February 21, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
On February 19, Gov. Murphy released a legislative package of Ethics and Transparency Reforms. The legislative package contains five bills with the aim to strengthen restrictions on lobbying, enhance financial disclosures, and increase public access. The lobbying bill requires lobbying […]
On February 19, Gov. Murphy released a legislative package of Ethics and Transparency Reforms.
The legislative package contains five bills with the aim to strengthen restrictions on lobbying, enhance financial disclosures, and increase public access.
The lobbying bill requires lobbying firms and companies to disclose when a person or firm is hired to provide professional services other than lobbying.
Additionally, the bill reduces the registration threshold from 20 hours of lobbying to one hour per calendar year.
The bill will prohibit legislators and their staff from accepting any gift related to their public duties.
Furthermore, the bill aligns the gift rules to the same standard currently governing executive branch employees.
The legislative package also extends the one-year cooling off period for the governor, cabinet, and legislators to two years before being able to register as lobbyists.
Gov. Murphy also introduced a bill to increase transparency and requires bills or resolutions not to be voted on unless their final form has been publicly available for 72 hours on the Legislature’s website.
The governor is also expected to issue other executive actions regarding requirements for those that do business with the state.
The bill proposals were sent to Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin for review.
February 21, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020 Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New […]
Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020
Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New York City mayor would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, O’Brien said. Proceeds from the sale would go to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable giving arm that funds causes from climate change to public health and grants for American cities. The only restriction Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, O’Brien said. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said such an action would need to follow complex rules and be approved by the ethics office.
Bloomberg’s Meme Spree Prompts Changes in Facebook, Instagram Rules
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 2/14/2020
Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s spree of often-surreal social media memes is having one concrete impact – it prompted Facebook to make another change in its rules for paid political content. From now on, Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary will allow “branded content” from candidates, a practice in which a campaign pays so-called influencers to place supportive posts on their accounts. Previously, a Facebook spokesperson said, the platforms had banned such content from politicians by default. Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored.
Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says
Greenwich Time – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2020
The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint alleging the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg improperly coordinated with VoteVets, a super PAC supporting the campaign of the former mayor of South Bend. The watchdog alleged Buttigieg’s campaign improperly accepted more than $639,000 in contributions, in violation of federal rules barring candidates from coordinating with independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. The complaint filed with the FEC centers on a tweet by Buttigieg senior strategist Michael Halle analyzing the strengths of a particular campaign message in Nevada, and a subsequent ad campaign in that state by VoteVets that appeared to follow the strategy outlined in the tweet.
DOJ Drops Probe into Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/14/2020
The Justice Department abandoned its efforts to seek criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. His lawyers were told last September that he should expect to be indicted on charges stemming from inaccurate statements he made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. But no indictment was ever returned, leading to speculation that the grand jury probing the matter took the rare step of rejecting charges. The confirmation of a formal end to the criminal investigation into McCabe’s conduct came amid a highly public tug-of-war between President Trump and the Justice Department over the handling of cases and investigations he has taken a keen interest in.
Mike Bloomberg for Years Has Battled Women’s Allegations of Profane, Sexist Comments
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2020
Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging women were discriminated against at Michael Bloomberg’s business-information company. While allegations about Bloomberg’s comments and treatment of women have received notice over the years, a review by The Washington Post of thousands of pages of court documents and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company have fought the claims. As Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements.
Political Ads Are Flooding Hulu, Roku and Other Streaming Services, Revealing Loopholes in Federal Election Laws
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 2/20/2020
Four years after Russian agents exploited popular online platforms to push propaganda, sow unrest, and promote Donald Trump’s candidacy, the U.S. government has made virtually no progress on bringing more transparency to paid political speech. The risks remain high that voters could be duped by candidates, advocacy groups, and foreign governments – particularly online, where major regulatory gaps exist. Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web. Politicians have followed people online, and over the past year, their ads have appeared on popular platforms such as Roku. But nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them.
President Pardons Ex-GSA, OMB Official
Government Executive – Tom Shoop | Published: 2/18/2020
The series of pardons that President Trump issued on February 18 included one for David Safavian, a top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the George W. Bush administration. Safavian served time in federal prison for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a high-profile scandal. Safavian was convicted on four counts relating to a golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002. The former head of federal procurement policy at OMB was found guilty of obstructing a GSA investigation, lying on a financial disclosure form, and two counts of making false statements.
Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 Months for Lying to Congress, Witness Tampering Amid Turmoil Between Justice Dept. and Trump on Penalty
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020
Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump. The penalty from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone, who was convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked emails related to Hillary Clinton. Stone was the sixth Trump associate convicted and the last person indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Rohrabacher Confirms He Offered Trump Pardon to Assange for Proof Russia Didn’t Hack DNC Email
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff | Published: 2/20/2020
Former U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails published by WikiLeaks. In an interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery. A lawyer for Assange cited the pardon offer during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.
Trump Campaign Hires Alum of Controversial Data Company
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 2/19/2020
President Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alumnus of the data firm Cambridge Analytica, a move likely to raise alarms among Trump critics and data privacy advocates who worry the president will push the technological envelope to get reelected in 2020. Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program. Cambridge gained notoriety for its work on psychological voter profiling and because it allegedly improperly obtained the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users. Trump aides have denied they used Cambridge’s Facebook data in 2016 and say they will not in 2020, either. They insist they have no interest in using psychographic voter targeting. But that has not allayed fears among Democrats that the president will resort to online dirty tricks to win another term.
Trump Commutes Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence
AP News – Michael Tarm | Published: 2/18/2020
President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted in a wide-ranging political corruption case just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality television show. Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state where four of the last 10 governors have gone to prison for corruption. Judge James Zagel, who sentenced Blagojevich to the longest prison term yet for an Illinois politician, said when a governor “goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured.” He was originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, trying to trade an appointment to a U.S. Senate seat for contributions and attempting to extort a children’s hospital executive. An appeals court tossed five of the convictions.
Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 2/14/2020
To increase their clout in Washington, D.C., corporations and trade associations often use affiliated PACs to boost the campaigns of candidates. Corporations themselves cannot give directly to traditional PACs, candidates, or parties. But they are allowed to cover almost all expenses incurred by their affiliated PAC, including staff salaries, fundraising expenses, and administrative costs. And corporations may spend their treasury funds to create incentives for their employees to fund the PAC. Grassroots political organizations say the current rules create an uneven playing field in the world of PAC giving. By paying for PAC expenses with corporate funds, these companies can maximize their political giving. Issue-focused PACs, on the other hand, must spend donors’ money to pay for salaries and hefty fundraising fees.
Canada – Remicade Maker Janssen Recruits Former Doug Ford Adviser as Lobbyist
The Globe and Mail – Jill Mahoney and Kelly Grant | Published: 2/17/2020
A former top policy adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford registered as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company that is trying to persuade the provincial government to keep funding the country’s most lucrative drug. Greg Harrington, who played a senior role on government health policy, registered as a lobbyist for Janssen on January 31. During his time in the premier’s office, Harrington said he met with Janssen officials once or twice over concerns the province would force patients on government-sponsored drug insurance to switch from the company’s drug Remicade to cheaper alternatives called biosimilars. Harrington is the latest in a group of lobbyists with close ties to Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party that Janssen has enlisted.
Canada – Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire
CBC – Jean Laroche | Published: 2/14/2020
A year ago, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and one of his senior advisers sat down to breakfast at Halifax’s Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a gathering arranged and hosted by former Quebec premier and one-time deputy prime minister Jean Charest, who lobbies on the group’s behalf. The private meeting coincided with a national aerospace industry effort called Vision 2025, a campaign Charest noted was part of his lobbying activities on the federal government’s lobbyist registry in November 2018. Although Charest is registered federally, he has not registered as a lobbyist in Nova Scotia.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – State Challenges Ballot Measure That Would Install Ranked-Choice Voting Statewide
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 2/19/2020
State attorneys asked the Alaska Supreme Court to split a proposed election-reform ballot measure into two or more separate votes. If not, Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox said, the justices should rule the measure unconstitutional and prevent it from coming to a vote. Fox’s request came as the justices listened to arguments over the validity of the Better Elections ballot initiative, which would eliminate party-specific primary elections, install ranked-choice voting for general elections, and impose tough new disclosure rules on campaign contributions.
Arizona – Migrant-Rights Advocates File Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth After He Cuts Off Testimony
Arizona Republic – Maria Polletta | Published: 2/18/2020
Migrant-rights advocates announced they filed an ethics complaint against Arizona Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, who had them removed from a committee hearing as they protested a controversial immigration measure. Lobbyist Hugo Polanco was testifying at the hearing on behalf of Living United for Change in Arizona, saying the resolution would be “a return to the racism, divisiveness, and hate of [Senate Bill] 1070” when Farnsworth stopped him and told him not to be “vitriolic.” When Polanco insisted the legislation at hand was also “racist, divisive, and hateful,” Farnsworth cut him off. Farnsworth asked security personnel to remove Polanco if he continued to argue and announced the committee was done hearing public comment on the measure. Several members of the group were told they could be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave the hearing voluntarily.
Arizona – Republican Lawmaker Files Ethics Complaints After Chaotic Voting Law Hearing at Arizona Legislature
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 2/19/2020
House Elections Committee Chairperson Kelly Townsend will file an ethics complaint against two Democratic lawmakers after a hearing devolved into a fracas. The hours-long hearing culminated in Townsend attempting to cut off public testimony, throw a speaker out of the committee room, and force a vote on a multifaceted piece of legislation all while Democrats objected and the gallery jeered. Democrats accused Townsend of stifling discussion and public testimony.
Arizona – Scandals Reveal Murky Workplace Standards in Legislature
Arizona Capitol Times – Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Julia Shumway | Published: 2/14/2020
Arizona Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr have said their relationship is proper and platonic, even after love letters Cook wrote to Knorr surfaced. But Cook and Knorr have faced disparate consequences since the story broke. Cook has continued to serve on committees and vote on legislation. Knorr was placed on administrative leave by her employer, the Western Growers’ Association, pending an investigation into whether her relationship with Cook presented ethical violations. That one is on leave while the other remains in the public eye highlights the different standards between the Legislature, where lawmakers have balked at adopting a code of conduct, and private sector firms, where experts say written expectations on proper interpersonal relationships are ubiquitous.
California – Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law
KQED – Scott Shafer | Published: 2/14/2020
San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with disgraced former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, but also accepting a $5,600 gift from him for car repairs. While the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position,” Breed said she would voluntarily report the gift on her Statement of Economic Interests form. What Breed did not mention is that the gift she received from Nuru appears to violate city ethics rules.
California – Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/14/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he will uphold the majority of Proposition F, a San Francisco ordinance that requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a PAC, that committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed. While refusing to block most of the law, Breyer agreed that requiring lengthy disclaimers for small-print and short-length political ads is likely unconstitutional because they would “clearly just overwhelm the message.”
California – The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/17/2020
Nonprofits run by state lawmakers and their staff host fundraisers where lobbyists can mingle at the Disneyland Hotel with politicians, and policy conferences where tech executives can dine with legislators shaping California law on data privacy and the gig economy. While state law caps the amount donors can give to campaigns, contributions to nonprofits are not limited. These groups underwrite charitable work and let public officials help the state or advance causes they care about without using taxpayer money. But unlike campaign accounts, they often offer a tax break and can raise unlimited sums from special interests, with fewer disclosure requirements. Experts say the practice has become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits even of California’s tough regulations.
Florida – Florida Loses Appeals Court Ruling on Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 2/19/2020
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida law limiting the voting rights of people with felony convictions was unconstitutional. The judges upheld a lower court decision that found the state could not deny ex-felons the right to vote just because they cannot afford to pay outstanding court fines, fees, and restitution, as required by the 2019 law. The ruling said the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Illinois – Aldermen Relied on a Study to Approve $1.3 Billion for Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards. Turns Out That Sterling Bay Hired the Consultant Who Wrote It.
