January 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020 Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her […]


House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020

Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.

How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020

In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.

How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020

Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.

Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020

There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020

Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.

Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020

Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020

An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.

Arkansas Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020

A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.

California L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020

The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

California Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020

San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.

California Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020

Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.

Colorado Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020

When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020

A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.

Florida Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020

Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.

Florida Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020

Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.

Illinois Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020

The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.

Indiana Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020

Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.

Kentucky These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020

At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.

Louisiana Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020

The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.

Maine Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020

A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.

Maryland After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020

With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government.  Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.

Maryland Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020

Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.

Massachusetts Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020

A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.

Massachusetts Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020

John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.

Michigan Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.

Michigan Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020

Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.

Missouri Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020

Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.

Missouri Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.

Missouri Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020

Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.

New York Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.

New York Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020

The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.

North Carolina Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020

Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.

Ohio Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.

Oregon Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020

Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.

Pennsylvania Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020

Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.

Texas Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020

San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.

Washington Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020

There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.

Washington DC Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020

Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration  in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.

Continue Reading - 31 min read Close

January 28, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” […]

Campaign Finance

Indiana: “Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe” by Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill for Indianapolis Star

Missouri: “Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.” by Kavahn Mansouri for Belleville News-Democrat


National: “Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals” by Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker for Washington Post


National: “Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says” by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) for MSN

Massachusetts: “Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery” by Milton Valencia for Boston Globe

Michigan: “Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say” by Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger for Detroit News

New York: “Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo” by Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Legislative Issues

Colorado: “Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

January 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal 2020 Democrats Are Naming Their Fundraising ‘Bundlers’ Amid a Fight Over Big Money in Politics Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai and Julia Terruso | Published: 12/26/2019 When it comes to political fundraising, rich people are great. People who know a […]


2020 Democrats Are Naming Their Fundraising ‘Bundlers’ Amid a Fight Over Big Money in Politics
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai and Julia Terruso | Published: 12/26/2019

When it comes to political fundraising, rich people are great. People who know a lot of rich people are even better. Individual donors may write the checks, but a lot of influence and power accrues to the intermediaries who collect the money. Known as “bundlers,” they are the financial backbone of many modern campaigns. “These are essentially fundraisers who aren’t on the payroll,” said Sarah Bryner, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics. There is no requirement that campaigns identify their bundlers, despite their importance and influence.

As More Women Run for Office, Child Care Remains a Hurdle
AP News – Lindsay Whitehurst and Christina Cassidy | Published: 1/1/2020

Experts predict a large number of women will again run for office in 2020 like they did in 2018, and childcare remains a hurdle for many of them. A congressional candidate in New York successfully petitioned the FEC in 2018 to allow campaign money to help cover childcare costs. But it applies only to those running for federal office. That leaves women in many states who are running for the Legislature, statewide positions like attorney general, or local offices to find another way to pay for childcare as they campaign, which often requires night and weekend work. Only six states have laws specifically allowing campaign money to be used for childcare.

Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 days of conflict and confusion
MSN – Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) | Published: 12/29/2019

The Democratic-led inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine established the president was actively involved in parallel efforts, both secretive and highly unusual, to bring pressure on a country he viewed with suspicion, if not disdain. One campaign, spearheaded by Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, aimed to force Ukraine to conduct investigations that could help Trump politically. The other was the president’s demand to withhold the security assistance. By late summer, the two efforts merged as American diplomats used the withheld aid as leverage in the effort to win a public commitment from the new Ukrainian president to carry out the investigations Trump sought. Interviews and impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.

Bloomberg’s Business in China Has Grown. That Could Create Unprecedented Entanglements If He Is Elected President.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 1/1/2020

If President Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his global real estate business has tested the limits of America’s ethics laws and traditions, sparking lawsuits and allegations of influence by foreign interests, a Michael Bloomberg presidency could present a whole new level of overseas entanglements, with China as a prime example. Tensions have grown between Washington and Beijing in recent years amid trade disputes, clashes over democracy and human rights, and disagreements over China’s efforts to expand its influence around the world. Yet Bloomberg, who is spending tens of millions of dollars of his own money to compete for the Democratic presidential nomination, has deepened his entanglements with that key U.S. adversary, forging close financial ties there while showering praise on the Communist Party leaders whose goodwill is required to play a role in that fast-growing market.

Julián Castro Ends Presidential Campaign
MSN – Jennifer Medina and Matt Stevens (New York Times) | Published: 1/2/2020

Julián Castro, the former housing secretary and San Antonio mayor who was the only Latino candidate in the Democratic primary, said he would end his bid for the presidency, capping a yearlong campaign where despite struggling in polls, he remained an enduring contender and policy pacesetter on immigration and fighting poverty. Throughout his campaign, Castro portrayed himself as a liberal who was shaped by his humble beginnings and had been overlooked by the press. Though he created some memorable moments as he championed progressive policy and challenged his rivals on the campaign trail, Castro was unable to break into the upper tier of a crowded primary field. His exit is the latest departure of a candidate of color from a field that began as the most racially diverse ever in a Democratic primary.

Rick Gates Gets 45 Days of Weekend Jail, 3 Years of Probation
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/17/2019

Rick Gates’ cooperation with prosecutors investigating President Trump and his 2016 campaign paid off when a federal judge sentenced the Republican operative to 45 days of weekend jail time and three years of probation. The relatively light punishment for Gates, a former Trump campaign deputy, was still slightly more than expected going into the hearing. Federal prosecutors had recommended just one year of probation for Gates in exchange for his role as a critical high-profile government witness whose testimony helped net convictions against two of Trump’s ex-campaign aides, former chairperson Paul Manafort and longtime political adviser Roger Stone.

Trump Campaign Plagued by Groups Raising Tens of Millions in His Name
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 12/23/2019

As President Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he is competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups, and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by the campaign. And they have pulled in over $46 million so far. The groups mimic Trump’s brand in the way they look and feel. They borrow the president’s Twitter avatar on Facebook pages, use clips of Trump’s voice in robocalls asking for “an emergency contribution to the campaign” and, in some cases, have been affiliated with former Trump aides, such as onetime deputy campaign manager David Bossie. But most are spending little money to help the president win in 2020.

Warren Embraced the High-Dollar Fundraiser Circuit for Years – Until Just Before Her Presidential Campaign
MSN – Annie Linskey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 12/28/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren embraced a high-dollar fundraising program her entire political career, from her first Senate run in 2011 through her reelection last year. Warren was so successful at it she was able to transfer $10 million of her Senate cash to help launch her presidential bid. But in the past year Warren has undergone a transformation, moving from one of the Democratic Party’s biggest draws at high-dollar fundraisers to a presidential candidate who has sworn them off as sinister attempts to sell access. Warren’s new position is part of an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist of the party’s left wing, where activists and voters believe wealthy individuals and companies have far too much influence in American life. But party strategists say Warren’s approach could be damaging for her, as well as her opponents.

From the States and Municipalities

California New Ethics Rule Would Allow State Judges to Speak Out About Rulings in Campaigns
San Diego Union Tribune – Greg Moran | Published: 1/1/2020

Spurred by the successful recall of Santa Clara County judge who sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in jail for a sexual assault, the California Supreme Court is weighing changes to the code of ethics that would allow judges to break a longstanding taboo and speak out about pending cases – if a judge is being criticized for rulings in that case during a recall or election. Historically, judges do not comment on pending cases out of concern it could show a bias to one side or the other, impair the rights to a fair trial, or influence how a case develops. The current ethics rules ban judges, and their staff, from making any comment on pending cases.

Colorado Colorado Governors Have Been Tapping Federal Fund for ‘Essential Services’ for Years
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 1/2/2020

A pool of federal money meant to boost Colorado’s economy in the early 2000s still exists 16 years after its creation and was used by at least two governors for a hodgepodge of expenses, including the creation of a $13,000 website touting former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s legacy. The fund, which came to public attention in November when it was found to be covering the cost of Hickenlooper’s ethics defense, was created in 2003 by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, to help states recover from the 2001 recession.  Budget officials for the past two governors say there were few, if any, limits on what dollars in the federal fund could be spent on, augmenting governor’s office spending that is otherwise controlled by the Legislature.

Florida A Place for Progressives: People’s Advocacy Center in Tallahassee is made for citizen-lobbyists
Tallahassee Democrat – James Call | Published: 12/27/2019

Three years ago, Karen Woodall, a longtime lobbyist for progressive causes, serendipitously found a 12,000-square-foot building that now is called the Florida People’s Advocacy Center. It is a place that out-of-town activists can use as a home-away-from-home and office to organize their lobbying of state government. There are 33 dorm-style rooms and a common space outfitted much like a family room with sofas, chairs, board games in a bookcase, and a television. Granted, it is not a colonnaded association palace or gleaming office tower occupied by platoons of well-heeled lobbyists and influence peddlers that dot the Tallahassee landscape. But for these progressive warriors on a shoestring, it is home away from home.

Florida ‘Wild West:’ Florida legislators’ PACs amass hundreds of millions of dollars
Tallahassee Democrat – Mark Harper and Abigail Brashear (Daytona Beach News-Journal) | Published: 12/30/2019

Direct donations to campaigns for the Florida Legislature are limited to $1,000. But lawmakers have a way around that: their own political action committees. These PACs allow for big-dollar contributions, lavish spending, and curious exchanges of funds between lawmakers. There are limits on the amount of money corporations and individuals can give directly to political candidates’ campaigns. But thanks to Republican-led legislation in 2013, many lawmakers now control their own political committees. The amount of money a company or individual can donate to a legislator’s PAC is limitless.

Georgia Federal Judge Will Not Reverse Georgia’s Decision to Purge 100,000 Voters
Seattle Times – Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 12/29/2019

A federal judge backed Georgia’s removal of nearly 100,000 names from the state’s voter rolls. The decision comes as state officials face accusations of voter suppression, particularly against black and low-income voters. Scrutiny of voting rights in Georgia has been heightened since the governor’s race in 2018 brought long lines at polling sites and criticism of outdated voting machines. In the ruling, the judge, Steve Jones, said the lead plaintiff, Fair Fight Action, a voting rights advocacy organization, did not prove the Georgia secretary of state’s decision to cancel the voter registration status of inactive voters violated the Constitution.

Hawaii Free Lunch from a Contractor Is Annual Tradition at Honolulu Hale
Hololulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 12/27/2019

Honolulu’s ethics guidelines say city departments should not accept any gifts from those doing business with their agencies. That includes contractors. But for at least five years, a major city contractor, the RM Towill Corp., has gifted lunches to city agencies. Among them is the Honolulu City Council, whose chair recently pledged to reimburse the company for a 100-person luncheon amid ethics concerns. The city and Towill said the food was just a “token of aloha” that can be considered an exception to the regular ethics rules. That conflicts with Ethics Commission guidelines that advise city agencies they are generally prohibited from accepting anything from city contractors regardless of the value of the gift. While offering a token of aloha like a lei valued at less than $50 is generally acceptable, Ethics Commission Director Jan Yamane said larger gestures can be problematic.

Illinois City Council Approves Ban on Aldermen Lobbying State, Local Governments
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 12/18/2019

The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that would prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and prevent their counterparts at those other levels from doing the same at City Hall. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the bill was driven by the scandal surrounding now-former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who resigned one week after his arrest on a federal bribery charge. Arroyo was accused of paying a bribe to a state senator, identified by The Chicago Sun-Times as state Sen. Terry Link, in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefitted one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients. Link has denied the charge.

Illinois Nonprofits Get a Break from City Lobbying Rules
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 12/20/2019

After some nonprofit groups raised concerns about a chilling effect on grassroots efforts and the cost of compliance, Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked of the Chicago Board of Ethics chairperson not to crack down on unregistered nonprofit lobbyists for another three months. Bryan Zarou, director of public policy and advocacy at Forefront, an umbrella group for foundations, grant makers, and nonprofits, said his 1,200 members interact multiple times a day with city agencies. Logging all those calls accurately and facing $1,000 a day in penalties would be “pretty insane.” While he would have liked a six-month window to remove what he said was ambiguity in the ordinance, he says it is better than workers being scared to pick up the phone.

