March 27, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 27, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020 American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones […]


As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020

American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones are moving to FaceTime. In campaign advertising, that shift was long underway, with money moving from old-school broadcast and print ads to a flurry of custom messages on social media and search engines. As this change has transformed politics over the past several years, and quickly accelerated in recent weeks, one national player has been noticeably silent: the FEC. The last time the FEC updated its rules to address online advertising was in 2006. More recently it has been paralyzed by an internal argument about whether its mandate should extend further into online campaigning.

Bernie Sanders Is Considering Several Options as He Ponders His Campaign’s Future
MSN – Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has convened a series of weighty discussions about the future of his presidential campaign with his closest confidants, and at least three potential paths forward have come up in the private talks. People with knowledge of the talks stressed that Sanders had not yet made up his mind and was still trying to reach out to supporters. Few if any dilemmas in recent political history have been fraught with so many variables and such significant potential consequences.

Bloomberg Makes Massive $18M Transfer from Campaign to DNC
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/20/2020

Michael Bloomberg is sending $18 million from his defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), an investment in the national party that appears to push the boundaries of campaign finance law. The money will support the DNC’s “Battleground Build-Up 2020” program, an initiative in 12 swing states across the country. The money could fund potentially hundreds of organizers in those states. The transfer signals a change of plans for Bloomberg, who is nixing an earlier idea to form his own super PAC to take on President Trump in 2020.

Bloomberg Sued by Aides for Stiffing Them on Yearlong Pay Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelsgo | Published: 3/23/2020

Former campaign workers for Michael Bloomberg are suing the billionaire former presidential candidate for fraud, alleging in a nationwide class action lawsuit that as many as 2,000 employees were promised to be paid through the general election before he laid them off. Plaintiffs in the class action include two organizers who halted the interview process for other jobs to join the Bloomberg campaign, and another former organizer who postponed law school to work on Bloomberg;s 2020 effort. The filing comes on the same day as another class action brought by a former Bloomberg field organizer that similarly argues the employees were tricked into taking jobs they were told would continue for a year.

Burr Asks Senate Ethics Committee for Review of His Stock Sales
Stamford Advocate – John Wagner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Swain, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review stock sales he made weeks before the markets began to tank in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Burr has faced calls to resign from across the ideological spectrum since it was reported he dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings in 33 different transactions a week before the stock market began plummeting amid fears of Covid-19 spreading in the U.S. Burr also come under fire for a secret recording in which he issued a much more dire warning to a group of attendees at a private luncheon about the potential outbreak than the prognosis he was offering publicly at the time. If Burr traded stocks based on information that was not available to the public, it could not only be an ethics issue, but a criminal matter as well.

Coronavirus Response Includes $400 Million in Election Assistance. Will It Be Enough?
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/25/2020

A sweeping federal spending package responding to the coronavirus pandemic will include millions to help states administer elections, but some fear it will not be enough to prevent chaos in November. The enormous spending bill includes $400 million in election assistance, according to a partial bill text released by the Senate Appropriations Committee. That figure is a fraction, however, of the $2 billion the Brennan Center for Justice estimated is necessary for states to prepare for a surge of voters casting ballots by mail and to ensure safe in-person voting.

Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 3/23/2020

Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee cannot take place because of the coronavirus, officials said for the first time. Among the complicating factors are the uncertain nature of the professional basketball season – the arena hosting the convention is home to the Milwaukee Bucks, a top NBA team likely to play deep into the playoffs if the league’s season were to restart – and how the party’s delegates will be selected. Delegates in most states are elected to the national convention from state conventions, but many state conventions, scheduled for late spring and early summer, are also being postponed.

FLRA Sets Sights on Official Time for ‘Lobbying Activities’
Government Executive – Erich Wagner | Published: 3/24/2020

The federal agency tasked with administering federal labor law announced it will reexamine whether federal employee unions may receive official time to communicate with members of Congress. The Federal Labor Relations Authority requested comments on whether the agency should overturn decades of precedent stating that a ban on the use of federal funds for lobbying applies to federal employees who are members of a labor union. The development is in response to a request from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union advocacy group.

From Jets to Juleps, SCOTUS Perks Aren’t Always Reported
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 3/24/2020

A self-appointed U.S. Supreme Court watchdog tallied the private flights and other hidden perks justices enjoy when invited to speak at universities. In addition to the private plane trips, the report from the group Fix the Court details a $500-a-plate VIP dinner that Justice Stephen Breyer attended before a 2016 lecture at the University of Texas, as well as undisclosed gifts like Wisconsin football gear given to Justice Elena Kagan, and silver julep cups to Justice Neil Gorsuch.

House Report Tables Remote Voting
Roll Call – Katherine Tullyu-McManus | Published: 3/24/2020

Remote voting is not coming to the U.S. House anytime soon, according to a Rules Committee report. But some advocates say the report did not fully consider the options available and members are still pushing for emergency alternatives. A public report and letter sent to lawmakers outlines the options for voting procedures during this unprecedented pandemic that is spreading across the country and even the Capitol. The report was commissioned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after pressure grew from rank-and-file lawmakers for leadership to identify alternatives to gathering 435 members in a room to vote, which makes following social distancing protocols nearly impossible. Pelosi had previously shot down the idea of remote voting when raised by her caucus and reporters.

‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising
Politico – Maggie Severns and James Arkin | Published: 3/20/2020

Campaigns across the country have canceled face-to-face fundraisers for the foreseeable future in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and are scrambling to figure out how to raise enough money to stay solvent. Big donors’ stock portfolios are tanking and small-dollar, online contributors, who have never been more important to campaigns, are facing sudden financial uncertainty and the real possibility of unemployment. Major donors from both parties already are beginning to scale back after years of riding high off of a booming stock market, donors and fundraisers said.

Joe Biden Found His Footing – Then Coronavirus Changed Everything
Yahoo News – Evan Halper and Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

Even as President Trump fumbles his way through the Covid-19 outbreak, there are risks for Joe Biden if he remains in the background of this ever-changing public crisis. Fresh polling shows a diminished lead for Democrats in November, and Trump’s approval rating mostly stable despite criticism of his early efforts to downplay the significance of the pandemic. That leaves Biden in uncharted territory, a candidate awkwardly adjusting to the new reality of virtual campaigning and struggling to find a message that gets him back on voters’ radar.

Six Days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from coronavirus testing to positive diagnosis
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2020

Aware of his extensive travel and compromised health, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul quietly got himself tested for the coronavirus on March 16. But for the six days that his results were pending, the Kentucky Republican took no steps to self-quarantine – continuing to cast votes on the Senate floor, delivering a speech lambasting a coronavirus aid bill, and meeting with other Republican senators in strategy sessions that defied federal advisories warning against gatherings of more than 10 people. Paul was defiant that he did nothing wrong, despite bipartisan criticism for his behavior and even sharper private furor among senators and aides because he had potentially exposed them to the virus.

Super PACs Step In to Attack Trump’s Coronavirus Response
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 3/24/2020

The presidential campaign has largely shifted to the recesses of public consciousness during the coronavirus outbreak. So, too, has political broadcast advertising. Calls for unity to stop the pandemic are widespread, and candidates could be accused of politicizing a crisis if they put out attack ads. But with President Trump on television constantly, Democratic strategists are worried his unabated free airtime, even amid a crippling national crisis, gives him a messaging advantage. In that vacuum, two Democratic groups have started multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns attacking Trump for his previous comments that played down the threat of the virus.

Supreme Court Rejects Keeping GOP Super PAC Donor Secret
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/23/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision allowing a trust fund to be named that was used by a donor to give $1.7 million to a Republican super PAC. The trust and a trustee sued to keep their identities secret. Once the lower court follows up on the Supreme Court’s order, FEC member Ellen Weintraub said she would release a statement with the names of the trust and trustee used to funnel money to the super PAC. Enforcement actions and court decisions are making it harder for some big donors to attempt to hide their identities, usually by funneling money to super PACs through obscure limited liability companies or other entities.

Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter, Federal Court Affirms in Ruling
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 3/23/2020

A federal appeals court let stand a ruling that prevents {resident Trump from blocking critical voices from the Twitter account he uses to communicate with the public. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the administration’s request to revisit an earlier holding that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual Twitter users who were critical of the president or his polices. The decision leaves in place a unanimous three-judge panel ruling from July. The court held that because the president uses his Twitter account to conduct official government business, he cannot exclude voices or viewpoints with which he disagrees.

Virus Brings States to a Standstill: Sessions halt, budgets crater, plans wait
MSN – Michael Powell and John Eligon (New York Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on statehouses across the U.S., derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction, and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed. Vast numbers of businesses have been forced to close their doors and millions of Americans face unemployment, creating a sudden need to spend on virus-related assistance, the certainty of sharp drops in tax collections and a turning of once optimistic budget projections upside down. The outbreak has forced at least 22 state Legislatures to close or postpone sessions at the busiest time of the year. The toll on state policies and spending appears likely to extend far beyond a single legislative season.


Canada COVID-19 Is Forcing Lobbyists to Significantly Shift Their Strategies
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez and Palak Mangat | Published: 3/23/2020

As the federal government in Canada ramps up its effort to control the pace of the coronavirus pandemic and stabilize the economy, lobbyists say much of their focus has either pivoted to responding to the immediacy of the crisis, or giving officials the breathing room they need. “I just don’t think there is lobbying during the coronavirus; I really think the focus has to be on getting through this,” said Joe Jordan, senior associate at Bluesky Strategy Group. As a former member of Parliament, Jordan said he may not react too kindly to being approached by a lobbyist during this type of crisis, in which thousands of people are being effectively laid off and the health-care system is under strain.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Democrats Cancel In-Person Primary Voting, Extend Mail-In Deadline
Anchorage Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 3/24/2020

The Alaska Democratic Party will hold its party-run presidential primary exclusively by mail and is moving back the deadlines for returning and tabulating ballots. The party announced it is canceling in-person voting sites planned for April 4 due to concerns with the coronavirus. But it is extending the deadline to return ballots by mail. The party now says they must be received in Anchorage no later than April 10 to be counted.

