September 18, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The California Legislature adjourned the 2019 session on September 13. Campaign Finance Bills Passed The legislature passed several campaign finance bills during the session. Assembly Bill 220 prohibits the use of campaign funds to pay for professional services not directly […]
The California Legislature adjourned the 2019 session on September 13.
Campaign Finance Bills Passed
The legislature passed several campaign finance bills during the session.
Assembly Bill 220 prohibits the use of campaign funds to pay for professional services not directly related to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose. The bill also authorizes the use of campaign funds to pay for child care expenses resulting from a candidate or officeholder engaging in campaign activities or performing official duties.
Assembly Bill 571 makes a technical, nonsubstantive change to a provision of the Political Reform Act of 1974. The provision prohibits candidates for elective state office or committees controlled by that candidate from making a contribution to another candidate for elective state office in excess of $3,000.
Senate Bill 71 prohibits the expenditure of funds in a legal defense fund campaign account to pay or reimburse a candidate or elected officer for attorney’s fees or other legal costs.
The bill also prohibits the use of campaign funds for fines, penalties, judgments, or settlements, except as specified.
Electioneering Bill Passed
Assembly Bill 201 broadens the definition of mass mailing to include campaign-related mass texting. Mass text messages will be required to include the name or image of a candidate or refer to a ballot measure.
Lobbying Bill Passed
Assembly Bill 902 codifies current regulations into law, including regulations regarding filing deadlines, bookkeeping, and lobbyist registration.
The last day for the governor to sign or veto bills passed by the legislature during the 2019 legislative session is October 13.
September 13, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At the Bedraggled FEC, a Clean Slate of Leaders? The First African-American Commissioner? Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 9/11/2019 The FEC no longer has enough members to conduct high-level business. The U.S. Senate and President Trump […]
At the Bedraggled FEC, a Clean Slate of Leaders? The First African-American Commissioner?
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 9/11/2019
The FEC no longer has enough members to conduct high-level business. The U.S. Senate and President Trump could easily appoint new commissioners and soon end the agency’s involuntary trip through limbo. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an attorney and executive assistant to longtime Commissioner Steven Walther, to Trump for nomination. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate could at any moment consider Trump’s lone FEC nominee to date, Trey Trainor, who has languished for nearly two years without even a confirmation hearing. But there is disagreement among Senate Republicans and Democrats, as well as the White House, on how to proceed. FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said the agency’s more than 300 employees are attending to their work the best they can.
FEMA Officials Accused of Bribery, Fraud in Hurricane Maria Relief
MSN – Rick Jarvis (USA Today) | Published: 9/10/2019
Two former officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the former president of an energy contractor were arrested, accused of bribery and wire fraud while trying to restore electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Prosecutors said the president of Cobra Acquisitions, Donald Keith Ellison, gave FEMA’s deputy regional director airline flights, hotel accommodations, personal security services, and the use of a credit card. In return, Ahsha Nateef Tribble “used any opportunity she had to benefit Cobra,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, including accelerating payments to the company and pressuring power authority officials to award it contracts.
Harsh Spotlight on Trump Donors Raises Disclosure Questions
Danbury News Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/10/2019
Critics of President Trump are taking aim at his campaign donors, who have become the subject of social media attacks from liberals when their identities become public. A large amount of information about donors is available publicly, a result of laws intended to serve as a check on corrupting influences on politicians. Campaigns and committees are required to turn over the name, address, job title, employer, and donation amount of anyone giving at least $200. The information is published on the FEC’s website. Some transparency advocates worry the increasing attacks on donors could spark a backlash against the disclosure of information. They fear the attacks will discourage voters from giving or steer them into contributing to political nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors.
How Elizabeth Warren Raised Big Money Before She Denounced Big Money
MSN – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2019
Early this year, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren vowed not to attend private fundraisers or call rich donors anymore. Admirers and activists praised her stand, but few noted the fact that she had built a financial cushion by pocketing big checks the years before. The open secret of Warren’s campaign is that her big-money fundraising through 2018 helped lay the foundation for her anti-big-money run for the presidency. Last winter and spring, she transferred $10.4 million in leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to underwrite her 2020 run, a portion of which was raised from the same donor class she is now running against. As Warren has risen in the polls on her populist and anti-corruption message, some donors and, privately, opponents are chafing at her campaign’s purity claims of being “100 percent grassroots funded.”
IRS Issues Proposed Rules to Reduce Donor Disclosure Requirements Following Court Ruling
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 9/6/2019
The Treasury Department and IRS issued proposed rules to reduce donor disclosure requirements for certain tax-exempt groups after a federal judge set aside guidance the agencies had previously released on the topic because it had not gone through a notice and comment period. Under the proposed rules, certain tax-exempt groups – including groups such as the National Rifle Association, as well as labor unions and business leagues – would no longer be required to provide the names and addresses of major donors on annual tax forms. Charities that have tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, as well as political organizations, would still be required to report the names and addresses of donors.
Mayors Are Harassed and Threatened, But Just How Often?
Governing – Mike Maciag | Published: 9/1/2019
Demeaning comments, harassment and, less commonly, threats of violence all come with the job of being a mayor. A new national survey assesses how frequently mayors experience various forms of abuse. The survey, the basis of a study published in the journal State and Local Government Review, finds most mayors contend with verbal hostility or physical intimidation at rates above those of the general workforce. Disrespectful comments or images on social media were by far the most frequent means of abuse. More serious acts of violence were far less common. About 11 percent of mayors reported property damage.
Nevada, SC, Kansas GOP Drop Presidential Nomination Votes
AP News – Meg Kinnard | Published: 9/7/2019
Republican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina, and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging President Trump. Primary challenges to incumbents are rarely successful, and Trump’s poll numbers among Republican voters have proved resilient. Nonetheless, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed reelection campaigns.
Redistricting Fights Rage with Future of Congress at Stake
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/6/2019
Strategists and observers who track state legislative races say tensions are already running at election-year levels, a reflection of the unusually high stakes in contests that immediately precede the decennial redistricting cycle. The difference between just a handful of local elections across the country could mean a long-term shift in partisan control of Congress. If one party makes big gains in state Legislatures, they would have the power to use the decennial reapportionment and redistricting process to substantially alter the partisan makeup of Congress. The high stakes in states across the country are reminiscent of the 2010 election, which became a Republican wave that swept the GOP to power and handed them control of the redistricting process.
Retiring Lawmakers Will Face Tough Market on K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/9/2019
K Street recruiters are poring over the list of 21, and counting, lawmakers planning to exit Congress, but the lobbying sector may offer a shrinking supply of big-money gigs heading into the 2020 elections. As more House members and senators consider making their escape from Capitol Hill, the realities of the K Street economy and the “revolving door” will be among their considerations, say insiders at lobbying firms and headhunters. Those who make hiring decisions on K Street say ex-lawmakers can sometimes struggle in the lobbying sector where they no longer receive the trappings that come with elective office, such as a team of staff members. Many former members also balk, at least initially, at the idea of registering as a federal lobbyist or foreign agent, setting out limitations that firms find increasingly frustrating. In most cases, it is the congressional staff members that K Street really clamors for.
Trump Had Deal with Scotland Airport That Sent Flight Crews to His Resort
MSN – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/9/2019
President Trump sought to tamp down a growing controversy over a stay at his golf resort in Scotland by U.S. military personnel who were traveling through the local airport in March. He said he was not involved in any decision to put an Air Force flight crew at the resort, known as Trump Turnberry. But documents obtained from Scottish government agencies show the Trump Organization, and Trump himself, played a direct role in setting up an arrangement between the Turnberry resort and officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The government records show the Trump organization, starting in 2014, entered a partnership with the airport to try to increase private and commercial air traffic to the region.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Some Push for Scottsdale to End Prayer at Council Meetings Amid Legal Showdown with Satanists
Arizona Republic – Lorraine Lonhi | Published: 9/10/2019
A Scottsdale resident and activists petitioned a city commission to recommend replacing invocations with moments of silence at city council meetings. The move comes as Scottsdale and Satanists are locked in a legal battle over the city’s decision three years ago to block Satanists from leading a council meeting invocation. The Satanic Temple, an international Satanist group, has been asking city councils across the country to lead their invocations for several years. Some cities, such as Pensacola, Florida, allowed Satanists to give the invocations, but faced public backlash. Scottsdale resident Sandy Schenkat said she has asked the Human Relations Commission three times this year to recommend that council adopt a moment of silence in place of invocations, but her requests have gone ignored.
California – Ex-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, Developers Due in Court After Grand Jury Indictment
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Christopher Damien | Published: 9/11/2019
Former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney will be arraigned following their indictments in connection with a long-running corruption case. More than four years have passed since agents from the FBI, IRS, and the Riverside County district attorney’s office raided Palm Springs City Hall. In bringing charges against the three men in 2017, the district attorney alleged Pougnet accepted bribes in exchange for city council votes and contracts in favor of their projects. The three have previously pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, Pougnet could be sentenced to as much as 19 years in prison, while the developers, if convicted, could face up to 12 years in prison each.
California – Insider Lunch and a London Party: California Democrat cozied up to industry he regulates
MSN – Hannah Wiley (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 9/10/2019
Three months after taking office, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara scheduled a lunch with insurance company executives with a pending matter before his department. A memo to Lara said the meeting had a specific purpose: “Relationship Building to benefit Ricardo Lara for Insurance Commissioner 2022.” He pledged not to take money from the insurance industry as he ran for the post but broke his promise this year by accepting more than $50,000 from insurance representatives and their spouses. Some of the money came from donors who ties to one of the companies scheduled to be represented at the lunch. Social media posts show Lara also counts insurance lobbyists among his friends. He partied with a Farmers Insurance lobbyist on New Year’s Eve a week before his inauguration.
California – Insurance Commissioner Charging Rent for Second Residence to Taxpayers
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Angela Hart | Published: 9/5/2019
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has stuck taxpayers with thousands of dollars in bills to cover the cost of renting an apartment in Sacramento while he maintains his primary residence in Los Angeles, a break from other statewide elected officials that is alarming ethics watchdogs. Lara is already under scrutiny for his campaign fundraising and perceived coziness with the insurance industry. Lara spokesperson Michael Soller said Department of Insurance legal counsel concluded Lara’s rental expenses comply with state law because he only bills taxpayers for days spent in Sacramento. Soller declined to provide the legal memo or the name of the lawyer.
Colorado – Chief Storytellers: Community engagement or PR?
Governing – Graham Vyse | Published: 8/29/2019
It looked like a conventional public meeting as a city employee in Denver stood before half a dozen people in a community center. Yet this was not a typical community forum, and Rowena Alegría was not a typical city employee. “I am the chief storyteller for the city and county of Denver,” she told the group, and she had come for one of her regular “storytelling labs.” They are a chance for residents to record personal stories about their city, using text, audio, and video to help local government preserve community history. Denver’s alternative paper Westword called into question how the chief storyteller “just happens to be a former Mayor Michael] Hancock aide,” raising concerns that she was running “a taxpayer-funded office designed to polish PR for Denver.” But Alegría is quick to say her storytelling is “community engagement, not PR.”
Connecticut – State Employee Fined for Hiring Daughter for Temporary Summer Job
Hartford Courant – Russell Blair | Published: 9/9/2019
A former Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) employee was fined $2,500 for using her position to hire her daughter for a temporary summer job and failing to disclose the conflict-of-interest. Andrea Lombard was an epidemiologist in the hepatitis C program at DPH. In the summer of 2018, DPH was looking to fill administrative assistant positions in the program and hired an outside vendor to help with process. Lombard’s daughter became a candidate for one of those positions and she personally selected her daughter to fill one of the positions. While her daughter was employed, Lombard directly supervised her, including assigning and evaluating her work, approving her timecards, and approving overtime.
Florida – Broward Lawmaker in Line to Lead Senate Democrats Is in Relationship with Lobbyist Paid to Influence Florida Legislature
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Anthony Man | Published: 9/9/2019
Florida Sen. Gary Farmer, chosen by his colleagues to be the Democratic Party leader after the 2020 elections, recently told them he has been involved with a woman who lobbies the state Legislature. Florida law and Senate rules do not ban such relationships. A senator cannot “vote on any matter that the officer knows would inure to his or her special private gain or loss.” Senate rules require disclosure of a conflict if the special private gain or loss applies to an immediate family member or business associate.
Florida – NRA’s Marion Hammer Got Illegal Loans from Nonprofit She Runs, Unified Sportsmen of Florida
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 9/6/2019
National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer obtained several apparently illegal loans over the years from Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the Tallahassee nonprofit she founded and runs. The most recent loan in 2017, for $200,000, was given to Hammer, who earns $110,000-a-year as the group’s executive director, so she could “refinance and purchase” real estate, according to Unified Sportsmen’s regulatory filings. Florida law prohibits not-for-profit corporations like Unified Sportsmen from loaning money to their directors or officers. And while Unified Sportsmen solicits contributions from the public, the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has not made it register, disclose certain information, or pay fees as the law requires of nonprofits.
Illinois – Watchdog Accuses County Clerk Karen Yarbrough of Running ‘Illegal Patronage’ Operation, Wants Court Oversight
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long | Published: 9/11/2019
Less than a year into office, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough faces potential federal court oversight of hiring amid a watchdog’s accusations that she is “running an illegal patronage employment system.” Veteran anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman said in a new legal filing that Yarbrough has put the politically connected into jobs that are supposed to be free from such influence, asked her employees for campaign contributions on their private cellphones and transferred certain supervisors to far-flung offices in hopes they would quit. Yarbrough, who was under federal court oversight in her previous job as recorder of deeds, called Shakman’s latest allegations “preposterous.”
Iowa – A Family Affair: As their parents campaign in Iowa, kids of 2020 candidates get a taste of the trail
Des Moines Register – Ian Richardson | Published: 9/5/2019
As 2020 presidential hopefuls traversed Iowa this summer to woo voters, their families have often tagged along for the ride. Candidates say bringing their families along helps them spend more time with them during their grueling campaign schedules. It also gives Iowans a more up-close look at the candidates’ personal lives, which can make them more relatable in a process that puts a high value on person-to-person interaction. Even when their kids are not around, the children of candidates make frequent appearances in their speeches, with candidates sharing the impact they have made on their policies like health care and childcare.
Kentucky – Gov. Bevin Asks Kentucky Supreme Court to Remove Judge from Case over Facebook ‘Like’
Louisville Courier-Journal – Phillip Bailey | Published: 9/11/2019
Gov. Matt Bevin wants the Kentucky Supreme Court to remove Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd from hearing the teacher “sickout” lawsuit, saying he is too biased to preside over the case. The governor’s legal team says the integrity of the state’s judicial branch is on the line and requests Chief Justice John Minton appoint a special judge. The Bevin administration points to an August Facebook post Shepherd “liked” that praises campaign volunteers for Andy Beshear, who is running against Bevin in the fall election. Bevin used Twitter to slam Shepherd for “his blatant partisan support for Democrats.” Shepherd declined to remove himself from the case, saying he had liked posts from Republicans and was supporting the political process in general.
Massachusetts – Mayor Charged with Taking Bribes to Help Pot Businesses
AP News – Philip Marcelo | Published: 9/6/2019
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested on charges he conspired to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies seeking to operate marijuana businesses. Correia brazenly accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain a license to set up a pot business, authorities alleged. They said at least four business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes to the mayor, and he used the money to support a lavish lifestyle and cover mounting legal bills. Correia was already facing charges on accusations he stole investor funds. He has pleaded not guilty. The latest investigation, which also involved agents from the FBI and IRS, highlighted the potential for abuse in Massachusetts’ nascent retail marijuana industry, authorities said.
Minnesota – DFL Lawmaker Resigns from University of Minnesota Post After Questions About Hiring
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 9/11/2019
State Rep. Jamie Long announced he is resigning from a paid fellowship at the University of Minnesota after Republicans raised questions about preferential treatment in filling the post. Long accepted a seven-month research fellowship at the Institute on the Environment’s Energy Transition Lab in July. The $50,000 temporary role was set to end just after the Legislature returns to work in February. In a statement announcing his resignation, Long, an attorney, said he was “honored” to accept the job after “a competitive public hiring process.” He cited his long history of working on environmental and climate issues. But e-mails and internal documents show Long and Ellen Anderson, a former state senator now at the helm of the Energy Transition Lab, discussed creating the position months before it was publicly posted.
Missouri – Parson’s Longtime Friend Is a Lobbyist, and Their Money Ties Could Cloud Governor’s Bid
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock and Crystal Thomas | Published: 9/8/2019
As Missouri Gov. Mike Parson kicks off his quest to win a full term as governor, his long-standing friendship and political partnership with lawmaker-turned-lobbyist Steve Tilley is once again under the microscope. So far this year, a quarter of every dollar raised to elect Parson governor in 2020 is connected to Tilley. A large part of that money has come from lobbying clients engaged in industries regulated by the state agencies Parson oversees, ranging from gaming to medical marijuana to low-income housing tax credits. Before Parson took over as governor in June 2018, Tilley had 25 lobbying clients. In the year since Parson took the oath of office, that number has ballooned to more than 70.
Missouri – Stenger’s Former Right-Hand Man Gets 15 Months in Prison for His Role in Pay-To-Play Scheme
St. Louis Public Radio – Rachel Lippmann | Published: 9/6/2019
William Miller, the chief of staff to disgraced former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for working to make sure a campaign donor to Stenger got a lobbying contract. Miller had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery. The prosecution’s sentencing memo outlines several instances in which Miller used his clout as chief of staff to bully and threaten lower-level employees into doing Stenger’s bidding. By contrast, Miller’s attorney, Larry Hale, portrayed Miller as someone who was simply following the orders of Stenger, a “vindictive person known to threaten to terminate or otherwise punish those who did not follow his directives.”