Illinois State Senator Who Wore Wire on Fellow Lawmaker Failed to Report $50,000 Condo Sale Profit, Records Show
Chicago Tribune – David Heinzman and Jason Meisner | Published: 12/20/2019

A state senator embroiled in a federal corruption investigation failed to report a $50,000 profit from the sale of a Florida condominium as required on his state ethics form. The 2016 real estate transaction involved Sen. Terry Link, identified by a source as the unnamed senator who wore a wire on a fellow lawmaker. The recording, made in August, captured what authorities said was a bribery offer that led to criminal charges against then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Link, who has denied being the unnamed senator, ended up cooperating with the FBI after authorities discovered evidence that showed he had cheated on his taxes. State law requires elected officials to disclose when they make more than $5,000 from selling any asset. Link offered the same response to that question as he did to the form’s other questions: “N/A,” short for “not applicable.”

Maine State Ethics Board Fines Mills’ Inaugural Committee for Late Fundraising
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 12/18/2019

Maine’s ethics commission fined the inaugural committee of Gov. Janet Mills $2,000 under a new law requiring disclosure of inaugural committee finances. Mills’ committee was fined for continuing to collect donations 10 months past the legal deadline for doing so. But commissioners also criticized the new law, passed by a ballot initiative, for its tight deadline. The law on inaugural committee fundraising requires committees to finish their work by January 31 and file final finance reports no later than February 15. A bill to change those requirements is expected to be heard during the upcoming session of the Legislature. The inaugural committee continued to collect donations because it was unable to cover its expenses for the January celebration.

Maryland Cheryl Glenn, Recently Resigned Democratic State Delegate from Baltimore, Is Charged with Bribery, Wire Fraud
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Kevin Rector | Published: 12/23/2019

Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn, who abruptly resigned her long-held seat recently, was charged with bribery and wire fraud. U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said Glenn accepted $33,750 in bribes in exchange for several actions: voting for a bill last year that increased the number of state medical cannabis licenses, introducing legislation to ease the experience requirement to be medical director of an opioid treatment clinic, and introducing legislation to create a new liquor license in her district. Prosecutors said she accepted packets of cash in Baltimore restaurants after frankly negotiating what legislative actions she would take in exchange.

Massachusetts A Career Spent Helping People ‘Do Things Right’: State’s campaign finance chief is retiring
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 12/24/2019

Mike Sullivan is set to retire as director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, where he has led a transformation from a paper-inundated office in the mid-1990s to today’s nearly all-electronic enterprise policing the state’s campaign finance landscape. For Sullivan, it has been a natural fit. The state’s campaign finance “referee” by day, he has spent his weekends for 34 years officiating football and umpiring baseball games, a second career whose mementos litter his office, alongside those from his public life. One is a sign Sullivan pinned up soon after he was appointed in 1994: “Oops doesn’t cut it when man’s reputation is ruined.”

Massachusetts Correctional Officers PAC Pays $45,000 for Campaign Finance Violations Related to Buying Signs for Gov. Charlie Baker Campaign
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 12/20/2019

A correctional officers’ PAC will pay $45,000 to address campaign finance violations related to buying signs for campaigns including Gov. Charlie Baker’s. The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union PAC was required by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) to pay $22,500 to the state’s general fund and $22,500 to a charity of the PAC’s choice. OCPF said the PAC donated more than the allowed political contributions to multiple candidates. The issue was not about direct donations, but in-kind contributions like political signs. Under state law, a PAC cannot contribute more than $500 in cash or anything else of value to a campaign each year. A PAC can spend an unlimited amount of money independently, as long as it does not coordinate with the candidate’s campaign.

Massachusetts Ex-Speaker Sal DiMasi’s Latest Bid to Be a Lobbyist Is Denied
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 12/26/2019

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s appeal to register as a state lobbyist was denied by a hearing officer, a move that is expected to push his months-long bid to lobby on Beacon Hill to Superior Court. DiMasi had challenged Secretary of State William Galvin’s decision to reject his application to register, when he said the former speaker’s 2011 federal conviction on public corruption charges includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws and should automatically prohibit him from lobbying for 10 years, or until June 2021.DiMasi argued that when state lawmakers overhauled the lobbying law in 2009, they did not include any of the federal statutes on which he was convicted among those that would disqualify him.

Michigan Audit Pings State Bureau of Elections on Voter File, Training, Campaign Finance Oversight
Detroit Free Press – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Maurer | Published: 12/27/2019

Michigan’s Bureau of Elections failed to properly safeguard the state’s file of 7.5 million qualified voters, a discrepancy that allowed an unauthorized user to access the file and increased the risk of an ineligible elector voting in Michigan, according to a report from the Office of Auditor General. Elections officials lack proper training in more than 14 percent of counties, cities, and townships, the audit also found. And the bureau did not make timely reviews for campaign statements, lobby reports, and campaign finance complaints.

Michigan Michigan Supreme Court Revives Recall Petitions against Rep. Larry Inman
MLive.com – Julie Mack | Published: 12/30/2019

The Michigan Supreme Court revived a recall campaign against state Rep. Larry Inman, reversing a decision by the Court of Appeals to disqualify petition signatures because of typographical errors. Inman was accused earlier this year of soliciting a bribe, extortion, and lying to police stemming from a request for campaign contributions in the lead-up to a close vote last legislative session. A jury found Inman not guilty of making a false statement to an FBI agent, but could not decide on whether to find him guilty for the bribery and extortion charges, resulting in a mistrial.

Minnesota DFL Legislator’s Post at the U Did Not Violate Ethics Laws, Review Concludes
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 12/30/2019

A lawmaker did not violate state ethics rules when he accepted a paid job with a University of Minnesota think tank, despite evidence of preferential treatment in the hiring process, an investigation concluded. The hiring of Rep. Jamie Long for a $50,000 temporary post at the Institute on the Environment’s Energy Transition Lab attracted scrutiny after internal documents showed he and the hiring manager, a former Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party senator, discussed the role for months before the opening was posted publicly. House Republicans also raised questions about whether the job itself included lobbying, which is prohibited by legislative rules, and presented a conflict-of-interest for Long.

New Jersey #MeToo Was Supposed to Fix Things. But Women in N.J. Politics Say They’ve Been Groped, Harassed – and Worse.
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelley Heboyer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/29/2019

Twenty female campaign staffers, lobbyists, political operatives, and lawmakers shared stories of being groped, sexually propositioned, harassed, or marginalized while trying to build careers in state and local politics in New Jersey. They painted a portrait of a casually misogynistic system of politics and government where it is nearly impossible for women to remain in the business without having to navigate everything from sexist insults to assaults on their bodies. Almost all said the two marquee political gatherings – the annual Chamber of Commerce “Walk to Washington” train trip and the League of Municipalities convention – remain minefields despite a perception that conditions have improved in recent years. None of the women reported the alleged groping, sexual misconduct, or assaults. They said they feared speaking out would hurt their careers.

New Jersey Who Are the 5 N.J. Officials Facing Public Corruption Charges?
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/19/2019

The school board president of New Jersey’s second-largest city. A former state lawmaker. An ex-county freeholder. A one-time local councilperson. A former freeholder candidate who is also the wife of Morristown’s mayor. In New Jersey’s latest big corruption sting, five current and former public officials and political candidates have been charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes disguised as campaign contributions from an unnamed tax attorney who was cooperating as a witness, the state attorney general announced. In exchange, they promised to hire the attorney for lucrative legal work, according to the complaint. The defendants from Hudson and Morris counties accepted money stuffed in envelopes, paper bags, and, in one case, a coffee cup, authorities said.

New York New York Ethics Agency Votes Down ‘Self-Assessment’ of Its Operations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg and Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/17/2019

The members of New York’s embattled ethics commission voted down a “self-assessment” proposal to examine their internal operations, and also that of the state inspector general’s office. In a rare public deliberation on a controversial matter, members of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) voted against a proposal to authorize an assessment of two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s so-called watchdog agencies. Their unusual call for an assessment of the inspector general’s office comes after that office recently conducted an investigation into, but did not substantiate, allegations that confidential JCOPE matters were leaked to the governor.

New York New York’s New Public Campaign Funding System on the Books
AP News – Maria Villeneuve | Published: 12/23/2019

A plan to root out corruption by using public money to fund campaigns in New York is moving forward. A commission hashed out a system to spend up to $100 million in public funds on elections, and lawmakers had until December 22 to return for a rare special session to outright reject the plan, which they did not do. The plan has drawn scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats alike who are expected to fine-tune the plan’s details next year. And lawmakers will have time to make changes: commissioners delayed the program four years for state legislative races and six years for statewide races. The commission, meanwhile, is facing lawsuits filed by Republicans, minor political parties, and good government groups who claim the commission is overstepping its authority and hurting third parties.

Oregon Ethics Commission Finds Multiple Ethics Law Violations by Former PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi
Portland Oregonian – Jeff Manning | Published: 1/1/2020

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission determined Rahmat Shoureshi, former president of Portland State University, violated state ethics laws three times in his short stint leading the school. Shoureshi agreed to resign as the university’s top executive last May after he had come under fire for his treatment of employees and several ethically dubious deals. Highly touted as a “change agent” who would bring private-sector ambition and discipline to Oregon’s largest university, Shoureshi lasted less than two years on the job.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s New Board of Parole Pick Is Suing the House Finance Chair for Slander
The Tennessean – Natalie Allison | Published: 12/30/2019

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s new appointee to the state Board of Parole says she will continue to pursue a slander lawsuit against the chairperson of the House Finance committee, a longtime political rival from whom she is seeking $100,000. Mae Beavers, a former state lawmaker, was appointed by Lee to a seat on the board, a six-year position paying $102,000 a year. Beavers is suing Rep. Susan Lynn, alleging the fellow Wilson County politician spread rumors about Beavers breaking into Lynn’s home and trying to have Lynn killed. Beavers also says a former county election commissioner defamed her character.

Virginia On Va. Democrats’ 2020 To-Do List, Voting Rights Seem to Top Campaign Finance Reform
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 1/2/2020

It is not unusual for statehouse leaders in Virginia to take in one last post-election fundraising haul before turning their attention to legislative business that, in some cases, has a direct impact on donors’ financial interests. What will be different in 2020, after a record-breaking election cycle that saw the two parties raise a combined $121 million, is that Democrats will have the power to change the largely open-ended campaign finance system many of them have criticized in the past. But as new Democratic majorities prepare to reshape state law in a wide variety of policy areas, campaign finance reform does not appear to be a major piece of the first-year agenda.

Virginia Va. House Speaker-Designee Filler-Corn Leaves Job at Lobbying Firm
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Mel Leonor and Patrick Wilson | Published: 12/31/2019

Virginia House Speaker-elect Eileen Filler-Corn is stepping down from her job at a lobbying and consulting firm, helping to alleviate the potential for conflicts-of-interest as she prepares for the leadership role. Filler-Corn was the government relations director at Albers & Company, which lobbies the Virginia Legislature and governor’s office on health care and energy issues. Filler-Corn was not a lobbyist, but some of her clients had interests or dealings before state government.

Washington Washington Rep. Matt Shea Engaged in Domestic Terrorism Against U.S., Says State House Report
Seattle Times – David Gutman, Jim Brunner, and Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 12/19/2019

A state lawmaker took part in “domestic terrorism” against the U.S. during a 2016 standoff at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and traveled throughout the West meeting with far-right extremist groups, according to a report prepared for the Washington Legislature. The investigation also found Rep. Matt Shea trained young people to fight a “holy war,” condoned intimidating opponents, and promoted militia training by the Patriot Movement for possible armed conflict with law enforcement. Incoming House Speake Laurie Jinkins said the report had been forwarded to federal prosecutors and the FBI. Shea has also pursued creation of a 51st state in eastern Washington that would be called Liberty.

