July 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Acting Labor Secretary Pizzella Lobbied for Russian-Connected Front Group, Worked with Jack Abramoff Center for Responsive Politics – Reid Champlin and Jessica Piper | Published: 7/12/2019 Patrick Pizzella will take the reins at the Department of Labor as acting secretary […]
Acting Labor Secretary Pizzella Lobbied for Russian-Connected Front Group, Worked with Jack Abramoff
Center for Responsive Politics – Reid Champlin and Jessica Piper | Published: 7/12/2019
Patrick Pizzella will take the reins at the Department of Labor as acting secretary after Alex Acosta announced his resignation due to criticism for his light prosecution of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. But Pizzella’s record as a lobbyist is likely to come under scrutiny. In the late 1990s, his clients included a Russian front group, the government of the Marshall Islands, and a trade association fighting against the minimum wage in a U.S. commonwealth. For these and other clients, he worked with Jack Abramoff, who was at the forefront of a corruption scandal in the 2000s that ultimately resulted in 21 convictions and major reforms to lobbying laws. Pizzella was never accused of any wrongdoing.
Alex Acosta Resigns as Labor Secretary Amid Intense Scrutiny of His Handling of Jeffrey Epstein Case
MSN – David Nakamura, John Wagner, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2019
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation amid the mushrooming Jeffrey Epstein investigation made him the latest in a growing list of President Trump’s Cabinet members to depart under a cloud of scandal, plunging an administration that has struggled with record turnover into further upheaval. Trump said Acosta had chosen to step down a day after defending himself in a contentious news conference over his role as a U.S. attorney a decade ago in a deal with Epstein that allowed the financier to plead guilty to lesser offenses in a sex-crimes case involving underage girls. The sole Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet said the intense media focus on his role in Epstein’s case threatened to become a distraction that would undermine his work for the administration.
CNN Doesn’t Tell Whole Story About Trump-Loving Panel
San Francisco Chronicle – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 7/17/2019
The panel of women CNN interviewed about President Trump liked him a lot and do not think he is a racist, despite a congressional resolution to the contrary. And no question the women are, as CNN identified them, “Republicans.” But the network missed telling its viewers a few other things about the women it put on the air in a segment surveying their reaction to criticism of Trump. The seemingly random group of eight women were, in fact, members of an organized group dedicated to promoting Trump. The group calls itself the Trumpettes of America 2019 Palm Beach Team, although CNN and correspondent Randi Kaye did not mention anything about such a group. Nor did the anchors, including Anderson Cooper, who introduced Kaye’s report.
Consultant Who Worked with Manafort Retroactively Registers as Foreign Agent
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 7/12/2019
A British consultant who helped publicize a report commissioned by the government of Ukraine in 2012 retroactively registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department. The filing sheds a little more light on an elaborate lobbying and public relations effort orchestrated by Paul Manafort starting more than seven years ago on behalf of the Ukrainian government and Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time and Manafort’s client. Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, looked into the effort as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The consultant, Jonathan Hawker, registered through FTI Consulting, the firm at which he worked at the time but has since left.
Court Filings Show Trump, Cohen Contacts Amid Hush Money Payments
The Hill – Jacqueline Thomsen and Morgan Chalfant | Published: 7/18/2019
President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohn was in contact with Trump multiple times as he arranged hush money payments to women alleging affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The previously redacted details of the probe on the payments indicate investigators were aware of calls made between Cohen and Trump, as well as other campaign officials. Cohen pleaded guilty to committing campaign finance violations in relation to the payments and implicated Trump in the scheme. The documents were released after federal prosecutors said they had concluded their investigation into the hush-money payments. The closure of the probe strongly suggests prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against anyone besides Cohen, who pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations, lying to Congress, and financial crimes.
F.E.C. Allows Security Company to Help 2020 Candidates Defend Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth | Published: 7/11/2019
The FEC said a Silicon Valley security company could immediately start helping 2020 presidential candidates defend their campaigns from the kinds of malicious email attacks that Russian hackers exploited in the 2016 election. The FEC made its advisory opinion one month after lawyers for the agency advised it to block a request by the company, Area 1 Security, which had sought to provide services to candidates at a discount. The FEC lawyers said Area 1 would be violating campaign finance laws that prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted services to federal candidates. The same law also prevents political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an “in-kind donation.”
FEC Gets New Internal Watchdog Following Tumultuous Search
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 7/12/2019
The FEC has a new inspector general, ending a 28-month period that included the de facto neutering of its office charged with investigating and defending against agency waste, fraud, and abuse. Christopher Skinner will begin work as the FEC’s inspector general on August 5. Skinner served as deputy inspector general for the Office of Naval Research for six years, including one year as acting inspector general. Before that, he served as assistant chief of inspections for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. It took commissioners about a year to begin an earnest search for McFarland’s replacement. Once they did, agency infighting resulted in a disgruntled human resources official canceling an inspector general job posting and, in mid-2018, derailing the search.
Former Flynn Partner on Trial for Illegal Lobbying Charges
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 7/15/2019
Though special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign influence in the 2016 election has officially wrapped up, a trial began for a former business partner of convicted ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn accused of acting as an illegal agent of the Turkish government. Bijan Rafiekian, an Iranian American businessperson who also goes by Bijan Kian, was indicted on a charge of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. The charges stemmed from lobbying work done by Kian and Flynn in 2016.
House Condemns Trump’s Attack on Four Congresswomen as Racist
MSN – Julie Hirschfeld Davis (New York Times) | Published: 7/16/2019
The U.S. House voted to condemn as racist President Trump’s attacks against four congresswomen of color, but only after the debate over the president’s language devolved into a bitterly partisan brawl that showcased deep rifts over race, ethnicity, and political ideology in the age of Trump. The measure passed nearly along party lines after one of the most polarizing exchanges on the floor in recent times. Only four Republicans and the House’s lone independent voted with all Democrats to condemn the president. It is virtually unheard-of for Congress to rebuke a sitting president. The last one to be challenged was William Howard Taft, who served from 1909 to 1913. He was accused of having tried to influence a disputed Senate election, but in the end, the Senate passed a watered-down resolution.
House Holds Barr and Ross in Contempt Over Census Dispute
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 7/17/2019
The U.S. House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for their refusal to turn over key documents related to the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The citations for two cabinet officials will breathe new life into a dispute that has touched all three branches of government over why administration officials pushed to ask census respondents if they were American citizens and what that question’s effect would be. Democrats investigating the issue believe the documents and testimony being shielded would confirm the administration’s long-stated rationale for collecting the data, to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, was merely a cover for a politically motivated attempt to eliminate noncitizens from population statistics used to allocate political representation, diminishing Democratic power.
How Pharma, Under Attack from All Sides, Keeps Winning in Washington
STAT – Nicholas Forko and Lev Facher | Published: 7/16/2019
Even though Washington has stepped up its rhetorical attacks on the industry and focused its policymaking efforts on reining in high drug prices, the pharmaceutical industry’s time-honored lobbying and advocacy strategies have kept both lawmakers and the Trump administration from landing any of their prescription-drug punches. Even off Capitol Hill, it found a way to block perhaps the Trump administration’s most substantial anti-industry accomplishment in the past two years: a rule that would have required drug companies to list their prices in television ads. The industry has also benefited from a fractured Congress and discord between President Trump’s most senior health care advisers.
Trump Says He Will Seek Citizenship Information from Existing Federal Records, Not the Census
MSN – Katie Rogers, Adam Liptak, Michael Crowley, and Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 7/11/2019
President Trump abandoned his quest to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 census and instructed the government to compile citizenship data from existing federal records instead, ending a bitterly fought legal battle that turned the nonpartisan census into an object of political warfare. Trump announcedt he was giving up on modifying the census two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuked his administration over its effort to do so. Trump made the clearest statement yet that his administration’s ultimate goal in obtaining data on citizenship was to eliminate noncitizens from the population bases used to draw political boundaries, a longstanding dream in some Republican circles. Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce who spearheaded the effort to add the citizenship question, had long insisted the data was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Trump Tells Freshman Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to the Countries They Came From
MSN – Katie Rogers and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2019
President Trump said a group of four minority congresswomen feuding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should “go back” to the countries they came from rather than “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States” how to run the government. Wrapped inside that insult, which was widely established as a racist trope, was a factually inaccurate claim: only one of the lawmakers was born outside the country. Even though Trump has repeatedly refused to back down from stoking racial divisions, his willingness to deploy a lowest-rung slur, one commonly and crudely used to single out the perceived foreignness of nonwhite, non-Christian people, was largely regarded as beyond the pale.
With Name-Calling and Twitter Battles, House Republican Campaign Arm Copies Trump’s Playbook
New York Times – Catie Edmonson | Published: 7/17/2019
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), with the blessing of House Republican leaders, has adopted a no-holds-barred strategy to win back the House majority next year, borrowing heavily from President Trump’s playbook in deploying such taunts and name-calling. After losing 40 seats and the majority in November, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, the NRCC’s new chairperson, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided their messaging needed to be ruthless. The offensive hinges largely on the notion that by tagging all House Democrats as socialists, anti-Semites, or far-left extremists, Republicans will be able to alienate swing-state voters.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Utility Panel OKs New Limits on Campaign Contributions to Commission Candidates
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 7/11/2019
State utility regulators approved a new code of ethics, including new limits on how much anyone with business before them can donate to candidates running for the Arizona Corporation Commission. But two of the panel members said the wording has a gaping hole that could still give utilities a way of financing their favorite commission candidates, at least indirectly. The language technically does not keep current and would be commissioners from taking campaign money from utilities and others who are trying to convince the panel to approve or reject some pending issue. Instead it says if a candidate for the commission takes campaign money from someone who has business before the commission they cannot vote on that matter when it goes before the panel.
Hawaii – Defiant Ethics Commission Defends Decisions on Kealohas
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 7/17/2019
The Honolulu Ethics Commission is under renewed scrutiny for how it handled a series of investigations into retired city police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, who is a former city prosecutor. The Kealohas were convicted along with two police officers of framing Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of their mailbox and then trying to cover it up. Two other Honolulu police officers pleaded guilty to other charges stemming from the federal probe. The commission launched a series of investigations into the Kealohas in 2014. Those inquiries stalled in 2015, however, after the commission yanked its main investigators, Chuck Totto and Letha DeCaires, from the case and made a series of decisions that effectively ended their careers.
Illinois – Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council Ethics Plan Advances
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/17/2019
The Chicago City Council’s Ethics Committee advanced a package of reforms to give the city watchdog more oversight of the body and tighten rules on outside jobs and lobbying. In a late change to the proposal, people acting on behalf of nonprofits would not need to register as lobbyists if they are unpaid or if they are providing technical assistance to the agencies. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ethics proposal also include measures to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and increase fines for ethics violations, from the current $500 to $2,000 up to $1,000 to $5,000.
Missouri – Since Voters Approved A $5 Cap on Gifts, Lobbyist Spending on Missouri Lawmakers Dropped 94%
St. Louis Public Radio – Aviva Okeson-Haberman | Published: 7/11/2019
Voters approved a five-dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. An analysis of data from the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there has been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That is a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session. University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire said most of the spending is now on larger events that all lawmakers can attend. There is still a five-dollar limit per lawmaker for those events.
New York – Ex-IDC Members Pay $275,000, Settling Sugarman Suit
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/11/2019
In January, Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the State Board of Elections. sought more than $8.6 million in penalties and fines from senators, campaign staff, and party officials connected to a fundraising partnership between the Independence Party and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which controversially partnered with Republicans to run the New York Senate for half a decade. Eight former IDC members recently paid $275,000 to settle the allegations they took millions of dollars in unlawful campaign donations. The settlement agreement does not include the state Independence Party or its officials. Sugarman’s case against the Independence Party, which seeks $17,000 in fines and the return of $171,000 party money to donors, is still pending.
New York – Mt. Vernon Has 2 Mayors, and Its Police Commissioner Was Just Arrested
New York Times – Sarah Maslin Nir | Published: 7/18/2019
Shawn Harris was taken into custody when he arrived at Mount Vernon police headquarters to begin work as the city’s police commissioner. Harris was appointed by Andre Wallace, who purports to be the acting mayor after the city council deemed Richard Thomas to have forfeited the mayor’s office when he pleaded guilty to misusing $12,900 in campaign funds. Thomas insists he is still in power and remains in the mayor’s office in City Hall, with a pair of police officers standing guard. Further confusion came when the city council issued a statement disavowing Wallace’s appointment of Harris. Things were in such flux that staff members in the city clerk’s office needed to print out organizational charts as they tried to explain who in the administration is currently who.
North Dakota – North Dakota Focuses on Ethics
U.S. News & World Report – Cinnamon Janzer | Published: 7/12/2019
In February 2018, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and his wife took a Super Bowl trip funded by Xcel Energy (which he later paid back), and state Rep. Jim Kasper took multiple trips involving the internet gambling industry in 2005. In response, a coalition of citizens pushed for a state ethics commission. Voters in 2018 passed Measure 1, amending the North Dakota Constitution to add Article 14, which required the Legislature to pass laws to regulate campaign finance disclosures and established an ethics commission designed to “support open, ethical, and accountable government” among other responsibilities. The commission is being formulated this summer, and its creation has not been without controversy. Experts have concerns about how effective tit will be, largely due to changes in the legislation that established the panel.
Ohio – City Elections Commission Offers Guidance on Campaign Finance Change
WVXU – Jay Hanselman | Published: 7/11/2019
Contributions made by made by limited liability corporations (LLC) to Cincinnati mayoral and city council candidates prior to December 1, 2018, will not count toward a donor’s limits under the city’s new campaign finance charter amendment. The ballot measure said an LLC cannot contribute to mayoral or city council candidates “solely in the name” of the business. Those donations must be associated with the person, owner, or partner making it. Attorney Micah Kamrass had asked the city’s Elections Commission “whether contributions made to a city council or mayoral candidate by an LLC will be counted as contributions made by an individual if the contributions were made prior to the effective date” of the Charter amendment.
Texas – Ellis Proposes Ethics Reforms for Harris County Government
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 7/12/2019
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis has proposed two ethics reforms he says are needed to improve transparency in county government, though Texas counties’ limited rule-making power may scuttle his plan. Commissioners Court unanimously backed Ellis’ request to study how the county can establish mandatory registration of lobbyists and a blackout period for campaign contributions to elected officials from firms who seek or receive county contracts. Harris County since 2009 has allowed lobbyist registration on a voluntary basis. Participation has been dismal – just 17 lobbyists have signed up in the past decade, according to records.
Texas – State Leaders Again Want to Review How Texas Elects Judges. Will They End Partisan Judicial Elections?
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 7/15/2019
After a punishing election for Republican judges, state leaders are set to take a look at Texas’ often-criticized judicial selection system. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law creating a commission to study the issue, signaling the Legislature could overhaul the system as soon as 2021. One of just a few states that maintains a system of partisan judicial selection all the way up through its high courts, judges are required to run as partisans but expected to rule impartially. They are forced to raise money from the same lawyers who will appear before them in court. And in their down-ballot, low-information races, their fates tend to track with the candidates at the top of the ticket. That means political waves that sweep out of office good and bad, experienced and inexperienced judges alike.
Washington – In Win for Public Campaign Financing, State Supreme Court Upholds Seattle’s Unique ‘Democracy Vouchers’
Governing – Daniel Beekman (Seattle Times) | Published: 7/15/2019
The Washington Supreme Court upheld Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” program, which allows residents to direct taxpayer money to qualifying political candidates. The Pacific Legal Foundation supported a lawsuit to block the program on behalf of a pair of residents, claiming it would effectively force them to support candidates they might not agree with. The justices ruled because any candidate can qualify to receive the funds the program is effectively neutral. Proponents say the vouchers counter big money in politics by involving people who otherwise would not donate and by helping lesser-known candidates compete.
Washington DC – Tensions Reach a New High on D.C. Council as Lawmakers Grapple with Scandal
Washington Post – Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 7/13/2019
Heated fights at the District of Columbia Council over how to discipline a lawmaker under federal investigation and whether to approve a controversial gambling contract have deepened a growing rift among city leaders. Tensions have been simmering after repeated revelations about Councilperson Jack Evans and his private business dealings with companies with interests before city government. The divisions escalated at a recent meeting when a group of lawmakers tried but failed to strip Evans of all committee assignments. Next, they tried unsuccessfully to stop a no-bid sports betting and lottery contract that several said “stinks” of cronyism. Instead, council Chairperson Phil Mendelson and allies were able to approve the contract and avoid harsh penalties for Evans.
West Virginia – A Resolution Condemning Pipeline Challengers Passed Easily. A Pipeline Lobbyist Wrote It.
ProPublica – Kate Mishkin (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/11/2019
House Resolution 11, sponsored by nearly half of West Virginia delegates, praised the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a major natural gas project. Then, the resolution sharply condemned the citizens’ groups that challenged the project in court. The resolution passed 80 to 17. What was not mentioned on the House floor was the resolution was drafted by the pipeline company itself. Bob Orndorff, a lobbyist for Dominion Energy, wrote the resolution and sent it to the House. It is not abnormal for a lobbyist to provide insight or help draft legislation. But Orndorff’s resolution was different from other pieces of legislation because it singled out a specific group. It sheds light on the close relationship between West Virginia’s growing natural gas industry and its legislative branch.
July 12, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 2020 Democrats Vow to Get Tough on Lobbyists The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/7/2019 Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking aim at the lobbying world, vowing to enact sweeping reform proposals if they win election. Contenders from both parties […]
2020 Democrats Vow to Get Tough on Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/7/2019
Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking aim at the lobbying world, vowing to enact sweeping reform proposals if they win election. Contenders from both parties have long run as outsiders to K Street, with President Trump famously vowing on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp.” But the spotlight on K Street has intensified this cycle, with the left urging candidates to reject corporate money and Democratic lawmakers raising concerns about the “revolving door” that sees lobbyists land top administration posts. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennet have called for a strict lifetime ban on lawmakers lobbying. Those candidates in the U.S. House are touting tough restrictions on lobbyists they helped pass this year as part of a sweeping ethics bill.
AP: Federal grand jury probing GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy
AP News – Jim Mustian and Desmond Butler | Published: 7/8/2019
A federal grand jury in New York is investigating top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, examining whether he used his position as vice chairperson of President Trump’s inaugural committee to drum up business deals with foreign leaders. Prosecutors appear to be investigating whether Broidy exploited his access to Trump for personal gain and violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to offer foreign officials “anything of value” to gain a business advantage. Things of value in this case could have been an invitation to the January 2017 inaugural events or access to Trump.
Appeals Court Tosses Emoluments Suit Against Trump
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/10/2019
A federal appeals court panel dismissed a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while serving as president. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who joined together to file the suit, lacked legal standing to object to his alleged violations of the Constitution’s clauses prohibiting receipt of so-called emoluments while in office. Writing for the court, Judge Paul Niemeyer concluded the case turned on unduly speculative claims that the District of Columbia and Maryland governments were being harmed by people favoring Trump’s Washington hotel in order to curry favor with him.
Democrats Grapple with a Sprawling Primary Field, and No One to Shape It
MSN – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2019
Many strategists say the Democratic Party’s slate of 24 presidential candidates is too unwieldy for a constructive debate, and too large for most voters to follow. With a leadership vacuum at the top of the party, there is no one to elevate candidates with an endorsement, or help steer third-tier candidates out of the race when they have reached their plausible expiration date. Former President Obama is sitting out the primary. The Clintons, a once-dominant party presence, are largely unwelcome this time around. Of the party’s living former presidential nominees, just Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis have weighed in on the race. The rest are keeping their distance from the messy primary, which polling shows has bifurcated between a top tier of five candidates and everyone else vying just to qualify for the party’s fall debates.
Elizabeth Warren Shuns Conventional Wisdom for a New Kind of Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/9/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is defying the traditional playbook for running a modern presidential campaign. She raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of this year despite swearing off large fundraising events. Her campaign has gone without an outside polling firm, and says it has no plans to hire one, even though it is standard operating procedure. The campaign is shunning the typical model for producing campaign ads, in which outside firms are hired and paid commissions for their work. Instead, Warren’s campaign is producing TV, digital, and media content itself, as well as placing its digital ad buys internally. The approach is a rebuke of the consultant-heavy model of campaigns. Warren and her team see the standard campaign as another symbol of Washington corruption, and an opportunity to do things differently.
Eric Swalwell Ends White House Bid, Citing Low Polling, Fundraising
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 7/8/2019
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, dogged by fundraising challenges and a failure to register in the polls, is ending his longshot bid for the presidency. He had called on Democratic front-runner Joe Biden to “pass the torch” of party leadership to a new generation in the first Democratic presidential debates. But Swalwell later called a press conference to announce that instead of continuing in the primaries, he will instead seek a fifth term representing his strongly Democratic district in Congress. Consultant Garry South said Swalwell’s attempts at generational appeal “could have had traction, but he was pre-empted by someone a year younger, Pete Buttigieg. He didn’t have that lane to himself.”
FBI Arrests Former Top Puerto Rico Officials in Government Corruption Scandal
National Public Radio – Bobby Allyn | Published: 7/11/2019
U.S. authorities unsealed a corruption indictment against two former top officials in Puerto Rico for directing some $15.5 million in contracts to favored businesses, allegedly edging out other firms for the lucrative government work despite allegations of being unqualified. The two former Puerto Rico leaders – Julia Keleher, who was the secretary of the island’s department of education before stepping down in April, and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, who led Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration until June – were arrested by FBI agents. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that the conspiracy involved the two former public officials handing four associates who had an inside track to contracts.
Female Tech Lobbyists Shake Up Industry
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/9/2019
Male-dominated Silicon Valley has long faced criticism over gender diversity issues, but in Washington, D.C., the tech industry’s most prominent groups are increasingly led by women. For women in the industry, those changes are a promising trend and long overdue, and come at a critical time for tech businesses. Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA), first started as a lobbyist at NTCA 30 years ago, when she said it was a “barren wasteland for women in the tech industry.” She left after 20 years for stints at Qwest and Verizon, before returning as chief executive nine years ago. Bloomfield says there is more to be done to improve representation.
GOP at War Over Fundraising
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/10/2019
Tensions over the future of the Republican Party’s grassroots fundraising are reaching a breaking point, with the national party turning to strong-arm tactics to get Republicans behind its new, Donald Trump-endorsed platform for small donors. The Republican National Committee (RNC) is threatening to withhold support from party candidates who refuse to use WinRed, the GOP’s newly established online fundraising tool. And the RNC, along with the party’s Senate and gubernatorial campaign arms, are threatening legal action against a rival donation vehicle. The moves illustrate how Republican leaders are waging a determined campaign to make WinRed the sole provider of its small donor infrastructure and to torpedo any competitors.
In the Aftermath of Khashoggi’s Murder, Saudi Influence Machine Whirs on in Washington
Stamford Advocate – Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O’Connell, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2019
Since fall 2018, Washington, D.C. lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions of dollars for assisting Saudi Arabia as it works to develop nuclear power, buy American-made weapons, and prolong U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, foreign lobbying records show. Shaped by a sophisticated machine that was built over decades, Saudi support on Capitol Hill has been tested in recent months amid international outrage over the kingdom’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death and a war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians. In recent months, some Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to limit U.S. military aid and weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. But with billions of dollars at stake, the powerful defense industry has helped the lobbying corps contain GOP defections.