Montana – Court Strikes Down Montana Law Barring Political Robocalls
AP News – Matt Volz | Published: 9/10/2019
A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Montana cannot ban political robocalls based on their content alone, marking the latest in a string of court decisions against states that attempt to restrict automated phone calls promoting political campaigns. The judges said Montana’s law is a violation of the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. The court has previously upheld other state laws that regulate robocalls, such as those that aim to protect consumers from scams, but those laws were based on how robocalls are made and not on what they say, the judges said.
Montana – Montana Ethics Chief Recommends Bringing Lobbying Code ‘Into the 21st Century’
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Eric Dietrich (Montana Free Press) | Published: 9/5/2019
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan told a legislative committee that lawmakers should consider updating state lobbying rules to bring them “into the 21st century” by, for instance, requiring electronic filing for lobbying reports and clarifying whether regulations apply to grassroots lobbying like social media campaigns. “You will find the word ‘telegraph’ in the current code as far as what lobbyists should be reporting, telephone and telegraph expenses; you won’t find the word ‘internet’ in there,” Mangan said. Lawmakers on the State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Committee voiced concern about the cost of administering new lobbying regulations but voted to study the issue and potentially draft bills for consideration in the 2021 Legislature.
New Jersey – ACLU Files Suit in Favor of ‘Dark Money,’ Says Donors Should Be Able to Give Money Anonymously
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/10/2019
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went to federal court seeking to overturn a law that would require political organizations that accept so-called dark money in New Jersey to disclose their donors. The ACLU said the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and called for an order to restrain the state from enforcing the act. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law despite his reservations over its constitutionality. The law requires independent expenditure commissioners to publicly disclose donors contributing more than $10,000 to the organization and bar any person who chairs a political party committee or a legislative leadership committee from serving as that committee’s chairperson or treasurer. The ACLU argued it would fall under the restrictions, and said because it often works on controversial issues of public interest, many of its donors avail themselves of anonymity.
New York – Alleged Rape Victim’s Case Shakes Up JCOPE
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/10/2019
The normally staid monthly meeting of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) featured a first: two women dressed in red cloaks and white wimples stationed outside the agency’s offices, reading a satiric children’s book detailing the panel’s alleged failings. The protest, with costumes inspired by the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was organized by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape survivor who has been targeted for possible lobbying violations while advocating for passage of the Child Victim’s Act. Sullivan took out ads on billboards criticizing the state’s molestation laws. JCOPE determined the billboards amounted to lobbying and threatened Sullivan with fines if she refused to pay the registration fee. Sullivan’s attorney went before JCOPE to demand that it drop the case against Sullivan since she did not spend enough on the billboards to qualify as a lobbyist under state law.
New York – Marijuana Legalization Opponent Directed to Identify Donors
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 9/10/2019
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) denied a request from the New York chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM-NY) to keep its donors private. SAM-NY contended it should be exempt from the state’s semi-annual disclosure because its supporters would be subject to harassment and economic reprisal if they were identified. New York law has a blanket disclosure exemption for charitable organizations engaged in lobbying, including the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance. JCOPE has denied disclosure exemption requests in the past from the New York Civil Liberties Union, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and Family Planning Advocates of New York, only to have those decisions overturned by a judicial hearing officer, who described the rulings as “clearly erroneous.”
North Carolina – Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican, Wins Special Election
MSN – Richard Fausset and Jonathan Martin (New York Times) | Published: 9/10/2019
Dan Bishop, a Republican state senator, scored a narrow victory in a special U.S. House election in North Carolina that demonstrated President Trump’s appeal with his political base but also highlighted his party’s deepening unpopularity with suburban voters. Bishop defeated Dan McCready, a moderate Democrat, by two percentage points in a district Trump carried by nearly 12 points in 2016. The fight for the Ninth Congressional District also brought to an end a tortured political drama: The 2018 midterm race for the seat, in which McCready barely lost against a different Republican, was in question for months because of evidence of election fraud on the GOP side. The election was finally thrown out, an embarrassing conclusion for state Republicans who had carved the lines of the deeply red district.
North Carolina – House Overrides Budget Veto in Surprise Vote with Almost Half of Lawmakers Absent
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, Loren Horsch, and Paul Specht | Published: 9/11/2019
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina abruptly voted to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, sparking chaos in the chamber by bypassing Democratic lawmakers. Democrats said they did not expect a voting session that morning. Only 12 Democrats were present, and only nine voted, with several not even at their seats, party leader said. Cooper accused Republicans of pulling “their most deceptive stunt yet” at a time when many North Carolinians were focused on honoring those killed in the September 11 attacks, though it was not clear how many lawmakers may have been attending memorials. The override is not complete as the Senate still must hold a vote on the issue, but Republicans there need only one Democrat to join them to secure victory.
North Dakota – Little to No Business for North Dakota State Ethics Boards in Recent Years
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 9/11/2019
North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission is preparing to meet for the first time. Other state ethics have taken up little to no business in recent years. State lawmakers have an ethics committee, but there is no indication it has ever met. The new five-member commission is tasked with investigating ethics complaints against elected state officials, candidates for office, and lobbyists, and is expected to write its own administrative rules. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the lack of ethics meetings and complaints indicates nothing has risen to the level of a perceived violation. “I think overall most legislators pull a pretty fine line and stay away from stuff like that, and so I appreciate that as leader,” Wardner said.
Oregon – Campaign Money Limits in 2020? Oregon Supreme Court Leaves Possibility Open
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 9/5/2019
The Oregon Supreme Court rejected a request to delay arguments in a major campaign finance case, a decision that leaves open the possibility that political donations could be capped in statewide races next year, even though lawmakers have stumbled in their own attempts to set them. Business groups wanted the court to postpone hearing a case to decide the legality of limits adopted by Multnomah County voters in 2016. The groups argued it was inappropriate for the court to rule on limits with voters set to do the same thing next November. Supporters of limits characterized the request as an attempt to allow unlimited contributions to dominate another election cycle. Chief Justice Martha Walters denied the industry groups’ request without specifying why.
Oregon – Oregon Open Records Bill Dies After Governor’s Staff Privately Contradicts Her Transparency Pledge, Documents Show
Portland Oregonian – Molly Young | Published: 9/11/2019
Top staffers for Gov. Kate Brown privately worked against a pro-transparency bill that ultimately failed in June, according to records released by Oregon’s public records advocate in the wake of her resignation. Brown has pledged to increase transparency under her watch since she was sworn in as governor in 2015. Yet memos and emails show staffers and lobbyists working on her behalf opposed a proposal to make state agencies track and disclose information about records requests they receive from the public. The documents say Brown’s staffers told public records advocate Ginger McCall her work to support the bill contradicted the governor’s interests and was a bad idea. Then, by action or inaction, Brown’s office got in the way of the bill’s progress while publicly maintaining its support for transparency and the concept of government accountability.
Pennsylvania – Deal to End Ex-Philly Deputy Mayor’s Bribery Case with One-Year Sentence Crumbles in Court
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 9/5/2019
After his conviction for bribing then-U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was overturned, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman made a deal with the Justice Department that would send him to prison for only one year – half of what he originally had received – instead of risking a second trial. But U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III had other ideas. Calling the agreement “far too lenient” and “not just,” the judge rejected the proposal and ordered Vederman, whom prosecutors once described as Fattah’s “human ATM machine,” to spend two years in prison. The turn of events capped what already had been an unusual proceeding that brought into the open rarely seen discord between Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C. and their local counterparts.
Rhode Island – Rhode Island House Employee Has Sexual Assault Conviction, Records Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 9/9/2019
A former police sergeant who was convicted of committing sexual assault while in uniform in the 1980s has been employed by the Rhode Island Legislature for more than a decade. Michael Burke, a former North Kingstown police officer who served prison time on two counts of first-degree sexual assault, has worked as “manager of House operations” since 2007 but is now out on workers’ compensation. The House speaker when Burke was hired, William Murphy, said Burke was recommended to him by a former state representative, whom he declined to identify, and he interviewed Burke. “I gave him a second chance,” Murphy said. “When I was speaker, he always comported himself as a gentleman in the statehouse. I never received any complaint about him. … I am glad I gave Mr. Burke a second chance.”
Tennessee – Rep. Andrew Farmer Changes Billboards Over Concerns He Used His Elected Office to Promote Private Business
Knoxville News Sentinel – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 9/9/2019
Earlier this year, Rep. Andrew Farmer changed billboards for his personal business over concerns from residents he was using his elected office to benefit his law firm. Farmer has several billboards in East Tennessee for his law firm, which provides criminal defense and personal injury services. One of the billboards read, “Who better to argue the law than an actual lawmaker?” Paying for the billboards for his personal business out of campaign money would be illegal. Farmer said he does not use his position as a lawmaker to help attract more clients or influence the outcome of cases.
Tennessee – Tennessee Campaign Finance Officials Urge Revamp of Website, More Auditors to Scrutinize Lawmaker Spending
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 9/11/2019
State watchdogs want to revamp Tennessee’s campaign finance reporting website and hire additional auditors. The Registry of Election Finance approved a plan to start talks with the secretary of state’s office about updating its website, which provides the public and the media a view into the activities of candidates. After discovering the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance had more than $1 million available in reserves, registry board member Tom Lawless suggested an update to the state’s website is necessary. Registry Auditor Jay Moeck said he is currently unable to fulfill 18 outstanding audits before the end of the year. He was tasked with coming up with hiring recommendations prior to the panel’s November meeting.
Texas – New Disclosures Show Texas Sen. Royce West Making Big Bucks from Government Contracts
Texas Tribune – Jay Root | Published: 9/5/2019
For years, Texas Sen. Royce West raked in millions of dollars in legal fees representing governmental entities such as the Dallas and Houston independent school districts, metropolitan transportation agencies, and major Texas cities, sparking criticism he is using his influence as a state lawmaker to score business deals average citizens cannot get. Until now, it was nearly impossible for voters to quantify the number of governmental contracting deals or estimate how much he has been personally making from his private business interests. But because West running for the U.S. Senate, which requires more robust disclosure than Texas, he is finally pulling back the curtain on his considerable wealth.
September 10, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
On September 5, Gov. Gavin Newsom was presented with a bill codifying several current lobbying regulations into law. Assembly Bill 902 codifies lobbyist regulations regarding filing deadlines, bookkeeping, and lobbyist registration. If signed by the governor, the bill takes effect […]
On September 5, Gov. Gavin Newsom was presented with a bill codifying several current lobbying regulations into law.
Assembly Bill 902 codifies lobbyist regulations regarding filing deadlines, bookkeeping, and lobbyist registration.
If signed by the governor, the bill takes effect on January 1, 2020.
September 5, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The Legislative Ethics Commission unanimously recommended that the 2020 General Assembly pass legislation prohibiting legislators and lobbyists from engaging in sexual and workplace harassment against legislative employees, other legislators, and lobbyists. In past cases involving allegations of sexual harassment, the […]
The Legislative Ethics Commission unanimously recommended that the 2020 General Assembly pass legislation prohibiting legislators and lobbyists from engaging in sexual and workplace harassment against legislative employees, other legislators, and lobbyists.
In past cases involving allegations of sexual harassment, the commission has followed more general ethics laws relating to the misuse of office.
The recommended change would add specific workplace protections into the legislative ethics law and categorize sexual harassment as ethical misconduct, punishable by fines or other sanctions.
The commission also recommended that the ethics law be amended to grant the commission the authority to adjudicate a complaint filed against a legislator, even if the legislator leaves office after the complaint is filed, as long as the complaint is based on action that occurred not more than a year prior to the day the legislator left office.
During the 2019 session, several bills relating to sexual harassment were filed but none were approved by the legislature.
August 30, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Barr Books Trump’s Hotel for $30,000 Holiday Party MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2019 Attorney General William Barr will hold a family holiday party for 200 people at Trump International Hotel in December that […]
Barr Books Trump’s Hotel for $30,000 Holiday Party
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2019
Attorney General William Barr will hold a family holiday party for 200 people at Trump International Hotel in December that is likely to cost $30,000. Barr is paying for the event himself and chose the venue only after other hotels were booked, according to a Department of Justice official. The official said the purpose of Barr’s party was not to curry favor with the president. Barr holds the bash annually, and it combines holiday festivities and a cèilidh, a party featuring Irish or Scottish music. Barr’s decision to book his boss’s hotel marks the latest collision between Trump’s administration and his business, which the president no longer operates but from which he still benefits financially.
Could Take FEC a While to Regain a Quorum, But Don’t Expect a ‘Wild West’
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/28/2019
FEC Vice Chairperson Matthew Petersen announced he will be stepping down by the end of August. The departure leaves the FEC with only three out of six commissioners, which means the agency is one vote short of the minimum of four votes needed to initiate audits, engage in rulemaking, vote on enforcement matters, issue an advisory opinion, or hold meetings. Still, those who advise campaigns and donors, or focus on campaign finance law, say the 2020 campaigns will not be entirely without legal checks or public relations concerns. In 2008, the FEC lacked a quorum for a few months. A senior Senate GOP aide said despite an apparent lack of movement on the matter, there is an ongoing effort to fill all six FEC seats.
David Koch Leaves Behind Legacy of Dark Money Political Network
Roll Call – Kete Ackley | Published: 8/23/2019
David Koch, who helped pioneer a network of often surreptitious organizations aimed at influencing elections and public policy, leaves behind a legacy of “dark-money” groups and a volatile political landscape. Koch, one half of the Koch Brothers along with his older brother Charles, has died at age 79. Congressional and K Street insiders, whether they agreed with the Kochs’ libertarian-conservative ideology or fought it, agreed that David Koch left a lasting imprint on the nation’s politics. The Koch network, which includes such groups as Americans for Prosperity, helped to resuscitate the Republican Party after its losses in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections and helped give rise to the tea party movement.
Ethics Outcry as Trump Touts ‘Magnificent’ Doral for Next G7
AP News – Bernard Condon and Adriana Gomez Licon | Published: 8/26/2019
Watchdogs have long railed against the perils of Donald Trump earning money off the presidency and hosting foreign leaders at his properties. But they say Trump’s proposal to bring world leaders to his Miami-area resort for the next Group of 7 meeting takes the conflict-of-interest to a whole new level because, unlike stays at his Washington, D.C., they would have no choice but to spend money at his property. Trump’s pitch comes as several lawsuits accusing the president of violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans gifts from foreign governments, wind their way through the courts. It also comes as Doral, by far the biggest revenue generator among the Trump Organization’s 17 golf properties, appears to have taken a hit from Trump’s move into politics.
Facebook Tightens Political Ad Rules, But Leaves Loopholes
AP News – Barbara Ortutay | Published: 8/27/2019
Facebook said it would tighten some of its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The changes include a tightened verification process that will require anyone wanting to run ads pertaining to elections, politics, or big social issues like guns and immigration to confirm their identity and prove they are in the U.S. Beginning in mid-September, such advertisers confirm their group’s identity using their organization’s tax identification number or other government ID. A loophole that will allow small grassroots groups and local politicians to run political ads could continue to allow bad actors to take advantage of the process.
Joe Walsh Says Trump Is ‘Unfit’ to Be President. Some Say the Same About Him.
ENM News – Matt Stevens and Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 8/27/2019
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, now a conservative radio show host, is challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination on the basis that he represents an alternative to a president who is morally unfit to hold his office. But in the days since Walsh announced his bid, he has been forced to confront his own highly questionable behavior. As Walsh introduces himself to voters, his long trail of racist and anti-Muslim statements, voiced for years on his conservative radio show and on Twitter, have revealed more similarities with Trump than stark differences in views and temperament.
Kirsten Gillibrand Exits Presidential Race
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 8/28/2019
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ended her bid for the presidency. Gillibrand, who ran a distinctly feminist campaign, failed to meet the Democratic National Committee’s criteria for the September presidential debate. A statement released by her campaign cited her lack of “access to the debate” stage as a reason she decided to end her run. Gillibrand struggled to stand out of the sprawling, diverse Democratic primary field, which included five other women. Like other candidates languishing at single or near zero digits in national polling, Gillibrand was not able to pull off a breakthrough moment.
Obama Announces New Push in Fight Against Gerrymandering
HuffPost – Sam Levine | Published: 8/27/2019
A group backed by President Obama will send experts to train people across the country on the basics of redistricting as part an effort to fight excessive partisan gerrymandering. The new effort, called Redistricting U, comes as states are gearing up for the next round of map drawing, which will take place in 2021. The redistricting process, which takes just once per decade, is expected to be a brutal brawl for partisan advantage. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that there were no constitutional limits on how severely states could manipulate district lines to benefit political parties.
Sen. Johnny Isakson to Resign at End of the Year
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 8/28/2019
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is resigning at the end of 2019 in the face of mounting health problems, adding another competitive seat as Republicans look to defend their narrow majority in 2020. Isakson’s term runs through 2022, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, under state law, is allowed to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat. A special election will be held to fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term during the next regularly scheduled election, meaning Georgia voters will cast ballots for both of the state’s Senate seats in 2020. The state has typically been safe conservative territory in recent years, but Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their ability to compete there. Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Kemp in the gubernatorial election in 2018.
The Boss Can Tell You to Show Up for a Trump Rally
The Atlantic – Charlotte Garden | Published: 8/28/2019
When President Trump arrived in Pennsylvania to give a speech about energy policy at a Royal Dutch Shell plant, he had a ready-made audience comprised of workers who, it turns out, were paid to be there. The company suggested this event was simply a “training day” featuring a prominent guest speaker and offered that workers could take a day of paid time off instead of attending, which would mean they would lose overtime pay. That alternative may have been realistic for some workers, but others must have felt the only option was to attend the rally. Employers have a largely unconstrained ability to try to influence their workers’ political choices. Sometimes, employers and their lobbyists hope to benefit from workers’ legitimacy on issues that affect them by leveraging their voices in lobbying campaigns.
Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite
ENM News – Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2019
The most riveting aspect of the case against Gregory Craig, one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent lawyers, is not his innocence or guilt. Rather, it is the depiction of the seamy world of power brokers like Craig that prosecutors have painted during testimony and in an array of court filings. Craig is charged with lying to investigators about the role of his law firm – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom – in a public relations effort surrounding a report it created for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The details of the case include a $4 million payment shunted through a secret offshore account to Skadden and a bungled wiretap by a suspected Russian intelligence asset nicknamed “the angry midget.” They illustrate how lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations specialists leapt to cash in on a foreign government’s hopes of papering over its sordid reputation.
Trump’s Bank Has Tax Records Congress Is Seeking in Subpoenas Targeting the President’s Finances
MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2019
President Trump’s biggest lender has in its possession tax records Congress is seeking in targeting the president’s financial dealings, the bank told a federal appeals court. The disclosure from Deutsche Bank came in response to a court order as part of a legal battle between Congress and the president over access to Trump’s business records. The revelation provides new details about the pool of possible documents Congress could eventually obtain. The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees have subpoenaed the banks for years of financial documents from the president, his three eldest children, and the president’s companies.
Trump’s ‘Chopper Talk’ Puts Media on the Defensive
Politico – Michael Calderone and Daniel Lippman | Published: 8/22/2019
As reporters shouted questions above the din of a helicopter’s churning engines, President Trump picked the ones he wanted and brushed past those he did not. The impromptu news conference near Marine One may have looked bizarre to veteran observers of the White House, but there is a method to the seeming madness. The “Chopper Talk” sessions, as comedian Stephen Colbert has dubbed them, serve multiple goals for Trump, insiders say. They allow Trump to speak more often in front of the cameras than his predecessors, yet on his own terms. He makes headline-ready pronouncements and airs grievances for anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour, and then walks away when he has had enough. Trump’s freewheeling sessions have essentially replaced the formal White House press briefing.
Watchdog: Comey violated FBI policies in handling of memos
AP News – Eric Tucker | Published: 8/29/2019
James Comey violated FBI policies in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with President Trump in the weeks before he was fired as director of the bureau, the Justice Department’s inspector general said. The watchdog’s office said Comey broke FBI rules by giving one memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter. Comey also failed to notify the FBI after he was dismissed in May 2017 that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home, the report said. But the inspector general also concluded none of the information shared with the reporter was classified.
Canada – ‘Show Up and Do Something’: Critics call on lobbying commissioner to act on Dion report
Hill Times – Samantha Wright Allen and Beatrice Paez | Published: 8/26/2019
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s damning report on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau documented previously undisclosed interactions between SNC-Lavalin and the government during the embattled company’s pursuit of a deferred prosecution agreement, raising questions from critics about whether it was operating in full compliance with federal lobbying regulations or whether disclosure rules should change. Dion reported then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould faced political pressure to override a decision not to offer the company a remediation agreement that would spare SNC from a criminal trial, which could have barred the company from competing for federal contracts for 10 years. Dion ruled Trudeau improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars high-level officials from furthering another person’s or entity’s private interests.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Limestone County’s 10-Term Sheriff Arrested on Ethics, Theft Charges
AL.com – Ashley Remkus | Published: 8/22/2019
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was arrested on theft and ethics charges that include accusations of taking money from campaign and law enforcement accounts. Blakely was the subject of an investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission, which last year found probable cause the sheriff violated state ethics law. The commission sent the case to the attorney general’s office for investigation. In 2018, Blakely amended a 2016 ethics disclosure form to show he received more than $250,000 from Tennessee lottery and gaming establishments.
Arkansas – State Bureau OK’d to Hire Legal Counsel; in Corruption Probe, It’s to Go with Firm It Used Before
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Hunter Field | Published: 8/23/2019
The Arkansas legislative staff intends to rehire a law firm to represent it in the face of increasing requests from federal investigators. The probe into public corruption involving Arkansas lawmakers started at least six years ago with reports of legislators directing state General Improvement Fund grants to two nonprofits, a small college, and a substance abuse treatment center in exchange for kickbacks. The probe expanded to include lobbyists and former executives of a Missouri nonprofit, Preferred Family Healthcare, accused of paying bribes to Arkansas legislators in exchange for laws or state regulations favorable to their businesses. Also caught up was a former administrator of a youth lockup, accused of hiring a state legislator who was an attorney to perform political favors.
California – Will Letting Bars Stay Open Late Help Gavin Newsom? He’ll Soon Act on Bills Affecting His Company
Sacramento Bee – Sophia Bollag | Published: 8/27/2019
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose investments in the hospitality industry made him a millionaire, put his holdings in a blind trust after winning last year’s governor’s race. As a new officeholder, he issued an executive order forbidding state executive branch agencies from doing business with PlumpJack Group, the company he founded. Ethics experts say Newsom has done all he can short of selling his holdings to insulate himself from potential conflicts-of-interest. But as the state Legislature enters its final weeks for the year, Newsom will find himself faced with decisions about bills that could affect his bars, restaurants, and hotels. Experts say he will still face potential conflicts as long as he owns them.
Florida – In Campaign Shaded by #MeToo Claims, Former Commissioner Faces Man She Accused
Miami Herald – Martin Vassolo | Published: 8/22/2019
If all politics is personal, what is happening in Miami Beach appears to have gone beyond the pale. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Rafael Velasquez are running against each other this year for a seat on the Miami Beach City Commission, offering a unique glimpse at the dynamics of a post-#MeToo political campaign. Rosen Gonzalez had been helping Velasquez campaign for the commission in 2017 when she went public with her accusations that Velasquez exposed himself to her. Prosecutors declined to charge Velasquez and found evidence that conflicted with Rosen Gonzalez’s account, but did not pursue a counterclaim that she had fabricated the allegations.
Florida – State Senate Resolves Complaint Against NRA’s Top Lobbyist in Florida
Miami Herald – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/23/2019
The Florida Senate closed an investigation into NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, instructing her to amend disclosure reports but not issuing any sanctions. She was accused of failing to divulge hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments she received from the NRA as required by the law. Hammer received $979,000 from the NRA from 2014 to 2018. As the director of the pro-gun group Unified Sportsmen of Florida, Hammer earns an annual salary of $110,000. That organization has been receiving $216,000 a year in funding from the NRA. Legislative officials said Unified Sportsmen’s lobbying reports should be amended to reflect its relationship with the NRA and the funding it has received. Hammer was directed to amend lobbyist registrations to reflect she was employed by Unified Sportsmen of Florida to represent the NRA.
Kentucky – Lexington Real Estate Executive Charged with 16 Campaign Finance Violations
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 8/27/2019
A Lexington business executive was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury for 16 violations of Kentucky’s campaign finance law. Timothy Wayne Wellman was charged for allegedly giving campaign contributions to straw donors and then reimbursing those contributors after the donations were made. State law prohibits individuals from giving more than $2,000 per election cycle. He was indicted in June on nine federal counts of allegedly lying and instructing others to lie about campaign contributions to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council candidates during the May 2018 primary.
Maine – Inside Susan Collins’ Reelection Fight in the Age of Trump
Politico – Burgess Everett | Published: 8/26/2019
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the race of her life despite her universal name recognition and bipartisan reputation. President Trump is targeting Maine as a battleground while his divisive politics has cleaved the state in two, and Collins shares the ticket with him. National Democrats, meanwhile, are backing Sara Gideon as her likely opponent, a battle-tested statehouse speaker who raised more than $1 million in the week after her launch. Projected to be the most expensive in Maine’s history, the race is of imperative importance for party leaders and the Senate institution itself. With scarce opportunities elsewhere, Senate Democrats essentially need Gideon to win to gain a minimum of three seats and the majority. In the Senate, a Collins loss would be a potentially fatal blow to the reeling center of the chamber.
Maryland – Maryland Horse Racing Commission Dominated by Industry Players. They Manage Cash Awards – and Win Them.
Baltimore Sun – Doug Donovan | Published: 8/22/2019
State law for three decades has allowed no more than four members of the nine-seat Maryland Racing Commission to “have a financial interest” in horse racing. But today, six commissioners have a financial stake in the sport and five of them own or breed racehorses that are eligible to receive cash bonuses from an incentive program established to bolster Maryland’s equine industry, The Baltimore Sun found. All five have participated in decisions determining the size of the awards despite a state ethics opinion that some believe prohibits regulators from voting on matters that could benefit their interests.
Massachusetts – Lobbyist Caught Up in State Police Case Is Known for Her Edge on Beacon Hill
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 8/22/2019
To federal authorities, Anne Lynch was a willing partner in a complex bribery scheme allegedly intended to benefit herself and the head of a State Police union. To the Massachusetts Movers Association, however, she was organized and thorough, and in the nearly 10 years she managed the trade group, she showed she would not be taken lightly. Her blunt approach made her a longtime, if not high-profile, player in various industry circles on Beacon Hill, where she evolved from managing the day-to-day business of trade associations to running a lobbying firm paid hundreds of thousands to push the interests of dozens of organizations. That included the powerful state troopers union, with whose president, authorities alleged, the work veered into something criminal.
Michigan – Candidate Who Wanted City as White ‘as Possible’ Withdraws from Council Race in Michigan
USA Today – Jackie Smith (Port Huron Times Herald) | Published: 8/26/2019
A city council candidate in Michigan whose racist comments have garnered nationwide attention has formally withdrawn from the race. Marysville Mayor Dan Damman said Jean Cramer submitted a letter withdrawing three days after he called for her to do so. During a city election forum, Cramer had been the first to respond to a question about attracting foreign-born residents to the community when she responded: “Keep Marysville a white community as much as possible. In a follow-up question from a reporter after the event, Cramer confirmed her beliefs. Her name will still appear on the November 5 ballot.
Michigan – Former State Rep. Todd Courser Pleads No Contest to Willful Neglect of Duty
MLive.com – Julie Mack | Published: 8/28/2019
Former Michigan Rep. Todd Courser pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer, a misdemeanor related to the 2015 scandal that forced him out of office. The misconduct involves soliciting a state employee to send out a false email. Soon after he was elected in 2014, Courser became the focus of a sex scandal involving his affair with then state Rep. Cindy Gamrat. To cover up the affair, he asked an aide to share an email containing outlandish allegations against him so rumors of his affair with Gamrat would pale in comparison and not be believed. A House investigation found the lawmakers “abused their offices” by directing staff to facilitate their affair, and they also blurred lines between official and political work.
Michigan – ‘There’s a Gray Area’: Campaign finance experts weigh in on Inman bribery case
Michigan Advance – Nick Manes | Published: 8/21/2019
To campaign finance watchdogs, the word “corruption” may be getting more difficult to legally define, but the case against indicted Michigan Rep. Larry Inman appears to be a near-textbook example. Richard Hall, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of Michigan, was blunt in his assessment of the text messages allegedly sent by Inman to union officials seeking campaign contributions in exchange for a vote against prevailing wage repeal. “As a student of campaign finance law, I don’t know how this case doesn’t meet the standard of causing the appearance of corruption,” Hall said. But Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the case against Inman gets into murky territory regarding the difference between campaign donations and bribes.
Montana – Group Files Challenge to Bullock’s Executive Order on ‘Dark Money’ and State Contracts
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 8/28/2019
The Illinois Opportunity Project asked a federal judge to strike down Montana’s nearly year-old policy that requires certain businesses seeking contracts with the state to disclose donors and spending on elections. Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order saying that to receive a state contract, an organization must report its political contributions. The order extends to so-called social welfare nonprofit organizations that, under campaign finance laws, do not have to disclose their donors. It applies to groups that have spent more than $2,500 over the past two-year cycle and is for contracts of more than $50,000 for goods or $25,000 for services.
New Hampshire – Trump’s Revival of Claim of Voting Fraud in New Hampshire Alarms Some State Republicans
Savannah Morning News – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/29/2019
It was one of the first claims President-elect Donald Trump made about voter fraud in the wake of his 2016 victory: that his close loss in New Hampshire was propelled by thousands of illegal ballots cast by out-of-state voters. Trump’s revival of that false assertion as he ramps up his reelection campaign is now alarming some New Hampshire Republicans, who fear the president’s allegations could undermine confidence in next year’s election. Shortly after his inauguration, the president announced plans for a commission to investigate alleged voter fraud, which ended up disbanding barely a year later with no findings. With his reelection campaign now underway, Trump has returned to the topic.
New Jersey – Booker’s Mayoral Campaign Profited from Corrupt Newark Agency, Jailed Official Told
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/28/2019
The former director of the agency that once managed Newark’s water told federal investigators in 2015 that she pressured vendors to make campaign contributions to then-Mayor Cory Booker and his political friends, new court records show. Linda Watkins-Brashear, who is currently serving an eight-year sentence for soliciting bribes in exchange for no-show contracts, said a Booker ally at the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. set a donation goal for vendors who usually bought $500 fundraising tickets without question. The records raise new questions about Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, a tenure that was a springboard to his successful U.S. Senate campaign and his current bid to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. Booker has said he was unaware of the corruption that eventually led to the agency’s downfall.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Says Fired Worker’s Social Media Posts Offensive, Declines Hiring Questions
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 8/22/2019
After two days of silence since his administration fired an employee for his ant-Semitic social media posts, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy refused to say who hired Jeffrey Dye and whether he personally knew of Dye’s criminal history. Murphy may continue to face questions about Dye, just as he has about other people with questionable backgrounds who were hired by his administration. The governor and his top-ranking officials were unable to answer who had hired Al Alverez at the Schools Development Authority last year even though Alvarez had been accused of sexual assault, an allegation he denies and for which he was never charged. Murphy has also refused to say whether he knew about a top aide’s connection to a campaign finance scandal in Bermuda.
New York – A Lobbyist Gave $900,000 in Donations. Whose Money Is It?
EMN News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2019
Since 2014, David Rich has doled out more than 200 campaign contributions totaling over $900,000. Rich is not a billionaire; he is the in-house lobbyist for the Greater New York Hospital Association, the state’s most powerful hospital and health system trade association. His contributions go to Democratic and Republican candidates alike, and the donations have one thing in common: they seem to line up with the interests of his employer. Although the nonprofit hospital association is free to make political contributions without an annual cap, it gives nothing to individual candidates, essentially allowing Rich’s personal donations to speak for the organization. That setup seems structured to enhance the profile and influence of Rich, who is responsible for the association’s federal, state, and local advocacy.
North Carolina – ‘Horrific Abuse of Office’: Wanda Greene gets 7 years for wide-ranging corruption
Ashville Citizen Times – Jennifer Bowman, John Boyle, and Mackenzie Wicker | Published: 8/28/2019
Calling her the “architect” of a culture of corruption in Buncombe County, a federal judge sentenced former top administrator Wanda Greene to seven years in prison for wide-ranging corrupt activity that she committed while heading one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing counties. She was ordered to also pay a $100,000 fine. Greene admitted to using county-issued credit cards to make thousands of dollars of personal purchases. She also admitted to fraudulently claiming Buncombe County as her own business on tax forms and used money set aside for settling a civil rights lawsuit to instead buy valuable life insurance policies for herself and other employees. Prosecutors say their investigation into Buncombe County corruption is ongoing.
North Carolina – Two Candidates for Governor Can Take Unlimited Donations. One Can’t.
Durham Herald-Sun – Colin Campbell | Published: 8/27/2019
A provision in a North Carolina law is allowing wealthy donors to make unlimited contributions that are being funneled into the two leading campaigns for governor, finance records show. Gov. Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest have benefited from Council of State affiliated party committees, which allows them to solicit and accept donations of any size in collaboration with other statewide elected office holders from their party. The money is then used to purchase core services such as advertising and consultants for the contenders’ main campaign organizations. It is an advantage that the third candidate in the race, Rep. Holly Grange, does not have because all of her supporters are limited to the $5,400 maximum contribution.
Oklahoma – A Senator’s Lake House vs. a Town Fighting Flooding
MSN – Sarah Mervosh (New York Times) | Published: 8/27/2019
For years, the town of Miami, Oklahoma, has fought a losing battle against a wealthy neighboring community near Grand Lake, a popular vacation spot, where high water makes for better boating but leaves little room for overflow when it rains. With heavy rains this year, the city of Miami and local Native American tribes say they were again left to pay the price when floodwater clogged upstream, damaging their homes, businesses, and ceremonial grounds. Now, the battle has escalated to the halls of Congress, after one of the lake’s residents, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, got involved. After decades of debate, local leaders had pinned their hopes on a rare chance to ask a federal agency to help stop the flooding. But Inhofe, who is known to swim and fly planes around the lake, introduced legislation that would hamstring that agency.
Pennsylvania – Woman Who Accused Ex-Pa. Lawmaker of Rape ‘Credible,’ But No Charges Will Be Brought, DA Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 8/26/2019
Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo said he believed a woman who accused a onetime Pennsylvania legislator of rape was “credible,” but it was not in the public interest to prosecute. Chardo, who investigated the sexual assault allegations against former state Rep. Brian Ellis, said a grand jury recommended no criminal charges but suggested ways to strengthen the Legislature’s policies on investigating sexual misconduct. He said there were complications to the case, including the woman’s inability to recall what happened the night of the alleged assault – she has said she believes she was drugged, which resulted in memory loss – as well as Ellis’ decision to invoke his right not to testify before the grand jury. “This whole experience has changed me fundamentally as a human being,” the accuser said in an interview. “It’s not just what happened to me, it’s the whole process.”