Wisconsin To Recognize Black History Month, GOP Lawmaker Proposes a List of Mostly White People
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 12/31/2019

In Wisconsin, one state lawmaker wants to mark Black History Month by celebrating 10 Americans – including a Civil War colonel, a newspaper editor, and a church deacon. All are heralded for their bravery; but most on the list are white. The resolution identifies a group of people integral to the state’s Underground Railroad system, both slaves who traveled it and abolitionists who sheltered them. The author, state Rep. Scott Allen, says it is a sincere effort to salute important historical figures. But several black legislators have called the effort disingenuous and said it undermines the purpose of Black History Month: to highlight the accomplishments of African Americans so often overlooked in classrooms and history books.

Continue Reading - 30 min read Close

December 6, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 6, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019 In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in […]


A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019

In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in April, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani was on the phone with the White House more than a dozen times. Phone records cited in the impeachment report released by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate the sprawling reach of Giuliani’s campaign first to remove the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, then to force Ukraine’s new government to announce criminal investigations for Trump’s political gain. He reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton; U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee; Fox News host Sean Hannity; a conservative columnist; and the owner of a mysterious number, “-1.”

Appeals Court Refuses to Block House Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Ann Marimow and Renae Merle (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2019

House Democrats can access President Trump’s private financial records from two banks, a federal appeals court ruled, finding a “public interest” in refusing to block congressional subpoenas. The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit came in the ongoing legal battle Trump has waged to shield his private business records from disclosure, including in two cases that have already reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information.

Democrats Take in Lobbying Industry Cash Despite Pledges
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/1/2019

The lobbying industry has contributed $545,173 to 2020 presidential campaigns with nearly 80 percent going to Democratic candidates, even as many of those hopefuls vow not to take donations from lobbyists. The numbers paint a complicated picture. Democratic candidates and their progressive allies in the current cycle have put new scrutiny on lobbyists as well as on taking money from other special interest or corporate groups. But that has not completely stopped the flow of money to candidates and campaigns. K Street’s top ranks are filled with former Democrats, many with ties to the candidates. And watchdog groups say that while the focus is on federally registered lobbyists, donations from others tied to the industry, such as state- and local-level lobbyists, often trickle through.

Facebook Has Floated Limiting Political Ads and Labeling That They Aren’t Fact-Checked, Riling 2020 Campaigns
Connecticut Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019

Facebook has weighed whether to label political ads to indicate they have not been fact-checked, rather than vetting what candidates say, one of a series of proposals the company has floated to Democratic and Republican operatives as it seeks to head off controversies in the 2020 election campaign. Some of the ideas have left campaign strategists in both parties uneasy, fearful that Facebook’s reforms might hamstring their ability to persuade and mobilize voters in a year when the White House is at stake. For Democrats, the possible changes also have done little to assuage concerns about ads they say contain falsehoods. Facebook has maintained it should not serve as the arbiter of truth, determining what elected officials can say to potential voters.

Ilhan Omar’s Opponent Barred by Twitter After Suggesting Congresswoman Should Be Hanged
Seattle Times – Marissa lati (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2019

Twitter shut down the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, after Stella twice tweeted about hanging Omar. The campaign account for Stella, a candidate in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, posted “If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.” The account later tweeted a link to a blog post about her comment and added an image of a stick-figure being hanged. The suspensions come as Twitter and other social media platform fight back against criticism that they have been too lackadaisical in policing themselves for hate speech, violence, extremism, and abuse on their platforms.

Impeachment Report Alleges Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference
MSN – Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019

House Democrats asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing an impeachment report that found the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.” The report by the Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding he sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security, then worked to conceal his actions from Congress. Democrats left it to the Judiciary Committee to decide whether to recommend Trump’s impeachment, but their report presented what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House votes to formally charge him.

Judge Denies DOJ Request for Stay on Don McGahn Testimony
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/2/2019

House Democrats notched another legal victory in their pursuit of critical testimony tied to their impeachment efforts, though the ruling may be short-lived because the case is already on temporary hold while it works its way toward an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s request to put a long-term stay on her earlier opinion requiring Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to appear before the Judiciary Committee. Jackson also decided to lift an earlier administrative stay she had issued that had put her decision briefly on ice while the case moved up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election
Philadelphia Inquirer – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019

A key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was indicted with seven others on charges of conspiring to funnel more than $3 million in illegal campaign contributions. George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who acted as an intermediary for members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seeking to forge contacts in the Middle East, was charged with conspiring to make conduit campaign contributions and related offenses. Prosecutors also charged Ahmad Khawaja, a Lebanese American businessperson, with 35 counts related to allegations he conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions directed to political committees associated with presidential candidates.

‘One of the Hardest Decisions of My Life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 12/3/2019

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is ending her presidential campaign after months of failing to lift her candidacy from the bottom of the field, a premature departure for someone once heralded as a top-tier contender for the nomination. While Harris had qualified for the December debate, she was running dangerously low on cash – lacking the resources to air television ads in Iowa – and her staff was gripped by long-running internal turmoil. Voters complained they were unable to pin Harris down on a host of issues. What could have been one of her greatest strengths, her time spent as the top prosecutor in California, became a liability with a Democratic base that has turned left on issues of criminal justice.

Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’
San Diego Union-Tribune – Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald | Published: 12/3/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a charge of misusing campaign money. Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 counts related to their use of $200,000 in contributions for family expenses. Margaret Hunter has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. The couple relied for years on campaign donations to pay for things like dental bills, private school tuition, and plane tickets for Margaret Hunter’s mother to travel to and from Poland. Their joint bank account was overdrawn more than 1,100 times over six years and they incurred about $36,000 in penalties – fees they paid using campaign contributions. As the case progressed, it became clear that Duncan Hunter had extramarital affairs with five different women and used campaign money to facilitate meetings.

Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock
The Fulcrum – Sarah Swann | Published: 12/2/2019

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate focused mainly on achieving a top goal of democracy reformers, ended his campaign. When Bullock entered the already crowded field in May, he vowed to make his bid for the White House about ending the influence of big money in politics as a prerequisite for addressing the nation’s other big problems, from health care coverage to climate change. Six months later, his fundraising and statistically insignificant standing in the polls remained lackluster enough that he had only been invited to one debate and had little prospect of being asked to another.

State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-for-All
MSN – Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2019

Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that warned against the dangers of Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care. Montana Rep. Kathy Kelker and Sen. Jen Gross acknowledged editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant. Gross said MacDonald contacted her on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group funded by hospitals, private insurers, drug companies, and other private health-care firms. An aide to Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman confirmed the lawmaker’s op-ed criticizing Medicare-for-all was written with the help of Kathleen DeLand, an Ohio-based lobbyist. None of the lawmakers’ columns disclose that they were written with the help of a lobbyist.

Trump Campaign Denies Press Credentials to Bloomberg News, Claiming ‘Bias’ Against the President
San Francisco Chronicle – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2019

The Trump campaign said it would no longer credential journalists with Bloomberg News for campaign events, accusing the news organization of “bias” against the president. Bloomberg News faced a journalistic quandary when its owner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, decided to jump into the 2020 Democratic primary. In a widely criticized decision, editor-and-chief John Micklethwait announced the newsroom would continue its tradition of not investigating the personal life and finances of Bloomberg and would extend the same policy to his Democratic opponents. But Micklethwait noted Bloomberg News would continue to investigate the Trump administration. The news outlet’s decision was intended to avoid conflicts-of-interest in the Democratic primary.


Canada Sask. Changing Lobbyist, Conflict of Interest Rules
CBC – Staff | Published: 11/25/2019

The Saskatchewan government introduced legislation to “promote transparency and enhance accountability among provincially-elected officials,” via amendments to the Lobbyists Act and the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act. The Lobbyists Act changes include a new provision prohibiting in-house lobbyists or consultant lobbyists from providing gifts, favors, or other benefits to public office holders, and reducing the threshold for registration as an in-house lobbyist from 100 hours to 30 hours per year. The Members Conflict of Interest Act changes include adding a definition of “gift or personal benefit.”

From the States and Municipalities

California California Campaign Watchdog Suspends Donation Rules After a Member Gives to Sanders
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 12/4/2019

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) suspended a longstanding policy banning its members from contributing to federal candidates after one commissioner donated to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. The decision by the FPPC, which is responsible for policing campaign finance in California, is drawing criticism from some reform advocates and former state officials who say the policy was put in place to avoid an appearance of bias in favor of candidates whose campaigns are scrutinized by the state agency. The FPPC also asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the legality and scope of the rules, which some members say violates their First Amendment rights.

California DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict
San Francisco Chronicle – Sarah Ravani | Published: 12/3/2019

The Alameda County district attorney filed criminal charges against the former head of the special agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum complex for allegedly violating state conflict-of-interest laws while negotiating the naming rights of the stadium. Scott McKibben was charged with a felony and misdemeanor count of violating conflict-of-interest laws by seeking a $50,000 payment for helping negotiate a settlement for the Coliseum naming rights with RingCentral, according to charging documents.

California L.A. Limits Campaign Donations from Real Estate Developers. Critics Say It Falls Short
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 12/4/2019

The Los Angeles City Council voted to prevent developers who have project applications pending at City Hall from making campaign donations to elected officials or candidates for municipal office, although some members expressed concern over the effectiveness of the ordinance. The idea, first proposed nearly three years ago, had languished until an FBI raid at City Hall cast a fresh spotlight on concerns about developer contributions. The law does not prohibit developers from hosting fundraisers or raising money from other donors and it does not apply to major subcontractors on a development project. The law will not take effect for more than two years, a delay officials said was needed to first set up a database tracking who is prohibited from contributing.

California New LADWP Commissioner Works for a Company That Markets Water and Power
Los Angeles Times – Sammy Roth and Dakota Smith | Published: 11/27/2019

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) board of commissioners is a top executive at a company that markets water and power and has a history of trying to make deals with government agencies in Southern California, including LADWP. Nicole Neeman Brady serves as chief operating officer at Renewable Resources Group, which develops solar energy facilities and has bought and sold lands with valuable water rights. The board of commissioners oversees the country’s largest municipal utility, helping guide purchases of energy and water for Los Angeles. Renewable Resources Group is in the business of developing energy and water projects, raising the potential for conflicts-of-interest if the company seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on the board.

Connecticut Jon Lender: It’s audit time after $33M in influence efforts so far in 2019 by lobbyists who cram Capitol, form ‘gauntlet’ by restrooms
Hartford Courant – Jon Lester | Published: 12/2/2019

The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board randomly drew the names of 10 companies and groups that have used lobbyists to audit during the coming year for compliance with state law. Those chosen ranged from corporate giants such as Apple to an individually owned insurance consulting outfit in Branford. These examinations will determine if Capitol lobbyists, and the interest groups that hire them, are obeying state restrictions and filing financial disclosure reports aimed at combating the potential corrupting power of tens of millions of dollars spent each year on influencing state government.

Florida Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper Cleared of Corruption Charges
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 11/26/2019

A jury acquitted former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper on all six counts related to allegations she took part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. During closing arguments, Catherine Maus, the state’s lead prosecutor on the case, leaned on a series of audio and video recordings taken by the undercover agents to support the argument that Cooper knew exactly how the scheme would play out in 2012. But Cooper’s attorney, Larry Davis, said Maus was jumping to conclusions that the evidence did not support.