California California Fair Political Practices Commission Offers Guidance on Campaign Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 3/21/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission issued an advisory acknowledging that in light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, filing of campaign statements and reports will be difficult. All candidates and committees that file campaign statements and reports with the secretary of state’s office may use the office’s online filing system. Local candidates and committees should contact their local filing officers to determine if electronic filing is available in their jurisdiction.

California California Lobbyists Adjust to a World Without Handshakes and Hallway Conversations
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 3/18/2020

After the California General Assembly shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sacramento’s powerful “third house’’ – the lobbyists, advocates, and attorneys who represent powerful interests – has had to adjust on the fly. Political influence has long relied on personal connections, face-to-face conversations, and buttonholing political players in the hallways, committee rooms, and fundraisers in and around the Capitol, and none of that can happen for now. Lawmakers, too, are adjusting to their new remote reality.

California Political Fundraiser Admits to Delivering Bribes in L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin, David Zahniser, and Laura Nelson | Published: 3/19/2020

A federal corruption probe into relationships between developers and Los Angeles elected officials made a major move forward with prosecutors saying a political fundraiser will plead guilty to facilitating a $500,000 bribe of an unnamed city council member. Justin Jangwoo Kim will plead guilty to a single count of federal program bribery and will cooperate in the continuing City Hall corruption probe. Prosecutors said Kim facilitated a $500,000 cash payment to the unnamed council member in a developer’s effort to resolve a labor group’s environmental challenge to a major real estate project. The council member is referred to only as a member of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Connecticut Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order
Stamford Advocate – Ken Dixon | Published: 3/23/2020

The latest executive order from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont suspends limitations on gifts that were enacted after the corruption scandal that sent former Gov. John Rowland to prison in 2005. It also takes limits off political campaign contributions. Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said while the governor’s order falls outside the jurisdiction of his agency, it appears to apply only to large state contractor gifts. Those contractors who contributed in current or recent election cycles could have fallen into a legal limbo if the new executive order had not been addressed.

Georgia Loeffler Stock Trades Roil Georgia Special Election
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 3/21/2020

One of Kelly Loeffler’s most appealing traits to Republicans who embraced her for a coveted U.S. Senate appointment – her ability to self-fund a competitive election this fall through immense wealth – is suddenly looking like a serious liability for her and the GOP. Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January, damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Trump. Collins is seizing on the stock trades by Loeffler, who is married to the head of the New York Stock Exchange.

Indiana All Indiana Voters Can Choose to Cast Ballot by Mail for June 2 Primary Election
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 3/25/2020

All Indiana voters have the option to cast their ballot by mail in the upcoming primary election to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. The Indiana Election Commission authorized “no excuse” absentee voting by mail for this election only, along with numerous other temporary changes to accommodate Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to shift the state’s primary to June 2 from May 5 Vote by mail typically only is available to Hoosiers who satisfy at least one of 11 statutory excuses for being unable to get to their polling place on Election Day.

Kentucky As Coronavirus Creates ‘Unprecedented Obstacles’ to Voting, Kentucky GOP Takes Step to Add Another: Voter ID
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/20/2020

As states across the country took steps to make voting to make voting easier in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Legislature in Kentucky approved a new measure requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, prompting an outcry from voting-rights groups. Gov. Andy Beshear has 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. Beshear, who restored voting rights to former felons in an executive order days after he took office, previously said he opposed “unnecessary roadblocks” to voting. But the governor’s power to block the measure, which would go into effect for the November election, is limited.

Maine Maine Expands Campaign Finance Laws About PACs in State
AP News – Staff | Published: 3/24/2020

A new law in Maine defines caucus political action committees as subject to the same rules as other PACs. Supporters said the rule change means the state’s ethics commission will be able to fully enforce ethics rules about PACs that are led by legislators. The law takes effect on June 16.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Repeatedly Voted to Approve Spending for Groups on ‘Abstentions List,’ Report Finds
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 3/19/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted 30 times in three years to approve city spending on organizations with which she appeared to have a connection, a review from the Office of the Inspector General found. Pratt, a member of the city’s powerful spending board, maintained an evolving “abstentions list,” noting companies and organizations with which she is affiliated. Each of the board’s five members have had such a list and used it to refrain from voting on items for which they may have a conflict-of-interest.

Michigan Ballot Drive to Change Michigan Lobbying Laws Suspended Due to Coronavirus Pandemic – Lauren Gibbon | Published: 3/20/2020

The group behind a ballot petition drive to change Michigan lobbying laws announced it was suspending the effort, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the cause. The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes said they were postponing the campaign until the 2022 election cycle. The coronavirus “has made the already difficult task of collecting more than 425,000 signatures to put lobby reform on the ballot in 2020 a relatively impossible one,” the group said in a statement. Getting a citizen-led initiative on the ballot typically requires in-person contact all over the state as volunteers or paid signature gatherers collect hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Minnesota In ‘the Cathedral of Hockey,’ Bipartisanship Still Exists in Minnesota
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Briana Bierschbach | Published: 3/20/2020

It is not their usual scene in St. Paul, but for decades, a group of current and former legislators, lobbyists, staffers, state employees, and anyone else they could persuade to show up have gathered every Sunday during the legislative session for a game of ice hockey. Somehow the tradition has survived contentious budget fights, government shutdowns, and increasingly divisive state and national politics. It has outlasted at least three Minnesota governors who have played on the team, too.

