March 29, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Federal: Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible MSN – Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2019 Attorney General William Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving […]
Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible
MSN – Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2019
Attorney General William Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving President Trump illegally obstructed the Russia inquiry was an extraordinary outcome to a narrative that spanned nearly two years. Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to remove the threat of political interference from an investigation involving the president, but he reached no conclusion on the key question of whether Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Barr stepped in to make the determination, bringing the specter of politics back into the case. Senior Justice Department officials defended his decision as prudent and within his purview, but it reignited a debate about the role of American law enforcement in politically charged federal investigations.
‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 3/21/2019
It is not just the number of members of Congress pledging not to accept money from PACs for corporations and trade groups (more than 50 so far) that is a problem, but their party affiliation – almost entirely Democratic. If the trend spreads into the 2020 campaign cycle, it could put companies and associations in a bind. Many of the top PACs connected to businesses and trade associations maintain roughly balanced giving ratios and some of them have enshrined such practices. “Most PACs pride themselves on being bipartisan and supporting candidates who are understanding of their issues, so they can engage in a policy conversation. There’s a real fear of just losing that balanced approach,” said Kristin Brackemyre of the Public Affairs Council.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: A State Lawmaker Borrowed Nearly a Half-Million Dollars to Buy a Home. You Might Have Voted for Her Lender.
CALmatters – Matt Levin | Published: 3/26/2019
To buy a house, a state legislator received a $430,000 personal loan from a former member of Congress from Orange County, an arrangement that some legal experts labeled unusual, but that both politicians said was not improper. State Assemblyperson Sharon Quirk-Silva borrowed the sum from former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, an unsuccessful 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, in the fall of 2017. Quirk-Silva and her husband repaid Sanchez with interest. While California law bans state and local elected officials from borrowing money from each other, nothing appears to prohibit the arrangement Quirk-Silva struck with Sanchez, who did not hold elected office at the time. In late 2018, Sanchez would announce her candidacy for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, going on to lose.
Colorado: Lawmakers Take Aim at Disclosure Loopholes in Colorado Lobbying Laws
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/25/2019
Colorado lawmakers have introduced a measure to eliminate loopholes in lobbying laws and require more disclosure to the public, part of an effort to address long-standing concerns about transparency. House Bill 1248 would require more frequent reporting by lobbyists what bills they were hired to follow, and the position taken by their clients. Lobbyists would need to file any changes in their positions on legislation within 48 hours during the session. Now, those updates are required only once a month. The legislation also aims to close loopholes that some lobbyists appear to use to avoid reporting income from clients.
Connecticut: Jon Lender: Lobbyists pay $13,000 in fines connected to tech schools controversy
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 3/22/2019
The Office of State Ethics collected $13,000 in fines from the lobbying and consulting firm Kozak & Salina and one of its owners. The firm had a contract with the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) from 2014 to 2016 to provide “external relations and strategic consulting services,” and a similar contract for 2015 with the lighting fixture company Penn Globe. Kozak & Salina relayed communications between Penn Globe and CTHSS and charged both for the same services. So, when the lobbying firm submitted invoices to the state to obtain payment, it was getting paid twice, said Carol Carson, executive director of the ethics office. In addition to a $10,000 fine against his firm, David Kozak paid $3,000 for failing to file required registration and disclosure statements about his work for Penn Globe.
District of Columbia: As D.C. Leaders Tout Reforms, Latest Ethics Scandal Evokes City’s History of Corruption
Washington Post – Paul Schwartzman | Published: 3/23/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans admitted he violated the council’s code of conduct when he repeatedly used his government email account to offer potential clients the benefit of his political connections and the influence he amassed as a lawmaker and chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Civic groups chided the council as being too lenient when it reprimanded Evans rather than strip him of powerful committee posts. Reform activist Bryan Weaver said Evans’ actions, and the council’s response, evoke the worst aspects of the city’s history of official misconduct, one that has triggered periodic crises engulfing mayors, council members, government appointees, and employees.
Florida: ‘As American as Apple Pie’: How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist
Miami Herald – David Smiley and Joey Flechas | Published: 3/26/2019
Some companies have chosen not to hire Barbara Hardemon as a lobbyist due to concerns about the perception of undue influence as she is the aunt of Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon. But in the years since his 2013 election, the commissioner’s aunt has emerged as a closer for some of Miami’s biggest businesses. Barbara Hardemon’s lobbying shop is allowed under state and local laws, which prohibit elected officials and their immediate family from profiting personally off the contracts they oversee but say nothing about their extended family. Her lucrative rise from occasional City Hall lobbyist to 11th-hour power broker has blurred the lines between negotiations and nepotism.
Florida: Ethics Board Aims to Put Teeth in Code, Seeks Greater Oversight of Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/23/2019
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is finalizing proposals that could expand its oversight of City Hall and strengthen an ethics code that has long been seen as weak and toothless. The board currently has jurisdiction over only nine people. But proposed changes would extend its jurisdiction to cover all employees who work in procurement or are required by state law to file financial disclosures. The proposals include giving the board the power to issue subpoenas and take sworn testimony, a ban on all gifts no matter their value, and higher fines for lobbyists who try to influence city officials without registering and disclosing their clients.