Texas – Local City Councilman’s One-Finger Salute Stirs Controversy
KWTX – Chelsea Edwards | Published: 8/22/2019
Copperas Cove Councilmember Charlie Youngs was caught on camera sticking his middle finger up while colleague Kirby Lack was talking during a meeting. Youngs said he should not have made the obscene gesture, and said he was actually flipping off someone in the audience who threatened to hurt him last December. Lack said if Youngs does not resign by the next council meeting, he is taking the issue up with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Texas – Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Secret Audio of Texas House Speaker Blurs Line Between Journalism, Activism
Dallas News – Rebekah Allen | Published: 8/22/2019
For the past month, Michael Quinn Sullivan has been the narrator of this year’s most explosive Texas political firestorm. On his website the Texas Scorecard, Sullivan broke the news of a scandal involving state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, which forced the lawmaker to publicly apologize for trashing his colleagues in a secret meeting. Sullivan boats that he is a watchdog, shedding light on politicians behaving badly. At the same time, he refuses to release his exclusive recording of his meeting with Bonnen. For years, Sullivan has been fighting to operate on this knife’s edge, one where he can freely continue his work influencing lawmakers and donating money to candidates, while labeling himself a member of the media.
Washington DC – The Little Firm That Got a Big Chunk of D.C.’s Lottery and Sports Gambling Contract Has No Employees
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 8/28/2019
The Greek company Intralot, which received a $215 million contract to bring sports gambling to the District of Columbia and to continue running its lottery, says more than half the work will go to a small local firm, a condition that helped the gaming giant win the no-bid contract. The firm, Veterans Services Corp., will “perform the ENTIRE subcontract with its own organization and resources,” according to a document signed by an Intralot executive. City law requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses to grow the local economy. But Veterans Services appears to have no employees, according to interviews and records. Until recently, the company’s website touted executives who did not work there.
West Virginia – Is It Unconstitutional to Sleep in Your Home? For a Governor, Perhaps
New York Times – Campbell Robertson | Published: 8/22/2019
For over a year in West Virginia courtrooms, and longer than that among lawmakers and pundits, a debate has been bubbling about where the state’s governor spends his nights. Not that the facts are in much dispute: Most everyone concurs that Gov. Jim Justice does not spend them in Charleston, the capital. The question is whether that arrangement is allowed. The debate returned to court for a hearing in a lawsuit brought by a Democratic lawmaker. The suit, which seeks a court order requiring the Republican governor to reside in Charleston, is based on a clause in the West Virginia Constitution, which declares that all state executive officials except for the attorney general shall “reside at the seat of government during their terms of office.” The argument about the governor’s residence is the tip of a much larger and broader debate over his tenure.
August 29, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Facebook Tightens Political Ad Rules, But Leaves Loopholes” by Barbara Ortutay for AP News Kentucky: “Lexington Real Estate Executive Charged with 16 Campaign Finance Violations” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader Elections National: “The Boss Can Tell […]
National: “Facebook Tightens Political Ad Rules, But Leaves Loopholes” by Barbara Ortutay for AP News
Kentucky: “Lexington Real Estate Executive Charged with 16 Campaign Finance Violations” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader
National: “The Boss Can Tell You to Show Up for a Trump Rally” by Charlotte Garden for The Atlantic
National: “Joe Walsh Says Trump Is ‘Unfit’ to Be President. Some Say the Same About Him.” by Matt Stevens and Annie Karni (New York Times) for ENM News
National: “Barr Books Trump’s Hotel for $30,000 Holiday Party” by Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump’s Bank Has Tax Records Congress Is Seeking in Subpoenas Targeting the President’s Finances” by Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for MSN
Alabama: “Limestone County’s 10-Term Sheriff Arrested on Ethics, Theft Charges” by Ashley Remkus for AL.com
National: “Sen. Johnny Isakson to Resign at End of the Year” by Burgess Everett for Politico
National: “Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite” by Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) for ENM News
August 27, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
Maine lawmakers voted to pass Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed $105 million bond to fund transportation efforts during the one-day special legislative session on Monday, August 26. The transportation bond to upgrade roads, bridges, ports, rail and air transportation, and to […]
Maine lawmakers voted to pass Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed $105 million bond to fund transportation efforts during the one-day special legislative session on Monday, August 26.
The transportation bond to upgrade roads, bridges, ports, rail and air transportation, and to repair culverts and restore a commercial fishing wharf will now head to the ballot for voters on November 5.
The three proposed bonds for land conservation projects; infrastructure and economic development; and environment and energy projects all failed to reach the two-thirds vote needed to pass.
August 23, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Cherokee Nation Sending First-Ever Delegate to Congress Newsweek – K Thor Jensen | Published: 8/20/2019 The Cherokee Nation is appointing its first delegate to Congress. Two Native American tribes, the Cherokee and the Choctaw, are both granted the right to […]
Cherokee Nation Sending First-Ever Delegate to Congress
Newsweek – K Thor Jensen | Published: 8/20/2019
The Cherokee Nation is appointing its first delegate to Congress. Two Native American tribes, the Cherokee and the Choctaw, are both granted the right to send delegates to the House of Representatives. The Choctaw still have not exercised that right, but the Cherokee are in the process of sending their first: Lobbyist Kimberly Teehee, who served as President Obama’s senior policy advisor for Native American affairs. Representation in the federal government is increasingly important for many Native Americans who are worries about the Keystone XL pipeline and other encroachments on tribal lands, as well as enduring poverty, health issues, and infrastructure problems.
Do Trump Officials Plan to Break Centuries of Precedent in Divvying Up Congress?
National Public Radio – Hansi Lo Wang | Published: 8/14/2019
Since the first U.S. census in 1790, the Constitution has called for a head count every 10 years of “persons” living in the U.S. to determine the number of congressional seats each state gets. The counts have always included both citizens and noncitizens, regardless of immigration status, although the history of who was counted and how is complicated. In recent weeks, however, the Census Bureau’s director, Steven Dillingham, has not been able to provide a clear answer as to whether citizenship will be factored into apportionment after the 2020 census. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argue the Census Bureau should exclude unauthorized immigrants from numbers used for apportionment because the framers did not intend for immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization to be included among the “persons” described in the Constitution.
F-bombs Away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever
The Hill – Judy Kurtz | Published: 8/19/2019
Profanity, once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office, is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu. And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before. GovPredict, a government relations software company, found the frequency of lawmakers using four-letter words has increased steadily since 2014. A 2012 Forbes opinion piece asked readers, “When Can a Politician Use Profanity, If Ever?” But these days, look no further than countless congressional social media accounts and political rallies for R-rated language.
FEC Chairwoman: Penalty ‘slashed’ for ex-congressman who used leftover campaign money to lobby
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 8/19/2019
Former U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, who diverted leftover campaign money towards dinners and dues at a private club outside of the Capitol just as he began to lobby his former congressional colleagues will only have to pay back a fraction of the funds he misused. The FEC stalemated in a vote over whether to issue a more severe fine, one that would hold him personally liable. The outcome comes as the FEC begins cracking down on so-called zombie campaigns, pots of campaign donations that live on long after the candidate has vacated office. But the small fine shows the limitations of the FEC under its current structure, campaign finance experts say.
Industry Flexes Political Muscle in States to Criminalize Aggressive Pipeline Protests
Insurance Journal – Jennifer Dlouhy (Bloomberg) | Published: 8/20/2019
After protesters disrupted construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota by chaining themselves to construction equipment and pitching tents along the route, oil and chemical companies found a way to keep it from happening again – they made it a crime. The companies, including Koch Industries, lobbied state Legislatures to effectively outlaw demonstrations near pipelines, chemical plants, and other infrastructure. Nine states have gone along so far, in some cases classifying the activities as felonies. More are considering legislation. The lobbying campaign has raised concerns about corporate influence muzzling free speech. Industry representatives portray their efforts as a necessary counter to the increasingly aggressive tactics of activists.
Inspector General Finds Politically Motivated Harassment at State Department
Washington Post – Karen DeYoung | Published: 8/15/2019
A report by the State Department’s inspector general concludes that leadership of a leading department bureau mistreated and harassed staffers, accused them of political disloyalty to the Trump administration, and retaliated against them. In response to repeated counseling by more senior State officials that he address staff concerns, the report concluded, Kevin Moley, assistant secretary for international affairs, “did not take significant action.” The report is a sweeping condemnation of Moley and more specifically of his former senior adviser, Mari Stull. A former lobbyist and consultant for international food and agriculture interests, Stull left the department in January following press reports that, among other things, she had compiled a list of staffers deemed insufficiently loyal to the Trump administration.
These Political Super Fans Turn Their Activism into Collector’s Items
CNBC – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 8/17/2019
Leslie Zukor is such a Bernie Sanders super fan that she has more than 500 pieces of campaign merchandise and memorabilia dedicated to the presidential hopeful. Buttons make up 80% of her collection, but she has plenty of more offbeat items, too – including 10 custom puppets modeled after Sanders. Each cost her between $100 and $500. Zukor says she has spent over $1,000 on Sanders campaign merchandise this year alone. While that may sound like a lot to people who are not politics junkies, it pales in comparison to what some other hardcore collectors spend. These people often have tens of thousands of political items in their collections and belong to national groups such as the American Political Items Collectors.
Trump Wields Power Against Political Enemies
Beaumont Enterprise – Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 8/15/2019
By pressuring the Israeli government to bar entry by two members of Congress, President Trump once again used the power and platform of his office to punish his political rivals. It is a pattern that has intensified during the first two and a half years of Trump’s presidency, as he has increasingly governed to the tune of his grievances. Taken as a whole, Trump’s use of political power to pursue personal vendettas is unprecedented in modern history, said Matthew Dallek, a political historian who teaches at George Washington University.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to Announce Run for 3rd Term
AP News – Rachel LaCorte | Published: 8/22/2019
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has ended his climate change-focused 2020 presidential bid, is set to announce he will seek a third term as governor. He is the third Democrat to end his presidential bid after U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper withdrew. While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages: the third debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee’s key issue. He had recently hit one of the markers of 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Orthodontist Accused of Bribing Former Arkansas Lawmaker
Courthouse News Service – Erik De La Garza | Published: 8/19/2019
A Florida-based orthodontist who operates several clinics in Arkansas was charged in a bribery and fraud scheme involving disgraced former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty in June for his role in the conspiracy. The 15-count indictment accuses Benjamin Burris with paying approximately $157,500 in kickbacks in part for Hutchinson to take official action as a state legislator to benefit the orthodontist and his companies. Prosecutors say the payments were disguised as retainer payments and funneled through Hutchinson’s law firm. Burris also allegedly gave Hutchinson gifts, including free orthodontic services for his family and the use of a private plane to travel to a college football game.
Arkansas – Panel Cautions Firms Over Lobbying Arkansas Sheriffs
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Hunter Field | Published: 8/17/2019
The Arkansas Ethics Commission issued public letters of caution to four jail services companies for failing to properly report contributions to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association. The companies settled with the commission, agreeing they violated state laws by failing to register as lobbyists and failing to report lobbying expenses. But several said they disagree with the commission’s conclusions. They also questioned whether the commission’s findings would have a negative impact on corporate sponsorships of all type of government-related trade associations. The companies sponsored meals and a fishing tournament for the association that were attended by “sheriffs and other public servants,” according to the Ethics Commission.
California – Anaheim Mayor Sidhu Pays Off 2016 Assembly Debt by Fundraising While Mayor
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 8/20/2019
Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu paid off 2016 California Assembly campaign debts and put a dent in his 2018 mayoral campaign debt after fundraising since December in both campaign committees. It is a move some experts said is an example of loopholes in campaign finance regulations. Fair Political Practices Commission spokesperson Jay Wierenga, speaking generally and not specifically about Sidhu’s campaign finances, said double fundraising is not illegal. “… Generally speaking, it is permissible to have multiple committees open at once, but each committee must be used only for expenses associated for that election,” Wierenga wrote in an email.
California – Cal Channel to End Broadcasting After Three Decades
Capitol Weekly – Jessica Hice | Published: 8/15/2019
The California Channel, a decades-old public broadcaster that has historically provided on-demand video access to the Legislature, the state Supreme Court, and the Capitol community, will cease operations in October. Supported by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association since 1993, it is one of the few services that offer one-on-one interviews with all candidates for the state’s elected offices. The Cal Channel has long been viewed as the state’s version of C-SPAN. Cal Channel President John Hancock says the decision to end broadcasting was due in part to the passage of Proposition 54, which requires the Legislature to make audio and visual recordings of its legislative proceedings public within 72 hours. The Legislature has its own television and radio services that cover politicians and send stories to their districts.
California – Oakland Coliseum Authority CEO Sought $50,000 Payment from RingCentral for Naming Rights Deal
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 8/21/2019
Scott McKibben, the former chief executive officer of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, sought a $50,000 fee from RingCentral for helping the company negotiate a stadium naming rights deal with the public agency he oversees, a possible violation of state conflict-of-interest law. Invoices show McKibben billed the company for the consultant fee as part of the three-year deal worth $3 million to rename the stadium where the Oakland A’s and Raiders play. McKibben resigned while still under contract to the authority a day after the board held a closed-door meeting to discuss the matter.
California – While He Was Illegally Lobbying, Former L.A. Official Was Also Getting Paid by City Hall
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/20/2019
Michael LoGrande, the former head of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, admitted he violated the city’s “revolving door” law, which prohibits high-level officials from lobbying elected officials, managers, and other decision-makers during their first 12 months after leaving city employment. LoGrande left his government job in January 2016 after spending more than five years running the department, which reviews real estate development projects. Within a few months, he was lobbying planning department officials on behalf of the clients he had picked up while operating his new land-use consulting business. The Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted to fine LoGrande $281,250, the largest penalty levied against a current or former city employee.
Colorado – Aurora City Council Approves New Ethics Law, Opposes Lobbying Registration
Colorado Sentinel – Kara Mason | Published: 8/20/2019
Despite taking other legislative steps toward greater transparency, a majority of Aurora City Council members decided against an ordinance mandating lobbyists register if working in the city. Several city council members cited concerns of who would qualify as a lobbyist and whether non-profit organizations attempting to seek influence on the city council would be required to register under the proposed rules. The council approved a new ethics code, which tasks an independent panel of judges with investigating complaints, prohibits the mayor and city council members from accepting gifts valued more than $300, and prevents council members from engaging in conflicts-of-interest.
Colorado – Gravel Pit Permit Must Be Reheard Because of Contributions to Larimer County Commissioner’s Campaign Before Vote
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 8/22/2019
Advocates for limiting contributions to political campaigns often cite the potential for large sums of money to influence decisions by public officials. But rarely do allegations of conflicts-of-interest related to campaign cash result in action against elected officials and their donors. That changed in Colorado when a judge ruled Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly should have recused himself from voting on a controversial plan to mine gravel near a residential development in 2018 because he received $10,000 in campaign money from the owners of the mining company two years before. Observers as well as lawyers on both sides of the case say such a decision is unusual.
Connecticut – Ernie Newton Pleads Guilty to Three Campaign Finance Charges, Avoids Jail; Six-Year Prosecution Ends
Hartford Courant – David Owens | Published: 8/21/2019
Ernie Newton, the former state senator and now a Bridgeport City Council member, pleaded guilty to three felony campaign finance violations, but avoided prison. The guilty pleas and an 18-month suspended jail sentence close a nearly seven years of litigation over allegations that Newton received illegal contributions in order to qualify for more than $80,000 in public financing for a 2012 state senate run he ultimately lost. He initially faced campaign finance violations and two counts of first-degree larceny as a result of an investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission. A jury convicted Newton of three campaign finance violations but could not reach verdicts on the other charges.
Connecticut – Hartford Athletic Soccer CEO Bruce Mandell Pays $45,000 Fine for Illegal Campaign Contributions
Hartford Courant – John Lender | Published: 8/21/2019
Hartford Athletic Chief Executive Officer Bruce Mandell paid a $45,000 fine to the State Elections Enforcement Commission for making illegal campaign contributions in 2018, many of them in the names of his wife and their college-age daughter, to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, the state GOP, and others. The violations included exceeding the limit for an individual contribution to a candidate or committee; making “straw donations” in the name of another person; using “business assets” to make contributions; and making a contribution as a “prospective state contractor,” a practice that is banned under state clean-election laws.
Florida – This Secretive Group Is Trying to Create Barriers to Amending Florida’s Constitution
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 8/19/2019
A secretive organization with the goal of thwarting amendments approved by voters after the 2020 election cycle has spent more than $800,000 on paid petition gatherers in the last four months, using funds from undisclosed sources and raising the specter of another high stakes fight over the future of energy regulation in Florida. The group calls itself Keep Our Constitution Clean and says its purpose is to keep the state’s premier legal document uncluttered by special interest measures. But activists involved in other petition drives say they believe the group is linked to the utility industry, which is opposing a proposed amendment that would deregulate the state’s monopoly utilities.
Hawaii – Critics Question Former Council Chair’s Ties to North Shore Project
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 8/20/2019
One of the last actions Ernie Martin took as Honolulu City Council chairperson last year was to recommend approval for a development that had been plagued by permit violations and community complaints. By the time the permit was reviewed and approved in November, Martin had accepted $9,450 in congressional campaign contributions from developers associated with the Hanapohaku LLC project and their family members. Immediately upon leaving office, he got a job at the law firm that represents Hanapohaku. Opponents of the development are crying foul over what they believe to be a conflict-of-interest.
