March 27, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 27, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020 American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones […]

National/Federal

As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020

American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones are moving to FaceTime. In campaign advertising, that shift was long underway, with money moving from old-school broadcast and print ads to a flurry of custom messages on social media and search engines. As this change has transformed politics over the past several years, and quickly accelerated in recent weeks, one national player has been noticeably silent: the FEC. The last time the FEC updated its rules to address online advertising was in 2006. More recently it has been paralyzed by an internal argument about whether its mandate should extend further into online campaigning.

Bernie Sanders Is Considering Several Options as He Ponders His Campaign’s Future
MSN – Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has convened a series of weighty discussions about the future of his presidential campaign with his closest confidants, and at least three potential paths forward have come up in the private talks. People with knowledge of the talks stressed that Sanders had not yet made up his mind and was still trying to reach out to supporters. Few if any dilemmas in recent political history have been fraught with so many variables and such significant potential consequences.

Bloomberg Makes Massive $18M Transfer from Campaign to DNC
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/20/2020

Michael Bloomberg is sending $18 million from his defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), an investment in the national party that appears to push the boundaries of campaign finance law. The money will support the DNC’s “Battleground Build-Up 2020” program, an initiative in 12 swing states across the country. The money could fund potentially hundreds of organizers in those states. The transfer signals a change of plans for Bloomberg, who is nixing an earlier idea to form his own super PAC to take on President Trump in 2020.

Bloomberg Sued by Aides for Stiffing Them on Yearlong Pay Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelsgo | Published: 3/23/2020

Former campaign workers for Michael Bloomberg are suing the billionaire former presidential candidate for fraud, alleging in a nationwide class action lawsuit that as many as 2,000 employees were promised to be paid through the general election before he laid them off. Plaintiffs in the class action include two organizers who halted the interview process for other jobs to join the Bloomberg campaign, and another former organizer who postponed law school to work on Bloomberg;s 2020 effort. The filing comes on the same day as another class action brought by a former Bloomberg field organizer that similarly argues the employees were tricked into taking jobs they were told would continue for a year.

Burr Asks Senate Ethics Committee for Review of His Stock Sales
Stamford Advocate – John Wagner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Swain, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review stock sales he made weeks before the markets began to tank in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Burr has faced calls to resign from across the ideological spectrum since it was reported he dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings in 33 different transactions a week before the stock market began plummeting amid fears of Covid-19 spreading in the U.S. Burr also come under fire for a secret recording in which he issued a much more dire warning to a group of attendees at a private luncheon about the potential outbreak than the prognosis he was offering publicly at the time. If Burr traded stocks based on information that was not available to the public, it could not only be an ethics issue, but a criminal matter as well.

Coronavirus Response Includes $400 Million in Election Assistance. Will It Be Enough?
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/25/2020

A sweeping federal spending package responding to the coronavirus pandemic will include millions to help states administer elections, but some fear it will not be enough to prevent chaos in November. The enormous spending bill includes $400 million in election assistance, according to a partial bill text released by the Senate Appropriations Committee. That figure is a fraction, however, of the $2 billion the Brennan Center for Justice estimated is necessary for states to prepare for a surge of voters casting ballots by mail and to ensure safe in-person voting.

Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 3/23/2020

Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee cannot take place because of the coronavirus, officials said for the first time. Among the complicating factors are the uncertain nature of the professional basketball season – the arena hosting the convention is home to the Milwaukee Bucks, a top NBA team likely to play deep into the playoffs if the league’s season were to restart – and how the party’s delegates will be selected. Delegates in most states are elected to the national convention from state conventions, but many state conventions, scheduled for late spring and early summer, are also being postponed.

FLRA Sets Sights on Official Time for ‘Lobbying Activities’
Government Executive – Erich Wagner | Published: 3/24/2020

The federal agency tasked with administering federal labor law announced it will reexamine whether federal employee unions may receive official time to communicate with members of Congress. The Federal Labor Relations Authority requested comments on whether the agency should overturn decades of precedent stating that a ban on the use of federal funds for lobbying applies to federal employees who are members of a labor union. The development is in response to a request from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union advocacy group.

From Jets to Juleps, SCOTUS Perks Aren’t Always Reported
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 3/24/2020

A self-appointed U.S. Supreme Court watchdog tallied the private flights and other hidden perks justices enjoy when invited to speak at universities. In addition to the private plane trips, the report from the group Fix the Court details a $500-a-plate VIP dinner that Justice Stephen Breyer attended before a 2016 lecture at the University of Texas, as well as undisclosed gifts like Wisconsin football gear given to Justice Elena Kagan, and silver julep cups to Justice Neil Gorsuch.

House Report Tables Remote Voting
Roll Call – Katherine Tullyu-McManus | Published: 3/24/2020

Remote voting is not coming to the U.S. House anytime soon, according to a Rules Committee report. But some advocates say the report did not fully consider the options available and members are still pushing for emergency alternatives. A public report and letter sent to lawmakers outlines the options for voting procedures during this unprecedented pandemic that is spreading across the country and even the Capitol. The report was commissioned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after pressure grew from rank-and-file lawmakers for leadership to identify alternatives to gathering 435 members in a room to vote, which makes following social distancing protocols nearly impossible. Pelosi had previously shot down the idea of remote voting when raised by her caucus and reporters.

‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising
Politico – Maggie Severns and James Arkin | Published: 3/20/2020

Campaigns across the country have canceled face-to-face fundraisers for the foreseeable future in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and are scrambling to figure out how to raise enough money to stay solvent. Big donors’ stock portfolios are tanking and small-dollar, online contributors, who have never been more important to campaigns, are facing sudden financial uncertainty and the real possibility of unemployment. Major donors from both parties already are beginning to scale back after years of riding high off of a booming stock market, donors and fundraisers said.

Joe Biden Found His Footing – Then Coronavirus Changed Everything
Yahoo News – Evan Halper and Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

Even as President Trump fumbles his way through the Covid-19 outbreak, there are risks for Joe Biden if he remains in the background of this ever-changing public crisis. Fresh polling shows a diminished lead for Democrats in November, and Trump’s approval rating mostly stable despite criticism of his early efforts to downplay the significance of the pandemic. That leaves Biden in uncharted territory, a candidate awkwardly adjusting to the new reality of virtual campaigning and struggling to find a message that gets him back on voters’ radar.

Six Days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from coronavirus testing to positive diagnosis
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2020

Aware of his extensive travel and compromised health, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul quietly got himself tested for the coronavirus on March 16. But for the six days that his results were pending, the Kentucky Republican took no steps to self-quarantine – continuing to cast votes on the Senate floor, delivering a speech lambasting a coronavirus aid bill, and meeting with other Republican senators in strategy sessions that defied federal advisories warning against gatherings of more than 10 people. Paul was defiant that he did nothing wrong, despite bipartisan criticism for his behavior and even sharper private furor among senators and aides because he had potentially exposed them to the virus.

Super PACs Step In to Attack Trump’s Coronavirus Response
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 3/24/2020

The presidential campaign has largely shifted to the recesses of public consciousness during the coronavirus outbreak. So, too, has political broadcast advertising. Calls for unity to stop the pandemic are widespread, and candidates could be accused of politicizing a crisis if they put out attack ads. But with President Trump on television constantly, Democratic strategists are worried his unabated free airtime, even amid a crippling national crisis, gives him a messaging advantage. In that vacuum, two Democratic groups have started multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns attacking Trump for his previous comments that played down the threat of the virus.

Supreme Court Rejects Keeping GOP Super PAC Donor Secret
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/23/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision allowing a trust fund to be named that was used by a donor to give $1.7 million to a Republican super PAC. The trust and a trustee sued to keep their identities secret. Once the lower court follows up on the Supreme Court’s order, FEC member Ellen Weintraub said she would release a statement with the names of the trust and trustee used to funnel money to the super PAC. Enforcement actions and court decisions are making it harder for some big donors to attempt to hide their identities, usually by funneling money to super PACs through obscure limited liability companies or other entities.

Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter, Federal Court Affirms in Ruling
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 3/23/2020

A federal appeals court let stand a ruling that prevents {resident Trump from blocking critical voices from the Twitter account he uses to communicate with the public. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the administration’s request to revisit an earlier holding that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual Twitter users who were critical of the president or his polices. The decision leaves in place a unanimous three-judge panel ruling from July. The court held that because the president uses his Twitter account to conduct official government business, he cannot exclude voices or viewpoints with which he disagrees.

Virus Brings States to a Standstill: Sessions halt, budgets crater, plans wait
MSN – Michael Powell and John Eligon (New York Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on statehouses across the U.S., derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction, and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed. Vast numbers of businesses have been forced to close their doors and millions of Americans face unemployment, creating a sudden need to spend on virus-related assistance, the certainty of sharp drops in tax collections and a turning of once optimistic budget projections upside down. The outbreak has forced at least 22 state Legislatures to close or postpone sessions at the busiest time of the year. The toll on state policies and spending appears likely to extend far beyond a single legislative season.

Canada

Canada COVID-19 Is Forcing Lobbyists to Significantly Shift Their Strategies
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez and Palak Mangat | Published: 3/23/2020

As the federal government in Canada ramps up its effort to control the pace of the coronavirus pandemic and stabilize the economy, lobbyists say much of their focus has either pivoted to responding to the immediacy of the crisis, or giving officials the breathing room they need. “I just don’t think there is lobbying during the coronavirus; I really think the focus has to be on getting through this,” said Joe Jordan, senior associate at Bluesky Strategy Group. As a former member of Parliament, Jordan said he may not react too kindly to being approached by a lobbyist during this type of crisis, in which thousands of people are being effectively laid off and the health-care system is under strain.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Democrats Cancel In-Person Primary Voting, Extend Mail-In Deadline
Anchorage Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 3/24/2020

The Alaska Democratic Party will hold its party-run presidential primary exclusively by mail and is moving back the deadlines for returning and tabulating ballots. The party announced it is canceling in-person voting sites planned for April 4 due to concerns with the coronavirus. But it is extending the deadline to return ballots by mail. The party now says they must be received in Anchorage no later than April 10 to be counted.

California California Fair Political Practices Commission Offers Guidance on Campaign Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 3/21/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission issued an advisory acknowledging that in light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, filing of campaign statements and reports will be difficult. All candidates and committees that file campaign statements and reports with the secretary of state’s office may use the office’s online filing system. Local candidates and committees should contact their local filing officers to determine if electronic filing is available in their jurisdiction.

California California Lobbyists Adjust to a World Without Handshakes and Hallway Conversations
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 3/18/2020

After the California General Assembly shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sacramento’s powerful “third house’’ – the lobbyists, advocates, and attorneys who represent powerful interests – has had to adjust on the fly. Political influence has long relied on personal connections, face-to-face conversations, and buttonholing political players in the hallways, committee rooms, and fundraisers in and around the Capitol, and none of that can happen for now. Lawmakers, too, are adjusting to their new remote reality.

California Political Fundraiser Admits to Delivering Bribes in L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin, David Zahniser, and Laura Nelson | Published: 3/19/2020

A federal corruption probe into relationships between developers and Los Angeles elected officials made a major move forward with prosecutors saying a political fundraiser will plead guilty to facilitating a $500,000 bribe of an unnamed city council member. Justin Jangwoo Kim will plead guilty to a single count of federal program bribery and will cooperate in the continuing City Hall corruption probe. Prosecutors said Kim facilitated a $500,000 cash payment to the unnamed council member in a developer’s effort to resolve a labor group’s environmental challenge to a major real estate project. The council member is referred to only as a member of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Connecticut Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order
Stamford Advocate – Ken Dixon | Published: 3/23/2020

The latest executive order from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont suspends limitations on gifts that were enacted after the corruption scandal that sent former Gov. John Rowland to prison in 2005. It also takes limits off political campaign contributions. Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said while the governor’s order falls outside the jurisdiction of his agency, it appears to apply only to large state contractor gifts. Those contractors who contributed in current or recent election cycles could have fallen into a legal limbo if the new executive order had not been addressed.

Georgia Loeffler Stock Trades Roil Georgia Special Election
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 3/21/2020

One of Kelly Loeffler’s most appealing traits to Republicans who embraced her for a coveted U.S. Senate appointment – her ability to self-fund a competitive election this fall through immense wealth – is suddenly looking like a serious liability for her and the GOP. Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January, damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Trump. Collins is seizing on the stock trades by Loeffler, who is married to the head of the New York Stock Exchange.

Indiana All Indiana Voters Can Choose to Cast Ballot by Mail for June 2 Primary Election
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 3/25/2020

All Indiana voters have the option to cast their ballot by mail in the upcoming primary election to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. The Indiana Election Commission authorized “no excuse” absentee voting by mail for this election only, along with numerous other temporary changes to accommodate Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to shift the state’s primary to June 2 from May 5 Vote by mail typically only is available to Hoosiers who satisfy at least one of 11 statutory excuses for being unable to get to their polling place on Election Day.

Kentucky As Coronavirus Creates ‘Unprecedented Obstacles’ to Voting, Kentucky GOP Takes Step to Add Another: Voter ID
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/20/2020

As states across the country took steps to make voting to make voting easier in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Legislature in Kentucky approved a new measure requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, prompting an outcry from voting-rights groups. Gov. Andy Beshear has 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. Beshear, who restored voting rights to former felons in an executive order days after he took office, previously said he opposed “unnecessary roadblocks” to voting. But the governor’s power to block the measure, which would go into effect for the November election, is limited.