Iowa: Iowa Treasurers End Scholarships Amid Ethics Law Inquiries
AP News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/27/2019
County treasurers in Iowa canceled a scholarship program that benefited their relatives and employees amid criticism the vendor-funded awards were illegal gifts under state ethics law. The program consisted of four, $500 scholarships that were awarded each year to the college-bound children and grandchildren of county treasurers and their staffs. The money came from two companies that do extensive business with treasurers: GovTech Services, which runs the website that 88 counties use to collect property and motor vehicle taxes, and SRI Inc., which operates tax auctions for dozens of counties. Since the program’s inception, critics have worried the scholarships violated the gift law, which bars public employees and their immediate relatives from accepting money from contractors.
Maryland: Maryland House of Delegates Votes Unanimously to Reprimand Jalisi Over ‘Abusive’ Treatment of His Staff
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/27/2019
The Maryland House voted unanimously to publicly reprimand Del. Jay Jalisi for “an ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior.” The delegates voted after receiving a report outlining the investigation from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics that alleged Jalisi forced his staff to work overtime without pay, bullied others, got kicked out of a hotel, and made a staffer stand in the delegate’s office and repeat: “I am incompetent. I am incompetent.” This is not the first time Jalisi’s actions have been scrutinized. In 2015, a Baltimore County judge issued a protective order barring Jalisi from contact with his then-teenage daughter.
Massachusetts: House Proposal for Caucus Funding Left Out of Budget Bill – but Caucuses May Still Fundraise
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 3/25/2019
A controversial Massachusetts House proposal to let caucuses raise private money did not make it into the final version of a budget bill. But House leaders say that under their internal rules, caucuses will still be able to raise private money as long as they comply with ethics rules, which bar lobbyists from giving and require any gift of over $50 to be approved by House counsel to avoid conflicts-of-interest. When the House passed its rules in January, members approved a rule that would let caucuses raise money from public or private sources. But some advocates for open government worried this could create a legislative “slush fund” where special interests with business before the Legislature could donate to lawmakers with no transparency.
New Jersey: Dark Money Disclosure Bill Advanced to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Desk
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 3/26/2019
Legislation to require so-called dark money groups operating in New Jersey to reveal their donors was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill has undergone several changes after being approved by the Senate, but it would still mandate 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 also 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.
Pennsylvania: GOP Legislator Prays to Jesus for Forgiveness Before State’s First Muslim Woman Swears In
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2019
Movita Johnson-Harrell brought 55 guests to her swearing in as the Pennsylvania Legislature’s first Muslim woman. Thirty-two of them were Muslim. She later for the General Assembly to censure State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, who delivered the opening prayer to begin the legislative session day. By the time she said “Amen,” Borowicz had invoked Jesus 13 times. She mentioned “Lord” and “God” another six times each and referenced “The Great I Am” and “the one who’s coming back again, the one who came, died, and rose again on the third day.” As the prayer reached a crescendo, at least one member shouted objections. Afterward, the protests only grew louder.
West Virginia: Governor Signs Bills Raising Campaign Contribution Limits, Cutting Coal Tax
Beckley Register-Herald – Erin Beck | Published: 3/27/2019
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill that increases the limits on campaign contributions by individuals. Senate Bill 622 increases the limits to $2,800 for candidates, $5,000 for PACs, and up to $10,000 per year for party committees. Current limits for each category are set at $1,000. Julie Archer of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group said bill does nothing about “dark money.” She said Democrats attempted to amend the bill at least twice to require disclosures by donors that “funnel” money through groups.
Wisconsin: Judge Bocks GOP Lame-Duck Laws Limiting Tony Evers’ Powers; Evers Seeks to Remove Wisconsin from Obamacare Challenge
madison.com – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 3/21/2019
A judge blocked several actions by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to limit the power of its incoming governor, Democrat Tony Evers, and preserve policies implemented by his predecessor, Scott Walker. The Legislature acted in what is known as an “extraordinary session,” called with little notice. It lasted two days and one night and sparked heated protests. The three bills enacted during the sessions were extraordinary in breadth. One of them gave the Legislature powers usually and exclusively reserved for the attorney general, such as approving legal actions by the state. At the time of the session, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated its purpose plainly: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” Vos said.