Georgia Georgia Campaign Ethics Panel Fines Lawmakers, Investigates Abrams
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 12/5/2019

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission handed out fines to state legislators, made public an investigation into the finances for the 2017 campaign for Atlanta mayor, and advanced an investigation into a voting rights nonprofit connected to former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Commission Executive Secretary David Emadi told commissioners of new allegations that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood accepted excessive contributions during their 2017 campaigns. The ethics panel is continuing an investigation into a voting rights group and a political committee connected to Abrams, who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

Georgia Georgia Gov. Kemp Taps Business Executive Kelly Loeffler for Senate Seat, with An Emphasis on Boosting Trump
Washington Post – Robert Costa and Max Blau | Published: 12/4/2019

Republican business executive Kelly Loeffler was named to a soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat in Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp following days of debate among some leading conservatives about the political novice’s expected selection, her values, and her loyalty to President Trump. In a nod toward those concerns, both Kemp and Loeffler sought to underscore her support for Trump, illustrating how most Republicans remain wary of upsetting the president or his core voters even as Trump faces a House impeachment inquiry and a possible Senate trial. She will replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year for health reasons.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Signs Law Requiring Additional Disclosure from Lobbyists
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 12/4/2019

Lobbyists will have to disclose additional information to the public under a measure Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. When the General Assembly approved the measure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described it as a small step toward fixing state government ethics laws amid an ongoing federal corruption probe that has ensnared Democratic politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. The law, effective immediately, also requires the secretary of state to create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest.

Illinois Plan to Bar Chicago Alderman from Lobbying, Other New Limits Advances in City Council
Chicago Tribune – John Bryne | Published: 12/4/2019

With federal investigators probing lobbying activities at the state level, the Chicago City Council moved a step closer to banning aldermen from acting as lobbyists and stopping other elected officials from lobbying them. Under the proposed rules, aldermen would not be allowed to lobby the city council, the county, the state, or any other local government unit, nor would any other elected officials in the state be able to lobby the council or other units of city government. A handful of aldermen voiced concerns about the ordinance, citing examples of registered lobbyists who might serve on low-paid suburban bodies like library boards and would need to give up those posts to keep lobbying Chicago government.

Iowa Former Iowa Senate Secretary Named Ethics Board Executive
AP News – Staff | Published: 11/26/2019

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board named Mike Marshall as its new executive director. The board said Marshall will provide leadership and serve as legal counsel succeeding Megan Tooker, who is leaving the job after nine years. Marshal previously served as secretary of the state Senate.

Louisiana Ex-Louisiana Racing Commissioner Fined $50,000 for Ethical Conflict from Bobby Jindal Era
New Orleans Advocate – John Simerman | Published: 11/29/2019

A state administrative court leveled $50,000 in penalties against a Louisiana horseman who served for nearly three years on the State Racing Commission at the same time he was leasing stall space to racehorse owners and trainers regulated by the commission. The fines against Neal Cormier and his NBC Stables came more than 11 years after former Gov. Bobby Jindal named Cormier among a new crop of appointees to the commission.  Jindal’s appointments to the Racing Commission included Cormier and two other men who would later be called out for possible conflicts in a May 2011 report from state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office. The state Board of Ethics followed with charges against all three men in 2012.

Maryland ‘Healthy Holly’ Fallout: City Council president seeks review of Baltimore contracts with financier J.P. Grant
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Luke Broadwater | Published: 12/4/2019

City Council President Brandon Scott asked Baltimore’s inspector general to review the last five years of city contracts with financier and “Healthy Holly” book purchaser J.P. Grant. The request comes in response to federal prosecutors’ contention that Grant knew he was improperly funding former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s political campaign by writing checks for her self-published children’s books. Pugh pleaded guilty to corruption charges related to a scheme in which she sold her “Healthy Holly” books to organizations and individuals with business before the state and the city when she was, respectively, state senator and then mayor.

Massachusetts State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 11/27/2019

House, Senate, and mayoral candidates will transition to a more accurate method of tracking their campaign finances under a law signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The new law will require all state and mayoral candidates to use the “depository system” for banking their campaign accounts. Under this system, banks automatically submit reports to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) each month itemizing all expenditures from a campaign account and summarizing all receipts. OCPF then reconciles the reports and posts the data online. If there are discrepancies between the information filed by the bank and the candidate, OCPF auditors can quickly identify them and work with the candidate to fix the problem.

Michigan Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/2/2019

Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is set to stand trial on federal corruption charges for doing what many incumbent lawmakers do: asking a special-interest group to donate for re-election. But federal prosecutors contend Inman broke the law with his solicitations to union officials by offering to sell his vote on a controversial measure to oppose the state’s prevailing wage repeal law for construction workers. For jurors, the case could come down to a question that has become familiar in politics: was there a quid pro quo? Courts have spent decades wrestling over how to distinguish illegal bribes from legal campaign contributions by groups seeking to influence political decisions.

New Jersey Sue Altman, George Norcross, and the ‘Whodunit’ Roiling New Jersey Politics
Phialdelphia Inquirer – Pranshu Verma | Published: 12/5/2019

Progressive activist Sue Altman was forcibly ejected from a Capitol hearing room for an unknown reason. The incident started when George Norcross III, an influential New Jersey powerbroker, testified about a controversial tax incentive program he has been accused of manipulating. After the hearing started, a chorus of boos rang out, and the committee chairperson ordered state police to “clear the back row.” They instead went straight to Altman, who was standing in a different part of the room. Altman said she was not making noise before she was dragged out. The confrontation quickly hit social media, with many calling it an abuse of power. It also became a defining moment for Altman and her campaign to remake state politics. Activists have used the images to bolster their position that unelected people like Norcross, an insurance executive, hold outsized control in the state.

New Jersey Top Democrat Wants to Unmask Who Is Being Paid to Sway Lawmakers
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Matt Arco (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/5/2019

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeny is set to introduce a proposal to publicly reveal politically connected consultants that lobbyists hire to help sway legislators and top officials who craft laws and decide how to spend taxpayer money. Sweeny’s bill takes aim at “shadow lobbying,” a controversial but common practice in politics across the country in which consultants are paid to help influence policy but are not required by law to be identified. State law requires lobbyists to register, obtain a license, and disclose how much they spend, who they are lobbying, and what subject they are lobbying. But lobbyists and government-regulated entities do not have to reveal if they hire outside consultants that help them with advising, legal work, public relations, advertising, research, and more.

New Mexico Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks
Albuquerque Journal – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 11/26/2019

New Mexico election regulators have not completed required spot checks for campaign finance compliance amid escalating private spending on political campaigns and a shifting enforcement landscape. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attributed some of the delay to scarce resources at the agency she oversees. Discrepancies or apparent violations that cannot be resolved readily are eventually forwarded to the state attorney general for possible investigation. Starting in 2020, some referrals will be made to the newly created state Ethics Commission. State Elections Director Mandy Vigil said Toulouse Oliver’s office is trying to hire additional staff to assist with the reviews.

New York Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/2/2019

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption slammed the state Board of Elections for its allegedly non-existent enforcement of election laws. The commission’s preliminary report resulted in the creation of a new, independent election law enforcement office that since its creation has been overseen by attorney Risa Sugarman. Over the past five years, Sugarman’s office has seemed to change the board’s formerly lackluster dynamic by pursuing high-profile cases. But as a result of a report issued by a newer commission to implement a publicly funded campaign system in New York, a significant amount of the enforcement work appears headed away from the independent enforcement counsel’s office and back to the state Board of Elections. That has some government reform advocates concerned.

New York Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/4/2019

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) dropped its investigation of a rape survivor who advocated for a law protecting victims of child sex abuse. Kat Sullivan spent a portion of a settlement to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act. That effort included posting advertisements – on billboards and a banner towed behind a small plane that flew over the Capitol – that urged lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the legislation. In a letter to Sullivan laying out what the agency says is substantial evidence that Sullivan exceeded the $5,000 spending threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist in New York, JCOPE General Counsel Monica Stamm wrote that the panel would not take further action.

New York Heastie Contacted JCOPE Commissioner Following January Meeting
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/4/2019

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie contacted Jim Yeats, a member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), last January after the speaker had a heated conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that included discussion of the ethics panel. Both the governor and Heastie have declined to say what they talked about. Heastie’s response to questions about his contact with Yates came after he confirmed he had asked the Assembly majority counsel’s office to “review” why his own executive counsel, Howard Vargas, had called JCOPE Commissioner Julie Garcia that same afternoon. Vargas allegedly told her the governor had told Heastie he was upset with how some of the commissioners had voted on a matter that day. State laws make it a crime to leak details of JCOPE’s closed-door deliberations, including whether a vote was taken.

New York L+M to Pay $25,000 Penalty for Unregistered Lobbying
The Real Deal – Georgia Kromrei | Published: 12/4/2019

L+M Development Partners settled with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which had accused the housing developer of unregistered lobbying. L+M agreed to pay $25,000 as punishment for meeting with elected officials to influence government decisions on real estate and land use matters, activity that was not reported as required. According to JCOPE, L+M sought to procure amendments to zoning laws and tax credits as well as government actions on other land-use matters. L+M will file retroactive disclosure reports for 2018 as part of the settlement.

North Carolina Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020
AP News – Gary Robertson | Published: 12/2/2019

North Carolina judges ordered a new U.S. House district map that Republican state legislators drew in November be used in the 2020 elections, deciding there was not time to scrutinize the boundaries further for any left-over extreme partisan bias. The three-judge panel agreed it was too late in the election cycle to receive evidence and testimony that would be necessary to consider detailed redistricting arguments from the lawmakers and from Democratic and independent voters who challenged the latest congressional maps. While 10 of the 13 current U.S. House members are Republicans in a state considered a presidential battleground, the new map would appear to give Democrats a good chance of picking up two more seats in 2020.

Pennsylvania A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns
MSN – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/30/2019

It was a few minutes after the polls closed in Easton, Pennsylvania on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Democrat Abe Kassis, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137. The snafu did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations, and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest.

Pennsylvania Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/4/2019

Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was charged with perjury, theft, tampering with public records, and related crimes. Johnson-Harrell used her nonprofit to enrich herself, stealing more than $500,000 from the organization to spend on real estate, vacations, luxury clothing, and her bid for the Legislature, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, adding that Johnson-Harrell agreed to resign her seat and plead guilty. Prosecutors say Johnson-Harrell used Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, which she established more than a decade ago to assist poor people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness, for extravagant spending and personal gain. Over several years, she tried to cover up her crimes through an elaborate scheme involving several properties and false financial statements.

Washington Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/3/2019

The city council should update Seattle’s lobbying laws to better spotlight how special interests try to exert influence at City Hall, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has recommended. The commission voted to send the council a set of proposed changes, including a new requirement that lobbyists report their work for political campaigns. Commissioners stopped short of suggesting Seattle ban lobbying by campaign consultants and chose not to extend the city’s definition of lobbying from communications about legislation to advocacy on regulations. But the commissioners did recommend a new law requiring registration and reporting by “grassroots lobbying campaigns.” In addition, lobbyists would for the first time be required to disclose the names of the people they lobby and the dates of their lobbying.

Washington DC D.C. Council Votes to Recommend Expelling Jack Evans Over Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 12/3/2019

The District of Columbia Council unanimously voted to recommend Jack Evans be expelled for ethical violations. It the first time that lawmakers ever moved to eject one of their own. The vote was the first step in a lengthy process for expulsion. Officials say the council needs to meet twice more and hold a hearing before casting a formal vote to remove Evans, which could stretch out the timeline until January. The Washington Post reported Evans repeatedly used his government email to solicit business from law firms that had lobbied city government, offering to use the influence and connections he amassed as the city’s longest-serving council member and as chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to help their clients.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

November 22, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 22, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019 President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to […]


Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019

President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to prosecutors in New York City. The case, the first concerning Trump’s personal conduct and business dealings to reach the court, could yield a major ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from criminal investigations. In their petition urging the high court to hear their appeal, Trump’s lawyers argued he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct.

Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches
Yahoo News – Chris Strohm and Jordan Fabian (Bloomberg) | Published: 11/15/2019

Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated by federal prosecutors for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings, according to three U.S. officials. The probe could also include possible charges on violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy. Giuliani is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, which focuses on an effort led by the former New York City mayor to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate the president’s political rivals. If Giuliani is charged or indicted, he could expose Trump to a new level of legal and political jeopardy, especially if he is accused of committing a crime on the president’s behalf.

