July 31, 2019 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Low in Cash and Polls, 2020 Democrats Get Creative with Accounting” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times New Mexico: “Legislative Leaders Take Command of Campaign Resources” by Morgan Lee for AP News Rhode Island: “Aponte Pleads […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Low in Cash and Polls, 2020 Democrats Get Creative with Accounting” by Shane Goldmacher for New York Times

New Mexico: “Legislative Leaders Take Command of Campaign Resources” by Morgan Lee for AP News

Rhode Island: “Aponte Pleads No Contest to Embezzlement, Must Resign from City Council” by Katie Mulvaney for Providence Journal

Elections

California: “Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law” by John Myers for Los Angeles Times

Florida: “Modified Sentences and ‘Rocket Dockets’ Aim to Ensure Felons Can Still Register to Vote” by Lori Rozsa for Washington Post

Ethics

Hawaii: “The Kealoha Corruption Case Cost These Two Investigators More Than Their Jobs” by Nick Grube for Honolulu Civil Beat

Legislative Issues

Wisconsin: “A Wisconsin Lawmaker Who’s Paralyzed Isn’t Allowed to Call into Meetings; He Says That Keeps Him from Doing His Job” by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lobbying

National: “Trump Fundraiser Thomas Barrack Jr. Lobbied for Saudi Nuclear Deal, New Report Alleges” by Deirdre Shesgreen for USA Today

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

July 25, 2019 •

Two Proposed Iowa Constitutional Amendments Delayed

Because of a clerical error by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, voters in the state will not have a chance to vote on two recently passed constitutional amendments until 2022 at the earliest. In 2018, the Iowa legislature passed […]

Because of a clerical error by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, voters in the state will not have a chance to vote on two recently passed constitutional amendments until 2022 at the earliest.

In 2018, the Iowa legislature passed two constitutional amendments. One proposed amendment requires any review of state legislation affecting the right to own firearms be subject to a judicial review standard of strict scrutiny.

The other proposed amendment deals with the line of gubernatorial succession for any vacancies of that office.

For the amendments to be added the state’s constitution, they must be passed a second time by the next sitting legislature and then be voted on by the citizens of the state.

However, after an amendment’s first passage, notice must be given to voters three months prior to the election of the next legislature.

According to Governing.com, the secretary of state’s office missed the deadline to file the notice for the public, requiring the process to restart and resulting in the earliest opportunity for the amendments to appear for voters’ approval to be 2022.

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

July 19, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 19, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal Acting Labor Secretary Pizzella Lobbied for Russian-Connected Front Group, Worked with Jack Abramoff Center for Responsive Politics – Reid Champlin and Jessica Piper | Published: 7/12/2019 Patrick Pizzella will take the reins at the Department of Labor as acting secretary […]

National/Federal

Acting Labor Secretary Pizzella Lobbied for Russian-Connected Front Group, Worked with Jack Abramoff
Center for Responsive Politics – Reid Champlin and Jessica Piper | Published: 7/12/2019

Patrick Pizzella will take the reins at the Department of Labor as acting secretary after Alex Acosta announced his resignation due to criticism for his light prosecution of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. But Pizzella’s record as a lobbyist is likely to come under scrutiny. In the late 1990s, his clients included a Russian front group, the government of the Marshall Islands, and a trade association fighting against the minimum wage in a U.S. commonwealth. For these and other clients, he worked with Jack Abramoff, who was at the forefront of a corruption scandal in the 2000s that ultimately resulted in 21 convictions and major reforms to lobbying laws. Pizzella was never accused of any wrongdoing.

Alex Acosta Resigns as Labor Secretary Amid Intense Scrutiny of His Handling of Jeffrey Epstein Case
MSN – David Nakamura, John Wagner, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2019

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation amid the mushrooming Jeffrey Epstein investigation made him the latest in a growing list of President Trump’s Cabinet members to depart under a cloud of scandal, plunging an administration that has struggled with record turnover into further upheaval. Trump said Acosta had chosen to step down a day after defending himself in a contentious news conference over his role as a U.S. attorney a decade ago in a deal with Epstein that allowed the financier to plead guilty to lesser offenses in a sex-crimes case involving underage girls. The sole Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet said the intense media focus on his role in Epstein’s case threatened to become a distraction that would undermine his work for the administration.

CNN Doesn’t Tell Whole Story About Trump-Loving Panel
San Francisco Chronicle – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 7/17/2019

The panel of women CNN interviewed about President Trump liked him a lot and do not think he is a racist, despite a congressional resolution to the contrary. And no question the women are, as CNN identified them, “Republicans.” But the network missed telling its viewers a few other things about the women it put on the air in a segment surveying their reaction to criticism of Trump. The seemingly random group of eight women were, in fact, members of an organized group dedicated to promoting Trump. The group calls itself the Trumpettes of America 2019 Palm Beach Team, although CNN and correspondent Randi Kaye did not mention anything about such a group. Nor did the anchors, including Anderson Cooper, who introduced Kaye’s report.  

Consultant Who Worked with Manafort Retroactively Registers as Foreign Agent
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/12/2019

A British consultant who helped publicize a report commissioned by the government of Ukraine in 2012 retroactively registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department. The filing sheds a little more light on an elaborate lobbying and public relations effort orchestrated by Paul Manafort starting more than seven years ago on behalf of the Ukrainian government and Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time and Manafort’s client. Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, looked into the effort as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The consultant, Jonathan Hawker, registered through FTI Consulting, the firm at which he worked at the time but has since left.

Court Filings Show Trump, Cohen Contacts Amid Hush Money Payments
The Hill – Jacqueline Thomsen and Morgan Chalfant | Published: 7/18/2019

President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohn was in contact with Trump multiple times as he arranged hush money payments to women alleging affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The previously redacted details of the probe on the payments indicate investigators were aware of calls made between Cohen and Trump, as well as other campaign officials. Cohen pleaded guilty to committing campaign finance violations in relation to the payments and implicated Trump in the scheme. The documents were released after federal prosecutors said they had concluded their investigation into the hush-money payments. The closure of the probe strongly suggests prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against anyone besides Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations, lying to Congress, and financial crimes.

F.E.C. Allows Security Company to Help 2020 Candidates Defend Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth | Published: 7/11/2019

The FEC said a Silicon Valley security company could immediately start helping 2020 presidential candidates defend their campaigns from the kinds of malicious email attacks that Russian hackers exploited in the 2016 election. The FEC made its advisory opinion one month after lawyers for the agency advised it to block a request by the company, Area 1 Security, which had sought to provide services to candidates at a discount. The FEC lawyers said Area 1 would be violating campaign finance laws that prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted services to federal candidates. The same law also prevents political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an “in-kind donation.”

FEC Gets New Internal Watchdog Following Tumultuous Search
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 7/12/2019

The FEC has a new inspector general, ending a 28-month period that included the de facto neutering of its office charged with investigating and defending against agency waste, fraud, and abuse. Christopher Skinner will begin work as the FEC’s inspector general on August 5. Skinner served as deputy inspector general for the Office of Naval Research for six years, including one year as acting inspector general. Before that, he served as assistant chief of inspections for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. It took commissioners about a year to begin an earnest search for McFarland’s replacement. Once they did, agency infighting resulted in a disgruntled human resources official canceling an inspector general job posting and, in mid-2018, derailing the search.

Former Flynn Partner on Trial for Illegal Lobbying Charges
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 7/15/2019

Though special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign influence in the 2016 election has officially wrapped up, a trial began for a former business partner of convicted ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn accused of acting as an illegal agent of the Turkish government. Bijan Rafiekian, an Iranian American businessperson who also goes by Bijan Kian, was indicted on a charge of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. The charges stemmed from lobbying work done by Kian and Flynn in 2016.

House Condemns Trump’s Attack on Four Congresswomen as Racist
MSN – Julie Hirschfeld Davis (New York Times) | Published: 7/16/2019

The U.S. House voted to condemn as racist President Trump’s attacks against four congresswomen of color, but only after the debate over the president’s language devolved into a bitterly partisan brawl that showcased deep rifts over race, ethnicity, and political ideology in the age of Trump. The measure passed nearly along party lines after one of the most polarizing exchanges on the floor in recent times. Only four Republicans and the House’s lone independent voted with all Democrats to condemn the president. It is virtually unheard-of for Congress to rebuke a sitting president. The last one to be challenged was William Howard Taft, who served from 1909 to 1913. He was accused of having tried to influence a disputed Senate election, but in the end, the Senate passed a watered-down resolution.

House Holds Barr and Ross in Contempt Over Census Dispute
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 7/17/2019

The U.S. House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for their refusal to turn over key documents related to the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The citations for two cabinet officials will breathe new life into a dispute that has touched all three branches of government over why administration officials pushed to ask census respondents if they were American citizens and what that question’s effect would be. Democrats investigating the issue believe the documents and testimony being shielded would confirm the administration’s long-stated rationale for collecting the data, to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, was merely a cover for a politically motivated attempt to eliminate noncitizens from population statistics used to allocate political representation, diminishing Democratic power.

How Pharma, Under Attack from All Sides, Keeps Winning in Washington
STAT – Nicholas Forko and Lev Facher | Published: 7/16/2019

Even though Washington has stepped up its rhetorical attacks on the industry and focused its policymaking efforts on reining in high drug prices, the pharmaceutical industry’s time-honored lobbying and advocacy strategies have kept both lawmakers and the Trump administration from landing any of their prescription-drug punches. Even off Capitol Hill, it found a way to block perhaps the Trump administration’s most substantial anti-industry accomplishment in the past two years: a rule that would have required drug companies to list their prices in television ads. The industry has also benefited from a fractured Congress and discord between President Trump’s most senior health care advisers.