March 28, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “MassFiscal’s Biggest Funder Is a Nonprofit It Founded” by Matt Stout for Boston Globe Mississippi: “Effort to Protect Identity of Nonprofit Donors Passes Amid Charges It Opens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in State Politics” by Bobby Harrison […]
Massachusetts: “MassFiscal’s Biggest Funder Is a Nonprofit It Founded” by Matt Stout for Boston Globe
Mississippi: “Effort to Protect Identity of Nonprofit Donors Passes Amid Charges It Opens Door to ‘Dark Money’ in State Politics” by Bobby Harrison for Mississippi Today
National: “Federal Appeals Court to Consider: Can Trump block his critics on Twitter?” by Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for Chicago Tribune
California: “A State Lawmaker Borrowed Nearly a Half-Million Dollars to Buy a Home. You Might Have Voted for Her Lender.” by Matt Levin for CALmatters
Pennsylvania: “GOP Legislator Prays to Jesus for Forgiveness Before State’s First Muslim Woman Swears In” by Reis Thebault (Washington Post) for MSN
Vermont: “Ethics Commission Head Worried Organization Viewed as ‘Toothless’” by Mark Johnson for VTDigger.org
Washington D.C.: “Constituent Services Funds Are Supposed to Help D.C. Residents in Need. Do They?” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
National: “‘Happy to Do It’: Emails show current FAA chief coordinated with ex-lobbyist colleagues on policy” by Derek Kravitz and Jack Gillum for ProPublica
Florida: “‘As American as Apple Pie’: How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist” by David Smiley and Joey Flechas for Miami Herald
March 26, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 6 on March 25. The bill requires executive agency lobbyists to disclose compensation and prohibits compensation contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on a percentage of a government contract awarded. […]
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 6 on March 25.
The bill requires executive agency lobbyists to disclose compensation and prohibits compensation contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on a percentage of a government contract awarded.
Senate Bill 6 also extends the length of time a public servant must wait to have certain government contracts from six months to one year.
The bill becomes effective 90 days after the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn sine die on March 30.
March 26, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Ethics National: “Trump’s Legal Troubles Are Far from Over Even as Mueller Probe Ends” by Rosalind Helderman and David Fahrenthold for San Jose Mercury News National: “Prosecutors No Longer Pursuing 188 Inauguration Protest Cases” by Keith Alexander (Washington Post) for […]
National: “Trump’s Legal Troubles Are Far from Over Even as Mueller Probe Ends” by Rosalind Helderman and David Fahrenthold for San Jose Mercury News
National: “Prosecutors No Longer Pursuing 188 Inauguration Protest Cases” by Keith Alexander (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “State Ethics Board Drops Appeal of Edsall Nepotism Ruling” by Paul Doyle for Connecticut Post
Florida: “Ethics Board Aims to Put Teeth in Code, Seeks Greater Oversight of Tallahassee City Hall” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
Washington D.C.: “As D.C. Leaders Tout Reforms, Latest Ethics Scandal Evokes City’s History of Corruption” by Paul Schwartzman for Washington Post
Colorado: “Lawmakers Take Aim at Disclosure Loopholes in Colorado Lobbying Laws” by Sandra Fish for Colorado Sun
Florida: “Fisher Island Residents Needed a Lobbyist. They Hired Miami’s Mayor.” by Douglas Hanks and Joey Flechas for Miami Herald
Nevada: “After Kelvin Atkinson’s Downfall, Will There Be Strong Anti-Corruption Reforms in Nevada?” by James DeHaven for Reno Gazette-Journal
March 25, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
We know there’s a story that’s going to be dominating the headlines for awhile, but here are a few stories on new campaign finance laws, ethics commissions and revolving door restrictions you don’t want to miss!
We know there’s a story that’s going to be dominating the headlines for awhile, but here are a few stories on new campaign finance laws, ethics commissions and revolving door restrictions you don’t want to miss!
March 25, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Campaign Finance National: “Following Citizens United, Foreign-Owned Corporations Funnel Millions into US Elections” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Raymod Arke for Center for Responsive Politics National: “‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind” by Kate Ackley for Roll […]
National: “Following Citizens United, Foreign-Owned Corporations Funnel Millions into US Elections” by Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Raymod Arke for Center for Responsive Politics
National: “‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call
National: Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy, but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction by Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Cummings Demands Docs on Kushner’s Alleged Use of Encrypted App for Official Business” by Andrwew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney for Politico
Illinois: “Ald. Willie Cochran Pleads Guilty — Finally — to Federal Fraud Charge for Misusing Campaign Funds” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Maryland: “University of Maryland Medical System CEO Placed on Leave Amid Review of Contracting Practices” by Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood for Baltimore Sun
New Jersey: “‘Dark Money’ Groups Pour Tens of Millions of Dollars into N.J. elections. Lawmakers Want to Know Their Donors.” by Jonathan Lai for Philadelphia Inquirer
Wisconsin: “Judge Bocks GOP Lame-Duck Laws Limiting Tony Evers’ Powers; Evers Seeks to Remove Wisconsin from Obamacare Challenge” by Mark Sommerhauser for madison.com
Connecticut: “Jon Lender: Lobbyists pay $13,000 in fines connected to tech schools controversy” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant
March 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: AT&T Peels Off Layer of Political Spending Secrecy – Thanks to Pushy Investors and the Michael Cohen Fiasco Dallas News – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 3/20/2019 AT&T is bowing to activist shareholders calling for more transparency about the […]
AT&T Peels Off Layer of Political Spending Secrecy – Thanks to Pushy Investors and the Michael Cohen Fiasco
Dallas News – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 3/20/2019
AT&T is bowing to activist shareholders calling for more transparency about the company’s political spending, agreeing to disclose millions of dollars in previously untraceable contributions after last year’s embarrassment over payments to President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. For the first time, AT&T is divulging some contributions to outside groups that keep their donors secret, providing a fuller, if still incomplete, picture of the company’s vast spending on state and federal politics. A new report released by AT&T details payments totaling about $4.2 million to industry groups and think tanks that was used for lobbying during a portion of last year.