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 2/18/2020
Key to the $1.3 billion taxpayer subsidy for the Lincoln Yards development in Chicago was a report declaring the project met the requirements to get the money. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration promoted the record tax increment financing (TIF) deal at a public meeting, a planning official introduced the author of that report as “the city’s TIF consultant.” What the administration and consultant did not tell the crowd was that developer Sterling Bay had both picked the consultant and paid the firm. That consultant also had been retained by a Sterling Bay subsidiary to lobby City Hall on the final terms of the Lincoln Yards agreement. Experts say such arrangements pose obvious conflicts, given that the consultants who certify such projects are being paid by the very developers who are seeking approval for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Illinois – Aldermen Tighten Reins on Outside Jobs for City Employees
WBBM – Staff | Published: 2/19/2020
The Chicago City Council is placing new limits on side jobs for some city employees, closing a loophole that allowed them to work for private contractors who have government deals they oversee. The ordinance that was approved would prohibit any city official or employee with contract oversight from working for subcontractors or consultants on any contract they manage as part of their government job.
Indiana – Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich | Published: 2/17/2020
Environmental advocates are worried a bill that would prevent the state from protecting certain wetlands will lead to more flooding, less clean water, and the loss of wildlife in Indiana. But it is not just what the bill would do that has drawn criticism. Good government experts are also expressing concern over the appropriateness of who is authoring the legislation. Sen. Victoria Spartz wrote Senate Bill 229, which removes state oversight of certain wetlands near what are called regulated drains. Spartz has her own complicated history with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s regulation of wetlands, one she did not disclose as the bill has moved through the Legislature.
Kentucky – Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/18/2020
Federal prosecutors told a jury that a Lexington real estate executive went to great lengths to cover up his scheme to funnel money to co-workers and family members, who allegedly used the money to make illegal donations to candidates for city government two years ago. Timothy Wellman, an executive with CRM Companies, told co-workers to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury, and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said. Kent Wicker, Wellman’s lawyer, said Wellman often loans money to people without asking to be repaid and contends a disgruntled businesses competitor hired a law firm to investigate him and spread unfounded rumors.
Maine – Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 2/14/2020
A Republican member of Maine’s ethics commission has stepped down, leaving the panel with just three of the five members it is authorized to have as the state heads into the 2020 election cycle. Bradford Pattershall is running for a state Senate seat and by law cannot also serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Although the commission often reaches consensus in its findings, Chairperson William Lee III raised concerns about a depleted membership even before Pattershall’s resignation. Lee warned in November that an understaffed commission could leave it unable to do its job.
Massachusetts – State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos
Boston Globe – Tonya Alanez and Travis Anderson | Published: 2/18/2020
Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle, who sits on the House Committee on Ethics, was arrested on federal charges alleging he raided his campaign account to pay personal expenses and sustain his casino gambling habit. An indictment says Nangle used his campaign fund to pay thousands of dollars in Lowell Golf Club dues and personal charges; rental cars for casino travel; flowers for his girlfriend; gas, hotel, and restaurant charges that he had already received state reimbursement for; gift cards for personal use; and cash withdrawals.
Michigan – Ballot Language Approved for Proposal to ‘Change the Culture’ of Lobbying in Michigan
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 2/19/2020
Supporters of a ballot initiative to regulate how lobbyists in Michigan interact with lawmakers hope to start collecting signatures by the March 10 presidential primary following approval of a summary of the measure from a state board. Republicans expressed concerns that the language did not reflect how the proposal regulates the speech of Michigan residents. Board member Norm Shinkle also questioned whether the proposal is overly broad, saying it would apply to many obscure state boards and commissions. Former state Democratic Party Chairperson Mark Brewer argued Michiganders have a right to know whenever a lobbyist tries to contact a public official.
Michigan – Ex-Detroit Metro Official Sentenced to 10 Years for Bribery
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 2/5/2020
James Warner, a former Detroit Metropolitan Airport supervisor convicted of receiving more than $6 million in bribes – the third-largest amount in U.S. history – was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say he steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three co-conspirators in return for the kickbacks. At one dinner, Warner and Gary Tenaglia, a contractor who was sentenced to 14 months in prison, discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”
Missouri – ‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 2/13/2020
Former Gov. Eric Greitens was fined $178,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for two campaign finance violations, while a host of other allegations contained in a complaint filed shortly after he resigned from office in 2018 were dismissed. The commission said in a consent decree released that while there were reasonable grounds to believe Greitens’ campaign broke Missouri law, its investigation “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence Gov. Greitens knew” about any violations. If Greitens pays $38,000 of the fine and commits no more violations, the rest would be forgiven.
New Hampshire – Legislature Considers Whether to Tighten Its Own Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 2/19/2020
Responding to a pair of high-profile ethics cases that highlighted the lack of clear restrictions on conflicts-of-interest at the statehouse, New Hampshire lawmakers are weighing how best to balance their role as citizen legislators with a desire to prevent politicians from exploiting public office for private gain. One proposal would prevent lawmakers “from introducing legislation, testifying, voting, participating in, or influencing any legislative matter directly related to [their] employment.” A related proposal would require lawmakers to recuse themselves from official legislative activities if someone in their household is being paid by an organization with “a special interest” in that activity.
New Jersey – Governor Unveils Broader State Ethics, Transparency Bill
Associated Press – Mike Catalini | Published: 2/19/2020
The Legislature will be subject to the state’s open records law, lobbying registration requirements will be tightened, and bills would not get come to a vote unless they were posted online for at least three days under bipartisan ethics legislation to be introduced in New Jersey. The legislation would require public relations experts and lawyers who are currently exempt to register as lobbyists. It would also lower the threshold for registering as a lobbyist from 20 hours a year lobbying to one hour. Other changes include “zero tolerance” for gifts to lawmakers’ offices.