Illinois – Report Finds Sexual Harassment, Inappropriate Behavior and Bullying Widespread in Springfield; House Speaker Michael Madigan Takes Responsibility ‘for Not Doing Enough’
Chicago Tribune – Dan Patrella and Ray Long | Published: 8/20/2019
An outside investigation into sexual harassment and bullying within Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office and his Democratic caucus found people across the Capitol repeatedly have been subjected to sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. The report found Madigan’s former chief of staff, Tim Mapes, made inappropriate comments to a staffer but uncovered insufficient evidence to conclude that state Rep. Lou Lang, a former top Madigan lieutenant, sexually harassed a lobbyist. The report notes that allegations of harassment and other bad behavior are not limited to the speaker’s office or the House Democratic caucus.
Indiana – Rep. Dan Forestal Threatened Cops’ Jobs, Impersonated Police and Tried to Buy Cocaine, Police Say
Indianapolis Star – Ryan Martin and Chris Sikich | Published: 8/14/2019
Indiana Rep. Dan Forestal threatened to use his power to punish police officers who pulled him over, according to a police report, which also accused the lawmaker of trying to buy cocaine, impersonating law enforcement, struggling with officers, and drunken driving. A wife and husband told police they were outside their home when Forestal drove up in his car. According to the police report, Forestal told them: “I’m a legit officer doing a drug bust and today is the last day before the feds descend and start kicking in doors.” It is not clear from the report why Forestal approached this particular home.
Maryland – Baltimore City Council Passes New, Tighter Ethics Rules after Pugh Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Ian Duncan | Published: 8/19/2019
The Baltimore City Council passed new, tighter ethics regulations in the aftermath of the self-dealing scandal and resignation of former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The bill requires people filing financial disclosure forms to list all directorships they hold, not just those at entities that do business with the city. Pugh resigned after collecting some $800,000 to produce her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books. The University of Maryland Medical System, which she helped oversee as a board member, paid her $500,000. Pugh also accepted payments from other entities that she approved to do business with the city. The bill is the first piece of ethics reform legislation to pass the council since the scandal.
Massachusetts – Feds Say Former Mass. State Police Union Head Dana Pullman Used Union as His ‘Personal Piggy Bank,’ to Fund Trips, Meals and Romantic Affair
MassLive – Michelle Williams | Published: 8/21/2019
Dana Pullman, former president of the Massachusetts State Police union, and the group’s former lobbyist, Anne Lynch, were arrested for what prosecutors say was a scheme to garner kickbacks and misappropriate union funds. Prosecutors said Pullman tapped union funds for personal expenses including gifts for someone he was having a romantic relationship with and collected kickbacks from Lynch for steering business to her firm. In one instance, Pullman allegedly got his union treasurer to issue a $250,000 check to Lynch’s firm for work it did in negotiating a settlement with the state to compensate troopers who had worked on days off. After the firm was paid, Lynch allegedly wrote herself a $50,000 check from the company’s account, then made a check out to Pullman’s spouse for $20,000, which was falsely classified as a payment for consulting work.
Michigan – Michigan Panel Puts Brakes on $1.1M Trucking Grant after Free Press Report
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 8/13/2019
The Michigan State Administrative Board put the brakes on a $1.1-million safety education grant to an arm of the Michigan Trucking Association, the lobbyist for the trucking industry. The board, which is normally a rubber stamp for state contracts and grants that are already in the pipeline, took the unusual action after The Detroit Free Press reported the Michigan Center for Truck Safety, a nonprofit agency housed inside the offices of the trucking association, has received about $8 million in such grants since 2012, funded by truck registration fees. The Free Press reported the center uses some of the grant money to pay the trucking association tens of thousands of dollars in rent and other expenses, and a monitoring report found the center had received reimbursement from the state for close to $300,000 in impermissible expenses.
Mississippi – Four Louisiana Men to Plead Guilty in Mississippi Bribe Scheme
AP News – Jeff Amy | Published: 8/18/2019
Four Louisiana men say they will plead guilty to charges they tried to bribe a Mississippi sheriff with $2,000 in casino chips, seeking lucrative jail contracts. Michael LeBlanc Sr., Michael LeBlanc Jr., Tawasky Ventroy, and Jacque Jones have filed notices in federal court saying they will change their previous not guilty pleas. All are accused of scheming to win contracts to sell inmates phone service and commissary goods at a jail in Mississippi’s Kemper County. They are also accused of paying former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps $2,000 and promising him future bribes to secure his help in influencing sheriffs. Epps was convicted of taking more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence.
Mississippi – ‘She Was in Fear of Him,’ Judge Says Before Finding Miss. Lawmaker Not Guilty of Domestic Violence
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Justin Mitchell | Published: 8/20/2019
Mississippi Rep. Douglas McLeod was found not guilty of domestic violence after his wife unexpectedly took the stand and testified on his behalf. Michele McLeod said on the evening of May 18, her husband had drunk less than two tumblers full of wine and mixed them with prescription-strength ibuprofen. She said he was “in a state of delirium” when one of his limbs, “probably his arm,” hit her face. George County Justice Court Judge Mike Bullock said, before making his verdict, that he could understand how the hit could have happened accidentally after her testimony. Body-camera footage from a responding George County sheriff’s deputy showed Michele McLeod minutes after 911 was called. There was blood down her nose, around her mouth, and covering her hands.
Missouri – Former Economic Development CEO Gets 3 Years’ Probation, $20K Fine for Stenger Scheme
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippman | Published: 8/16/2019
Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. Sweeney admitted she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy.
Oregon – Sheriff in Conservative County Defends Free Press
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 8/21/2019
Malheur County officials asked Sheriff Brian Wolfe to assess whether the Malheur Enterprise, a small newspaper in Oregon, has engaged in criminal conduct in its reporting. The newspaper has been investigating state Rep. Greg Smith’s business deals and contract work in the county. The officials asked whether reporters’ persistent attempts to contact officials, sometimes after business hours or using their personal email accounts, amounted to harassment. Wolfe said an inquiry determined no laws had been broken. “As an elected sheriff, we will always respect the constitutional rights of … everybody. We do believe in freedom of the press and free speech that we believe are our rights given by the Constitution …,” Wolfe said.
Pennsylvania – ‘It’s Disappointing’ Elections Board Reaffirms $29M Voting Machine Contract Over Objections, Violations
Philadelphia Tribune – Michael D’Onofrio | Published: 8/15/2019
Philadelphia’s acting board of elections voted to keep its current contract for new voting machines, days after the city’s legal department notified elections officials the vendor, Election System & Software (ES&S), failed to disclose its lobbying activities. ES&S will pay a $2.9 million fine over the violations, or 10% percent of the contract. An investigation showed ES&S used a lobbyist and engaged in lobbying activities in 2017 and 2018. The lobbying activities included direct communication with then-city Commissioner Alan Schmidt. ES&S also failed to disclose campaign contributions by consultants to Schmidt and then-city Commissioner Lisa Deeley.
Rhode Island – RI’s Board of Elections Remains an Underfunded Campaign Finance Watchdog
The Public’s Radio – Ian Donnis | Published: 8/21/2019
Former Providence City Council President Luis Aponte was indicted in 2017 after the Rhode Island Board of Elections exposed how he had used more than $13,000 in campaign funds for personal use. Aponte pleaded no contest and resigned from his council seat. The case shows how the Board of Elections is playing a stepped-up role in policing the state’s campaign finance laws. Things have gotten better since the agency’s leadership changed in 2016. And the Elections Board’s top campaign finance investigator, Ric Thornton, is well respected for his work. But Sen. Sam Bell and others say that despite improvements, the board needs more funding to oversee the campaign money that flows through Rhode Island politics.
South Carolina – Columbia Airport Road May Be Renamed After Namesake Arrested for Soliciting a Prostitute
Charleston Post and Courier – Seanna Adcox | Published: 8/12/2019
State transportation commissioners will consider removing John Hardee’s name from the Columbia airport connector following their former colleague’s guilty plea on an obstruction charge and subsequent arrest on a prostitute solicitation charge. The John N. Hardee Expressway to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport was named in 1999 and opened in 2004, during Hardee’s first of two stints as a South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner. It is among more than 1,000 bridges, interchanges, and stretches of highway statewide that bear the names of local VIPs. Such road naming is done either at legislators’ request or directly by the DOT board.
South Dakota – Audit Finds South Dakota Democratic Party Failed to Report $2.5M in Disbursements to National Committee
Jamestown Sun – Seth Tupper (Rapid City Journal) | Published: 8/21/2019
An audit for the years 2015 and 2016 showed the South Dakota Democratic Party understated disbursements by $2.5 million, received $67,182 worth of contributions from unregistered organizations, and failed to disclose $46,097 worth of debts and obligations. The state Democratic Party ended up serving as a pass-through for money from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). But, according to the audit, the state party did not initially disclose the disbursements it made to the Democratic National Committee. The disbursements were disclosed in later, amended reports to the FEC.
Tennessee – State Officials Launch Probe of Former House Speaker Glen Casada’s Campaign Finances
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 8/14/2019
State officials initiated a probe of embattled former House Speaker Glen Casada’s campaign finances. The move by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance will force Casada to explain and defend how he received and spent campaign money for the first time in his nearly 20-year legislative career. Hank Fincher, a registry member, said the audit was necessary, given news reports about Casada’s spending. He noted how Casada used the state plane on the same day he attended a political event.
Texas – Committee Asks Texas Rangers to Investigate House Speaker’s Meeting with Empower Texans
Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/12/2019
The House General Investigating Committee unanimously voted to request the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit conduct an investigation into allegations of a quid pro quo offer made by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. The allegations surrounding Bonnen were raised recently by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the chief executive of the conservative political advocacy group Empower Texans. They revolve around a June meeting between Sullivan, Bonnen, and GOP Caucus Chairperson Dustin Burrows. Sullivan claims that during the meeting, Bonnen offered long sought-after press credentials for the organization’s news site in exchange for Empower Texans’ clout to go against 10 Republican incumbents during their re-election campaigns. Sullivan later revealed he secretly recorded the meeting, and those who have listened to it have said it largely supported Sullivan’s accusations.
Utah – A Draper Council Candidate Was Booted from the Race After Missing a Filing Deadline by One Minute. Now He Says the City’s Clock Was Wrong – and an Official Misstated the Deadline.
Salt Lake Tribune – Erin Alberti | Published: 8/19/2019
Hubert Huh was booted from the recent primary election for Draper City Council after officials said he was one minute late to make a campaign filing. Now, Huh is suing the city, saying the clock in their administrative office was more than two minutes fast, and the city recorder provided the wrong date in a notification of the campaign finance disclosure deadline.
Washington – More from the Matt Shea Files: GPS trackers, a ‘provisional government’ and a hunt for moles
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Chad Sokol | Published: 8/19/2019
Washington Rep. Matt Shea used the phrase “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God” repeatedly in emails to his associates on the far right, including militia members who took part in the armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge. Critics fear that Shea, an Army combat veteran, is justifying violence. In addition to running “background checks” on liberal activists and supporting military-style training for boys and young men, Shea has in recent years sought to purchase GPS tracking devices, compiled dossiers on local progressive leaders, and kept a blacklist of suspected informants in his network. Shea also distributed a list that purported to include the names and phone numbers of every law enforcement officer working in Washington state, saying it would help to “confirm or deny legitimacy” of investigators who made contact.
Washington DC – ‘It’s Disgraceful’: Pressure grows on Metro board member over role in Evans probe
Washington Post – Peter Jamison, Robert McCartney, and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 8/21/2019
Pressure is mounting on Corbett Price, the District of Columbia’s second voting board representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, to resign after allegations he leaned on the agency’s staff and took other steps to conceal an ethics violation by council member and former board member Jack Evans. An agency investigation found Evans failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest arising from his private consulting work for the city’s largest parking company. Records of the probe state both Evans and Price, in addition to falsely stating that Evans was cleared of wrongdoing, badgered the authority’s general counsel and maneuvered in other ways to prevent the findings from becoming public. Those allegations may have been a tipping point for some council members who did not support an earlier effort to remove Price from the board.
West Virginia – Lawmakers Call for Ethics Reform to Deal with Billionaire Resort-Owning Governor
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 8/21/2019
West Virginia lawmakers are calling for a thorough reexamination of the state’s ethics rules following a media investigation of the conflicts-of-interest created by Gov. Jim Justice’s ownership of The Greenbrier resort. The Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica found that, despite what the Justice administration called a “moratorium” on state spending at The Greenbrier, government agencies paid for more than $106,000 in meals and lodging at the luxury resort since Justice became governor. “He appears to be using public office for private gain,” said Sen. William Ihlenfeld. “I think the law can be beefed up to prevent this kind of thing.”
August 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Rhode Island: “RI’s Board of Elections Remains an Underfunded Campaign Finance Watchdog” by Ian Donnis for The Public’s Radio Ethics Arkansas: “Orthodontist Accused of Bribing Former Arkansas Lawmaker” by Erik De La Garza for Courthouse News Service California: […]
Rhode Island: “RI’s Board of Elections Remains an Underfunded Campaign Finance Watchdog” by Ian Donnis for The Public’s Radio
Arkansas: “Orthodontist Accused of Bribing Former Arkansas Lawmaker” by Erik De La Garza for Courthouse News Service
California: “Oakland Coliseum Authority CEO Sought $50,000 Payment from RingCentral for Naming Rights Deal” by David Debolt for San Jose Mercury News
Colorado: “Aurora City Council Approves New Ethics Law, Opposes Lobbying Registration” by Kara Mason for Colorado Sentinel
Illinois: “Report Finds Sexual Harassment, Inappropriate Behavior and Bullying Widespread in Springfield; House Speaker Michael Madigan Takes Responsibility ‘for Not Doing Enough’” by Dan Patrella and Ray Long for Chicago Tribune
Massachusetts: “Former State Police Union Chief, Lobbyist Arrested by FBI; Alleged Bribery Plot Uncovered” by Travis Andersen, Gal Tziperman Lotan, and Jeremy Fox for Boston Globe
Oregon: “Oregon Officials Request Criminal Investigation into Newspaper Reporters Over After-Hours Phone Calls, Emails” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for Seattle Times
West Virginia: “Lawmakers Call for Ethics Reform to Deal with Billionaire Resort-Owning Governor” by Ken Ward Jr. (Charleston Gazette-Mail) for ProPublica
National: “Cherokee Nation Sending First-Ever Delegate to Congress” by K Thor Jensen for Newsweek
August 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Tennessee: “State Officials Launch Probe of Former House Speaker Glen Casada’s Campaign Finances” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean Elections National: “Do Trump Officials Plan to Break Centuries of Precedent in Divvying Up Congress?” by Hansi Lo Wang […]
Tennessee: “State Officials Launch Probe of Former House Speaker Glen Casada’s Campaign Finances” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean
National: “Do Trump Officials Plan to Break Centuries of Precedent in Divvying Up Congress?” by Hansi Lo Wang for National Public Radio
National: “Feds Charge Ex-UAW Leader in Growing Corruption Scandal” by Robert Snell, Kalea Hall, and Breana Noble for Detroit News
National: “Trump Wields Power Against Political Enemies” by Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) for Beaumont Enterprise
California: “Former L.A. Planning Director Faces $281,000 Ethics Fine, the Largest of Its Kind” by David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and for Los Angeles Times
Washington DC: “Jack Evans Threatened Metro Officials’ Jobs in an Effort to Conceal Ethics Violation, Documents Show” by Robert McCartney for Washington Post
Texas: “Committee Asks Texas Rangers to Investigate House Speaker’s Meeting with Empower Texans” by Tessa Weinberg for Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Pennsylvania: “Philly’s Voting Machine Contract Will Move Forward Despite Vendor ES&S’ Failure to Disclose Its Use of Lobbyists” by Jonathan Lai for Philadelphia Inquirer
August 16, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At Def Con, Hackers and Lawmakers Came Together to Examine Holes in Election Security Seattle Times – Taylor Telford (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2019 Hackers came had come to the DefCon computer security conference for a chance to probe voting […]
At Def Con, Hackers and Lawmakers Came Together to Examine Holes in Election Security
Seattle Times – Taylor Telford (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2019
Hackers came had come to the DefCon computer security conference for a chance to probe voting machines used in U.S. elections. Def Con’s Voting Village, and the conference at large, has become a destination not only for hackers but also for lawmakers and members of the intelligence community trying to understand the flaws in the election system that allowed Russian hackers to intervene in the 2016 election and that could be exploited again in 2020. Harri Hursti, one of the event’s organizers, said almost all of the machines at the conference were still used in elections despite having well-known vulnerabilities that have been more or less ignored by the companies that sell them.
Donor with Deep Ukraine Ties Lent $500,000 to Biden’s Brother
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 8/15/2018
A donor with deep ties to Ukraine loaned Joe Biden’s younger brother $500, 000 at the same time the then-vice president oversaw U.S. policy toward the country. The 2015 loan came as Biden’s brother faced financial difficulties related to his acquisition of a multimillion-dollar vacation home, nicknamed “the Biden Bungalow,” in South Florida. There is no indication that the loan influenced Joe Biden’s official actions, but it furthers a decades-long pattern by which relatives of the former vice president have leaned on his political allies for money and otherwise benefited financially from the Biden name.
Hickenlooper Drops Presidential Bid, Says He’ll Give ‘Serious Thought’ to a Senate Run
Roll Call – Griffin Connolly | Published: 8/15/2019
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and said he will consider a run against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a battleground state that Democrats need to win to take control of the chamber. Hickenlooper, who espouses a tempered brand of liberal politics, failed to gain much national traction in his presidential bid. By the time he dropped out, he was not on pace to reach the 130,000-donor benchmark to qualify for the next presidential debates. If he enters the Senate race, Hickenlooper will become the immediate front-runner in a Democratic primary field that already has 12 candidates.