Analysis: Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a satirical cow over mean tweets. Does he have a case?
MSN – Deanna Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2019
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a lawsuit claiming Twitter, two parody Twitter accounts, and a Republican political consultant violated the First Amendment and defamed him. In addition to $250 million in damages, Nunes is demanding Twitter disclose the identities behind the anonymous accounts that have caused him suffering, according to the suit: “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” The suit, filed in state court, alleged violations of Virginia’s law against insults. It also brought claims against Twitter for conspiracy and negligence. Nunes has been ridiculed for the suit, and the case has been labeled by most experts as doomed to fail. But others believe there is more to the lawsuit than any desire by Nunes to create a spectacle. According to First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, the speech involved is protected for several reasons.
Former Spa Owner and Frequent Mar-a-Lago Guest Sparks Concerns About ‘Porous’ Environment at President’s Club
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Emily Rauhala, Lori Rozsa, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2019
Li “Cindy” Yang’s activities at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort have attracted attention after a spa she once owned was the target of a sex-trafficking sting involving the owner of the New England Patriots. Scrutiny has also centered on a company Yang ran offering foreign visitors access to the president and other GOP officials. Experts in Chinese influence say groups to which Yang has been tied have links to Communist Party’s efforts to spread influence in the West. Yang has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but because she attended so many events at Mar-a-Lago and had such ready access to high-ranking U.S. officials, it has renewed questions about security at the resort and about who can gain the ear of the president for the price of a ticket to an event.
Lobbying Case Against Democrat with Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/18/2019
A federal investigation into a former White House counsel in the Obama administration is reaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying. The case involving Gregory Craig was transferred in January from federal prosecutors in New York to those in Washington. The move reflects an eagerness within the department to prosecute violations of lobbying laws after special counsel Robert Mueller focused on foreign influence in his investigations. The probe centers on whether Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: California Is Awash in Cannabis Cash, Which Some Use to Bribe Public Officials
MSN – Patrick McGreevy (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/17/2019
In the more than two years since California voters approved the licensed growing and sale of recreational marijuana, the state has seen a half-dozen government corruption cases as black-market operators try to game the system, through bribery and other means. Proposition 64, approved in 2016, allowed the state to license businesses to grow and sell pot but required the firms to also get approval from the cities and counties, most of which have outlawed marijuana operations. Experts say that local resistance explains why many of the corruption allegations center on illegal attempts to buy help from city and county officials.
California: Donors to D.A. Jackie Lacey Included a Murder Suspect’s Parents and a Convicted Felon
Los Angeles Times – Matt Hamilton and Harriet Myers | Published: 3/18/2019
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey collected more than $125,000 in campaign contributions last year despite not holding any public fundraising events. Many giving to Lacey are longtime donors to local politicians, but others include people accused of serious crimes or misconduct, or relatives and associates of the accused. Among Lacey’s donors were the parents of a man awaiting trial for murder, a felon convicted of trying to smuggle missile parts to Iran, and a used car dealer previously sanctioned for an illegal campaign contribution. Campaign donations to prosecutors have come under national scrutiny in recent years. Experts said a district attorney is well advised to have a system in place to vet every donor.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Votes to Reprimand Jack Evans Over Ethics Issues
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/19/2019
The District of Columbia Council reprimanded its longest serving member, Jack Evans, and announced plans to dilute the power of his committee after he repeatedly used his government staff and email to solicit business from law firms that lobby the city, offering to tap his influence and connections to help their clients. The unanimous vote comes as the veteran lawmaker is the target of a federal investigation into his business dealings and faces the threat of a recall election. The reprimand says Evans violated council rules but does not address the ties between Evans and private companies that are part of a federal probe. Multiple lawmakers say they want to reserve judgement on that until the federal investigation wraps up.
Indiana: Complaint Could Cost Attorney General Curtis Hill His Law License – and Elected Position
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 3/19/2019
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill could lose his law license and his elected position after a little-known state body revived allegations that Hill inappropriately touched four women at an Indianapolis bar last year. The state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against Hill that says he engaged in acts of battery or sexual battery against the women. In doing so, the commission says, Hill broke the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. The accusations are administrative in nature and are not considered criminal charges. Hill, who has denied wrongdoing, will have the opportunity to defend himself and ultimately the state Supreme Court would decide Hill’s fate. Discipline, if any, could range from public reprimand to disbarment. Disbarment would amount to a worst-case scenario for Hill because the law requires the state attorney general to hold a law license.
Kentucky: Former Lobbyist to Pay $15,000 Ethics Fine. He Was Already Convicted in Bribery Case.
Lexington Herald Leader – Bill Estep | Published: 3/18/2019
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission fined ex-lobbyist Jim Sullivan and one of his former clients for multiple lobbying violations. Sullivan agreed to pay $15,000 for failing to register from 2005 through 2014 and setting up a deal to represent a company with his pay contingent on an agency making a decision for his client. The commission also announced a $50,000 penalty against Cannon Cochran Management Services, an insurance provider. Sullivan lobbied for the firm. The company did not contest 14 counts of violating the ethics code, some for not registering after hiring an individual to lobby. Sullivan was convicted of giving a $1,000 bribe to Tim Longmeyer, the former head of the Personnel Cabinet, to get state work for company called MC Squared.