Google Announces New Political-Ads Policies That Limit Targeting but Not All Lies
Seattle Times – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019

Google announced new restrictions on political advertisers around the world, among them rules that bar candidates, including President Trump, from targeting narrow categories of Web users based on their political affiliation. The updates come as Google and its tech industry peers continue to face criticism for allowing politicians to lie in ads, a practice Google did not entirely outlaw as it pledged that “trust in electoral processes” outweighed the “cost or impact to spending” on political ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers now may target their ads in search and on Google-owned YouTube only down to the postal code level. These campaigns may also target people on the basis of gender or age, but they cannot do so based on voters’ political affiliations or public voter records, Google said, breaking with past policies.

How a CIA Analyst, Alarmed by Trump’s Shadow Foreign Policy, Triggered an Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Paul Sonne (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2019

The outlines of the impeachment case have been established: President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and two diplomats are alleged to have collaborated to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and damage the prospects of Joe Biden. To advance this hidden agenda, Trump and his allies orchestrated the ouster of a U.S. ambassador, the withholding of an Oval Office meeting from Ukraine’s new president, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid. It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the actions of a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and efforts to make his identity public.

Multiple Lawmakers Under Investigation Over Ethical Misconduct
MSN – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019

The House ethics committee announced it was investigating whether U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings violated the chamber’s rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff or accepting inappropriate gifts. Hastings has made no secret of his relationship with an employee in his congressional office. The announcement came on the same day the committee disclosed the Justice Department was investigating U.S. Rep. Ross Spano over accusations of campaign finance violations. The ethics panel also said it would continue investigations into allegations against U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Bill Huizenga.

New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility
Idaho Press – Betsy Russell | Published: 11/19/2019

Civility has declined at the Idaho Legislature, but not as much as in other states or in Washington, D.C., according to a new study. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 lobbyists who work in state Legislatures in all 50 states and followed up on a survey three years earlier of lawmakers themselves. The study explored whether the gridlock that is emerged in Congress is beginning to infect state Legislatures. The lobbyists who were surveyed represent a wide array of interests, from contract lobbyists for private business interests to those representing agencies, non-profits, and public interest groups. The survey showed Idaho is not immune to a national trend toward less civility, less compromise, and more polarization in civic discourse, accompanied by declining trust in U.S. government institutions.

‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters worn out by a fog of political news
New York Times – Sabrina Tavernise and Aiden Gardiner | Published: 11/18/2019

In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself. Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake, and fact.

Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss
Connecticut Post – Renae Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019

Mick Mulvaney’s former chief of staff has been a key lobbyist for one of the country’s largest payday lenders, giving the industry access to the White House at a time it is fighting to roll back industry regulations. Al Simpson has met repeatedly with Mulvaney, whom he worked for on Capitol Hill until 2017. They have had dinner several times, and Simpson has been a frequent visitor to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The visits to the OMB overlap with the period Mulvaney was acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has oversight of the payday lending industry. While Mulvaney has served as Office of Management and Budget director, the White House has proposed cutting the bureau’s budget and curbing its enforcement powers.

Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassador Role in Trump Administration Uncovered by CBS News
CBS News – Staff | Published: 11/18/2019

An investigation has uncovered a possible “pay-for-play” scheme involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) and President Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate $500,000 as his confirmation in the U.S. Senate hung in the balance. Manchester contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. A relief trip to the Bahamas by Manchester caught the attention of the president, who tweeted his praise. Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”

RNC to Hold Winter Meetings at Trump Resort That Was Considered for G-7 Summit
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019

The Republican National Committee will hold its winter meetings at President Trump’s Doral golf course in’Florida next year, awarding another of the party’s most lucrative events to the president’s private business. Trump briefly chose Doral to host a much larger event: next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders, effectively awarding a massive federal contract to himself. After bipartisan criticism, Trump canceled the event a few days later. No new site has yet been chosen for the summit. Still, this will be the second time in two years that the GOP will hold a major meeting at the resort, a key property for Trump that has suffered financial decline since he entered politics.

Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2019

Roger Stone, a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Trump. Stone was charged with lying to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. Stone was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.

SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change
Pensions and Investments – Bloomberg | Published: 11/19/2019

When Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairperson Jay Clayton handed a policy win to corporate executives recently, he pointed to a source of support: a mailbag full of encouragement from ordinary Americans. But a close look at the seven letters that Clayton highlighted, and about two dozen others submitted to the SEC by supposedly regular people, shows they are the product of a misleading, and clumsy, public relations campaign by corporate interests. At issue is the proxy process, the rules for how corporations conduct shareholder votes, such as when directors stand for re-election at annual meetings. Last year, the National Association of Manufacturers helped form the Main Street Investors Coalition to oppose what it calls the “politicization” of the investment process and to argue fund managers and boards should focus on maximizing profits. One of its priorities is changing shareholder voting rules.

Sondland Acknowledges Ukraine Quid Pro Quo, Implicates Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Others
Washington Post – Rachael Bade, Aaron Davis, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 11/21/2019

An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified he was following President’s Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.” The testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is the most damaging yet for Trump in the intensifying inquiry. Sondland declared the Trump administration would not give Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a chance to visit the White House unless Zelensky agreed to announce investigations that could help the president politically.

Trump Appointee Accused of Inflating Résumé, Faking a Time Cover Pushes Back in Resignation Letter
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019

Mina Chang, the State Department official whose inflated resume and faked Timed magazine cover raised further questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process, has resigned. Chang defended herself and criticized the “toxic environment” at the agency, where she had served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, the erstwhile nominee for director of national intelligence, withdrew from consideration after reporting on his false claims about arresting undocumented immigrants. After Trump announced Ratcliffe would not be his nominee, the president defended the White House’s failure to scrutinize their pick’s background. “I give out a name to the press, and they vet for me,” Trump said. “We save a lot of money that way.”

Twitter Rolls Out Total Ban on Ads from Political Figures
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 11/15/2019

Twitter unveiled the details of a previously announced far-reaching global policy that bans campaign advertising as well as ads of any type from political figures and groups, and puts strict limits around other types of paid messaging that have a political dimension. The move comes as social platforms in the U.S. are under scrutiny over their handling of political ads, set against the 2020 presidential contest. Twitter is banning all ads that mention specific candidates, elections, or legislation. The prohibition on any advertising applies to campaigns, government officials, PACs, and 501(c)(4) groups. The total ban on political ads, however, does not extend to so-called issue ads. While those issue ads will be allowed from any advertisers not otherwise prohibited from buying ads, there are significant new restrictions on their messaging and reach.

Uncertain Times Could Bring New Lobbying Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/21/2019

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. Still, lobbyists say they have no plans to zip up their campaign checkbooks, hide under their desks, or decamp from the capital. Instead, they are brewing alternative strategies, workarounds that include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia, and other institutions that can lend policy gravitas to shape major discussions over health care, immigration, trade, taxes, and other matters that will feature prominently on the campaign trail and beyond.


Canada Alberta Government Firing Election Commissioner Who Was Investigating Leadership
Global News – Dean Bennett (Canadian Press) | Published: 11/18/2019

Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it is not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000. Finance Minister Travis Toews said the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money. Chief electoral officer Glen Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former New Democratic Party government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. The New Democrats then hired Gibson, whose highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney.

From the States and Municipalities

Connecticut No Tolls CT: Crucial role or just another anti-tolls force?
Middletown Press – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 11/16/2019

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation infrastructure plan included 14 tolls on highway bridges and interchanges throughout the state, raising $320 million a year. But less than a week after he unveiled the proposal it was effectively dead as Senate Democrats expressed their reluctance to bring it to a vote. The fast result marks a win for the for No Tolls CT. Now, as the state searches for answers on how to fund transportation, the question remains as to how much influence the group ultimately had. Some have begun to question whether No Tolls CT is truly the small grassroots troupe of passionate volunteers they claim to be, or if there are larger, more organized and experienced political powers with deep pockets behind it.

Georgia Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan
The Guardian – Khushbu Shah | Published: 11/20/2019

Georgia’s ethics commission filed a lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign, insisting it had not received all relevant communications requested in April. Abrams’s former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, now the leader of Abrams’ national campaign against voter suppression, called the demand for the documents a “politically motivated investigation.” Months after Abrams lost the race, the commission launched the investigation around “unlawful coordination” between her gubernatorial campaign and several groups. For that reason, the lawsuit alleges, the commission needs to review not only financial records, but communications between the various organizations, including the New Georgia Voter Project and Fair Count, both launched by Abrams.

Illinois Lawmakers Address Ethics Issues
State Journal-Register – Doug Finke | Published: 11/14/2019

The Illinois Legislature approved what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described as a small step toward fixing the state’s ethics laws amid an ongoing federal public corruption probe that has ensnared politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1693 that would require state lobbyists to disclose more information to the public and create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest. A companion measure, House Joint Resolution 93, that lawmakers also approved would create a 16-member commission to recommend additional changes to ethics laws.

Indiana A ‘Tradition’ of Public Corruption: Mayors being arrested isn’t unusual for Indiana
Indianapolis Star – Crystal Hill | Published: 11/20/2019

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was arrested after being indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract. History shows Tyler’s arrest is hardly unusual. The allegations against Tyler are tame compared to what some previous Hoosier mayors have been accused, and convicted, of. Throughout the last century, The Indianapolis Star found at least a dozen mayors who were charged and/or convicted in local or federal cases, including now four mayors from Muncie alone. Tyler also is the fourth Indiana mayor arrested in the last five years. While many of the earlier charges point to a specific period in history, the offenses are not dissimilar from public corruption accusations that still make headlines today, according to a historian.

Indiana McDermott Admits Family Is Repaying $50,000 Campaign Contribution from Wife’s Judicial Fund
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 11/16/2019

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and his wife, Lake Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott, are preparing to repay $50,000 in campaign contributions originally paid to her judicial campaign fund from his mayoral account after state officials deemed the amount excessive. There also are no legal limits on campaign donations or loans between a husband and wife in Indiana so long as they are reported. But Mayor McDermott said the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications viewed the loan as a potential violation of code of judicial conduct, which directs judicial candidates “to solicit and accept only such campaign contributions as are reasonable.”

Kansas Cerner Must Guard Against Conflicts of Interest as Exec Runs for Congress, Experts Say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry and Jason Hancock | Published: 11/17/2019

When Cerner executive Amanda Adkins launched her congressional campaign in September, her website featured a photograph of her standing next to the corporate logo on the company’s Kansas City campus. The photo was cropped to remove the Cerner name shortly after the site went online. The change illustrates the ethical and optical challenges both the company and Adkins face as she seeks the Republican nomination in Kansas’ Third Congressional District, while continuing to work for the health care IT giant that holds billions of dollars in federal contracts. Federal law restricts government contractors from giving money to congressional candidates. Cerner will also have to protect against providing services to Adkins, which could be seen as in-kind contributions under FEC rules, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.

Louisiana Walter Dumas, Ex-Southern Board Member, Owes $138K for Unpaid Stadium Suite Rental, Appeals Court Says
New Orleans Advocate – Joe Guyan Jr. | Published: 11/18/2019

Former Southern University Board of Supervisors member Walter Dumas and his now-defunct law firm must pay the Louisiana Board of Ethics $138,000 for using an A.W. Mumford Stadium suite for three years without paying the rental fee, an appeals court has ruled for the second time. The latest ruling came when the state First Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Dumas’ argument that the Ethics Adjudicatory Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it ordered Dumas and his firm to pay the money. The sum represents yearly rental payments of $13,800 for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 football seasons, plus a $96,600 donation to the Southern University System Foundation that was payable over three years.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector | Published: 11/20/2019

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and tax evasion over lucrative deals for her self-published children’s series of books. Prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career, and illegally fund her campaign for mayor. Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of her books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others, and took some to use for self-promotion. She used the profits to buy a house and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege. At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes.