Trump Says He Will Seek Citizenship Information from Existing Federal Records, Not the Census
MSN – Katie Rogers, Adam Liptak, Michael Crowley, and Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 7/11/2019

President Trump abandoned his quest to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 census and instructed the government to compile citizenship data from existing federal records instead, ending a bitterly fought legal battle that turned the nonpartisan census into an object of political warfare. Trump announcedt he was giving up on modifying the census two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuked his administration over its effort to do so. Trump made the clearest statement yet that his administration’s ultimate goal in obtaining data on citizenship was to eliminate noncitizens from the population bases used to draw political boundaries, a longstanding dream in some Republican circles. Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce who spearheaded the effort to add the citizenship question, had long insisted the data was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Trump Tells Freshman Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to the Countries They Came From
MSN – Katie Rogers and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2019

President Trump said a group of four minority congresswomen feuding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should “go back” to the countries they came from rather than “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States” how to run the government. Wrapped inside that insult, which was widely established as a racist trope, was a factually inaccurate claim: only one of the lawmakers was born outside the country. Even though Trump has repeatedly refused to back down from stoking racial divisions, his willingness to deploy a lowest-rung slur, one commonly and crudely used to single out the perceived foreignness of nonwhite, non-Christian people, was largely regarded as beyond the pale.

With Name-Calling and Twitter Battles, House Republican Campaign Arm Copies Trump’s Playbook
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 7/17/2019

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), with the blessing of House Republican leaders, has adopted a no-holds-barred strategy to win back the House majority next year, borrowing heavily from President Trump’s playbook in deploying such taunts and name-calling. After losing 40 seats and the majority in November, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, the NRCC’s new chairperson, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided their messaging needed to be ruthless. The offensive hinges largely on the notion that by tagging all House Democrats as socialists, anti-Semites, or far-left extremists, Republicans will be able to alienate swing-state voters.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Utility Panel OKs New Limits on Campaign Contributions to Commission Candidates
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 7/11/2019

State utility regulators approved a new code of ethics, including new limits on how much anyone with business before them can donate to candidates running for the Arizona Corporation Commission. But two of the panel members said the wording has a gaping hole that could still give utilities a way of financing their favorite commission candidates, at least indirectly. The language technically does not keep current and would be commissioners from taking campaign money from utilities and others who are trying to convince the panel to approve or reject some pending issue. Instead it says if a candidate for the commission takes campaign money from someone who has business before the commission they cannot vote on that matter when it goes before the panel.

Hawaii Defiant Ethics Commission Defends Decisions on Kealohas
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/17/2019

The Honolulu Ethics Commission is under renewed scrutiny for how it handled a series of investigations into retired city police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, who is a former city prosecutor. The Kealohas were convicted along with two police officers of framing Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of their mailbox and then trying to cover it up. Two other Honolulu police officers pleaded guilty to other charges stemming from the federal probe. The commission launched a series of investigations into the Kealohas in 2014. Those inquiries stalled in 2015, however, after the commission yanked its main investigators, Chuck Totto and Letha DeCaires, from the case and made a series of decisions that effectively ended their careers.

Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council Ethics Plan Advances
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/17/2019

The Chicago City Council’s Ethics Committee advanced a package of reforms to give the city watchdog more oversight of the body and tighten rules on outside jobs and lobbying. In a late change to the proposal, people acting on behalf of nonprofits would not need to register as lobbyists if they are unpaid or if they are providing technical assistance to the agencies. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ethics proposal also include measures to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and increase fines for ethics violations, from the current $500 to $2,000 up to $1,000 to $5,000.

Missouri Since Voters Approved A $5 Cap on Gifts, Lobbyist Spending on Missouri Lawmakers Dropped 94%
St. Louis Public Radio – Aviva Okeson-Haberman | Published: 7/11/2019

Voters approved a five-dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. An analysis of data from the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there has been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That is a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session. University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire said most of the spending is now on larger events that all lawmakers can attend. There is still a five-dollar limit per lawmaker for those events.

New York Ex-IDC Members Pay $275,000, Settling Sugarman Suit
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/11/2019

In January, Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the State Board of Elections. sought more than $8.6 million in penalties and fines from senators, campaign staff, and party officials connected to a fundraising partnership between the Independence Party and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which controversially partnered with Republicans to run the New York Senate for half a decade. Eight former IDC members recently paid $275,000 to settle the allegations they took millions of dollars in unlawful campaign donations. The settlement agreement does not include the state Independence Party or its officials. Sugarman’s case against the Independence Party, which seeks $17,000 in fines and the return of $171,000 party money to donors, is still pending.

New York Mt. Vernon Has 2 Mayors, and Its Police Commissioner Was Just Arrested
New York Times – Sarah Maslin Nir | Published: 7/18/2019

Shawn Harris was taken into custody when he arrived at Mount Vernon police headquarters to begin work as the city’s police commissioner. Harris was appointed by Andre Wallace, who purports to be the acting mayor after the city council deemed Richard Thomas to have forfeited the mayor’s office when he pleaded guilty to misusing $12,900 in campaign funds. Thomas insists he is still in power and remains in the mayor’s office in City Hall, with a pair of police officers standing guard. Further confusion came when the city council issued a statement disavowing Wallace’s appointment of Harris. Things were in such flux that staff members in the city clerk’s office needed to print out organizational charts as they tried to explain who in the administration is currently who.

North Dakota North Dakota Focuses on Ethics
U.S. News & World Report – Cinnamon Janzer | Published: 7/12/2019

In February 2018, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and his wife took a Super Bowl trip funded by Xcel Energy (which he later paid back), and state Rep. Jim Kasper took multiple trips involving the internet gambling industry in 2005. In response, a coalition of citizens pushed for a state ethics commission. Voters in 2018 passed Measure 1, amending the North Dakota Constitution to add Article 14, which required the Legislature to pass laws to regulate campaign finance disclosures and established an ethics commission designed to “support open, ethical, and accountable government” among other responsibilities. The commission is being formulated this summer, and its creation has not been without controversy. Experts have concerns about how effective tit will be, largely due to changes in the legislation that established the panel.

Ohio City Elections Commission Offers Guidance on Campaign Finance Change
WVXU – Jay Hanselman | Published: 7/11/2019

Contributions made by made by limited liability corporations (LLC) to Cincinnati mayoral and city council candidates prior to December 1, 2018, will not count toward a donor’s limits under the city’s new campaign finance charter amendment. The ballot measure said an LLC cannot contribute to mayoral or city council candidates “solely in the name” of the business. Those donations must be associated with the person, owner, or partner making it. Attorney Micah Kamrass had asked the city’s Elections Commission “whether contributions made to a city council or mayoral candidate by an LLC will be counted as contributions made by an individual if the contributions were made prior to the effective date” of the Charter amendment.

Texas Ellis Proposes Ethics Reforms for Harris County Government
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 7/12/2019

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis has proposed two ethics reforms he says are needed to improve transparency in county government, though Texas counties’ limited rule-making power may scuttle his plan. Commissioners Court unanimously backed Ellis’ request to study how the county can establish mandatory registration of lobbyists and a blackout period for campaign contributions to elected officials from firms who seek or receive county contracts. Harris County since 2009 has allowed lobbyist registration on a voluntary basis. Participation has been dismal – just 17 lobbyists have signed up in the past decade, according to records.

Texas State Leaders Again Want to Review How Texas Elects Judges. Will They End Partisan Judicial Elections?
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 7/15/2019

After a punishing election for Republican judges, state leaders are set to take a look at Texas’ often-criticized judicial selection system. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law creating a commission to study the issue, signaling the Legislature could overhaul the system as soon as 2021. One of just a few states that maintains a system of partisan judicial selection all the way up through its high courts, judges are required to run as partisans but expected to rule impartially. They are forced to raise money from the same lawyers who will appear before them in court. And in their down-ballot, low-information races, their fates tend to track with the candidates at the top of the ticket. That means political waves that sweep out of office good and bad, experienced and inexperienced judges alike.

Washington In Win for Public Campaign Financing, State Supreme Court Upholds Seattle’s Unique ‘Democracy Vouchers’
Governing – Daniel Beekman (Seattle Times) | Published: 7/15/2019

The Washington Supreme Court upheld Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” program, which allows residents to direct taxpayer money to qualifying political candidates. The Pacific Legal Foundation supported a lawsuit to block the program on behalf of a pair of residents, claiming it would effectively force them to support candidates they might not agree with. The justices ruled because any candidate can qualify to receive the funds the program is effectively neutral. Proponents say the vouchers counter big money in politics by involving people who otherwise would not donate and by helping lesser-known candidates compete.

Washington DC Tensions Reach a New High on D.C. Council as Lawmakers Grapple with Scandal
Washington Post – Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 7/13/2019

Heated fights at the District of Columbia Council over how to discipline a lawmaker under federal investigation and whether to approve a controversial gambling contract have deepened a growing rift among city leaders. Tensions have been simmering after repeated revelations about Councilperson Jack Evans and his private business dealings with companies with interests before city government. The divisions escalated at a recent meeting when a group of lawmakers tried but failed to strip Evans of all committee assignments. Next, they tried unsuccessfully to stop a no-bid sports betting and lottery contract that several said “stinks” of cronyism. Instead, council Chairperson Phil Mendelson and allies were able to approve the contract and avoid harsh penalties for Evans.

West Virginia A Resolution Condemning Pipeline Challengers Passed Easily. A Pipeline Lobbyist Wrote It.
ProPublica – Kate Mishkin (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/11/2019

House Resolution 11, sponsored by nearly half of West Virginia delegates, praised the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a major natural gas project. Then, the resolution sharply condemned the citizens’ groups that challenged the project in court. The resolution passed 80 to 17. What was not mentioned on the House floor was the resolution was drafted by the pipeline company itself. Bob Orndorff, a lobbyist for Dominion Energy, wrote the resolution and sent it to the House. It is not abnormal for a lobbyist to provide insight or help draft legislation. But Orndorff’s resolution was different from other pieces of legislation because it singled out a specific group. It sheds light on the close relationship between West Virginia’s growing natural gas industry and its legislative branch.