Kentucky: Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections
ProPublica – Jessica Huseman | Published: 3/15/2019
The Kentucky Legislature passed a bill that strips Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of her authority over the State Board of Elections (SBE), restructures the board, and makes misusing the voter registration system a misdemeanor crime. The bill takes multiple steps to scale back the level of control Grimes has asserted over the SBE in recent years, including removing the secretary of state as the chairperson of the board. New reports detailed the secretary of state’s use of the voter registration system to look up information on political rivals, as well as the range of misconduct allegations against Grimes being explored by state investigators. Records confirmed that staff in her office had looked up those named in the reports by ProPublica and The Lexington Herald-Leader, including members of a state ethics agency currently investigating Grimes’ conduct.
Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Pugh Didn’t Disclose Seat on Maryland Medical System Board, as Required on City Ethics Forms
Baltimore Sun – Doug Donovan and Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/14/2019
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has not reported on disclosure forms filed with the city’s ethics office that she sits on the board of directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, according to a review of records. Instructions on the form tell public officials to report any “office, directorship, salaried employment, or similar position with any business entity that was doing business with the city.” Also, the University of Maryland Medical System did not disclose on its federal tax form for the year ending June 30, 2017, that it had entered into a contract with Pugh to buy 20,000 copies of her book, “Healthy Holly: Exercising is Fun,” the form shows. Ethics officials confirmed Pugh should have disclosed the position. To avoid action against her by the city ethics board, she would need to file an amended form.
Missouri: Voters Approved Clean Missouri, but Lawmakers Want Them to Reconsider
Columbia Missourian – Galen Barcharier | Published: 3/19/2019
Last November, 62 percent of voters approved Amendment 1, the “Clean Missouri” proposal that included measures to limit the power of lobbyists, reduce campaign contributions, and create a new redistricting process. Now, lawmakers are moving to change or completely roll back parts of the ballot measure, with a focus on redistricting. Five resolutions were proposed between the House and the Senate, all of which relate to changing or repealing the redistricting measures enacted from Amendment 1, as well as lobbying and open records measures. All of them propose new constitutional amendments, which would send the issue back to voters to decide. Supporters of Amendment 1 issued a statement in response to the resolutions’ filing, condemning them and asserting the decision of the voters should remain in place.
Nevada: Municipal Election Voters Blind to Campaign Donors
Las Vegas Revierw-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 3/13/2019
A glitch in a two-year-old bill meant to strengthen campaign finance reporting has actually weakened transparency in eight Nevada cities, an investigation found, ensuring voters in Las Vegas and elsewhere will be blind to political donors when casting a ballot this spring. That is because reporting deadlines that formerly required reports linked to elections now require candidates to file quarterly. Instead of disclosing contributions and expenses 21 days and four days before an election, candidates now only need to submit paperwork 15 days after a quarter concludes. The first reporting period of 2019 is April 15, which is 13 days after the April 2 primary election.
New Mexico: Legislature Seals Deal on Independent Ethics Commission
New Mexico In Depth – Trip Jennings | Published: 3/16/2019
With just hours left in the session, New Mexico lawmakers reached agreement on legislation that would outline how a new voter-approved state ethics commission would operate. Lawmakers passed the legislation this session after seventy five percent of voters approved adding an independent ethics panel with subpoena power to the state constitution. The bill establishes a commission that would oversee public officials, including state lawmakers, state employees, and constitutionally elected officials like the governor. The seven-member commission could fine officials if they are found to have violated civil provisions of several state laws. People who file complaints would have to in the presence of a notary public attesting to the truth of their allegations under penalty of perjury.
New York: 9 Fund-Raisers in 1 Night: Democrats vow reform in N.Y., but money still flows
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 3/20/2019
State officials have long talked about the need to revamp New York’s campaign finance laws and limit the influence of lobbyists, but little has changed. A bill has been introduced repeatedly for nearly two decades to ban fundraisers in Albany when the Legislature is in session, but it has gone nowhere. In at least 29 states, it is against the law for lobbyists or principals to make campaign contributions while the state Legislature is in session. The goal is to avoid what is commonplace in New York: elected officials spend their day meeting with lobbyists to discuss pending legislation, and then spend their night collecting checks from many of the same people. Yet that two-step is part of the culture in Albany, especially in the weeks before a new state budget is officially ironed out, when opportunities to win influence are abundant.
March 21, 2019 • Written by Adrienne Borgstahl, Esq.
The Minnesota Legislature recently introduced several ethics-related bills during the 91st legislative session. Senate File 2041 requires public officials to disclose a lobbyist, principal, or other interested person by whom the individual is compensated in excess of $50 in any […]
The Minnesota Legislature recently introduced several ethics-related bills during the 91st legislative session.
Senate File 2041 requires public officials to disclose a lobbyist, principal, or other interested person by whom the individual is compensated in excess of $50 in any month for providing services as an independent contractor or consultant.