Montana State GOP Spent $100k to Qualify Montana Green Party for the Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 3/24/2020

The Montana Republican Party bankrolled the signature-gathering effort to get the Montana Green Party certified for the 2020 election ballot, an official for a political committee said. Democrats, who had asked the state commissioner of political practices to find out who paid for the signature gathering effort, immediately accused the GOP of election fraud and of propping up a leftist political party as a means to siphon votes from Democratic candidates this fall.

New Jersey Belmar Mayor, Three Council Members Repay Questioned Campaign Gifts After Dispute
Asbury Park Press – Ken Serrano | Published: 3/25/2020

The mayor of Belmar, New Jersey, and three council members returned campaign contributions after a resident questioned whether the donations violated the borough’s “pay-to-play” ordinance that seeks to limit the role of money in politics. Borough attorney Jerry Dasti said it was debatable whether the officials violated the ordinance, but they returned the money anyway. An expert on “pay-to-play laws” said the elected officials’ actions were a clear breach of the ordinance.

New Jersey Sparta BOE in Flap Over Promotion of Member’s Son
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obernauer | Published: 3/19/2020

A school board member in Sparta, New Jersey resigned her seat after admitting she voted on a new contract and pay increase for Superintendent Michael Rossi in the fall while her son was employed in the school district as a substitute custodian, an action that was followed by her son’s promotion to a full-time $36,000-a-year custodian’s position that the board rescinded. Karen Scott acknowledged she also neglected to disclose the employment of her son in the district on her 2019 and 2020 personal disclosure forms, which all school board members and administrators must file annually with the state School Ethics Commission, after having previously included it on her 2018 form.

New Jersey State Ethics Commission Recommends Removal of Paterson BOE Member Emanuel Capers Over Arizona Trip
Paterson Times – Jayed Rahman | Published: 3/20/2020

The New Jersey School Ethics Commission recommended the removal of Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers for taking an all-expense paid trip to Arizona. Ethics officials rejected Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss’s legal conclusions that absolved Capers in December 2019. Moss had ruled Capers did not violate any provisions of the ethics code for school board members. Capers attended the Effective Schools Conference in 2018 paid for by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s education company Woz U. Capers has argued he is not a school district employee, but an elected official.

New York Nassau Inspector General: Courthouse contractor did not ID key principals
Newsday – Scott Eidler | Published: 3/21/2020

Nassau County Inspector General Jodi Franzese questioned the “business integrity” of the company that won an $85.6 million construction contract for the new Family and Matrimonial Court building in Mineola in Mineola because it failed to identify key officials or disclose campaign contributions they made. Citing requirements in a county law enacted after contracting scandals involving former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the report said Antonios Vournou and Jenny Sakalis failed to identify themselves as principals of E & A Restoration when they bid on county contracts.

Ohio Ohio Lawmakers Sets All-Mail Primary Election Through April 28; Legal Challenge Still Possible
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/25/2020

Ohio lawmakers approved a plan for an all-mail primary election running through April 28, the Legislature’s fix to wrap things up after the original March 17 Election Day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would send postcards to every Ohioan with instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Anyone who has not cast an early ballot already would have to print off a paper application, or call their county elections and request one be mailed to them, and mail it in. Elections officials then would mail an empty ballot with a postage-paid envelope. Voters would have until April 27 to mail it back or drop it off at a curbside county ballot box, and votes would be counted on April 28. But it might not be the last legal word on the issue.

Rhode Island Rhode Island Presidential Primary Moving to June 2
WPRI – Steph Machado | Published: 3/23/2020

After the Rhode Island Board of Elections voted to move the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would sign an executive order to move the date of the primary, which will take place mostly by mail. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea had initially asked the elections board to keep the primary on April 28 but do it mostly by mail-in ballots. But elections board staffers expressed concern there would not be enough time to distribute mail ballots and certify the large influx before April 28. The Board of Elections instead voted to delay the primary in order to have more time to prepare to hold it mostly by mail.

Texas Texas Delaying May Primary Runoff Elections in Response to Coronavirus
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 3/20/2020

The May 26 primary election runoffs in Texas will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the coronavirus under an order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices. The elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.

Texas Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Comes Under Fire for Saying Seniors Should ‘Take a Chance’ on Their Own Lives for Sake of Grandchildren During Coronavirus Crisis
Connecticut Post – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2020

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick faced a sharp backlash for suggesting older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats arguing that public health should remain the country’s top priority. “Let’s get back to living,” Patrick said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.” Experts have warned that loosening federal guidelines for social distancing would likely accelerate the spread of the virus and put many more Americans at risk.