Continue Reading - 23 min read Close

July 16, 2019 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “F.E.C. Allows Security Company to Help 2020 Candidates Defend Campaigns” by Nicole Perlroth for New York Times Illinois: “‘A Red Flag’: Developers sought taxpayer reimbursement for $20,000 in donations to Chicago alderman” by Gregory Pratt and Joe […]

Campaign Finance

National: “F.E.C. Allows Security Company to Help 2020 Candidates Defend Campaigns” by Nicole Perlroth for New York Times

Illinois: “‘A Red Flag’: Developers sought taxpayer reimbursement for $20,000 in donations to Chicago alderman” by Gregory Pratt and Joe Mahr for Chicago Tribune

New York: “Ex-IDC Members Pay $275,000, Settling Sugarman Suit” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Elections

Texas: “State Leaders Again Want to Review How Texas Elects Judges. Will They End Partisan Judicial Elections?” by Emma Platoff for Texas Tribune

Ethics

Florida: “Andrew Gillum Shifts Campaign Cash to a New Nonprofit, Blocking It from Public View” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times

Legislative Issues

Washington DC: “Tensions Reach a New High on D.C. Council as Lawmakers Grapple with Scandal” by Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post

Lobbying

National: “Consultant Who Worked with Manafort Retroactively Registers as Foreign Agent” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico

National: “Acting Labor Secretary Pizzella Lobbied for Russian-Connected Front Group, Worked with Jack Abramoff” by Reid Champlin and Jessica Piper for Center for Responsive Politics

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

July 12, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 12, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal 2020 Democrats Vow to Get Tough on Lobbyists The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/7/2019 Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking aim at the lobbying world, vowing to enact sweeping reform proposals if they win election. Contenders from both parties […]

National/Federal

2020 Democrats Vow to Get Tough on Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/7/2019

Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking aim at the lobbying world, vowing to enact sweeping reform proposals if they win election. Contenders from both parties have long run as outsiders to K Street, with President Trump famously vowing on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp.” But the spotlight on K Street has intensified this cycle, with the left urging candidates to reject corporate money and Democratic lawmakers raising concerns about the “revolving door” that sees lobbyists land top administration posts. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennet have called for a strict lifetime ban on lawmakers lobbying. Those candidates in the U.S. House are touting tough restrictions on lobbyists they helped pass this year as part of a sweeping ethics bill.

AP: Federal grand jury probing GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy
AP News – Jim Mustian and Desmond Butler | Published: 7/8/2019

A federal grand jury in New York is investigating top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, examining whether he used his position as vice chairperson of President Trump’s inaugural committee to drum up business deals with foreign leaders. Prosecutors appear to be investigating whether Broidy exploited his access to Trump for personal gain and violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to offer foreign officials “anything of value” to gain a business advantage. Things of value in this case could have been an invitation to the January 2017 inaugural events or access to Trump.

Appeals Court Tosses Emoluments Suit Against Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/10/2019

A federal appeals court panel dismissed a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while serving as president. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who joined together to file the suit, lacked legal standing to object to his alleged violations of the Constitution’s clauses prohibiting receipt of so-called emoluments while in office. Writing for the court, Judge Paul Niemeyer concluded the case turned on unduly speculative claims that the District of Columbia and Maryland governments were being harmed by people favoring Trump’s Washington hotel in order to curry favor with him.

Democrats Grapple with a Sprawling Primary Field, and No One to Shape It
MSN – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2019

Many strategists say the Democratic Party’s slate of 24 presidential candidates is too unwieldy for a constructive debate, and too large for most voters to follow. With a leadership vacuum at the top of the party, there is no one to elevate candidates with an endorsement, or help steer third-tier candidates out of the race when they have reached their plausible expiration date. Former President Obama is sitting out the primary. The Clintons, a once-dominant party presence, are largely unwelcome this time around. Of the party’s living former presidential nominees, just Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis have weighed in on the race. The rest are keeping their distance from the messy primary, which polling shows has bifurcated between a top tier of five candidates and everyone else vying just to qualify for the party’s fall debates.

Elizabeth Warren Shuns Conventional Wisdom for a New Kind of Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/9/2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is defying the traditional playbook for running a modern presidential campaign. She raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of this year despite swearing off large fundraising events. Her campaign has gone without an outside polling firm, and says it has no plans to hire one, even though it is standard operating procedure. The campaign is shunning the typical model for producing campaign ads, in which outside firms are hired and paid commissions for their work. Instead, Warren’s campaign is producing TV, digital, and media content itself, as well as placing its digital ad buys internally. The approach is a rebuke of the consultant-heavy model of campaigns. Warren and her team see the standard campaign as another symbol of Washington corruption, and an opportunity to do things differently.

Eric Swalwell Ends White House Bid, Citing Low Polling, Fundraising
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 7/8/2019

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, dogged by fundraising challenges and a failure to register in the polls, is ending his longshot bid for the presidency. He had called on Democratic front-runner Joe Biden to “pass the torch” of party leadership to a new generation in the first Democratic presidential debates. But Swalwell later called a press conference to announce that instead of continuing in the primaries, he will instead seek a fifth term representing his strongly Democratic district in Congress. Consultant Garry South said Swalwell’s attempts at generational appeal “could have had traction, but he was pre-empted by someone a year younger, Pete Buttigieg. He didn’t have that lane to himself.”

FBI Arrests Former Top Puerto Rico Officials in Government Corruption Scandal
National Public Radio – Bobby Allyn | Published: 7/11/2019

U.S. authorities unsealed a corruption indictment against two former top officials in Puerto Rico for directing some $15.5 million in contracts to favored businesses, allegedly edging out other firms for the lucrative government work despite allegations of being unqualified. The two former Puerto Rico leaders – Julia Keleher, who was the secretary of the island’s department of education before stepping down in April, and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, who led Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration until June – were arrested by FBI agents. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that the conspiracy involved the two former public officials handing four associates who had an inside track to contracts.

Female Tech Lobbyists Shake Up Industry
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/9/2019

Male-dominated Silicon Valley has long faced criticism over gender diversity issues, but in Washington, D.C., the tech industry’s most prominent groups are increasingly led by women. For women in the industry, those changes are a promising trend and long overdue, and come at a critical time for tech businesses. Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA), first started as a lobbyist at NTCA 30 years ago, when she said it was a “barren wasteland for women in the tech industry.” She left after 20 years for stints at Qwest and Verizon, before returning as chief executive nine years ago. Bloomfield says there is more to be done to improve representation.

GOP at War Over Fundraising
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/10/2019

Tensions over the future of the Republican Party’s grassroots fundraising are reaching a breaking point, with the national party turning to strong-arm tactics to get Republicans behind its new, Donald Trump-endorsed platform for small donors. The Republican National Committee (RNC) is threatening to withhold support from party candidates who refuse to use WinRed, the GOP’s newly established online fundraising tool. And the RNC, along with the party’s Senate and gubernatorial campaign arms, are threatening legal action against a rival donation vehicle. The moves illustrate how Republican leaders are waging a determined campaign to make WinRed the sole provider of its small donor infrastructure and to torpedo any competitors.

In the Aftermath of Khashoggi’s Murder, Saudi Influence Machine Whirs on in Washington
Stamford Advocate – Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2019

Since fall 2018, Washington, D.C. lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions of dollars for assisting Saudi Arabia as it works to develop nuclear power, buy American-made weapons, and prolong U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, foreign lobbying records show. Shaped by a sophisticated machine that was built over decades, Saudi support on Capitol Hill has been tested in recent months amid international outrage over the kingdom’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death and a war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians. In recent months, some Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to limit U.S. military aid and weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. But with billions of dollars at stake, the powerful defense industry has helped the lobbying corps contain GOP defections.

‘It Can’t Be Worse’: How Republican women are trying to rebuild
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 7/9/2019

As their own election losses poured in, Republicans watched Democratic women make historic gains in 2018 and decided to adopt the Democrats’ strategy for themselves. Those attending the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University said saving Republican women from political extinction was a challenge far bigger than one election cycle. This is because the deeper problem is that Democratic women have a bench; Republican women do not. Part of the trouble is demographic. There are just more Democratic than Republican women among registered voters, and President Trump, who is less popular among women than among men, has not helped. Republicans also lag strategically in several areas: in recruiting female candidates, training them, funding them, and helping them through primaries.

Judge Blocks Trump Rule Requiring Drug Companies to List Prices in TV Ads
New York Times – Katie Thomas and Katie Rogers | Published: 7/8/2019

A federal judge ruled the Trump administration cannot force pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television ads, dealing a blow to one of the president’s most visible efforts to pressure drug companies to lower their prices. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drug makers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month.

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s ‘Deep State’ Defense Falls Apart
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 7/8/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s bid to dismiss the corruption charges against him by alleging a “deep state” conspiracy by U.S. attorneys fell apart when it was revealed that Hunter’s lead attorney had attended the same Democratic fundraiser that he said biased prosecutors. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan ruled against a motion filed by Hunter’s team, arguing the case should be relocated or dismissed because two of the prosecutors attended a 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, who was running for president. Their attendance, Hunter’s lawyers said, meant they would be biased in the case against Hunter, an early supporter of Donald Trump. The Justice Department revealed that the lead attorney for Hunter’s defense, Gregory Vega, was also present, and even donated to her campaign.

Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But a Lobbyist for ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.
Center for Public Integrity – Laura Zornosa | Published: 7/8/2019

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is staking his presidential campaign on battling “dark money.” But in August, Bullock is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., for a closed-door campaign fundraiser co-hosted by 11 of the capital’s, including a federally registered lobbyist whose clients have contributed corporate cash to groups that do not disclose their donors, according to an invitation. Jay Driscoll, a Bullock friend and managing partner at lobbying firm Forbes-Tate, lobbied for 37 corporate clients during the first quarter of 2019 alone. The Center for Public Integrity in 2014 found nine of Driscoll’s current corporate lobbying clients had contributed to politically active nonprofit groups that do not voluntarily disclose their donors.

Study: Firm governance key as shareholders assess risk of political activity
Phys.org; Staff –   | Published: 7/9/2019

It is the structure of a firm’s governance that may cause shareholders to walk away if they think they cannot hold the company accountable for its political activity, according to a new study. The research provides empirical evidence to inform the debate surrounding whether companies should be required to disclose details of their investments in political activities as a means of increasing accountability to both shareholders and the public. “The study clearly presents the various ways that U.S. companies can influence the political process via campaign finance and what risk it presents to the average investor because of the lack of transparency over the amounts spent,” said the study’s co-author, Hollis Skaife, an accounting professor at the University of California.

