirer
Wisconsin: “Judge Bocks GOP Lame-Duck Laws Limiting Tony Evers’ Powers; Evers Seeks to Remove Wisconsin from Obamacare Challenge” by Mark Sommerhauser for madison.com
Connecticut: “Jon Lender: Lobbyists pay $13,000 in fines connected to tech schools controversy” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant
March 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: AT&T Peels Off Layer of Political Spending Secrecy – Thanks to Pushy Investors and the Michael Cohen Fiasco Dallas News – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 3/20/2019 AT&T is bowing to activist shareholders calling for more transparency about the […]
AT&T Peels Off Layer of Political Spending Secrecy – Thanks to Pushy Investors and the Michael Cohen Fiasco
Dallas News – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 3/20/2019
AT&T is bowing to activist shareholders calling for more transparency about the company’s political spending, agreeing to disclose millions of dollars in previously untraceable contributions after last year’s embarrassment over payments to President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. For the first time, AT&T is divulging some contributions to outside groups that keep their donors secret, providing a fuller, if still incomplete, picture of the company’s vast spending on state and federal politics. A new report released by AT&T details payments totaling about $4.2 million to industry groups and think tanks that was used for lobbying during a portion of last year.
Analysis: Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a satirical cow over mean tweets. Does he have a case?
MSN – Deanna Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2019
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a lawsuit claiming Twitter, two parody Twitter accounts, and a Republican political consultant violated the First Amendment and defamed him. In addition to $250 million in damages, Nunes is demanding Twitter disclose the identities behind the anonymous accounts that have caused him suffering, according to the suit: “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” The suit, filed in state court, alleged violations of Virginia’s law against insults. It also brought claims against Twitter for conspiracy and negligence. Nunes has been ridiculed for the suit, and the case has been labeled by most experts as doomed to fail. But others believe there is more to the lawsuit than any desire by Nunes to create a spectacle. According to First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, the speech involved is protected for several reasons.
Former Spa Owner and Frequent Mar-a-Lago Guest Sparks Concerns About ‘Porous’ Environment at President’s Club
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Emily Rauhala, Lori Rozsa, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2019
Li “Cindy” Yang’s activities at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort have attracted attention after a spa she once owned was the target of a sex-trafficking sting involving the owner of the New England Patriots. Scrutiny has also centered on a company Yang ran offering foreign visitors access to the president and other GOP officials. Experts in Chinese influence say groups to which Yang has been tied have links to Communist Party’s efforts to spread influence in the West. Yang has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but because she attended so many events at Mar-a-Lago and had such ready access to high-ranking U.S. officials, it has renewed questions about security at the resort and about who can gain the ear of the president for the price of a ticket to an event.
Lobbying Case Against Democrat with Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/18/2019
A federal investigation into a former White House counsel in the Obama administration is reaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying. The case involving Gregory Craig was transferred in January from federal prosecutors in New York to those in Washington. The move reflects an eagerness within the department to prosecute violations of lobbying laws after special counsel Robert Mueller focused on foreign influence in his investigations. The probe centers on whether Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: California Is Awash in Cannabis Cash, Which Some Use to Bribe Public Officials
MSN – Patrick McGreevy (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/17/2019
In the more than two years since California voters approved the licensed growing and sale of recreational marijuana, the state has seen a half-dozen government corruption cases as black-market operators try to game the system, through bribery and other means. Proposition 64, approved in 2016, allowed the state to license businesses to grow and sell pot but required the firms to also get approval from the cities and counties, most of which have outlawed marijuana operations. Experts say that local resistance explains why many of the corruption allegations center on illegal attempts to buy help from city and county officials.
California: Donors to D.A. Jackie Lacey Included a Murder Suspect’s Parents and a Convicted Felon
Los Angeles Times – Matt Hamilton and Harriet Myers | Published: 3/18/2019
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey collected more than $125,000 in campaign contributions last year despite not holding any public fundraising events. Many giving to Lacey are longtime donors to local politicians, but others include people accused of serious crimes or misconduct, or relatives and associates of the accused. Among Lacey’s donors were the parents of a man awaiting trial for murder, a felon convicted of trying to smuggle missile parts to Iran, and a used car dealer previously sanctioned for an illegal campaign contribution. Campaign donations to prosecutors have come under national scrutiny in recent years. Experts said a district attorney is well advised to have a system in place to vet every donor.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Votes to Reprimand Jack Evans Over Ethics Issues
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/19/2019
The District of Columbia Council reprimanded its longest serving member, Jack Evans, and announced plans to dilute the power of his committee after he repeatedly used his government staff and email to solicit business from law firms that lobby the city, offering to tap his influence and connections to help their clients. The unanimous vote comes as the veteran lawmaker is the target of a federal investigation into his business dealings and faces the threat of a recall election. The reprimand says Evans violated council rules but does not address the ties between Evans and private companies that are part of a federal probe. Multiple lawmakers say they want to reserve judgement on that until the federal investigation wraps up.
Indiana: Complaint Could Cost Attorney General Curtis Hill His Law License – and Elected Position
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 3/19/2019
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill could lose his law license and his elected position after a little-known state body revived allegations that Hill inappropriately touched four women at an Indianapolis bar last year. The state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against Hill that says he engaged in acts of battery or sexual battery against the women. In doing so, the commission says, Hill broke the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. The accusations are administrative in nature and are not considered criminal charges. Hill, who has denied wrongdoing, will have the opportunity to defend himself and ultimately the state Supreme Court would decide Hill’s fate. Discipline, if any, could range from public reprimand to disbarment. Disbarment would amount to a worst-case scenario for Hill because the law requires the state attorney general to hold a law license.