‘It Can’t Be Worse’: How Republican women are trying to rebuild
New York Times – Maggie Astor | Published: 7/9/2019
As their own election losses poured in, Republicans watched Democratic women make historic gains in 2018 and decided to adopt the Democrats’ strategy for themselves. Those attending the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University said saving Republican women from political extinction was a challenge far bigger than one election cycle. This is because the deeper problem is that Democratic women have a bench; Republican women do not. Part of the trouble is demographic. There are just more Democratic than Republican women among registered voters, and President Trump, who is less popular among women than among men, has not helped. Republicans also lag strategically in several areas: in recruiting female candidates, training them, funding them, and helping them through primaries.
Judge Blocks Trump Rule Requiring Drug Companies to List Prices in TV Ads
New York Times – Katie Thomas and Katie Rogers | Published: 7/8/2019
A federal judge ruled the Trump administration cannot force pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television ads, dealing a blow to one of the president’s most visible efforts to pressure drug companies to lower their prices. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drug makers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month.
Rep. Duncan Hunter’s ‘Deep State’ Defense Falls Apart
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 7/8/2019
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s bid to dismiss the corruption charges against him by alleging a “deep state” conspiracy by U.S. attorneys fell apart when it was revealed that Hunter’s lead attorney had attended the same Democratic fundraiser that he said biased prosecutors. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan ruled against a motion filed by Hunter’s team, arguing the case should be relocated or dismissed because two of the prosecutors attended a 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, who was running for president. Their attendance, Hunter’s lawyers said, meant they would be biased in the case against Hunter, an early supporter of Donald Trump. The Justice Department revealed that the lead attorney for Hunter’s defense, Gregory Vega, was also present, and even donated to her campaign.
Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But a Lobbyist for ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.
Center for Public Integrity – Laura Zornosa | Published: 7/8/2019
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is staking his presidential campaign on battling “dark money.” But in August, Bullock is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., for a closed-door campaign fundraiser co-hosted by 11 of the capital’s, including a federally registered lobbyist whose clients have contributed corporate cash to groups that do not disclose their donors, according to an invitation. Jay Driscoll, a Bullock friend and managing partner at lobbying firm Forbes-Tate, lobbied for 37 corporate clients during the first quarter of 2019 alone. The Center for Public Integrity in 2014 found nine of Driscoll’s current corporate lobbying clients had contributed to politically active nonprofit groups that do not voluntarily disclose their donors.
Study: Firm governance key as shareholders assess risk of political activity
Phys.org; Staff – | Published: 7/9/2019
It is the structure of a firm’s governance that may cause shareholders to walk away if they think they cannot hold the company accountable for its political activity, according to a new study. The research provides empirical evidence to inform the debate surrounding whether companies should be required to disclose details of their investments in political activities as a means of increasing accountability to both shareholders and the public. “The study clearly presents the various ways that U.S. companies can influence the political process via campaign finance and what risk it presents to the average investor because of the lack of transparency over the amounts spent,” said the study’s co-author, Hollis Skaife, an accounting professor at the University of California.
Trump Campaign Knew Consultant Was Behind Joe Biden Parody Site. Does That Make It a Campaign Finance Violation
Newsweek – Asher Stockler | Published: 7/9/2019
Multiple members of President Trump’s re-election campaign knew one of their colleagues was the creator of the Joe Biden parody site before his identity was disclosed recently, a campaign source familiar with the matter said. The New York Times revealed Trump campaign consultant Patrick Mauldin as the digital guru behind JoeBiden.info, a website “parody” of the Biden campaign that was designed to highlight unfavorable quotes and gaffes from the former vice president. While his campaign activities and his extracurricular activities appear to be separate functions, Mauldin’s dual status as a bona fide campaign worker and off-duty web guru raises the question of potential campaign finance violations.
Trump Can’t Block Critics from His Twitter Account, Appeals Court Rules
MSN – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 7/9/2019
President Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled in a case that could affect officials’ communications with the public on social media. Because Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts, and engaging in conversations in the replies to them, because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously. The ruling was one of the highest-profile court decisions yet in a growing constellation of cases addressing what the First Amendment means in a time when political expression increasingly takes place online.
Warren and Whitehouse call for investigation into Chamber of Commerce
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/10/2019
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse are calling for an investigation into whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is properly disclosing lobbying activities. The senators wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, where entities file lobbying disclosures, asking for a review of the Chamber’s reports to determine if they are in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The senators reviewed the Chamber’s disclosures from 2008 through the first quarter of 2019 and claim that since the second quarter of 2016, the Chamber has failed to provide information on its affiliated organizations. The LDA requires a coalition or association disclose entities that contribute at least $5,000 a quarter to its lobbying activities and that actively participate in its lobbying activities.
White House Kills Key Drug Pricing Rule to Eliminate Hidden Rebates
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb | Published: 7/11/2019
The Trump administration pulled one of its key proposals to lower drug prices that would have eliminated rebates to middlemen in Medicare, which President Trump’s top health official had touted as one of the most significant changes to curb medicine costs for consumers. The rule is the second major drug pricing effort to get blocked recently, complicating the administration’s efforts to make lowering prescription medicine costs a key 2020 presidential campaign issue. Drug makers had favored the rule, but it was strongly opposed by pharmacy benefits managers.
Why the Trump White House Is Caught Up in the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal
MSN – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 7/7/2019
By the time Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier and felon, was arrested recently and charged with sex trafficking, he had been repeatedly accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse for more than a decade. But Epstein, whose acquaintances include two presidents and multiple celebrities, had until then avoided federal prosecution. The case could shed new light not only on the allegations, which span years and countries, but also on the extent to which officials who have been linked to Epstein – including, most notably, President Trump and his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — knew about or downplayed them.
From the States and Municipalities
California – California Bill Limits Spending by Local Government Groups
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 7/9/2019
A California lawmaker wants to limit how local government associations can spend taxpayer money after two city councilors got into a brawl at a recent seminar put on by one of the groups. Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia’s bill targets groups that lobby on behalf of and hold education events for local governments. It specifically references the California Contract Cities Association, but it would also apply to groups such as the League of California Cities and the Independent Cities Association. The bill would prohibit them from using dues collected from cities for anything other than lobbying or expenses directly related to educational seminars. The groups would have to disclose how they spend their money.
Florida – Florida, the Sunshine State, Is Slow to Adopt Rooftop Solar Power
New York Times – Ivan Penn | Published: 7/7/2019
Florida calls itself the Sunshine State. But when it comes to the use of solar power, it trails 19 states, including not-so-sunny Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland. Solar experts and environmentalists blame the state’s utilities. The utilities have hindered potential rivals seeking to offer residential solar power. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying, ad campaigns, and political contributions. And when homeowners purchase solar equipment, the utilities have delayed connecting the systems for months. In Florida, utilities make money on virtually all aspects of the electricity system – producing the power, transmitting it, selling it, and delivering it. Critics say the companies have much at stake in preserving that control.
Georgia – ‘Drag This Out as Long as Possible’: Former official faces rare criminal charges under open-records law
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 7/8/2019
When he was mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed’s relationship with the news media was notoriously contentious. At one news conference, Reed responded to reporters’ requests for records by simultaneously releasing more than 1.4 million pages of documents on paper, stuffed into more than 400 boxes, some of them filled with blank sheets and minuscule spreadsheet printouts – a gesture interpreted by many in the local press corps as an act of nose-thumbing. His former press secretary, Jenna Garland, is now facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to comply with Georgia’s open records law. It is a rare predicament for an American government official, and the allegations will do little to allay investigative reporters’ worst suspicions about the spirit with which bureaucrats receive their nagging, but legal, records requests.
Massachusetts – New Disclosure System Creating Headaches for Lobbyists
Taunton Gazette – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/11/2019
Multiple lobbyists said that over the course of the past week they have tried to input their data to comply with Massachusetts’ disclosure law – including bills that they are lobbying on, expenditures for clients, and campaign contributions – only to be unable to save their work, have the system crash, or see their data erased. Penalties for late filings start at $50 a day for the first week and grow to $100 after July 20. While a larger firm may be able to absorb some fines, one person who works in the industry said they have seen the bills mount for smaller clients, including non-profits, who are less familiar with their responsibilities to report.
Mississippi – Mississippi Politician Blocks Female Reporter from Campaign Trip
MSN – Karen Zraik (New York Times) | Published: 7/10/2019
State Rep. Robert Foster, who is running for governor of Mississippi, blocked a female reporter from shadowing him on a campaign trip “to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise” his marriage. Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today said Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison, told her a male colleague would need to accompany her on a 15-hour campaign trip around the state. In blocking the reporter, Foster invoked the “Billy Graham rule,” which refers to the Christian evangelist’s refusal to spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife. The practice has drawn renewed attention in recent years, especially after the resurfacing of a 2002 comment by Vice President Mike Pence that he would not eat alone with any woman other than his wife.
Missouri – ‘Dream for Fans of Corruption’: Greitens Confide ruling vexes transparency advocates
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 7/9/2019
A Cole County judge ruled former Gov. Eric Greitens did not violate Missouri’s Sunshine Law when he and his government staff used a self-destructing text message app called Confide. Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem said because the text messages were automatically deleted, it meant they were never officially retained, and therefore were not covered by the law. There is no right for a private citizen to sue under the state’s record retention law, the judge said, so the lawsuit against the governor’s office that was filed in late 2017 could not move forward. “[Beetem’s decision] blows a giant hole in the Sunshine Law, and invites further deliberate, automatic destruction of records by public officials,” said Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University.
New York – Cuomo Signs a Bill to Allow Release of Trump’s State Tax Returns
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 7/8/2019
As the battle over President Trump’s federal taxes intensifies in Washington, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to allow congressional committees to access the president’s state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the president’s state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the chairperson of one of three congressional committees. It is effective immediately, though it is unclear whether it would be challenged by the administration or used by the congressional committees. Still, the state tax documents from New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters, would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, tax experts say.
New York – Legendary ‘Three Stooges’ Were Briefly NY Campaign Donors
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/10/2019
Last year, a campaign account controlled by Nick Langworthy, the new chairperson of the New York State Republican Party, received nearly $13,000 in donations from “Moe Howard” and “Larry Howard,” and also made a $150 payment to “Curly Howard,” according to campaign finance records. A state GOP spokesperson said the Three Stooges’ listing in the campaign filings resulted from errors by the committee’s campaign treasurer, who had put the names in as “placeholders” for real, living peoples’ donations made through PayPal. The Stooges’ names were then accidentally left in place when reports were filed with the state Board of Elections.
North Dakota – North Dakota House Energy Committee Chairman Says Business Relationship with Lobbyist Unrelated to Legislative Work
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 7/8/2019
The chairperson of the North Dakota House’s energy committee defended a business relationship with the state’s top oil and gas lobbyist. Rep. Todd Porter and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness are both listed in state records as partners in a commercial real estate investment group. Porter said the relationship does not affect his decision-making at the Capitol because the oil industry is unrelated to the property partnership, which he said includes 42 partners. He said he and Ness were friends “long before” he joined the Legislature in 1999.
Oklahoma – Stitt Outlaws State Agency Lobbyist Hiring with Executive Order
Tulsa World – Keaton Ross (The Oklahoman) | Published: 7/6/2019
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order that bars state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists as long as he remains in office. Stitt first addressed lobbying in state government in January, when he filed an executive order requiring all state agencies to submit a list of every lobbyist they hired and the terms of their contract. This order also prohibited agencies from entering into, or renewing, any contract with a lobbyist through the duration of Fiscal Year 2019. A total of 35 state agencies hired lobbyists last fiscal year. Some paid local public relations firms, while others consulted with individuals.
Oregon – Political Theater Overshadows Policy; Some Fear Oregon’s Drift Toward D.C. Politics
Salem Statesman-Journal – Connor Radnovich | Published: 7/3/2019
Bookended by concerns about safety in the Oregon Capitol and packed in the middle with partisan squabbling that exploded into a pair of Senate Republican walkouts, 2019 was one of the most contentious sessions in recent history. There is concern among legislative leaders it could get worse. Senate President Peter Courtney said lawmakers across the country are starting to mimic the “legislative anarchy” he sees in Congress, and without a functioning legislative branch, he fears over-powered executives. In February, the Legislature agreed to pay more than $1 million in damages after an investigation by the Bureau of Labor and Industries determined legislative leadership created a hostile workplace by allowing sexual harassment to continue unabated for years against lawmakers, interns, staff, and lobbyists.
July 5, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019 In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question […]
2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019
In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, saying it will begin printing forms that do not include the contentious query. The move comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court the rationale for the question as “contrived.” Officials determined there would not be enough time to continue the legal battle and meet the printing deadlines for the census questionnaire. Critics of the question, including some at the Census Bureau, said it could cause an undercount of millions of people in immigrant communities who would be afraid to return the form, leading to an inaccurate number that could skew representation and apportionment in favor of Republican areas.
Ethics Panel Launches Gaetz Investigation Over Cohen Tweet
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/29/2019
The House Committee on Ethics announced it is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for a February tweet in which he threatened to release embarrassing personal information about President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The committee said it has opened a formal inquiry into Gaetz’s comment based on a complaint from a fellow lawmaker, who is not identified. According to the ethics panel, Gaetz disregarded an initial review of the complaint, an extraordinary rebuke to his colleagues. Gaetz’s initial attack on Cohen came a day before the former Trump confidant was slated to testify to the House Oversight Committee, a high-profile hearing in which Cohen ultimately slammed the president as dishonest and provided evidence he paid hush money to women ahead of the 2016 election.
Gregory Craig Preps for Trial Tightrope in Foreign Agent Case
Law.com – Andrew Strickler | Published: 7/1/2019
Attorney Gregory Craig was charged with misleading Department of Justice officials six years ago about a Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom report commissioned by Paul Manafort and public-relations activities that would have triggered a duty for Skadden to publicly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Craig has vehemently denied lying to FARA officials or helping spin the report to influence a U.S. audience. He has also argued that neither of the government’s charged statutes imposed a clear obligation on him to reveal to FARA officials all the information they might have wanted to know.
House Democrats Sue for Trump’s Tax Returns
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 7/2/2019
House Democrats sued for President Trump’s tax returns, marking the beginning of a high-stakes legal fight over his efforts to keep them secret. Democrats are seeking six years’ worth of returns under a 1924 law allowing the leaders of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s confidential tax information. Democrats hope the documents will answer a host of questions about Trump’s finances. The president has defied a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns, and his administration is fighting the effort to force his hand, arguing Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for seeking the information. While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.
It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.
New York Times – Lisa Lerer | Published: 7/2/2019
Three years after nominating the first woman in history to head a presidential ticket, nearly six months after a wave of energized women swept Democrats into power in the U.S. House, and as a record number of women run for president, the party finds itself grappling with the strangely enduring question of the electability of women, and with the challenge for the candidates of refuting it before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Privately, Democratic strategists, candidates, and officials say they have been alarmed by how deeply doubts about female electability have taken hold. A portion of the party’s voters suggest they are eager to see a woman on the ticket but fear that putting her in the top slot could cost them the White House again.
Journalists, Pundits and Retired Politicians Put on a Show for Lobbyists
MAPLight.org – Andrew Perez, Abigail Luke, and Tom Zelina | Published: 7/2/2019
The practice of paying high-profile Washington, D.C. insiders to speak at industry trade shows and conferences, known as “buckraking,” is not a recent development. But as the rules on political participation by nonprofits and trade associations have been loosened, it has become common for lobbying groups to pay large sums to influential insiders who drive news coverage and public opinion. Guidelines on paid speeches vary widely across the industry, although the Society of Professional Journalists calls for reporters and editors to “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
NRA Meltdown Has Trump Campaign Sweating
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/3/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA) aired an avalanche of television ads and pushed its five million-plus members to the polls for Donald Trump in 2016, propelling him in the Rust Belt states that delivered him the presidency. Now, the gun rights group is in total meltdown and senior Republicans and Trump campaign officials are alarmed. The turmoil is fueling fears that the NRA will be diminished heading into the election, leaving the Republican Party with a gaping hole in its political machinery. With the Chamber of Commerce and Koch political network withdrawing from their once-dominant roles in electing conservatives, Republicans worry that three groups that have long formed the core of their electoral infrastructure will be effectively on the sidelines.
Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Affairs with Congressional Staff Raise Sexual Harassment Concerns
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 6/28/2019
Republican Party leaders have demurred on whether U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter should resign over revelations he pursued relationships with two congressional staffers, including one of his own aides. But that does not mean allegations that Hunter had “intimate relationships,” as U.S. attorneys described them in a recent court filing, with two staffers will not trigger consequences on Capitol Hill. The relationships were revealed in a motion filed in connection with Hunter’s upcoming trial on charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. Hunter dipped into campaign coffers to pay for drinks out, couples’ trips, and Uber rides from the women’s homes to his congressional office, prosecutors say. The relationships predate a law that amended the House’s code of conduct to prohibit members of Congress from dating subordinates. But Hunter’s behavior still raises ethical concerns, experts say.
‘The Enigma of the Entire Mueller Probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Shane Harris, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2019
A conversation between Maltese-born academic Joseph Mifsud and Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, eventually relayed by an Australian diplomat to U.S. government officials, was cited by special counsel Robert Mueller as the event that set in motion the FBI probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. With Attorney General William Barr’s review of the counterintelligence investigation underway, the origins of the inquiry itself are now in the spotlight and with them, the role of Mifsud. Some of President Trump’s allies and advisers have been floating a provocative theory: that Mifsud was a Western intelligence plant, citing exaggerated and at times distorted details about his life. Such a notion runs counter to the description of Mifsud in the Mueller report, which states he “had connections to Russia” and “maintained various Russian contacts.”
The Nationwide Battle Over Gerrymandering Is Far from Over
Politico – Steven Shepard and Scott Bland | Published: 6/27/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that federal courts have no business deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much did not end the fight over how politicians draw political lines, it just moved the battlefield. The justices accelerated the race between the two parties to tilt the system to their advantage by electing as many governors and legislators as possible or, in some states, getting voters to support ballot measures to take the redistricting process out of politicians’ hands by 2021. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. It was there that Democratic-aligned plaintiffs successfully demolished Pennsylvania’s Republican-drawn congressional map before the 2018 elections.
Trump Advisers Pursue Democratic Drug-Price Ideas as Campaign Looms
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Laurie McGinley | Published: 7/2/2019
As President Trump presses to make health care a central plank of his 2020 reelection bid, he is frustrated with those he thinks are thwarting his ability to deliver on a major campaign promise: lowering drug prices. That has included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug executive who until very recently pushed back on proposals to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and negotiate drug prices in Medicare. Now, though, under pressure to deliver campaign talking points, Azar has reversed his long-standing opposition to ideas traditionally espoused by Democrats and reviled by most Republicans and the drug industry.
Trump Facebook Ads Use Models to Portray Actual Supporters
AP News – Robert Condon | Published: 7/2/2019
A series of Facebook video ads for President Trump’s re-election campaign shows what appears to be a young woman strolling on a beach in Florida, a Hispanic man on a city street in Texas, and a bearded hipster in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., all making glowing, voice-over endorsements of the president. But the people in the videos that ran in the past few months are all actually models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil, and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee. Though the 20-second videos include tiny disclaimers that say, “actual testimonial, actor portrayal,” they raise the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models.
Twitter Adds Labels for Tweets That Break Its Rules – a Move with Potentially Stark Implications for Trump’s Account
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Gwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019
Political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels. The new policy comes amid complaints that President Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence. From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service’s rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation. Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet will not be removed. Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won’t use its algorithms to “elevate” or otherwise promote such tweets.
Ukraine Role Focuses New Attention on Giuliani’s Foreign Work
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/30/2019
Pavel Fuks, a wealthy Ukrainian-Russian developer looking for ways to attract more investment from the U.S. to his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine, enlisted an especially well-connected American to help him: Rudolph Giuliani. Fuks hired Giuliani, who in 2018 would become the president’s personal lawyer, under a one-year deal to help improve Kharkiv’s emergency services and bolster its image as a destination for investment. Fuks’s description of Giuliani as a lobbyist further highlighted a controversy over what some say is a pattern by Giuliani of providing influence with the Trump administration. Democrats have asked whether Giuliani’s role working in a number of foreign countries fits the legal definition of lobbying and requires him to register as a foreign agent, something Giuliani has not done.
Welcome to 2020, the Era of Crowdfunded Presidential Debates
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 7/2/2019
Democrats this year are giving not only to help their preferred candidates, but also to offer a small token of appreciation for a clever policy idea for someone else, or to keep an underdog in the game. Welcome to the 2020 primaries, an era of crowdfunded presidential debates. Campaign donations and debates have become intermingled this year, with the Democratic National Committee for the first time requiring that candidates reach a certain number of donors to qualify for primary debates. That has created an intense focus on fundraising, with candidates asking supporters for money specifically to help them qualify for the widely watched forums. More than 100 debate viewers from across the country responded to a call-out by The Washington Post on Instagram, asking them about the moments that resonated with them and drove them to give money.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A GOP Governor Wants to Cancel a Nike Contract after Flag-Shoe Flap, but the City It’s Headed for Isn’t Backing Down
Greenwich Time – Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/3/2019
Nike stopped production of shoes that featured the image of an American flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly lodged a complaint. Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, said he found the Betsy Ross flag designed in 1777 offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he ordered state authorities to revoke an incentive package it offered Nike to open a factory in the state. But Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said the city would honor the agreement. Boycotts by companies and independent contractors over governmental policies that cross what some see as lines on race or gender have become a common. Ducey’s decision inverted the calculation – in this case, a state would monetarily punish a private company for a political decision it made.
Connecticut – They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/3/2019
Watchdogs are concerned the Connecticut General Assembly’s relationship with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) could undermine campaign finance reforms adopted in 2005. Near the end of the 2019 session, a deal by legislative leaders sped an elections bill that contained a calculated slap at the SEEC through the Senate in little more than a minute. It would have set term limits on the agency’s director, treating elections enforcement differently than the state’s other watchdogs. The measure marked the fifth time since 2011 the Legislature has at least attempted to curb the powers of the SEEC or loosen campaign finance rules, reflecting a longstanding antipathy towards the agency that not only enforce the laws, but bankrolls campaigns.
Missouri – Meet the Consultant Who Got Stenger Elected, and Why He’s Still ‘Proud’ He Won
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 6/30/2019
Two days after Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to federal “pay-to-play” charges, Democratic consultant Michael Kelley was on television, sounding as though he barely knew the former St. Louis County executive. “… An absolutely ridiculous thing for Steve Stenger to have been involved in,” Kelly said. Left unsaid was the fact that Stenger’s campaign had paid Kelley’s Show Me Victories – the political communications arm of the Kelley Group – $550,000 during his two successful election campaigns. Nor did Kelley mention that Stenger, as county executive, had been a regular at the Kelley Group’s offices, visiting almost weekly for meetings in 2018. In addition to the Stenger campaign, Show Me Victories has worked on nearly every major local ballot proposition in the last few years.
New Jersey – U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Bridgegate Appeal. Stunning Move Keeps Alive Case That Dogged Christie.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/28/2019
Bridget Anne Kelly, the one-time aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whose “time for some traffic problems” email became a key focal point of the Bridgegate corruption scandal, will get a final chance to argue she was wrongfully convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Kelly’s appeal – weeks before she is due to report to federal prison – reviving a case that many had thought was finally over. The decision to review her conviction could raise new questions about the ability of the government to take on major political prosecutions, by a court that has taken aim at a number of high-profile corruption cases in recent years. Lawyers for Kelly had argued that federal prosecutors used criminal fraud statutes typically used in cases of personal gain, such as bribery, to instead criminalize routine political behavior.