Trump Campaign Knew Consultant Was Behind Joe Biden Parody Site. Does That Make It a Campaign Finance Violation
Newsweek – Asher Stockler | Published: 7/9/2019

Multiple members of President Trump’s re-election campaign knew one of their colleagues was the creator of the Joe Biden parody site before his identity was disclosed recently, a campaign source familiar with the matter said. The New York Times revealed Trump campaign consultant Patrick Mauldin as the digital guru behind JoeBiden.info, a website “parody” of the Biden campaign that was designed to highlight unfavorable quotes and gaffes from the former vice president. While his campaign activities and his extracurricular activities appear to be separate functions, Mauldin’s dual status as a bona fide campaign worker and off-duty web guru raises the question of potential campaign finance violations.

Trump Can’t Block Critics from His Twitter Account, Appeals Court Rules
MSN – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 7/9/2019

President Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled in a case that could affect officials’ communications with the public on social media. Because Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts, and engaging in conversations in the replies to them, because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously. The ruling was one of the highest-profile court decisions yet in a growing constellation of cases addressing what the First Amendment means in a time when political expression increasingly takes place online.

Warren and Whitehouse call for investigation into Chamber of Commerce
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/10/2019

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse are calling for an investigation into whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is properly disclosing lobbying activities. The senators wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, where entities file lobbying disclosures, asking for a review of the Chamber’s reports to determine if they are in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The senators reviewed the Chamber’s disclosures from 2008 through the first quarter of 2019 and claim that since the second quarter of 2016, the Chamber has failed to provide information on its affiliated organizations. The LDA requires a coalition or association disclose entities that contribute at least $5,000 a quarter to its lobbying activities and that actively participate in its lobbying activities.

White House Kills Key Drug Pricing Rule to Eliminate Hidden Rebates
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb | Published: 7/11/2019

The Trump administration pulled one of its key proposals to lower drug prices that would have eliminated rebates to middlemen in Medicare, which President Trump’s top health official had touted as one of the most significant changes to curb medicine costs for consumers. The rule is the second major drug pricing effort to get blocked recently, complicating the administration’s efforts to make lowering prescription medicine costs a key 2020 presidential campaign issue. Drug makers had favored the rule, but it was strongly opposed by pharmacy benefits managers.

Why the Trump White House Is Caught Up in the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal
MSN – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 7/7/2019

By the time Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier and felon, was arrested recently and charged with sex trafficking, he had been repeatedly accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse for more than a decade.  But Epstein, whose acquaintances include two presidents and multiple celebrities, had until then avoided federal prosecution. The case could shed new light not only on the allegations, which span years and countries, but also on the extent to which officials who have been linked to Epstein – including, most notably, President Trump and his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — knew about or downplayed them.

From the States and Municipalities

California California Bill Limits Spending by Local Government Groups
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 7/9/2019

A California lawmaker wants to limit how local government associations can spend taxpayer money after two city councilors got into a brawl at a recent seminar put on by one of the groups. Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia’s bill targets groups that lobby on behalf of and hold education events for local governments. It specifically references the California Contract Cities Association, but it would also apply to groups such as the League of California Cities and the Independent Cities Association. The bill would prohibit them from using dues collected from cities for anything other than lobbying or expenses directly related to educational seminars. The groups would have to disclose how they spend their money.

Florida Florida, the Sunshine State, Is Slow to Adopt Rooftop Solar Power
New York Times – Ivan Penn | Published: 7/7/2019

Florida calls itself the Sunshine State. But when it comes to the use of solar power, it trails 19 states, including not-so-sunny Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland. Solar experts and environmentalists blame the state’s utilities. The utilities have hindered potential rivals seeking to offer residential solar power. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying, ad campaigns, and political contributions. And when homeowners purchase solar equipment, the utilities have delayed connecting the systems for months. In Florida, utilities make money on virtually all aspects of the electricity system – producing the power, transmitting it, selling it, and delivering it. Critics say the companies have much at stake in preserving that control.

Georgia ‘Drag This Out as Long as Possible’: Former official faces rare criminal charges under open-records law
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 7/8/2019

When he was mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed’s relationship with the news media was notoriously contentious. At one news conference, Reed responded to reporters’ requests for records by simultaneously releasing more than 1.4 million pages of documents on paper, stuffed into more than 400 boxes, some of them filled with blank sheets and minuscule spreadsheet printouts – a gesture interpreted by many in the local press corps as an act of nose-thumbing. His former press secretary, Jenna Garland, is now facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to comply with Georgia’s open records law. It is a rare predicament for an American government official, and the allegations will do little to allay investigative reporters’ worst suspicions about the spirit with which bureaucrats receive their nagging, but legal, records requests.

Massachusetts New Disclosure System Creating Headaches for Lobbyists
Taunton Gazette – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/11/2019

Multiple lobbyists said that over the course of the past week they have tried to input their data to comply with Massachusetts’ disclosure law – including bills that they are lobbying on, expenditures for clients, and campaign contributions – only to be unable to save their work, have the system crash, or see their data erased. Penalties for late filings start at $50 a day for the first week and grow to $100 after July 20. While a larger firm may be able to absorb some fines, one person who works in the industry said they have seen the bills mount for smaller clients, including non-profits, who are less familiar with their responsibilities to report.

Mississippi Mississippi Politician Blocks Female Reporter from Campaign Trip
MSN – Karen Zraik (New York Times) | Published: 7/10/2019

State Rep. Robert Foster, who is running for governor of Mississippi, blocked a female reporter from shadowing him on a campaign trip “to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise” his marriage. Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today said Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison, told her a male colleague would need to accompany her on a 15-hour campaign trip around the state. In blocking the reporter, Foster invoked the “Billy Graham rule,” which refers to the Christian evangelist’s refusal to spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife. The practice has drawn renewed attention in recent years, especially after the resurfacing of a 2002 comment by Vice President Mike Pence that he would not eat alone with any woman other than his wife.

Missouri ‘Dream for Fans of Corruption’: Greitens Confide ruling vexes transparency advocates
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 7/9/2019

A Cole County judge ruled former Gov. Eric Greitens did not violate Missouri’s Sunshine Law when he and his government staff used a self-destructing text message app called Confide. Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem said because the text messages were automatically deleted, it meant they were never officially retained, and therefore were not covered by the law. There is no right for a private citizen to sue under the state’s record retention law, the judge said, so the lawsuit against the governor’s office that was filed in late 2017 could not move forward. “[Beetem’s decision] blows a giant hole in the Sunshine Law, and invites further deliberate, automatic destruction of records by public officials,” said Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University.

New York Cuomo Signs a Bill to Allow Release of Trump’s State Tax Returns
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 7/8/2019

As the battle over President Trump’s federal taxes intensifies in Washington, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to allow congressional committees to access the president’s state tax returns.  The bill requires state tax officials to release the president’s state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the chairperson of one of three congressional committees. It is effective immediately, though it is unclear whether it would be challenged by the administration or used by the congressional committees. Still, the state tax documents from New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters, would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, tax experts say.

New York Legendary ‘Three Stooges’ Were Briefly NY Campaign Donors
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/10/2019

Last year, a campaign account controlled by Nick Langworthy, the new chairperson of the New York State Republican Party, received nearly $13,000 in donations from “Moe Howard” and “Larry Howard,” and also made a $150 payment to “Curly Howard,” according to campaign finance records. A state GOP spokesperson said the Three Stooges’ listing in the campaign filings resulted from errors by the committee’s campaign treasurer, who had put the names in as “placeholders” for real, living peoples’ donations made through PayPal. The Stooges’ names were then accidentally left in place when reports were filed with the state Board of Elections.

North Dakota North Dakota House Energy Committee Chairman Says Business Relationship with Lobbyist Unrelated to Legislative Work
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 7/8/2019

The chairperson of the North Dakota House’s energy committee defended a business relationship with the state’s top oil and gas lobbyist. Rep. Todd Porter and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness are both listed in state records as partners in a commercial real estate investment group. Porter said the relationship does not affect his decision-making at the Capitol because the oil industry is unrelated to the property partnership, which he said includes 42 partners. He said he and Ness were friends “long before” he joined the Legislature in 1999.

Oklahoma Stitt Outlaws State Agency Lobbyist Hiring with Executive Order
Tulsa World – Keaton Ross (The Oklahoman) | Published: 7/6/2019

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order that bars state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists as long as he remains in office. Stitt first addressed lobbying in state government in January, when he filed an executive order requiring all state agencies to submit a list of every lobbyist they hired and the terms of their contract. This order also prohibited agencies from entering into, or renewing, any contract with a lobbyist through the duration of Fiscal Year 2019. A total of 35 state agencies hired lobbyists last fiscal year. Some paid local public relations firms, while others consulted with individuals.

Oregon Political Theater Overshadows Policy; Some Fear Oregon’s Drift Toward D.C. Politics
Salem Statesman-Journal – Connor Radnovich | Published: 7/3/2019

Bookended by concerns about safety in the Oregon Capitol and packed in the middle with partisan squabbling that exploded into a pair of Senate Republican walkouts, 2019 was one of the most contentious sessions in recent history. There is concern among legislative leaders it could get worse. Senate President Peter Courtney said lawmakers across the country are starting to mimic the “legislative anarchy” he sees in Congress, and without a functioning legislative branch, he fears over-powered executives. In February, the Legislature agreed to pay more than $1 million in damages after an investigation by the Bureau of Labor and Industries determined legislative leadership created a hostile workplace by allowing sexual harassment to continue unabated for years against lawmakers, interns, staff, and lobbyists.

Continue Reading - 26 min read Close

July 9, 2019 •

Virginia Special Session Adjourns Until After November Elections

Virginia Capitol Building - Ron Cogswell

The Virginia General Assembly convened and adjourned a special session. The session was called to consider stricter gun legislation in response to the Virginia Beach shootings on May 31. For the special session, Gov. Northam proposed eight bills. The Governors […]

The Virginia General Assembly convened and adjourned a special session.

The session was called to consider stricter gun legislation in response to the Virginia Beach shootings on May 31.

For the special session, Gov. Northam proposed eight bills.

The Governors bills included background checks on all firearm sales, a ban on dangerous weapons, and allowing only one handgun purchase a month.

Assembly leaders referred all of the governor’s bills to the state Crime Commission for a full review.