Additionally, the bill requires both lobbyists and principals to disclose political contributions. If passed, Senate File 2041 will become effective the day following enactment.
Senate File 2039 seeks to prohibit legislators, constitutional officers, commissioners, deputy commissions, assistant commissioners, or heads of any state department or agency from lobbying for seven years after leaving the aforementioned offices or positions.
House File 2391 seeks to prohibit former legislators and certain legislative employees from lobbying the legislature for two years after leaving legislative office or separation from employment.
Senate File 2035 creates a conflict of interest when a legislator or constitutional officer accepts a contribution of more than $500 from a lobbyist, principal, political committee, or political fund with regard to an action coming before the officer when the contributing individual or association has a greater financial interest of greater consequence to the contributor than the general interest of other residents or taxpayers of the state.
If a conflict arises, the covered official must disclose the conflict.
March 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “New Proposal for Massachusetts House Caucus Funding Raises Fears of Legislative ‘Slush Fund’” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com Elections California: “L.A. City Council Candidate Sues to Stop Former Ethics Commissioner from Running” by Emily Alpert Reyes for […]
Massachusetts: “New Proposal for Massachusetts House Caucus Funding Raises Fears of Legislative ‘Slush Fund’” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive.com
California: “L.A. City Council Candidate Sues to Stop Former Ethics Commissioner from Running” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
National: “Appeals Court Judges Appear Skeptical of Emoluments Case Against Trump” by Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) for MSN
Indiana: “Complaint Could Cost Attorney General Curtis Hill His Law License – and Elected Position” by Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange for Indianapolis Star
Missouri: “Voters Approved Clean Missouri, but Lawmakers Want Them to Reconsider” by Galen Barcharier for Columbia Missourian
Oregon: “Cylvia Hayes Settles with Oregonian Over Legal Fees” by Ted Sickinger for Portland Oregonian
Washington D.C.: “D.C. Council Votes to Reprimand Jack Evans Over Ethics Issues” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
New York: “9 Fund-Raisers in 1 Night: Democrats vow reform in N.Y., but money still flows” by J. David Goodman for New York Times
Oklahoma: “Do You Hire Lobbyists? Agencies Face Deadline from Stitt” by Tres Savage for NonDoc
March 20, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: Donors to D.A. Jackie Lacey Included a Murder Suspect’s Parents and a Convicted Felon by Matt Hamilton and Harriet Myers for Los Angeles Times Maryland: Baltimore Co. Council Approves Public Campaign Financing Measure by Alison Knezevich for […]
California: Donors to D.A. Jackie Lacey Included a Murder Suspect’s Parents and a Convicted Felon by Matt Hamilton and Harriet Myers for Los Angeles Times
Maryland: Baltimore Co. Council Approves Public Campaign Financing Measure by Alison Knezevich for Baltimore Sun
North Carolina: Ex-N Carolina Lawmaker Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe by Gary Robertson (Associated Press) for WRAL
National: Mueller Sought Michael Cohen’s Emails Months Before FBI Raid, Warrants Show by Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) for MSN
National: Steve King Posts Meme Warning That Red States Have ‘8 Trillion Bullets’ in Event of Civil War by Reis Thebault (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: Former Ralston Aide Takes Over as Georgia Ethics Director by Staff for AP News
Illinois: The Consummate Political Insider Linked to the Burgeoning City Hall Corruption Probe by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Kentucky: Former Lobbyist to Pay $15,000 Ethics Fine. He Was Already Convicted in Bribery Case. by Bill Estep for Lexington Herald-Leader
Virginia: Supreme Court Divided Over Virginia Redistricting Case and Question of Racial Discrimination by Robert Barnes for Washington Post
March 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette […]
Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times
Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Illinois: “Debt Collector Indicted on Pay-to-Play Charges Linked to Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown” by Patrick O’Connell and Megan Crepeau for Chicago Tribune
Minnesota: “Lawmakers Look to Close Campaign Finance Loophole Affecting Minneapolis Elections” by Peter Callaghan for MinnPost
National: “Workers on Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Campaign Have Unionized” by Juana Summers for AP News
Kentucky: “Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections” by Jessica Huseman for ProPublica
California: “California Is Awash in Cannabis Cash. Some Is Being Used to Bribe Public Officials” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times
National: “Trump-Connected Lobby Firms Cash in With Foreign Governments” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
National: “Lobbying Case Against Democrat with Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage” by Kenneth Vogel and Katie Benner for New York Times
March 18, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
March 15, 2019 • Written by Craig Swanson
The Kentucky General Assembly unanimously advanced Senate Bill 6 to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk. The bill requires the disclosure of executive lobbyist compensation and prohibits compensation for executive agency lobbyists contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on […]
The Kentucky General Assembly unanimously advanced Senate Bill 6 to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk.
The bill requires the disclosure of executive lobbyist compensation and prohibits compensation for executive agency lobbyists contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on a percentage of a government contract awarded.
If signed, the bill will become effective 90 days after the General Assembly adjourns sine die.