Maine Maine Expands Campaign Finance Laws About PACs in State
AP News – Staff | Published: 3/24/2020

A new law in Maine defines caucus political action committees as subject to the same rules as other PACs. Supporters said the rule change means the state’s ethics commission will be able to fully enforce ethics rules about PACs that are led by legislators. The law takes effect on June 16.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Repeatedly Voted to Approve Spending for Groups on ‘Abstentions List,’ Report Finds
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 3/19/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted 30 times in three years to approve city spending on organizations with which she appeared to have a connection, a review from the Office of the Inspector General found. Pratt, a member of the city’s powerful spending board, maintained an evolving “abstentions list,” noting companies and organizations with which she is affiliated. Each of the board’s five members have had such a list and used it to refrain from voting on items for which they may have a conflict-of-interest.

Michigan Ballot Drive to Change Michigan Lobbying Laws Suspended Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbon | Published: 3/20/2020

The group behind a ballot petition drive to change Michigan lobbying laws announced it was suspending the effort, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the cause. The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes said they were postponing the campaign until the 2022 election cycle. The coronavirus “has made the already difficult task of collecting more than 425,000 signatures to put lobby reform on the ballot in 2020 a relatively impossible one,” the group said in a statement. Getting a citizen-led initiative on the ballot typically requires in-person contact all over the state as volunteers or paid signature gatherers collect hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Minnesota In ‘the Cathedral of Hockey,’ Bipartisanship Still Exists in Minnesota
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Briana Bierschbach | Published: 3/20/2020

It is not their usual scene in St. Paul, but for decades, a group of current and former legislators, lobbyists, staffers, state employees, and anyone else they could persuade to show up have gathered every Sunday during the legislative session for a game of ice hockey. Somehow the tradition has survived contentious budget fights, government shutdowns, and increasingly divisive state and national politics. It has outlasted at least three Minnesota governors who have played on the team, too.

Montana State GOP Spent $100k to Qualify Montana Green Party for the Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 3/24/2020

The Montana Republican Party bankrolled the signature-gathering effort to get the Montana Green Party certified for the 2020 election ballot, an official for a political committee said. Democrats, who had asked the state commissioner of political practices to find out who paid for the signature gathering effort, immediately accused the GOP of election fraud and of propping up a leftist political party as a means to siphon votes from Democratic candidates this fall.

New Jersey Belmar Mayor, Three Council Members Repay Questioned Campaign Gifts After Dispute
Asbury Park Press – Ken Serrano | Published: 3/25/2020

The mayor of Belmar, New Jersey, and three council members returned campaign contributions after a resident questioned whether the donations violated the borough’s “pay-to-play” ordinance that seeks to limit the role of money in politics. Borough attorney Jerry Dasti said it was debatable whether the officials violated the ordinance, but they returned the money anyway. An expert on “pay-to-play laws” said the elected officials’ actions were a clear breach of the ordinance.

New Jersey Sparta BOE in Flap Over Promotion of Member’s Son
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obernauer | Published: 3/19/2020

A school board member in Sparta, New Jersey resigned her seat after admitting she voted on a new contract and pay increase for Superintendent Michael Rossi in the fall while her son was employed in the school district as a substitute custodian, an action that was followed by her son’s promotion to a full-time $36,000-a-year custodian’s position that the board rescinded. Karen Scott acknowledged she also neglected to disclose the employment of her son in the district on her 2019 and 2020 personal disclosure forms, which all school board members and administrators must file annually with the state School Ethics Commission, after having previously included it on her 2018 form.

New Jersey State Ethics Commission Recommends Removal of Paterson BOE Member Emanuel Capers Over Arizona Trip
Paterson Times – Jayed Rahman | Published: 3/20/2020

The New Jersey School Ethics Commission recommended the removal of Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers for taking an all-expense paid trip to Arizona. Ethics officials rejected Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss’s legal conclusions that absolved Capers in December 2019. Moss had ruled Capers did not violate any provisions of the ethics code for school board members. Capers attended the Effective Schools Conference in 2018 paid for by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s education company Woz U. Capers has argued he is not a school district employee, but an elected official.

New York Nassau Inspector General: Courthouse contractor did not ID key principals
Newsday – Scott Eidler | Published: 3/21/2020

Nassau County Inspector General Jodi Franzese questioned the “business integrity” of the company that won an $85.6 million construction contract for the new Family and Matrimonial Court building in Mineola in Mineola because it failed to identify key officials or disclose campaign contributions they made. Citing requirements in a county law enacted after contracting scandals involving former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the report said Antonios Vournou and Jenny Sakalis failed to identify themselves as principals of E & A Restoration when they bid on county contracts.

Ohio Ohio Lawmakers Sets All-Mail Primary Election Through April 28; Legal Challenge Still Possible
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/25/2020

Ohio lawmakers approved a plan for an all-mail primary election running through April 28, the Legislature’s fix to wrap things up after the original March 17 Election Day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would send postcards to every Ohioan with instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Anyone who has not cast an early ballot already would have to print off a paper application, or call their county elections and request one be mailed to them, and mail it in. Elections officials then would mail an empty ballot with a postage-paid envelope. Voters would have until April 27 to mail it back or drop it off at a curbside county ballot box, and votes would be counted on April 28. But it might not be the last legal word on the issue.

Rhode Island Rhode Island Presidential Primary Moving to June 2
WPRI – Steph Machado | Published: 3/23/2020

After the Rhode Island Board of Elections voted to move the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would sign an executive order to move the date of the primary, which will take place mostly by mail. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea had initially asked the elections board to keep the primary on April 28 but do it mostly by mail-in ballots. But elections board staffers expressed concern there would not be enough time to distribute mail ballots and certify the large influx before April 28. The Board of Elections instead voted to delay the primary in order to have more time to prepare to hold it mostly by mail.

Texas Texas Delaying May Primary Runoff Elections in Response to Coronavirus
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 3/20/2020

The May 26 primary election runoffs in Texas will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the coronavirus under an order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices. The elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.

Texas Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Comes Under Fire for Saying Seniors Should ‘Take a Chance’ on Their Own Lives for Sake of Grandchildren During Coronavirus Crisis
Connecticut Post – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2020

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick faced a sharp backlash for suggesting older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats arguing that public health should remain the country’s top priority. “Let’s get back to living,” Patrick said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.” Experts have warned that loosening federal guidelines for social distancing would likely accelerate the spread of the virus and put many more Americans at risk.

Utah Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, Ousted by Scandal, Wants His Old Post Back
Salt Lake Tribune – Benjamin Wood | Published: 3/20/2020

John Swallow – the one-time Utah attorney general, driven from office by one of the state’s largest political scandals before being acquitted at trial – is running to reclaim his former office. Swallow won the 2012 election, but days after his inauguration, The Salt Lake Tribune reported his involvement in an alleged scheme to help a friend, Jeremy Johnson, enlist then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s help to avoid criminal prosecution. Johnson secretly recorded a meeting with Swallow where they discussed the deal. Subsequently, Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, were accused of extorting gifts and favors. Swallow denied the allegations, which prompted a probe by state and federal investigators, as well as a separate investigation into potential election law violations by the lieutenant governor’s office.

Continue Reading - 30 min read Close

March 26, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Supreme Court Rejects Keeping GOP Super PAC Donor Secret” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government National: “Super PACs Step In to Attack Trump’s Coronavirus Response” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times Maine: “Maine Expands Campaign Finance […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Supreme Court Rejects Keeping GOP Super PAC Donor Secret” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government

National: “Super PACs Step In to Attack Trump’s Coronavirus Response” by Nick Corasaniti for New York Times

Maine: “Maine Expands Campaign Finance Laws About PACs in State” by Staff for AP News

New Jersey: “Belmar Mayor, Three Council Members Repay Questioned Campaign Gifts After Dispute” by Ken Serrano for Asbury Park Press

Ethics

National: “From Jets to Juleps, SCOTUS Perks Aren’t Always Reported” by Megan Mineiro for Courthouse News Service

Texas: “Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Comes Under Fire for Saying Seniors Should ‘Take a Chance’ on Their Own Lives for Sake of Grandchildren During Coronavirus Crisis” by Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post

Legislative Issues

National: “Virus Brings States to a Standstill: Sessions halt, budgets crater, plans wait” by Michael Powell and John Eligon (New York Times) for New York Times

National: “House Report Tables Remote Voting” by Katherine Tullyu-McManus for Roll Call

Lobbying

National: “FLRA Sets Sights on Official Time for ‘Lobbying Activities’” by Erich Wagner for Government Executive

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

March 25, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising” by Maggie Severns and James Arkin for Politico Connecticut: “Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order” by Ken Dixon for Stamford Advocate Elections National: “Bloomberg Sued by Aides […]

Campaign Finance

National: “‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising” by Maggie Severns and James Arkin for Politico

Connecticut: “Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order” by Ken Dixon for Stamford Advocate

Elections

National: “Bloomberg Sued by Aides for Stiffing Them on Yearlong Pay Promise” by Christopher Cadelsgo for Politico

National: “Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options” by Reid Epstein for New York Times

Ethics

National: “Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter, Federal Court Affirms in Ruling” by Ann Marimow for Washington Post

National: “Six Days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from coronavirus testing to positive diagnosis” by Seung Min Kim, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) for MSN

Legislative Issues

Minnesota: “In ‘the Cathedral of Hockey,’ Bipartisanship Still Exists in Minnesota” by Briana Bierschbach for Minneapolis Star Tribune

Procurement

New York: “Nassau Inspector General: Courthouse contractor did not ID key principals” by Scott Eidler for Newsday

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

March 20, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 20, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020 It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. […]

National/Federal

At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020

It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The setting was Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. The guest list included dozens of Trump family members and friends. But when it came to picking up the tab, hands went out to other attendees. Among them were at least four whose families are financial supporters of the president’s re-election campaign, for which Guilfoyle helps lead the fundraising. They ended up pitching in tens of thousands of dollars, passed along to Mar-a-Lago, to help pay for what two people familiar with the planning said was a $50,000 celebration of Guilfoyle’s 51st birthday. Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center said the party created the appearance of supporters of the president currying favor with his family by steering money into his private business, which he continues to profit from.

Biden Notches 3 More Victories; Sanders Reassessing Campaign
AP News – Will Weissert and Brian Slodysko | Published: 3/18/2020

Joe Biden swept to victory in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by the coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign. Biden’s third big night in as many weeks came amid tremendous uncertainty as the Democratic contest collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that has shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead as scheduled in the three other states, election workers and voters reported problems. Still, Biden’s quest for his party’s nomination now seems well within reach.

Biden’s Promise to Choose a Woman Veep Reignites Hopes of a Female President
MSN – Annie Linsky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2020

After watching Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and the departure of prominent female candidates from this year’s Democratic primary race, women in the party expressed hope Joe Biden;s vow to name a woman as his running mate could spell an end to the starkest gender barrier in American politics. Women have been tapped twice before as vice-presidential candidates, but with polls showing Biden leading President Trump in a general election, many see this as the most realistic possibility that a woman could wind up a heartbeat from the presidency. Biden has described himself as a “bridge” to the next generation of leaders, a comment interpreted as a signal he would serve just one term, meaning his running mate would be even more of a president-in-waiting than usual.

Coronavirus Forces Brussels Lobbying to Go Digital
Politico – Cristina Gonzales | Published: 3/17/2020

The coronavirus has put traditional networking and lobbying in Brussels on ice. The long-term impact of the pandemic on European Union lobbying industry will depend to a large extent on how much Brussels is able to legislate and regulate through a period of Europe-wide lockdowns and economic slowdown, and how willing and able policymakers are to continue engaging with outside stakeholders during that time. For now, with formal and informal meetings on hold, influencers are practicing “telelobbying” – trying to strategize and advance agendas through phone calls, video calls, webinars, emails, and instant messages.

Coronavirus Shakes Up K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/13/2020

K St. lobbyists said corporate leaders are looking for answers about what Capitol Hill and the White House are going to do to assist the economy and combat the spread of Covid-19. As the virus brings changes to daily life, with schools closing, events being cancelled, and people taking new precautions, lobbyists are being forced to rethink plans for meetings and high-profile events. Lobbyists who are not based in Washington have been forced to move to virtual meetings. Shoe leather lobbyists walk the halls of the Capitol or head to the White House to work for their clients, but increasingly those meetings are being handled over the phone. But as long as the work of Congress goes on, advocacy groups would need to stay engaged, said Lincoln Clapper, Prime Advocacy’s director of sales and marketing.

Coronavirus Tests American Democracy as Planning Begins for ‘Worst Case’ in November Election
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker and Amy Gardner | Published: 3/16/2020

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a singular test for American democracy, prompting states to postpone their primaries while already causing attorneys and voting-rights groups to take steps to ensure access to the November election in the event the outbreak is not contained by then. Hardly any precedent exists for the dilemma now facing campaigns and voters in the states pressing ahead with their contests. Experts said President Trump lacks the legal authority to change the date of the election. But some cautioned that increasingly stringent public health guidelines advising Americans to stay in their homes, or potential government-imposed lockdowns stretching into the fall, could present unprecedented obstacles to voting.