Utah Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, Ousted by Scandal, Wants His Old Post Back
Salt Lake Tribune – Benjamin Wood | Published: 3/20/2020

John Swallow – the one-time Utah attorney general, driven from office by one of the state’s largest political scandals before being acquitted at trial – is running to reclaim his former office. Swallow won the 2012 election, but days after his inauguration, The Salt Lake Tribune reported his involvement in an alleged scheme to help a friend, Jeremy Johnson, enlist then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s help to avoid criminal prosecution. Johnson secretly recorded a meeting with Swallow where they discussed the deal. Subsequently, Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, were accused of extorting gifts and favors. Swallow denied the allegations, which prompted a probe by state and federal investigators, as well as a separate investigation into potential election law violations by the lieutenant governor’s office.

Continue Reading - 30 min read Close

March 20, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 20, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020 It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. […]


At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020

It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The setting was Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. The guest list included dozens of Trump family members and friends. But when it came to picking up the tab, hands went out to other attendees. Among them were at least four whose families are financial supporters of the president’s re-election campaign, for which Guilfoyle helps lead the fundraising. They ended up pitching in tens of thousands of dollars, passed along to Mar-a-Lago, to help pay for what two people familiar with the planning said was a $50,000 celebration of Guilfoyle’s 51st birthday. Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center said the party created the appearance of supporters of the president currying favor with his family by steering money into his private business, which he continues to profit from.

Biden Notches 3 More Victories; Sanders Reassessing Campaign
AP News – Will Weissert and Brian Slodysko | Published: 3/18/2020

Joe Biden swept to victory in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by the coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign. Biden’s third big night in as many weeks came amid tremendous uncertainty as the Democratic contest collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that has shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead as scheduled in the three other states, election workers and voters reported problems. Still, Biden’s quest for his party’s nomination now seems well within reach.

Biden’s Promise to Choose a Woman Veep Reignites Hopes of a Female President
MSN – Annie Linsky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2020

After watching Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and the departure of prominent female candidates from this year’s Democratic primary race, women in the party expressed hope Joe Biden;s vow to name a woman as his running mate could spell an end to the starkest gender barrier in American politics. Women have been tapped twice before as vice-presidential candidates, but with polls showing Biden leading President Trump in a general election, many see this as the most realistic possibility that a woman could wind up a heartbeat from the presidency. Biden has described himself as a “bridge” to the next generation of leaders, a comment interpreted as a signal he would serve just one term, meaning his running mate would be even more of a president-in-waiting than usual.

Coronavirus Forces Brussels Lobbying to Go Digital
Politico – Cristina Gonzales | Published: 3/17/2020

The coronavirus has put traditional networking and lobbying in Brussels on ice. The long-term impact of the pandemic on European Union lobbying industry will depend to a large extent on how much Brussels is able to legislate and regulate through a period of Europe-wide lockdowns and economic slowdown, and how willing and able policymakers are to continue engaging with outside stakeholders during that time. For now, with formal and informal meetings on hold, influencers are practicing “telelobbying” – trying to strategize and advance agendas through phone calls, video calls, webinars, emails, and instant messages.

Coronavirus Shakes Up K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/13/2020

K St. lobbyists said corporate leaders are looking for answers about what Capitol Hill and the White House are going to do to assist the economy and combat the spread of Covid-19. As the virus brings changes to daily life, with schools closing, events being cancelled, and people taking new precautions, lobbyists are being forced to rethink plans for meetings and high-profile events. Lobbyists who are not based in Washington have been forced to move to virtual meetings. Shoe leather lobbyists walk the halls of the Capitol or head to the White House to work for their clients, but increasingly those meetings are being handled over the phone. But as long as the work of Congress goes on, advocacy groups would need to stay engaged, said Lincoln Clapper, Prime Advocacy’s director of sales and marketing.

Coronavirus Tests American Democracy as Planning Begins for ‘Worst Case’ in November Election
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker and Amy Gardner | Published: 3/16/2020

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a singular test for American democracy, prompting states to postpone their primaries while already causing attorneys and voting-rights groups to take steps to ensure access to the November election in the event the outbreak is not contained by then. Hardly any precedent exists for the dilemma now facing campaigns and voters in the states pressing ahead with their contests. Experts said President Trump lacks the legal authority to change the date of the election. But some cautioned that increasingly stringent public health guidelines advising Americans to stay in their homes, or potential government-imposed lockdowns stretching into the fall, could present unprecedented obstacles to voting.