North Dakota – Legislator as Landlord: Financial disclosures don’t highlight state agency leases with North Dakota elected officials
Jamestown Sun – John Hageman | Published: 6/30/2019
Several current or former elected state officials in North Dakota have an interest in property rented by state agencies, but those financial relationships were not readily apparent on campaign disclosure forms. The officials defended the leases, which are not awarded through a formal competitive bidding process, as a byproduct of North Dakota’s citizen-run Legislature and said they do not affect their decision-making. Dina Butcher, who led the effort to pass last year’s ballot measure etching new ethics rules into the state constitution, did not directly criticize the state officials because the arrangements are not illegal, and she was not aware of any leases being unfairly awarded. But she said the ethics commission created by Measure 1 may take up the issue once it is formed.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Limits on Track to Oregon Ballot
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 7/1/2019
Voters in Oregon will decide next November whether the state constitution should allow limits on campaign donations. Legislative approval of the historic campaign finance measure comes three months after The Portland Oregonian revealed how the outsize influence of corporate campaign money helped limit environmental protections in a state that once aimed to be an environmental pioneer. Per capita, corporate interests have given more money to the average Oregon lawmaker than in any state in the country, the investigation found. Lawmakers also passed House Bill 2716, under which some large funders will need to be disclosed in some advertisements.
Texas – How a Longtime Aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Became a Top Lobbyist
Austin American-Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 6/27/2019
Daniel Hodge, a former aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who is now a lobbyist, earned as much as $3.7 million this year representing more than two dozen clients at the state Legislature. It illuminates how someone like Hodge can, within a couple of years of hanging a shingle, become one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state. Longtime lobbyists say the transition is a natural one, using knowledge learned and relationships built in the public sector for effective advocacy outside it. But watchdogs have pointed to the close link between the Legislature and those who peddle access to government funds as an erosion of public trust. In recent years, lawmakers have tried, with limited success, to expand restrictions on the path from state government to lobbying.
Wyoming – Wyoming Tribe Funded Effort to Kill Gambling Regulations; Sides Dispute Who Created the Group
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 7/1/2019
A casino managed by the Northern Arapaho tribe gave thousands of dollars to a secretive organization trying to defeat regulated gambling in Wyoming, records show, but tribal officials say they were duped by their lobbyist who set up the group. The tribe fired the lobbyist, Mark Howell recently. Howell, and a minority of tribal leadership, denied the officials’ version of events, saying they ordered the group’s creation. The Wind River Hotel and Casino put more than $80,000 into the Wyoming Public Policy Center, which formed prior to the 2019 legislative session. The group has spent more than $60,000 in lobbying expenses and engaged in a sophisticated advertising campaign. Little had been known about the group’s activities prior to the filing. Hidden behind a wall of anonymous filings in multiple jurisdictions, the group had been afforded a level of secrecy unavailable in states with stricter corporate filing laws.
June 28, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019 The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to […]
Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019
The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to be inundated. Sorry in advance.” With the second quarter fundraising deadline looming, lawmakers are sounding the alarms for their donors – making pleas to far-flung, small-dollar givers online and reliable contributors from K Street’s lobbying community to help them boost their numbers. Even though lawmakers and their challengers still have 17 months before the 2020 elections, the second quarter of this year can be pivotal for incumbents looking to scare away potential opponents in primaries or even the general election with impressive cash-in-hand totals.
Biden’s Ties to Segregationist Senator Spark Campaign Tension
Boston Globe – Matt Viser and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019
When Joe Biden was a freshman in the U.S. Senate, he reached out to an older colleague for help on one of his early legislative proposals: the courts were ordering racially segregated school districts to bus children to create more integrated classrooms, a practice Biden opposed and wanted to change. The recipient of Biden’s entreaty was Sen. James Eastland, at the time a well-known segregationist who had called blacks “an inferior race” and once vowed to prevent blacks and whites from eating together in Washington. The exchange, revealed in a series of letters, offers a new glimpse into an old relationship that erupted as a major controversy for Biden’s presidential campaign.
Candidates Hunt Desperately for Viral Moments
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2019
As the crowded field of Democratic candidates jostle for the presidential nomination, the hunt for elusive breakout opportunities is increasingly urgent. But while viral moments are presented as spontaneous – and uniquely revealing about the candidates — the process can be anything but random, and the campaigns are devoting significant resources to spotting, cultivating, and publicizing them. Or in some cases, creating them outright. A good viral moment can help a candidate stand out in the sprawling field. A great one can telegraph positive qualities – humor, intelligence, compassion – in ways that reverberate far beyond the reach of a coffee shop in New Hampshire. In the best-case scenario, a single episode pushes interested voters over the fence to become full-fledged supporters.
Claiming to Be Cherokee, Contractors with White Ancestry Got $300 Million
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Paul Pringle | Published: 6/26/2019
An investigation by The Los Angeles Times demonstrates a failure in the efforts to help disadvantaged Americans by steering municipal, state, and federal contracts to qualified minority-owned companies. Since 2000, the federal government and authorities in 18 states have awarded more than $300 million under minority contracting programs to companies whose owners made unsubstantiated claims of being Native American. The vetting process for Native American applicants appears weak in many cases, government records show, and officials often accept flimsy documentation or unverified claims of discrimination based on ethnicity. The process is often opaque, with little independent oversight.
Duncan Hunter Had Affairs with Women He Worked With, Including His Own Aide
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 6/25/2019
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter illegally used campaign donations to finance extramarital romantic relationships with women he worked alongside, including one of his own aides, according to federal prosecutors. Hunter pursued five “intimate relationships” in total, and tapped donor funds to finance his liaisons, including ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office to their homes. Government attorneys argued information about the relationships should be heard during the trial because they are central to his case, not “prurient.” Hunter’s infidelities have been alluded to in public court documents before, but the affairs were only described as “personal relationships.” Hunter faces trial in September for allegedly using his campaign committee as a personal bank account.
EPA’s Top Air Policy Official Steps Down Amid Scrutiny Over Possible Ethics Violations
Brainard Dispatch – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2019
Bill Wehrum spent only a year and a half as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top air official before announcing plans to resign amid scrutiny over possible violations of federal ethics rules. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler did not cite a specific reason for the departure of Wehrum, who as an attorney represented power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. But Wehrum has privately expressed concern about how an ongoing House Energy and Commerce Committee probe was affecting his former law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. The committee launched an inquiry of Wehrum after it was reported that questions had been raised about his compliance with President Trump’s ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to recuse themselves from specific matters involving their former employers and clients for two years.
FEC Fines Florida-Based Company for Illegal Contribution to Support Rick Scott’s 2018 Campaign
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 6/25/2019
The FEC fined a Florida company for making an illegal campaign contribution to support Rick Scott’s 2018 campaign for the U.S, Senate. The $9,500 fine levied against Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery, represents a rare penalty for a company found to have violated a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors. Ring Power has received federal contracts and grants since 2007. The New Republican PAC, a Super PAC supporting Scott’s campaign, returned the $50,000 contribution in August, shortly after the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint.
GOP to Launch New Fundraising Site as Dems Crush the Online Money Game
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 6/23/2019
Republicans are set to launch a long-awaited, much-delayed online fundraising platform, a move aimed at closing Democrats’ small-donor money advantage ahead of the 2020 election. WinRed is being billed as the GOP’s answer to the Democratic Party’s ActBlue, which has already amassed over &174 million this year. The new tool is intended to reshape the GOP’s fundraising apparatus by creating a centralized, one-stop shop for online Republican giving, which the party has lacked to this point. Republicans until now have had a factionalized ecosystem of vendors that stymied efforts to unify behind a single fundraising vehicle.
Judge: Democrats’ emoluments case against Trump can proceed
San Jose Mercury News – Ann Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/25/2019
Rejecting a request from President Trump, a federal judge cleared the way for nearly 200 Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit against him alleging his private business violates an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said lawmakers could begin seeking financial information, interviews, and other records from the Trump Organization. The administration still can try to delay or block Democrats in Congress from issuing subpoenas for the president’s closely held business information by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene.
Mueller to Testify to Congress, Setting Up a Political Spectacle
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 6/25/2019
Former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress in open session on July 17 after being subpoenaed by two committees. Coming nearly three months after the release of his report on Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, Mueller’s testimony has the power to potentially reshape the political landscape around Trump’s re-election campaign and a possible impeachment inquiry by the House. The question is what Mueller will be willing to say. He conducted his work in absolute private, despite incessant attacks by Trump in public and from within the White House, and ultimately issued a lengthy report that raised as many questions as it answered.
Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/27/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to a lower court a case on whether the census should contain a citizenship question, leaving in doubt whether the question would be on the 2020 census. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question – asking whether a person is a citizen – was inadequate. But he left open the possibility that it could provide an adequate answer. Government experts predicted that asking the question would cause many immigrants to refuse to participate in the census, leading to an undercount of about 6.5 million people. That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.
Supreme Court Says Federal Courts Don’t Have a Role in Deciding Partisan Gerrymandering Claims
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering, dealing a blow to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain. The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is essentially a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The ruling puts a stop to recent decisions by federal courts across the country that have found extreme partisan gerrymandering went so far as to violate the constitutional rights of voters.
Walmart to Pay $282 Million Over Foreign Corruption Charges
AP News – Matthew Barakat | Published: 6/20/2019
Walmart agreed to pay $282 million to settle federal allegations of overseas corruption, including funneling more than $500,000 to an intermediary in Brazil who was known as a “sorceress” for her uncanny ability to make construction permit problems disappear. U.S. authorities went after Walmart under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies operating abroad from using bribery and other illegal methods. The company settled both civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case by federal prosecutors in Virginia. It said the two settlements close the books on federal investigations that sand have collectively cost the company more than $900 million.
When Trump Visits His Clubs, Government Agencies and Republicans Pay to Be Where He Is
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019
Since taking office, President Trump has faced pushback about his official visits to his properties from some of his aides, including inside the White House counsel’s office. They worried about the appearance that he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets, but Trump has rebuffed such warnings. In all, his scores of trips have brought his private businesses at least $1.6 million in revenue, from federal officials and Republican campaigns who pay to go where Trump goes. Campaign finance records show several GOP groups paying to hold events where Trump spoke. Republican fundraisers say they do that, in part, to increase the chances Trump will attend. It has also reshaped the spending habits of the federal government, turning the president into a vendor.
Canada – Lobbying Watchdog Says Glitch in System Skewed Volume of Registrations
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez | Published: 6/26/2019
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure in office has undoubtedly brought a surge in lobbying activity, but a glitch in the registry’s system resulted in an overrepresentation of the number of lobbyists actively registered, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. “During the past year, we realized that the numbers recorded in last year’s [report] included lobbyists whose registrations were no longer active,” Bélanger said. Still, the office has seen a steady uptick in the volume of communication reports posted since Trudeau took office in 2015.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Former Arkansas Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Corruption Cases
AP News – Andrew DeMillo | Published: 6/25/2019
A former Arkansas lawmaker who is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return. Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in a separate federal case in Missouri where he has been charged with accepting bribes to help Preferred Family Healthcare. Hutchinson admitted he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and did not report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes. Hutchinson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law.
Connecticut – Connecticut’s Search for a New Ethics Watchdog
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 6/20/2019
The Citizens’ Ethics Advisory Board is seeking a successor to Carol Carson as executive director of the Office of State Ethics, an agency that was new and struggling to find its way when she was hired. Carson, who is retiring on August 1, is credited with returning stability and credibility to the role of ethics watchdog, enforcing the ethics code for state officials, and overseeing the lobbying industry at the Capitol. “Let’s be clear about something: there is no replacing Carol Carson,” said Dena Castricone, the board’s chairperson.
Florida – When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 6/20/2019
The Florida Senate is apparently not going to ask longtime National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer why she has not reported income from the group for more than a decade. Sen. Perry Thurston and Rep. Anna Eskamani filed complaints demanding the Legislature investigate Hammer for failing to disclose annual lobbying payments since 2007 as required by Florida law. It has been reported that records show the NRA paid Hammer more than a $750,000 between 2014 and 2018, yet none of it appears on quarterly compensation reports. But Senate Rules Committee Chairperson Lizbeth Benacquisto sent the complaint back to the Office of Legislative Services, which operates within the Senate president’s office, for “review” and “appropriate action.”
Indiana – Council Lawyer: Mayor unlikely to appeal campaign contribution ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/25/2019
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is unlikely to appeal a court ruling that struck down a controversial ordinance limiting campaign contributions from city contractors, city council attorney Joe Bonahoom wrote in a memorandum to the council president. Allen Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance recently after Kyle and Kimberly Witwer of Witwer Construction challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit. The ordinance forbade any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the political campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.
Maryland – Baltimore’s Budget for Ethics Enforcement: $0
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 6/25/2019
In the midst of multiple investigations into former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s financial dealings, the city did not budget any money for ethics oversight. No city staff are dedicated to enforcing ethics rules and the word “ethics” appears nowhere in the city’s 1,035-page budget proposal for the coming year. Instead, the six-member staff of the Department of Legislative Reference must spend part of their time assisting the city’s volunteer ethics board, processing disclosure forms, answering questions from city employees, and investigating complaints.
New Jersey – NJ ‘Dark Money’ Law Faces First Lawsuit Challenging Requirement to Name Secret Donors
Bergen Record; Staff – | Published: 6/26/2019
A libertarian advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s newly signed “dark money” law that requires political groups to reveal their big-spending funders, legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed despite earlier vetoing the bill and calling it “unconstitutional.” Americans for Prosperity asked a federal judge to prevent New Jersey officials from enforcing the law until the suit is decided and to declare the law unconstitutional. The law requires 501(c)(4) political nonprofits and 527 political organizations to report all funders that give more than $10,000 or spend more than $3,000. Americans for Prosperity says the law goes beyond typical campaign finance rules that cover only election-related ads. New Jersey will now also make groups report funders for ads on ballot measures, legislation, and policymaking, which grassroots groups say will prevent people from donating to them.
Oregon – Oregon Republicans Not Making Clear Whether They’ll Return to Salem, What They Want to Get Them Back
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud and Mike Rogoway | Published: 6/26/2019
As the Oregon Senate Republicans’ walkout continues, there are no signs at the Capitol or elsewhere that members of the minority caucus will return soon. And publicly, they seem to be sending mixed messages about what they want if they agree to do so. Senate Republicans have drawn national attention since they fled the state to deny Democrats quorum for a vote on a bill to cap emissions. It turns out, however, that Democrats were one vote short of the 16 senators needed to pass the bill, so it would have been stopped from passage anyway.
Wyoming – A Mystery Group Has Been Pushing to Stop Gambling Regulation in Wyoming
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/25/2019
Over the past several months, a grassroots organization of obscure origin called the Wyoming Public Policy Center has been fighting to defeat gambling regulations proposed in the state Legislature, employing experienced lobbyists and anonymously authored policy papers in efforts to influence decision making. But the group was not registered with the state until after The Casper Star-Tribune began asking questions. In Wyoming, lobbyists and lobbying groups are required to register with the state. Despite that, there is little anyone can do about it: a combination of weak state laws and few mechanisms for law enforcement make it difficult to hold such groups accountable.
June 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Foreigner Paid $200,000 for Tickets to Trump’s Inaugural. Now He Says He Was Duped. MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2019 Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian-Russian developer, said he paid $200,000 for VIP tickets to Donald Trump’s […]
A Foreigner Paid $200,000 for Tickets to Trump’s Inaugural. Now He Says He Was Duped.
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2019
Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian-Russian developer, said he paid $200,000 for VIP tickets to Donald Trump’s inauguration at the direction of Yuri Vanetik, a Republican fundraiser and sometime lobbyist. Fuks now alleges in a lawsuit that his money did not buy the promised access to Trump and other influential politicians. He never received the tickets he said he was promised to an official inaugural ball, to a dinner with incoming cabinet members, or to other exclusive events. Fuks is seeking a refund from Vanetik, plus damages. The lawsuit sheds new light on efforts to accommodate foreign politicians and business executives who sought to attend Trump’s inauguration to press their agendas, curry favor, or make influential connections with the incoming administration.
DC Circuit Rejects NY State GOP-Led Challenge to Anti-‘Pay-to-Play’ Rule
Law.com – Tom McPartland | Published: 6/18/2019
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a “pay-to-play” rule that bars brokers from soliciting government contracts for two years after making campaign donations to public officials. The judges said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had acted within its authority. The ruling rejected a challenge by state Republican Party organizations in New York and Tennessee, who had claimed the rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and had hurt their ability to raise funds. Judge Cornelia Pillard said the SEC had provided sufficient evidence that the law was needed to combat corruption, following specific instances of quid-pro-quo arrangements between elected officials and donors who had been awarded contracts to advise public pension funds.
Democrats and Some Republicans Question Trump’s Vetting Process after Shanahan Withdrawal
Washington Post – Karoun Demirjian | Published: 6/18/2019
Senators from both parties are asking why they did not have advance notice of the domestic violence incidents in Patrick Shanahan’s family that ended his bid to become President Trump’s permanent defense secretary, calling his nomination’s collapse the latest example of shoddy White House vetting. With his withdrawal and resignation, Shanahan joins several other former candidates for prominent Cabinet and military leadership positions in the Trump administration who bowed out after compromising details came to light. There was particular consternation among some senators that Congress was not apprised of the incidents by the administration, the FBI, or Shanahan himself. As some noted, a background check would have accompanied Shanahan’s nomination in 2017 to become the deputy defense secretary.
Drugmakers’ Lawsuit Ramps Up Fight with Trump
The Hill – Nathaniel Weixel | Published: 6/18/2019
The pharmaceutical and advertising industries are taking their fight with the Trump administration over drug price disclosures to court. Three drug companies – Amgen, Merck, and Eli Lilly – and the nation’s largest advertising group announced they were suing the administration over its new policy of requiring prescription drug manufacturers to disclose list prices in television ads. The plaintiffs argue the rule violates their First Amendment rights, and the lawsuit seeks to overturn the administration’s latest effort to bring transparency to the medication pricing system. The rule is set to take effect July 9, and the industry groups are asking for it to be put on hold before that time.
Ex-Hassan Aide Sentenced to 4 Years for Doxing Senators
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/19/2019
A former aide to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan was sentenced to four years in prison for hacking Senate computers and releasing personal information online about five Republican senators out of anger spurred by their roles in the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said the sentence for Jackson Cosko was needed to send a signal that criminal harassment driven by political motives would be punished severely in an era marked by extreme political polarization. Cosko said he had been struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Hogan said he was puzzled at how Cosko kept up work in congressional offices given the cocaine, psychedelics, and alcohol he was consuming daily.
FEC Chair Makes Another Go at Regulating Online Political Ads
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/17/2019
FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub is proposing rules that would require some online political ads to attach a disclaimer describing who is paying for them. The proposed guideline, similar to measures introduced by the FEC last year, would subject paid online ads to similar disclaimer rules as print, television, and radio ads. Increasingly popular social media ads, including those engaging in electioneering communications that mention a candidate shortly before an election, are currently exempt from including disclaimers under federal law. Amid ideological deadlock, the FEC has struggled to agree on how to regulate online ads since it was revealed that Russian actors purchased Facebook ads under fake accounts to influence the 2016 election.
Federal Judge Says Census Citizenship Question Merits More Consideration in Light of New Evidence
MSN – Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 6/19/2019
U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel ruled that new evidence in the case of a census citizenship question merits more consideration, opening the possibility the question could come before the Supreme Court again even after it rules as expected this month. Civil rights groups who had sued the government over its addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census had asked Hazel to reconsider his ruling on whether the government was guilty of conspiracy and intent to discriminate after new evidence in the case emerged in May. Files discovered on hard drives belonging to a deceased Republican redistricting strategist suggested he had communicated with the Trump administration about how to get the citizenship question onto the survey and the strategist had determined that adding the question would create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.
Federal Watchdog Agency Recommends Removal of Kellyanne Conway from Federal Office for Violating the Hatch Act
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 6/13/2019
The Office of Special Counsel recommended the removal of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway from federal office for violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from found Conway violated the law on numerous occasions by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” The agency described her as a “repeat offender.” A senior White House official said the president is unlikely to punish Conway and instead will defend her. In an interview, Special Counsel Henry Kerner called his recommendation that a political appointee of Conway’s stature be fired “unprecedented.”
‘I Hate David and I Hate This Job’: Ex-Schweikert staffers describe unrest in ethics report
Arizona Republic – Ronald Hanson | Published: 6/12/2019
U.S. Rep. David Schweikert presided over a slipshod office operation with financial oversight so weak that his former chief of staff managed to take home improper, extra pay that violated House ethics rules for years, an investigation found. Oliver Schwab may have collected $60,000 in outside pay over three years above what House rules permitted and attended the 2015 Super Bowl with Schweikert as part of a taxpayer-paid trip that was reported as official business, the report said. There were other possible sources of income Schwab had that investigators could not examine. Apart from the alleged wrongful spending, the 424-page report paints the image of a congressional office simmering with discontent as Schweikert pondered a Senate run and as Schwab took out his frustrations with Schweikert on other staffers.
Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty
AP News – Julie Watson | Published: 6/13/2019
Indicted U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter has held steadfast to his contention that a corruption case against him is the result of a political witch hunt. But that argument got tougher after his wife, who worked as his campaign manager, pleaded guilty to a single corruption count and acknowledged being a co-conspirator with her husband in spending more than $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Margaret Hunter accepted a plea deal that calls for 59 charges to be dismissed in exchange for her testimony, full cooperation with prosecutors, and other concessions. The conspiracy charge to which she pleaded includes all the allegations contained in the 60-count indictment.
Supreme Court Rules in Case Watched for Impact on Trump Pardons
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Natasha Bertrand | Published: 6/17/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a closely watched “double jeopardy” case, issuing a decision that preserves states’ power to limit the impact of future pardons by President Trump or his successors. The justices declined to disturb a longstanding legal principle known as dual sovereignty, which allows state governments to bring their own charges against defendants already tried or convicted in federal court, or vice versa. Democrats and others bracing for potential pardons by Trump of individuals convicted in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were tracking the case because a decision overturning the dual sovereigns rule could have complicated efforts by state prosecutors to blunt the impact of any attempt Trump may make to grant clemency to those targeted by Mueller’s team.
The Political Donor Class Is Mostly White and Male. Some Women of Color Are Trying to Change That.
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/19/2019
No longer content to simply be the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters, some women of color are seeking to break into the influential but overwhelmingly white and male world of political donors. The efforts are part of a broader campaign to elevate the voices of this group within the Democratic Party, which has had some success. But the efforts also reflect a worry that, without robust giving by minority women, the party will move on in the general election to focus on white Midwestern Trump voters at the expense of communities of color. The absence of women of color is particularly acute among the super-rich givers, billionaires and multimillionaires who give seven figures or more per election. The power of these donors has grown in recent years as courts have opened the floodgates to unlimited spending to try to sway elections.
‘Who’s Taking Care of the Kids?’ Is Finally a Question for Dads on the Trail, Too
MSN – Lisa Lerer (New York Times) | Published: 6/12/2019
For decades, mothers running for office have faced skepticism: “Who’s taking care of the kids?” wondered voters. As American families evolve, a number of fathers of young children are slowly being forced to grapple with the same politically loaded question. That has left them making a calculation that women have made for decades – how to pursue public life and parenthood at the same time. And at least a few of the 15 fathers who are running for president in 2020 are eager to talk about it, including the day-to-day caregiving tasks that most politician moms generally consider just business as usual. While research and surveys show female candidates still confront a steeper double standard when it comes to their family life, male politicians with young children suddenly find themselves facing something totally new – a standard.
Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 6/13/2019
At least 10 city governments – from Mesa, Arizona, to Erie, Pennsylvania – are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices they have sent his presidential campaign committee in connection with his political rallies. Some invoices are three years old. In all, city governments say Trump’s campaign owes them at least $841,219. The cities are adamant Trump should pay up. But in many of these cases, there are no signed contracts between the municipal governments and the Trump campaign. The cities dispatched police officers to secure Trump’s events because they believe public safety required it, and the U.S. Secret Service asked for it. Presidential candidates should consider paying cities’ police bills even if they do not believe they are legally required to do so, some police advocates said.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Judge Blocks Law on Timing of Donations
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 6/18/2019
An Arkansas law that bars candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election was blocked by a federal judge, prompting an immediate appeal from the state. Peggy Jones sued over the law, contending it infringes on her right of political expression by preventing her from donating money now to people she wants to support as candidates in the 2022 election cycle. U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. had enjoined the state from enforcing the law as his ruling is appealed, but later reversed that part of the ruling.
Colorado – Outside Groups Spent More Than $1 Million to Influence Denver’s Election, and It Took a Lot of Work to Figure That Out
Denver Post – Andrew Kenney | Published: 6/17/2019
Outside spending is mutating faster than the city can keep pace, and it threatens to undermine the campaign finance reforms that were recently approved by Denver voters. In 2011, independent groups spent more than $700,000 on Denver’s elections, but much of that earlier spending came through PACs, which must report their finances through the city’s standard forms. In 2019, more than $1 million was spent through a different outlet. The biggest donors embraced nonprofit groups that disclose less information about their supporters during the election. It is part of a national trend that accelerated with the Citizens United case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.
Massachusetts – After Being Rejected by the State, DiMasi Is Now a Registered Lobbyist at City Hall
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 6/20/2019
Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi registered to lobby in Boston a day after he appealed the secretary of state’s rejection of his attempt to register as a lobbyist at the state level. Boston’s process, which operates separately from the state, was launched amid concerns the city had no effective way to regulate who was lobbying at City Hall. DiMasi’s registration could cast a spotlight on the fledgling rules, which proponents say are still a work in progress. The city ordinance includes a mechanism to automatically disqualify anyone from lobbying for 10 years if they have been convicted of a felony that violates certain state lobbying and ethics laws. The language closely mirrors the statute under which the secretary of state’s office rejected DiMasi from registering with the state.
Montana – Montana Lobbyist Spending Reports Now Harder to Access
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 6/18/2019
At least $6.5 million was spent on lobbying during Montana’s 2019 legislative session. In the past, commissioners of political practices have devoted staff time to translating the paper forms lobbyists are required to file into a single electronic document, which the public or the press could then search and sort. But this year, Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan, who was appointed in 2017, chose to not require his staff to do that. “It’s not their jobs to input, or data input, information for the lobbyists,” Mangan said. Both lobbyists and watchdog groups say Montana’s lobbying disclosure laws are better than most other states. But Denise Roth Barber, managing director at the National Institute on Money in State Politics, says the lack of consistent electronic filing is a weakness.
New Jersey – Gov Signs Dark-Money Bill, Expects Lawmakers to Roll Back Problem Parts
NJ Spotlight – Colleen O’Dea | Published: 6/18/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that requires, at least for the moment, politically active nonprofits or 501(c)(4) groups to disclose their high-dollar contributors – those giving at least $10,000 – when these groups spend at least $3,000 to influence an election, legislation, or regulations. The law also increases the maximum amounts of all campaign contributions. It raises the amount that an individual candidate can receive from $2,600 to $3,000 per election and increases the amounts that political committees and party committees can receive, as well. Assemblyperson Andrew Zwicker said he introduced a “cleanup” bill to address Murphy’s concerns over the impact the new law would have on some nonprofit advocacy groups.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Says Money Is Tight
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 6/15/2019
A year after the state’s watchdog panel sued unsuccessfully for more funding, its financial situation remains dire, officials say. “It will be a very tight year,” Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said at the agency’s regular monthly meeting. Legislators budgeted the commission $716,621 for the 2020 fiscal year, an increase of about $6,000 from its current appropriations. That “doesn’t even cover the personnel costs,” Kemp said. Lawmakers also voted to remove $550,000 from the commission’s revolving fund and to cap how much it can spend in the future from that fund at $150,000 a year.
Oregon – Limits on Oregon Campaign Money Are Dead. But Voters May Still Get to Weigh In.
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 6/14/2019
Limits on campaign donations will have to wait for another legislative session in Oregon. A bill that cleared the House with several loopholes intact is not advancing in the state Senate. Meanwhile, lawmakers are moving ahead with a measure asking voters to amend Oregon’s constitution by authorizing the creation of campaign finance restrictions. The death of House Bill 2714, which would set specific dollar caps in anticipation of the constitutional measure’s passage, gives lawmakers more time to find agreement before Senate Joint Resolution 18 would go to voters in November 2020.
Virginia – Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Findings of Racial Gerrymandering in Virginia Districts
Philadelphia Inquirer – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/17/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the challenge to a lower court’s findings that some of Virginia’s legislative districts were racially gerrymandered, saying House Republicans did not have legal standing to challenge the decision. The decision could give an advantage to the state’s Democrats. All 140 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot this fall, and the GOP holds two-seat majorities in both the House and the Senate. The case concerned 11 voting districts drawn after the 2010 census, each with at least a 55 percent population of black residents of voting age. Democratic voters in those districts sued, saying lawmakers had run afoul of the Constitution by packing too many black voters into the districts, diminishing their voting power.
Washington – These Voters Are Using Democracy Vouchers to Influence Seattle’s City Council Races
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 6/12/2019
Across Seattle, the taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers mailed in February to registered voters and other eligible residents are changing how races are run: 42 of 55 candidates for the council’s seven district seats have signed up and together have collected nearly $1.6 million in vouchers. The program, unlike any other in the country, is meant to involve more people in the electoral process, help grassroots candidates compete, and encourage them to interact with regular voters rather than dialing for dollars from wealthy donors. Participating candidates must abide by special spending and contribution limits. More than 30 candidates have already gathered at least $20,000 in vouchers, and they are interacting with voters in various ways.
June 14, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019 In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named […]
A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel
MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019
In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and spent 26 nights in a suite, a visit estimated to have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kasnazan said his choice of the Trump hotel was not part of a lobbying effort. His long visit is an example of how Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the administration.
As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder
New York Times – Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/11/2019
Of the 23 Democratic candidates for president, only eight routinely break one percent in national polls. Most have not yet qualified for the fall debates. And cable news channels, which have emerged as an early driving force in the race, have only so many hours of programming each day. That has moved the campaign into a new, yet familiar, phase: the ritual airing of grievances. Weeks’ worth of pent-up frustration is beginning to trickle into the public arena, as a way for candidates to explain their lowly positions, both to themselves and to the voters. The rules around participation in the primary debates are a sore spot for second- and third-tier candidates, who fear getting shut out of the biggest stage in the race.
Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/10/2019
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation that would give the Department of Justice more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak. The bill would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent. It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.
Chao Created Special Path for McConnell’s Favored Projects
Politico – Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snider | Published: 6/10/2019
The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell, including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications. The circumstances highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically.
DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest
Politico – Michael Stratford | Published: 6/11/2019
The Education Department appointee who oversees the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan being asked about a potential conflict-of-interest. Mark Brown, a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, was selected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be the new head of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Until recently, he also served as an unpaid member of the board of directors of KnowledgeWorks, a non-profit foundation that holds about $30 million in federally guaranteed student loans. Several ethics experts said that arrangement raised concerns about a potential conflict because Brown’s unit is responsible for regulating and overseeing student loans backed by the government, including those that are owned by KnowledgeWorks.
Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate
Anchorage Daily News – Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 6/5/2019
Joe Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 amid questions about a value he had worked hard to convince voters he had: authenticity. The collapse had begun with news that Biden had lifted phrases and mannerisms from a British Labour Party politician while making closing remarks at a debate. Examples soon surfaced of Biden using material from other politicians without attribution, and he acknowledged he had been accused of plagiarism in law school. Now, those events are back in the spotlight for the former vice president, who is one of the most visible Democrats in a crowded field vying to run against President Trump. Biden’s campaign acknowledged it had lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.
Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 6/6/2019
One year out from the 2020 elections, presidential candidates face legal roadblocks to acquiring the tools and assistance necessary to defend against the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 campaign. Federal laws prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidates. The same law also blocks political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an in-kind donation. The issue took on added urgency after lawyers for the FEC advised the agency to block a request by Area 1 Security, asked the company to refile the request with a simpler explanation of how it would determine what campaigns qualified for discounted services.
NRA Money Flowed to Board Members Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending by Top Officials and Vendors
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members, the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. Eighteen members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years. The payments deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. The payments, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.
Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel
USA Today – Maureen Groppe | Published: 6/11/2019
U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, reported spending more than $7,600 in campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in the first few months after his election in November, although lawmakers are supposed to pay for their own housing in Washington, D.C. Hours after USA Today pressed for details on the nature of the lodging expenses, Rep. Pence’s campaign filed an amended FEC report that changed the designation of the expenses to “fundraising event costs.” Federal election rules allow campaign funds to be spent on hotels for fundraising events. And Greg Pence separately reported more than $15,000 in catering and reception costs at Trump’s hotel in December and January.
Top AI Researchers Race to Detect ‘Deepfake’ Videos: ‘We are outgunned’
San Francisco Chronicle – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2019
Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers warn that computer-generated fake videos could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they did not really do. And researchers fear it is only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage – to sow confusion, fuel doubt, or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote. Even simple tweaks to existing videos can create turmoil, as happened with the recent viral spread of a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, distorted to make her speech stunted and slurred. That video was viewed more than 3 million times.
Trump 2020 Campaign Ad Payments Hidden by Layers of Shell Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/13/2019
The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission records. The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. Trump’s reelection campaign quietly continued to funnel money to the same individuals through payments to Harris Sikes Media.
Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/9/2019
As the special counsel’s investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence – a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness – that might have led to him. An attorney for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump, while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. Dowd never said whether Trump directed him to make the overture. And investigators for Robert Mueller declined to question Dowd about his message. Legal experts were divided on whether Mueller’s team should have sought to question Dowd.
Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents
Keene Sentinel – Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/13/2019
President Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it and he would have no obligation to call in the FBI. The president’s comments come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. Although special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign in his probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, his report said the Russian government interfered in the election in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” and that Trump’s campaign was open to assistance from Russian sources.
What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/11/2019
A handful of governors presiding over one-party states are now taking serious hits from legislators and leaders in their own political parties. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is engaged in a feud with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that has led to threats of a primary challenge. In Kentucky, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanne Hampton warned recently about “dark forces” operating within Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Craig Blair, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee in West Virginia, called on Republican Gov. Jim Justice to resign. In states with divided governments, it is almost to be expected that governors and legislators will sometimes sling arrows at each other. But most states are dominated by a single party, and their most powerful politicians are finding that it can still be difficult to get along.
With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 6/11/2019
It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state Legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones. Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic. Analysts said issues addressed by state Legislatures this year, which included gun control and health care, might have more lasting effect than anything approved in Washington, D.C., where government is divided.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Democrats Say They Don’t Take Big Tobacco Money. But JUUL Had a Sponsorship at Convention
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 6/7/2019
JUUL Labs, maker of a line of e-cigarette products in popular use among middle and high school students, had a prominent sponsor slot on the stage of the California Democratic Party’s state convention, where politicians like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a bevy of presidential candidates and state officials spoke. State Sen. Jerry Hill, an outspoken critic of tobacco companies, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the sponsorship. “I was baffled because it’s a long-standing policy of the Democratic Party not to take money from Big Tobacco,” Hill said. JUUL is one-third owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA.
Illinois – Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Introduce Ethics Package Aimed at Fighting City Hall Corruption
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 6/5/2019
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to follow through on her campaign pledge to clean up a City Hall that for months has been rocked by an FBI investigation and racketeering charges against Ald. Edward Burke by introducing an ethics reform package. The former federal prosecutor’s proposal looks to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and would require nonprofits lobbying City Hall to register as lobbyists. It also would give city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the power to audit city council committees. Lightfoot is also pushing for more modest increases to fines for ethics violations than the city Ethics Board has proposed.
Indiana – Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/11/2019
Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the city of Fort Wayne in a case regarding its controversial “pay-to-play” ordinance. DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts. The ordinance prohibited any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.
New Hampshire – Top N.H. Lawmaker Says No Lobbying Involved in His Union Job, But His Predecessor Was a Lobbyist
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 6/6/2019
House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant he has not broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature. He has also maintained his work on the union’s behalf – testifying at public hearings, rallying support or opposition for specific bills, and sending out “legislative bulletins” to union members – does not count as lobbying. But Ley’s predecessor at the union, Laura Hainey, said she did consider much of the same kind of advocacy work she did at the statehouse to constitute lobbying. And, unlike Ley, she registered as a lobbyist during her term as the union’s president.
New Jersey – Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure
Burlington County Times – Dave Levinsky | Published: 6/10/2019
Facing the likelihood that lawmakers would vote to override his earlier veto, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to sign a “dark money” disclosure bill originally sent to him. Lawmakers agreed to vote again on the original legislation and Murphy has agreed to sign it with no changes. The bill mandates the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by dark-money groups in recent years.
New York – Inside the Stealth Campaign for ‘Responsible Rent Reform’
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 6/10/2019
Confronted with a Democratic takeover of the state Legislature and emboldened progressive activists, the city’s landlords and developers, long accustomed to ruling New York through political donations and expensive lobbyists, are adopting the tactics of their activist foes. They have sent buses of electricians and boiler repair workers to Albany to protest the proposed changes, organized rallies outside public hearings, formed groups with generic names to run social media advertisements, and paid for mailers urging constituents to call their representatives. The goal is to deliver the industry’s message that too-strict rent regulations would affect not only wealthy landlords, but also the working class in a way that does not seem like it is coming from the industry.
Wisconsin – Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 6/11/2019
The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated most of the lame-duck laws Republican lawmakers approved in December to trim the powers of the state’s top Democrats. With a pair of orders, the high court canceled a trial and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal. After the rulings, just two provisions of the lame-duck laws have been kept from going into effect. One would have limited early voting; the other would have required a public commenting period for older government documents. The status of the laws could change in the months ahead because the Supreme Court has to make more rulings in the case. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages.
June 7, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019 Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in […]
A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet
MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in her family’s shipping business, Foremost Group, which has deep ties to the economic and political elite in China. But she and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, who ran the company until last year. And McConnell’s re-election campaigns have received more than $1 million in contributions from Chao’s extended family. Over the years, Chao has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile of the company. Now, Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is overshadowed by its Chinese competitors. Her efforts on behalf of the family business have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.
FEC to Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and 48 More Zombie Campaigns: Why are you still here?
Tampa Bay Times – Christopher O’Donnell, Eli Murray, Connie Humburg, and Noah Pransky | Published: 5/31/2019
The FEC demanded explanations from about 50 politicians who are operating zombie campaigns – political committees that keep spending contributions long after the campaign has ended. The agency sent letters to the campaigns asking why their campaign accounts were still open. It flagged specific expenses by at least 17 campaigns and asked them to justify the spending. It is the first action taken by the FEC since it announced in April 2018 that it would start scrutinizing the spending of what it called “dormant” campaigns. Federal law does not allow campaign money to be spent improving politicians’ personal lives.
How Payday Lenders Spent $1 Million at a Trump Resort – and Cashed In
ProPublica – Alice Wilder (WNYC) and Anjali Tsui | Published: 6/4/2019
In March, the payday lending industry held its annual convention at the Trump National Doral hotel outside Miami. A month earlier, Kathleen Kraninger, who had just finished her second month as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had delivered what the lenders consider an epochal victory: Kraninger announced a proposal to eviscerate a crucial rule that had been passed under her Obama-era predecessor. This year was the second in a row the industry’s trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, held its convention at the Doral. In the eight years before 2018, the organization never held an event at a Trump property.
In Need of Cash, Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Turn to Wealthy Donors
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2019
Across the Democratic field, presidential candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on – a sign of increasing doubt the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders. Many of the candidates previously had held a handful of high-dollar fundraisers or avoided them altogether, seeking to tap into the populist sentiment that has animated the Democratic base. But after a disappointing fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, and as the primary drags on with no clear front-runner, many of the candidates are turning their focus to wealthy donors, a strategy that could help keep their campaigns viable but may hamper their ability to connect with base voters.
Liberals Rip Democratic Leaders for Writing Drug Pricing Bill in Secret
The Hill – Peter Sullivan | Published: 6/6/2019
Progressive House Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with their party’s leadership, accusing them of writing Democrats’ signature bill to lower prescription drug prices in secret and without their input. At issue is a plan Pelosi’s office has been working on for months that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a top priority for Democrats and one the party stressed in its campaign last year to win back the House. There is now an intense debate within the Democratic caucus over the details of that proposal, with the Progressive Caucus pushing for a bill that it says is stronger because it would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if the manufacturer refuses to agree to a reasonable price in Medicare negotiations.
Meet the GOP Operatives Who Aim to Smear the 2020 Democrats – but Keep Bungling It
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 6/4/2019
Like notorious dirty tricksters before them, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl operate in a realm where it matters little whether their outrageous claims against political opponents are proved – they hardly ever are – but only whether they somehow slip into the national consciousness. But today it is a more dangerous game: they operate in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended and in which many Americans get their information from self-affirming, partisan silos, making their brand of political cyberwarfare hyper-relevant.
Recent Ex-Members of Congress Head to K Street as ‘Shadow Lobbying’ Escalates
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/30/2019
Nearly two dozen former members of the 115th Congress have already found jobs at lobbying firms. Lobbying is a natural next step for recently departed members who spent years cultivating relationships with their colleagues and interest groups. While former members of Congress must wait two years before lobbying their respective chamber’s ex-colleagues, they often engage in so-called shadow lobbying – participating in activities that might be considered lobbying but declining to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). “[The] LDA is nothing more than an honor system,” said Paul Miller, president of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics.
Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle
New York Times – Cecilia Kang and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/5/2019
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built themselves into some of the largest players on K Street as they confront threats from the Trump administration and both parties on Capitol Hill. Amazon’s expansion has been met with unease over labor conditions and the company’s effect on small businesses. The four companies spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year. Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the companies in the first three months of this year, both in-house employees and those on contract from lobbying and law firms, about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns. Amazon’s Washington office is led by a former Federal Trade Commission official, Brian Huseman. Its roster of contract lobbyists includes three Democratic former members of Congress and two former Justice Department lawyers.
Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Team Up to Ban Lawmakers from Lobbying
National Public Radio – Sasha Ingber | Published: 5/31/2019
Two lawmakers who have often been at odds found common ground in a place that often highlights polarizing opinions: Twitter. That is where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vowed to set aside their differences and work on new lobbying restrictions for lawmakers. Now an unlikely coalition is forming around their joint effort. Craig Holman, who lobbies on ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying on behalf of Public Citizen, said it is “heartening” that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez moved to bridge the deep partisan divide. “I am not sure if Congress will be willing to adopt their proposed lifetime ban, but the sheer fact of a left-and-right agreement that the revolving door is a grave problem that must be addressed is going to move the ball forward,” Holman said.
The Campaign Finance of Women’s Suffrage
WHYY – Kimberly Adams | Published: 6/4/2019
Women’s suffrage took more than seven decades of political struggle and included marches, hunger strikes, and arrests. And, like political campaigns of today, it required a lot of money. While women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were on the front lines of the movement, there were other women working behind the scenes to fund it. “We don’t tend to teach about the suffrage movement as a major lobbying force, a major well-funded organization in American political history, but it was,” said Corrine McConnaughy, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and author of “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment.”
Trump Resort Revenue Has Gone Up After Presidential Visits
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 6/6/2019
President Trump’s week-long trip to Europe included a tour of his own businesses. Trump traveled to his luxury resort on Ireland’s west coast for a visit that brought world-wide publicity and increased security to the location, and, if past trends hold, more revenue. The president’s trip to Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg, Ireland has once again led to criticisms that he is using his office to make money for his own business. It marks the second time he has visited one of his properties outside the United States since he was sworn into office. “U.S. foreign relations should never rise and fall on the financial interests of the president and the ability to promote his own property,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which examined his financial disclosures.
Trump Urges Customers to Drop AT&T to Punish CNN Over Its Coverage of Him
Portland Press Herald – Craig Timberg, Taylor Telford, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2019
President Trump called for a boycott of AT&T, the corporate owner of CNN, saying the network paints a “false picture” of the U.S. The comment, which Trump tweeted in response to seeing CNN coverage while traveling during a European tour, fueled criticisms the president was using his power inappropriately to intimidate critics. Historians struggled to cite an equivalent threat even from presidents such as Richard Nixon renowned for their hostility toward the press. Less democratic nations with more tenuous press freedoms often use government regulatory power, criminal investigations or tax audits to punish news organizations seen as providing unflattering coverage, but past U.S. presidents rarely have taken such public shots at the businesses of the owners of major American news organizations, historians said.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Dunkin’ Donuts Owner Accuses Ethics Commission Investigator of Abuse of Power
Montgomery Advertiser – Kirsten Fiscus | Published: 5/31/2019
When Damon Dunn received notification of a discrimination complaint against his Dunkin’ Donuts store, he was concerned at first, then confused, and then angry. It is corporate policy that customer complaints are reviewed and handled in a timely manner, but the majority of those are disgruntled customers upset about a long wait time or food prepared incorrectly. Byron Butler, a man Dunn would learn is an investigator with the Alabama Ethics Commission, accused the store of charging black customers more for extra pumps of coffee flavoring known as “swirl” at the restaurant, a claim that Dunn says is unfounded. Butler told an employee he was an investigator and took a verbal statement from her about the charging practices. The employee, who is 18, thought she would face legal trouble if she did not talk with him.
Florida – Lawmakers Call for Probe of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer’s Failure to Disclose Payments
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross | Published: 5/30/2019
Some Democratic lawmakers in Florida are calling for an investigation into whether prominent National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer violated state law by failing to disclose payments from her organization while lobbying on NRA priorities like banning the sale of bump stocks. According to Florida law, non-employee lobbyists for both legislative and executive branches are required to register and disclose their total compensation. Hammer is not an in-house lobbyist for the NRA, and therefore is required under law to submit a compensation report for each quarter during which she was registered to lobby. The Florida Bulldog reported Hammer failed to file any compensation reports with state since at least 2007.
Florida – Top City Law Firm Broke County Lobbying Rules
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 5/31/2019
One of the region’s biggest law firms is among several business interests that did not meet required deadlines for registering as lobbyists, Lee County’s inspector general said in an investigative report. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, a Fort Myers based law firm; John Gucciardi, a consultant to Fort Myers Beach developer TPI Hospitality; and Waldrop Engineering each missed filing deadline. Waldrop went seven years without filing the statement. It has since filed registrations for its employees.
Georgia – Abrams Probe Highlights Wide Reach of State Ethics Commission
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Stephan Fowler | Published: 6/5/2019
Lawyers for former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams say the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission did not follow its own rules in an investigation of her 2018 campaign. The commission alleges illegal coordination between the Abrams campaign and four outside organizations. The campaign argued the ethics panel failed to follow its rules for opening an inquiry and sharing probable cause for the allegations. But according to state law, the commission is following the rules. Rick Thompson, a former executive secretary of the commission, said in terms of procedure, the subpoenas are above board. The full scope of the probe will not be made clear until it is put before a meeting of the full commission.