March 15, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: After Week of Infighting, Democrats Wonder Where to Draw Line on Speech MSN – Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/10/2019 A House resolution that condemned anti-Semitism and virtually every other form of bigotry, […]
After Week of Infighting, Democrats Wonder Where to Draw Line on Speech
MSN – Glenn Thrush and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 3/10/2019
A House resolution that condemned anti-Semitism and virtually every other form of bigotry, passed with unanimous Democratic support. The measure, which began as a rebuke to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and ended as a catchall declaration of tolerance that did not mention her by name, seemed to satisfy no one. Ultimately, the intraparty fight left unanswered a question that transcends partisan politics: In an era of shouting and provocation, how should Congress respond when its members say hateful or hurtful things? Many Democrats worry they have set a new standard, creating a precedent that mandates a major response every time a member transgresses rules of rhetorical decorum that are ill-defined and subject to dispute.
Election Watchdog Hits Jeb Bush’s Super-PAC with Massive Fine for Taking Money from Foreign Nationals
Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 3/11/2019
The FEC issued a record fine to Right to Rise USA, the super PAC that backed Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid, for accepting a seven-figure donation from a company owned by Chinese nationals who were in business with Bush’s brother, Neil. It is illegal for foreign nationals to be involved in making donations to political committees. Neil Bush solicited a $1.3 million contribution from American Pacific International Capital (APIC), an international investment holding company where he is a board member. Although the contribution to the super PAC came from the American arm of APIC, the company’s owners are Chinese, and Neil Bush initially solicited the money from two Chinese nationals. The FEC fined APIC $550,000 and Right to Rise $390,000.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Brnovich to Rule on Legality of Tempe’s Ban Against ‘Dark Money’ in Politics
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/13/2019
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich will rule whether cities can impose their own prohibitions on “dark money” in local campaigns. The move comes because Sen. Vince Leach invoked a state law that requires the attorney general to investigate allegations by lawmakers of violations of state laws by local officials. In this case, Leach contends a Tempe initiative approved by voters in 2017 requiring public disclosure of the true source of campaign donations is illegal. What Brnovich decides could affect the ability of cities and towns throughout the state to enact similar laws.
Florida: Former City Manager Rick Fernandez Fined $6K in Ethics Case
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/7/2019
The Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to settle civil charges against former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez that he solicited and accepted free Florida State University football tickets from a city vendor or lobbyist and did not report a catering discount on gift forms. Fernandez will pay $6,000 in fines and face public censure and reprimand as part of the settlement. The commission found probable cause Fernandez committed 20 ethics violations when he accepted the football tickets from lobbyist Adam Corey’s firm and took a nearly $7,000 catering discount at The Edison restaurant for his daughter’s wedding reception. The Edison, which Corey co-owns, got $2.1 million from the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency to rehabilitate the area where the restaurant is located.
Florida: Miami-Dade Ethics Board Dismisses Lobbying Complaint Against Beckham Group
Miami Herald – Joey Flechas | Published: 3/13/2019
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust dismissed a complaint against David Beckham and associates trying to launch a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in Miami. A complaint alleged Beckham, his partners, and their lawyers had failed to properly register to lobby elected officials on matters related to the proposal to build a $1 billion soccer stadium and office park on city-owned land. One part of the complaint involved disclosure of stakeholders owning companies that employ lobbyists in the city. Lobbyists representing the Beckham group were not disclosing the identities of people or entities who own five percent or more of the corporations they are representing, a disclosure required under county law. But it turns out almost nobody was disclosing this due to the poorly formatted forms.
Illinois: Bombshell Filing Details FBI’s Two-Year Probe of Alleged Corruption by Ald. Daniel Solis
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Jeff Coen, Stacy St. Clair, and Christy Gutowski | Published: 3/13/2019
A search warrant lays out a laundry list of alleged federal crimes the FBI had compiled against Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis by the time he was confronted and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Solis had received a “steady flow of personal benefits” in exchange for official action as an alderman or the promise of official action, the affidavit alleged, including Viagra pills and prostitution services from a political operative who represented a company seeking an exemption from the city’s water ordinance. As the powerful head of the Zoning Committee, Solis directed a legislative aide to maintain a running list of people and entities he would seek campaign contributions from, along with corresponding information about what official action each contributor needed from him, the affidavit alleged.
Iowa: County Officials Vacationed at Vendor’s Florida Beach Condo
AP News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/13/2019
Two county treasurers from Iowa recently vacationed with a businessperson they have supported for a lucrative tax website contract, staying at his Florida beach property for free in an apparent violation of state ethics law. The trip highlighted a long, cozy, and ethically questionable relationship between county officials and an important vendor. Iowa law bans public employees from accepting gifts and favors worth three dollars or more from “restricted donors,” who include vendors, lobbyists, and others affected by their official actions. Vendors are barred from offering gifts, and the law does not contain an exception for friends.
Kansas: White Linen Restaurant Bans Lawmakers, Lobbyists After Altercation
Topeka Capital-Journal – Sherman Smith | Published: 3/8/2019
A group of Kansas lawmakers and lobbyists were asked to leave the White Linen restaurant in Topeka and were banned from returning after co-owner Adam Vandonge said they “completely disrespected everyone” with loud, drunken behavior. Vandonge described a boisterous scene that intensified in response to pleas to the 12-person party, which included House Speaker Ron Ryckman to be quiet. “They showed up and just started drinking and drinking and drinking,” said Vandonge. At one point, a manager told Rep. Blaine Finch that he would not be served any more alcohol. After that, servers heard cursing at the table. One member of the party entered the kitchen and began yelling at the sous chef, asking if he knew who Finch was.