DOJ Memo Shows Clinton, Obama, and Trump Donor’s Shady Foreign Campaign Finance Schemes
Washington Examiner – Jwerry Dunleavy | Published: 3/17/2020

Federal prosecutors detailed the alleged foreign lobbying schemes carried out by Imaad Zuberi in a lengthy memo, alleging the campaign fundraiser who donated to Democrats and Republicans concealed work for shadowy interests around the world. Zuberi pleaded guilty in October to charges of tax evasion, making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions using straw donations and foreign funds and falsifying records of his extensive work as a foreign agent on behalf of Sri Lanka as well as lobbying for individuals and governments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain, and Libya. The Justice Department said Zuberi repeatedly violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act in receiving millions of dollars from foreign actors and lobbying Congress on their behalf.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison for Campaign Finance Violations
Los AngelesTimes – Morgan Cook and Greg Moran (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds for his personal use. He resigned from Congress in January. Hunter and his wife were accused of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign contributions and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records. The funds bankrolled private school tuition for Hunter’s children, his wife’s shopping sprees, weekend trips with his mistress, and drinking parties in Washington, D.C. After he was indicted, Hunter ran for reelection and tried to convince voters in the district that as a staunch supporter of President Trump, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by left-leaning prosecutors trying to drive him out of office in Democratic California.

Full Appeals Court to Hear McGahn, Border Wall Cases
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/13/2020

The full District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to weigh in on two legal fights critical to President Trump: whether the U.S. House can use the courts to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, and whether the House can sue to block Trump’s effort to fund border wall construction over congressional objections. The announcement wiped out a major victory Trump scored when a smaller panel of the same court ruled the courts should not wade into subpoena fights between Congress and the White House. There seems to be little chance the Supreme Court will resolve the issues definitively before the November election, but rulings in the House’s favor could lead the justices to intervene with a stay in the coming months.

Fundraisers Shifting Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Pandemic
Campaigns and Elections – Sean Miller | Published: 3/17/2020

Handshakes are taboo, major cities are being ordered to shelter in place, President Trump has told Americans to limit gatherings to 10 people, and the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are starting to be felt far and wide. In this stark reality, political fundraising consultants are having to reinvent their strategies to keep money coming in for their clients, even as the country shuts down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In-person fundraisers have been canceled, and launch events (traditionally prime opportunities to raise money) have been postponed for campaigns across the country. Campaign and fundraising plans are also being rewritten to account for what many expect will be fundraising shortfalls, at least in the near term.

Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Charges Against Russian Firms Filed by Mueller
MSN – Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 3/16/2020

The Justice Department moved to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize. The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by special counsel Robert Mueller, along with 13 Russians and another company. Prosecutors said they operated a scheme to use social media to subvert the election. Prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.

K Street Looks to Ride Coronavirus Relief Efforts
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/16/2020

Lobbyists for the private sector are looking to hitch a ride on the federal government’s coronavirus response. The deluge of “asks,” as K Street refers to such pleas, include policies that might help address the crisis and revive the economy. But other proposals are similar to ones the same industries have pushed for years and have only a tenuous connection to the pandemic. Even some in the influence industry are calling foul. “Some of the requests for aid appear opportunistic on their face while others seem truly desperate,” lobbyist Dave Oxner wrote in a recent note to clients.

Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 3/13/2020

A Washington, D.C. lobbyist pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government while lobbying for the Big Crow Program Office, a government program based at Kirtland Air Force Base that could not legally pay for lobbying activities from government funds under federal law. George Lowe became the third person indicted in the scheme to plead guilty in the case. Lowe was charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States through false claims for payment of federal appropriated funds. Lowe received payment for his lobbying services with appropriated funds provided by third-party private contractors hired to provide support to Big Crow.

Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 3/13/2020

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s marriage to a political consultant has drawn renewed focus on her campaign’s payments to her new husband, Timothy Mynett, and his firm, which are at the center of a pending complaint with the FEC. Following Omar’s marriage announcement, conservative critics raised concerns about payments by her campaign to E Street Group, which is run by Mynett. Payments to the firm in the 2019-2020 cycle for Omar’s reelection campaign comprised 40 percent of total campaign expenses. Representatives for Omar’s campaign and Mynett’s firm said there was nothing improper about the payments because they were made for legitimate work.

Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’ – Jacqueline Thomson | Published: 3/13/2020

A senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sharply criticized the FEC for arguing that a legal challenge to the agency’s decision to not prosecute certain campaign finance violations cannot be reviewed by the court. The panel upheld a District Court ruling that granted the FEC summary judgement in a lawsuit from the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, finding the reasons commissioners gave for throwing out complaints of campaign finance violations were reasonable. The FEC had argued that because the challenge was over a prosecutorial decision by the commission, it was not subject to judicial review.

Some Democrats Urge Party to Weigh Alternatives for National Convention Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2020

Some Democratic Party officials have expressed concern about plans to bring tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee for the July convention, even as the party’s leadership said it was not entertaining canceling the event or holding it remotely. The fate of the convention presents a potential conundrum for Democrats. Thousands of delegates, activists, and others in the party faithful are expected to cram into the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for the event. But the quest to showcase the nominee they hope will oust President Trump could run counter to the advice of public health experts, who are advising against large gatherings, if the coronavirus outbreak remains severe in the summer.