Michigan Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/20/2019

Eight former Republican and Democratic lawmakers are suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over Michigan’s shortest-in-the-nation term limits, which they say are an “unconstitutional bar to their ballot access.” State lawmakers are limited to serving a total of 14 years across the two legislative chambers – three, two-year terms in the House and two, four-year terms in the Senate. Five of the lawmakers are now registered lobbyists. The 501(c)4 or social welfare group funding the lawsuit lists Rusty Merchant, a lobbyist, as its resident agent and the press conference announcing the lawsuit was held in a conference room belonging to lobbying firm McAlvey Merchant & Associates.

Montana Montana Candidates Failed to Properly Disclose Facebook Ad Spending
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 11/20/2019

Political ads for Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial race have appeared on Facebook at least 760,000 times since the start of the year. Montana Public Radio (MTPR) found nearly all the candidates running for office did not follow state rules for disclosing details about those ads to the public. After MTPR reached out to Jeff Mangan, the commissioner of political practices, about the discrepancy in Facebook ad spending, he sent a memo to all candidates in Montana. Mangan reminded them “they have the responsibility and obligation to understand and comply with all Montana campaign finance laws.” It also requests candidates send amended disclosure forms that include all social media advertising expenditures.

Nevada Nevada Licensing Boards Sometimes Lobby Against State’s Interests
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 11/15/2019

To the administrative and regulatory maze that is Nevada’s occupational licensing system, add this twist: more than half the state-appointed licensing boards employ lawyers or lobbyists at state expense, and occasionally they work against the state’s interests. For 2017 through 2021, the state is footing more than $2.6 million in legal and lobbying expenses for 21 licensing boards, according to a review requested by the state Board of Examiners. The board meets monthly to review and approve state spending. The boards are technically funded by fees from professional licensing, not from the state’s general fund. But the boards are state-created entities, their members are appointed by the governor, and their contractual expenses still come before the Board of Examiners for approval.

New York De Blasio Donor Sues JCOPE, Arguing Inquiries Are Illegal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/17/2019

While the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has reached a series of settlements with donors to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lobbying charity, a target of the inquiry is fighting back, arguing the investigations are based on an illegal premise. Under state law, public officials are not allowed to accept gifts of more than “nominal” value from lobbyists or their clients. The types of gifts targeted by regulators have included items such as free plane trips for elected officials or tickets to sporting events. JCOPE in 2014 passed a regulation that also barred a lobbyist or their client from donating to a “charitable organization, on behalf of or at the direction of, a public official.” The lawsuit filed by Broadway Stages argues the regulation is illegal, since state lawmakers never passed a law empowering JCOPE to expand the definition of “gift.”

New York Heastie’s Counsel Contacted Ethics Commissioner After Percoco Vote
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 11/20/2019

Howard Vargas, the executive counsel to New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is the person who contacted a commissioner with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in January and allegedly pressed her about a meeting earlier that day in which the panel voted whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The unusual call by Vargas took place not long after Cuomo had spoken with Heastie at the Capitol, and allegedly expressed concerns about the voting that day by the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE. The closed-door deliberations of the commission are not public, and any disclosure of that information may violate state law.

North Carolina Cooper ‘Improperly’ Used Influence on Pipeline, Investigation Started by GOP Concludes
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan and Dan Kane | Published: 11/20/2019

An independent investigation started by Republican legislative leaders into North Carolina’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a “pay-to-play” or “pay-for-permit” after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.

North Carolina North Carolina Lawmakers OK New 2020 Congressional Maps. Now It’s Up to the Courts
Raleigh News and Observer – Brian Murphy | Published: 11/15/2019

The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature approved a new congressional district map to be used in 2020 that is likely to shrink the GOP’s edge in the state’s congressional delegation. But Democrats plan to challenge the map in court again. Lawmakers drew the new map after a three-judge panel indicated it was likely to toss the previous map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. If a new map is not in place by December 2, the congressional primaries scheduled for March could be postponed. The maps will only be used in 2020 as they will have to be redrawn for the 2022 election using new Census data. That process should start in March 2021.

Oregon Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/19/2019

At a meeting of the Oregon Senate Campaign Finance Committee he chairs, Sen. Jeff Golden unveiled a proposal for new campaign finance regulations that contains elements he believes are “ideal.” Those elements could become a key starting point as the Legislature prepares to grapple with the issue early next year. Golden’s proposal would place ceilings on the amount of money individuals and various types of political committees could give to candidates, campaigns, and one another. Oregon is currently one of a handful of states with no limits on campaign contributions.

Oregon Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 11/15/2019

The Oregon Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether it will overturn one of its more notable rulings, the two-decade-old decision that struck down the state’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. After 90 minutes of spirited debate with the attorneys in the case, it seems clear the justices were animated by the issue of whether they should do exactly that. The court is considering the constitutionality of an ordinance passed by Multnomah County voters that places a $500-per-person limit on campaign donations. But the stakes are larger than that. If the justices revisit their 1997 ruling, it could also open the door to the imposition of strict limits at the state level.

Pennsylvania Bill Limiting Gifts to Public Officials Moves in Pa. Legislature
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/19/2019

The House State Government Committee vote to advance new limits on gifts to Pennsylvania public officials, including an outright prohibition on taking cash, although the proposal includes numerous exceptions. The vote came after Republicans pushed through a party-line vote to add an exception to let lobbyists give birthday or wedding presents. Gifts generally would not be allowed if they total more than $50 from one person in a calendar year, or hospitality, transportation, or lodging worth $500 a year. Lobbyist gifts would not be covered if the lobbyist and public official have “a personal romantic relationship.”

Texas The Inauguration of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick Cost Millions. But Much of It Went to Fundraising and Staff.
Texas Tribune – Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root | Published: 11/18/2019

The inauguration of the Texas governor and lieutenant governor – traditionally two days of parties, picnics, and parades – has been transformed into a giant payday for campaign staff and fundraisers. The money spent on personnel, including payroll and fundraising, has skyrocketed during Gov. Greg Abbott’s two swearing-in celebrations, dwarfing spending in those categories during the Rick Perry era, which spanned more than a decade. Gubernatorial spokesperson John Wittman has said no state dollars were spent on the festivities and that none of the $800,000 donated by the inaugural committee to charities, which he would not name which, benefited entities tied to Abbott or the government.

Virginia Salacious Facebook Posts About a Former Virginia Beach City Council Candidate Lead to Defamation Lawsuit
The Viginian-Pilot – Jane Harper | Published: 11/14/2019

Dee Oliver was a favorite to win an at-large seat on the Virginia Beach City Council in the November election. But days before voters headed to the polls, a post published on a Facebook discussion group with thousands of members portrayed the candidate as a “woman of ill repute,” according to a lawsuit Oliver filed. The post suggested she had sex with a physical fitness trainer in a hospital bathroom while the man was there for heart surgery, the complaint says, and while his family was in the next room. Oliver ended up losing the election by just 347 votes after a recount. The case highlights the potential legal danger of posting on social media, especially if the information is false or is published with reckless disregard for the truth.

Washington In Olympia, an Idea to Help Voters Easily Track Campaign Ad Money and Zero in on Who’s Being Targeted
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 11/20/2019

Election spending in Washington continues to break records. Meanwhile, micro-targeted online advertising, such as through Facebook and Google, has made it possible for campaigns to reach small slices of voters without the broader public being aware. So, state campaign finance officials discussed the idea of giving Washington’s disclosure system a boost: building a searchable digital archive that collects campaign ads and information related to them. Officials for the Public Disclosure Commission said a digital archive could shine sunlight on political ads bought through social-media companies. A searchable database could also help voters make sense of a dizzying amount of election messaging and the sources behind it.

Washington DC D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/19/2019

A group of District of Columbia Council members introduced a bill designed to improve compliance with a law that requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses. The subcontracting law has been revised in prior years as lawmakers attempted to stop contractors from abusing it. The bill would prohibit contractors from subcontracting work to companies in which they have an ownership stake to fulfill the law’s requirements. It would also require more evidence from businesses that they are local, create a tip line for reporting violations, and increase the frequency of site inspections.

Washington DC D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Sought Stock in Sign Company After Acknowledging Potential Conflict of Interest, Report Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 11/14/2019

The investigation into ethics allegations against District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans provided fresh details about his dealings with a digital sign company at the heart of several probes into whether Evans used his office to benefit his private clients and employers. Digi Outdoor Media and Evans negotiated a private consulting contract in 2016 while the sign company was clashing with the city over its regulation of outdoor advertising. Investigators hired by the city council concluded Evans and his staff took official actions to benefit the company against a “backdrop of benefits and intermittent financial entanglements.”

Wisconsin ‘Much Too Divided’: Lobbyists, Capitol observers adjust to slower pace under split government
Madison.com – Briana Reilly | Published: 11/18/2019

Nearly a year into divided government in Wisconsin, many lobbyists and Capitol observers say they have adjusted to the new reality: things are moving slower and less is getting done. After a decade of one-party control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, a new Democratic face in the East Wing, coupled with Republicans holding onto their legislative majorities, has brought a change of pace to the legislative process. As Republicans and Democrats work to navigate the situation, lobbyists are also learning what they can expect to accomplish under the new order, which some described as a balancing act between the Republican Assembly speaker, GOP Senate majority leader, and Democratic governor.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

November 21, 2019 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan” by Khushbu Shah for The Guardian Maryland: “Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal” by Luke Broadwater […]

Campaign Finance

Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan” by Khushbu Shah for The Guardian

Maryland: “Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal” by Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector for Baltimore Sun

Oregon: “Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions” by Dirk VanderHart for Oregon Public Broadcasting


National: “Sondland Acknowledges There Was a ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Involving Ukraine” by Aaron Davis and Racael Bade for Washington Post

Legislative Issues

Michigan: “Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits” by Beth LeBlanc for Detroit News


National: “New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility” by Betsy Russell for Idaho Press

National: “SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change” by Bloomberg for Pensions and Investments

National: “Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss” by Renae Marks for Washington Post


Washington DC: “D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law” by Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

November 11, 2019 •

Virginia Democratic Controlled Legislature to Reintroduce Gun Control Legislation in 2020

Virginia Capitol Building - Ron Cogswell

The Virginia State Crime Commission cancelled their planned November 12 meeting regarding gun control. The meeting was scheduled to discuss eight bills proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam during the July special session. Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert also stated the […]

The Virginia State Crime Commission cancelled their planned November 12 meeting regarding gun control.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss eight bills proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam during the July special session.

Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert also stated the November 18 reconvened special session will become pro forma and lawmakers will not have to report to the General Assembly.

With the Democrats controlling the Legislature, lawmakers are expected to reintroduce the gun control issue in the upcoming January session.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 31, 2019 •

Illinois Lawmakers Convene for Veto Session

Illinois Capitol

Illinois State Capitol Building

Lawmakers are back in Springfield for a six-day abbreviated veto session to address major laws passed earlier this year. The veto session convened October 28 through October 30, and reconvenes from November 12 through November 14. The veto session agenda […]

Lawmakers are back in Springfield for a six-day abbreviated veto session to address major laws passed earlier this year.

The veto session convened October 28 through October 30, and reconvenes from November 12 through November 14.

The veto session agenda includes reviewing video gambling, marijuana, and vaping legislation.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 31, 2019 •

Wisconsin Calls Special Session on Gun Control

Wisconsin State Capitol

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Gov. Tony Evers called for the Legislature to convene in a special session on November 7 to vote on gun control legislation. The bills require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in the state. The legislation would also implement […]

Gov. Tony Evers called for the Legislature to convene in a special session on November 7 to vote on gun control legislation.

The bills require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in the state.

The legislation would also implement red-flag laws requiring people perceived as threats to surrender their firearms.