New York – NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 2/14/2020
New York City Councilperson Andy King faces new ethics charges and calls for expulsion less than four months after the council sanctioned him for past misconduct. He was accused of trying to circumvent an independent monitor the council voted to place in his office after rampant unethical behavior. King was also charged with violating conflict-of-interest rules and the council’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, as well as disorderly conduct and misappropriating public money for his personal benefit.
North Carolina – Another Court Blocks NC Voter ID Law, Citing ‘Racially Discriminatory Intent’
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/18/2020
The state’s new voter ID law appears to have been enacted with racially discriminatory intent and will be at least temporarily blocked during the 2020 elections, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. A federal court has already blocked the voter ID mandate through at least the 2020 primary elections. The most recent decision, in a separate lawsuit in state courts rather than federal courts, could also extend that block until the general election in November. It is now the second court to rule African American voters could be harmed by the way the Republican-Led legislature wrote the law behind the amendment. The activists who sued appear likely to be able to prove “that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor behind” the voter ID law, the judges wrote.
North Carolina – Bribery Trial of Megadonor Greg Lindberg Opens with New Details, All-Star Witness List
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell, Michael Gordon, and Michelle Battaglia | Published: 2/18/2020
As the bribery trial of insurance conglomerate owner and political donor Greg Lindberg gets under way, new details are emerging through court documents and public records about allegations that Lindberg tried to work with the chairperson of the North Carolina Republican Party to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner. Lindberg and two of his business associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were indicted along with then-GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes, who has since taken a plea deal and could testify at the trial. The trio is accused of trying unsuccessfully to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with campaign money in exchange for actions favorable to Lindberg’s companies, including the removal of a top Department of Insurance official that Lindberg disliked.
Tennessee – Proposal Would Overhaul Blocked Tennessee Voter Signup Law
AP News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/19/2020
Tennessee lawmakers introduced a new proposal to amend the state’s legally contentious voter-registration restrictions that are currently blocked from being enforced during the 2020 elections. Last year, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that made Tennessee the first state in the country to fine registration groups for turning in too many incomplete signup forms. It also criminalized intentional infractions of other new rules with misdemeanor charges. But the law prompted two lawsuits and sparked national criticism from those who argued the law would suppress efforts to register minorities and other voters.
Texas – Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 2/14/2020
Harris County Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz pressured employees to donate to his re-election campaigns and punished those who refused, deputies and civilian staff said. Thirty-eight percent of the $491,000 Diaz has raised since taking office in 2013 has come from Precinct 2 employees or their relatives, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis. Fourteen current and former Precinct 2 employees told The Chronicle that Diaz expected staff to aid his campaign by donating money and items to be auctioned, purchasing supplies for fundraisers, and block walking in the jurisdiction. Three of those former employees are part of a wrongful termination lawsuit against Diaz, who they say reassigned or withheld promotions from deputies and civilian staff who stopped participating.
Vermont – Lawmakers Take a Step on Ethics Code, but Enforcement Still a Ways Off
VTDigger.org – Colin Meyn and Mark Johnson | Published: 2/14/2020
Vermont Senators moved a step closer to creating a code of ethics for state officials and lawmakers but approving that code and giving teeth to an ethics commission created three years ago remain at least a year away. The Government Operations Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 198, which requires the State Ethics Commission to produce a proposed ethics code by November 15, at the latest. That code would then be considered by the Legislature in the next biennium. The bill also asks the commission to present enforcement options. Commission Executive Director Larry Novins worries that including the issue of enforcement, which would inevitably introduce questions of funding, could be used by opponents to derail efforts to get a code passed into law.
West Virginia – Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry
MSN – Peter Jamison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2020
The strife seizing Harpers Ferry, population 281, cannot compare to the raid by abolitionist John Brown on the eve of the Civil War that made this rural hamlet famous. But the bitter political drama unfolding there easily rivals the one 60 miles away in Washington, D.C. The conflict has spilled far beyond the half-square-mile that constitutes Harpers Ferry. Voting irregularities are being examined by the West Virginia Supreme Court and secretary of state. Lawmakers are debating a bill that would strip this tiny municipality of much of its authority to govern itself, legislation that could dramatically affect other small towns in West Virginia. Looming over this drama, figuratively and literally, is the ruin of a 130-year-old hotel.
February 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Greenwich Time Kentucky: “Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens” by Beth Musgrave […]
National: “Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Greenwich Time
Kentucky: “Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens” by Beth Musgrave for Lexington Herald-Leader
National: “Trump Campaign Hires Alum of Controversial Data Company” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico
North Carolina: “Another Court Blocks NC Voter ID Law, Citing ‘Racially Discriminatory Intent’” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer
Tennessee: “Proposal Would Overhaul Blocked Tennessee Voter Signup Law” by Kimberlee Kruesi for AP News
National: “Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President” by Kathleen Ronayne for AP News
National: “President Pardons Ex-GSA, OMB Official” by Tom Shoop for Government Executive
Michigan: “Ballot Language Approved for Proposal to ‘Change the Culture’ of Lobbying in Michigan” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com
February 19, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: “The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters Massachusetts: “State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos” by Travis Anderson and Tonya […]
California: “The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity” by Laurel Rosenhall for CalMatters
Massachusetts: “State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos” by Travis Anderson and Tonya Alanez for Boston Globe
National: “DOJ Drops Probe into Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “Trump Commutes Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence” by Michael Tarm for AP News
Arizona: “Migrant-Rights Advocates File Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth After He Cuts Off Testimony” by Maria Polletta for Arizona Republic
Illinois: “Aldermen Relied on a Study to Approve $1.3 Billion for Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards. Turns Out That Sterling Bay Hired the Consultant Who Wrote It.” by Hal Dardick for Chicago Tribune
Michigan: “Ex-Detroit Metro Official Sentenced to 10 Years for Bribery” by Robert Snell for Detroit News
Canada: “Remicade Maker Janssen Recruits Former Doug Ford Adviser as Lobbyist” by Jill Mahoney and Kelly Grant for The Globe and Mail
February 18, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
Lawmakers introduced legislation to expand the definition of lobbying to include promoting or opposing the passage of any local legislative matter by a unit of local government. House Bill 5468, sponsored by Rep. Maurice A. West, defines local legislative matter […]
Lawmakers introduced legislation to expand the definition of lobbying to include promoting or opposing the passage of any local legislative matter by a unit of local government.