DOJ Memo Shows Clinton, Obama, and Trump Donor’s Shady Foreign Campaign Finance Schemes
Washington Examiner – Jwerry Dunleavy | Published: 3/17/2020

Federal prosecutors detailed the alleged foreign lobbying schemes carried out by Imaad Zuberi in a lengthy memo, alleging the campaign fundraiser who donated to Democrats and Republicans concealed work for shadowy interests around the world. Zuberi pleaded guilty in October to charges of tax evasion, making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions using straw donations and foreign funds and falsifying records of his extensive work as a foreign agent on behalf of Sri Lanka as well as lobbying for individuals and governments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain, and Libya. The Justice Department said Zuberi repeatedly violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act in receiving millions of dollars from foreign actors and lobbying Congress on their behalf.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison for Campaign Finance Violations
Los AngelesTimes – Morgan Cook and Greg Moran (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds for his personal use. He resigned from Congress in January. Hunter and his wife were accused of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign contributions and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records. The funds bankrolled private school tuition for Hunter’s children, his wife’s shopping sprees, weekend trips with his mistress, and drinking parties in Washington, D.C. After he was indicted, Hunter ran for reelection and tried to convince voters in the district that as a staunch supporter of President Trump, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by left-leaning prosecutors trying to drive him out of office in Democratic California.

Full Appeals Court to Hear McGahn, Border Wall Cases
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/13/2020

The full District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to weigh in on two legal fights critical to President Trump: whether the U.S. House can use the courts to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, and whether the House can sue to block Trump’s effort to fund border wall construction over congressional objections. The announcement wiped out a major victory Trump scored when a smaller panel of the same court ruled the courts should not wade into subpoena fights between Congress and the White House. There seems to be little chance the Supreme Court will resolve the issues definitively before the November election, but rulings in the House’s favor could lead the justices to intervene with a stay in the coming months.

Fundraisers Shifting Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Pandemic
Campaigns and Elections – Sean Miller | Published: 3/17/2020

Handshakes are taboo, major cities are being ordered to shelter in place, President Trump has told Americans to limit gatherings to 10 people, and the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are starting to be felt far and wide. In this stark reality, political fundraising consultants are having to reinvent their strategies to keep money coming in for their clients, even as the country shuts down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In-person fundraisers have been canceled, and launch events (traditionally prime opportunities to raise money) have been postponed for campaigns across the country. Campaign and fundraising plans are also being rewritten to account for what many expect will be fundraising shortfalls, at least in the near term.

Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Charges Against Russian Firms Filed by Mueller
MSN – Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 3/16/2020

The Justice Department moved to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize. The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by special counsel Robert Mueller, along with 13 Russians and another company. Prosecutors said they operated a scheme to use social media to subvert the election. Prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.

K Street Looks to Ride Coronavirus Relief Efforts
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/16/2020

Lobbyists for the private sector are looking to hitch a ride on the federal government’s coronavirus response. The deluge of “asks,” as K Street refers to such pleas, include policies that might help address the crisis and revive the economy. But other proposals are similar to ones the same industries have pushed for years and have only a tenuous connection to the pandemic. Even some in the influence industry are calling foul. “Some of the requests for aid appear opportunistic on their face while others seem truly desperate,” lobbyist Dave Oxner wrote in a recent note to clients.

Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 3/13/2020

A Washington, D.C. lobbyist pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government while lobbying for the Big Crow Program Office, a government program based at Kirtland Air Force Base that could not legally pay for lobbying activities from government funds under federal law. George Lowe became the third person indicted in the scheme to plead guilty in the case. Lowe was charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States through false claims for payment of federal appropriated funds. Lowe received payment for his lobbying services with appropriated funds provided by third-party private contractors hired to provide support to Big Crow.

Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 3/13/2020

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s marriage to a political consultant has drawn renewed focus on her campaign’s payments to her new husband, Timothy Mynett, and his firm, which are at the center of a pending complaint with the FEC. Following Omar’s marriage announcement, conservative critics raised concerns about payments by her campaign to E Street Group, which is run by Mynett. Payments to the firm in the 2019-2020 cycle for Omar’s reelection campaign comprised 40 percent of total campaign expenses. Representatives for Omar’s campaign and Mynett’s firm said there was nothing improper about the payments because they were made for legitimate work.

Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’
Law.com – Jacqueline Thomson | Published: 3/13/2020

A senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sharply criticized the FEC for arguing that a legal challenge to the agency’s decision to not prosecute certain campaign finance violations cannot be reviewed by the court. The panel upheld a District Court ruling that granted the FEC summary judgement in a lawsuit from the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, finding the reasons commissioners gave for throwing out complaints of campaign finance violations were reasonable. The FEC had argued that because the challenge was over a prosecutorial decision by the commission, it was not subject to judicial review.

Some Democrats Urge Party to Weigh Alternatives for National Convention Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2020

Some Democratic Party officials have expressed concern about plans to bring tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee for the July convention, even as the party’s leadership said it was not entertaining canceling the event or holding it remotely. The fate of the convention presents a potential conundrum for Democrats. Thousands of delegates, activists, and others in the party faithful are expected to cram into the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for the event. But the quest to showcase the nominee they hope will oust President Trump could run counter to the advice of public health experts, who are advising against large gatherings, if the coronavirus outbreak remains severe in the summer.

Super PACs Outmaneuver Outdated Rules to Leave Voters in the Dark
Center for Responsive Politics – Kark Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/18/2020

Super PACs are required to disclose their donors. But by launching a new super PAC just before an election, political actors can spend unlimited sums influencing races without disclosing their funding sources until after votes are counted. The current reporting rules were crafted more than four decades ago, when committee treasurers typed their reports with typewriters and mailed their disclosures to the FEC. Now, campaigns and outside groups maintain electronic databases of their contributions and spending, making it easy to file reports quickly. But the rules have not been updated to keep up with technological changes.

Two Congressmen Test Positive for the Coronavirus
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2020

Two members of Congress said they had tested positive for the coronavirus, the first lawmakers to contract the deadly disease, forcing other lawmakers who came into contact with them to announce they were self-quarantining. U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams said they began developing symptoms less than 24 hours after they had stood on the crowded House floor and voted for the coronavirus relief package. That Diaz-Balart and McAdams began feeling sick and tested positive so soon after the House adjourned on March 14 raises questions about how contagious they were during their recent time on Capitol Hill.

With 2 Lawmakers Sick, the Rest Take Turns Voting in an Empty Chamber
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferre-Sanduri | Published: 3/19/2020

As the coronavirus continues to radically change the day-to-day rituals of tens of millions of Americans, state lawmakers across the country are scrambling to balance their sworn duties with fears of infection and legislative priorities that have been upended and reshuffled. At least 17 statehouses have postponed their legislatives sessions, with lawmakers effectively retreating from public view, reshaping a core function of government, and the way constituents are able to access their elected officials at the height of a pandemic.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Governor Postpones Runoffs, Prolonging Sessions-Tuberville Battle
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/18/2020

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced she is postponing the state’s March 31 runoff elections until July 14, citing concerns about the new coronavirus. The move postpones the U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. There are also primary runoffs in the open seats in Alabama’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. The federal government has recommended gatherings not exceed 10 people in order to limit the spread of the virus.

California Political Dilemma: Make ballot statement, or spend more on campaign? The answer is shaping O.C. politics
Orange County Register – Brooke Staggs | Published: 3/18/2020

Orange County candidates running for state Senate and Assembly seats had to make a strategic gamble heading into the March 3 primary. They could pay $1,000 or more to print a 250-word candidate statement in the sample ballots mailed to all 1.64 million registered voters in Orange County. Such a statement might give them a needed edge in competitive races, but it came with a catch: any candidate who prints a statement on the primary ballot has to agree to strict campaign spending limits, both for the primary and, if they go forward, the November general election. Those decisions may play an even bigger role in the general, since some candidates in close races have agreed to spending limits even as their challengers did not.

California ‘Team Newport’ Pays $27,000 to Settle with State Over Allegations of Campaign Finance Disclosure Violations
Los Angeles Times – Hillary Davis | Published: 3/10/2020

The current and former Newport Beach City Council members known collectively as “Team Newport,” along with their political consultant and campaign treasurer, have paid the state $27,000 to settle a dispute over their 2014 campaign finance disclosures. The settlement dramatically cuts the original 44 counts that California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) staff returned against the group early last year. The agreement is subject to the FPPC’s approval when it meets March 19. The allegations centered largely on how contributions for mailers and door hangers were reported.

Florida Andrew Gillum Entering Rehab to Treat Alcohol Abuse After Hotel Incident
Tampa Bay Times – David Smiley and Steve Contorno | Published: 3/15/2020

Days after police say they found him in a hotel room with a collapsed companion and baggies of crystal meth, former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced plans to enter rehab for alcohol abuse. Gillum was not arrested and was allowed to return to his hotel in Miami. According to a Miami Beach police report, officers responding to an overdose call at the found Gillum in a hotel room with two other men and too inebriated to talk. Gillum issued a statement saying he was in Miami to celebrate a wedding and had too much to drink. He said he has never used methamphetamine. His decision to step away from the spotlight clouds a political career that seemed to have no ceiling.

Florida Increase in City Oversight Is Meeting Resistance
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/18/2020

Some Jacksonville City Council members are pushing back on legislation that would increase the city ethics director’s oversight authority because they worry it could dissuade private companies from doing business with the city. Proponents say strengthening independent oversight of city agencies is necessary in light of JEA’s failed push to privatize the city-owned utility The proposed ordinance would grant the ethics director the same unrestricted access to records and documents as Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General from all city employees, elected officials, and independent agencies and authorities. That access extends to private companies and their subcontractors doing business with the city and companies receiving financial incentives through economic development agreements.

Georgia Georgia Delays Primary Election
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/14/2020

Georgia delayed its presidential primary due to coronavirus. The primary, which was originally scheduled for March 24, will now be held on May 19. The presidential primary in the state will now be held on the same day as primaries in the state for local, state, and congressional offices. In-person early voting has also been halted. A statement from state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairperson of the Democratic Party of Georgia, indicated that in-person and absentee ballots that have already been cast in the presidential primary will count.

Hawaii This Hawaii Defense Contractor Has Emerged as a Major Political Player
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 3/18/2020

Over the past decade, Martin Kao has become one of the most prolific political donors to come out of Hawaii. Kao is the chief executive officer of Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based defense contractor that designs state-of-the-art ship hulls for the U.S. Navy. Kao has maintained a relatively low profile while he and his family have quietly pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of dozens of state and federal politicians. Now, some of these donations are coming under increased scrutiny, especially as Navatek expands its operations beyond Hawaii’s borders.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Presidential Primary Election to Be Delayed Because of Coronavirus
Baton Rouge Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 3/13/2020

The presidential primary elections in Louisiana slated for April 4 will be delayed until June 20, the latest in a series of dramatic steps government leaders have taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the administration would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation.  More than half of the state’s election-day commissioners are 65 or older, and 32 polling locations are in nursing homes or other senior facilities, Ardoin said. “This decision has been made out of an absolute abundance of caution for Louisiana’s voters, voting officials, and the general public as a whole,” Ardoin said.

Maryland Maryland Postpones Primary, Shifts Special Election to Mail Voting Over Coronavirus
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/17/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he was postponing the state’s primaries, originally scheduled for late April, to June 2 as the country grapples with the spread of the coronavirus. But Maryland will still hold one election on April 28, foreshadowing a potentially broad move toward mail voting that could pave the way for elections across the country to continue during the crisis. Hogan said he believed the special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings should forward on as a mail-in only election, the first federal election to be shifted to mail voting in response to coronavirus.

Maryland Senate Confirms Nominees to Overhauled University of Maryland Medical System Board After Self-Dealing Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/16/2020

The Maryland Senate voted to confirm nearly two dozen nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) board, which was overhauled last year after a self-dealing scandal rocked the hospital network and led to the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor. Senators voted unanimously to approve all new nominees to the board. But three Democratic senators voted against the five returning members, citing a report from state auditors that said the hospital network “hindered” a probe of the system’s finances. The Baltimore Sun reported on a new report from the auditors on UMMS finances, which uncovered more financial dealings between board members and their organizations than previously known. It revealed nearly $115 million in payments to more than two dozen board members and their related businesses in recent years.

Maryland States Are Banning Discrimination Against Black Hairstyles. For Some Lawmakers, It’s Personal.
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 3/12/2020

Maryland Del. Stephanie Smith said many of her friends have been told over the years they should style their hair differently if they want to advance professionally. It is one of the main reasons Smith introduced legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that expands the state’s discrimination law to protect hair texture, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles, such as braids, twists, and locs. “To require people to pretty much alter chemically or in some type of extreme way how their hair grows out of the head seems to me so beyond intrusive,” said Smith. A growing number of states and localities are taking steps to ban such discrimination, often led by young African American lawmakers like Smith.

Michigan ‘New Evidence’ to Retry Rep. Larry Inman for Attempted Extortion, Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MLive.com – John Agar | Published: 3/18/2020

Federal prosecutors say Michigan Rep. Larry Inman’s sworn testimony at trial has been contradicted by other lawmakers, including then-House Speaker Tom Leonard. Prosecutors want to retry Inman after a jury deadlocked on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe. Jurors acquitted him of lying to the FBI. Inman was accused of asking for campaign contributions in exchange for his vote on a 2018 repeal of a prevailing-wage law. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker in January suggested the line between seeking legitimate campaign funds and taking part in illegal activity may not be “bright and clear.”