Kentucky: Former Lobbyist to Pay $15,000 Ethics Fine. He Was Already Convicted in Bribery Case.
Lexington Herald Leader – Bill Estep | Published: 3/18/2019
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission fined ex-lobbyist Jim Sullivan and one of his former clients for multiple lobbying violations. Sullivan agreed to pay $15,000 for failing to register from 2005 through 2014 and setting up a deal to represent a company with his pay contingent on an agency making a decision for his client. The commission also announced a $50,000 penalty against Cannon Cochran Management Services, an insurance provider. Sullivan lobbied for the firm. The company did not contest 14 counts of violating the ethics code, some for not registering after hiring an individual to lobby. Sullivan was convicted of giving a $1,000 bribe to Tim Longmeyer, the former head of the Personnel Cabinet, to get state work for company called MC Squared.
Kentucky: Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections
ProPublica – Jessica Huseman | Published: 3/15/2019
The Kentucky Legislature passed a bill that strips Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of her authority over the State Board of Elections (SBE), restructures the board, and makes misusing the voter registration system a misdemeanor crime. The bill takes multiple steps to scale back the level of control Grimes has asserted over the SBE in recent years, including removing the secretary of state as the chairperson of the board. New reports detailed the secretary of state’s use of the voter registration system to look up information on political rivals, as well as the range of misconduct allegations against Grimes being explored by state investigators. Records confirmed that staff in her office had looked up those named in the reports by ProPublica and The Lexington Herald-Leader, including members of a state ethics agency currently investigating Grimes’ conduct.
Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Pugh Didn’t Disclose Seat on Maryland Medical System Board, as Required on City Ethics Forms
Baltimore Sun – Doug Donovan and Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/14/2019
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has not reported on disclosure forms filed with the city’s ethics office that she sits on the board of directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, according to a review of records. Instructions on the form tell public officials to report any “office, directorship, salaried employment, or similar position with any business entity that was doing business with the city.” Also, the University of Maryland Medical System did not disclose on its federal tax form for the year ending June 30, 2017, that it had entered into a contract with Pugh to buy 20,000 copies of her book, “Healthy Holly: Exercising is Fun,” the form shows. Ethics officials confirmed Pugh should have disclosed the position. To avoid action against her by the city ethics board, she would need to file an amended form.
Missouri: Voters Approved Clean Missouri, but Lawmakers Want Them to Reconsider
Columbia Missourian – Galen Barcharier | Published: 3/19/2019
Last November, 62 percent of voters approved Amendment 1, the “Clean Missouri” proposal that included measures to limit the power of lobbyists, reduce campaign contributions, and create a new redistricting process. Now, lawmakers are moving to change or completely roll back parts of the ballot measure, with a focus on redistricting. Five resolutions were proposed between the House and the Senate, all of which relate to changing or repealing the redistricting measures enacted from Amendment 1, as well as lobbying and open records measures. All of them propose new constitutional amendments, which would send the issue back to voters to decide. Supporters of Amendment 1 issued a statement in response to the resolutions’ filing, condemning them and asserting the decision of the voters should remain in place.
Nevada: Municipal Election Voters Blind to Campaign Donors
Las Vegas Revierw-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 3/13/2019
A glitch in a two-year-old bill meant to strengthen campaign finance reporting has actually weakened transparency in eight Nevada cities, an investigation found, ensuring voters in Las Vegas and elsewhere will be blind to political donors when casting a ballot this spring. That is because reporting deadlines that formerly required reports linked to elections now require candidates to file quarterly. Instead of disclosing contributions and expenses 21 days and four days before an election, candidates now only need to submit paperwork 15 days after a quarter concludes. The first reporting period of 2019 is April 15, which is 13 days after the April 2 primary election.
New Mexico: Legislature Seals Deal on Independent Ethics Commission
New Mexico In Depth – Trip Jennings | Published: 3/16/2019
With just hours left in the session, New Mexico lawmakers reached agreement on legislation that would outline how a new voter-approved state ethics commission would operate. Lawmakers passed the legislation this session after seventy five percent of voters approved adding an independent ethics panel with subpoena power to the state constitution. The bill establishes a commission that would oversee public officials, including state lawmakers, state employees, and constitutionally elected officials like the governor. The seven-member commission could fine officials if they are found to have violated civil provisions of several state laws. People who file complaints would have to in the presence of a notary public attesting to the truth of their allegations under penalty of perjury.
New York: 9 Fund-Raisers in 1 Night: Democrats vow reform in N.Y., but money still flows
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 3/20/2019
State officials have long talked about the need to revamp New York’s campaign finance laws and limit the influence of lobbyists, but little has changed. A bill has been introduced repeatedly for nearly two decades to ban fundraisers in Albany when the Legislature is in session, but it has gone nowhere. In at least 29 states, it is against the law for lobbyists or principals to make campaign contributions while the state Legislature is in session. The goal is to avoid what is commonplace in New York: elected officials spend their day meeting with lobbyists to discuss pending legislation, and then spend their night collecting checks from many of the same people. Yet that two-step is part of the culture in Albany, especially in the weeks before a new state budget is officially ironed out, when opportunities to win influence are abundant.