Super PACs Outmaneuver Outdated Rules to Leave Voters in the Dark
Center for Responsive Politics – Kark Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/18/2020

Super PACs are required to disclose their donors. But by launching a new super PAC just before an election, political actors can spend unlimited sums influencing races without disclosing their funding sources until after votes are counted. The current reporting rules were crafted more than four decades ago, when committee treasurers typed their reports with typewriters and mailed their disclosures to the FEC. Now, campaigns and outside groups maintain electronic databases of their contributions and spending, making it easy to file reports quickly. But the rules have not been updated to keep up with technological changes.

Two Congressmen Test Positive for the Coronavirus
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2020

Two members of Congress said they had tested positive for the coronavirus, the first lawmakers to contract the deadly disease, forcing other lawmakers who came into contact with them to announce they were self-quarantining. U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams said they began developing symptoms less than 24 hours after they had stood on the crowded House floor and voted for the coronavirus relief package. That Diaz-Balart and McAdams began feeling sick and tested positive so soon after the House adjourned on March 14 raises questions about how contagious they were during their recent time on Capitol Hill.

With 2 Lawmakers Sick, the Rest Take Turns Voting in an Empty Chamber
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferre-Sanduri | Published: 3/19/2020

As the coronavirus continues to radically change the day-to-day rituals of tens of millions of Americans, state lawmakers across the country are scrambling to balance their sworn duties with fears of infection and legislative priorities that have been upended and reshuffled. At least 17 statehouses have postponed their legislatives sessions, with lawmakers effectively retreating from public view, reshaping a core function of government, and the way constituents are able to access their elected officials at the height of a pandemic.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Governor Postpones Runoffs, Prolonging Sessions-Tuberville Battle
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/18/2020

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced she is postponing the state’s March 31 runoff elections until July 14, citing concerns about the new coronavirus. The move postpones the U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. There are also primary runoffs in the open seats in Alabama’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. The federal government has recommended gatherings not exceed 10 people in order to limit the spread of the virus.

California Political Dilemma: Make ballot statement, or spend more on campaign? The answer is shaping O.C. politics
Orange County Register – Brooke Staggs | Published: 3/18/2020

Orange County candidates running for state Senate and Assembly seats had to make a strategic gamble heading into the March 3 primary. They could pay $1,000 or more to print a 250-word candidate statement in the sample ballots mailed to all 1.64 million registered voters in Orange County. Such a statement might give them a needed edge in competitive races, but it came with a catch: any candidate who prints a statement on the primary ballot has to agree to strict campaign spending limits, both for the primary and, if they go forward, the November general election. Those decisions may play an even bigger role in the general, since some candidates in close races have agreed to spending limits even as their challengers did not.

California ‘Team Newport’ Pays $27,000 to Settle with State Over Allegations of Campaign Finance Disclosure Violations
Los Angeles Times – Hillary Davis | Published: 3/10/2020

The current and former Newport Beach City Council members known collectively as “Team Newport,” along with their political consultant and campaign treasurer, have paid the state $27,000 to settle a dispute over their 2014 campaign finance disclosures. The settlement dramatically cuts the original 44 counts that California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) staff returned against the group early last year. The agreement is subject to the FPPC’s approval when it meets March 19. The allegations centered largely on how contributions for mailers and door hangers were reported.

Florida Andrew Gillum Entering Rehab to Treat Alcohol Abuse After Hotel Incident
Tampa Bay Times – David Smiley and Steve Contorno | Published: 3/15/2020

Days after police say they found him in a hotel room with a collapsed companion and baggies of crystal meth, former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced plans to enter rehab for alcohol abuse. Gillum was not arrested and was allowed to return to his hotel in Miami. According to a Miami Beach police report, officers responding to an overdose call at the found Gillum in a hotel room with two other men and too inebriated to talk. Gillum issued a statement saying he was in Miami to celebrate a wedding and had too much to drink. He said he has never used methamphetamine. His decision to step away from the spotlight clouds a political career that seemed to have no ceiling.

Florida Increase in City Oversight Is Meeting Resistance
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/18/2020

Some Jacksonville City Council members are pushing back on legislation that would increase the city ethics director’s oversight authority because they worry it could dissuade private companies from doing business with the city. Proponents say strengthening independent oversight of city agencies is necessary in light of JEA’s failed push to privatize the city-owned utility The proposed ordinance would grant the ethics director the same unrestricted access to records and documents as Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General from all city employees, elected officials, and independent agencies and authorities. That access extends to private companies and their subcontractors doing business with the city and companies receiving financial incentives through economic development agreements.

Georgia Georgia Delays Primary Election
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/14/2020

Georgia delayed its presidential primary due to coronavirus. The primary, which was originally scheduled for March 24, will now be held on May 19. The presidential primary in the state will now be held on the same day as primaries in the state for local, state, and congressional offices. In-person early voting has also been halted. A statement from state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairperson of the Democratic Party of Georgia, indicated that in-person and absentee ballots that have already been cast in the presidential primary will count.