Missouri Amid FBI Inquiry, Controversial Figures in Play for Another Huge City Power Project
Kansas City Star – Kevin Hardy, Steve Vockrodt, and Jason Hancock | Published: 3/15/2020

Two individuals involved in controversial energy projects in Independence that have drawn FBI scrutiny submitted a formal proposal to help repurpose a separate, soon-to-be shuttered city power plant. A collection of businesses led by Titan Fish Partners has a proposal with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars to repurpose the Blue Valley Municipal Power Generating Plant in Independence into a biofuels production facility. Numerous businesses and individuals are involved in the proposal, including Steve Tilley, a lobbyist and former Missouri House speaker who is ab adviser to Gov. Mike Parson. According to people who were interviewed by the FBI, Tilley has been a central figure in questions focused on a pair of questionable utility contracts in Independence and the rollout of Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

New Jersey Controversial N.J. Law to Unmask Secret Campaign Donors Is Officially Dead
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/11/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti permanently halted a New Jersey law requiring increased political donor disclosure. Martinotti issued a permanent against the law that required political organizations and some nonprofits to disclose all spending over $3,000, up from $1,600. It also mandated that contributors giving more than $10,000 would be disclosed. Supporters said the law was designed to shed more light on the donors who give secret donations to groups that have an effect on state government. Critics said the law curbs free speech because it would keep people who do not want their names to become public from getting involved in politics.

New York Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 3/13/2020

A New York Supreme Court judge struck down recommendations made by the state’s Public Finance Commission and ruled it did not have the authority to create laws. The commission was tasked with formulating a new campaign finance system for state elections. It also recommended changes to ballot petition requirements and party qualification thresholds, claiming too many candidates of various parties on the ballot would bankrupt any new system and raising questions about how valid some of the state’s parties really are. The commission recommendations became law in December after the state Legislature took no action to amend or reject them.

New York Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/15/2020

The lobbying firm that once employed two top staffers for New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has successfully persuaded the council on several controversial land-use projects, raising hackles among good-government advocates. The Kasirer firm, the highest-earning lobbyist in the city for the past three years, has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Johnson since 2017, when its namesake president Suri Kasirer backed him for speaker. Jason Goldman and Genevieve Michel, two Kasirer alums, also now work for Johnson, with Goldman serving as his chief of staff and Michel as deputy chief of staff. John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said while it appears no rules are being broken, the relationship raises serious ethical concerns.

North Carolina ‘Tip of an Iceberg’: Evidence in NC bribery case hints at more intrigue
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/12/2020

Evidence in the bribery trial of North Carolina’s biggest political donor hints at a wider world of intrigue than even his $5.5 million in documented campaign contributions previously revealed. Recorded conversations, texts, and emails name-checked a who’s who of North Carolina elected officials as Greg Lindberg, who owns a slew of businesses, pressed for a lighter regulatory touch on his insurance companies. A jury convicted Lindberg and his political fixer, a John Gray. Jurors agreed with the FBI and prosecutors that the men offered state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey campaign donations if he would replace a key regulator in his department. Causey wore an FBI camera that took in not only evidence of the crime, but also offhand remarks that tease at a larger tale, leaving substantial questions unanswered.

Ohio Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Move to Close Primary Polls Due to Coronavirus Spawns Confusion, Criticism
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 3/17/2020

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to close the polls for the state’s primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic created confusion and drew criticism from voting advocates. The governor said Amy Acton, the state’s health director, ordered the polls to be closed. DeWine acted after a judge rejected his effort to have the polls closed, saying the governor’s push to reschedule the election would “set a terrible precedent.” The decision from DeWine has led to increased uncertainty for how the state will proceed. It is rare for a governor to delay an election. While some praised DeWine for putting safety ahead of an election, others online decried the governor’s order as voter suppression and “an absolute tragedy of democracy.”

Rhode Island ‘Fall Guy’ Says House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Asked Him to Sign False Affidavit
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 3/14/2020

In newly filed court papers, political operative Jeffrey Britt says the chief of staff for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello asked him to sign an affidavit about a controversial campaign mailer, but he refused to sign it because it was false. Britt is charged with money laundering and making a prohibited campaign contribution during Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign. He is accused of funneling money to Republican Shawna Lawton, so she could put out a mailer endorsing Mattiello, a Democrat, who ended up edging another Republican by 85 votes.

Tennessee Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Fines Stay at $80K, Board Rejects Request
MSN – Scott Broden and Joel Ebert (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 3/12/2020

Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron still faces a recent $10,000 campaign finance fine after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Board rejected his reconsideration request. “I’ve got a serious, serious problem with any consideration on anything that he’s got,” said Tom Lawless, chairperson of the registry. It brings the total to eight unpaid $10,000 fines to Ketron for late filing of campaign finance reports. Lawless also questioned why Ketron kept his daughter as the treasurer of the campaign accounts until recently replacing her while she faced criminal charges of fraudulent insurance practices and theft of $65,000 from her father’s campaign accounts.

Washington DC Jack Evans Withdraws from D.C. Special Election Triggered by His Resignation
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/18/2020

Former District of Columbia Council member Jack Evans said he will not run in the special election to fill the vacancy he created by resigning before he could be expelled for ethics violations. Evans is still running in the June 2 Democratic primary to reclaim the Ward 2 seat for a permanent four-year term that starts in January. “I have decided it is best to not seek to run for the position which I resigned from in January and instead focus on a new start for the next four years,” Evans said. “Not running in the special is also a way of showing my sincere regret for the mistakes I made.”

Wisconsin Democrats Sue to Extend Wisconsin Primary Voting Deadlines
Courthouse News Service – Joe Kelly | Published: 3/18/2020

A lawsuit filed by Democrats in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., asks state election officials to extend absentee voting deadlines and suspend certain voter registration rules for the April 7 primary in light of widespread disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint brought by the Democratic National Committee and Wisconsin Democratic Party names the six commissioners of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission as defendants. The Democrats argue that forced confinement and social distancing implemented to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus will prevent people from voting, regardless of whether they are able or willing to leave their homes.

Continue Reading - 34 min read Close

March 10, 2020 •

West Virginia Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_West_Virginia_State_Capitol_Building_in_Charleston,_WV.jpg

West Virginia Capitol Building - O Palsson

The Second Session of the 84th Legislature adjourned sine die on March 7 at noon after 60 days in session. Legislators passed 74 bills, including the budget bill that was a priority for legislators and Gov. Jim Justice. Lawmakers also […]

The Second Session of the 84th Legislature adjourned sine die on March 7 at noon after 60 days in session.

Legislators passed 74 bills, including the budget bill that was a priority for legislators and Gov. Jim Justice.

Lawmakers also passed House Bill 4092, which provided major changes to the state’s foster care system.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

March 6, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 6, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020 A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on […]

National/Federal

Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas
AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020

A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.

Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/4/2020

Michael Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a surprising collapse for the former New York City mayor, who pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign. Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere.

Cashing in On Justice
Roll Call – Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms | Published: 3/3/2020

Before they put on their robes, dozens of federal judges appointed during the Trump and Obama administrations made significant campaign contributions to Senate Judiciary Committee members and their home-state senators, the very people who could make or break their nominations. Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed. Home-state senators who have not served on the panel also wield considerable influence on who becomes a federal judge. They have received significant contributions from donors who ended up on the bench.

Inspector General to Probe Whether VA Chief Robert Wilkie Tried to Discredit Woman Who Reported Sex Assault
Fayetteville Observer – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2020

The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington, D.C. hospital. Inspector General Michael Missal, after a preliminary review of Wilkie’s conduct following the woman’s report last fall, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he has decided to move forward with a full-blown inquiry. Wilkie, who previously ran the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness operation, has denied making inquiries about the woman, Andrea Goldstein.

Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post
National Public Radio – James Doubek | Published: 3/1/2020

A federal judge ruled Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to a top immigration position in the Trump administration was unlawful, saying several directives issued by Cuccinelli to tighten asylum rules must now be “set aside.” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when it tapped Cuccinelli in June 2019 to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees legal immigration into the country. The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and the former attorney general of Virginia, that introduced new restrictions on the asylum process.

Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden
AP News – Sara Burnett | Published: 3/2/2020

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president’s White House bid. Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she could not turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests. Klobuchar could not match her top competitors in fundraising. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant she was not able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals.

Pete Buttigieg Is Ending His Presidential Bid
MSN – Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2020

Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who rose from virtual unknown to top-tier Democratic contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in the primary. Buttigieg’s departure may help add some clarity to a Democratic presidential field that at one point included more than two dozen candidates but has dwindled to just a handful.

Rep. Matt Gaetz Wore Gas Mask While House Voted on Coronavirus Response Bill
USA Today – Savannah Behrmann | Published: 3/4/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor while the chamber voted on a coronavirus funding bill. It was not clear whether Gaetz was wearing the gas mask to troll those panicking over the outbreak, as multiple health organizations have repeatedly stated not to wear face masks. But Gaetz, one of President Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, reportedly told journalists that he believes “members of Congress are human petri dishes.”

Sanders’s Rise Unnerves K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/28/2020

The rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary is unnerving K Street lobbyists and their clients. The self-described democratic socialist, who has touted an ambitious agenda to rein in special interests and corporations, has been gaining in the polls and is the Democratic frontrunner after wins in two primary states. While there is a long road ahead in the 2020 election, the senator’s new status is provoking sharp reactions on K Street, where lobbyists say clients are already asking about the fallout of a Sanders nomination, and maybe even presidency. Sanders has vowed to shake up how the influence world does business, with proposals to ban donations from federal lobbyists and corporations and to prohibit the corporate funding of party conventions.

Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/4/2020

Senate Republicans are set to advance a Republican nominee to the FEC, which would restore a working quorum to the agency but break with a tradition of confirming nominees in bipartisan pairs. The Rules and Administration Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing March 10 on President Trump’s nomination of James Trainor, an election lawyer from Austin, Texas, who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. If the committee approves him, Trainor could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an FEC staff attorney, for a Democratic commission vacancy, but Trump has not nominated her.

Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Buble | Published: 3/4/2020

President Trump signed into law a bill to clarify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) responsibilities during changes in presidential administrations as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before elections. The GSA, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will now have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The law requires presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethics that all members must sign.

Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 2/29/2020

A divided three-judge panel handed President Trump a victory by dismissing a congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the dispute between the executive and legislative branches. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives. The panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to McGahn was lawful. In that ruling, Jackson declared “no one is above the law.”

Union Lobbying Question Confounds at 1st Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 3/4/2020

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared conflicted as to whether private-sector unions can ever force members to subsidize lobbying. Appearing skeptical of the National Labor Relations Board’s holding that lobbying is not germane to a union’s legal duty to represent workers, Judge Bruce Selya emphasized in oral arguments that “lobbying activity is not monolithic.” But when the court then tried to come up with a rule as to what specific types of lobbying were germane, it struggled.

Warren Ends 2020 Presidential Bid after Super Tuesday Rout
AP News – Will Weissert | Published: 3/5/2020

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner could not win a single Super Tuesday state, not even Massachusetts.  For much of the past year, Warren’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising, and a political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance. Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday.

Canada

Canada Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website
Edmonton Journal – Canadian Press | Published: 2/27/2020

The Senate has voted to suspend Lynn Beyak a second time over derogatory letters about Indigenous Peoples posted on her website. Senators approved a report from the upper house’s ethics committee, which recommended Beyak be suspended without pay for the duration of the current parliamentary session. Beyak, a senator from Ontario appointed in 2013, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and eventually suspended without pay last May after refusing to remove the offensive letters from her website. She apologized recently, after which some of her Conservative colleagues tried unsuccessfully to refer the matter back to the ethics committee. But Independent senators took the position that Beyak needed to be suspended again while undergoing anti-racism training and that the matter could be revisited after that.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska House’s Minority Republicans Put Controversial Wasilla Representative on Probation
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 3/4/2020

The Republican minority in the Alaska House will temporarily remove Rep. David Eastman from legislative committees for disrupting the work of fellow members and delaying legislative action in order to draw public attention. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the action is a one-month “pause” that is a step short of ejecting Eastman from the caucus. While Eastman has a reputation as an iconoclast willing to challenge established norms, members of the GOP said two recent actions stood out and prompted the action.

Arizona Agriculture Industry Lobbyist Out of Job Amid Ethics Investigation into Arizona Lawmaker
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 3/5/2020

An agricultural trade association said it no longer employs a lobbyist at the center of an ethics investigation into alleged conflicts-of-interest at the Arizona Legislature. The House is looking into two complaints regarding state Rep. David Cook. The first involves an allegation he carried on a romantic relationship with the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr. Another complaint alleges Cook intervened to stop the local sheriff from seizing property from her family’s farming business to pay for back taxes. Knorr worked for the Western Growers Association. When intimate letters from Cook to Knorr emerged in January, the group said it had placed her on administrative leave and was probing allegations of professional misconduct. The association recently said Knorr is no longer its lobbyist.

Arizona Lobbyists Navigate Lawmakers’ Bad Behavior, Professional Relationships
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway and Andrew Nicla | Published: 2/28/2020

At the Arizona Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior. And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.

Arkansas Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 3/4/2020

In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election, in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Moody then agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction in January, leading the plaintiffs’ attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. Moody lifted the stay on March 3, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.

California Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/2/2020

As CalMatters reported in its series of articles, nonprofits created by individual California lawmakers or special caucuses of lawmakers are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said these affiliated nonprofits “can provide valuable resources” and he has no problem with them “if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.” But even as he called for transparency, Rendon did not endorse changing any laws or rules of the Assembly, nor did he call on his members to change their conduct.

California Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Recruiting Ownership Group in Effort to Buy Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Lillis | Published: 3/4/2020

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is working to form a local ownership group that could purchase The Sacramento Bee, separating the 163-year-old publication from its parent company and more than two-dozen sister newspapers across the U.S. The Bee’s current owner, McClatchy Co., is moving through Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt. If the restructuring plan is approved by a judge, the likely owner of The Bee and 29 other publications would be Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. “Are we better off in any way if we lose one of the most important voices for independent journalism? The answer is obviously no, and so it’s my job to rally and to organize and to help bring forward some real ideas that might … save the day,” Steinberg said.

California SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens
San Francisco Chronicle – Dominick Fracassa | Published: 2/27/2020

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s recent arrest on fraud charges. Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. FBI agents raided Wong’s offices on the same day that Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested. Federal officials have alleged Nuru accepted a trip to China and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of wine, from a billionaire Chinese developer in exchange for help with a development deal. The San Francisco Chronicle has previously reported Zhang was the billionaire developer referenced anonymously in the federal complaint against Nuru and Bovis.

Florida Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/4/2020

The Department of Children and Families filed a lawsuit against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) as ongoing investigations reveal millions of dollars were funneled into bonuses for the nonprofit’s staff. Since 2003, the coalition has managed about $52 million annually as the single state clearinghouse for 42 domestic violence centers. The suit accuses the FCADV of misrepresenting how state and federal funds were used to pay its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years. The investigations show a small group of members of the coalition’s board, as appointed by Carr, operated as the compensation committee and allowed Carr to claim she had a brain tumor while she padded her compensation and produced no evidence of a medical condition.

Florida Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/28/2020

Records show Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. Patronis faces a criminal investigation by the Leon County State Attorney’s Office for disclosing the sexual harassment complaint against the regulator, Ronald Rubin. An ethics complaint has also been filed against Patronis for disclosing another complaint. Rubin sued Patronis last year, accusing him and lobbyist Paul Mitchell, who represents financial companies that work with Patronis’ office, of fabricating the woman’s complaint against him. Phone records show Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.

Florida Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/2/2020

Tallahassee’s former independent ethics officer, who exited her post amid acrimony, has been hired by the same firm representing her in her lawsuit against City Hall. Meadows-Keefe, who served more than five years as the city’s first ethics officer, recently announced on social media she has accepted a position as an attorney with the Mattox Law Firm. Last year, Meadows-Keefe said she would step down following controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed official. She later sued the city, saying she was forced out, and the Ethics Board, which she said did nothing to stop it.

Florida Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 3/4/2020

North Miami’s parks and recreation director was not disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team. But now, after the details were exposed at a city council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave. Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.

Illinois 3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 2/28/2020

Three members of the state board that oversees the Illinois horse racing industry were forced out after making campaign contributions that are prohibited under the major gambling expansion legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last summer. Illinois Racing Board Chairperson Jeffrey Brincat and commissioners Greg Sronce and Edgar Ramirez resigned at the governor’s request. The resignations come after the previous chair of the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the casino and video gambling industries, resigned over political contributions. Gaming board members have long been prohibited from engaging in political activity.

Illinois Joe Berrios Must Pay $168,000 in Fines after Cook County Judge Dismisses His Complaint Against Ethics Board
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 2/27/2020

Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and his political committees must pay $168,000 in fines after a judge dismissed his complaints challenging the county Ethics Board’s findings and ability to sanction him. The board previously fined Berrios, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Cook County Assessor, and his 31st Ward Democratic Organization for accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits. At the center of the ethics board’s rulings was a 2016 county ordinance stating that donors who seek “official action” with the county may contribute no more than $750 in nonelection years. Attorneys for Berrios sought to overturn the rulings, arguing the county limits are unconstitutional and higher limits set by state law should apply, among other objections.

Iowa State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding
Cedar Rapids Gazette – Erin Jordan | Published: 2/28/2020

In signing a $50 million contract for a new cloud-based computer system, Iowa sidestepped traditional competitive bidding procedures and chose Workday, a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ former chief of staff. What concerns some lawmakers is the way the state chose Workday. Instead of seeking proposals from multiple companies to see which best met Iowa’s needs and was most affordable, state officials chose a generic contract that Workday had signed in 2015 with a for-profit procurement organization in Texas. A company spokesperson said Jake Ketzner, Reynolds’ chief of staff for more than a year, had no role in Workday’s contracts, but there have been further questions.

Maryland ‘Any Means Necessary to Win’: How prosecutors say Pugh used ‘Healthy Holly’ scam in 2016 Baltimore mayor’s race
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 2/28/2020

As federal prosecutors laid out what they described as a “shocking” corruption case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, they ticked off a list of victims: buyers who paid for her self-published children’s books that were never printed; schoolchildren who never received copies; and the federal government, which Pugh shorted of thousands of tax dollars. But there was another victim in the background: the voters of Baltimore. That is because the “Healthy Holly scam,” as prosecutors called it, was not just a years-long self-enrichment scheme. It also was a way for Pugh to try to illegally influence an election and achieve her dream of becoming mayor, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Michigan Detroit Official Wooed Investment Dollars from Billionaire – Now He’s Going to Work for Him
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen | Published: 3/4/2020

Ryan Friedrichs, Detroit’s chief development officer who is tied to an ongoing criminal investigation into deleted government emails, is quitting his city job. Friedrichs will work for real estate mogul Stephen Ross in development of a new innovation center on the site of the aborted Wayne County jail project. Friedrichs is a central figure in the ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning deleted city emails related to conflict-of-interest and preferential treatment allegations against Mayor Mike Duggan. Friedrichs was one of two officials identified who carried out orders from Duggan’s chief of staff to delete the emails, which were later recovered. Friedrichs said that his decision to leave his city job was unrelated to the controversy involving the deleted emails.

New Hampshire Proposal Advances to Strengthen N.H. Legislature’s Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Josh Rogers | Published: 3/4/2020

A committee in the New Hampshire House approved a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill’s outcome. The legislation spells out that lawmakers should recuse themselves when they or a member of their household have anything more at stake in the bill’s outcome than a member of the general public would. In November, the Legislative Ethics Committee found House Majority Leader Doug Ley violated ethics guidelines because of his involvement in legislation that affected the teachers union that employs him.

New York Ethics Commissioner: Cuomo leak probe was a ‘sham’
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 3/1/2020

A longtime member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said the state inspector general’s investigation last year into the alleged unlawful disclosure of confidential information to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a “sham” that led him to refuse to sign a sworn statement affirming he was not responsible for the leak. Commissioner Gary Levine confirmed his decision to decline to sign the affidavit after The Albany Times Union, following a months-long Freedom of Information struggle with the inspector general’s office, was provided copies of the affidavits that had been signed by other commissioners and employees of JCOPE, affirming they were not responsible for the leak. The inspector general’s office had previously declined to identify any individuals who had declined to sign the affirmations.

New York Ethics Office Lacks Some LIPA Lobbying Records
Huntington Now – Donna Deedy | Published: 3/4/2020

Taxpayers could save money under a New York Senate bill that prevents the Log Island Power Authority (LIPA) from collecting back taxes should the utility win its challenge to a power plant’s tax assessment. The Senate easily passed the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions. The Assembly’s companion bill has faced a different fate. Industry lobbyists have waged fierce opposition to the bill, including LIPA itself. Not all of it, though, appears to be as fully and publicly documented as state ethics laws that govern lobbying require. LIPA retained Millennial Strategies in 2019 specifically to fight the Assembly bill. But the state has no record of that activity.

Ohio Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn | Published: 3/2/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard resigned her office, less than a week after being arrested on federal charges that accuse her of trading votes on a development deal for cash. Dennard did not have to resign under the city’s charter, which has no provisions spelling out what happens when a council member is accused of a crime in office. Dennard is facing federal charges of bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion for what federal prosecutors say was an attempt to trade her votes for cash payments totaling $15,000. The votes were related to a complicated land swap and construction of a music venue at The Banks on Cincinnati’s riverfront.

Ohio Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 2/28/2020

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther will return $66,000 in donations, including from city vendors, that funded his State of the City address. The decision came after the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the city attorney’s office to warn the practice could potentially violate state law. “There was a potential for a conflict-of-interest and that was an ongoing practice,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said. “It was a practice that we were not aware of, [and] no one had sought advice.” The city will work with the commission to clarify the process of how and under what circumstances the city solicits vendors, something that is happening in municipalities across Ohio, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said.

Rhode Island Why A RI Supreme Court Justice Has Been Fighting a $200 Ethics Fine for Over A Year
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 3/4/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2019 fined state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose he was the president of a Catholic legal group while he was ruling on a priest’s sexual abuse case. Flaherty has contested the fine, claiming the violation stemmed from an unknowing mistake that resulted in a decision denying him due process. Flaherty also argues former commission Chairperson Ross Cheit should have recused himself because Cheit, a professor who specializes in repressed memory and child abuse, has written extensively on the topic, including some cases involving sexual abuse of minors and the Catholic Church. The commission noted its members do not participate in the investigation or prosecution of ethics complaints. It also refuted the implication that Cheit is biased.

South Carolina Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Potentially Reshaping the Democratic Race
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/29/2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary, as the first Southern contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year. What is not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, or result in a long slog to the convention.

Vermont In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’
New York Times – Sarah Lyall | Published: 3/4/2020

It can seem like neighbors cannot speak to neighbors of differing political persuasions without rancor and recrimination. Though Super Tuesday should theoretically offer some relief to voters eager to have their voices heard, politics itself seems suffused by alarm and dread. And so, Vermont’s annual town meetings, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in March, provide a welcome corrective. They are a chance for voters in the state’s municipalities to discuss taxes, budgets, roads, schools, the environment, and whatever else might be on their minds.

Washington Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/27/2020

The Public Disclosure Commission rejected a settlement to allow Facebook to walk away from charges of violating campaign finance law with a $75,000 fine, no admission of guilt, and no written promise to fully comply with Washington’s political ad disclosure law going forward. Commisssioners voted to refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further investigation and possible prosecution. The case has its roots in requests for local Facebook political ad data made by The Stranger and, separately, a private citizen. Facebook has refused to respond to those requests even though state law requires the company to disclose significant information on the financing and reach of election ads sold to influence this state’s local races and ballot measures.

Wisconsin Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 3/3/2020

A day after a gunman shot and killed five co-workers and himself at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors facility, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign hosted a fundraiser at a shooting range. The fundraiser invited people to contribute by amounts tied to gun calibers: the “10mm” level of $1,000, the “0.25 ACP” level of $2,500, or the “50 Cal M2HB” level of $5,000. Donors had the opportunity to shoot and were advised to visit the range before the fundraiser to complete a background check.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

February 24, 2020 •

New Mexico Legislature Adjourns, Passes Budget Bill

New Mexico Capitol

New Mexico Capitol Building - Ken Lund

The Second Session of the 54th New Mexico Legislature adjourned sine die on February 20 at noon after 30 days in session. During the session, legislators endorsed a $7.6 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. […]

The Second Session of the 54th New Mexico Legislature adjourned sine die on February 20 at noon after 30 days in session.

During the session, legislators endorsed a $7.6 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The budget raises annual spending by $536 million, setting aside $17 million toward an initiative that may eventually provide tuition-free education at public colleges.

The budget bill also places $320 million in an endowment fund designed to underwrite early childhood education programs with future investments earnings.

Lawmakers also introduced but did not pass Senate Bill 53, which would have required a lobbyist or lobbyist’s employer to file reports within 14 days following the conclusion of a legislative session.

Senate Bill 53 would have required the post-session report to indicate legislation lobbied and the position taken on each piece of legislation.

Opening day of the 2021 legislative session is scheduled for January 19.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

February 21, 2020 •

New Jersey Governor Proposes Ethics and Transparency Reforms

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

On February 19, Gov. Murphy released a legislative package of Ethics and Transparency Reforms. The legislative package contains five bills with the aim to strengthen restrictions on lobbying, enhance financial disclosures, and increase public access. The lobbying bill requires lobbying […]

On February 19, Gov. Murphy released a legislative package of Ethics and Transparency Reforms.

The legislative package contains five bills with the aim to strengthen restrictions on lobbying, enhance financial disclosures, and increase public access.

The lobbying bill requires lobbying firms and companies to disclose when a person or firm is hired to provide professional services other than lobbying.

Additionally, the bill reduces the registration threshold from 20 hours of lobbying to one hour per calendar year.

The bill will prohibit legislators and their staff from accepting any gift related to their public duties.

Furthermore, the bill aligns the gift rules to the same standard currently governing executive branch employees.

The legislative package also extends the one-year cooling off period for the governor, cabinet, and legislators to two years before being able to register as lobbyists.

Gov. Murphy also introduced a bill to increase transparency and requires bills or resolutions not to be voted on unless their final form has been publicly available for 72 hours on the Legislature’s website.

The governor is also expected to issue other executive actions regarding requirements for those that do business with the state.

The bill proposals were sent to Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin for review.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

February 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020 Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New […]

National/Federal

Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020

Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New York City mayor would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, O’Brien said. Proceeds from the sale would go to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable giving arm that funds causes from climate change to public health and grants for American cities. The only restriction Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, O’Brien said. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said such an action would need to follow complex rules and be approved by the ethics office.

Bloomberg’s Meme Spree Prompts Changes in Facebook, Instagram Rules
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 2/14/2020

Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s spree of often-surreal social media memes is having one concrete impact – it prompted Facebook to make another change in its rules for paid political content. From now on, Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary will allow “branded content” from candidates, a practice in which a campaign pays so-called influencers to place supportive posts on their accounts. Previously, a Facebook spokesperson said, the platforms had banned such content from politicians by default. Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored.

Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says
Greenwich Time – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint alleging the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg improperly coordinated with VoteVets, a super PAC supporting the campaign of the former mayor of South Bend. The watchdog alleged Buttigieg’s campaign improperly accepted more than $639,000 in contributions, in violation of federal rules barring candidates from coordinating with independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. The complaint filed with the FEC centers on a tweet by Buttigieg senior strategist Michael Halle analyzing the strengths of a particular campaign message in Nevada, and a subsequent ad campaign in that state by VoteVets that appeared to follow the strategy outlined in the tweet.