Illinois – Ald. Edward Burke Indicted on Expanded Federal Racketeering, Bribery Charges
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Todd Lighty, and Gregory Pratt | Published: 5/30/2019
Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was meeting with a fellow alderman in October 2017 when he allegedly expressed his displeasure over the way developers of the old main Chicago post office had so far failed to throw any business to Burke’s private law firm. “As far as I’m concerned, they can go f— themselves,” Burke told Ald. Daniel Solis, who was secretly recording the conversation. The conversation is at the center of a 14-count indictment outlining a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city. Also charge Burke in attempting to shake down two businesspeople seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the ward.
Kentucky – Appellate Court Upholds State Ban of Gifts, Money to Kentucky Lawmakers
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 5/30/2019
A federal appeals court upheld a Kentucky law that prohibit lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators or donating to their campaigns. The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman, who struck down the bans, ruling Kentucky’s laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association. The appeals court reversed the ruling and said the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution.”
Massachusetts – Convicted of Corruption, DiMasi Now Wants to Be a Lobbyist. The State Has Other Ideas
Boston Globe – Matt Sout and Andrea Estes | Published: 6/5/2019
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office rejected former state House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s application to become a lobbyist just days after he registered to lobby both the Legislature and executive branch. DiMasi appealed and is due to appear before an administrative hearing officer. His attempt at entering the lucrative industry came after he completed his supervised release following his conviction on corruption charges. DiMasi argued that because lawmakers did not include any of the specific federal statutes on which he was convicted into the state law, he should not be prohibited from registering. Laurie Flynn, Galvin’s chief legal counsel, argued DiMasi’s criminal record includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws, which automatically bars him from lobbying for 10 years after his conviction, or until June 2021.
Michigan – Emails Show MDOT Let Lobbyist Steer Report on Gravel Shortage for Michigan Roads
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 6/6/2019
When Michigan gravel companies wanting to open or expand a mine are opposed by neighbors objecting to the noise and dust, they point to a 2016 consultant’s study, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), that says the state is running out of gravel to rebuild its busted roads. But in fact, the Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA) – the lobbying organization for the sand and gravel industry, which is pushing for legislation that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to deny permits for new or expanded gravel mines – was behind the study, records show. The MAA recommended the consultant MDOT hired, set out the scope of work and how to price the study, and even spelled out the expected findings. The group also had a role in initiating the study.
Missouri – Free Acupuncture and Eye Exams for Lawmakers Are No-Nos, Missouri Ethics Commission Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/3/2019
Two opinions from the Missouri Ethics Commission, which read as lists of dos-and-don’ts for lawmakers and their employees, were issued in response to questions following the passage of Amendment 1 last year. One of the provisions of what is known as “Clean Missouri” limits lobbyist gifts to five dollars. Accepting engraved plaques worth more than five dollars from lobbyists or organizations that lobby is prohibited, the commission said. It also said lawmakers should avoid free use of conference rooms owned by organizations that retain lobbyists. The opinion outlines a number of other scenarios in which lawmakers or their staffs may face ethical dilemmas.
New Jersey – Murphy Officials ‘Seriously Mishandled’ Katie Brennan Assault Allegation, Inquiry Finds
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 6/5/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s staff “seriously mishandled” a sexual assault claim by not investigating it and not telling Murphy before the hiring of the alleged assailant – details of which remain a mystery – for a top position, a legislative inquiry has found. The report by the Select Oversight Committee chronicles a series of missteps made by some of the highest-ranking officials in Murphy’s orbit in response to the allegation, made by former campaign volunteer Katie Brennan, and calls into question the “competence and culture of state government as a whole.” Brennan, now a housing official in the administration, had accused Al Alvarez, a former Murphy aide, of sexually assaulting her during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez was not charged and has denied the allegation.
New York – Nassau County Implements New Ethics Rules
Newsday – Candice Ferrette | Published: 6/5/2019
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed new rules for county vendors, including a ban on gifts to county procurement officials, aimed at stemming contracting abuses that were central to federal corruption cases involving prominent local officials. Under the new Vendor Code of Ethics, county employees involved with contracting cannot accept gifts “of any kind” from vendors, “no matter how small.” Contractors also cannot discuss or offer jobs to county employees involved with procurement or to their family members. Under the new rules, vendors will be required to certify they have read and accepted the terms of the ethics code and have distributed it to all subcontractors and suppliers.
Rhode Island – The Providence Mayor Raised Thousands of Dollars for a Nonprofit with Ties to His Campaign, Then He Reimbursed Himself from Its Coffers
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan | Published: 6/6/2019
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nonprofit organization with close ties to his political campaign and one that later reimbursed him and other high-ranking city employees for travel expenses to conferences all over the country. Now, the practice of soliciting donations for the Providence Tourism Fund – often from law firms and other companies that have contracts with the city – has come under fire from watchdogs who say Elorza is sidestepping Rhode Island’s strict campaign finance laws so he can collect unlimited amounts of money from corporations. Elorza did not create the fund. It was established in 2009 to raise money for a national conference that was held in Providence, but he has been far more aggressive about using it for travel than his predecessors.
May 24, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019 A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court […]
9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, saying a “summary” U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 upholding the foreign-donation prohibition left lower-court judges obliged to turn down all First Amendment challenges to the statute. But that high-court decision, issued without briefs or argument, dealt with a lawsuit focused on federal elections. Critics of the ban have said allowing it to extend into state and local political contests intrudes on the right of states and municipalities to control their own electoral processes.
A Conservative Activist’s Behind-the-Scenes Campaign to Remake the Nation’s Courts
Anchorage Daily News – Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
At a time when President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reshaping federal courts by installing conservative judges and Supreme Court justices, few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now than Leonard Leo. He is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a nonprofit group for conservative lawyers that has close ties to Supreme Court justices. Behind the scenes, Leo is the maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to sway lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges. The story of Leo’s rise shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.
Bank CEO Charged with Bribing Manafort for Trump Administration Post
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 5/23/2019
A Chicago bank executive tried to bribe Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort with roughly $16 million in loans after the 2016 election in the hopes of scoring a top administration post, according to a federal indictment. Stephen Calk, then the chief executive officer of the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, “sought to leverage his control over” Manafort’s proposed loans in order to obtain a senior administration position, said court documents. And Calk approved the loans even though he “was aware of significant red flags regarding” Manafort’s ability to pay back the money. The loans were first mentioned during Manafort’s Virginia prosecution on bank- and tax-fraud charges, when one of Calk’s colleagues described the potential quid pro quo during courtroom testimony.
Cohen Told Lawmakers Trump Attorney Jay Sekulow Encouraged Him to Falsely Claim Moscow Project Ended in January
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, told a House panel during closed-door hearings that he had been encouraged by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to falsely claim in a 2017 statement to Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016. Cohen later admitted discussions on the Moscow tower continued into June of the presidential election year, after it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. Cohen’s closed-door testimony led Democrats to press Sekulow and other Trump family lawyers who were involved in a joint defense agreement for more information about work they did preparing Cohen’s statement. The lawyers have so far rebuffed the request, calling it a threat to the protection of communications between lawyers and their clients.
Confidential Draft IRS Memo Says Tax Returns Must Be Given to Congress Unless President Invokes Executive Privilege
MSN – Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
A confidential Internal Revenue Service (IRS) legal memorandum says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege. The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. The IRS memo says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.
Congressional Report: Purdue Pharma influenced World Health Organization’s opioid guidelines
Washington Post – Katie Zezima | Published: 5/23/2019
A new congressional report claims the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on treating pain were directly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, including a set of directions for prescribing powerful painkillers that appear to have been taken from Purdue Pharma. The investigation points to evidence that drug makers and those who profited from the increased prescribing of opioids aimed to push the WHO into endorsing use of the drugs across the globe. The WHO provides health guidance worldwide. The report alleges wo WHO reports that provide guidelines for treating severe pain, one in adults and the other in children, draw directly from Purdue’s strategies on how to market opioids.
DC Circuit OKs Payment-Plan Rules for Campaign Donors
Courthouse News Service – Brad Katner | Published: 5/21/2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will keep in place an installment plan for nearly $250,000 bequeathed to the Libertarian Party. When Joseph Shaber died in 2014, he left $235,000 to the Libertarian National Committee, the campaign arm of the party. While federal elections rules permit individuals to give up to $339,000 per year to such entities, that total comes with certain specifications. Shaber’s gift came with no strings attached, but the Libertarian Party says the $33,900 limit on general-expenditure donations forces it to collect the money in installments each year, leaving the rest in an escrow account. The party argued such limits are a violation of free-speech rights and spreading the payments out under the FEC-mandated plan would violate Shaber’s post-mortem wishes. U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel noting Congress created donation limits to avoid political corruption, even in death.
Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts
MSN – David Enrich (New York Times) | Published: 5/19/2019
Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.
Elizabeth Warren Decries Big Money in Politics. Her Campaign Treasurer Embodies It.
Center for Responsive Politics – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 5/23/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabet Warren has rejected traditional sources of campaign money, from PACs to lobbyists, in her bid for the White House. Everyone will have access to her, she says, not just wealthy donors. She has instituted “selfie lines” at rallies, and releases videos of herself personally calling donors who have contributed just a few dollars. But Warren has also selected for her presidential campaign treasurer a man whose contributions run counter to Warren’s statements, among the most emphatic among the more than 20 Democrats running for president, against big money in politics. Dubbed a “personal PAC machine” by The Boston Globe, retired software engineer Paul Egerman has quietly established himself as a key benefactor and rainmaker for Democratic political committees and liberal causes.
EPA Watchdog Suggests Agency Recover $124,000 in Pruitt’s ‘Excessive’ Travel Expenses
San Jose Mercury News – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should consider recovering nearly $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency’s inspector general recommended. The findings, issued nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel, and ties to lobbyists and outside groups, highlight the fiscal impact of his penchant for high-end travel and accommodations. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled during a 10-month period were excessive and cost taxpayers $985,037. The “questioned amount” the inspector general’s office identifies for possible recovery is the $123,941 that taxpayers spent on flying both Pruitt and a security agent in first- or business class, instead of coach.
‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2019
Seated behind a desk on Air Force One, the presidential seal over his left shoulder, President Trump shot a short video recently, blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race. “If you like high taxes and if you like crime, you can vote for him – but most people aren’t into that,” the president said to the camera. Trump’s use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime, some experts say, is the breakdown of norms.
Judge Orders Public Release of What Michael Flynn Said in Call to Russian Ambassador
MSN – Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal judge ordered prosecutors to make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan also ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s lawyer reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators. The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Judge Rejects Trump’s Request to Halt Congressional Subpoenas for His Banking Records
MSN – Renae Merle, Michael Kranish, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2019
A federal judge rejected a request by President Trump to block congressional subpoenas for his banking records, dealing the latest blow to the president in his bid to battle Democratic investigations into his personal finances. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York could clear the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president’s financial records to Democrats in the House. Trump’s attorneys could appeal the decision. But U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos said Trump’s lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.
Judge Rules Against Trump in Fight Over President’s Financial Records
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 5/20/2019
President Trump lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority. Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House Counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump. In his decision, Mehta flatly rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers that the House Oversight Committee’s demands for the records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, were overly broad and served no legitimate legislative function.
Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker | Published: 5/20/2019
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash said President Trump engaged in activity worthy of impeachment, becoming the first Republican on Capitol Hill to break with the party’s line on impeachment. Amash’s announcement on Saturday came after he had finished reading the report prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller, as the lawmaker explained in a lengthy Twitter thread. On Sunday, it prompted an intraparty rival, Michigan Rep. Jim Lower, to declare he would run in the Republican primary next year for Amash’s seat. Amash’s survival may now depend on whether he has cultivated devotion among voters sufficient to override their loyalty to the president.
Women Strive to Close Gender Gap at Biz Groups
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/21/2019
Trade associations have made strides in gender diversity, with more women taking on prominent roles at industry groups. It is a trend advocates are pushing to build on. Women account for 41 percent of the chief executives or executive directors of trade associations. K Street observers are hopeful these trends will continue, especially with a record number of female lawmakers in the current Congress and growing pressure on the influence world to expand its hiring practices.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do | Published: 5/20/2019
A conference of local government officials from California at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa erupted into violence over when several attendees began throwing punches, with at least one person apparently knocked unconscious. It was not immediately clear who started the fight, but it involved members of the Commerce City Council and other public officials, according to a written statement from Mayor John Soria and several witnesses. Some witnesses said the melee involved more than seven people and included political consultants, government vendors, and elected officials from the Los Angeles area. One or more women were screaming, the sources said. “It was a hectic scene,” one witness said.
Mississippi – How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 5/20/2019
Teachers in Mississippi shed pounds thanks to Weight Watchers courses paid mostly with state education money. But the biggest loser was taxpayers. Lawmakers gave Weight Watchers about $300,000 a year from 2011 to 2016, but documents from the Mississippi Department of Education show the voucher program at times needed about half that amount, or less, to operate. Weight Watchers never appeared in any education funding bills and never had a contract with the state. Weight Watchers paid $276,100 to lobbyist Beth Clay between 2010 and 2016. During that time, lawmakers directed nearly $1.5 million to New York-based Weight Watchers through a legislative side door.
Nevada – Where Women Call the Shots
Washington Post – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux | Published: 5/17/2019
Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state Legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices. A coordinated campaign of political groups and women’s rights organizations recruited women to run in Nevada. Emerge Nevada, said it trained twice as many female candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm election as it had in the preceding 12 years. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump mobilized Democratic women nationwide, including in Nevada, where women already held 40 percent of statehouse seats.
New Jersey – Governor’s Feud with Party Boss Rocks New Jersey Politics
Politico – Ryan Hutchins | Published: 5/21/2019
An intraparty fight among Democrats in New Jersey has turned into an open civil war, pitting the state’s novice governor against an old-school political boss who has ruled for more than two decades, and potentially reordering the political landscape in what has become a national Democratic stronghold. The protagonists are Gov. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who pledged to clean up state government, and George Norcross, an insurance executive who is the state’s most powerful unelected official. Murphy launched an unprecedented public attack on Norcross, who is among the people targeted by an inquiry into the state’s multi-billion-dollar tax incentive programs. Norcross has responded by opening fire on the governor, breaking his typical silence to compare Murphy to the king of England and call him a “liar” and “politically incompetent.”
New York – A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/19/2019
Beyond being a prolific campaign fundraiser, aviation magnate Adam Katz has himself been one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s largest campaign donors. Katz has given Cuomo six-figure sums though a wide array of limited liability companies, prompting business rivals to allege he has had undue influence with administration agencies. State records also indicate a more unusual pattern: many people with ties to Katz – lawyers, business associates, an extended family tree – have contributed to Cuomo’s campaign in large, often identical amounts and on the same days. Aside from the gifts to Cuomo, many of those people had never contributed similarly large amounts to New York candidates.
New York – New York Passes Bill Giving Congress a Way to Get Trump’s State Tax Returns
MSN – Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2019
New York lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would clear a path for Congress to obtain President Trump’s state tax returns, injecting another element into the battle over the president’s refusal to release his taxes. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will authorize state tax officials to release the president’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. The returns – filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters – would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, though it remained unclear whether congressional committees would use such new power in their investigations.
Oregon – Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/18/2019
Publicly, the governor’s office said there was a bright line drawn between the work of Kate Brown’s campaign, which was explicitly political and focused on her re-election, and the state-paid employees in the governor’s office, who are to administer state business. But newly released records show Brown’s state staff in fact shifted into overdrive during that period to lay out her policy positions and accomplishments on education and other central campaign issues. Her most influential aides orchestrated a series of “white papers” and planned public events designed to show her as someone who had gotten things done and had strong policy views, according to nearly public records.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to Resign Position After Sexually Charged Texts
USA Today – Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison (The Tennessean) | Published: 5/21/2019
Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada will resign from his leadership post following a vote of no confidence by his Republican caucus amid a scandal over explicit text messages. His political support began to waver when his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, was pressured into resigning after the release of racist texts and the sexually explicit messages, and Cothren’s admission that he used cocaine in his legislative office before becoming Casada’s top aide. Casada was included in one of the group texts with a racist message but has said he never saw it. Other allegations continued to pile up, ranging from accusations Casasda spied on legislative members to a colleague’s claim that Casada tried to “rig and predetermine” an ethics review regarding his controversies.
Virginia – Investigators Could Not Determine If Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Is in Racist Yearbook Photo
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella and Jim Morrison | Published: 5/22/2019
A nearly four-month inquiry into a racist photograph on the medical school yearbook page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was unable to determine whether Northam was in the image – which showed one man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface – deepening a mystery that threw the state government into chaos. But the investigation also found no evidence the photo had been mistakenly published in a yearbook section with Northam’s name and other pictures of him alone. The investigators, including a former state attorney general, noted, though, that they could not confirm “the origin” of the image. Northam spoke with investigators twice and told them he was “positive” he was not in the photograph.
Washington – ‘Gray Money’: New Washington law to lift the cloak on PAC funders
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/19/2019
Washington’s transparency law has tried to help voters determine funders for PAC ads. On the advertisements, PACs must disclose their top five contributors who meet a certain dollar threshold. That could be an individual or an entity such as a corporation or labor union. But what happens when the donor is another PAC with a generic, soft-focus name? It is a tactic called “gray money” and it is a popular strategy around the nation for shielding the flow of money. Through a series of “nesting doll” PACs, campaigns or political parties can cloak donations by individuals, corporations, industry associations, or labor unions. Now, a measure passed by state lawmakers this year could aid voters by revealing some of the top donors or organizations behind the cryptic groups.
Washington DC – Clients of D.C. Council Member Jack Evans Had Interests Before D.C. Government
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 5/23/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, one of the most powerful politicians in the city, has used his legislative position in ways that could benefit clients of his private consulting business, an examination of his record shows. Over several years, Evans has introduced legislation, championed projects and promoted tax incentives connected to his private clients. Some efforts have met with more success than others. Evans is the focus of an investigation by a federal grand jury, which subpoenaed records from the city related to Evans and his constellation of private legal and consulting clients. At least three of these businesses have had interests before the District of Columbia government.
May 17, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019 A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash […]
At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering
MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash infusions and other transactions involving its affiliated foundation, at least $206 million worth since 2010. The role of the foundation is among the issues being examined in a new investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status by the New York attorney general. At issue for investigators, tax experts say, would be whether that money was being used for charitable purposes, as required by law, and not to help finance the NRA’s political activities.
‘Being Governor Ain’t What It Used to Be’: How their road to the White House became an uphill climb
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 5/8/2019
Governors were once a dominant force in presidential politics, winning seven of the eight elections between 1976 and 2004. Those days appear to be over. In 2016, no fewer than 10 current or former governors ran for president. None of them came close to winning a major-party nomination. This year, the Democratic field is dominated by U.S. senators, while governors are at the back of the pack in the polls. Historically, governors fared well in national politics when voters were fed up with Washington, noted Saladin Ambar, a political scientist at Rutgers University. Yet the public’s trust in the federal government is near an all-time low, and governors are still failing to gain any traction.
Complaints Grow That Trump Staffers Are Campaigning for Their Boss
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 5/15/2019
A Trump appointee displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat at her Housing and Urban Development office. A top official at the Office of Management and Budget used his official Twitter account to promote President Trump’s campaign slogan. And White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway delivered a scathing and unprompted attack on Trump’s potential opponent, Joe Biden, during a television interview. Those three instances, all in the last few months, are just a few of the growing number of complaints since Trump took office that federal employees are using their platform to campaign for the president or his allies, a violation of the Hatch Act. In Trump’s first year on the job, formal complaints to the government office that oversees compliance with the 80-year-old law jumped nearly 30 percent.
Donald Trump Jr. Strikes Deal for ‘Limited’ Interview with Intelligence Committee
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal for the president’s eldest son to return for a time-limited private interview with senators in the coming weeks, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff. The terms of the compromise include an appearance by Trump Jr. in mid-June, with the questions limited to about a half-dozen topics and the time limited to no longer than two to four hours. Senate investigators are particularly interested in asking the younger Trump about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, as well as about his knowledge of a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Some Democrats have accused Trump Jr. of potentially misleading other congressional committees.
Duped into Making a Bogus Campaign Donation? Call a Prosecutor
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/8/2019
It seems to be equally true that federal authorities are cracking down on grifters who live large on money Americans thought they gave to legitimate political campaigns, and federal authorities might be encouraging scammers by doing nothing about misleading appeals for political money. The first set of authorities work for the U.S. Justice Department. The other is the FEC, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. When their views clash, it is a tie and nothing can happen. “The Justice Department has become the primary enforcer of campaign finance laws because the FEC is unable to do its job,” said election attorney Brett Kappel. A potential downside, he said, is that prosecutors focus on the most egregious cases that can lead to a criminal conviction, so many other cases can slip through the cracks.
Evidence of Illegal Campaign Donations by Boston’s Thornton Law Firm Found, Case Dismissed Anyway
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 5/15/2019
Staff lawyers at the FEC found Boston’s Thornton Law firm likely used a phony program to repay partners for political donations, but the case was dismissed after commissioners deadlocked on whether to pursue it. FEC staff found extensive evidence that Thornton, a major supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, illegally reimbursed partners for more than $1 million in donations. But commission voted along party lines and produced a tie vote, which dismisses the complaint instead of opening a full-scale investigation. Now, the group that filed the complaint against Thornton, the Campaign Legal Center, is considering pursuing the matter in federal court.
Federal Election Commission Lays Bare Internal Conflicts and Challenges in Letter to Congress
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 5/9/2019
The FEC’s four leaders are offering lawmakers clashing perspectives on the agency’s very purpose. The commissioners’ comments are part of 171 pages’ worth of responses to dozens of questions Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren sent the agency. Lofgren has openly doubted the FEC’s ability to function as it struggles with deadlocked votes, internal conflict, chronic vacancies, and low morale. Her inquiries come at a time when “dark money” and the specter of foreign election interference have captured the attention of the public amid historically long and expensive federal campaign seasons.
How William Barr, Now Serving as a Powerful Ally for Trump, Has Championed Presidential Powers
Connecticut Post – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2019
Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Attorney General William Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power. Back at the helm of the Justice Department, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. Critics say Barr is providing the intellectual framework to enable Trump’s view of an imperial presidency and stonewall legitimate requests for information from Congress.
Rudy Giuliani Cancels His Trip to Ukraine, Blaming Democrats’ ‘Spin’
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/11/2019
Facing accusations of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph Giuliani announced he had canceled a trip to Kiev in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Trump. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt as if he was being “set up” by Ukrainians critical of his efforts, and he blamed Democrats for trying to “spin” the trip. The Ukrainian trip raised the specter of a lawyer for Trump pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations his allies hope could help him win re-election. And it comes after Trump has spent more than half of his term facing scrutiny about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with Ukraine’s hostile neighbor, Russia.
Scrutiny of Russia Investigation Is Said to Be a Review, Not a Criminal Inquiry
MSN – Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
The federal prosecutor tapped to scrutinize the origins of the Russia investigation is conducting only a review for now and has not opened any criminal inquiry. U.S. Attorney John Durham is broadly examining the government’s collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians. The additional details about the scope and limits of his role emerged a day after it was reported that Attorney General William Barr had put Durham in charge of scrutinizing the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation during the 2016 election. The distinction means Durham for now will not wield the sort of law enforcement powers that come with an open criminal investigation, such as the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify.
Trump and His Allies Are Blocking More Than 20 Separate Democratic Probes in an All-Out War with Congress
MSN – Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2019
President Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats into his actions as president, his personal finances, and his administration’s policies, according to a Washington Post analysis, amounting to what many experts call the most expansive White House obstruction effort in decades. Trump’s noncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces mounting inquiries from the Democratic-controlled House, a strategy many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. House Democrats say the administration has failed to respond to or comply with at least 79 requests for documents or other information.