The impact of a special session may be limited, as lawmakers plan to convene and then immediately adjourn the special session on the same day without voting on the proposals.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 18, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 18, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019 FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may […]


After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules
The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about.” Her remarks came in the wake of the campaign finance violation charges leveled against two associates of Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. Florida businesspeople Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested and accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme that funneled money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Over His Financial Data
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow, Spencer Hsu, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2019

Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s business records from his accounting firm, a federal appeals court ruled in one of several legal battles over access to the president’s financial data. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld Congress’s broad investigative powers and rejected the president’s bid to block lawmakers from subpoenaing the documents. The case is one of several clashes between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican president over Trump’s data that is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, the judges ruled Trump’s arguments, that the subpoenas were invalid because Congress lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoenas, were incorrect.

Biden’s New Ethics Plan Includes Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Elections
NBC News – Mike Mernoli | Published: 10/14/2019

Seeking to turn the page from what he called the most corrupt administration in American history, former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out a new comprehensive ethics plan that includes a constitutional amendment to publicly finance elections. It also calls for a ban on lobbying by foreign governments and stricter protocols to ensure a firewall between the White House and prosecutorial decisions at the Justice Department. The proposal comes as Biden is under assault from President Trump and his allies over unsubstantiated allegations that he acted as vice president to shield his son from an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company whose board he served on.

Democratic Lobbyists Bristle at Party’s Attack on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/16/2019

With presidential candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for tougher rules on how the lobbying world works, Democratic lobbyists find themselves walking a difficult tightrope. The lobbying industry has pushed back on those proposals as unconstitutional, arguing they would be a restriction on First Amendment rights. Democratic lobbyists said while those proposals may be intended to target K Street'[s biggest spenders, they could also silence voices for progressive causes. A persistent argument against tougher restrictions on lobbying is they would lead to more so-called shadow lobbyists, those who do lobbying work but do not register.

Department of Justice’s Lobbyist Registry Available, but with Technical Issues
The Weekly – Giovanna Garofalo | Published: 10/16/2019

Puerto Rico’s lobbyist registry is now available for the general public to use. The registry is essentially a table that will list lobbyists under their name, number of registrations, clients who they represent, and authorized staff. When visitors access the page now, they will realize that it does not feature a single lobbyist. The Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service are still ironing out technical issues with the registry.

FEC Chairwoman Says She ‘Will Not Be Silenced’ after Republican Lawmaker Requests Ethics Investigation
CNN – Kaatina Iyer | Published: 10/10/2019

FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said she “will not be silenced” after a Republican member of Congress requested that she be investigated for ethics violations for her public statements. Rep. Rodney Davis, who was named an honorary state chairperson for President Trump’s reelection campaign, sent a letter to FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner, asking him to investigate Weintraub’s “refusal … to recuse herself” from any matters involving the president. He argued that Weintraub’s public statements regarding Trump on Twitter undermines her nonpartisan position.

Fourth Defendant in Giuliani Associates’ Case Arrested at New York Airport
Stamford Advocate – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2019

David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, was arrested at a New York City airport. Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators. The third defendant in the case, a California man named Andrey Kukushkin, was arrested recently, according to authorities.

Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth Vogel, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

An investigation by federal prosecutors into President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is tied to the case against two of Giuliani’s associates who were arrested recently on campaign finance related charges. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a member of Congress whose help they sought in removing the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Yovanovitch. Federal law requires American citizens to disclose any contacts with the government or media in the U.S. at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials.

Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting
MSN – Jo Becker, Maggie Haberman, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

During an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. Giuliani’s request provoked an immediate objection from Tillerson, who argued it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case. In the end, no such prisoner swap took place. But the episode has opened a new chapter in Giuliani’s efforts to interject himself into the Trump administration’s diplomacy while at times representing clients with a direct interest in the outcome.

House Readies Bill Aimed at Stopping Foreign Election Interference
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 10/16/2019

House lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a third bill to protect the integrity of U.S. elections, with the latest piece of legislation aimed at closing loopholes that allow foreign nationals to spend money on American campaigns. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act proposes increasing transparency for campaigns, parties, and PACs by requiring them to report any attempt by a foreign government or individual to influence an election to the FEC and the FBI. The bill also requires U.S. campaigns to establish standards for compliance.

How Amazon.com Moved into the Business of U.S. Elections
Reuters – Nandita Bose | Published: 10/15/2019

The expansion by Amazon Web Services (AWS) into state and local elections has gathered steam since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offering. So do the two main political parties, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the FEC. While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS, along with a network of partners, now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel, and helps provide live election-night results. The company’s efforts are welcomed by election administrators, who in interviews said they often struggle with keeping outdated systems up to date at the local level.

Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies
ProPublica – Heather Vogell | Published: 10/16/2019

Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender, and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.” Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic Leader and Regular Trump Target, Dies at 68
MSN – Jenna Portnoy and Antonia Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2019

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died on October 17. He was 68 years old. Cummings served as chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus and then ranking member chair of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. Cummings spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too
ENM News – Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019

For the children of the politically powerful, personal business and public dealings can often be indistinguishable, especially when private projects depend on foreign governments that are looking to bolster ties with Washington. As the president has become embroiled in a scandal involving his interactions with Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have taken to attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, for his business dealings in Ukraine and China. The brothers have accused him of leveraging his family name for personal gain while his father served in the Obama administration. But the high-profile attack roles being played by President Trump’s eldest sons have now thrust their own business dealings into the spotlight too. Both sons have operated and promoted the Trump family business overseas during their father’s presidency, even as he retains ownership.

Trump Emoluments Case Over His D.C. Hotel Gets Second Chance in Legal Challenge
Connecticut Post – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2019

A federal appeals court order revived a lawsuit claiming President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his hotel in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed to rehear the lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, which was dismissed over the summer by a three-judge panel of the court. The brief order set oral arguments before a full panel of judges for December 12 and essentially gives the novel lawsuit, which tests the anti-corruption emoluments provisions of the Constitution, a second chance.

Trump Has Awarded Next Year’s G-7 Summit of World Leaders to His Miami-Area Resort, the White House Said
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell | Published: 10/17/2019

Next year’s G-7 gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies will take place at President Trump’s Doral golf resort outside of Miami. The decision is without precedent in modern American history – the president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself. Doral provides more revenue to Trump than any other hotel or golf club. But, in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into steep decline, with profits falling 69 percent in three years. Trump is already facing lawsuits for allegedly violating the Constitution’s ban on receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments. By doing this, he could be inviting a huge increase in the very line of business that these lawsuits are scrutinizing.

Ukraine Scandal Snags Pete Sessions’s Congressional Comeback Bid
MSN – Catie Edmondson (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019

Former U.S. Pete Sessions, who is seeking a return to Congress, was caught in the fallout of the Ukraine scandal when he was referred to in the indictment of two presidential allies accused of campaign finance allegations. Sessions is described as “Congressman-1” in the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were charged with illegally funneling foreign money to American candidates and campaigns. “Congressman-1” is described as having received large campaign contributions from Parnas and Fruman, and whom Parnas asked for help in removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Violent Spoof Video of Trump Killing His Critics Shows How Memes Have Reshaped Politics
Denver Post – Drew Harwell and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2019

A meme video, a spoof derived from a bloody action film, shown at President Trump’s Miami-area golf resort drew outrage from some for its depiction of Trump shooting journalists and attacking political figures who have been critical of him, both Democrats and Republicans. Some warned the clip and others like it could incite real-world violence. But that outrage also helped ensure the video would be circulated more widely. Becca Lewis, who researches online subcultures and media manipulation for Stanford University, said the video’s sharing showed how such memes have become a potent force for political expression and propaganda. The meme creators, she said, routinely sought mainstream attention for the memes in a way that would make the shocking content seem more and more acceptable.

Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad
ENM News – Cecilia Kang and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is playing a game of dare with Facebook. The Democratic presidential candidate bought an ad on the social network that purposefully includes false claims about Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Trump to goad the social network to remove misinformation in political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential election. “We decided to see just how far it goes,” Warren wrote, calling Facebook a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” Warren’s actions follow a brouhaha over Facebook and political ads in recent weeks. Mr. Trump’s campaign recently bought ads across social media that falsely said Joe Biden offered $1 billion to Ukrainian officials to remove a prosecutor who was overseeing an investigation of a company associated with Biden’s son Hunter.

Warren Targets ‘Big Money’ in Campaigns, Rules Out Donations from Tech and Bank Executives
The Hill – Tal Axelrod | Published: 10/15/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren White House unveiled a sweeping new proposal to eliminate “big money” in politics, taking aim at donations from PACs and urging her fellow presidential contenders to be transparent in their fundraising. Warren said her plan would end the practice of federal candidates taking corporate PAC money and ban foreign corporate influence in American elections. She would also seek to require presidential campaigns to disclose their major donors, bundlers, and finance events and update campaign finance laws to address online political advertising.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Group Trying to Escape Fine for Violating Arizona Campaign Finance Laws
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 10/16/2019

A group that spent $260,000 attacking a 2014 foe of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his first gubernatorial race is trying again to escape paying a fine for violating state campaign finance laws. Attorneys for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund contend the Citizens Clean Elections Commission lacked the power to impose a $96,000 fine for the commercials targeting former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. They say there was no proof the ad was done to advance the political fortunes of anyone else in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Beyond that, the lawyers contend the commission lacks the authority to enforce the campaign finance laws.

Arkansas Speaking as Taxpayer in TV Ad, Griffin Says; His Appearance Raises Campaign Questions
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Alyson Hoge | Published: 10/6/2019

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin appears in a television advertisement financed by a nonprofit issue advocacy group called Arkansas Competes. The ad will air about two months after Griffin said he will be a candidate for governor in the 2022 election to succeed Asa Hutchinson. Griffin said he is appearing in the ad “as an Arkansas taxpayer deeply concerned about issues facing our state.” Arkansas Competes Director Carl Vogelpohl said the ad would not run afoul of state law. He noted a state Ethics Commission advisory opinion that said if a non-candidate committee organized as a 501 (c) (4) runs issue ads in Arkansas not asking for votes for or against a specific candidate, the committee’s activity would not constitute a contribution or non-monetary contribution under state law.

California FBI Investigating Whether Sacramento Pot Businesses Paid Bribes to Public Officials
Sacramento Bee – Sam Stanton and Ryan Sabalow | Published: 10/14/2019

The FBI has been investigating whether Sacramento-area marijuana businesses have made payoffs to public officials in the region in exchange for favorable treatment and license approvals. The investigation comes two months after the FBI announced in a podcast that it was “seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry” and asked for any tips involving public corruption and the industry, which generates millions of dollars in revenue and involves licenses that can go for as much as $500,000.

Connecticut Government for Sale? Lobbyists Spent $32M This Year to Influence Legislative Session
Manchester Journal Inquirer – Eric Bedner and Will Healy | Published: 10/12/2019

More than $32.3 million was spent this year by nearly 1,000 lobbying organizations to push their agendas and try to persuade Connecticut lawmakers into siding with them on key pieces of legislation. Most of that money was spent during the legislative session that ran from January to June. During the 2019 session, the two most lobbied areas of policy involved health care and hospitals and general government, which includes taxes and contracts Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the “overwhelming majority” of lobbyists comply with the regulations as the business is mostly “reputation-based.”

Florida $500 Ethics Fine Against Dennis McDonald Now Upped to $10,000, with Governor’s Reprimand and Censure
FlaglerLive.com; Staff –   | Published: 10/10/2019

A three-year-old ethics case against former Flagler County Commission candidate Dennis McDonald could have ended last June with a $500 fine to which he had agreed. Instead, and for lack of answering a few questions and correcting the record, McDonald now faces a $10,000 fine and a public censure and reprimand by the governor. The Florida Ethics Commission meets on October 25 to vote on the case. The commission voted unanimously at its June meeting to reject a settlement with McDonald because he had not corrected the mistakes on his financial disclosure forms, however minor, that had led to the case against him.