House Bill 5468, sponsored by Rep. Maurice A. West, defines local legislative matter as any bill, resolution, nomination, ordinance, or other issue or proposal pending before the unit of local government, its legislative body, or any committee, subcommittee, or commission.
If passed prior to June 1, the bill would become effective January 1, 2021.
If passed after to May 31, the bill would become effective June 1, 2021.
February 18, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance California: “Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service Texas: “Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions” by Zach Despart for […]
California: “Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules” by Nicholas Iovino for Courthouse News Service
Texas: “Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions” by Zach Despart for Houston Chronicle
California: “Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law” by Scott Shafer for KQED
Indiana: “Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.” by Chris Sikich for Indianapolis Star
Maine: “Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled” by Scott Thistle for Portland Press Herald
New York: “NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds” by Anna Sanders for New York Daily News
West Virginia: “Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry” by Peter Jamison (Washington Post) for MSN
Canada: “Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire” by Jean Laroche for CBC
February 14, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020 Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential […]
Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020
Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential election. K Street had expectations for some bipartisan actions in 2020, but those hopes are on hold after the feud between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a turn for the worse at the State of the Union address. Now businesses and their lobbyists are worried about being drawn into the political crossfire. That is likely to prove even more difficult this year. Businesses already have a complicated relationship with Trump over his trade wars and with Democrats, whose presidential candidates are targeting many industries. One Republican lobbyist said the fresh turmoil in Washington is unnerving businesses.
Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020
Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. Justice Department lawyers defending the president said the ban refers narrowly to compensation in exchange for official action or in an employment-type relationship and does not broadly include any profit, gain, or advantage.
Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals
Forbes – John Scott Lewinski | Published: 2/11/2020
An app and web service designed to peer inside the world of corporate campaign finance is catching the ire of companies who would rather not share such information publicly. Goods Unite Us makes public who gives how much to whom on an industry-wide level. The user can view various scores on how much a brand invests on the left or right. The best numbers are reserved for firms that stays out of the fray entirely as the app’s creators would like to see dollars from public firms step out of politics in favor of individual donations. Clothing retailer Chico’s hired the national law firm of Arent Fox to send a legal request that changes be made to the Goods Unite Us data and reports.
Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term
Stamford Advocate – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020
The entire prosecutorial team on Roger Stone’s case resigned after the Department of Justice asked a federal court to reduce the seven-to nine-year prison sentence the lawyers had initially recommended, sparking new questions about potential White House interference. In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Stone. The move coincided with President Trump’s declaration on Twitter that the government was treating Stone too harshly. Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties
Stamford Advocate – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020
Secret Service personnel traveling with President Trump to his private properties pay rates as high at $650 per night for lodging. Records show more than $471,000 in such payments from taxpayers to Trump’s business between January 207 and April 2018. The full extent of the spending is not known. The Secret Service has not listed the payments in public databases, as is usually required for expenditures over $10,000. Instead, documents have come out piecemeal through public records requests. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump said in 2019.
The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash
The World News – Rebecca Ruiz (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2020
Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg LP, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms. In under 12 weeks, Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events. Such spending has helped make Bloomberg an increasingly strong contender in the Democratic primary.
Trump’s Rhetoric Has Changed the Way Hundreds of Kids Are Bullied in Classrooms
MSN – Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2020
Since Donald Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language, often condemned as racist and xenophobic, has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as six mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies, and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black, or Muslim. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped.
When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills
Kaiser Health News – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 2/11/2020
Federal lawmakers are grappling over several approaches to curtail the practice of surprise medical billings, which can leave patients on the hook for huge costs, even if they have insurance. As it has emerged as a hot-button issue for voters, doctors, hospitals, and insurers have been lobbying to protect their own money flows. Television and internet ads are the most visible manifestation of the battle. But in taking their cause to politicians, physicians have waged an on-the-ground stealth campaign to win over members of Congress. Their professional credentials give them a kind of gravitas compared with other lobbyists.
Canada – Federal Court of Appeal Dismisses Challenges of Ethics, Lobbying Commissioners Appointment
iPolitics.ca – Marco Vigliotti | Published: 2/13/2020
The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a complaint from a watchdog challenging the government’s appointment of new ethics and lobbying commissioners in Canada. The presiding judges said they were not convinced by Democracy Watch’s arguments that the actions of the governor-in-council in making the appointments were “unreasonable.” Democracy Watch argued the governor-in-council acted inappropriately in naming the commissioners because both offices were actively investigating complaints implicating the government. Democracy Watch said the governor-in-council was inextricably biased in naming the new commissioners as they would ultimately be responsible for ruling on the appropriateness of the actions of officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Bill Seeks to Tighten Rules on Recall Efforts
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 2/6/2020
An Arizona Senate committee voted to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Senate Bill 1434 adds new requirements for paid circulators and those from other states to first register with the secretary of state. This mirrors changes the Republican-controlled Legislature already imposed on those proposing new laws through initiatives. The legislation also spells out in detail exactly how petitions must be formatted, with language allowing legal challenges if the forms are not in “strict compliance” with those standards.
Arizona – Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/6/2020
Republican leadership in the Arizona Senate has no interest in investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Senate Democrats said they hoped Senate President Karen Fann would investigate allegations that Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed a lobbyist in 2016 and threatened the woman in 2018. But Fann and Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray dismissed calls for an investigation in separate interviews and rank-and-file Republicans largely declined to comment. Gray said Democrats can file a complaint if they want. But he warned Democrats to be careful because one of their own members, whom he declined to name, also could be investigated.
California – California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In.