Trump’s Lawyers Question Congress’ Power to Investigate Him, Battle House Over Demand for Financial Records
USA Today – Bart Jansen | Published: 5/14/2019
Lawyers for President Trump and the U.S. House clashed in federal court over the extent of Congress’ power to investigate him in the first legal test of Trump’s effort to block sprawling probes of his finances and private business. Trump wants a judge to prevent a congressional committee from obtaining financial records from his longtime accountant, Mazars USA. It is the first court test of how much information the half-dozen committees conducting investigations of Trump and his businesses might be able to obtain. Trump’s personal lawyer argued Congress was seeking the president’s financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose, which was outside its authority, rather to work on legislation. Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House, argued that Congress has broad investigative authority.
Want a Bridge? Trump Blurs Line Between Governing, Campaign
AP News – Jill Colvin | Published: 5/15/2019
President Trump stood before a Louisiana crowd at an official taxpayer-funded event and tossed out an enticing promise. “If we win this election, which is just 16 months away, we’re giving you a brand new I-10 bridge.” Trump’s commitment drew cheers from his audience. But it generated immediate criticism from ethics experts who have already sounded alarms about Trump’s apparent willingness to put the federal bureaucracy to work for his own political gain. All presidents benefit from the trappings of the office. But as Trump heads into his re-election campaign, historians and observers are wondering just how far the president might be willing to go in using the levers of presidential power to energize his supporters and help bolster his election chances, especially if the polls are tilting against him.
White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2019
White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald McGahn, to say publicly he never believed the president obstructed justice. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller about Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. But after Meuller’s report was released, detailing the range of actions Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, McGahn decided to pass on putting out a statement supportive of the president.
Canada – Watchdog Warns Lobbyists About Partisan Fundraisers, Expressing Political Views
National Observer – Carl Meyer | Published: 5/13/2019
Federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger warned lobbyists in Canada to be careful about participating in partisan activities such as fundraising events and expressing personal political views in public, to avoid placing themselves in a conflict-of-interest. She delivered the warning in updated guidelines for lobbyists posted a few days after a significant court ruling that also appeared to expand the scope of the federal Lobbying Act. The new guidelines shift some activities that Bélanger’s office had previously considered to hold “no risk” into a new category she said does carry risks of placing a lobbyist in a conflict-of-interest situation.
From the States and Municipalities
Florida – Former Palm Bay Deputy Manager Dave Isnardi Arrested, Charged with Racketeering, Other Felonies
Florida Today – John McCarthy | Published: 5/10/2019
Former Palm Bay Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi was arrested on charges of racketeering and conspiracy. Isnardi is the husband of Brevard County Commission Chairperson Kristine Isnardi. A second man, Jose Aguiar, a former candidate for the Palm Bay City Council, also was arrested. The arrest warrants show the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been investigating allegations of corruption and undue influence on city officials in Palm Bay since at least 2015. Though not arrested or charged, the warrants allege city Councilperson Jeff Bailey had an addiction to oxycodone and former Councilperson Tres Holton had sex with prostitutes and used cocaine. It also alleges Holton obtained prostitutes for Mayor William Capote while the men were in Tallahassee.
Florida – NRA Pays Lobbyist Marion Hammer Big Bucks, But You Won’t Find That Disclosed in Tallahassee
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/14/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA) paid Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer more than $250,000 last year in the wake of the Parkland school massacre. But that payment is not disclosed on quarterly compensation reports that lobbying firms and contract lobbyists are required to file with the Florida Senate. Hammer, both an NRA board member and a registered NRA lobbyist in Florida, has not filed any compensation reports with the state since at least 2007. During Hammer’s tenure with the NRA, the Florida Legislature passed the landmark “Right to Carry” law, allowing weapons, including handguns, to be carried in public in a concealed manner. She also helped secure many other pro-gun laws, including the “Firearms Preemption Law” that eliminated hundreds of gun-control ordinances in cities and counties across the state.
Georgia – Georgia Insurance Commissioner Indicted on Fraud Charges
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 5/14/2019
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering that stem from alleged crimes that preceded his election. The indictment accuses Beck of devising an elaborate fraudulent invoicing scheme to defraud his employer out of more than $2 million over a five-year period just prior to his election. The charges relate to Beck’s time as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriting Association. The indictment says Beck used the money for personal expenses and to fund personal investment, retirement, and savings accounts, as well as his statewide election campaign. The indictment also says he used the funds to buy and improve personal rental property and for personal state and federal income taxes.
Louisiana – Why the ‘Most Egregious’ Ethics Case in Louisiana Remains Open Nine Years Later
ProPublica – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 5/16/2019
In 2010, the Louisiana Board of Ethics accused former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. of failing to disclose he was being paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University (LSU). The lack of transparency was only part of the problem. Marionneaux offered to get the Legislature to steer public money toward a settlement, according to charges the board later filed against him. The money would also help pay off his contingency fee, which an LSU lawyer pegged at more than $1 million. The case is pending and Marionneaux has not been punished. Watchdogs and ethics advocates say the glacial pace of the Marionneaux case and its limited scope exemplify the weaknesses of Louisiana’s ethics enforcement system.
Massachusetts – New Rules Mean Chick-fil-A Is Now a Registered Lobbyist at City Hall – Along with Many Others
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 5/15/2019
Under a first-of-its-kind lobbying ordinance that went into effect this year, more than 230 lobbyists, firms, and their clients have registered in Boston, and the list reads like a who’s who of players in local politics. The new regulations are intended to make public those who influence city business, especially at a time when Boston has been regulating burgeoning industries, such as cannabis and short-term rentals. Prior to this, only a handful of lobbying and law firms complied with a little-known and unenforced city ordinance that required them to notify the clerk’s office that they had be doing business with the city council. Any lobbyists or advocates who dealt with the city otherwise went virtually undetected.
Massachusetts – Regulators Slash the Dollar Amount Unions Can Donate to Candidates in Mass.
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 5/9/2019
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released a new regulation that reduces how much unions and nonprofit groups can contribute to individual candidates in Massachusetts. It limits contributions to $1,000 per candidate, $5,000 per party, and $500 per PAC. Currently, labor unions can give up to $15,000 annually to a single candidate. Derided by critics as a loophole for unions, the $15,000 cap survived a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court when the justices upheld the longstanding ban on direct corporate gifts. But the court implied the OCPF should review the regulation about the cap. The limits take effect May 31.
Michigan – Michigan Lawmaker Indicted on Bribery Charge Over Prevailing Wage Repeal Vote
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/15/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is facing federal charges for allegedly soliciting bribes and attempted extortion ahead of a 2018 vote to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law for construction workers. A grand jury indictment includes text messages from Inman that show the him seeking campaign contributions from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union, which opposed the initiated legislation. Authorities are accusing Inman of unlawfully and corruptly soliciting those contributions in exchange for a potential “no” vote on the legislation, which he ended up voting for instead. “We only have 12 people to block it,” Inman said in a text to a union representative. “You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote.”
Missouri – St. Louis Aldermen Push New Lobbyist Gift Limits, Campaign Donation Rules
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Mark Schlinkmann | Published: 5/14/2019
A ban on lobbyist gifts of more than five dollars to elected city officials and restrictions on campaign donations from individuals or entities seeking city contracts are part of a set of ethics proposals to be introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The package also bars contributions to candidates for city offices made with the intent of concealing the identity of the money’s source. The three city charter amendments, if endorsed by the board, would go before voters at the November 2020 election.
New Jersey – Will Murphy’s CV Deal a Death Blow to NJ’s Dark-Money Bill?
NJ Spotlight – Colleen O’Dea | Published: 5/14/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a conditional veto of a bill that would have required certain independent expenditure committees to disclose their donors. The legislation required groups to disclose all spending over $3,000, and said donors giving over $10,000 must be listed. Murphy said because the measure applied to groups influencing legislation and regulations, it could go beyond the scope of disclosure allowed under the Constitution. The governor also said those who receive tax credits over $25,000 should be required to disclose donors, and any entity with $17,500 or more in contracts with a public body should disclose all contributions to outside advisory groups. Lawmakers can vote to agree with Murphy’s conditions, in which case it would become law. They could also try to override the veto.
South Dakota – Federal Judge Strikes Down IM 24 as Unconstitutional
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Lisa Kaczek | Published: 5/9/2019
A federal judge struck down a ban on out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question committees. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann issued an order declaring Initiated Measure 24 as unconstitutional because it violates “the First Amendment rights to engage in political speech and to associate with others to fund political speech.” It is also unconstitutional because it interferes with the “free flow of money” between people and entities from another state, Kornmann wrote in his judgment. Kornmann ordered that the state is barred from implementing or enforcing the law, which was scheduled to take effect July 1.
Tennessee – After Bragging About Sex at Party Fowl, Former Chief of Staff’s Tab May Have Been Paid by Glen Casada Donors
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/15/2019
When Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s former chief of staff boasted to his boss in 2016 about having sex with a woman at Party Fowl, the food and drink purchases made at the restaurant may have been paid for by campaign donors. The finding comes amid a larger review of spending by lawmakers, including Casada, who utilize PACs. The review highlights a loophole in state law that allows lawmakers to create PACs and spend thousands of dollars on items they would normally be prohibited from purchasing using traditional campaign funds. Casada faces calls for his resignation as he reels from a scandal involving a series of racist and misogynistic text messages sent by his former chief of staff, including the exchange about sex in a bathroom at a Nashville restaurant.
May 10, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Lawsuit About Trump and the NRA Could Upend How the Government Polices Campaign Finance Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 5/1/2019 A lawsuit involving the National Rifle Association (NRA) is poised to act as a major test for […]
A Lawsuit About Trump and the NRA Could Upend How the Government Polices Campaign Finance
Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 5/1/2019
A lawsuit involving the National Rifle Association (NRA) is poised to act as a major test for the FEC chairperson’s new strategy to force the agency to take more aggressive action to police campaign finance law. Chairperson Ellen Weintraub’s recent statements make it clear she does not plan on voting to defend the FEC in any cases involving delays in action. If she follows through, it would result in the first instance of her utilizing a new strategy to effectively sabotage her own agency in order to enforce campaign finance law, a move that one former FEC lawyer termed the “nuclear option.” It is not exactly clear what will happen in court after Weintraub decides not to use legal resources to defend her agency, but it is likely a judge will force the FEC to act and consider investigating the NRA for potential campaign finance violations.
Biden Faces Dilemma Over K Street Allies
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/3/2019
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s strong support from K Street poses a tough dilemma for his campaign. The influence world is stocked with former aides and supporters who have rallied around his previous bids for president. In this cycle, though, those lobbyist ties, past fundraising from corporate interests, and perceptions that Biden is more favorable to businesses could hurt his bid for the Democratic nomination. Biden has quickly solidified his Democratic front-runner status and focused his attention on President Trump. His campaign has said he will not take money from lobbyists and corporate PACs, but that is unlikely to be enough for progressive groups in the primary who have larger concerns about the candidate.
Desperate Drive to Make the Debate Stage Shakes Dem Campaigns
Politico – Elena Schneider | Published: 5/6/2019
There is a desperate scramble by presidential candidates to make it past a new threshold set by the Democratic National Committee – 65,000 individual donors – to the first primary debates in June and July. The televised debates could be make-or-break showcases, and the requirement has reshaped the strategy of candidates struggling to cross the donor mark. Such is the importance of the debates that some presidential campaigns have decided to prioritize Facebook advertising over hiring staffers in early states. Others noted the rules prioritize chasing viral moments early in the campaign over building traditional vote-getting infrastructure in Iowa and New Hampshire. But defenders of the new rules say they have just forced campaigns to prove they can compete in the 21st century before the election year.
Donald Trump Jr. Is Subpoenaed to Testify to Senate Panel on Russia Contacts
New York Times – Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Haberman | Published: 5/8/2019
The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., who met with Russians in June 2016 after being promised political dirt about Hillary Clinton. He is the first of President Trump’s children to be subpoenaed in the continuing congressional investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, and the move by the Republican-led committee is a sign some members of the president’s party are not aligned with his desire for a swift end to all of the inquiries. The committee is particularly interested in Trump Jr.’s account of the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting, as well as his role in his father’s efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow and comparing the testimony to his previous answers to Senate investigators in 2017.
Driverless Car Industry Luring Federal Safety Brass
Politico – Tanya Snider | Published: 5/5/2019
Driverless car companies are racing to scoop up top federal safety officials to fill out their ranks of advisers and lobbyists, creating worries that the fledgling industry will use its newly acquired influence to shape the coming wave of government regulations. Companies like Uber, Lyft, General Motors and Google’s sibling Waymo have hired a phalanx of current and former Washington officials, including Obama administration Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several highway regulators, and two former chairs of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates deadly crashes. One notable exception from the trend of self-driving companies hiring federal safety officials is Tesla.
Driverless Car Industry Luring Federal Safety Brass
Politico – Tanya Snider | Published: 5/5/2019
Driverless car companies are racing to scoop up top federal safety officials to fill out their ranks of advisers and lobbyists, creating worries that the fledgling industry will use its newly acquired influence to shape the coming wave of government regulations. Companies like Uber, Lyft, General Motors and Google’s sibling Waymo have hired a phalanx of current and former Washington officials, including Obama administration Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several highway regulators, and two former chairs of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates deadly crashes. One notable exception from the trend of self-driving companies hiring federal safety officials is Tesla.
Driverless Car Industry Luring Federal Safety Brass
Politico – Tanya Snider | Published: 5/5/2019
Driverless car companies are racing to scoop up top federal safety officials to fill out their ranks of advisers and lobbyists, creating worries that the fledgling industry will use its newly acquired influence to shape the coming wave of government regulations. Companies like Uber, Lyft, General Motors and Google’s sibling Waymo have hired a phalanx of current and former Washington officials, including Obama administration Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several highway regulators, and two former chairs of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates deadly crashes. One notable exception from the trend of self-driving companies hiring federal safety officials is Tesla.
Drugmakers Will Have to Reveal Medication Prices in TV Ads
AP News – Ricardo Alonso-Saldivar | Published: 5/8/2019
Television ads for prescription drugs will soon reveal prices, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, responding to a public outcry for government action to restrain medication costs. Azar said the Trump administration has finalized regulations that will require drug companies to disclose list prices of medications costing more than $35 for a month’s supply. Drug pricing details are expected to appear in text toward the end of commercials, when potential side effects are disclosed. The government is hoping that patients armed with prices will start discussing affordability with their doctors, and gradually that will put pressure on drug makers to keep costs in check.
F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016
MSN – Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt, and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) | Published: 5/2/2019
The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Donald Trump campaign adviser, asked if the Trump campaign was working with Russia. The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues, but she was a government investigator posing as a research assistant. The FBI sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. The U.S. government’s affiliation with the woman is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances.
FDA Approves the First Vaccine for Dengue Fever, but with Major Restrictions
STAT – Helen Branswell | Published: 5/1/2019
The FDA approved the first vaccine against dengue fever, one that protects against a common disease but has generated significant controversy due to evidence it can increase the risk of severe infection in some people. The agency ruled that Dengvaxia can only be used in individuals aged nine to 16 living in parts of the U.S. where the dengue virus is endemic – in other words, where it circulates on an ongoing basis. Dengue is found only in Puerto Rico and a few other offshore territories and protectorates. Furthermore, the vaccine can only be given to children and teens who have had one previous laboratory-confirmed case of dengue. The various restrictions mean the U.S. market for the vaccine is smaller still than the already modest market Sanofi had sought. Still, the company said it was pleased by the FDA’s decision.
Foreign Agents Introduced Ukranian Politician to US Political Figures in Secretive Lobbying Arrangement
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 5/8/2018
New Foreign Agent Registration Act records reveal foreign agents and lobbyists on the payroll of Livingston Group, a lobbying firm run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, played a previously unreported role in former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s meetings with lawmakers during a December 2018 trip to Washington, D.C. That week, former U.S. Rep.-turned-lobbyist Bob McEwen also quietly introduced Tymoshenko to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney who joined Trump’s personal legal team amidst special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Giuliani is under scrutiny for his simultaneous “shadow lobbying” operations for foreign clients, including Ukrainian interests.
House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/8/2019
The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend the House hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress. The committee’s vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the standoff over the Mueller report. The Justice Department denounced the move as unnecessary and intended to stoke a fight. After the vote, Judiciary Committee Chairperson Jerrold Nadler swatted away questions about possible impeachment, but added, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”
Lawmakers Seek to Curb Foreign Influence by Closing Online Political Ad Loopholes
Center for Responsive Politics – Carl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/8/2019
Lawmakers introduced a bill meant to close digital political advertisement loopholes that enabled Russian actors to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Lindsay Graham introduced the 2019 Honest Ads Act, which would mandate disclosure of those paying for online political ads and create a publicly available database of political ads that appear on major online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The bill would encourage major platforms to ensure that foreign entities are not buying political ads. It was introduced with the backing of several campaign finance watchdog groups.
Trump Endorsed a Super PAC Supporting Him – and Here’s Why That Might Not Be a Legal Problem
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 5/8/2019
President Trump publicly endorsed America First Action, a super PAC run by his allies that aims to raise millions of dollars to ensure his second term. Candidates and the independent super PACs that support them have increasingly found ways to work together without breaking laws barring outright coordination. But the Trump re-election campaign’s statement appeared to go further than any other. When it opened the door to super PACs with its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court said unlimited donations for independent political spending could not be corrupting because it would not be coordinated with candidates. But Trump, advocates said, is taking advantage of a legal gray area that candidate committees and super PACs have used to stretch the legal boundaries of how much they can work in tandem with each other.
Trump Would Have Been Charged with Obstruction Were He Not President, Hundreds of Former Federal Prosecutors Assert
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2019
More than 370 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump, if not for the office he held. The statement, signed by myriad former career government employees as well as high-profile political appointees, offers a rebuttal to Attorney General William Barr’s determination that the evidence Mueller uncovered was “not sufficient” to establish Trump committed a crime. Mueller declined to say whether Trump should have been charged, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.
Trump’s Tweet Derails House Bill Opposed by Lobbyist with Close White House Ties
MSN – Mike DeBonis, Felicia Sonmez, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2019
President Trump helped derail a bipartisan casino bill opposed by a key White House ally. The intervention by Trump, contained in a morning tweet, eroded Republican support and prompted House Democrats to postpone a vote on the measure, which would pave the way for a new Massachusetts tribal casino. Opponents, including Rhode Island lawmakers, have argued the bill would harm the business of two neighboring casinos across the state line. A key Trump ally, American Conservative Union Chairperson Matthew Schlapp, is lobbying for Twin River Management Group, which operates both Rhode Island casinos. Schlapp’s wife is the White House strategic communications director. In a tweet that blindsided lawmakers of both parties, Trump urged Republicans to oppose the measure.
Watergate Had the Nixon Tapes. Mueller Had Annie Donaldson’s Notes.
MSN – Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2019
The notes scribbled on a legal pad captured the fear inside the White House when President Trump raged over the Russia investigation and decreed that he was firing the FBI director who led it. The angst-filled entry is part of a shorthand diary that chronicled the chaotic days in Trump’s West Wing, a trove the special counsel report cited more than 65 times as part of the evidence the president sought to blunt a criminal investigation bearing down on him. The scribe keeping track of Trump’s actions was Annie Donaldson, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn’s chief of staff, who figures in Robert Mueller report as one of the most important narrators of internal White House turmoil. Her daily habit of documenting conversations and meetings provided the special counsel’s office with its version of President Nixon’s tapes.
White House Imposes New Rules on Reporters’ Credentials, Raising Concerns About Access
MSN – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2019
The White House implemented new rules it says will cut down on the number of journalists holding “hard” passes, the credentials that allow reporters and technicians to enter the grounds without seeking daily permission. The new policy has been met with some confusion and even worry among journalists, some of whom suspect the aim is to keep critics in the press away from the White House and President Trump. Journalists will qualify to renew their hard passes only if they have entered the White House grounds at least 50 percent of the time in the 180 days before renewal. A nonrenewal does not preclude journalists from entering the White House entirely, but it does subject them to a more cumbersome process.
From the States and Municipalities
Florida – Florida Legislators Agree to Limit Felons’ Voting Rights. Critics Call It a New Poll Tax.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 5/5/2019
The largest expansion of voting eligibility in the country since the elimination of poll taxes and literacy tests in the 1960s suffered a setback when Republican legislators in Florida voted to limit the scope of a new constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to most convicted felons. The measure, which would require felons to pay all court-ordered fines, fees, and restitution before their eligibility to vote is restored, quickly drew accusations of voter suppression. Supporters of what is known in Florida as Amendment 4 said the law effectively reinstitutes a poll tax by requiring felons to satisfy financial obligations before they can vote again.
Georgia – A Mayor Reportedly Said Her City Isn’t Ready for Black Leader. A Council Member Went Further.
Washington Post – Michael Price-Saddler | Published: 5/7/2019
Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly is facing calls to resign following reports she dismissed a candidate for a top city position based on his race. Racist remarks from one of her defenders further inflamed the controversy, revealing what some say are outdated racial attitudes long pervasive in a small, predominantly white city in Georgia. It was reported that Kenerly withdrew the application of Keith Henry for city administrator, “because he is black, and the city isn’t ready for this.” Councilperson Jim Cleveland defended the mayor then delivered an unprompted opinion on interracial marriage. “I have black friends, I hired black people. But when it comes to all this stuff you see on TV, when you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live,” Cleveland said.
Indiana – Casino Company Turned to State Lawmaker for Title Work. He Voted for Massive Gaming Bill.
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 5/2/2019
When gaming company Spectacle Entertainment bought two casinos in Gary last year, it turned to a state representative for title insurance and closing services. That same lawmaker, Indiana Rep. Jerry Torr, then voted in favor of legislation that could allow Spectacle to move those casinos to new, more lucrative locations in the state. The business ties are the latest to raise questions about Spectacle and its possible attempts to influence elected officials at the statehouse. The company also paid for at least two private jet flights for Gov. Eric Holcomb and one of Spectacle’s principal investors arranged a contract for House Speaker Brian Bosma last year with Vigo County.
Kentucky – ‘He Is a Whiny, Off-Topic Social Media Troll.’ Why Bevin Banned Critics on Social Media.
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves | Published: 5/1/2019
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has banned almost 3,000 people from his Facebook and Twitter accounts, sometimes reading negative comments online in the middle of the night and directing his communications staff to act against his critics. Among the keywords Bevin’s office uses to flag Facebook posts for possible deletion and banning are dictator, weirdo, crook, jerk, narcissist, nimrod, and hypocrite, according to documents produced by the state. According to screen shots of their comments recorded by Bevin’s staff, all have been critical of the governor or his policies at some point since he took office three years ago. A lawsuit alleges Bevin’s policy of banning individuals from state-run social media forums constitutes an unlawful prior restraint on speech.