Illinois Caught on Tape: Ex-Ald. Danny Solis sought money from Jerry Reinsdorf group
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 10/11/2019

With FBI agents secretly listening in, then-Chicago Ald. Danny Solis was caught on a wiretap four years ago discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group whose owners include sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, chairperson of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, that needed his help at City Hall. Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group needed Solis’ approval for a $40 million apartment complex they later built in his ward. During a call, Solis explained, over the worries of an unidentified aide that the developers were still awaiting the alderman’s approval for the project, how he planned to solicit Reinsdorf’s business partner Thomas Meador, for campaign money. Solis wore a wire for nearly two years, secretly recording conversations at City Hall.

Maryland ‘Maryland Is Very Corrupt’: Charges against former Del. Tawanna Gaines add to state’s corruption history
Baltimore Sun – Elliott Davis (Capital News Service) | Published: 10/17/2019

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines is scheduled to be arraigned on a federal wire fraud charge. She is charged with using an undisclosed PayPal account to accept donations to her campaign finance committee. Gaines is not alone. The arraignment adds her to the growing list of politicians in the state who have either committed crimes or ethical violations. Gaines is the third Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County alone to be charged or convicted since 2018.

Michigan Lights Turn Green for Traffic Signal Company That Hired MDOT Director
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 10/14/2019

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) made a major shift in who supplies its traffic signal control equipment, just as its former director has taken an executive position with the company that benefits from the change. MDOT used to buy all its traffic signal control equipment and software from Siemens Mobility. But that changed last October, the same month Kirk Steudle, who, for the previous 12 years headed up the department, was named senior vice president of Econolite Systems, a Siemens competitor based in California. In October 2018, the state agency changed its specifications to allow the purchase of traffic signal controllers supplied by Econolite in addition to those made by Siemens.

New York Big Questions Remain for NY’s Public Campaign Finance Plan
AP News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 10/14/2019

A New York commission began crafting a small-donor public campaign financing system but has yet to tackle big issues such as when the program would launch and how it would be implemented. The system will provide up to $100 million in public financing to candidates for offices such as governor and Legislature who get enough small private donations. The Public Campaign Financing Commission has until December 1 to announce rules that will become law unless lawmakers hold a rare end-of-year special session to reject them.

New York Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 10/14/2019

Contributions from people doing business with New York City were restricted in 2007 and a database was created to ensure candidates and donors complied with the law. Lobbyists pushing city policies and seeking municipal contracts for their clients are included. So are top executives and owners of companies who already have contracts and those lobbying the city.  But the law allows them to act as bundlers for other donors without the same contribution limits. Critics say the arrangement leaves the door wide open for powerful and well-connected New Yorkers to influence elections and sway politicians in their favor.

New York New York Can Now Bring Charges Against Presidential Pardon Recipients
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 10/16/2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will let New York prosecutors bring charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for related crimes. The bill was explicitly written to address fears that President Trump might use his pardon power to interfere with criminal investigations. The U.S. Supreme Court has found the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy does not apply to the states. It does not bar state prosecutors from bringing charges against individuals who have already been tried on similar federal crimes. But New York’s existing law included additional safeguards that prohibited these second trials.

North Carolina Solar Group Solicits Campaign Cash for Top Lawmaker, Tied Directly to Legislative Action
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 10/16/2019

A solar industry group solicited campaign contributions for a North Carolina legislator in an email to its members and tied the request for funds directly to action he had taken days earlier on a bill opposed by the group. The request came from the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance on behalf of state Rep. John Szoka, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy and Public Utilities. Chris Carmody, the executive director of alliance, asked the organization’s members to donate to Szoka up to $5,200, the maximum contribution allowed under the law. The email noted Szoka and a second lawmaker for their opposition to Senate Bill 559, which would authorize Duke Energy to set energy rates for a multi-year period with relaxed oversight from state regulators.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Receives First Complaint
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 10/10/2019

North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission has received its first complaint, but its details are not immediately available. The commission, which has met only twice, does not yet have investigative procedures for handling complaints. The panel’s next meeting agenda includes items such as establishing a website and office space and writing job descriptions for hiring staff. The commission may write and adopt rules related to transparency, elections, lobbying, and corruption, but it has yet to begin or even broach a rule-making process.

Ohio The Right Way for a State to Purge Voters Might Be to Show How Wrong It Is
ENM News – Nicholas Casey (New York Times) | Published: 10/14/2019

Ohio is a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive. That has led critics to contend parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who do not learn they cannot vote until Election Day. Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the state released the full list and gave it to advocacy groups to check. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors. Around 40,000 people should not have been on it, the state determined. One of the names to be purged as an inactive voter was Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

Rhode Island Facing Penalties, IGT Discloses $776K More Was Spent in Push for New Contract
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/16/2019

Facing potential penalties of up to $5,000 and revocation of its right to lobby in Rhode Island, lottery giant IGT and an affiliate have now publicly disclosed a total of $1.2 million in spending in July, August, and September on the company’s campaign for a no-bid, 20-year contract extension to provide the technology and machines for the Rhode Island Lottery, a state-run entity that produced $397 million in revenue last year. While the company disclosed the $129,000 it paid a dozen lobbyists between July 1 and September 30, it had not disclosed how much it paid its public-relations consultants, advertisers, and affiliates to try to win public and legislative support for the contract extension.

South Carolina SC Supreme Court Justices Grill Special Prosecutor in Quinn Public Corruption Case
The State – John Monk | Published: 10/15/2019

South Carolina’s five Supreme Court justices fired question after question at special prosecutor David Pascoe about why he wanted to undo the conviction and no-prison sentence of ex-state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. in a high-profile public corruption case. At the heart of Pascoe’s argument was his claim that the judge who sentenced Quinn erred in allowing Quinn to plead guilty to what Pascoe asserted was a non-crime. The Supreme Court overturning the conviction could allow either a new trial or a guilty plea to a lawful charge, Pascoe has said in briefs on the case.

Texas Dallas Council Member Violated City Code with VisitDallas Tickets, Ethics Commission Says
Dallas News – Hayat Norimine | Published: 10/15/2019

Dallas City Councilperson Casey Thomas violated the ethics code by failing to disclose over $1,600 worth of event tickets he received from VisitDallas, the city Ethics Advisory Commission said. Ahead of the commission’s vote, Thomas promised to recuse himself from any votes related to VisitDallas, the city’s tourism bureau, for the remainder of his term. He also said he fixed procedures with his staff to ensure the mistake would not happen again. The code of ethics on gifts states that city officials should not accept an item that “is intended to influence or reward” decisions and must file financial disclosure forms for any gift that exceeds $250 within a month of accepting it.

Texas Texas GOP Speaker Tape: Lawmaker ‘vile,’ Trump ‘killing us’
AP News – Paul Weber and Clarice Silber | Published: 10/15/2019

A secretly recorded audio tape of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen seeking help to oust members of his own Republican Party and profanely disparaging a Democratic House member, along with and other political scheming, has thrown the GOP-controlled Legislature into disarray at a fragile moment when their majority is at stake. The tape has uncorked the biggest political scandal in the state in years. Democrats filed a lawsuit accusing Bonnen of breaking campaign finance laws during the meeting with the head of a conservative group called Empower Texans, which has spent lavishly in pursuit of pulling the Legislature far to the right on issues such as abortion and guns. State investigators responsible for looking into allegations of corruption by public officials have also opened a case.

Virginia A Virginia Beach Republican Says Democrats Gave His Campaign $44,000. Here’s What’s Going On.
The Virginian-Pilot – Marie Albiges | Published: 10/16/2019

A Republican delegate trying to hold onto his Virginia House seat says his Democratic opponent’s attack mailers have actually benefited his campaign, so much so that he is reporting them as a $44,000 in-kind contribution in official records submitted to the state. Davis said he feels a “legal obligation” to report the donation. The stunt in reality is a creative way to frame what is shaping up to be a close race as Democrats try to flip enough seats to seize control of the General Assembly, said Robin Cooperman, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s political theater, to be sure,” Cooperman said.

Wyoming Wyoming Utility Regulator Copied, Sent Coal Lobby Letter
WyoFile.com – Andrew Graham | Published: 10/15/2019

The Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC), in concert with five equivalent bodies from other states, recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate an inquiry that could subsidize coal plants in the name of electrical grid reliability. The letter of request appears to have been drafted, in part, by a coal industry lobbying group and passed through by the PSC. Emails obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute through a public records request show three paragraphs of PSC Chairperson Karen Forstrom’s letter match a model letter a representative of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity provided to West Virginia public service commissioners on July 30.

Continue Reading - 32 min read Close

October 14, 2019 •

Ohio Passes Bill Restoring Tax Exemption for Attorneys, Lobbyists

Ohio Statehouse

The House passed legislation on October 10 to reverse the state budget bill, restoring a business tax exemption for attorneys and lobbyists. Senate Bill 26 was originally introduced to allow educators to claim an income tax deduction for out-of-pocket classroom […]

The House passed legislation on October 10 to reverse the state budget bill, restoring a business tax exemption for attorneys and lobbyists.

Senate Bill 26 was originally introduced to allow educators to claim an income tax deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses.

The House Finance Committee approved amendments to restore the deduction for attorneys and lobbyists excluded in the two-year state operating bill tax policy of House Bill 166.

Since 2013, the state business income deduction (BID) has allowed those deriving income from any pass-through entity (e.g., LLCs, LLPs) to pay no tax on the first $250,000 of income and a flat 3% on any income above the threshold.

House Bill 166 excluded otherwise eligible income from legal services provided by an attorney or income from legislative, executive agency, or retirement system lobbying activity beginning in 2020.

Senate Bill 26 has been re-referred to the Senate for final approval.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

October 9, 2019 •

Prince Edward Island Lawmakers Want Public Input on Rules

Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly Chamber - Joseph Thornley

On October 7, lawmakers in the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly solicited public input regarding what procedural rules they should follow. The Standing Committee on Rules, Regulations, Private Bills and Privileges is seeking public input on the Rules of the […]

On October 7, lawmakers in the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly solicited public input regarding what procedural rules they should follow.

The Standing Committee on Rules, Regulations, Private Bills and Privileges is seeking public input on the Rules of the Legislative Assembly, in particular on potential changes to the parliamentary calendar, sitting hours, and budget process.

Public comments and suggestions by individuals and organizations must be in writing and submitted to the Assembly by October 25.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

September 24, 2019 •

Utah Special Session Ends

Utah Capitol Building - Jkinsocal

Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a series of bills bringing an end to the special legislative session. The governor signed two major bills making changes to the laws governing medical cannabis and beer. Lawmakers approved a change to allow grocery […]

Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a series of bills bringing an end to the special legislative session.

The governor signed two major bills making changes to the laws governing medical cannabis and beer.

Lawmakers approved a change to allow grocery and convenience stores a one-week grace period to purchase and store 4% beer before it can be sold to customers as the cap is lifted from 3.2% beer on Nov. 1.

Additionally, legislators passed changes to the state’s medical cannabis bill.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

September 23, 2019 •

Missouri General Assembly Passes Vehicle Sales Bill During Special Session

Missouri Capitol Building

Lawmakers officially passed a legislative fix to an issue regarding vehicle sales during Gov. Mike Parson’s special session. The session took place from September 9 to September 16, 2019. Currently, the value of one previously owned motor vehicle, trailer, boat, […]

Lawmakers officially passed a legislative fix to an issue regarding vehicle sales during Gov. Mike Parson’s special session.

The session took place from September 9 to September 16, 2019.

Currently, the value of one previously owned motor vehicle, trailer, boat, or outboard motor may be used as a deduction against the sales tax owed on the purchase of any such vehicle within 180 days before or after a taxpayer sells a previously owned vehicle.

House Bill 1 expands the deduction to include the values of one or more previously owned motor vehicles, trailers, boats, or outboard motors.

Parsons stated if he hadn’t called lawmakers to Jefferson City, thousands of people would have suffered financial loss.

The bill will take effect 90 days after receiving Gov. Parson’s signature.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close