How a Trump Ally Tested the Boundaries of Washington’s Influence Game
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 8/13/2019
Elliot Broidy, who after having been shunned by some Republicans in the wake of his 2009 guilty plea to giving nearly $1 million in illegal gifts to New York State officials to help land a $250 million investment from the state’s pension fund, had worked himself into Donald Trump’s inner circle as a top fundraiser for his 2016 campaign and inauguration. The stature he suddenly assumed when Trump won the election allowed him to position himself as a premier broker of influence and access to the new administration. In the process, his international business came to overlap with his efforts to influence government policy in ways that have now made him the subject of an intensifying federal investigation. Broidy’s ascent was also further evidence of how Trump came to rely on people whose backgrounds and activities would have raised red flags in other campaigns and administrations.
‘If You’re a Good Worker, Papers Don’t Matter’: How a Trump construction crew has relied on immigrants without legal status
MSN – Joshua Partlow and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2019
For years, a roving crew of Latin American employees has worked at Trump Organization properties throughout the country. Their ranks included workers who entered the United States illegally, according to two former members of the crew. Another employee, still with the company, said that remains true today. The hiring practices are the latest example of the chasm between President Trump’s derisive rhetoric about immigrants and his company’s long-standing reliance on workers who cross the border illegally. It also raises questions about how fully the Trump Organization has followed through on its pledge to more carefully scrutinize the legal status of its workers, even as the administration launched a massive raid of undocumented immigrants, arresting about 680 people in Mississippi recently.
Interior Centralizes Ethics Reviews After Recent High-Profile Probes
The Hill – Rebecca Beitsch | Published: 8/14/2019
The Department of the Interior will be centralizing ethics reviews across its many agencies at its headquarters, following years of ethics investigations centered on many of the department’s top staff. Ethics officials at the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and others will report to ethics officials based at Interior’s headquarters rather than agency directors. Scott de le Vega, director of Interior’s Departmental Ethics Office, said the change was designed to ensure department’s 70,000 employees are getting consistent ethics advice regardless of which branch of the department they serve. But ethics officials who reviewed the plan criticized its broad focus on all agency employees rather than the high-level officials currently being investigated for ethical lapses.
Lobbyists Race to Cash in on Cannabis Boom
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/11/2019
Lobbying firms are taking advantage of the cannabis boom as a number of bills on the industry move through Congress and state Legislatures. As businesses look for help dealing with new legislative and regulatory challenges, K Street is rushing to capitalize, highlighted by the highest-grossing firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, launching a new “Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Industry Group.”
Trial of Former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig Highlights Crackdown on Foreign-Influence Industry
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/12/2019
In charging one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent attorneys, Gregory Craig, with lying in connection with his work for the Ukraine government at a leading law firm, the Justice Department signaled a new era for the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a once nearly dormant law that since 2017 has been invoked in more than 20 federal prosecutions aimed at combating foreign interference in U.S. politics. The charge against Craig stems from his alleged public relations work, rather than lobbying, while with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He is accused not of failing to register as a foreign agent under the law, but with lying and withholding information from Justice officials seeking to determine whether he was required to register.
Trump’s Opponents Want to Name His Big Donors. His Supporters Say It’s Harassment.
MSN – Katie Rogers and Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 8/9/2019
Calling out the people who fund campaigns is not a new tactic in politics, but the question of how much should be publicly disclosed about those donors has been an issue that Republicans have repeatedly raised in recent years. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case to uphold public disclosure, with Justice Antonin Scalia arguing later that without such revelation “democracy is doomed,” Republicans and wealthy allies have argued it results in donor harassment and has a chilling effect on free speech. The Supreme Court’s support for campaign finance disclosure laws has a built-in exemption for people who can show a realistic threat of harassment, and the renewed scrutiny on contributors to President Trump has also raised questions about what qualifies as donor harassment and who is entitled to privacy.
Canada – Trudeau Breached Conflict of Interest Act, Says Ethics Commissioner
Canada.com; Canadian Press – | Published: 8/14/2019
Canada’s ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Dion said Trudeau’s attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould on the matter violated the law that prohibits public office holders from using their position to try to influence a decision that would improperly further the private interests of a third party. Dion found little doubt that SNC-Lavalin would have benefited had Trudeau succeeded in convincing Wilson-Raybould to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who had refused to invite the engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement in order to avoid a criminal prosecution on fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Ethics Commission Says Airport Authority Employees Fall Under Ethics Law
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 8/7/2019
The Alabama Ethics Commission adopted an advisory opinion that employees of airport authorities are public employees and therefore subject to the state ethics law. Attorneys for the Birmingham and Huntsville airport authorities told the Ethics Commission that airport workers are not public employees because they are paid with funds generated by the airports, not with state, county, or municipal funds. The commission concluded otherwise. According to the opinion, the fees airport authorities collect from airlines, concessionaires, and other users of airport property are considered “state, county, or municipal funds” because the Legislature grants the authorities the ability to collect those fees for a specific public purpose.
Florida – Amid Misconduct Inquiry, NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Says She’s Not a Lobbyist
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 8/15/2019
When is a registered lobbyist not a lobbyist in Florida? If powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer gets her way, it is when she says so. Hammer has been the NRA’s Florida lobbyist since at least2006, yet despite being paid handsomely – $270,000 last year alone – she has not filed with the Florida Senate any of the required quarterly compensation reports. Sen. Perry Thurston and Rep. Anna Eskamani filed formal complaints with the state ethics commission and Senate and House oversight authorities seeking investigations. Thurston has said Hammer “was indicating that she was a consultant and not a lobbyist” and therefore was not required to file lobbyist compensation reports.
Florida – Disney World Offers Florida Politicians a Sneak Peek at Star Wars Attraction, Spawning Ethics Questions
Orlando Sentinel – Steven Lemongello and Ryan Gillespie | Published: 8/15/2019
Walt Disney World invited state lawmakers and other officeholders to a “community leader preview” for its Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction. It is the hottest ticket in town not yet available to the general public. The event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not free, with invitees needing to pay $170, plus $25 parking, to attend the three-hour preview. State ethics laws are strict about what public officials and employees can accept, stating they cannot “solicit or accept anything of value to the recipient, including a gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor, or service, based upon any understanding that [their] vote, official action, or judgment … would be influenced thereby.” Disney spent $28 million on state elections during the 2018 cycle and lawmakers have dealt with numerous issues related to Disney. County and city officials also deal with Disney on a regular basis.
Florida – Florida’s ‘Broken’ Legislature: ‘Session too quick, term limits too short and lawmakers paid too little’
Orlando Sentinel – Steven Lemongello | Published: 8/12/2019
Critics have asked why Florida’s Legislature operates the way it does. It has one of the nation’s shortest sessions despite being the third-largest state, and some of the strictest term limits. Special sessions are generally rare, and the result is what Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith calls “a mad dash to sine die, with bills rushed through without being read and vetted by the public.” Many lawmakers and experts say the status quo is not going anywhere, either because they believe the process is working as intended or voters have no appetite for such reforms or for politicians adding years to their time in Tallahassee.
Florida – ‘No Probable Cause’ Matt Gaetz Violated Florida Bar Rules in Tweets at Michael Cohen
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 8/14/2019
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz will not face discipline from the Florida Bar for posting menacing messages on social media aimed at President Donald Trump’s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Florida Bar spokesperson Francine Walker said the organization found “no probable cause” that Gaetz violated its rules for lawyers. The House ethics committee is also reviewing the incident.
Indiana – Inspector General OKs Casino Boss’s Private Flights for Gov. Eric Holcomb
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook | Published: 8/8/2019
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb violated no ethics rules when a casino executive treated him to private jet flights last year. The flights in 2018 to Republican Governors Association events in Aspen, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona, were together valued at more than $55,000. They gave Spectacle Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Rod Ratcliff and his business partners hours of exclusive access to Holcomb and his wife at a time when Ratcliff was seeking big changes to the state’s gaming laws that would benefit his company. Indiana Inspector General Lori Torres, who is appointed by Holcomb, determined the governor did not have to disclose the flights as a gift because they were designated as in-kind contributions to the Republican Governors Association, not to Holcomb.
Kentucky – Frankfort Resident Named Executive Director of Ky. Legislative Ethics Commission
State Journal; Staff – | Published: 8/13/2019
Laura Hromyak Hendrix was tapped to serve as executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission following the retirement of John Schaaf. Hendrix, who presently serves as the commission’s legal counsel, will assume the post September 1. the post Sept. 1. “Laura’s knowledge of the ethics law and her legal experience will allow the commission to continue its tradition of advising on and enforcing the ethics laws in a fair and nonpartisan manner,” Commission Chairperson Anthony Wilhoit said.
Kentucky – Jerry Lundergan’s Trial Over Illegal Contributions to Daughter’s Campaign Begins Tuesday
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 8/12/2019
Jerry Lundergan, a prominent player in Kentucky Democratic Party politics for 40 years, faces trial on charges he conspired to funnel illegal corporate contributions to the campaign of his daughter, Alison Lundergan Grimes, for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Lundergan is also accused of falsifying campaign finance records to conceal what his indictment itemizes were more than $206,000 in services his company provided to Grimes’ campaign. Jurors in the case may hear arguments involving the complexities of campaign finance laws, the practices of how campaigns report contributions and expenses, and the impact of how court rulings have shaken up the world of campaign finance.
Michigan – ‘An Easy Sell’: Inman texts point to PAC dominance in Michigan politics
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/8/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman was planning to vote against a controversial initiative to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law when a top House Republican aide shared a dire prediction. Democratic voters would not “come to your side” and “you will shut down any incentive for the big donors to give” to your reelection campaign, Dan Pero, chief of staff to then-House Speaker Tom Leonard, told Inman in a text on the day of the vote. The text messages, disclosed by federal prosecutors as Inman heads toward trial for allegedly trying to sell his vote to a union group opposed to the repeal, highlight the outsized influence interest group donors have on Michigan politics and how PAC contributions can influence legislative votes.
Michigan – Millions Meant for Repairing Michigan Roads Go Back to Trucking Industry
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 8/11/2019
Money from Michigan’s vehicle registration fees – close to $8 million since 2012 – is paid in grants to the Center for Truck Safety, a nonprofit charged with educating truckers and the public. It is an arm of the Michigan Trucking Association, the industry’s lobbying group that has fought efforts to reduce the state’s highest-in-the-nation gross weight limits for trucks. The center shares Lansing office space and has also shared employees with the association. It uses some of the state money to pay the lobbying organization rent, services such as legal advice and personnel management, and payments on a loan. Nearly all of the truck safety center’s officers and directors are also directors of the trucking association and the state briefly cut off funding to the center after finding some state money was being used to pay expenses related not to the safety center, but to the trucking association.
Missouri – Ex-St. Louis County Executive Gets Nearly 4 Years in Prison
AP News – James Saltzer | Published: 8/9/2019
Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger was sentenced to almost four years in prison and fined $250,000 for steering county business to a campaign donor in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions. Stenger has also surrendered his law and accounting licenses and paid about $130,000 in restitution. Three others also pleaded guilty as part of the scheme – Stenger’s chief of staff, Bill Miller; businessperson John Rallo, who donated to Stenger’s campaign with the expectation his companies would get county contracts; and Sheila Sweeney, whom Stenger appointed as head of the county’s economic development agency.
Missouri – Missouri Police Chiefs Lobbyist Quits After Audit Blasts No-Bid Contract He Helped Secure
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 8/12/2019
Sheldon Lineback, the longtime lobbyist for the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, canceled his registration with the Missouri Ethics Commission after a state audit criticized his role in a no-bid contract scheme that cost taxpayers $74,000. Auditor Nicole Galloway said former Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden steered a $58,000 contract to the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation, which is associated with the police chiefs association. The contract was for providing fingerprinting equipment to local police departments, a job the Missouri State Highway Patrol had done in the past at no additional cost to the state. The group was allowed to keep $1.25 million in state money, meant for purchasing the equipment, in its coffers for eight months, costing the state approximately $16,000 in interest revenue, and presumably benefiting the nonprofit. Juden is the former president of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association.
Montana – Fed Appeals Court Upholds Montana’s Landmark Campaign-Finance Disclosure Law
AP News – Matt Volz | Published: 8/12/2019
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a provision of Montana’s campaign finance law, ruling any group distributing material that merely mentions a candidate within 60 days of an election can be required to register with the state and disclose its spending and, in some cases, its donors. The state law requires any group to register and file disclosures once it spends $250 or more on ads or mailers referring to a candidate, political party, or ballot issue within 60 days of an election. That includes organizations registered as nonprofits under section 501(c)4 of the tax law that generally are not required to disclose their donors and spending. The National Association of Gun Rights argued unsuccessfully that the U.S. Constitution bars states from requiring that kind of disclosure for informational ads, such as the kind it proposed mailing.
New Hampshire – Bipartisan Bill to Create Redistricting Panel Vetoed by New Hampshire Governor
Governing – Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) | Published: 8/12/2019
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill to create an independent commission proposed to come up with the best way to redraw legislative, congressional, and executive council districts after the 2020 elections. Sununu said the measure was well-intentioned but would have an “unaccountable” panel drawing these lines after they were picked by “party bosses.” This plan would allow lawmakers to vote on redistricting maps but would keep them out of the process of drawing them. Instead, maps would be created by a 15-member commission selected from a pool of applicants collected by the secretary of state.
New Hampshire – NH Attorney General: Contributions from limited partnerships, LLPs remain legal in state elections
WMUR – John DiStaso | Published: 8/9/2019
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office cleared the way for candidates for state offices to continue receiving contributions from corporate entities known as limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. The office responded to a complaint filed against the Friends of Chris Sununu, the governor’s campaign operation, by Granite State Progress. It charged that three contributions to Sununu in 2017 violated a state law that includes donations by partnerships in a list of prohibited contributions. The group said Sununu’s campaign violated the law by accepting the money. Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen said the office determined at least nine years ago that it could no longer enforce bans on contributions from partnerships and limited liability partnerships.
New Jersey – Two Unions Secretly Gave $3.6 Million to Phil Murphy’s Group During Millionaires Tax Push
Bergen Record – Ashley Balcerzak | Published: 8/11/2019
Two powerful unions donated a combined $3.6 million to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s secretive “dark money” nonprofit. The state’s largest teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association, wrote a $1 million check in April, a month after Murphy’s 2019 budget announcement the union called “progressive” and “people-focused.” That donation is on top of the $2.5 million the union gave to New Direction New Jersey in 2018. A local branch of the Service Employees International Union pitched in an additional $150,000 in June 2018. Officials with New Direction New Jersey had said it would report who was giving the group money. The nonprofit reversed its pledge later, citing a “toxic political environment,” and refused to name who bankrolled its push to pass Murphy’s priorities.
North Carolina – After El Paso, the ‘Send Her Back’ Chant Echoes to Some as a Prelude to Murder
MSN – Griff Witte (Washington Post) | Published: 8/13/2019
Samar Badwan, a Greenville, North Carolina resident, watched as 8,000 neighbors and fellow citizens jammed an arena to serenade President Trump with chants of “Send her back,” a response to Trump’s insistence that a Muslim, Somali American member of Congress should “go back” to the land of her birth. That visit, and that chant, continues to reverberate loudly in Greenville nearly a month later, particularly for those, like Badwan, who see themselves as targets of a campaign to whip up xenophobia and hate. After the El Paso shootings, in which 22 people were killed by a gunman who parroted Trump’s warnings about an “invasion” of immigrants, the words carry a particularly ominous resonance: as a prelude to murder.
North Dakota – Panel Picks Members of North Dakota Ethics Commission
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 8/8/2019
A committee charged with selecting members of North Dakota’s new state ethics commission finalized its picks, marking a major step toward implementing voter-approved rules against corruption. Their terms will begin September 1. Voters created the commission through a constitutional amendment last year. Despite criticisms of a Republican-backed implementation bill approved by state lawmakers this year, the commission will be able to write rules on transparency, corruption, elections, and lobbying as well as investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
North Dakota – Top North Dakota Officials Unfazed by State Money Awarded to Ethics Commissioner’s Tribal College
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 8/13/2019
North Dakota’s governor and Senate leaders were unfazed that one of their picks for the state’s new ethics commission leads a tribal college that has received more than $2 million in state grants in recent years, which one lawmaker argued is a conflict-of-interest. Cynthia Lindquist, president of the Cankdeska Cikana Community College, was selected as one of five members of the voter-approved ethics commission. Gov. Doug Burgum’s spokesperson said the governor’s office was aware the tribal college had received state dollars but noted it is primarily federally funded.
Oregon – The ACLU Helped Oregon Stay Awash in Campaign Cash. It’s Having Second Thoughts.
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 8/7/2019
The last time Oregon voters were asked whether campaign contributions should be limited, a prominent liberal group was among the most vocally opposed: The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. It had an impact. Voters in 2006 said no. Thirteen years later, with a similar measure on campaign donations heading to voters next year at the behest of the state Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown, the ACLU has dropped its absolute opposition to contribution limits. The shift eliminates one major obstacle to ending Oregon’s outlier status as one of five states with no caps on campaign money.