Maryland – Baltimore Mayor Pugh Resigns After Month on Leave Amid Investigation into Her Business Deals
MSN – Ian Duncan, Jean Marbella, and Luke Broadwater (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 5/2/2019
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned, ending her tenure that unraveled amid a scandal over payments for a self-published children’s book series she sold to customers including a $4 billion hospital network she once helped oversee and companies with business before the city. FBI and IRS agents had searched her City Hall offices, homes, and other locations. Pugh came to office contrasting her clean image with her main opponent, Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to resign in 2010 as part of a plea deal for misappropriating about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families. A federal grand jury has been empaneled and state and local inquiries are also underway into the roughly $800,000 Pugh made over the years in exchange for her “Healthy Holly” paperbacks about health and nutrition
Michigan – Unlike the Rest of America, Michigan Lawmakers’ Personal Finances Are a Secret
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 5/6/2019
Michigan is one of two states – and the only one with a full-time Legislature – with no requirement for public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. Without any legal requirement on financial disclosures, Michigan residents only know about potential conflicts-of-interest if their lawmakers choose to reveal them. The lack of financial disclosure requirements is one?of the biggest?reasons?Michigan ranked last in a survey that rated each state’s transparency laws.?Potential conflicts or corruption in the state “remain buried in an honor system with no honor,” the?report concluded. Not much has changed in the past four years.
Mississippi – How Mississippi Lawmakers Quietly Funnel Millions of Education Dollars to Pet Vendors
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Bracey Harris and Giacomo Bologna | Published: 5/8/2019
Top Mississippi lawmakers carve out millions of dollars for handpicked education vendors and pet projects each year, bypassing state bid laws and steering money to companies that know the right people or hire the right lobbyists. A Jackson Clarion Ledger analysis of education appropriations for the last four years uncovered millions of dollars in earmarks for select vendors, most of them represented by three lobbying firms. In at least four cases, key lawmakers received campaign contributions from vendors who received those earmarks.
New Hampshire – What Counts as a Campaign Expense? For Some Lawmakers, It Includes Flowers and Dry Cleaning
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 5/6/2019
Candidates running for office in New Hampshire can run up a tab on all kinds of expenses: lawn signs, postage, snacks for fundraisers, advertising, and more. But some lawmakers lean on campaign donations to cover other, less obvious expenses that pile up on the campaign trail, or even while they are in office, things like car repairs, dry cleaning bills, and floral arrangements. The state’s campaign finance laws provide little guidance on what counts as a legal campaign expense, but an effort under way at the Legislature would take a step toward more explicitly acknowledging the personal costs that can come with public service. It has prompted a debate over where candidates should draw the line between personal and political expenses on the campaign trail.
New Mexico – Padilla Claims AG Concealed Recording Device in Coffeepot
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 5/2/2019
Former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla is asking a judge to dismiss public corruption charges against her, claiming investigators in Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office violated her due process rights by secretly recording a conversation with her attorney – via a coffeepot outfitted with a recording device – before she was arrested in December 2016. But the attorney general’s office denies surreptitiously listening in on Padilla’s privileged chat, saying the coffeepot recording device, which was on loan from the Albuquerque Police Department, stopped recording while she was talking with her attorney.
New York – For Years, Top NY Lobbying Firm Went Unpaid for Campaign Work
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/7/2019
The lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates offers paid, professional campaign fundraising services for candidates, even as the firm lobbies members of the New York Legislature. But it has gone unpaid for months or even years in its political and fundraising work on behalf of the several state Assembly members, work that is worth tens-of-thousands of dollars. Sources said fundraising work included Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates soliciting campaign donations from its long roster of lobbying clients during the 2019 budget season. Under the state’s gift law, registered lobbyists such as Patrick Jenkins are prohibited from giving a gift of more than “nominal” value – $15 – to a public official, if it can be reasonably presumed the gift is meant to influence the official.
Ohio – Federal Judges Declare Ohio Congressional Map Unconstitutional
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 5/3/2019
A panel of federal judges declared Ohio’s congressional map unconstitutional, adding to a growing number of states where partisan gerrymandering has been outlawed. That decision and a similar one in Michigan could be seen as signals from the lower courts to their superiors. The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether judges even have a role in such disputes. While the high court regularly polices redistricting plans for racial gerrymandering, it has never found lawmakers’ partisan efforts to preserve power so extreme that their actions violate the constitutional rights of voters. But with the ruling in Ohio, federal courts in five states have struck down maps as partisan gerrymanders. The decisions will either guide the Supreme Court to find there is a way for judges to identify extreme partisanship or make the rulings short-lived.
Oklahoma – Donations to Lawmakers Keep Flowing Even as They Vote on Bills
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 5/6/2019
Since November 6, donors have given more than $1.7 million to sitting lawmakers and top state leaders in Oklahoma, with about 20 percent donated while the Legislature has been in session. The amount will likely climb because of fundraising in the second half of the session, a total that will not be disclosed until second-quarter campaign finance reports are filed by the end of July. Campaign finance reform advocates say even though these types of donations are allowable under state law, they are troubling because they raise serious conflict-of-interest issues for public officials.
Pennsylvania – Dark Money Under Spotlight as Campaign Finance Law Changes Right Before Philly Primary
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan | Published: 5/2/2019
Philadelphia 3.0, an independent PAC, has circulated thousands of fliers supporting Jamie Gauthier for city council and accusing incumbent Jannie Blackwell of being too cozy with developers. But the group’s support has proved somewhat polarizing in the race. The lasting backlash against 3.0 has been that it doesn’t legally have to publicly identify many of its donors. In 2015 it spent more than $500,000 on council races but kept secret the origin of seven out of every 10 dollars transferred from its nonprofit. A change to the city’s campaign finance law that is now in effect aims to make sure anyone who pays for political communications is named. The new law requires PACs like 3.0 to disclose all donors who contribute to political activity that costs more than $5,000, whether the funding originated from a nonprofit or a PAC.
Tennessee – Cocaine, Racy Texts and a Potentially Fraudulent Email: A week of chaos roils one statehouse
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 5/9/2019
Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, resigned amid reports he solicited sex in text messages to interns and lobbyists and used illegal drugs in the legislative office building. Cothren also faced scrutiny over racist text messages. His resignation came hours after a news article said Cothren allegedly solicited sex and nude photographs from an intern, sought sex with a lobbyist, and suggested he would make sexual advances toward another intern. Casada’s participation in some of the text messages has kicked off calls for his resignation. The messy political drama is another chapter in the long-running discussion about the treatment of women in the halls of power, in this case the statehouse.
May 3, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His Ties to Boeing Washington Post – Dan Lamothe and Heather Ryan | Published: 4/24/2019 The Pentagon’s watchdog cleared Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan of wrongdoing in an investigation examining whether he […]
Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His Ties to Boeing
Washington Post – Dan Lamothe and Heather Ryan | Published: 4/24/2019
The Pentagon’s watchdog cleared Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan of wrongdoing in an investigation examining whether he used his influence at the Defense Department to favor Boeing, his former employer. The results seemingly clear the way for President Trump to nominate Shanahan to take over as Pentagon chief. The probe was launched after the department’s inspector general received reports saying Shanahan had boosted Boeing in meetings, disparaged Boeing’s competitors, pressured Pentagon officials to buy Boeing products, and sought to influence the Air Force’s decision on accepting a Boeing aircraft after technical problems delayed its delivery.
As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/30/2019
After vaulting into the top tier of presidential candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is building a nationwide network of donors that is anchored by many wealthy and well-connected figures in LGBT political circles. Buttigieg’s candidacy has struck a powerful chord with many top LGBT donors. Though many said they believed they would see a gay man or lesbian become a serious contender for the White House, most of them had never considered it beyond the abstract. But the LGBT community is no monolith, and Buttigieg’s candidacy is exposing tensions that have been papered over during the period of relative unity and common purpose that has taken hold since President Trump took office.
Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Iuliia Mendel (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019
Then-Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Kiev in March 2016 and threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the country. The prosecutor general was soon voted out by Parliament. Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, the younger son of the former vice president, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general. The broad outlines of how the roles of the father and son intersected have been known for some time. New details about Hunter Biden’s involvement have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the elder Biden is beginning his campaign for president.
Congressional Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Targeting President Trump’s Private Business Can Proceed, Judge Says
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell, Ann Marimow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2019
A federal judge ruled Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption law and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene. Sullivan refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”
In Its Fight to Keep Drug Prices High, Big Pharma Leans on Charities
Los Angeles Times – Ben Elgin (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/29/2019
Many self-styled patient-advocacy groups with murky origins or hidden funders have cropped up since 2017. With names like the Doctor-Patient Rights Project or the Defenders Coalition, such groups pursue various policy aims that include effectively aiding pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to defeat drug-price proposals. The nonprofits take public positions in newspaper op-eds and letters to Congress while drug makers, beset by years of negative publicity over price hikes, tend to remain in the background. The groups say they are independent. That is not true for all of them, said Marc Boutin, chief executive of the National Health Council, which has more than 50 patient groups and dozens of drug makers as members. “There are a number of groups created by pharma companies that look and act like patient organizations, but they’re 100 percent funded by industry,” said Boutin, who did not name any specific examples.
Maria Butina, Russian Who Conspired to Infiltrate Conservative U.S. Political Groups, Sentenced to 18 Months
Boston Globe – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2019
A federal judge sentenced Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina to 18 months in prison Friday after calling her plot to penetrate conservative U.S. political circles without disclosing she was working as a foreign agent for the Kremlin “dangerous” and “a threat to our democracy.” Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups without registering with the U.S. Justice Department from 2015 until she was arrested and detained in July. Butina admitted she worked under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian government official, and with an American political operative on a multiyear scheme to establish unofficial lines of communications with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.
‘No Corporate PAC’ Pledges Aren’t Always So Pure
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/29/2019
Many incumbents in the club of Democratic lawmakers who refuse corporate PAC dollars still accept donations from colleagues and party committees that take the funds. Numerous freshman Democrats who ran on a no-corporate-PAC-money mantra opened their re-election coffers to donations this year from party leaders and committees, such as the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, that are full of funding from some of the nation’s best-known companies. Taking donations from party leaders and committees allows pledge-takers to stick to their vows while cleansing some of the “dirty” dollars and diluting the influence of the companies, but not banishing such money entirely.
Pete Buttigieg Swears Off the Lobbyist Money He Once Accepted
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 4/26/2019
Pete Buttigieg, whose upstart presidential campaign has benefited from an early surge of donations and national attention, will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who want to reform the way campaigns raise money. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was somewhat isolated among his rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination because he initially accepted lobbyist money, putting him at odds with the more progressive wing of his party. He will return the contributions he had already accepted from lobbyists, which his campaign said totaled $30,250 from 39 individuals.
Trump Views the Supreme Court as an Ally, Sowing Doubt About Its Independence Among His Critics
MSN – Robert Barnes and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2019
President Trump’s tweets demonstrate he views the U.S. Supreme Court as an ally, and safeguard against lower court defeats and congressional opponents. His administration’s lawyers have tried to leapfrog the legal process to seek the high court’s quick review of adverse rulings and nationwide injunctions by lower courts. They are also ready to go to court as the president resists demands from congressional Democrats investigating his conduct, business dealings, and personal finances. Critics of the president say his rhetoric seeds doubts about the Supreme Court’s independence, complicates the role of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and could taint the victories Trump achieves there.
When the Mueller Investigation Ended, the Battle Over Its Conclusions Began
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/1/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter in March complaining to Attorney General William Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. What followed was a dayslong, behind-the-scenes tussle over the first public presentation of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. A richer picture of that battle has emerged, one of testy letters (Barr described one as “snitty”) and at least one tense telephone call between the special counsel Mueller and Barr. The two were longtime friends who found themselves on opposite sides of an embattled president. The growing evidence of a split between them also brought fresh scrutiny on Barr.
From the States and Municipalities
California – State Officials Keep Hiring Their Relatives. Will Newsom Crack Down on Nepotism?
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/1/2019
California agencies have a long history of nepotism, along with pledges to end such favoritism, but the practice continues. Workers in at least seven state agencies have alleged favoritism shown to family members and friends of administrators in the last decade. Getting a desirable job in state government too often depends on who you know, say watchdogs and employees who have raised red flags. A 2017 investigation found 835 employees of the Board of Equalization, or 17.5 percent of its workforce at the time, were related by blood, adoption, marriage, or cohabitation.
Florida – Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell | Published: 4/30/2019
A few days before voters went to the polls in the first round of Tampa’s mayoral election, the David Straz campaign was in an uproar over a missing $225,000. Straz said he was freezing campaign spending until the missing money could be accounted for, members of his team said, but no one could come up with an answer. The reason, they said: political consultant Bill Fletcher was the only one who knew how campaign money was being spent. The Nashville-based consultant had the purse strings while also directing millions of dollars to his own company to buy television, radio, and digital advertising. He answered only to Straz, a political novice. Near-total power wielded by a single consultant is highly unusual and potentially dangerous, said veteran political consultant Adam Goodman.
Kansas – Former Salina Senator Pads State Salary with Travel, Food Vouchers
Topeka Capital Journal – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/30/2019
The former state senator hired as Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s regulatory fixer billed taxpayers thousands of dollars for driving to and from the job in Topeka after his official work station was quietly switched from a state office building near the Capitol to his residence in Salina. Tom Arpke, who burnished a political reputation in the Senate and House as a fiscal conservative eager to expose spending he considered superfluous, was chosen by Colyer to serve as the executive branch’s regulatory ombudsman. The decision to designate Arpke’s office as his personal residence 112 miles away from the Curtis State Office Building adjacent to the Capitol was necessary to justify Arpke’s monthly claims that taxpayers should pay him extra every time he drove to Topeka for work.
Massachusetts – For Sale in the Pot Industry: Political influence
Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dam Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallach, and Patricia Wen | Published: 5/1/2019
The law that legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts tried to make room for the little guy by limiting the number of cannabis shops a company could own or control. It also directly encourages proposals from black and Latino entrepreneurs whose community members were often unfairly targeted for arrest when pot was illegal. But so far, winning a license to sell marijuana in Massachusetts often seems to be determined by whom you know, or if you can afford to pay a lobbyist or consultant who knows people. Frank Perullo, the owner of Novus Group – which claims to be “one of the nation’s leading cannabis consulting firms” – estimates he has deployed his political connections and expertise to help push 40 to 50 proposed pot shops in Massachusetts.
Michigan – Federal Court: Michigan political maps illegally rigged to ‘historical proportions’
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 4/25/2019
A federal court in Michigan became the latest in the country to strike down its state’s legislative and congressional district maps, ruling they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. A panel of three judges in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The panel is giving the Republican-led House and Senate until August 1 to redraw the maps and get them signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. If state officials do not finalize new maps by then, the court would draw new boundaries itself and could appoint a special master to do so.
Missouri – ‘Pay to Play’ Case Sinks St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler, Jacob Barker, and Robert Patrick | Published: 4/30/2019
A federal grand jury indicted St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on charges of bribery, mail fraud, and the theft of honest services for trading political favors for campaign contributions. Stenger is accused of ensuring that donor John Rallo and his companies obtained contracts with the county and received other favors. Stenger also is accused of ensuring that an unnamed company obtained a state lobbying contract from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and taking actions to conceal the illegal conduct. Recent investigations by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch have raised concerns about county contracts going to Stenger’s political donors, and the county council began an ethics investigation into the matter.
New Hampshire – Sununu Inaugural Team Releases Conflict of Interest Policy, Months After Declining to Do So
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 4/25/2019
When faced with questions earlier this year about the thousands of dollars paid out from his inaugural committee to his sister and top political advisor, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s team said those payments followed state and federal regulations, and “the organization’s bylaws and conflict of interest policy.” New Hampshire lacks comprehensive disclosure and compliance rules around gubernatorial inaugural committees, and Sununu is the first sitting governor required to detail how his committee raises and spends money in reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.
New Jersey – The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520.
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag | Published: 5/1/2019
The Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs. But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks. Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey. Sheehan was allowed to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients.
New York – Mayor de Blasio and City Hall Staff Cozied Up to Lobbyists and Special Interests in Hundreds of Meetings, News Analysis Shows
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 5/2/2019
“I don’t sit down with lobbyists, I don’t talk to lobbyists, and I haven’t for years,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently. But a New York Daily News analysis of public records shows otherwise. De Blasio’s deputy mayors, commissioners, and high-ranking aides had at least 358 meetings and talks with both contract and in-house lobbyists in just 11 months, records show. They spoke with 332 different lobbyists during that time, between March 1, 2018, and January 31 of this year. Six of the contract lobbyists are with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, a law firm that represented de Blasio during a probe into his fundraising. City taxpayers paid the firm $2.6 million for representing the mayor.
New York – Some Top Albany Lobbyists Aren’t Following Sweeping Disclosure Rule
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/27/2019
New requirements imposed by the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) say lobbyists must disclose the names of lawmakers, agency employees, or local elected officials they directly lobby concerning legislation, regulations, and other matters. A review of the first filings covered by the requirement, reflecting lobbying performed in the first two months of the year, shows many top firms are trying to comply – some in extreme detail – but several prominent firms are not. Bolton St. Johns has not disclosed lobbying any lawmakers or agency officials this year despite employing a lengthy roster of lobbyists and having dozens of clients with legislative business. Whether JCOPE would penalize powerful lobbyists for not following the rule remains to be seen. Critics said it is also far from clear that the new disclosure rule would survive a court challenge.
North Dakota – Legislature Approves Republican-Written Ethics Measure
Dickinson Press – John Hageman (Forum News Service) | Published: 4/25/2019
North Dakota lawmakers approved a bill that sets rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform. The ballot initiative bans lobbyist gifts to public officials, requires the disclosure of the “ultimate and true source of funds” spent to influence elections and state government action, and creates a new state ethics commission that could investigate malfeasance. Greg Stites, an attorney hired by Measure 1 supporters to lobby lawmakers, said the implementation bill falls short by narrowing the definition of lobbyist and leaving holes in reporting requirements.
Ohio – Ex-Dayton Commissioner, State Lawmaker Arrested; More Arrests Coming, Feds Say
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff, Josh Sweigart, Thomas Gnau, Cornelius Frolick, and Mark Govaki | Published: 4/30/2019
An investigation by federal agents into suspected public corruption in the Dayton area led to charges against Joey Williams, a local bank executive and former city commissioner; former state Rep. Clayton Luckie; city employee RoShawn Winburn; and Brian Higgins, a local man who once owned a dead body hauling business. Four separate federal indictments detail allegations of bribes, fraud, and contract steering. The charges involve allegations of wrong-doing starting in 2014. The separate schemes arose out of the same investigation, authorities said. FBI Assistant Special Agent Joseph Deters said the lengthy investigation used sophisticated methods to “uncover what appears to be a culture of corruption in Dayton-area politics.”
Tennessee – Why This Republican Lawmaker Hired His Own Personal Lobbyist to Work the Capitol Halls
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/2/2019
Tennessee Rep. Martin Daniel officially hired a lobbyist recently, making him the first lawmaker in recent memory to have such an employee at his disposal. Nashville resident Drew Lonergan filed his lobbyist registration with the Tennessee Ethics Commission on March 25. Lonergan said he had been “consulting” for Daniel since January but registered as a lobbyist after consulting ethics officials. Lonergan’s sole employer listed on his lobbyist registration is Daniel, who is the only current lawmaker to have a personal lobbyist. Daniel said he pays Lonergan out of his own pocket and does not use campaign money to cover the expense.
April 26, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Constraints on Presidency Being Redefined in Trump Era, Report Fallout Shows MSN – Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2019 The events that have followed the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report threaten to redefine […]
Constraints on Presidency Being Redefined in Trump Era, Report Fallout Shows
MSN – Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2019
The events that have followed the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report threaten to redefine the legal and ethical standards that have long served as constraints on the American presidency. They also suggest that few, if any, of the traditional guardrails that have kept Donald Trump’s predecessors in check remain for this president and possibly those who will follow him. Current and former aides say they do not expect Trump to change his behavior, saying he is unlikely to be responsive to anything other than political pain in the form of a real revolt by Republican leadership or a sharp drop in poll numbers.
How the IRS Gave Up Fighting Political Dark Money Groups
ProPublica – Maya Miller | Published: 4/18/2019
“Dark money” spending is legal because of a massive loophole. Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code allows organizations to make independent expenditures on politics while concealing their donors’ names as long as politics is not the organization’s “primary activity.” The IRS has the daunting task of trying to determine when nonprofits in that category, known colloquially as C4s, violate that vague standard. But the IRS’ attempts to police this class of nonprofits have almost completely broken down. Since 2015, thousands of complaints have streamed in that C4s are abusing the rules. But the agency has not stripped a single organization of its tax-exempt status for breaking spending rules during that period. The IRS’ abdication of oversight stems from a trio of causes.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – How a Lawyer, a Lobbyist and a Legislator Waged War on a Birmingham Superfund Site
AL.com – Steven Mufson (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted to clean up toxic soil in the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham. The agency notified Drummond, a coal company, and four other manufacturers nearby that they would have to dig up and replace the soil on hundreds of residential yards. David Roberson, Drummond’s vice president and top lobbyist, worried it would cost his company $100 million or more. Roberson and his lawyer, Joel Gilbert, decided they needed someone who could persuade the people living on contaminated land to protest not the pollution, but the cleanup. They chose Oliver Robinson Jr. then a state representative. Prosecutors ultimately charged Robinson with receiving bribes, while Gilbert and Roberson were charged with bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering in the scheme to stop the EPA.
Alaska – As Capitol Reporters Dwindle, Alaska Lawmakers Grapple with Rise of Political Blogs
KTOO – Nat Herz | Published: 4/23/2019
The press corps in Juneau has a new addition this year: Jeff Landfield, a failed candidate for state Senate who is now running a colorful political blog called the Alaska Landmine. He is one of a growing number of political bloggers who are trying to fill in gaps left by Alaska’s shrinking mainstream media, posing challenges for both lawmakers and the bloggers themselves. Landfield was standing outside the chambers where the House meets recently, and he was getting some attention because he had a black eye. It was a souvenir, Landfield said, from when a legislative aide punched him a few days before at a Juneau bar.
Connecticut – Two Rival Politicians Accused Each Other of Using Drugs. The Result Was a Showdown at a Urinalysis Lab.
Washington Post – Antonia Noori Farzen | Published: 4/22/2019
Two feuding politicians in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, spent much of the past week accusing each other of being on mind-altering substances after getting into an ugly fight in the comments section of a local political blog. Bridgeport City Councilperson Ernest Newton and Board of Education member Maria Pereira concluded they could only settle their dispute one way: by challenging each other to a public drug test. Newton, whose political career was interrupted by a five-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, once struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine. Both tested negative for all 10 substances. But the feud did not die down.
Florida – Andrew Gillum Agrees to Pay $5,000 Ethics Fine
News Service of Florida – Tampa Bay Times | Published: 4/24/2019
Former Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to settle a complaint he violated state law by accepted gifts worth more than $100 from lobbyists or their clients who had interests in the city and failed to report them. The Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to drop four additional counts in the settlement. The commission had found probable cause that Gillum violated ethics laws for allegedly accepting gifts from Tallahassee entrepreneur Adam Corey and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. Corey had been a close friend of Gillum and lobbied city officials. The charges related to trips to Costa Rica and New York, a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty, and a ticket to the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”
Florida – Opioid Lawsuit Bill Stalls in Florida Committee Chaired by Sister-in-Law of Walgreens Lobbyist
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrencwe Mower | Published: 4/22/2019
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors, accusing them of recklessly supplying Floridians with millions of drugs per year. But a bill that is critical to the lawsuit moving forward has stalled in the committee of a powerful lawmaker: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who said her committee would not hear it because of concerns the bill could invade the privacy of patients. Benacquisto said her objections are not related to her brother-in-law, Chris Hansen, a lobbyist whose clients include Walgreens – one of the defendants in Moody’s lawsuit.