The General Assembly will reconvene November 18 to vote on the proposed bills.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

July 8, 2019 •

Hawaii Lawmakers Won’t Convene a Special Session to Override Gov.’s Vetoes

Hawaii Capitol Building

Leaders in the state Senate and House of Representatives announced on July 5 that lawmakers will not attempt to override any vetoes issued by Gov. David Ige. House Speaker Scott Sakiki said the Legislature would not convene an override session […]

Leaders in the state Senate and House of Representatives announced on July 5 that lawmakers will not attempt to override any vetoes issued by Gov. David Ige.

House Speaker Scott Sakiki said the Legislature would not convene an override session due to a lack of consensus between the Senate and the House.

Gov. Ige has identified 20 bills that he intends to veto of the 303 passed by lawmakers this year.

Ige has until Tuesday, July 9 to make his final decision on issuing vetoes.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

July 8, 2019 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But a Lobbyist for ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.” by Laura Zornosa for Center for Public Integrity California: “State’s Top Insurance Regulator Accepted Tens of Thousands of Dollars from Industry […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But a Lobbyist for ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.” by Laura Zornosa for Center for Public Integrity

California: “State’s Top Insurance Regulator Accepted Tens of Thousands of Dollars from Industry Executives, Records Show” by Jeff McDonald for San Diego Union Tribune

Elections

National: “Democrats Grapple with a Sprawling Primary Field, and No One to Shape It” by Reid Epstein (New York Times) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Justice Dept. to Replace Lawyers in Census Citizenship Question Case” by Michael Wines, Katie Benner, and Adam Liptak for New York Times

Virginia: “Former Del. Ron Villanueva Sentenced to 2½ Years in Prison for Defrauding Federal Government” by Scott Daugherty for The Virginian-Pilot

Washington DC: “D.C. Council Member Jack Evans Increasingly Isolated as FBI Probe Advances” by Peter Jamison and Paul Schwartzman for Washington Post

Legislative Issues

Oregon: “Political Theater Overshadows Policy; Some Fear Oregon’s Drift Toward D.C. Politics” by Connor Radnovich for Salem Statesman-Journal

Lobbying

Oklahoma: “Stitt Outlaws State Agency Lobbyist Hiring with Executive Order” by Keaton Ross (The Oklahoman) for Tulsa World

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

June 28, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 28, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019 The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to […]

National/Federal

Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019

The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to be inundated. Sorry in advance.” With the second quarter fundraising deadline looming, lawmakers are sounding the alarms for their donors – making pleas to far-flung, small-dollar givers online and reliable contributors from K Street’s lobbying community to help them boost their numbers. Even though lawmakers and their challengers still have 17 months before the 2020 elections, the second quarter of this year can be pivotal for incumbents looking to scare away potential opponents in primaries or even the general election with impressive cash-in-hand totals.

Biden’s Ties to Segregationist Senator Spark Campaign Tension
Boston Globe – Matt Viser and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

When Joe Biden was a freshman in the U.S. Senate, he reached out to an older colleague for help on one of his early legislative proposals: the courts were ordering racially segregated school districts to bus children to create more integrated classrooms, a practice Biden opposed and wanted to change. The recipient of Biden’s entreaty was Sen. James Eastland, at the time a well-known segregationist who had called blacks “an inferior race” and once vowed to prevent blacks and whites from eating together in Washington. The exchange, revealed in a series of letters, offers a new glimpse into an old relationship that erupted as a major controversy for Biden’s presidential campaign.

Candidates Hunt Desperately for Viral Moments
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2019

As the crowded field of Democratic candidates jostle for the presidential nomination, the hunt for elusive breakout opportunities is increasingly urgent. But while viral moments are presented as spontaneous – and uniquely revealing about the candidates — the process can be anything but random, and the campaigns are devoting significant resources to spotting, cultivating, and publicizing them. Or in some cases, creating them outright. A good viral moment can help a candidate stand out in the sprawling field. A great one can telegraph positive qualities – humor, intelligence, compassion – in ways that reverberate far beyond the reach of a coffee shop in New Hampshire. In the best-case scenario, a single episode pushes interested voters over the fence to become full-fledged supporters.

Claiming to Be Cherokee, Contractors with White Ancestry Got $300 Million
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Paul Pringle | Published: 6/26/2019

An investigation by The Los Angeles Times demonstrates a failure in the efforts to help disadvantaged Americans by steering municipal, state, and federal contracts to qualified minority-owned companies. Since 2000, the federal government and authorities in 18 states have awarded more than $300 million under minority contracting programs to companies whose owners made unsubstantiated claims of being Native American. The vetting process for Native American applicants appears weak in many cases, government records show, and officials often accept flimsy documentation or unverified claims of discrimination based on ethnicity. The process is often opaque, with little independent oversight.

Duncan Hunter Had Affairs with Women He Worked With, Including His Own Aide
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 6/25/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter illegally used campaign donations to finance extramarital romantic relationships with women he worked alongside, including one of his own aides, according to federal prosecutors. Hunter pursued five “intimate relationships” in total, and tapped donor funds to finance his liaisons, including ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office to their homes. Government attorneys argued information about the relationships should be heard during the trial because they are central to his case, not “prurient.” Hunter’s infidelities have been alluded to in public court documents before, but the affairs were only described as “personal relationships.” Hunter faces trial in September for allegedly using his campaign committee as a personal bank account.

EPA’s Top Air Policy Official Steps Down Amid Scrutiny Over Possible Ethics Violations
Brainard Dispatch – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2019

Bill Wehrum spent only a year and a half as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top air official before announcing plans to resign amid scrutiny over possible violations of federal ethics rules. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler did not cite a specific reason for the departure of Wehrum, who as an attorney represented power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. But Wehrum has privately expressed concern about how an ongoing House Energy and Commerce Committee probe was affecting his former law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. The committee launched an inquiry of Wehrum after it was reported that questions had been raised about his compliance with President Trump’s ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to recuse themselves from specific matters involving their former employers and clients for two years.

FEC Fines Florida-Based Company for Illegal Contribution to Support Rick Scott’s 2018 Campaign
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 6/25/2019

The FEC fined a Florida company for making an illegal campaign contribution to support Rick Scott’s 2018 campaign for the U.S, Senate. The $9,500 fine levied against Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery, represents a rare penalty for a company found to have violated a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors. Ring Power has received federal contracts and grants since 2007. The New Republican PAC, a Super PAC supporting Scott’s campaign, returned the $50,000 contribution in August, shortly after the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint.

GOP to Launch New Fundraising Site as Dems Crush the Online Money Game
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 6/23/2019

Republicans are set to launch a long-awaited, much-delayed online fundraising platform, a move aimed at closing Democrats’ small-donor money advantage ahead of the 2020 election.  WinRed is being billed as the GOP’s answer to the Democratic Party’s ActBlue, which has already amassed over &174 million this year. The new tool is intended to reshape the GOP’s fundraising apparatus by creating a centralized, one-stop shop for online Republican giving, which the party has lacked to this point. Republicans until now have had a factionalized ecosystem of vendors that stymied efforts to unify behind a single fundraising vehicle.

Judge: Democrats’ emoluments case against Trump can proceed
San Jose Mercury News – Ann Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/25/2019

Rejecting a request from President Trump, a federal judge cleared the way for nearly 200 Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit against him alleging his private business violates an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said lawmakers could begin seeking financial information, interviews, and other records from the Trump Organization. The administration still can try to delay or block Democrats in Congress from issuing subpoenas for the president’s closely held business information by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene.

Mueller to Testify to Congress, Setting Up a Political Spectacle
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 6/25/2019

Former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress in open session on July 17 after being subpoenaed by two committees. Coming nearly three months after the release of his report on Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, Mueller’s testimony has the power to potentially reshape the political landscape around Trump’s re-election campaign and a possible impeachment inquiry by the House. The question is what Mueller will be willing to say. He conducted his work in absolute private, despite incessant attacks by Trump in public and from within the White House, and ultimately issued a lengthy report that raised as many questions as it answered.

Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to a lower court a case on whether the census should contain a citizenship question, leaving in doubt whether the question would be on the 2020 census. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question – asking whether a person is a citizen – was inadequate. But he left open the possibility that it could provide an adequate answer. Government experts predicted that asking the question would cause many immigrants to refuse to participate in the census, leading to an undercount of about 6.5 million people. That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.

Supreme Court Says Federal Courts Don’t Have a Role in Deciding Partisan Gerrymandering Claims
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering, dealing a blow to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain. The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is essentially a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The ruling puts a stop to recent decisions by federal courts across the country that have found extreme partisan gerrymandering went so far as to violate the constitutional rights of voters.

Walmart to Pay $282 Million Over Foreign Corruption Charges
AP News – Matthew Barakat | Published: 6/20/2019

Walmart agreed to pay $282 million to settle federal allegations of overseas corruption, including funneling more than $500,000 to an intermediary in Brazil who was known as a “sorceress” for her uncanny ability to make construction permit problems disappear. U.S. authorities went after Walmart under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies operating abroad from using bribery and other illegal methods. The company settled both civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case by federal prosecutors in Virginia. It said the two settlements close the books on federal investigations that sand have collectively cost the company more than $900 million.

When Trump Visits His Clubs, Government Agencies and Republicans Pay to Be Where He Is
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

Since taking office, President Trump has faced pushback about his official visits to his properties from some of his aides, including inside the White House counsel’s office. They worried about the appearance that he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets, but Trump has rebuffed such warnings. In all, his scores of trips have brought his private businesses at least $1.6 million in revenue, from federal officials and Republican campaigns who pay to go where Trump goes. Campaign finance records show several GOP groups paying to hold events where Trump spoke. Republican fundraisers say they do that, in part, to increase the chances Trump will attend. It has also reshaped the spending habits of the federal government, turning the president into a vendor.

Canada

Canada Lobbying Watchdog Says Glitch in System Skewed Volume of Registrations
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez | Published: 6/26/2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure in office has undoubtedly brought a surge in lobbying activity, but a glitch in the registry’s system resulted in an overrepresentation of the number of lobbyists actively registered, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. “During the past year, we realized that the numbers recorded in last year’s [report] included lobbyists whose registrations were no longer active,” Bélanger said. Still, the office has seen a steady uptick in the volume of communication reports posted since Trudeau took office in 2015.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Former Arkansas Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Corruption Cases
AP News – Andrew DeMillo | Published: 6/25/2019

A former Arkansas lawmaker who is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return. Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in a separate federal case in Missouri where he has been charged with accepting bribes to help Preferred Family Healthcare. Hutchinson admitted he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and did not report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes. Hutchinson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law.