DOJ Drops Probe into Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/14/2020

The Justice Department abandoned its efforts to seek criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. His lawyers were told last September that he should expect to be indicted on charges stemming from inaccurate statements he made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. But no indictment was ever returned, leading to speculation that the grand jury probing the matter took the rare step of rejecting charges. The confirmation of a formal end to the criminal investigation into McCabe’s conduct came amid a highly public tug-of-war between President Trump and the Justice Department over the handling of cases and investigations he has taken a keen interest in.

Mike Bloomberg for Years Has Battled Women’s Allegations of Profane, Sexist Comments
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2020

Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging women were discriminated against at Michael Bloomberg’s business-information company. While allegations about Bloomberg’s comments and treatment of women have received notice over the years, a review by The Washington Post of thousands of pages of court documents and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company have fought the claims. As Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements.

Political Ads Are Flooding Hulu, Roku and Other Streaming Services, Revealing Loopholes in Federal Election Laws
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 2/20/2020

Four years after Russian agents exploited popular online platforms to push propaganda, sow unrest, and promote Donald Trump’s candidacy, the U.S. government has made virtually no progress on bringing more transparency to paid political speech. The risks remain high that voters could be duped by candidates, advocacy groups, and foreign governments – particularly online, where major regulatory gaps exist. Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web. Politicians have followed people online, and over the past year, their ads have appeared on popular platforms such as Roku. But nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them.

President Pardons Ex-GSA, OMB Official
Government Executive – Tom Shoop | Published: 2/18/2020

The series of pardons that President Trump issued on February 18 included one for David Safavian, a top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the George W. Bush administration. Safavian served time in federal prison for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a high-profile scandal. Safavian was convicted on four counts relating to a golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002. The former head of federal procurement policy at OMB was found guilty of obstructing a GSA investigation, lying on a financial disclosure form, and two counts of making false statements.

Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 Months for Lying to Congress, Witness Tampering Amid Turmoil Between Justice Dept. and Trump on Penalty
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020

Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump. The penalty from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone, who was convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked emails related to Hillary Clinton. Stone was the sixth Trump associate convicted and the last person indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Rohrabacher Confirms He Offered Trump Pardon to Assange for Proof Russia Didn’t Hack DNC Email
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff | Published: 2/20/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails published by WikiLeaks. In an interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery. A lawyer for Assange cited the pardon offer during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Trump Campaign Hires Alum of Controversial Data Company
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 2/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alumnus of the data firm Cambridge Analytica, a move likely to raise alarms among Trump critics and data privacy advocates who worry the president will push the technological envelope to get reelected in 2020. Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program. Cambridge gained notoriety for its work on psychological voter profiling and because it allegedly improperly obtained the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users. Trump aides have denied they used Cambridge’s Facebook data in 2016 and say they will not in 2020, either. They insist they have no interest in using psychographic voter targeting. But that has not allayed fears among Democrats that the president will resort to online dirty tricks to win another term.

Trump Commutes Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence
AP News – Michael Tarm | Published: 2/18/2020

President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted in a wide-ranging political corruption case just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality television show. Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state where four of the last 10 governors have gone to prison  for corruption. Judge James Zagel, who sentenced Blagojevich to the longest prison term yet for an Illinois politician, said when a governor “goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured.” He was originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, trying to trade an appointment to a U.S. Senate seat for contributions and attempting to extort a children’s hospital executive. An appeals court tossed five of the convictions.

Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 2/14/2020

To increase their clout in Washington, D.C., corporations and trade associations often use affiliated PACs to boost the campaigns of candidates. Corporations themselves cannot give directly to traditional PACs, candidates, or parties. But they are allowed to cover almost all expenses incurred by their affiliated PAC, including staff salaries, fundraising expenses, and administrative costs. And corporations may spend their treasury funds to create incentives for their employees to fund the PAC. Grassroots political organizations say the current rules create an uneven playing field in the world of PAC giving. By paying for PAC expenses with corporate funds, these companies can maximize their political giving. Issue-focused PACs, on the other hand, must spend donors’ money to pay for salaries and hefty fundraising fees.

Canada

Canada Remicade Maker Janssen Recruits Former Doug Ford Adviser as Lobbyist
The Globe and Mail – Jill Mahoney and Kelly Grant | Published: 2/17/2020

A former top policy adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford registered as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company that is trying to persuade the provincial government to keep funding the country’s most lucrative drug. Greg Harrington, who played a senior role on government health policy, registered as a lobbyist for Janssen on January 31. During his time in the premier’s office, Harrington said he met with Janssen officials once or twice over concerns the province would force patients on government-sponsored drug insurance to switch from the company’s drug Remicade to cheaper alternatives called biosimilars. Harrington is the latest in a group of lobbyists with close ties to Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party that Janssen has enlisted.

Canada Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire
CBC – Jean Laroche | Published: 2/14/2020

A year ago, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and one of his senior advisers sat down to breakfast at Halifax’s Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a gathering arranged and hosted by former Quebec premier and one-time deputy prime minister Jean Charest, who lobbies on the group’s behalf. The private meeting coincided with a national aerospace industry effort called Vision 2025, a campaign Charest noted was part of his lobbying activities on the federal government’s lobbyist registry in November 2018. Although Charest is registered federally, he has not registered as a lobbyist in Nova Scotia.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska State Challenges Ballot Measure That Would Install Ranked-Choice Voting Statewide
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 2/19/2020

State attorneys asked the Alaska Supreme Court to split a proposed election-reform ballot measure into two or more separate votes. If not, Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox said, the justices should rule the measure unconstitutional and prevent it from coming to a vote. Fox’s request came as the justices listened to arguments over the validity of the Better Elections ballot initiative, which would eliminate party-specific primary elections, install ranked-choice voting for general elections, and impose tough new disclosure rules on campaign contributions.

Arizona Migrant-Rights Advocates File Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth After He Cuts Off Testimony
Arizona Republic – Maria Polletta | Published: 2/18/2020

Migrant-rights advocates announced they filed an ethics complaint against Arizona Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, who had them removed from a committee hearing as they protested a controversial immigration measure. Lobbyist Hugo Polanco was testifying at the hearing on behalf of Living United for Change in Arizona, saying the resolution would be “a return to the racism, divisiveness, and hate of [Senate Bill] 1070” when Farnsworth stopped him and told him not to be “vitriolic.” When Polanco insisted the legislation at hand was also “racist, divisive, and hateful,” Farnsworth cut him off. Farnsworth asked security personnel to remove Polanco if he continued to argue and announced the committee was done hearing public comment on the measure. Several members of the group were told they could be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave the hearing voluntarily.

Arizona Republican Lawmaker Files Ethics Complaints After Chaotic Voting Law Hearing at Arizona Legislature
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 2/19/2020

House Elections Committee Chairperson Kelly Townsend will file an ethics complaint against two Democratic lawmakers after a hearing devolved into a fracas. The hours-long hearing culminated in Townsend attempting to cut off public testimony, throw a speaker out of the committee room, and force a vote on a multifaceted piece of legislation all while Democrats objected and the gallery jeered. Democrats accused Townsend of stifling discussion and public testimony.

Arizona Scandals Reveal Murky Workplace Standards in Legislature
Arizona Capitol Times – Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Julia Shumway | Published: 2/14/2020

Arizona Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr have said their relationship is proper and platonic, even after love letters Cook wrote to Knorr surfaced. But Cook and Knorr have faced disparate consequences since the story broke. Cook has continued to serve on committees and vote on legislation. Knorr was placed on administrative leave by her employer, the Western Growers’ Association, pending an investigation into whether her relationship with Cook presented ethical violations. That one is on leave while the other remains in the public eye highlights the different standards between the Legislature, where lawmakers have balked at adopting a code of conduct,  and private sector firms, where experts say written expectations on proper interpersonal relationships are ubiquitous.

California Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law
KQED – Scott Shafer | Published: 2/14/2020

San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with disgraced former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, but also accepting a $5,600 gift from him for car repairs. While the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position,” Breed said she would voluntarily report the gift on her Statement of Economic Interests form. What Breed did not mention is that the gift she received from Nuru appears to violate city ethics rules.

California Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/14/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he will uphold the majority of Proposition F, a San Francisco ordinance that requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a PAC, that committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed. While refusing to block most of the law, Breyer agreed that requiring lengthy disclaimers for small-print and short-length political ads is likely unconstitutional because they would “clearly just overwhelm the message.”

California The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/17/2020

Nonprofits run by state lawmakers and their staff host fundraisers where lobbyists can mingle at the Disneyland Hotel with politicians, and policy conferences where tech executives can dine with legislators shaping California law on data privacy and the gig economy. While state law caps the amount donors can give to campaigns, contributions to nonprofits are not limited. These groups underwrite charitable work and let public officials help the state or advance causes they care about without using taxpayer money. But unlike campaign accounts, they often offer a tax break and can raise unlimited sums from special interests, with fewer disclosure requirements. Experts say the practice has become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits even of California’s tough regulations.

Florida Florida Loses Appeals Court Ruling on Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 2/19/2020

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida law limiting the voting rights of people with felony convictions was unconstitutional. The judges upheld a lower court decision that found the state could not deny ex-felons the right to vote just because they cannot afford to pay outstanding court fines, fees, and restitution, as required by the 2019 law. The ruling said the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Illinois Aldermen Relied on a Study to Approve $1.3 Billion for Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards. Turns Out That Sterling Bay Hired the Consultant Who Wrote It.
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 2/18/2020

Key to the $1.3 billion taxpayer subsidy for the Lincoln Yards development in Chicago was a report declaring the project met the requirements to get the money. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration promoted the record tax increment financing (TIF) deal at a public meeting, a planning official introduced the author of that report as “the city’s TIF consultant.” What the administration and consultant did not tell the crowd was that developer Sterling Bay had both picked the consultant and paid the firm. That consultant also had been retained by a Sterling Bay subsidiary to lobby City Hall on the final terms of the Lincoln Yards agreement. Experts say such arrangements pose obvious conflicts, given that the consultants who certify such projects are being paid by the very developers who are seeking approval for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Illinois Aldermen Tighten Reins on Outside Jobs for City Employees
WBBM – Staff | Published: 2/19/2020

The Chicago City Council is placing new limits on side jobs for some city employees, closing a loophole that allowed them to work for private contractors who have government deals they oversee. The ordinance that was approved would prohibit any city official or employee with contract oversight from working for subcontractors or consultants on any contract they manage as part of their government job.

Indiana Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich | Published: 2/17/2020

Environmental advocates are worried a bill that would prevent the state from protecting certain wetlands will lead to more flooding, less clean water, and the loss of wildlife in Indiana. But it is not just what the bill would do that has drawn criticism. Good government experts are also expressing concern over the appropriateness of who is authoring the legislation. Sen. Victoria Spartz wrote Senate Bill 229, which removes state oversight of certain wetlands near what are called regulated drains. Spartz  has her own complicated history with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s regulation of wetlands, one she did not disclose as the bill has moved through the Legislature.

Kentucky Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/18/2020

Federal prosecutors told a jury that a Lexington real estate executive went to great lengths to cover up his scheme to funnel money to co-workers and family members, who allegedly used the money to make illegal donations to candidates for city government two years ago. Timothy Wellman, an executive with CRM Companies, told co-workers to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury, and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said. Kent Wicker, Wellman’s lawyer, said Wellman often loans money to people without asking to be repaid and contends a disgruntled businesses competitor hired a law firm to investigate him and spread unfounded rumors.

Maine Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 2/14/2020

A Republican member of Maine’s ethics commission has stepped down, leaving the panel with just three of the five members it is authorized to have as the state heads into the 2020 election cycle. Bradford Pattershall is running for a state Senate seat and by law cannot also serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Although the commission often reaches consensus in its findings, Chairperson William Lee III raised concerns about a depleted membership even before Pattershall’s resignation. Lee warned in November that an understaffed commission could leave it unable to do its job.

Massachusetts State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos
Boston Globe – Tonya Alanez and Travis Anderson | Published: 2/18/2020

Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle, who sits on the House Committee on Ethics, was arrested on federal charges alleging he raided his campaign account to pay personal expenses and sustain his casino gambling habit. An indictment says Nangle used his campaign fund to pay thousands of dollars in Lowell Golf Club dues and personal charges; rental cars for casino travel; flowers for his girlfriend; gas, hotel, and restaurant charges that he had already received state reimbursement for; gift cards for personal use; and cash withdrawals.

Michigan Ballot Language Approved for Proposal to ‘Change the Culture’ of Lobbying in Michigan
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 2/19/2020

Supporters of a ballot initiative to regulate how lobbyists in Michigan interact with lawmakers hope to start collecting signatures by the March 10 presidential primary following approval of a summary of the measure from a state board. Republicans expressed concerns that the language did not reflect how the proposal regulates the speech of Michigan residents. Board member Norm Shinkle also questioned whether the proposal is overly broad, saying it would apply to many obscure state boards and commissions. Former state Democratic Party Chairperson Mark Brewer argued Michiganders have a right to know whenever a lobbyist tries to contact a public official.

Michigan Ex-Detroit Metro Official Sentenced to 10 Years for Bribery
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 2/5/2020

James Warner, a former Detroit Metropolitan Airport supervisor convicted of receiving more than $6 million in bribes – the third-largest amount in U.S. history – was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say he steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three co-conspirators in return for the kickbacks. At one dinner, Warner and Gary Tenaglia, a contractor who was sentenced to 14 months in prison, discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”

Missouri ‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 2/13/2020

Former Gov. Eric Greitens was fined $178,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for two campaign finance violations, while a host of other allegations contained in a complaint filed shortly after he resigned from office in 2018 were dismissed. The commission said in a consent decree released that while there were reasonable grounds to believe Greitens’ campaign broke Missouri law, its investigation “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence Gov. Greitens knew” about any violations. If Greitens pays $38,000 of the fine and commits no more violations, the rest would be forgiven.