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 2/10/2020
The San Francisco Chronicle’s request to Sutter County’s sheriff for information about every concealed weapon permit holder in the conservative county set off threats and vitriol – after the sheriff announced he was legally obligated to provide the names. The Chronicle has been forced to increase security at its newsroom and for its reporters. Gun owners across the country are livid, fearing a newspaper in one of America’s most liberal cities wants to “dox” the state’s gun owners by releasing a list of names of people with a concealed-carry weapons permit. The Chronicle says it will use the information to look for trends and ensure the concealed weapons system is not being abused. The blowback is the latest flare-up in tensions between defenders of the Second Amendment and the news institutions protected by the First Amendment.
Colorado – Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 2/10/2020
A new Colorado law requires more immediate reporting of lobbyists’ activity. But problems with the online system impede the ability to look up electronic registrations and activity records for some of those required to file the disclosures. Even though the system allows the public to search for lobbyists and activity reports using the name of the client, the search results omit some filings. Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s staff acknowledged the problems, but because of them, the agency’s spokesperson could neither identify who the agency’s own registered lobbyist was in 2017 and 2018, nor locate their activity reports for those years for four days. The agency’s staff estimated the problem affects more than one out of every 25 of the state’s registered lobbyists.
Connecticut – Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature
Hartford Courant – Amanda Blanco | Published: 2/6/2020
After state election officials rejected a candidate’s request to use her publicly financed election grant to pay for childcare, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed legislation that would allow candidates to be reimbursed for such costs. Under the bill, candidates in the Citizens’ Election Program would be reimbursed for childcare services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. Clarkson Pereira, who ran for a House seat in 2018, brought the issue to the commission when a lawyer advised her not to use her public campaign funds to hire a babysitter for her young daughter.
Florida – Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided
Florida Times-Union – Jeff Schweers | Published: 2/12/2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed penalties against 14 public officials for ethics code violations, cutting by half the number of final orders from the Florida Commission on Ethics that had been languishing on his desk. DeSantis’ failure to act had left $50,000 in uncollected civil fines in limbo and public officials not held accountable months and sometimes years after they were found guilty. Among those final orders was a $5,000 fine and public reprimand against his one-time political rival, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who lost to DeSantis in 2018. Six months after DeSantis took office, the commission had approved a joint settlement agreement in June with Gillum for accepting gifts from former lobbyist Adam Corey.
Florida – Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 2/10/2020
U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, already facing a federal probe into his 2018 campaign, may have more trouble on his hands. The Florida Bar is also investigating whether alleged campaign finance violations by Spano ran afoul of the rules of conduct for state lawyers. If they did, Spano could face punishment from the Bar. Spano acknowledges his campaign likely broke the law, but he insists it was a mistake and not malicious. Complaints to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged Spano illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from two friends. Those loans should have been considered contributions to his campaign and subject to donation limits. In a recent interview, Spano offered a new explanation for why he took the loans: He saw someone else do it.
Illinois – Yanking Out the Chair? Bill Would Strip Criminally Charged Legislators from Key Posts
Chicago Sun-Times – Neal Earley | Published: 2/12/2020
After Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, he was removed as chairperson of the Senate Labor Committee. But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions. The bill would allow the legislative inspector general to issue subpoenas without needing approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission and require reports on current and former lawmakers be made public.
Maine – Company That Studied Grid May Have Had Conflict of Interest
Associated Press – Staff | Published: 2/12/2020
A company paid $500,000 by Maine regulators to study the state’s electric grid may have been ineligible to receive the contract based on conflict-of-interest rules. London Economics International was the winning bidder on the study and was tasked with evaluating the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, to consumer ownership. To avoid any conflicts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said any firm that had worked for either utility in the past five years would be ineligible. But London Economics International was paid $37,000 for work done for Emera in 2018.
Maine – Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 2/7/2020
Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based company that received an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine, appears to be linked to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for re-election. That donation, which came through another Hawaii based entity, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, is now the subject of an official complaint before the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center says the $150,000 donation appears to be illegal, in part because there is no record of the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers having legitimate income. Instead, the watchdog argued, it appears the company was set up as a “dark money” front to mask the true identity of the donor to a pro-Collins super PAC.
Maryland – More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/12/2020
The national wave of women running for public office following President Trump’s election has hit Baltimore with almost 20 women running for city council in the Democratic primary, waging campaigns in a majority of districts. There has been a surge in women holding public office across the region over the past two years. The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council flipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, and women now outnumber men in Howard County, as well. Prince George’s County elected its first female executive and Carroll County choose a woman to sit on its Circuit Court bench for the first time.
Maryland – The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III | Published: 2/7/2020
The owner of a historic industrial property in Middle River, Maryland, is getting help with his redevelopment efforts from a lobbyist who knows plenty about Baltimore County government: John Olszewski Sr., a former county council member who is the father of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. Olszewski Sr. has been leading Blue Ocean Realty’s efforts to get the General Assembly to approve a tax break for the project, which would turn a warehouse into a sports, entertainment, and retail complex. The arrangement does not appear to violate any ethics laws or restrictions on lobbying, experts say, but it is unusual to have close relatives working as a lobbyist and a top politician.
Mississippi – Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
AP News – Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 2/7/2020
Mississippi’s state auditor said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former professional wrestler, according to indictments, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million. Federal welfare money was once spent mostly on cash assistance to poor families, but after changes in the 1990s, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money is given to states in block grants, and states can use the money on other activities meant to help people.
Missouri – Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider
KCUR – Jaclyn Driscoll | Published: 2/10/2020
The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item that would change how state legislative districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. The proposal now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They will choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. The new initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a five-dollar maximum for each one. The measure also lowers contribution limits for state Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.
Missouri – Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 2/9/2020
In October 2018, a campaign committee that was helping then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger finance his political efforts reported a $250,000 donation from a nonprofit that supports fire districts. But it did not really come from the fire district nonprofit. It came from Great St. Louis, a nonprofit whose president is an operative for philanthropist and political donor Rex Sinquefield. The true source of the contribution sheds more light on how Sinquefield’s operation was able to funnel approximately $700,000 to Stenger. It also raises questions about why the disclosure was made over a year later, and whether the organizations tried to conceal Sinquefield’s support for Stenger, who pleaded guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme in May.