Connecticut Connecticut’s Search for a New Ethics Watchdog
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 6/20/2019

The Citizens’ Ethics Advisory Board is seeking a successor to Carol Carson as executive director of the Office of State Ethics, an agency that was new and struggling to find its way when she was hired. Carson, who is retiring on August 1, is credited with returning stability and credibility to the role of ethics watchdog, enforcing the ethics code for state officials, and overseeing the lobbying industry at the Capitol. “Let’s be clear about something: there is no replacing Carol Carson,” said Dena Castricone, the board’s chairperson.

Florida When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 6/20/2019

The Florida Senate is apparently not going to ask longtime National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer why she has not reported income from the group for more than a decade. Sen. Perry Thurston and Rep. Anna Eskamani filed complaints demanding the Legislature investigate Hammer for failing to disclose annual lobbying payments since 2007 as required by Florida law. It has been reported that records show the NRA paid Hammer more than a $750,000 between 2014 and 2018, yet none of it appears on quarterly compensation reports. But Senate Rules Committee Chairperson Lizbeth Benacquisto sent the complaint back to the Office of Legislative Services, which operates within the Senate president’s office, for “review” and “appropriate action.”

Indiana Council Lawyer: Mayor unlikely to appeal campaign contribution ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/25/2019

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is unlikely to appeal a court ruling that struck down a controversial ordinance limiting campaign contributions from city contractors, city council attorney Joe Bonahoom wrote in a memorandum to the council president. Allen Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance recently after Kyle and Kimberly Witwer of Witwer Construction challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit. The ordinance forbade any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the political campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

Maryland Baltimore’s Budget for Ethics Enforcement: $0
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 6/25/2019

In the midst of multiple investigations into former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s financial dealings, the city did not budget any money for ethics oversight. No city staff are dedicated to enforcing ethics rules and the word “ethics” appears nowhere in the city’s 1,035-page budget proposal for the coming year. Instead, the six-member staff of the Department of Legislative Reference must spend part of their time assisting the city’s volunteer ethics board, processing disclosure forms, answering questions from city employees, and investigating complaints.

New Jersey NJ ‘Dark Money’ Law Faces First Lawsuit Challenging Requirement to Name Secret Donors
Bergen Record; Staff –   | Published: 6/26/2019

A libertarian advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s newly signed “dark money” law that requires political groups to reveal their big-spending funders, legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed despite earlier vetoing the bill and calling it “unconstitutional.” Americans for Prosperity asked a federal judge to prevent New Jersey officials from enforcing the law until the suit is decided and to declare the law unconstitutional. The law requires 501(c)(4) political nonprofits and 527 political organizations to report all funders that give more than $10,000 or spend more than $3,000. Americans for Prosperity says the law goes beyond typical campaign finance rules that cover only election-related ads. New Jersey will now also make groups report funders for ads on ballot measures, legislation, and policymaking, which grassroots groups say will prevent people from donating to them.

Oregon Oregon Republicans Not Making Clear Whether They’ll Return to Salem, What They Want to Get Them Back
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud and Mike Rogoway | Published: 6/26/2019

As the Oregon Senate Republicans’ walkout continues, there are no signs at the Capitol or elsewhere that members of the minority caucus will return soon. And publicly, they seem to be sending mixed messages about what they want if they agree to do so. Senate Republicans have drawn national attention since they fled the state to deny Democrats quorum for a vote on a bill to cap emissions. It turns out, however, that Democrats were one vote short of the 16 senators needed to pass the bill, so it would have been stopped from passage anyway.

Wyoming A Mystery Group Has Been Pushing to Stop Gambling Regulation in Wyoming
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/25/2019

Over the past several months, a grassroots organization of obscure origin called the Wyoming Public Policy Center has been fighting to defeat gambling regulations proposed in the state Legislature, employing experienced lobbyists and anonymously authored policy papers in efforts to influence decision making. But the group was not registered with the state until after The Casper Star-Tribune began asking questions. In Wyoming, lobbyists and lobbying groups are required to register with the state. Despite that, there is little anyone can do about it: a combination of weak state laws and few mechanisms for law enforcement make it difficult to hold such groups accountable.

Continue Reading - 19 min read Close

June 25, 2019 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Colorado: “Colorado Dems Have a Plan to Shine A Light on Dark Money. Could It Work?” by Sam Brasch for Colorado Public Radio Elections Pennsylvania: “Voting Rights and Election Reform Are Hot Topics with Pa. Lawmakers. It’s a […]

Campaign Finance

Colorado: “Colorado Dems Have a Plan to Shine A Light on Dark Money. Could It Work?” by Sam Brasch for Colorado Public Radio

Elections

Pennsylvania: “Voting Rights and Election Reform Are Hot Topics with Pa. Lawmakers. It’s a Moment Three Decades in the Making.” by Jonathan Lai for Philadelphia Inquirer

Utah: “Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Will Distance Himself from Making Calls on Election Complaints in the Governor’s Race in Which He’s a Candidate” by Dan Harrie for Salt Lake Tribune

Ethics

Illinois: “Ex-Lincoln-Way Superintendent Has Amassed Nearly $600K in Pension Income Since Being Indicted, Records Show” by Zak Koeske for Chicago Tribune

Minnesota: “New Documents Revisit Questions about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Marriage History” by J. Patrick Coolican and Stephen Montemayor for Mineapolis Star Tribune

Legislative Issues

New York: “A Profound Democratic Shift in New York: ‘We seized the moment’” by Vivian Wang and Jesse McKinley for New York Times

Lobbying

Connecticut: “Life Gets Harder Minus Gavel for Brendan Sharkey, the House Speaker-Turned-Lobbyist Who Sued Dissatisfied Client That Fired Him” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant

Florida: “When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

June 14, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 14, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019 In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named […]

National/Federal

A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel
MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019

In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and spent 26 nights in a suite, a visit estimated to have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kasnazan said his choice of the Trump hotel was not part of a lobbying effort. His long visit is an example of how Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the administration.

As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder
New York Times – Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/11/2019

Of the 23 Democratic candidates for president, only eight routinely break one percent in national polls. Most have not yet qualified for the fall debates. And cable news channels, which have emerged as an early driving force in the race, have only so many hours of programming each day. That has moved the campaign into a new, yet familiar, phase: the ritual airing of grievances. Weeks’ worth of pent-up frustration is beginning to trickle into the public arena, as a way for candidates to explain their lowly positions, both to themselves and to the voters.  The rules around participation in the primary debates are a sore spot for second- and third-tier candidates, who fear getting shut out of the biggest stage in the race.

Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/10/2019

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation that would give the Department of Justice more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak. The bill would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent. It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.

Chao Created Special Path for McConnell’s Favored Projects
Politico – Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snider | Published: 6/10/2019

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell, including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications. The circumstances highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically.

DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest
Politico – Michael Stratford | Published: 6/11/2019

The Education Department appointee who oversees the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan being asked about a potential conflict-of-interest. Mark Brown, a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, was selected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be the new head of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Until recently, he also served as an unpaid member of the board of directors of KnowledgeWorks, a non-profit foundation that holds about $30 million in federally guaranteed student loans. Several ethics experts said that arrangement raised concerns about a potential conflict because Brown’s unit is responsible for regulating and overseeing student loans backed by the government, including those that are owned by KnowledgeWorks.

Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate
Anchorage Daily News – Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 6/5/2019

Joe Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 amid questions about a value he had worked hard to convince voters he had: authenticity. The collapse had begun with news that Biden had lifted phrases and mannerisms from a British Labour Party politician while making closing remarks at a debate. Examples soon surfaced of Biden using material from other politicians without attribution, and he acknowledged he had been accused of plagiarism in law school. Now, those events are back in the spotlight for the former vice president, who is one of the most visible Democrats in a crowded field vying to run against President Trump. Biden’s campaign acknowledged it had lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.

Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 6/6/2019

One year out from the 2020 elections, presidential candidates face legal roadblocks to acquiring the tools and assistance necessary to defend against the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 campaign. Federal laws prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidates. The same law also blocks political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an in-kind donation. The issue took on added urgency after lawyers for the FEC advised the agency to block a request by Area 1 Security, asked the company to refile the request with a simpler explanation of how it would determine what campaigns qualified for discounted services.

NRA Money Flowed to Board Members Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending by Top Officials and Vendors
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2019

The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members, the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. Eighteen members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years. The payments deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. The payments, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.

Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel
USA Today – Maureen Groppe | Published: 6/11/2019

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, reported spending more than $7,600 in campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in the first few months after his election in November, although lawmakers are supposed to pay for their own housing in Washington, D.C. Hours after USA Today pressed for details on the nature of the lodging expenses, Rep. Pence’s campaign filed an amended FEC report that changed the designation of the expenses to “fundraising event costs.” Federal election rules allow campaign funds to be spent on hotels for fundraising events. And Greg Pence separately reported more than $15,000 in catering and reception costs at Trump’s hotel in December and January.

Top AI Researchers Race to Detect ‘Deepfake’ Videos: ‘We are outgunned’
San Francisco Chronicle – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2019

Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers warn that computer-generated fake videos could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they did not really do. And researchers fear it is only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage – to sow confusion, fuel doubt, or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote. Even simple tweaks to existing videos can create turmoil, as happened with the recent viral spread of a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, distorted to make her speech stunted and slurred. That video was viewed more than 3 million times.

Trump 2020 Campaign Ad Payments Hidden by Layers of Shell Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/13/2019

The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission records. The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. Trump’s reelection campaign quietly continued to funnel money to the same individuals through payments to Harris Sikes Media.

Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/9/2019

As the special counsel’s investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence – a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness – that might have led to him. An attorney for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump, while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. Dowd never said whether Trump directed him to make the overture. And investigators for Robert Mueller declined to question Dowd about his message. Legal experts were divided on whether Mueller’s team should have sought to question Dowd.

Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents
Keene Sentinel – Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/13/2019

President Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it and he would have no obligation to call in the FBI. The president’s comments come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. Although special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign in his probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, his report said the Russian government interfered in the election in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” and that Trump’s campaign was open to assistance from Russian sources.