New Hampshire Legislature Considers Whether to Tighten Its Own Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 2/19/2020

Responding to a pair of high-profile ethics cases that highlighted the lack of clear restrictions on conflicts-of-interest at the statehouse, New Hampshire lawmakers are weighing how best to balance their role as citizen legislators with a desire to prevent politicians from exploiting public office for private gain. One proposal would prevent lawmakers “from introducing legislation, testifying, voting, participating in, or influencing any legislative matter directly related to [their] employment.” A related proposal would require lawmakers to recuse themselves from official legislative activities if someone in their household is being paid by an organization with “a special interest” in that activity.

New Jersey Governor Unveils Broader State Ethics, Transparency Bill
Associated Press – Mike Catalini | Published: 2/19/2020

The Legislature will be subject to the state’s open records law, lobbying registration requirements will be tightened, and bills would not get come to a vote unless they were posted online for at least three days under bipartisan ethics legislation to be introduced in New Jersey. The legislation would require public relations experts and lawyers who are currently exempt to register as lobbyists. It would also lower the threshold for registering as a lobbyist from 20 hours a year lobbying to one hour. Other changes include “zero tolerance” for gifts to lawmakers’ offices.

New York NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 2/14/2020

New York City Councilperson Andy King faces new ethics charges and calls for expulsion less than four months after the council sanctioned him for past misconduct. He was accused of trying to circumvent an independent monitor the council voted to place in his office after rampant unethical behavior. King was also charged with violating conflict-of-interest rules and the council’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, as well as disorderly conduct and misappropriating public money for his personal benefit.

North Carolina Another Court Blocks NC Voter ID Law, Citing ‘Racially Discriminatory Intent’
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/18/2020

The state’s new voter ID law appears to have been enacted with racially discriminatory intent and will be at least temporarily blocked during the 2020 elections, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. A federal court has already blocked the voter ID mandate through at least the 2020 primary elections. The most recent decision, in a separate lawsuit in state courts rather than federal courts, could also extend that block until the general election in November. It is now the second court to rule African American voters could be harmed by the way the Republican-Led legislature wrote the law behind the amendment. The activists who sued appear likely to be able to prove “that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor behind” the voter ID law, the judges wrote.

North Carolina Bribery Trial of Megadonor Greg Lindberg Opens with New Details, All-Star Witness List
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell, Michael Gordon, and Michelle Battaglia | Published: 2/18/2020

As the bribery trial of insurance conglomerate owner and political donor Greg Lindberg gets under way, new details are emerging through court documents and public records about allegations that Lindberg tried to work with the chairperson of the North Carolina Republican Party to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner. Lindberg and two of his business associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were indicted along with then-GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes, who has since taken a plea deal and could testify at the trial. The trio is accused of trying unsuccessfully to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with campaign money in exchange for actions favorable to Lindberg’s companies, including the removal of a top Department of Insurance official that Lindberg disliked.

Tennessee Proposal Would Overhaul Blocked Tennessee Voter Signup Law
AP News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/19/2020

Tennessee lawmakers introduced a new proposal to amend the state’s legally contentious voter-registration restrictions that are currently blocked from being enforced during the 2020 elections. Last year, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that made Tennessee the first state in the country to fine registration groups for turning in too many incomplete signup forms. It also criminalized intentional infractions of other new rules with misdemeanor charges. But the law prompted two lawsuits and sparked national criticism from those who argued the law would suppress efforts to register minorities and other voters.

Texas Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 2/14/2020

Harris County Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz pressured employees to donate to his re-election campaigns and punished those who refused, deputies and civilian staff said. Thirty-eight percent of the $491,000 Diaz has raised since taking office in 2013 has come from Precinct 2 employees or their relatives, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis. Fourteen current and former Precinct 2 employees told The Chronicle that Diaz expected staff to aid his campaign by donating money and items to be auctioned, purchasing supplies for fundraisers, and block walking in the jurisdiction. Three of those former employees are part of a wrongful termination lawsuit against Diaz, who they say reassigned or withheld promotions from deputies and civilian staff who stopped participating.

Vermont Lawmakers Take a Step on Ethics Code, but Enforcement Still a Ways Off
VTDigger.org – Colin Meyn and Mark Johnson | Published: 2/14/2020

Vermont Senators moved a step closer to creating a code of ethics for state officials and lawmakers but approving that code and giving teeth to an ethics commission created three years ago remain at least a year away. The Government Operations Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 198, which requires the State Ethics Commission to produce a proposed ethics code by November 15, at the latest. That code would then be considered by the Legislature in the next biennium. The bill also asks the commission to present enforcement options. Commission Executive Director Larry Novins worries that including the issue of enforcement, which would inevitably introduce questions of funding, could be used by opponents to derail efforts to get a code passed into law.

West Virginia Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry
MSN – Peter Jamison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2020

The strife seizing Harpers Ferry, population 281, cannot compare to the raid by abolitionist John Brown on the eve of the Civil War that made this rural hamlet famous. But the bitter political drama unfolding there easily rivals the one 60 miles away in Washington, D.C. The conflict has spilled far beyond the half-square-mile that constitutes Harpers Ferry. Voting irregularities are being examined by the West Virginia Supreme Court and secretary of state. Lawmakers are debating a bill that would strip this tiny municipality of much of its authority to govern itself, legislation that could dramatically affect other small towns in West Virginia.  Looming over this drama, figuratively and literally, is the ruin of a 130-year-old hotel.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

February 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020 Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential […]

National/Federal

Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020

Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential election. K Street had expectations for some bipartisan actions in 2020, but those hopes are on hold after the feud between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a turn for the worse at the State of the Union address. Now businesses and their lobbyists are worried about being drawn into the political crossfire. That is likely to prove even more difficult this year. Businesses already have a complicated relationship with Trump over his trade wars and with Democrats, whose presidential candidates are targeting many industries. One Republican lobbyist said the fresh turmoil in Washington is unnerving businesses.

Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. Justice Department lawyers defending the president said the ban refers narrowly to compensation in exchange for official action or in an employment-type relationship and does not broadly include any profit, gain, or advantage.

Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals
Forbes – John Scott Lewinski | Published: 2/11/2020

An app and web service designed to peer inside the world of corporate campaign finance is catching the ire of companies who would rather not share such information publicly. Goods Unite Us makes public who gives how much to whom on an industry-wide level. The user can view various scores on how much a brand invests on the left or right. The best numbers are reserved for firms that stays out of the fray entirely as the app’s creators would like to see dollars from public firms step out of politics in favor of individual donations. Clothing retailer Chico’s hired the national law firm of Arent Fox to send a legal request that changes be made to the Goods Unite Us data and reports.

Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term
Stamford Advocate – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

The entire prosecutorial team on Roger Stone’s case resigned after the Department of Justice asked a federal court to reduce the seven-to nine-year prison sentence the lawyers had initially recommended, sparking new questions about potential White House interference. In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Stone. The move coincided with President Trump’s declaration on Twitter that the government was treating Stone too harshly. Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties
Stamford Advocate – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Secret Service personnel traveling with President Trump to his private properties pay rates as high at $650 per night for lodging. Records show more than $471,000 in such payments from taxpayers to Trump’s business between January 207 and April 2018. The full extent of the spending is not known. The Secret Service has not listed the payments in public databases, as is usually required for expenditures over $10,000. Instead, documents have come out piecemeal through public records requests. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump said in 2019.

The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash
The World News – Rebecca Ruiz (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2020

Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg LP, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms. In under 12 weeks, Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events. Such spending has helped make Bloomberg an increasingly strong contender in the Democratic primary.

Trump’s Rhetoric Has Changed the Way Hundreds of Kids Are Bullied in Classrooms
MSN – Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2020

Since Donald Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language, often condemned as racist and xenophobic, has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as six mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies, and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black, or Muslim. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped.

When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills
Kaiser Health News – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 2/11/2020

Federal lawmakers are grappling over several approaches to curtail the practice of surprise medical billings, which can leave patients on the hook for huge costs, even if they have insurance. As it has emerged as a hot-button issue for voters, doctors, hospitals, and insurers have been lobbying to protect their own money flows. Television and internet ads are the most visible manifestation of the battle. But in taking their cause to politicians, physicians have waged an on-the-ground stealth campaign to win over members of Congress. Their professional credentials give them a kind of gravitas compared with other lobbyists.

Canada

Canada Federal Court of Appeal Dismisses Challenges of Ethics, Lobbying Commissioners Appointment
iPolitics.ca – Marco Vigliotti | Published: 2/13/2020

The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a complaint from a watchdog challenging the government’s appointment of new ethics and lobbying commissioners in Canada. The presiding judges said they were not convinced by Democracy Watch’s arguments that the actions of the governor-in-council in making the appointments were “unreasonable.” Democracy Watch argued the governor-in-council acted inappropriately in naming the commissioners because both offices were actively investigating complaints implicating the government.  Democracy Watch said the governor-in-council was inextricably biased in naming the new commissioners as they would ultimately be responsible for ruling on the appropriateness of the actions of officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Bill Seeks to Tighten Rules on Recall Efforts
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 2/6/2020

An Arizona Senate committee voted to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Senate Bill 1434 adds new requirements for paid circulators and those from other states to first register with the secretary of state. This mirrors changes the Republican-controlled Legislature already imposed on those proposing new laws through initiatives. The legislation also spells out in detail exactly how petitions must be formatted, with language allowing legal challenges if the forms are not in “strict compliance” with those standards.

Arizona Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/6/2020

Republican leadership in the Arizona Senate has no interest in investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Senate Democrats said they hoped Senate President Karen Fann would investigate allegations that Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed a lobbyist in 2016 and threatened the woman in 2018. But Fann and Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray dismissed calls for an investigation in separate interviews and rank-and-file Republicans largely declined to comment. Gray said Democrats can file a complaint if they want. But he warned Democrats to be careful because one of their own members, whom he declined to name, also could be investigated.

California California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In.
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 2/10/2020

The San Francisco Chronicle’s request to Sutter County’s sheriff for information about every concealed weapon permit holder in the conservative county set off threats and vitriol – after the sheriff announced he was legally obligated to provide the names. The Chronicle has been forced to increase security at its newsroom and for its reporters. Gun owners across the country are livid, fearing a newspaper in one of America’s most liberal cities wants to “dox” the state’s gun owners by releasing a list of names of people with a concealed-carry weapons permit. The Chronicle says it will use the information to look for trends and ensure the concealed weapons system is not being abused. The blowback is the latest flare-up in tensions between defenders of the Second Amendment and the news institutions protected by the First Amendment.

Colorado Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 2/10/2020

A new Colorado law requires more immediate reporting of lobbyists’ activity. But problems with the online system impede the ability to look up electronic registrations and activity records for some of those required to file the disclosures. Even though the system allows the public to search for lobbyists and activity reports using the name of the client, the search results omit some filings. Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s staff acknowledged the problems, but because of them, the agency’s spokesperson could neither identify who the agency’s own registered lobbyist was in 2017 and 2018, nor locate their activity reports for those years for four days. The agency’s staff estimated the problem affects more than one out of every 25 of the state’s registered lobbyists.

Connecticut Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature
Hartford Courant – Amanda Blanco | Published: 2/6/2020

After state election officials rejected a candidate’s request to use her publicly financed election grant to pay for childcare, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed legislation that would allow candidates to be reimbursed for such costs. Under the bill, candidates in the Citizens’ Election Program would be reimbursed for childcare services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. Clarkson Pereira, who ran for a House seat in 2018, brought the issue to the commission when a lawyer advised her not to use her public campaign funds to hire a babysitter for her young daughter.

Florida Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided
Florida Times-Union – Jeff Schweers | Published: 2/12/2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed penalties against 14 public officials for ethics code violations, cutting by half the number of final orders from the Florida Commission on Ethics that had been languishing on his desk. DeSantis’ failure to act had left $50,000 in uncollected civil fines in limbo and public officials not held accountable months and sometimes years after they were found guilty. Among those final orders was a $5,000 fine and public reprimand against his one-time political rival, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who lost to DeSantis in 2018. Six months after DeSantis took office, the commission had approved a joint settlement agreement in June with Gillum for accepting gifts from former lobbyist Adam Corey.

Florida Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 2/10/2020

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, already facing a federal probe into his 2018 campaign, may have more trouble on his hands. The Florida Bar is also investigating whether alleged campaign finance violations by Spano ran afoul of the rules of conduct for state lawyers. If they did, Spano could face punishment from the Bar. Spano acknowledges his campaign likely broke the law, but he insists it was a mistake and not malicious. Complaints to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged Spano illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from two friends. Those loans should have been considered contributions to his campaign and subject to donation limits. In a recent interview, Spano offered a new explanation for why he took the loans: He saw someone else do it.

Illinois Yanking Out the Chair? Bill Would Strip Criminally Charged Legislators from Key Posts
Chicago Sun-Times – Neal Earley | Published: 2/12/2020

After Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, he was removed as chairperson of the Senate Labor Committee. But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions. The bill would allow the legislative inspector general to issue subpoenas without needing approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission and require reports on current and former lawmakers be made public.