Montana – Montana Supreme Court: Political cop wrong to censure regents
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/12/2020
The Montana Supreme Court ruled against the state commissioner of political practices for censuring Montana’s Board of Regents. The justices concluded that Commissioner Jeff Mangan erred when concluding the regents were illegally politicking for the six-mill levy during board meetings. The levy is a voter-approved property tax that raises about $20 million a year for Montana’s public universities and colleges. Mangan ruled the regents were public employees who were politicking on government time and using government property to do so. He fined the Regents $3,000. But the state Supreme Court ruled education boards have the right to discuss levies at meetings, and also take public positions on levies.
Nevada – Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process
Connecticut Post – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020
After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. Party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing. Multiple campaign officials have complained about a lack of transparency from the party. Though there have been multiple conference calls between the state party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “tight-lipped” and slow to offer specific information about how the state’s ambitious early-voting plan would work without the use of the apps.
New Hampshire – Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary; Buttigieg, Klobuchar Are Top Moderate Candidates
MSN – Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2020
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party’s left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary as two moderates, Pete Buttigieg and a newly surging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days. Sanders and Buttigieg marked their second straight strong showings – they essentially tied in the Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates. The night brought devastating returns for Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom appeared to have lost support to Klobuchar and Buttigieg and were not on course to earn any delegates.
New Mexico – The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts
New Mexico In Depth – Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 2/10/2020
In a small state where face-to-face connections are critical and political ties almost inescapable, potential conflicts abound in New Mexico. It is no surprise to learn of state lawmakers who are married to lobbyists, or have lobbyists within their own families, or who regularly vote or even sponsor legislation that would support an industry in which the lawmaker has a personal business interest. “Conflict of interest is built into the New Mexico Legislature by virtue of the fact that it’s a citizens’ Legislature where legislators keep their day jobs,” said former state Sen. Dede Feldman.
New York – Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/11/2020
State Sen. Robert Ortt is calling for a Senate investigation of the New York State Police’s unusual involvement in a controversial lobbying investigation of activist Kat Sullivan. “It is my hope that our highly-esteemed State Police are not being weaponized to stifle free speech,” Ortt said. A major in the State Police called the owner of the South Albany Airport last September inquiring about a flight flown out of the airport in 2018. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, had hired the plane to fly over the Capitol, which towed a banner pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) then investigated whether Sullivan had spent more than $5,000 on her efforts, which would require her to register as a lobbyist. The State Police say the call to the airport, as JCOPE was ramping up its inquiry, was made as a “courtesy” to someone at the commission.
North Carolina – NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/12/2020
North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger sold his townhouse in Raleigh to a lobbyist for an $80,000 profit. Berger was previously the subject of an ethics complaint for paying himself monthly rent for that townhouse with campaign funds. State ethics officials knew ahead of time that this sale was in the works and signed off on it, saying it did not appear to violate ethical rules. But Bob Hall, the former Democracy North Carolina leader who filed the complaint, says it deserves a closer look from a different set of officials. Norma Houston, a legislative ethics expert at the University of North Carolina, said while there is a prohibition against lawmakers taking gifts from lobbyists, state law specifically exempts contracts and other commercial arrangements that are “made in the normal course of business if not made for lobbying.”
Ohio – Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 2/7/2020
At the back of a Starbucks in a hotel across the street from the Ohio Statehouse, there is a narrow space that is just large enough to fit three chairs and a small table. But this semi-secluded area is where a surprising amount of government and political business gets done, according to Capitol Square regulars. It is a convenient meeting spot for many politicians and lobbyists. And as it is frowned upon (though not technically illegal) for state lawmakers to accept campaign contributions on public property, they often head across the street from the Statehouse for donors to hand them checks.
Oregon – Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/9/2020
A bill was introduced to enshrine the independence of Oregon’s public records advocate in law and end the governor’s role in hiring and firing the advocate. The Public Records Advisory Council pitched the idea of shielding the records advocate from the governor’s control last fall. It did so in the wake of news that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told then-Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, or report with the governor’s office before releasing them.
Pennsylvania – PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff
Bily Penn – Max Marin | Published: 2/6/2020
As executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, Micah Sims aids the nonprofit’s mission to “create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest” in the Keystone State. In an unusual arrangement, however, Sims has been moonlighting as a consultant for an elected official in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to his employers at Common Cause, Sims has been working on the side as a senior advisor to Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal as she sets out to transform the scandal-plagued office left behind by her predecessor. Sims first said his consulting for Bilal was business, then switched to a claim that it was “pro bono” as a favor to a friend. Other potential questions have risen around Sims’ work.
Pennsylvania – Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 2/11/2020
While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has primarily benefited Republicans on the federal level, in Philadelphia, it is the progressive left that has best capitalized on the campaign finance decision and other opinions. Liberals have been beating establishment Democrats with the help of outside groups that outspend the candidates themselves. And campaign finance reform is no longer the rallying cry it once was. “It’s an interesting reality to have folks or groups who may decry Citizens United then utilizing the tools that are made available by it,” said Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy. “But in campaigns, people play to win, and I don’t think that will ever change.”
South Dakota – Concerns Arise That New S.D. Electronic Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent
Keloland – Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) | Published: 2/9/2020
A new online system for drafting, co-sponsoring, and tracking bills through the South Dakota Legislature has some people concerned that the modernized system has made the legislative process less transparent and removed some of the human element from lawmaking. State officials said the new system was needed to make legislative work more efficient. Jason Hancock, director of the Legislative Research Council, which manages the drafting and flow of proposed laws, said the new workflow system is housed within the Legislature’s website and replaced the old pen-and-paper-based system for drafting, seeking co-sponsors, and amending legislation.