What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/11/2019

A handful of governors presiding over one-party states are now taking serious hits from legislators and leaders in their own political parties. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is engaged in a feud with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that has led to threats of a primary challenge. In Kentucky, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanne Hampton warned recently about “dark forces” operating within Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Craig Blair, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee in West Virginia, called on Republican Gov. Jim Justice to resign. In states with divided governments, it is almost to be expected that governors and legislators will sometimes sling arrows at each other. But most states are dominated by a single party, and their most powerful politicians are finding that it can still be difficult to get along.

With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 6/11/2019

It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state Legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones. Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic. Analysts said issues addressed by state Legislatures this year, which included gun control and health care, might have more lasting effect than anything approved in Washington, D.C., where government is divided.

From the States and Municipalities

California Democrats Say They Don’t Take Big Tobacco Money. But JUUL Had a Sponsorship at Convention
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 6/7/2019

JUUL Labs, maker of a line of e-cigarette products in popular use among middle and high school students, had a prominent sponsor slot on the stage of the California Democratic Party’s state convention, where politicians like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a bevy of presidential candidates and state officials spoke. State Sen. Jerry Hill, an outspoken critic of tobacco companies, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the sponsorship. “I was baffled because it’s a long-standing policy of the Democratic Party not to take money from Big Tobacco,” Hill said. JUUL is one-third owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA.

Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Introduce Ethics Package Aimed at Fighting City Hall Corruption
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 6/5/2019

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to follow through on her campaign pledge to clean up a City Hall that for months has been rocked by an FBI investigation and racketeering charges against Ald. Edward Burke by introducing an ethics reform package. The former federal prosecutor’s proposal looks to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and would require nonprofits lobbying City Hall to register as lobbyists. It also would give city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the power to audit city council committees. Lightfoot is  also pushing for more modest increases to fines for ethics violations than the city Ethics Board has proposed.

Indiana Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/11/2019

Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the city of Fort Wayne in a case regarding its controversial “pay-to-play” ordinance. DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts. The ordinance prohibited any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

New Hampshire Top N.H. Lawmaker Says No Lobbying Involved in His Union Job, But His Predecessor Was a Lobbyist
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 6/6/2019

House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant he has not broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature. He has also maintained his work on the union’s behalf – testifying at public hearings, rallying support or opposition for specific bills, and sending out “legislative bulletins” to union members – does not count as lobbying. But Ley’s predecessor at the union, Laura Hainey, said she did consider much of the same kind of advocacy work she did at the statehouse to constitute lobbying. And, unlike Ley, she registered as a lobbyist during her term as the union’s president.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure
Burlington County Times – Dave Levinsky | Published: 6/10/2019

Facing the likelihood that lawmakers would vote to override his earlier veto, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to sign a “dark money” disclosure bill originally sent to him. Lawmakers agreed to vote again on the original legislation and Murphy has agreed to sign it with no changes. The bill mandates the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by dark-money groups in recent years.

New York Inside the Stealth Campaign for ‘Responsible Rent Reform’
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 6/10/2019

Confronted with a Democratic takeover of the state Legislature and emboldened progressive activists, the city’s landlords and developers, long accustomed to ruling New York through political donations and expensive lobbyists, are adopting the tactics of their activist foes. They have sent buses of electricians and boiler repair workers to Albany to protest the proposed changes, organized rallies outside public hearings, formed groups with generic names to run social media advertisements, and paid for mailers urging constituents to call their representatives. The goal is to deliver the industry’s message that too-strict rent regulations would affect not only wealthy landlords, but also the working class in a way that does not seem like it is coming from the industry.

Wisconsin Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 6/11/2019

The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated most of the lame-duck laws Republican lawmakers approved in December to trim the powers of the state’s top Democrats. With a pair of orders, the high court canceled a trial and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal. After the rulings, just two provisions of the lame-duck laws have been kept from going into effect. One would have limited early voting; the other would have required a public commenting period for older government documents. The status of the laws could change in the months ahead because the Supreme Court has to make more rulings in the case. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages.

Continue Reading - 20 min read Close

June 13, 2019 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Indiana: “Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance” by Dave Gong for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette New York: “Amid Controversy, City Council Moves Ahead with Campaign Finance Bill Extending Public Match” by Caitlyn Rosen for Gotham […]

Campaign Finance

Indiana: “Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance” by Dave Gong for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

New York: “Amid Controversy, City Council Moves Ahead with Campaign Finance Bill Extending Public Match” by Caitlyn Rosen for Gotham Gazette

Elections

National: “As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder” by Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein for New York Times

Ethics

National: “Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel” by Maureen Groppe for USA Today

National: “DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest” by Michael Stratford for Politico

Washington: “Washington Supreme Court Weighing Legislative Records Case” by Rachel LaCorte for AP News

Legislative Issues

National: “What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common” by Alan Greenblatt for Governing

Wisconsin: “Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws” by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 12, 2019 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Indiana: “Are Watchdogs Over Indiana Campaign Donations Really Watching?” by Thomas Langhorne for Evansville Courier and Press New Jersey: “Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure” by Dave Levinsky for Burlington County Times Ethics National: […]

Campaign Finance

Indiana: “Are Watchdogs Over Indiana Campaign Donations Really Watching?” by Thomas Langhorne for Evansville Courier and Press

New Jersey: “Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure” by Dave Levinsky for Burlington County Times

Ethics

National: “Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside” by Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) for MSN

California: “FPPC Rejects GOP Complaint About Union Donations for California Lieutenant Governor’s Furniture” by Sophia Bollag for Sacramento Bee

Texas: “Two Years After Bribery Scandal, Sreerama Welcomed Back as Harris County Vendor” by Zach Despart and Mike Morris for Houston Chronicle

Virginia: “‘A Rare Position’: Va. Gov. Ralph Northam could wind up with great power, months after almost resigning” by Gregory Schneider for Washington Post

Legislative Issues

National: “With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided” by Timothy Williams for New York Times

Lobbying

National: “Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

June 7, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 7, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019 Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in […]

National/Federal

A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet
MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in her family’s shipping business, Foremost Group, which has deep ties to the economic and political elite in China. But she and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, who ran the company until last year. And McConnell’s re-election campaigns have received more than $1 million in contributions from Chao’s extended family. Over the years, Chao has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile of the company. Now, Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is overshadowed by its Chinese competitors. Her efforts on behalf of the family business have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.

FEC to Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and 48 More Zombie Campaigns: Why are you still here?
Tampa Bay Times – Christopher O’Donnell, Eli Murray, Connie Humburg, and Noah Pransky | Published: 5/31/2019

The FEC demanded explanations from about 50 politicians who are operating zombie campaigns – political committees that keep spending contributions long after the campaign has ended. The agency sent letters to the campaigns asking why their campaign accounts were still open. It flagged specific expenses by at least 17 campaigns and asked them to justify the spending. It is the first action taken by the FEC since it announced in April 2018 that it would start scrutinizing the spending of what it called “dormant” campaigns. Federal law does not allow campaign money to be spent improving politicians’ personal lives.

How Payday Lenders Spent $1 Million at a Trump Resort – and Cashed In
ProPublica – Alice Wilder (WNYC) and Anjali Tsui | Published: 6/4/2019

In March, the payday lending industry held its annual convention at the Trump National Doral hotel outside Miami. A month earlier, Kathleen Kraninger, who had just finished her second month as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had delivered what the lenders consider an epochal victory: Kraninger announced a proposal to eviscerate a crucial rule that had been passed under her Obama-era predecessor. This year was the second in a row the industry’s trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, held its convention at the Doral. In the eight years before 2018, the organization never held an event at a Trump property.

In Need of Cash, Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Turn to Wealthy Donors
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2019

Across the Democratic field, presidential candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on – a sign of increasing doubt the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders. Many of the candidates previously had held a handful of high-dollar fundraisers or avoided them altogether, seeking to tap into the populist sentiment that has animated the Democratic base. But after a disappointing fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, and as the primary drags on with no clear front-runner, many of the candidates are turning their focus to wealthy donors, a strategy that could help keep their campaigns viable but may hamper their ability to connect with base voters.

Liberals Rip Democratic Leaders for Writing Drug Pricing Bill in Secret
The Hill – Peter Sullivan | Published: 6/6/2019

Progressive House Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with their party’s leadership, accusing them of writing Democrats’ signature bill to lower prescription drug prices in secret and without their input. At issue is a plan Pelosi’s office has been working on for months that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a top priority for Democrats and one the party stressed in its campaign last year to win back the House. There is now an intense debate within the Democratic caucus over the details of that proposal, with the Progressive Caucus pushing for a bill that it says is stronger because it would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if the manufacturer refuses to agree to a reasonable price in Medicare negotiations.

Meet the GOP Operatives Who Aim to Smear the 2020 Democrats – but Keep Bungling It
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 6/4/2019

Like notorious dirty tricksters before them, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl operate in a realm where it matters little whether their outrageous claims against political opponents are proved – they hardly ever are – but only whether they somehow slip into the national consciousness. But today it is a more dangerous game: they operate in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended and in which many Americans get their information from self-affirming, partisan silos, making their brand of political cyberwarfare hyper-relevant.

Recent Ex-Members of Congress Head to K Street as ‘Shadow Lobbying’ Escalates
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/30/2019

Nearly two dozen former members of the 115th Congress have already found jobs at lobbying firms.  Lobbying is a natural next step for recently departed members who spent years cultivating relationships with their colleagues and interest groups. While former members of Congress must wait two years before lobbying their respective chamber’s ex-colleagues, they often engage in so-called shadow lobbying – participating in activities that might be considered lobbying but declining to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). “[The] LDA is nothing more than an honor system,” said Paul Miller, president of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics.

Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle
New York Times – Cecilia Kang and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/5/2019

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built themselves into some of the largest players on K Street as they confront threats from the Trump administration and both parties on Capitol Hill. Amazon’s expansion has been met with unease over labor conditions and the company’s effect on small businesses. The four companies spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year. Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the companies in the first three months of this year, both in-house employees and those on contract from lobbying and law firms, about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns. Amazon’s Washington office is led by a former Federal Trade Commission official, Brian Huseman. Its roster of contract lobbyists includes three Democratic former members of Congress and two former Justice Department lawyers.

Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Team Up to Ban Lawmakers from Lobbying
National Public Radio – Sasha Ingber | Published: 5/31/2019

Two lawmakers who have often been at odds found common ground in a place that often highlights polarizing opinions: Twitter. That is where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vowed to set aside their differences and work on new lobbying restrictions for lawmakers. Now an unlikely coalition is forming around their joint effort. Craig Holman, who lobbies on ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying on behalf of Public Citizen, said it is “heartening” that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez moved to bridge the deep partisan divide. “I am not sure if Congress will be willing to adopt their proposed lifetime ban, but the sheer fact of a left-and-right agreement that the revolving door is a grave problem that must be addressed is going to move the ball forward,” Holman said.

The Campaign Finance of Women’s Suffrage
WHYY – Kimberly Adams | Published: 6/4/2019

Women’s suffrage took more than seven decades of political struggle and included marches, hunger strikes, and arrests. And, like political campaigns of today, it required a lot of money. While women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were on the front lines of the movement, there were other women working behind the scenes to fund it. “We don’t tend to teach about the suffrage movement as a major lobbying force, a major well-funded organization in American political history, but it was,” said Corrine McConnaughy, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and author of “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment.”

Trump Resort Revenue Has Gone Up After Presidential Visits
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 6/6/2019

President Trump’s week-long trip to Europe included a tour of his own businesses. Trump traveled to his luxury resort on Ireland’s west coast for a visit that brought world-wide publicity and increased security to the location, and, if past trends hold, more revenue. The president’s trip to Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg, Ireland has once again led to criticisms that he is using his office to make money for his own business. It marks the second time he has visited one of his properties outside the United States since he was sworn into office. “U.S. foreign relations should never rise and fall on the financial interests of the president and the ability to promote his own property,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which examined his financial disclosures.

Trump Urges Customers to Drop AT&T to Punish CNN Over Its Coverage of Him
Portland Press Herald – Craig Timberg, Taylor Telford, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2019

President Trump called for a boycott of AT&T, the corporate owner of CNN, saying the network paints a “false picture” of the U.S. The comment, which Trump tweeted in response to seeing CNN coverage while traveling during a European tour, fueled criticisms the president was using his power inappropriately to intimidate critics. Historians struggled to cite an equivalent threat even from presidents such as Richard Nixon renowned for their hostility toward the press. Less democratic nations with more tenuous press freedoms often use government regulatory power, criminal investigations or tax audits to punish news organizations seen as providing unflattering coverage, but past U.S. presidents rarely have taken such public shots at the businesses of the owners of major American news organizations, historians said.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Dunkin’ Donuts Owner Accuses Ethics Commission Investigator of Abuse of Power
Montgomery Advertiser – Kirsten Fiscus | Published: 5/31/2019

When Damon Dunn received notification of a discrimination complaint against his Dunkin’ Donuts store, he was concerned at first, then confused, and then angry. It is corporate policy that customer complaints are reviewed and handled in a timely manner, but the majority of those are disgruntled customers upset about a long wait time or food prepared incorrectly. Byron Butler, a man Dunn would learn is an investigator with the Alabama Ethics Commission, accused the store of charging black customers more for extra pumps of coffee flavoring known as “swirl” at the restaurant, a claim that Dunn says is unfounded. Butler told an employee he was an investigator and took a verbal statement from her about the charging practices. The employee, who is 18, thought she would face legal trouble if she did not talk with him.

Florida Lawmakers Call for Probe of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer’s Failure to Disclose Payments
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross | Published: 5/30/2019

Some Democratic lawmakers in Florida are calling for an investigation into whether prominent National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer violated state law by failing to disclose payments from her organization while lobbying on NRA priorities like banning the sale of bump stocks. According to Florida law, non-employee lobbyists for both legislative and executive branches are required to register and disclose their total compensation. Hammer is not an in-house lobbyist for the NRA, and therefore is required under law to submit a compensation report for each quarter during which she was registered to lobby. The Florida Bulldog reported Hammer failed to file any compensation reports with state since at least 2007.

Florida Top City Law Firm Broke County Lobbying Rules
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 5/31/2019

One of the region’s biggest law firms is among several business interests that did not meet required deadlines for registering as lobbyists, Lee County’s inspector general said in an investigative report. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, a Fort Myers based law firm; John Gucciardi, a consultant to Fort Myers Beach developer TPI Hospitality; and Waldrop Engineering each missed filing deadline. Waldrop went seven years without filing the statement. It has since filed registrations for its employees.

Georgia Abrams Probe Highlights Wide Reach of State Ethics Commission
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Stephan Fowler | Published: 6/5/2019

Lawyers for former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams say the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission did not follow its own rules in an investigation of her 2018 campaign. The commission alleges illegal coordination between the Abrams campaign and four outside organizations. The campaign argued the ethics panel failed to follow its rules for opening an inquiry and sharing probable cause for the allegations. But according to state law, the commission is following the rules. Rick Thompson, a former executive secretary of the commission, said in terms of procedure, the subpoenas are above board. The full scope of the probe will not be made clear until it is put before a meeting of the full commission.

Illinois Ald. Edward Burke Indicted on Expanded Federal Racketeering, Bribery Charges
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Todd Lighty, and Gregory Pratt | Published: 5/30/2019

Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was meeting with a fellow alderman in October 2017 when he allegedly expressed his displeasure over the way developers of the old main Chicago post office had so far failed to throw any business to Burke’s private law firm. “As far as I’m concerned, they can go f— themselves,” Burke told Ald. Daniel Solis, who was secretly recording the conversation. The conversation is at the center of a 14-count indictment outlining a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city. Also charge Burke in attempting to shake down two businesspeople seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the ward.

Kentucky Appellate Court Upholds State Ban of Gifts, Money to Kentucky Lawmakers
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 5/30/2019

A federal appeals court upheld a Kentucky law that prohibit lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators or donating to their campaigns. The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman, who struck down the bans, ruling Kentucky’s laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association. The appeals court reversed the ruling and said the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution.”

Massachusetts Convicted of Corruption, DiMasi Now Wants to Be a Lobbyist. The State Has Other Ideas
Boston Globe – Matt Sout and Andrea Estes | Published: 6/5/2019

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office rejected former state House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s application to become a lobbyist just days after he registered to lobby both the Legislature and executive branch. DiMasi appealed and is due to appear before an administrative hearing officer. His attempt at entering the lucrative industry came after he completed his supervised release following his conviction on corruption charges. DiMasi argued that because lawmakers did not include any of the specific federal statutes on which he was convicted into the state law, he should not be prohibited from registering. Laurie Flynn, Galvin’s chief legal counsel, argued DiMasi’s criminal record includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws, which automatically bars him from lobbying for 10 years after his conviction, or until June 2021.

Michigan Emails Show MDOT Let Lobbyist Steer Report on Gravel Shortage for Michigan Roads
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 6/6/2019

When Michigan gravel companies wanting to open or expand a mine are opposed by neighbors objecting to the noise and dust, they point to a 2016 consultant’s study, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), that says the state is running out of gravel to rebuild its busted roads. But in fact, the Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA) – the lobbying organization for the sand and gravel industry, which is pushing for legislation that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to deny permits for new or expanded gravel mines – was behind the study, records show. The MAA recommended the consultant MDOT hired, set out the scope of work and how to price the study, and even spelled out the expected findings. The group also had a role in initiating the study.

Missouri Free Acupuncture and Eye Exams for Lawmakers Are No-Nos, Missouri Ethics Commission Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/3/2019

Two opinions from the Missouri Ethics Commission, which read as lists of dos-and-don’ts for lawmakers and their employees, were issued in response to questions following the passage of Amendment 1 last year. One of the provisions of what is known as “Clean Missouri” limits lobbyist gifts to five dollars. Accepting engraved plaques worth more than five dollars from lobbyists or organizations that lobby is prohibited, the commission said. It also said lawmakers should avoid free use of conference rooms owned by organizations that retain lobbyists. The opinion outlines a number of other scenarios in which lawmakers or their staffs may face ethical dilemmas.

New Jersey Murphy Officials ‘Seriously Mishandled’ Katie Brennan Assault Allegation, Inquiry Finds
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 6/5/2019

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s staff “seriously mishandled” a sexual assault claim by not investigating it and not telling Murphy before the hiring of the alleged assailant – details of which remain a mystery – for a top position, a legislative inquiry has found. The report by the Select Oversight Committee chronicles a series of missteps made by some of the highest-ranking officials in Murphy’s orbit in response to the allegation, made by former campaign volunteer Katie Brennan, and calls into question the “competence and culture of state government as a whole.” Brennan, now a housing official in the administration, had accused Al Alvarez, a former Murphy aide, of sexually assaulting her during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez was not charged and has denied the allegation.

New York Nassau County Implements New Ethics Rules
Newsday – Candice Ferrette | Published: 6/5/2019

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed new rules for county vendors, including a ban on gifts to county procurement officials, aimed at stemming contracting abuses that were central to federal corruption cases involving prominent local officials. Under the new Vendor Code of Ethics, county employees involved with contracting cannot accept gifts “of any kind” from vendors, “no matter how small.” Contractors also cannot discuss or offer jobs to county employees involved with procurement or to their family members. Under the new rules, vendors will be required to certify they have read and accepted the terms of the ethics code and have distributed it to all subcontractors and suppliers.

Rhode Island The Providence Mayor Raised Thousands of Dollars for a Nonprofit with Ties to His Campaign, Then He Reimbursed Himself from Its Coffers
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan | Published: 6/6/2019

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nonprofit organization with close ties to his political campaign and one that later reimbursed him and other high-ranking city employees for travel expenses to conferences all over the country. Now, the practice of soliciting donations for the Providence Tourism Fund – often from law firms and other companies that have contracts with the city – has come under fire from watchdogs who say Elorza is sidestepping Rhode Island’s strict campaign finance laws so he can collect unlimited amounts of money from corporations. Elorza did not create the fund. It was established in 2009 to raise money for a national conference that was held in Providence, but he has been far more aggressive about using it for travel than his predecessors.

Continue Reading - 21 min read Close