Maine – Numbers of Maine Lawmakers Who Went on to Lobby
AP News – Marina Villeneuva | Published: 4/21/2019
At least 14 Democratic and eight Republican lawmakers in Maine have gone on to register as paid lobbyists over the past three decades, a practice that is being targeted by a bill moving through the state Legislature. The House and Senate advanced a bill to ban future lawmakers from any paid lobbying within their first year out of office. The state ethics commissions had called for the change in 2017. The Associated Press (AP) compared state lobbying reports with legislative rosters and found that nearly half of the 22 former lawmakers who registered as lobbyists over the past three decades did so within the same year of leaving office. The lawmakers-turned-lobbyists have raked in $3.6 million in total compensation for their firms, according to the AP analysis.
Maryland – Federal Agents Search Baltimore City Hall and Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Home
Washington Post – Ann Marimow, Peter Hermann, and Lynh Bui | Published: 4/25/2019
Federal agents searched Baltimore City Hall and Mayor Catherine Pugh’s home among other sites amid fallout from lucrative children’s book deals she cut with businesses connected to the government she has run since 2016. Pugh took an indefinite leave of absence beginning April 1 attributed to health issues following criticism of the more than $700,000 she was paid for her self-published “Healthy Holly” book series. The book-deal revelations have led to calls from the city council and state lawmakers for Pugh’s resignation; an investigation by the state prosecutor; and to the firing of several of her aides. Investigators are scrutinizing Pugh’s deals with entities including Kaiser Permanente, which was awarded city contracts, and the University of Maryland Medical System, on whose board she sat for many years.
Massachusetts – Amid ‘Slush Fund’ Criticism, Nearly All Legislative Caucuses Will Forgo Outside Donations
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 4/24/2019
All but one of the nearly two dozen caucuses formed by Massachusetts lawmakers say they will not solicit outside contributions, weeks after a new internal rule allowing legislative groups to raise private funds stirred controversy on Beacon Hill. The rule, which requires all caucuses to register with the House Committee on Rules, also bars lobbyists from donating and says caucuses must receive approval from House counsel before taking any gift of more than $50. The potential of taking donations outside of campaign finance disclosure laws drew intense heat, including criticisms it could create a legislative “slush fund.”
Minnesota – Minnesota Lawmakers, Lobbyists Describe Cautious Capitol in Wake of #MeToo
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jessie Van Berkel | Published: 4/21/2019
A year and a half after reports of sexual harassment rocked the Minnesota Legislature and prompted two resignations, lawmakers and lobbyists describe a changed atmosphere at the Capitol. People are more cautious and aware of what crosses the line. There is also a new group of House members, many of them younger women, who are outspoken about addressing harassment and gender equality. But some at the Capitol say they worry the good behavior and awareness will fall by the wayside if the energy of the #MeToo movement fades from the spotlight.
Missouri – Lobbyist’s Crusade to Change Title IX in Missouri Stems from His Son’s Expulsion
Kansas City Star – Edward McKinley | Published: 4/23/2019
After his son was expelled from Washington University last year through the school’s Title IX process, a leading Jefferson City lobbyist launched a campaign to change the law for every campus in the state. Richard McIntosh has argued to legislators that Title IX, the federal law barring sexual discrimination in education and mandating that schools set up internal systems to police sexual violence, is tilted unfairly against the accused. His proposals create more protections for those accused of Title IX violations. Had McIntosh’s amendment been enacted, it would have allowed his son to appeal the result of his hearing to the state Administrative Hearing Commission, where his mother and McIntosh’s wife is the presiding and managing commissioner.
South Dakota – S.D. House Speaker Paid $12,000 for Lobbyist’s Legal Fees
KELOLAND – Bob Mercer | Published: 4/23/2019
South Dakota House Speaker Steven Haugaard authorized a payment of $12,000 for a lobbyist’s legal fees after he banned her from the chamber floor, and South Dakota Municipal League Executive Director Yvonne Taylor’s attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss the league’s lawsuit against Haugaard. Court documents say Haugaard called Taylor into his office and brought up her column from the league’s magazine. In the article, which appeared prior to the June 2018 primary elections, Taylor suggested voters make a distinction between what she called “The Normals” and the “Wackies” in the Legislature. One sentence said: “We desperately need to get that ‘wacky ratio’ down.” A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Haugaard and said the speaker was not protected by legislative immunity.
Texas – Conservative Group Empower Texans Sues Lawmaker to Gain State House Media Credentials
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 4/18/2019
Months after being denied media credentials for the Texas House, the conservative organization Texas Scorecard – a product of Empower Texans, a Tea Party-aligned political advocacy group with one of the state’s best-funded PACs – filed a First Amendment lawsuit arguing its rejection from the chamber constitutes “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.” Before the legislative session began in January, two employees of Texas Scorecard applied for media credentials in the Legislature. In the Senate, their credentials were granted; in the House, they were denied. The two chambers follow similar rules about who is allowed special journalistic access to the floor, and both prohibit lobbyists. But the chambers’ political atmospheres are different.
Washington – A State Senator Said Nurses ‘Probably Play Cards’ at Work. Facing Mass Outrage, She’s Apologized.
Seattle Times – Allyson Chiu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2019
While debating a bill that would give nurses uninterrupted meals and breaks at work and protect them from mandatory overtime, Washington Sen. Maureen Walsh arguing that hospitals in rural communities should be excluded from the measure because the requirements would place too much strain on those facilities. “By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks – they probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day,” Walsh said. The comment sparked an online petition calling for her to shadow a nurse and “experience what really happens” during a 12-hour shift. The senator’s office has also been flooded with angry phone calls and emails as well as packages containing decks of playing cards.
April 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Analysis: The many reasons to run for president when you probably don’t stand a chance
MSN – Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 4/14/2019
Presidential primaries tend to produce one nominee but many winners. Beyond the long-shot candidates effectively auditioning for cabinet positions or building a profile (and donor base) for future races, there are prospective books to sell and television contracts to sign, corporate boards to join, and paid speeches to make. Any setback is temporary. “There’s just absolutely no downside and only upside,” Republican strategist Antonia Ferrier said of quixotic presidential runs. “It is an industry of self-promotion. What better way to self-promote than run for president?”
Mueller Whacks Trump with Evidence of Obstruction
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 4/18/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed President Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller’s removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president. On numerous occasions, Trump’s impulses to stymie the investigators were only halted by staffers’ refusal to carry out orders. While the document confirms Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, it contains numerous unfavorable observations regarding potential obstruction of justice and sheds light on why the special counsel chose to neither exonerate Trump nor conclude he committed a crime.
Political Consultant Patten Sentenced to Probation After Steering Ukrainian Money to Trump Inaugural
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2019
An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced to probation by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with prosecutors. W. Samuel Patten admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort. U.S. District Court Judge Amy noted no federal sentencing guideline directly applies to his offense of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Prosecution of Former White House Counsel Sets K Street on Edge – Again
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/11/2019
The Justice Department’s indictment of Gregory Craig, who served as White House counsel under President Obama, sent a signal to K Street that lobbyists who work for foreign interests without registering have reason to be afraid. Some lobbyists have been on edge since Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, was indicted on charges of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, previously a rarely enforced law requiring lobbyists and others who work on behalf of foreign governments and political parties to disclose their activity. Some said Craig’s indictment is likely to reverberate on K Street as the crackdown continues. A letter from the FARA enforcement unit now “has to be taken as seriously as a heart attack,” said Matthew Sanderson, an attorney who advises clients on the law.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Lawmakers Pass Bill Saying Economic Developers Are Not Lobbyists
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 4/16/2019
A bill exempting economic developers from a requirement to register as lobbyists under the Alabama ethics law won final passage in the Legislature and could be signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. Lawmakers and the state’s industrial recruiters say the bill was needed to protect the confidentiality of site selection efforts by representatives of companies interested in coming to Alabama. Lobbyists are required to report to the Ethics Commission who they represent and information about their activities, reports that are available to the public. The bill proved controversial last year, with critics saying it would create two classes of individuals under the ethics law and open loopholes.
California: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Santa Clara Mayor in Conflict-of-Interest Case
San Jose Mercury News – Thy Vo | Published: 4/15/2019
Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce threw out a lawsuit that accused Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor of failing to divulge at least $180,000 in income on conflict-of-interest forms, ruling the documents are “political works” exempt from disclosure requirements. The forms require elected and appointed officials to report all their financial interests. But Gillmor’s attorney argued the lawsuit was hatched by political opponents and should be dismissed under a provision in the law concerning a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) that protects people against suits filed to intimidate them or silence their free speech rights. Pierce ruled Gillmor’s conflict-of-interest forms are related to her role as a politician and thereby qualify as “political works” that are protected speech under the anti-SLAPP statute.
Colorado: Denver’s Big 3 Lobbyists Have Deep Relationships with City Government and Mayor Michael Hancock
Colorado Public Radio – Ben Markus | Published: 4/11/2019
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking a third term this year, and on the campaign trail he is often criticized for his close ties to the business community, particularly developers. Even critics say there is nothing wrong with the mayor and his staff being in close quarters with the business community. But a Colorado Public Radio investigation found several lobbying groups that travel with the mayor also have contracts to work for the city. At the same time, they are actively lobbying the city on behalf of corporate clients. Lobbyists often stock their firms with former city workers, who sometimes go back to work for Denver, perpetuating the “revolving door,” which is legal under city rules. The lobbying firms are also among the largest donors to city campaigns.
Florida: Internet Intrigue: Blitz of lobbyists, consultants worked behind scenes before broadband vote
Tallahassse Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 4/16/2019
When talk of a city-owned broadband internet utility surfaced at the same time an out-of-town fiber-optic firm eyed Tallahassee as a potential new market, lobbyists, public relations people and industry consultants streamed into action. The debate during city commission meetings in March was contentious enough. But there was intrigue behind the curtain. By the time the dust settled, the commission reversed course on plans to explore creation of a new utility, something MetroNet, an Indiana-based company still considering coming to town, opposed. The drama that unfolded came after years of high-profile controversy involving lobbyists and consultants at City Hall. Watchdogs say it highlights the kind of murky dealings that undermine confidence in the city’s ability to police lobbying.
Indiana: Casino-Investor Ties Led Speaker Bosma to Skip Gaming Bill Vote. Here’s Why Questions Linger.
Indianapolios Star – Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 4/18/2019
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is recusing himself from votes on legislation that would make some of the biggest changes to Indiana’s casino laws in years because of a potentially lucrative contract arranged by a casino owner. Bosma said his law firm is providing legal representation to the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board, a local entity that stands to benefit from the legislation, which would allow a casino in Terre Haute. The contract was arranged by businessperson Greg Gibson, one of two principal investors in Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle is lobbying lawmakers for permission to move two casinos in Gary to more lucrative locations. Heightening the concerns are Bosma’s private discussions about the legislation with other lawmakers and casino companies, despite his decision to avoid any public votes on the topic.
Louisiana: Proposed Law Would Bar Legislators from Giving Tulane Scholarships to Immediate Family
New Orleans Times Picayune – Wilborn Nobles | Published: 4/16/2019
A new bill in the Louisiana Senate would bar close relatives of certain state politicians from being eligible to receive free tuition at Tulane University. Senate Bill 183 would make Tulane’s Legislative Scholarship unavailable for the immediate family members of a Louisiana legislator, statewide elected official, or an elected Louisiana official in Congress. The advantage of wealth and privilege in gaining access to elite universities has emerged as a hot topic following recent allegations that wealthy parents bribed university administrators and coaches at top schools to gain admission for their children. While no such payments are alleged in Tulane’s case, some critics say the university’s Legislative Scholarship Program is a “source of political patronage.”
Massachusetts: For the First Time, Boston Municipal Lobbyists Are Required to Register Their Work with City Hall
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 4/17/2019
Lobbyists in Boston will now have to register with the city clerk’s office. Those who do not register could face a fine of up to $300, according to an ordinance that was passed last year. Under the ordinance, the city will set up a five-member commission that will be charged with reviewing an individual or entity’s work with the city, determining whether that work would be subject to the new law, and whether to hand out penalties, said City Clerk Maureen Feeney. She said her office was communicating the new requirements to lobbyists who had inquired about the process. Feeney also said an online portal system the city set up is similar to the one used by the state.
Mississippi: Public Universities Spend Millions Wining, Dining, Lobbying Mississippi Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth and Geoff Pender | Published: 4/10/2019
Seven of Mississippi’s eight public universities and their private foundations spent nearly $2 million on lobbying over the past four years, a Jackson Clarion Ledger analysis found. That amount includes money for staff lobbyists and private lobbying firms, plus entertaining lawmakers. These public universities lavish money on public officials in hopes of getting more public dollars. And they spend more than most any other special interest groups seeking influence in the Capitol. In Mississippi, it is all completely legal. The state’s lack of restrictions on gifts to public officials means elected officials, their families, and even friends can benefit from unlimited largesse without worry.
Missouri: After Controversial MSD Vote, Winners Donated More Than $150,000 to Stenger Campaign
St. Louis Post Dispatch – David Hunn and Jacob Barker | Published: 4/15/2019
A contract to build the Deer Creek tunnel was one of the largest the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) had awarded in years. MSD staff recommended awarding it to the low bidder, Jay Dee Contractors. The district board’s practice, almost without exception, was to approve the professional staff’s recommendation. But SAK Construction mounted a lobbying effort over the contract, and the company’s concerns reached St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s office, which appoints three of MSD’s six members on its Board of Trustees. A top aide to Stenger met with two key trustees to discuss the matter. After the meeting with Stenger’s aide, one of those two MSD trustees switched his vote, and SAK ultimately won the contract. Less than a month after the vote, SAK executives did something they had never done before: they began pouring money into Stenger’s campaign.
Nevada: Nevada Lawmaker Paid Her Sister Thousands for Campaign Work, But We Can’t See the Details
Reno Gazette-Journal – James DeHaven | Published: 4/15/2019
Nevada has routinely ranked at or near the bottom of nationwide political transparency surveys. But ex-state Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson’s downfall under a cloud of admitted election spending misdeeds has sparked renewed interest in strengthening anti-corruption statutes. Now, weeks after Atkinson’s resignation, a Reno Gazette Journal analysis reveals state Sen. Pat Spearman paid nearly $103,000 in campaign funds to a consulting firm with close ties to her sister. Reports show Donna Spearman-Davis and Crawford Management Group were the two largest recipients of Spearman’s campaign cash, accounting for about 30 percent of the nearly $500,000 the former congressional hopeful and longtime state senator spent between 2012 and 2018.
April 12, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: You Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead. USA Today – Rob O’Dell (Arizona Republic) and Mark Penzenstadler | Published: 4/4/2019 A two-year investigation reveals for the first time the extent to which special […]
You Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead.
USA Today – Rob O’Dell (Arizona Republic) and Mark Penzenstadler | Published: 4/4/2019
A two-year investigation reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state Legislatures using model legislation. USA Today and The Arizona Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law. In all, these copycat bills amount to?the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy. For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.
Courts Have No Say When FEC Wants to Ignore Alleged Wrongdoing
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 4/5/2019
A decision by two federal judges is making it impossible to challenge the way the FEC enforces campaign laws. When the agency deadlocks along party lines, that is now the end of the line, no court can second-guess letting an accused wrongdoer off the hook. Judicial review was eliminated last June by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Critics of that ruling have waited for the better part of year to find out if they would be allowed to argue before the full court on reversing that precedent. Many FEC enforcement complaints have been dismissed on party-line votes, with Democrats voting to pursue action and Republicans opposed.
Democrats Are Cozying Up to Corporate Lobbyists Despite Purity Pledges
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/8/2019
Some Democratic lawmakers who have promised to steer clear of campaign donations from corporate PACs are allowing the same corporations’ lobbyists to write them personal checks, and in some cases even host fundraisers for them. Democrats on K Street are frustrated by what they view as arbitrary restrictions on which kinds of money lawmakers will take and which kinds are forbidden, according to interviews. Democrats’ rush to reject corporate PAC money falls heaviest on in-house Democratic lobbyists for big corporations. Some of those lobbyists have found it harder to mingle with House Democrats when they cannot attend fundraisers by writing a corporate PAC check to get in the door.
Scant Staffing Means Few Monitoring Whether Lobbyists Obey Law
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/9/2019
In 2016, enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) was handled by six part-time Justice Department lawyers and one full-time paralegal. Two years later, that work was being done by a much smaller staff: one part-time lawyer, one full-time paralegal, and one part-time paralegal. There has not been an enforcement action for an LDA violation in four years, and since the law was enacted in 1995, there have been a total of nine civil enforcement actions. For firms that want to stay on the right side of the law, “the lack of lawyers in the office has complicated matters when there are tricky legal issues to be resolved,” said Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Ward: Bill allowing lobbyist gifts to lobbyists ‘dead’ in his committee
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 4/10/2019
The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on a proposed bill that critics say would represent a major step back from ethics laws passed in 2010. The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, argued Senate Bill 230 would provide clarity by providing better definitions, explicit lines of enforcement and punishments for transgressions, and disclosures of gifts from lobbyists to officials. But the bill would lift any limits on what lobbyists could give to officials, provided they do not do so with corrupt intent. It also curtails the Alabama Ethics Commission’s ability to refer complaints to the attorney general’s office. “This bill is dead in my committee as far as I am concerned,” Judiciary Committee Chairperson Cam Ward wrote in a text.
California: To Block California Soda Taxes, Companies Paid for ‘Black Panther’ Tickets, Fancy Dinners
Los Angeles Times – Samantha Young (California Healthline) | Published: 4/7/2019
Dinners at an expensive restaurant in Maui, with ocean views. Tickets to professional sports games. A free screening of “Black Panther” at a Sacramento IMAX theater. And a $250,000 donation to a group that funds the governor’s travel. That is a sampling of the $11.8 million that soft drink companies and their lobbyists spent at the state and local levels in the past two years in California to block proposals such as taxing sugary beverages and imposing health warnings on their drinks, an analysis found. The beverage industry, like other interest groups, spends money to influence lawmakers in several ways. It makes financial contributions to their campaigns and lobbies them and their staffs, sometimes plying them with meals, events, and travel. It also donates to charities in lawmakers’ names.
Georgia: Georgia Ethics Chief to Issue Subpoenas in Investigation of Abrams Gubernatorial Campaign
The Hill – Zach Budryk | Published: 4/11/2019
David Emadi, the new executive secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission, will subpoena bank records from 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign. Emadi said he will also soon make a decision on whether to charge campaigns of Atlanta mayoral candidates for campaign finance fraud. Emadi replaced Stefan Ritter, who was accused of watching pornography at work and telling staff not to pursue potential campaign finance violations by candidates for city and statewide office. Ritter resigned in February.
Michigan: Mayor Mike Duggan Set Her Up to Succeed. That Raises Questions.
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen and Kat Stafford | Published: 4/4/2019
A charitable program run by a woman with close ties to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan received $358,000 in city grants and benefited from a fundraising campaign that a top city official spearheaded at the mayor’s direction. An email request shows Duggan ordered the city’s chief development officer to raise money for Make Your Date, which is a nonprofit medical organization where Dr. Sonia Hassan serves as president and director. Hassan was seen last year arriving after hours at the same suburban residence as Duggan in a surveillance video taken by a private investigator. The city’s financial support, attempted fundraising campaign, and Duggan’s repeated promotion of Make Your Date raises ethics questions about whether the mayor used city resources to benefit Hassan’s program.
Mississippi: Other States Ban Gifts to Lawmakers. Why Doesn’t Mississippi?
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth and Geoff Pender | Published: 4/9/2019
There are no restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to Mississippi lawmakers. A newspaper’s investigation found the state’s public universities alone spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on gifts for public officials from 2015 to 2018, including more than $200,000 in free sports tickets. In the 1990s, the Legislature passed a bill that required lobbyists and their clients to regularly report expenditures to the secretary of state. The reporting requirements caused lobbyists to “reign in” their spending some, said former legislator John Reeves, but it remains hard to tell if reporting now is honest and accurate. It not clear whether anyone in state government keeps a close eye on the lobbyist reports. Some contain errors, and most provide only vague details about what gifts were purchased.
Missouri: Appeals Court Upholds Joyce Ruling – Corporations Can Create PACs, but Not Donate Directly to Them
Jefferson City News Tribune – Bob Watson | Published: 4/10/2019
Missouri corporations may not make direct contributions to their own PACs, a three-judge panel of the state’s Western District appeals court ruled. The decision upheld a similar ruling by Cole County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s lawsuit against the state Ethics Commission. That lawsuit challenged the commission’s interpretation of voters’ intent, after more than two-thirds of the people who voted in November 2016 added the “Missouri Campaign Contribution Reform Initiative” to the state constitution.
New Hampshire: In Votes at N.H. State House, Lawmakers’ Personal and Public Interests Often Overlap
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 4/9/2019
New Hampshire lawmakers are paid $100 a year, so it is no surprise that many of them rely on other sources of income to get by. As a result, state lawmakers end up dealing with all kinds of proposals that can directly impact their family finances, the taxes they pay, the companies where they work, or the boards on which they serve. In policing these potential conflicts of interest, New Hampshire’s ethics rules tend to favor disclosure over recusal – which means that, with few exemptions, lawmakers are allowed to vote on or even sponsor legislation that has a clear benefit to their personal interests.
New York: To Get Trump’s Tax Returns, N.Y. Democrats Try a New Strategy
MSN – Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 4/8/2019
New York lawmakers introduced legislation that would make President Trump’s state income tax returns public, the latest step in a battle over details Trump has refused to release. Backers see the bill as an alternative way to Trump’s tax records, even if the president’s allies manage to stonewall efforts in the U.S. House to get his federal returns. A tax return from New York, the president’s home state and the headquarters of his business empire, could likely contain much of the same financial information as a federal return. Under the bill, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”
Rhode Island: Rhode Island Reaches Lobbying Disclosure Agreement with Mastercard
Pensions and Investments – Hazel Bradford | Published: 4/4/2019
Mastercard Inc. reached a shareholder agreement with Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner to increase its disclosure of corporate lobbying expenses. Inadequate lobbying disclosure by publicly traded companies presents reputational risks, Magaziner said, particularly in recent cases where large companies have upset customers, investors, and other stakeholders by supporting controversial causes. Mastercard will publish an annual list of its lobbying priorities and amounts spent on lobbying and an annual list of U.S.-based trade associations receiving $25,000. It will also disclose the percentage of those payments used for lobbying and ask the trade associations for that information.
Washington: A Washington State Senator Praised the Cambodian Government Last Year. Then It Gave Him a $500,000 Lobbying Contract.
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner and Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 4/5/2019
A company created by Washington Sen. Doug Ericksen landed a $500,000 lobbying contract from the Cambodian government he praised last year during a controversial visit as an election observer. Ericksen registered as a foreign agent for Cambodia in a recent filing with the U.S. Justice Department, along with former state Rep. Jay Rodne. Ericksen said his arrangement is “100 percent legal,” noting state legislators serve part time and are expected to have outside jobs. He also disputed characterizations of the deal as a lobbying contract, saying he is acting as a consultant. Neither Ericksen nor Rodne disclosed their ownership of PacRim Bridges in 2018 statements filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission. Ericksen said they did not have to list the business because he was not yet making money from it.
Wyoming: Wyoming’s Campaign Finance Reforms Leave Several Holes for Dark Money Influence
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 4/5/2019
Campaign finance experts say the reforms passed by the Wyoming Legislature this year leave a number of gaps that could potentially be exploited by so-called dark money groups in the 2020 elections. While sponsors acknowledged Senate File 18 was not a perfect bill, it does make a number of changes to a system that, in the 2018 cycle, was exploited by multiple PACs of often mysterious origins. Some of these fixes include improving the reporting of late political activity, requiring PACs formed outside of Wyoming to disclose their activity, and defining “electioneering communications.”