Maine Company That Studied Grid May Have Had Conflict of Interest
Associated Press – Staff | Published: 2/12/2020

A company paid $500,000 by Maine regulators to study the state’s electric grid may have been ineligible to receive the contract based on conflict-of-interest rules. London Economics International was the winning bidder on the study and was tasked with evaluating the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, to consumer ownership. To avoid any conflicts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said any firm that had worked for either utility in the past five years would be ineligible. But London Economics International was paid $37,000 for work done for Emera in 2018.

Maine Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 2/7/2020

Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based company that received an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine, appears to be linked to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for re-election. That donation, which came through another Hawaii based entity, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, is now the subject of an official complaint before the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center says the $150,000 donation appears to be illegal, in part because there is no record of the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers having legitimate income. Instead, the watchdog argued, it appears the company was set up as a “dark money” front to mask the true identity of the donor to a pro-Collins super PAC.

Maryland More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/12/2020

The national wave of women running for public office following President Trump’s election has hit Baltimore with almost 20 women running for city council in the Democratic primary, waging campaigns in a majority of districts. There has been a surge in women holding public office across the region over the past two years. The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council flipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, and women now outnumber men in Howard County, as well. Prince George’s County elected its first female executive and Carroll County  choose a woman to sit on its Circuit Court bench for the first time.

Maryland The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III | Published: 2/7/2020

The owner of a historic industrial property in Middle River, Maryland, is getting help with his redevelopment efforts from a lobbyist who knows plenty about Baltimore County government: John Olszewski Sr., a former county council member who is the father of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. Olszewski Sr. has been leading Blue Ocean Realty’s efforts to get the General Assembly to approve a tax break for the project, which would turn a warehouse into a sports, entertainment, and retail complex. The arrangement does not appear to violate any ethics laws or restrictions on lobbying, experts say, but it is unusual to have close relatives working as a lobbyist and a top politician.

Mississippi Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
AP News – Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 2/7/2020

Mississippi’s state auditor said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former professional wrestler, according to indictments, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million. Federal welfare money was once spent mostly on cash assistance to poor families, but after changes in the 1990s, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money is given to states in block grants, and states can use the money on other activities meant to help people.

Missouri Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider
KCUR – Jaclyn Driscoll | Published: 2/10/2020

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item that would change how state legislative districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. The proposal now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They will choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. The new initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a five-dollar maximum for each one. The measure also lowers contribution limits for state Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.

Missouri Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 2/9/2020

In October 2018, a campaign committee that was helping then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger finance his political efforts reported a $250,000 donation from a nonprofit that supports fire districts. But it did not really come from the fire district nonprofit. It came from Great St. Louis, a nonprofit whose president is an operative for philanthropist and political donor Rex Sinquefield. The true source of the contribution sheds more light on how Sinquefield’s operation was able to funnel approximately $700,000 to Stenger. It also raises questions about why the disclosure was made over a year later, and whether the organizations tried to conceal Sinquefield’s support for Stenger, who pleaded guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme in May.

Montana Montana Supreme Court: Political cop wrong to censure regents
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/12/2020

The Montana Supreme Court ruled against the state commissioner of political practices for censuring Montana’s Board of Regents. The justices concluded that Commissioner Jeff Mangan erred when concluding the regents were illegally politicking for the six-mill levy during board meetings. The levy is a voter-approved property tax that raises about $20 million a year for Montana’s public universities and colleges. Mangan ruled the regents were public employees who were politicking on government time and using government property to do so. He fined the Regents $3,000. But the state Supreme Court ruled education boards have the right to discuss levies at meetings, and also take public positions on levies.

Nevada Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process
Connecticut Post – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. Party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing. Multiple campaign officials have complained about a lack of transparency from the party. Though there have been multiple conference calls between the state party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “tight-lipped” and slow to offer specific information about how the state’s ambitious early-voting plan would work without the use of the apps.

New Hampshire Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary; Buttigieg, Klobuchar Are Top Moderate Candidates
MSN – Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party’s left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary as two moderates, Pete Buttigieg and a newly surging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days. Sanders and Buttigieg marked their second straight strong showings – they essentially tied in the Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates. The night brought devastating returns for Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom appeared to have lost support to Klobuchar and Buttigieg and were not on course to earn any delegates.

New Mexico The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts
New Mexico In Depth – Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 2/10/2020

In a small state where face-to-face connections are critical and political ties almost inescapable, potential conflicts abound in New Mexico. It is no surprise to learn of state lawmakers who are married to lobbyists, or have lobbyists within their own families, or who regularly vote or even sponsor legislation that would support an industry in which the lawmaker has a personal business interest. “Conflict of interest is built into the New Mexico Legislature by virtue of the fact that it’s a citizens’ Legislature where legislators keep their day jobs,” said former state Sen. Dede Feldman.

New York Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/11/2020

State Sen. Robert Ortt is calling for a Senate investigation of the New York State Police’s unusual involvement in a controversial lobbying investigation of activist Kat Sullivan. “It is my hope that our highly-esteemed State Police are not being weaponized to stifle free speech,” Ortt said. A major in the State Police called the owner of the South Albany Airport last September inquiring about a flight flown out of the airport in 2018. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, had hired the plane to fly over the Capitol, which towed a banner pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) then investigated whether Sullivan had spent more than $5,000 on her efforts, which would require her to register as a lobbyist. The State Police say the call to the airport, as JCOPE was ramping up its inquiry, was made as a “courtesy” to someone at the commission.

North Carolina NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/12/2020

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger sold his townhouse in Raleigh to a lobbyist for an $80,000 profit. Berger was previously the subject of an ethics complaint for paying himself monthly rent for that townhouse with campaign funds. State ethics officials knew ahead of time that this sale was in the works and signed off on it, saying it did not appear to violate ethical rules. But Bob Hall, the former Democracy North Carolina leader who filed the complaint, says it deserves a closer look from a different set of officials. Norma Houston, a legislative ethics expert at the University of North Carolina, said while there is a prohibition against lawmakers taking gifts from lobbyists, state law specifically exempts contracts and other commercial arrangements that are “made in the normal course of business if not made for lobbying.”

Ohio Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 2/7/2020

At the back of a Starbucks in a hotel across the street from the Ohio Statehouse, there is a narrow space that is just large enough to fit three chairs and a small table. But this semi-secluded area is where a surprising amount of government and political business gets done, according to Capitol Square regulars. It is a convenient meeting spot for many politicians and lobbyists. And as it is frowned upon (though not technically illegal) for state lawmakers to accept campaign contributions on public property, they often head across the street from the Statehouse for donors to hand them checks.

Oregon Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/9/2020

A bill was introduced to enshrine the independence of Oregon’s public records advocate in law and end the governor’s role in hiring and firing the advocate. The Public Records Advisory Council pitched the idea of shielding the records advocate from the governor’s control last fall. It did so in the wake of news that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told then-Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, or report with the governor’s office before releasing them.

Pennsylvania PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff
Bily Penn – Max Marin | Published: 2/6/2020

As executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, Micah Sims aids the nonprofit’s mission to “create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest” in the Keystone State. In an unusual arrangement, however, Sims has been moonlighting as a consultant for an elected official in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to his employers at Common Cause, Sims has been working on the side as a senior advisor to Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal as she sets out to transform the scandal-plagued office left behind by her predecessor. Sims first said his consulting for Bilal was business, then switched to a claim that it was “pro bono” as a favor to a friend. Other potential questions have risen around Sims’ work.

Pennsylvania Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 2/11/2020

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has primarily benefited Republicans on the federal level, in Philadelphia, it is the progressive left that has best capitalized on the campaign finance decision and other opinions. Liberals have been beating establishment Democrats with the help of outside groups that outspend the candidates themselves. And campaign finance reform is no longer the rallying cry it once was. “It’s an interesting reality to have folks or groups who may decry Citizens United then utilizing the tools that are made available by it,” said Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy. “But in campaigns, people play to win, and I don’t think that will ever change.”

South Dakota Concerns Arise That New S.D. Electronic Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent
Keloland – Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) | Published: 2/9/2020

A new online system for drafting, co-sponsoring, and tracking bills through the South Dakota Legislature has some people concerned that the modernized system has made the legislative process less transparent and removed some of the human element from lawmaking. State officials said the new system was needed to make legislative work more efficient. Jason Hancock, director of the Legislative Research Council, which manages the drafting and flow of proposed laws, said the new workflow system is housed within the Legislature’s website and replaced the old pen-and-paper-based system for drafting, seeking co-sponsors, and amending legislation.

Texas Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 2/8/2020

Local governments across Texas are resisting a state law that took effect in September requiring they publicly post their lobbying information on their websites. But the resistance does not appear to be based on opposition to the intent of the new law. Rather, cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments object to the statute’s admittedly murky language and differing reads on what it requires. For the most part, Senate Bill 65 relates to increasing oversight on state agencies’ contracting practices. The posting requirement for lobbying was added via an amendment co-authored by Rep. Mayes Middleton, who tried last session to make it illegal for many local governments to spend money on lobbying.

Washington Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting
Washington Post – Jay Greene | Published: 2/11/2020

The failure of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses led to days of partial and unreliable results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. But mobile voting is prone to cybersecurity breaches just as other forms of election technology are, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University who studies digital election security.

Washington DC D.C. Ethics Board Reopens Investigation into Former Lawmaker Jack Evans
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/12/2020

The District of Columbia’s ethics board reopened its investigation into former city council member Jack Evans. The revival of the probe raises the possibility of additional penalties for the Evans, who has been the subject of federal investigations and multiple examinations of his private business dealings. Evans resigned from the council days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.

Washington DC D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 2/11/2020

A divided U.S. House committee advanced a District of Columbia statehood bill to the floor for the first time in nearly three decades, bringing advocates closer to their goal of making the nation’s capital the 51st state. The bill has a good chance of passing the House because Democrats have a solid majority and the cause of statehood has become a favorite of Democratic leaders, national civil rights groups, and presidential candidates. But it faces almost certain death in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Wisconsin 81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck | Published: 2/11/2020

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin absentee voters will soon receive not one but two ballots to use in the spring election, laying the groundwork for potential confusion among the voters who receive them. Under federal law, absentee ballots for the April 7 presidential primary must go out on February 20, or two days after the February 18 primary for state and local races. That means there is no way to get a complete ballot to absentee voters that includes candidates who advance through the February 18 primary election without violating state law. Election officials’ solution is to send two ballots: One will be labeled by the letter “A” and will include just presidential candidates. A second “B” ballot will be mailed in March, after spring primary election results are certified. The B ballot will include presidential candidates and candidates competing in state and local races.

Continue Reading - 34 min read Close

February 13, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes Elections Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes

Elections

Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun

Washington: “Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting” by Jay Greene for Washington Post

Wisconsin: “81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion” by Molly Beck for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ethics

Florida: “Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided” by Jeff Schweers for Florida Times-Union

Legislative Issues

Washington DC: “D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History” by Jenna Portnoy for Washington Post

Lobbying

National: “When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills” by Rachana Pradhan for Kaiser Health News

New York: “Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

North Carolina: “NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

February 11, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by […]

Campaign Finance

Connecticut: “Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature” by Amanda Blanco for Hartford Courant

Missouri: “Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit” by Jacob Barker for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ethics

National: “Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules” by Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) for Anchorage Daily News

Arizona: “Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita” by Julia Shumway for Arizona Capitol Times

Oregon: “Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian

Legislative Issues

California: “California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In” by Ryan Sabalow for Sacramento Bee

Lobbying

New Mexico: “The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts” by Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) for New Mexico In Depth

Texas: “Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law” by Steve Miller for Texas Monitor

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

February 10, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat Ethics National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, […]

Campaign Finance

Maine: “Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat

Ethics

National: “Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties” by David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate

Florida: “Dozens of Ethics Cases, Including Matt Shirk’s, Are Languishing on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Desk” by Jeffrey Schweers (Tallahassee Democrat) for Florida Times-Union

Mississippi: “Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds” by Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus for AP News

Pennsylvania: “PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff” by Max Marin for Bily Penn

Legislative Issues

South Dakota: “Some Fear New Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent” by Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) for Watertowwn Public Opinion

Lobbying

Maryland: “The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.” by Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III for Baltimore Sun

Ohio: “Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook” by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

February 5, 2020 •

Oregon Referendum Process Could Change

Oregon State Capitol Building

Salem attorney Steve Elzinga has proposed changes to the state administrative rules to prevent manipulation of a mechanism allowing citizens to stop new laws passed by legislators. Our Oregon, a union backed political group, is alarmed about the proposed changes […]

Salem attorney Steve Elzinga has proposed changes to the state administrative rules to prevent manipulation of a mechanism allowing citizens to stop new laws passed by legislators.

Our Oregon, a union backed political group, is alarmed about the proposed changes to the state’s election rules.

The group says the rules give special interests excessive influence.

The opposing sides argue they are defending the ability of voters to directly access the state’s political system.

The Office of the Secretary of State held a hearing on the rule changes earlier this week. Secretary of State Bev Clarno could decide on the rule changes as soon as next month.

In Oregon, if citizens want to challenge a new law passed by the Legislature they can put it to a statewide vote by using the state’s referendum process.

Citizens have 90 days after the Legislature adjourns to petition for a referendum, unless a new law is written to take effect right away.

The number of signatures required to trigger a referendum is based on turnout in previous elections

The number of signatures required is currently 74,680.

However, signatures can’t be gathered until the governor signs the legislation into law.

The proposed change would permit collecting signatures for a referendum as soon as the targeted legislation passes both the House and the Senate.

Governors have 30 business days after the Legislature adjourns to sign a bill into law.

The change would prevent governors delaying the signing of a bill to chew up some of the 90 days set aside for petition work.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close