Pennsylvania – Philly’s New Voting Machine Contract in Jeopardy Because Vendor Failed to Disclose Use of Lobbyists, Campaign Contributions
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai | Published: 8/14/2019
Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel Pratt notified the acting board of elections that Election Systems & Software (ES&S) violated the law by failing to disclose its use of lobbyists and the lobbyists’ campaign contributions to the two city commissioners on the board who selected the company for a contract to provide new voting machines. If the board decides to continue with the contract, ES&S will be liable for a $2.9 million fine, Pratt said, adding that it has agreed to pay the penalty if the contract proceeds. Using lobbyists is not illegal, and Pratt noted ES&S could have disclosed the lobbying and the campaign contributions without being disqualified from the bidding and selection process. The other finalist, Dominion Voting Systems, also did not disclose its use of a lobbyist.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh-Area Lobbyist Charged with Defrauding Clients, Forging Grant Documents
WTAE – Bob Mayo | Published: 8/12/2019
Lobbyist Joseph Kuklis, chief executive officer of Wellington Strategies, was charged with running a corrupt organization, theft by deception, forgery, and fraudulent business practices by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The criminal complaint says investigators seized records of Wellington Strategies and allegedly found evidence of forgeries in the trash of Kuklis’s home. Kuklis allegedly falsely represented to nonprofits and businesses that he had obtained state grants for them and forged letters and documents to mislead clients who paid him for his work.
Tennessee – As Tennessee Makes Voter Registration More Difficult, Activists Consider What’s Next
Governing – Matt Vasilogambros (Stateline) | Published: 8/14/2019
Less than a year after a coalition of groups, led by the nonprofit Tennessee Black Voter Project, conducted a statewide voter registration drive that accumulated 91,000 applications, activists face a daunting obstacle: A new state law that seeks to curb mass voter registration efforts by imposing criminal and financial penalties for turning in error-filled forms or failing to register with the state and undergo training. The new Tennessee law has nonprofits and voting rights activists scrambling ahead of the 2020 presidential election, as they attempt to understand new regulations that could lead to thousands of dollars in fines and even jail time.
Tennessee – Lawmakers, Political Groups Owe State $1.9M in Fines for Violating Campaign Finance, Ethics Rules
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 8/14/2019
Two Tennessee agencies that serve as watchdogs of elected officials, candidates, and political organizations are owed nearly $1.9 million. The average Tennessean could lose their home, be subject to liens, face collections agencies, or go to jail if tickets or taxes go unpaid. But that is not the case for the candidates, officials, and organizations that have been fined by the Registry of Election Finance and the Tennessee Ethics Commission. Instead, the state’s attorney general is tasked with collecting the two agencies’ unpaid fines.
Tennessee – State Election Registry to Formally Audit Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Reports
The Tennessean – Elaina Sauber | Published: 8/14/2019
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance formally authorized an audit of former state Sen. Bill Ketron and his campaign finance committees. Those include his committee while seeking office as Rutherford County mayor, his state Senate committee, and his PAC. Ketron, who was elected Rutherford County mayor last year, faces $60,000 in unpaid civil penalties. The fines are primarily related to late filings of his campaign finance reports. Ketron and his campaign treasurer are responsible for ensuring campaign finance reports are filed on time. But his campaign treasurer and daughter, Kelsey Ketron, is facing her own financial troubles and possible criminal charges.
Texas – Texas Democrats Sue Over Secret Meeting Between House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Empower Texans CEO
Dallas News – James Barragan | Published: 8/8/2019
The Texas Democratic Party is suing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, alleging they created an unregistered PAC and violated other state election laws. The lawsuit stems from a June meeting Sullivan had with Bonnen and Republican Caucus Chairperson Dustin Burrows. In the meeting, Sullivan has said, Bonnen and Burrows offered to give writers at his website, Texas Scorecard, House media credentials in the next legislative session in exchange for Sullivan’s political group targeting 10 GOP incumbents in next year’s primary elections. Sullivan said he rebuffed the offer. But Democrats allege that meeting and any agreements reached in it show a coordinated effort “between political actors intended to influence the election or defeat of specific candidates” and amounts to an unregistered political committee as defined by state law.
Utah – Draper City Council Candidate Booted from Race After Showing Up One Minute Past Filing Deadline
Salt Lake Tribune – Alison Berg | Published: 8/12/2019
When Hubert Huh received a call August 6 from his state representative, Jeffrey Stenquist, reminding him of the 5 p.m. deadline for filing a campaign finance disclosure form, Huh, a Draper City Council candidate, sped as fast as he could to City Hall with his form. Arriving at 5:01 p.m., the city recorder told him he was too late and would be disqualified from the race. The deadline was 5 p.m. Though Huh was only a minute past deadline, Draper spokesperson Maridene Alexander said the city follows the state code strictly, which requires a finance disclosure form be turned into the clerk or recorder’s office by 5 p.m. the day it is due.
Washington – Seattle Politics Without Corporate Money? Council Member Fires Off Long-Shot Proposal
Crosscut – David Kroman | Published: 8/14/2019
In an effort sure to face a bumpy legal road, Seattle City Councilperson Lorena González has drafted legislation aimed at stemming the growing influence of big money donors in municipal elections. The bill would limit how much donors could give to PACs while placing stricter regulations on how foreign money, including donations from U.S. companies with foreign owners, shapes city politics. It would also require PACs to disclose how their money is spent. The three proposals in González’s package share the goal of curbing the effect of money on local elections, a so-far quixotic effort to find gaps in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which is credited with opening the floodgates on corporate contributions to elections.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Fined $20,000 in Ethics Case Involving Outside Work
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 8/8/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans was fined $20,000 by the city’s ethics agency for using government resources and touting his influence as an elected official while soliciting employment from local law firms. The settlement is the latest fallout for the city’s longest-serving lawmaker who has been embroiled in an ethics scandal. Emails that Evans sent from his council office showed he tried to land jobs at law firms in 2015 and 2018. In business proposals, he highlighted an ability to attract private clients as a lawmaker and as board chair of the regional transit agency. The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability determined there was “substantial evidence” Evans’ contact with the law firms violated rules that prohibit the use of government resources for personal reasons and using the prestige of office for private gain.
West Virginia – Welcome to the Greenbrier, the Governor-Owned Luxury Resort Filled with Conflicts of Interest
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 8/15/2019
Ethics officials have said West Virginia laws never contemplated someone like Gov. Jim Justice. With his decision to hold his inauguration ball at The Greenbrier, a palatial resort the governor owns, Justice ushered in a new era of politics in West Virginia, one in which it is hard to tell where the governor’s business interests end, and state government begins. All told, more than $1 million, half of the inaugural fund, went to Justice’s Greenbrier Hotel Corp. The Greenbrier represents only a slice of Justice’s holdings, estimated to be worth as much as $1.5 billion. But the iconic resort’s outsized role in West Virginia politics has made it an unparalleled ethical thicket for the governor.
Wyoming – Wyoming Is Committed to a ‘Citizen Legislature.’ But the Format Can Limit Who Is Able to Participate.
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 8/12/2019
Wyoming’s citizen Legislature has always been a point of pride, harkening back to a simpler time in the state’s history where government was radically by the people, for the people. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, just 4 states – Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas – boast what can be considered “citizen Legislatures,” keeping the session limits short, the pay low, and legislative staff limited in order to shut out the trappings of big government. For opponents of a per diem raise for lawmakers, this is something worth preserving, both in maintaining the state’s culture of conservatism and by being fiscally prudent. But some believe the concept of the Legislature could use some updating, particularly as its members look less and less like the state they represent.
August 14, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Montana: “Fed Appeals Court Upholds Montana’s Landmark Campaign-Finance Disclosure Law” by Matt Volz for AP News New Hampshire: “NH Attorney General: Contributions from limited partnerships, LLPs remain legal in state elections” by John DiStaso for WMUR Elections National: […]
Montana: “Fed Appeals Court Upholds Montana’s Landmark Campaign-Finance Disclosure Law” by Matt Volz for AP News
New Hampshire: “NH Attorney General: Contributions from limited partnerships, LLPs remain legal in state elections” by John DiStaso for WMUR
National: “At Def Con, Hackers and Lawmakers Came Together to Examine Holes in Election Security” by Taylor Telford for Washington Post
Utah: “Draper City Council Candidate Booted from Race After Showing Up One Minute Past Filing Deadline” by Alison Berg for Salt Lake Tribune
Alabama: “Alabama Ethics Commission Says Airport Authority Employees Fall Under Ethics Law” by Mike Cason for AL.com
Wyoming: “Wyoming Is Committed to a ‘Citizen Legislature.’ But the Format Can Limit Who Is Able to Participate.” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star-Tribune
Missouri: “Missouri Police Chiefs Lobbyist Quits After Audit Blasts No-Bid Contract He Helped Secure” by Jack Suntrup for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Pennsylvania: “Pittsburgh-Area Lobbyist Charged with Defrauding Clients, Forging Grant Documents” by Bob Mayo for WTAE
August 13, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan’s Trial Over Illegal Contributions to Daughter’s Campaign Begins Tuesday” by Tom Loftus for Louisville Courier-Journal New Jersey: “Two Unions Secretly Gave $3.6 Million to Phil Murphy’s Group During Millionaires Tax Push” by Ashley Balcerzak for […]
Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan’s Trial Over Illegal Contributions to Daughter’s Campaign Begins Tuesday” by Tom Loftus for Louisville Courier-Journal
New Jersey: “Two Unions Secretly Gave $3.6 Million to Phil Murphy’s Group During Millionaires Tax Push” by Ashley Balcerzak for Bergen Record
Missouri: “Ex-St. Louis County Executive Gets Nearly 4 Years in Prison” by James Saltzer for AP News
Florida: “Florida’s ‘Broken’ Legislature: ‘Session too quick, term limits too short and lawmakers paid too little’” by Steven Lemongello for Orlando Sentinel
National: “Lobbyists Race to Cash in on Cannabis Boom” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
National: “Trial of Former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig Highlights Crackdown on Foreign-Influence Industry” by Spencer Hsu for Washington Post
Michigan: “Millions Meant for Repairing Michigan Roads Go Back to Trucking Industry” by Paul Egan for Detroit Free Press
New Hampshire: “Bipartisan Bill to Create Redistricting Panel Vetoed by New Hampshire Governor” by Kevin Landrigan (Manchester Union Leader) for Governing
August 2, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Ex-McConnell Staffers Lobbied on Russian-Backed Kentucky Project Politico – Natasha Bertrand and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/31/2019 Two former top staffers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the development of a new […]
Ex-McConnell Staffers Lobbied on Russian-Backed Kentucky Project
Politico – Natasha Bertrand and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/31/2019
Two former top staffers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the development of a new Kentucky aluminum mill backed by the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The filing comes as Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to review Rusal’s $200 million investment in the Kentucky project – concerned that the mill will supply the Defense Department – and as McConnell weathers criticism for helping block a congressional effort to stop the investment. The Russian firm was only able to make the investment after it won sanctions relief from penalties the Treasury Department initially imposed in April 2018.
Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman, William Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and David Kirkpatrick (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2019
Federal prosecutors are investigating the role of Thomas Barrack, a top campaign fundraiser and close friend of President Trump, and his connections to the foreign lobby. Barrack has been investigated for potentially violating the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department. Questions about Barrack complying with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) arose during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election before being referred to the U.S, attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Three former Trump campaign aides charged by Mueller acknowledged violating FARA in their guilty pleas: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn.
Federal Judge Rules IRS Donor Guidance Is Unlawful
The Hill – Naomi Jagoda | Published: 7/30/2019
A federal judge blocked an IRS policy change that stopped nonprofit groups from identifying their big donors on federal disclosure forms. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled the agency did not give proper public notice before it stopped requiring social-welfare groups, labor unions, and business associations to identify donors contributing more than $5,000. Republicans argue the guidance was important to protect taxpayers’ privacy and First Amendment rights. But Democrats have strongly opposed the guidance, arguing it could make it easier for foreign governments to influence U.S. elections through donations to “dark money” groups.
How Fundraisers Convinced Conservatives to Donate $10 Million – Then Kept Almost All of It.
ProPublica – Maggie Severns (Politico) and Derek Willis | Published: 7/26/2019
The Conservative Majority Fund has raised nearly $10 million since 2012 and continues to solicit funds, primarily from thousands of steadfast contributors to conservative causes. But it has made just $48,400 in political contributions to candidates and committees. Its main beneficiaries are the operative Kelley Rogers, who has a history of disputes over allegedly unethical fundraising, and one of the largest conservative fundraising companies, InfoCision, which charged millions of dollars in fundraising fees. The saga of how politically connected fundraisers used one of the nation’s leading conservative organizations as a springboard for fundraising that mainly benefited the fundraisers themselves sheds light on the growing problem of so-called scam PACs, organizations that take advantage of loosened campaign finance laws to reap windfalls for insiders while directing only a small portion of receipts to political advocacy.
It’s Not Just the Russians Anymore as Iranians and Others Turn Up Disinformation Efforts Ahead of 2020 Vote
MSN – Craig Timberg and Tony Romm (Washingtin Post) | Published: 7/25/2019
Twitter has shut down more than 7,000 phony accounts from Iran this year alone. Iran is far from the only nation that has the capacity to wage Russian-style influence operations in the U.S. ahead of next year’s election. That means American voters are likely to be targeted in the coming campaign season by more foreign disinformation than ever before, say those studying such operations. Researchers say it is not often clear exactly who runs these operations, whether it is the governments themselves or some other actors, but they typically echo the talking points of the ruling powers and back their geopolitical goals through tweets, posts, and online videos. The operations in all these countries, meanwhile, have the means and potentially the motives to seek to influence an American election shaping up as among the most hotly contested in decades.
Low in Cash and Polls, 2020 Democrats Get Creative with Accounting
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/30/2019
Staff members for a half dozen Democratic presidential candidates did not receive their final June paycheck that month. Instead, their campaigns nudged payday into July, an accounting maneuver that obscured payroll costs and temporarily made it look like candidates had more cash on hand than they did. That does not violate campaign laws, but it is a symptom of the high stakes of the 2020 money race and a crowded field with some candidates struggling to stay alive ahead of the second round of debates. In a presidential primary with many Democratic hopefuls competing for campaign money, a candidate’s viability is often judged by donors, the news media, and even rivals with a cursory look at campaign balance sheets.
Meet the Man Who Created the Fake Presidential Seal – a Former Republican Fed Up with Trump
MSN – Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2019
Graphic designer Charles Leazott used to be a proud Republican. But he felt Donald Trump’s GOP was no longer his party. So, he created a mock presidential seal to prove his point. He substituted the arrows in the eagle’s claw for a set of golf clubs, a nod to the new president’s favorite pastime. In the other set of talons, he swapped the olive branch for a wad of cash and replaced the United States’ Latin motto with a Spanish insult. Then is inserted a two-headed imperial bird lifted straight from the Russian coat of arms. The seal was not meant for a wide audience. But then, years later, it wound up stretched across a huge screen behind an unwitting President Trump as he spoke to a conference packed with hundreds of his young supporters.
Republicans Rattled After Surge of Retirements
Politico – Melanie Zanona | Published: 7/31/2019
The House GOP caucus has been hit by a wave of retirements over the past few weeks, but some Republicans fear the worst is yet to come. With the GOP relegated to the minority for the first time in eight years, a mix of veteran and vulnerable members have decided to call it quits instead of sticking around to see whether the party wins back power in 2020. Most of the seats being vacated thus far are in solidly red districts, which Republicans will have no problems keeping. But at least two of the races have become more competitive in the wake of the retirement announcements, and more vulnerable members could jump ship if they do not want to duke it out another term, especially if they are pessimistic about the GOP’s prospects.
Should Regulators Let Jet-Setting Tom Price Use Campaign Cash for Nonprofit Travel and Expenses?
Center for Public Integrity – Laura Zornosa | Published: 7/25/2019
Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in 2017 amid criticism of his taxpayer-funded private charter flights. Now, Price wants the FEC to allow his new nonprofit group to use $1.7 million worth of leftover campaign money from his old congressional committee, a move that would create a path for former congressional candidates to transfer surplus campaign cash to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups, a type of nonprofit that operates with fewer restrictions than charities, though Price’s lawyers promise the group would not pay salaries to Price or his family members or use the money for political purposes.
Socialism Goes Local: DSA candidates are winning in big cities
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 7/24/2019
Around the country this year, democratic socialists and other ultra-left candidates have met with success in city council races. Several such candidates have already won seats in Chicago and Denver, while others are running this fall in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Seattle, Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, which is a democratic socialist party, is seeking reelection to the city council against concerted opposition from business groups. These candidates do not all hold the same positions, but they are at the leading edge of a trend. As in national politics, local candidates on the left, including many mainstream Democrats, are moving further left.
Texts, Sex, Lies and Corruption: Here’s what has forced governors out of office
New York Times – Adeel Hassan | Published: 7/25/2019
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced his resignation after an uprising and looming impeachment proceedings had derailed his administration. Though residents said they were fed up by years of corruption, the tipping point proved to be the publication of hundreds of pages of crass and often profane chat messages among Rosselló and 11 men in his inner circle. The texts confirmed what many Puerto Ricans thought, that they held disdain for the public. The vast majority of governors in the U.S. fulfill their terms, though many have resigned to take a cabinet position, or to join the Senate. Since World War II, two have left governor’s mansions to move to the White House. But a few have met ignominious ends in office.
The Job of Campaigning Is Extremely Family-Unfriendly
The Atlantic – Joe Pinsker | Published: 7/27/2019
The FEC ruled that M. J. Hegar, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas, can spend campaign funds on child care for her two kids while she is running for office. The ruling builds on the FEC’s determination that Liuba Grechen Shirley, who at the time was running for a House seat in New York, could do the same. Campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from drawing from their own political funds for “personal use,” and legally, it was not clear whether child-care expenses associated with campaigning fell under that category. Now, whether candidates have to take on child-care costs in order to run (as Grechen Shirley did) or keep paying for child care as they already had been (as is the case with Hegar), they can cover those expenses knowing they are not running afoul of federal regulations.