Texas – Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 2/8/2020
Local governments across Texas are resisting a state law that took effect in September requiring they publicly post their lobbying information on their websites. But the resistance does not appear to be based on opposition to the intent of the new law. Rather, cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments object to the statute’s admittedly murky language and differing reads on what it requires. For the most part, Senate Bill 65 relates to increasing oversight on state agencies’ contracting practices. The posting requirement for lobbying was added via an amendment co-authored by Rep. Mayes Middleton, who tried last session to make it illegal for many local governments to spend money on lobbying.
Washington – Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting
Washington Post – Jay Greene | Published: 2/11/2020
The failure of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses led to days of partial and unreliable results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. But mobile voting is prone to cybersecurity breaches just as other forms of election technology are, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University who studies digital election security.
Washington DC – D.C. Ethics Board Reopens Investigation into Former Lawmaker Jack Evans
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/12/2020
The District of Columbia’s ethics board reopened its investigation into former city council member Jack Evans. The revival of the probe raises the possibility of additional penalties for the Evans, who has been the subject of federal investigations and multiple examinations of his private business dealings. Evans resigned from the council days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.
Washington DC – D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 2/11/2020
A divided U.S. House committee advanced a District of Columbia statehood bill to the floor for the first time in nearly three decades, bringing advocates closer to their goal of making the nation’s capital the 51st state. The bill has a good chance of passing the House because Democrats have a solid majority and the cause of statehood has become a favorite of Democratic leaders, national civil rights groups, and presidential candidates. But it faces almost certain death in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Wisconsin – 81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck | Published: 2/11/2020
Tens of thousands of Wisconsin absentee voters will soon receive not one but two ballots to use in the spring election, laying the groundwork for potential confusion among the voters who receive them. Under federal law, absentee ballots for the April 7 presidential primary must go out on February 20, or two days after the February 18 primary for state and local races. That means there is no way to get a complete ballot to absentee voters that includes candidates who advance through the February 18 primary election without violating state law. Election officials’ solution is to send two ballots: One will be labeled by the letter “A” and will include just presidential candidates. A second “B” ballot will be mailed in March, after spring primary election results are certified. The B ballot will include presidential candidates and candidates competing in state and local races.
February 13, 2020 • Written by Marilyn Wesel
State Rep. Joel Fry introduced a bill amending lobbyist reporting requirements. House File 2217 will require lobbyist client reports to be filed with the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board instead of the General Assembly. Additionally, documentation verifying all information in […]
State Rep. Joel Fry introduced a bill amending lobbyist reporting requirements.
House File 2217 will require lobbyist client reports to be filed with the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board instead of the General Assembly.
Additionally, documentation verifying all information in the report must be filed with the report.
The board will verify the information and may require a lobbyist client to provide additional documents to verify the report.
Violation of the new requirements is a serious misdemeanor, punishable by reprimand, suspension, dismissal or otherwise sanctioned, including confinement for no more than one year and a fine of at least $315, but not more than $1,875.
The new procedures will apply to reports due by July 31, 2020, for the reporting period of July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.
February 13, 2020 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold. The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually. […]
Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold.
The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually.
Federal law requires authorized committees of federal candidates, leadership political action committees (PACs), and political party committees to disclose contributions bundled by lobbyists and lobbyists’ PACs.
Additionally, the FEC published its adjusted Coordinated Party Expenditure Limits for political parties for 2020.
February 13, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes Elections Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun […]
National: “Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals” by John Scott Lewinski for Forbes
Maryland: “More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’” by Talia Richman for Baltimore Sun
Washington: “Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting” by Jay Greene for Washington Post
Wisconsin: “81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion” by Molly Beck for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Florida: “Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided” by Jeff Schweers for Florida Times-Union
Washington DC: “D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History” by Jenna Portnoy for Washington Post
National: “When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills” by Rachana Pradhan for Kaiser Health News
New York: “Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
North Carolina: “NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist” by Will Doran for Raleigh News and Observer
February 12, 2020 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature. The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a […]
Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature.
The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a lobbyist or lobbyist associate to all year-round.
Unless the lobbyist or lobbyist associate is eligible to vote on the day of the election in a district where the candidate will appear on the ballot, the lobbyist and lobbyist associate may not contribute to the governor or member of the Legislature when not in legislative session or to a gubernatorial or legislative candidate at any time during the year.
An intentional violation of the prohibition results in a civil penalty up to $1,000 for each violation and the return of the contribution in violation to the contributor.
February 12, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
On February 3, State Representative Melissa Shusterman introduced a bill amending the revolving door provision. The bill requires public officials to wait one year after their term of office before lobbying. House Bill 2263 establishes a lifetime ban for public […]
On February 3, State Representative Melissa Shusterman introduced a bill amending the revolving door provision.
The bill requires public officials to wait one year after their term of office before lobbying.
House Bill 2263 establishes a lifetime ban for public officials from lobbying the governmental body they were associated with.
The bill also increases the waiting period for former public employees from one to two years.
If passed, this act takes effect in 60 days after enactment.
February 12, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by […]
Florida: “Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans” by Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times
Pennsylvania: “Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.” by Sean Collins Walsh for Philadelphia Inquirer
Nevada: “Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process” by Holly Bailey (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post
National: “Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Stamford Advocate
National: “Justice Dept. to Reduce Sentencing Recommendation for Trump Associate Roger Stone, Official Says, After President Calls It ‘Unfair’” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) for Washington Post
Missouri: “Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider” by Jaclyn Driscoll for KCUR
National: “Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
Colorado: “Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data” by Evan Wyloge for Colorado Springs Gazette
February 11, 2020 • Written by Carlo Aguja
On February 3, a bill was introduced in the New Jersey Assembly establishing the Local Governmental Process Activities Disclosure Act. Assembly Bill 2432 extends the same disclosure, reporting, and other requirements that govern the activities of governmental affairs agents to […]
On February 3, a bill was introduced in the New Jersey Assembly establishing the Local Governmental Process Activities Disclosure Act.
Assembly Bill 2432 extends the same disclosure, reporting, and other requirements that govern the activities of governmental affairs agents to their activities with respect to all local government levels.
If passed, this act takes effect immediately.