Michigan: Dark Money Used to Evade Donor Disclosure Laws in Michigan
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 3/7/2019
A dark money group that spent more than $2 million to help promote Gretchen Whitmer successful gubernatorial bid in the 2018 exploited a legal loophole to avoid disclosing any donors to the state or federal governments, and it is not alone. Progressive Advocacy Trust is one of at least five local Democratic Party accounts in Michigan that have operated in the shadows since at least 2002, according to an investigation. The groups can accept unlimited corporate or union contributions but have evaded all disclosure requirements. It is not clear if the Michigan Democratic Party could shut down local dark money accounts, but the party also utilizes an administrative account that is not subject to disclosure rules for running issue-ad campaigns.
Nevada: RJ Investigation Finds Violations, No Enforcement of County Lobbying Disclosures
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Michael Scott Davidson | Published: 3/9/2019
On hundreds of occasions last year, lobbyists may have failed to disclose communications within five days of meeting with a Clark County commissioner as required by law. The Las Vegas Review-Journal discovered the meetings by comparing lobbying disclosure forms submitted to the county clerk’s office with commissioners’ work calendars and check-in logs outside their offices. The lack of compliance shows the vulnerability of a county lobbying program that operates without a watchdog. Even an easy-to-monitor rule – whether filed disclosure forms are submitted on time – is not tracked. Penalties for noncompliance, written into law a decade ago, have never been imposed by officials. Presented with the newspaper’s findings, county commissioners pledged to keep better tabs on lobbying efforts.
New Mexico: GOP Lawmakers Blast Campaign Finance Bill
Albuquerque Journal – Colleen Heild | Published: 3/13/2019
Campaign finance reporting legislation on its way to the governor is touted as a way to increase transparency and accountability in New Mexico elections. But some Republican lawmakers are crying foul because the measure was amended just days before final consideration to give top legislative leaders of both parties authority to create, in the words of one lawmaker, “super-caucus PACs,” that would be allowed to accept contributions up to $25,000 from a single donor for a primary election and another $25,000 for the general. Further, there would be no limit to in-kind contributions to a candidate from a legislative caucus committee. The additional fundraising ability, which also applies to political parties, puts legislative leaders in position to help boost political campaigns for chosen candidates and initiatives.
New Mexico: Senate Committee Spikes Lobbying Disclosure Bill
New Mexico Political Report – Andrew Oxford (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 3/13/2019
A New Mexico Senate committee shot down legislation that would have required lobbyists to report which bills they are working on. House Bill 131 also would have barred lobbyists from making any expenditures on legislators while they are in session. The bill had passed the House with broad support, but the Senate Rules Committee voted to table it after little discussion.
New York: Lobbyists Accused of Misconduct Create Quandary at Capitol
Albany Times Union – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 3/11/2019
Former New York Sen. Jeff Klein was hired by Mercury Public Affairs after he lost his seat in the September primary. He remains under investigation by the Joint Committee on Public Ethics in response to an allegation he forcibly kissed a female staff member. Klein has denied the woman’s claim. Several lawmakers said they have serious reservations about meeting with any lobbyist who has faced allegations of sexual harassment, but they stopped short of saying they would cease doing business with those firms. In a Twitter campaign, a group of former legislative aides have taken aim at some of Mercury’s clients, urging them to ask the firm what it is doing to support employees. The women testified at a hearing, describing a culture that too often tolerates and protects harassers while maligning and ostracizing victims.
Tennessee: How Little-Known Meetings in Hard-to-Find Locations Can Make or Break Legislation in Tennessee
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 3/12/2019
Legislative pre-meetings in the Tennessee General Assembly are informal gatherings where lawmakers and stakeholders openly discuss legislation. Defenders of pre-meetings, which lawmakers refer to as bill review, say they are beneficial because they provide legislators an opportunity to become more informed on legislation, but critics say pre-meetings are the antithesis of how the Legislature should operate. Although they are official meetings, audio and video livestreaming is absent and no notes are taken to provide members of the public with knowledge of what transpires. While much of what happens inside these often hard-to-find rooms is unknown to the public, what is clear is that pre-meetings can make or break a bill.
Vermont:Lawmakers Seek to Modify Ethics Commission Procedures After Scott Ruling
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 3/14/2019
The Vermont State Ethics Commission mishandled a case involving Gov. Phil Scott, according to key lawmakers who plan to “clarify” one of the commission’s few tools. Chairpersons of the House and Senate committees that created the commission said the ethics panel went beyond its legal authority and improperly injected politics into its advisory opinion that said Scott had violated state ethics law. The commission ruled Scott’s ongoing financial relationship with a construction company he owned that still does business with the state was improper. A draft bill would make clear that advisory opinions be general and not involve a specific person or case. They also said advisory opinions should only be issued by the commission’s executive director and not at the request of an outside individual or advocacy group.