Top House Lawyer Takes Center Stage in Legal Battles Against Trump
Politico – Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/31/2019
U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff are the public faces of the House Democrats’ battles with Donald Trump, appearing on television regularly to harangue the president for his resistance to their investigations. But the job of fighting the president in federal court – and, lately, winning – has been left to a lesser-known figure: House General Counsel Douglas Letter. Last year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked him to take on a new and unfamiliar role as the guardian of congressional power. What Letter may not have realized when he took the job was that he would find himself in the vanguard of an unprecedented constitutional power struggle between House Democrats, who are weighing whether to impeach Trump, and a litigious president blocking congressional oversight in an unprecedented way.
Trump Fundraiser Thomas Barrack Jr. Lobbied for Saudi Nuclear Deal, New Report Alleges
USA Today – Deirdre Shesgreen | Published: 7/29/2019
The Trump administration’s move to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia took shape even before the president took office and was championed by Trump’s longtime personal friend and fundraiser, Thomas Barrack Jr., according to a new report by congressional Democrats. The report details how Barrack used his personal connections to the president and other Trump administration officials to win support for the controversial Saudi nuclear deal, at the same time he was seeking funding from the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates for a bid to purchase Westinghouse Electric Company, the only U.S. manufacturer of large-scale nuclear reactors.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona State Senator Criticized for Remarks on Immigrants, Birthrates of Hispanic Women
Arizona Republic – Kyra Haas | Published: 7/26/2019
Arizona Sen. Sylvia Allen is facing criticism following recent comments she made about immigration, white birth rates, and the “browning” of America. During a speech to Republicans, Allen said America would “look like South American countries very quickly” and warned immigrants were “flooding” the United States at a rate that did not allow for them to “learn the principles of our country.” In her comments, Allen noted declining white birth rates compared to Hispanic birth rates, saying it was an issue “because of immigration.” She referred to a “browning of America,” a term she attributed to a well-known demographer, though he is not critical of immigration in his research.
California – California Insurance Commissioner Met with CEO Who Has Cases Pending Before His Department
Sacramento Bee – Hannah Wylie | Published: 7/29/2019
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, under fire for accepting campaign contributions from insurance executives and their spouses, has yet to release his office calendars in response to public requests. But Lara acknowledged he did meet with an executive whose company has multiple complaints against it in cases before his department. Lara said he met with Steven Menzies, who heads Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation agency that the department formerly settled with for “bait and switch” marketing tactics in 2017. Berkshire Hathaway is in the process of selling the company, a sale Lara must approve. Lara, who was serving as his own campaign treasurer, accepted $46,500 in donations to his 2022 reelection campaign in April from out-of-state executives with ties to the company.
California – Sitting Judge Who Promoted His Candidacy for Calif. Attorney General Barred from Bench
San Francisco Chronicle – Bob Egelko | Published: 7/31/2019
The California Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Steven Bailey, the former judge who ran for state attorney general last year and then was permanently barred from returning to the bench by a state commission because he used his judicial position to promote his political campaign. Bailey, a former Superior Court judge, argued the Commission on Judicial Performance violated his freedom of speech by enforcing rules that prohibit judges from using their positions to run for non-judicial office. The commission disagreed, and the state’s high court, which has the last word on judicial discipline in California, denied review of his appeal without comment.
California – Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law
Los Angeles Times – John Myers | Published: 7/30/2019
President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.
Florida – Ethics Complaint Filed Against CFO Jimmy Patronis for Releasing Harassment Allegation
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/26/2019
An activist is asking for an investigation into Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for releasing an ethics complaint in a possible violation of state law. Emma Collum, an attorney and president of Women’s March Florida, filed the complaint with the state Commission on Ethics. Patronis sent to the media a redacted copy of a woman’s sexual harassment complaint against former Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin, along with a request for Rubin to resign. The complaint form was marked “confidential and exempt” under state law, citing a statute that requires employee complaints to remain secret until they’re investigated. Breaking it is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Florida – Modified Sentences and ‘Rocket Dockets’ Aim to Ensure Felons Can Still Register to Vote
Washington Post – Lori Rozsa | Published: 7/30/2019
Florida judges and prosecutors are working with felons and public defenders to find ways to register former inmates to vote, a process approved by voters last year that Republican legislators have made more difficult. To work around a law passed in the spring, which requires individuals to pay all fines, fees, and restitution before they can register, court officials in cities such as Miami and Tampa are modifying sentences and making plans to allow some debts to be converted to community service. In smaller towns, volunteers are holding fundraisers to pay off penalties for residents. Voting rights activists applaud these efforts are worried a patchwork of changes may confound hundreds of thousands of potential voters in the months leading up to the state’s March 17 presidential primary.
Florida – Suspended Commissioner Scott Maddox to Plead Guilty to Some Charges in Public Corruption Case
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 7/31/2019
Scott Maddox, whose long political career in Tallahassee came crashing down after his indictment on public corruption charges, is expected to plead guilty to some of the counts against him. Attorneys for the suspended city commissioner and former mayor filed a notice that both he and his close friend Paige Carter-Smith will change their pleas. It is a major development in the federal government’s long-running investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee and a possible signal that Maddox and Carter-Smith are cooperating with authorities to try to get their sentences reduced. If they are cooperating, it is possible the FBI and prosecutors are using their help to build cases against other prominent politicians and businesspeople.
Hawaii – The Kealoha Corruption Case Cost These Two Investigators More Than Their Jobs
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/30/2019
Honolulu Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto and Letha DeCaires, a former police officer who was working for the commission, expected a backlash from their investigation of then-Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, who was a city prosecutor. They were a politically connected power couple that had access to every level of Honolulu law enforcement. There was outside pressure from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration, and Totto and DeCairs were ousted from their jobs after their commission, which was supposed to support their review of the Kealohas, turned on them. They also faced a lawsuit that targeted them both professionally and personally.
Illinois – How Will Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Ethics Rules Affect Aldermen Like Edward Burke? It’s Not Entirely Clear.
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt, John Byrne, and Juan Perez, Jr. | Published: 7/26/2019
The ethics ordinance passed by the city council recently that further restricts the outside work aldermen can do was seen as a signature win for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reform agenda. But it is not yet clear how the ordinance will play out or how the new limits on private employment will affect aldermen like Edward Burke, who has long had a lucrative sideline as a property tax attorney. One question that might need to be addressed is whether council members like Burke, whose involvement with a law firm largely prompted the provision, need to fully divest themselves of their ownership stake in their firm, or whether they could comply with the law by not working on cases that create conflicts with the city and also refrain from taking money from the firm’s work on those cases.
Illinois – Politically Connected Ex-Teamsters Boss Pleads Guilty to Extorting Chicago Film Studio, Agrees to Cooperate
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/30/2019
Longtime Chicago union boss John Coli Sr. does not seem like the type to cooperate with authorities. A politically connected fixture in the Teamsters, has dodged controversy for years, from suspicious appointments to state boards to allegations of organized crime ties, often accusing his accusers of using overzealous investigative tactics. But In pleading guilty to corruption charges stemming from an extortion scheme, Coli agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in any ongoing investigations, including “complete and truthful testimony’ in any criminal or civil proceeding. Coli for years used his national position with the Teamsters to hold sway with some of the city and state’s most powerful elected officials.
Iowa – Iowa Restrictions on Lawmaker-to-Lobbyist Revolving Door Praised
The Gazette – James Lynch | Published: 7/25/2019
Iowa is being praised for its restrictions to prevent former state lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office. Overall, Iowa has the best “revolving-door” policy, with a two-year cooling off period that applies to both legislative and executive officials and staff, and broadly prohibits both “lobbying activity” as well as “lobbying contacts” during the waiting period, according to an analysis of state ethics laws by Public Integrity. The restriction on the lawmaker-to-lobbyist transformation was among ethics changes the state Legislature enacted following a 1990s scandal involving the deposit of local government property tax receipts in an investment scheme known as Iowa Trust.
Minnesota – Complaint: Corrections official lobbied for husband’s group on state time
Minnesota Public Radio – Briana Bierschbach, Brian Bakst, and Nina Moini | Published: 7/25/2019
A top Minnesota prison official who resigned recently had been under investigation for weeks for allegedly lobbying on behalf of her husband’s nonprofit and for leaking private, internal data, according to newly released records. The redacted investigative documents were released by the Department of Corrections after former Deputy Commissioner Sarah Walker suddenly departed from her post to seek “unique opportunities” at the local and national level. Allegations against Walker include leaking of information about a co-worker’s sexual assault by a corrections employee. Investigators were also looking into concerns that Walker lobbied privately for legislation related to her husband’s nonprofit while on state time.
Missouri – Former Missouri Public Safety Director Abused State Contracting Process, Audit Says
Kansas City Star – Crystal Thomas | Published: 7/31/2019
The director of Missouri’s Department of Public Safety under former Gov. Eric Greitens abused the state’s contracting process to award an organization that he was previously affiliated with, according to a state audit. It also found Charles Juden, who served as director from the beginning of 2017 to August of last year, did not claim leave when taking personal trips to Florida to watch the Daytona 500. Before Juden became director, the Missouri Highway Patrol managed fingerprinting technology for local law enforcement agencies at no cost to the state. After he took over, the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation was selected to manage the $1.25 million technology contract, at a cost of $58,000. Prior to his appointment, Juden was the foundation’s chairperson, which the audit said posed a “conflict-o- interest.”
Missouri – Northwest Plaza Owners Ask Court to Quash Subpoenas in St. Louis County Council Inquiry
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 7/31/2019
The owners of the former Northwest Plaza shopping center in St. Louis filed a lawsuit seeking to block subpoenas issued to them in an inquiry into the county’s lease for office space at their complex. Robert and P. David Glarner, who own the complex, claimed they should not be forced to defend themselves to the county council at a time when federal prosecutors are investigating whether crimes were committed in their dealings with former County Executive Steve Stenger that resulted in a 20-year lease. If the court does not quash the county subpoena outright, the Glarners claimed, it should wait until the conclusion of the federal investigation. The Glarners’ lawsuit also claims the council’s ethics committee lacked authority to compel their cooperation.
Nebraska – Nebraska Lets Legislators Shift from Lawmaking to Lobbying
AP News – Grant Schulte | Published: 7/28/2019
State officials in Nebraska who want to profit off their government experience and connections after leaving office face virtually no obstacles in becoming lobbyists, unlike most other states that bar their leaders from immediately switching role. Nebraska is among seven states with no restrictions on former lawmakers, governors, or other elected officials working to influence their former colleagues, according to the analysis by Public Citizen. The result is clear during the legislative session, when on most days a dozen or so senators-turned-lobbyists gather outside the chamber, ready to talk with lawmakers about bills that could help or hurt their clients.
New Mexico – Legislative Leaders Take Command of Campaign Resources
AP News – Morgan Lee | Published: 7/29/2019
New rules for funneling resources toward political races in New Mexico may provide legislative leaders and political parties with a stronger hand in influencing the outcomes of elections, as Democrats assert their control over the Legislature and key statewide elected offices. The Democratic House speaker and Republican minority leader registered specialized political committees that can command vast resources and make unlimited non-cash contributions to campaigns. The so-called “legislative caucus committees” can collect five times as much cash per donor as other New Mexico political committees.
New York – A Luxury Box at Citi Field, an M.T.A. Contract and $188,000 for Cuomo
New York Times – Emma Fitzsimmons, J. David Goodman, and Augustin Armendarez | Published: 7/28/2019
Since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, his campaigns have received more than $3 million from Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) contractors and industry groups that represent them. New York does not limit contributions from contractors that do business with state entities. Donors with ties to the MTA, including board members, their employers, and transit unions, have given another $1.5 million. There is no evidence the MTA awarded contracts as a reward to Cuomo’s donors, but people in the industry see political contributions as important for their business.
New York – Abuse Victim’s 3 Billboards Called for Stronger Laws. Then the State Showed Up.
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 7/31/2019
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is investigating Kat Sullivan, a sexual abuse survivor, for allegedly lobbying while she was not registered. She took out a billboard ad near the Capitol urging lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act and set up a website on the issue. Sullivan believed she was using her own time and money to make her voice as an abuse survivor heard. She was shocked when JCOPE afterward told her she faced a fine of more than $40,000 if she did not register. Sullivan’s case is unusual; few unpaid advocates spend more than $5,000 on an issue, the annual threshold for registering in the state. It also illuminates a larger dilemma facing lawmakers across the country: who counts as a lobbyist in the age of social media and renewed grassroots involvement, when it is easier than ever for people to make themselves heard?
New York – Potential Conflicts of Interest the Real Reason Lhota Left the MTA
Politico – Dana Rubenstein | Published: 7/30/2019
When Joe Lhota, the embattled chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, resigned last fall, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo omitted the real reason for the departure. While Cuomo and Lhota painted the resignation as a natural development in what was always intended to be a limited engagement, Lhota actually quit because the Joint Commission on Public Ethics had deemed him too burdened by potential conflicts-of-interest to continue serving as the head of the country’s biggest transit network. The cause of Lhota’s departure emerged in his resignation letter, which the governor’s office initially declined to provide under the state’s public information law.
North Carolina – Bladen County Political Operative Faces New Perjury, Obstruction of Justice Charges
Raleigh News and Observer – Carli Brosseau, Josh Shaffer, Dan Kane, and Will Doran | Published: 7/30/2019
Leslie McCrae Dowless, a Republican political operative who worked for former congressional candidate Mark Harris, faces felony charges in connection with the 2018 general election in North Carolina. Dowless was previously indicted on charges related to an absentee ballot harvesting operation he allegedly ran in 2016 and during the 2018 primary. North Carolina law allows volunteers and campaign workers to collect absentee ballot request forms, but not the ballots themselves. According to the most recent indictment, Dowless directed his workers to pick up ballots and sometimes to indicate falsely with a signature that they had watched the person cast their vote.
North Carolina – NC Elections Board Chairman Resigns, Apologizes Following Sexist Joke at Convention
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 7/30/2019
State Board of Elections Chairperson Bob Cordle resigned following reports about a joke he made at a conference with hundreds of elections officials from across North Carolina. Cordle told a lengthy joke about women, sex, and cows that many in the audience found inappropriate. His current tenure on the board has been short but eventful, as it faced issues involving election fraud and voting machines. The board also dismissed the elections director and replaced her.
Oklahoma – Lawmaker’s Firm Reaps Payment to Help Throw Speaker’s Ball
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 7/26/2019
A company headed by a Republican House member was paid tens of thousands of dollars to help throw a lavish party in honor of Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, raising conflict-of-interest questions. An Oklahoma Ethics Commission filing shows Poligram, an event planning and management firm founded and run by state Rep. Mike Osburn, was paid $40,000 in operating expenses related to planning the 2019 Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball. The event traditionally attracts lawmakers, lobbyists, business leaders and advocates as they prepare to kick off the legislative session each year. Minority Floor Leader David Perryman said privately funded events that benefit politicians are “rife with the potential for political favor and influence.”
Pennsylvania – Longest-Serving Philly Sheriff Is Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for $675K Bribery Scheme
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy | Published: 8/1/2019
Former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to selling his office for more than $675,000 in benefits, ranging from a secret job for his wife to a renovated and price-reduced home to hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors, who brought a sweeping indictment against Green in 2015, said he essentially had sold the office to secret benefactor James Davis, who Green rewarded with $35 million in contracts to advertise and run the office’s foreclosed property sales, often with nothing in writing. In return, Davis plied the sheriff with bribes and illegal campaign contributions.
Rhode Island – Aponte Pleads No Contest to Embezzlement, Must Resign from City Council
Providence Journal – Katie Mulvaney | Published: 7/29/2019
Providence City Councilperson Luis Aponte admitted to embezzling $13,942 from his campaign account and, in doing so, agreed to resign. He must also file outstanding campaign finance reports within 60 days. Prosecutors said Aponte used the money to pay for personal expenses such as Netflix and XBox Live, iTunes, and cable bills. Councilperson David Salvatore called on his colleagues to pass an ordinance tightening ethics requirements and prohibiting indicted people from holding leadership positions. He noted that Aponte ran for reelection in 2018 while under indictment.
Texas – ‘They Will Have to Resign’: Texas lawmakers allege House Speaker said he’d pull credentials from media outlet
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughy and James Barragan | Published: 8/1/2019
State lawmakers who listened to a conversation that a conservative activist secretly recorded with top GOP leadership said Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen suggested he would take floor access away from a credentialed media outlet. Reps. Jonathan Stickland, Steve Toth, and Travis Clardy said they listened to the audio of the meeting between Bonnen, House Republican Caucus Chairperson Dustin Burrows, and Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, a group that targets GOP lawmakers it deems not conservative enough. Bonnen said he could strip media credentials from Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report, and give media access to Empower Texans’ writers at its website, the lawmakers said. Sullivan had previously alleged the credentials were offered if Empower Texans agreed to target a list of 10 Republicans the speaker wanted ousted.
Wisconsin – A Wisconsin Lawmaker Who’s Paralyzed Isn’t Allowed to Call into Meetings; He Says That Keeps Him from Doing His Job
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 7/29/2019
Republicans who control the Wisconsin Assembly will not allow a paralyzed Democratic lawmaker who is in a wheelchair to phone into committee meetings. Rep. Jimmy Anderson said enforcing the rule keeps him from performing his job as well as he should. He said the rule discriminates against him because he has difficulty getting to some meetings because of health reasons. “I think it’s disrespectful for someone to be asking questions over a microphone or a speakerphone when individuals are actually taking the time out of their day to come and testify in person,” Speaker Robin Vos said. Anderson said he is considering suing if Assembly leaders do not change their stance. He is researching whether he would qualify as an employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act since he is a lawmaker, not an employee.