Hawaii This Hawaii Defense Contractor Has Emerged as a Major Political Player
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 3/18/2020

Over the past decade, Martin Kao has become one of the most prolific political donors to come out of Hawaii. Kao is the chief executive officer of Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based defense contractor that designs state-of-the-art ship hulls for the U.S. Navy. Kao has maintained a relatively low profile while he and his family have quietly pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of dozens of state and federal politicians. Now, some of these donations are coming under increased scrutiny, especially as Navatek expands its operations beyond Hawaii’s borders.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Presidential Primary Election to Be Delayed Because of Coronavirus
Baton Rouge Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 3/13/2020

The presidential primary elections in Louisiana slated for April 4 will be delayed until June 20, the latest in a series of dramatic steps government leaders have taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the administration would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation.  More than half of the state’s election-day commissioners are 65 or older, and 32 polling locations are in nursing homes or other senior facilities, Ardoin said. “This decision has been made out of an absolute abundance of caution for Louisiana’s voters, voting officials, and the general public as a whole,” Ardoin said.

Maryland Maryland Postpones Primary, Shifts Special Election to Mail Voting Over Coronavirus
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/17/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he was postponing the state’s primaries, originally scheduled for late April, to June 2 as the country grapples with the spread of the coronavirus. But Maryland will still hold one election on April 28, foreshadowing a potentially broad move toward mail voting that could pave the way for elections across the country to continue during the crisis. Hogan said he believed the special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings should forward on as a mail-in only election, the first federal election to be shifted to mail voting in response to coronavirus.

Maryland Senate Confirms Nominees to Overhauled University of Maryland Medical System Board After Self-Dealing Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/16/2020

The Maryland Senate voted to confirm nearly two dozen nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) board, which was overhauled last year after a self-dealing scandal rocked the hospital network and led to the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor. Senators voted unanimously to approve all new nominees to the board. But three Democratic senators voted against the five returning members, citing a report from state auditors that said the hospital network “hindered” a probe of the system’s finances. The Baltimore Sun reported on a new report from the auditors on UMMS finances, which uncovered more financial dealings between board members and their organizations than previously known. It revealed nearly $115 million in payments to more than two dozen board members and their related businesses in recent years.

Maryland States Are Banning Discrimination Against Black Hairstyles. For Some Lawmakers, It’s Personal.
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 3/12/2020

Maryland Del. Stephanie Smith said many of her friends have been told over the years they should style their hair differently if they want to advance professionally. It is one of the main reasons Smith introduced legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that expands the state’s discrimination law to protect hair texture, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles, such as braids, twists, and locs. “To require people to pretty much alter chemically or in some type of extreme way how their hair grows out of the head seems to me so beyond intrusive,” said Smith. A growing number of states and localities are taking steps to ban such discrimination, often led by young African American lawmakers like Smith.

Michigan ‘New Evidence’ to Retry Rep. Larry Inman for Attempted Extortion, Bribery, Prosecutors Say – John Agar | Published: 3/18/2020

Federal prosecutors say Michigan Rep. Larry Inman’s sworn testimony at trial has been contradicted by other lawmakers, including then-House Speaker Tom Leonard. Prosecutors want to retry Inman after a jury deadlocked on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe. Jurors acquitted him of lying to the FBI. Inman was accused of asking for campaign contributions in exchange for his vote on a 2018 repeal of a prevailing-wage law. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker in January suggested the line between seeking legitimate campaign funds and taking part in illegal activity may not be “bright and clear.”

Missouri Amid FBI Inquiry, Controversial Figures in Play for Another Huge City Power Project
Kansas City Star – Kevin Hardy, Steve Vockrodt, and Jason Hancock | Published: 3/15/2020

Two individuals involved in controversial energy projects in Independence that have drawn FBI scrutiny submitted a formal proposal to help repurpose a separate, soon-to-be shuttered city power plant. A collection of businesses led by Titan Fish Partners has a proposal with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars to repurpose the Blue Valley Municipal Power Generating Plant in Independence into a biofuels production facility. Numerous businesses and individuals are involved in the proposal, including Steve Tilley, a lobbyist and former Missouri House speaker who is ab adviser to Gov. Mike Parson. According to people who were interviewed by the FBI, Tilley has been a central figure in questions focused on a pair of questionable utility contracts in Independence and the rollout of Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

New Jersey Controversial N.J. Law to Unmask Secret Campaign Donors Is Officially Dead
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/11/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti permanently halted a New Jersey law requiring increased political donor disclosure. Martinotti issued a permanent against the law that required political organizations and some nonprofits to disclose all spending over $3,000, up from $1,600. It also mandated that contributors giving more than $10,000 would be disclosed. Supporters said the law was designed to shed more light on the donors who give secret donations to groups that have an effect on state government. Critics said the law curbs free speech because it would keep people who do not want their names to become public from getting involved in politics.

New York Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 3/13/2020

A New York Supreme Court judge struck down recommendations made by the state’s Public Finance Commission and ruled it did not have the authority to create laws. The commission was tasked with formulating a new campaign finance system for state elections. It also recommended changes to ballot petition requirements and party qualification thresholds, claiming too many candidates of various parties on the ballot would bankrupt any new system and raising questions about how valid some of the state’s parties really are. The commission recommendations became law in December after the state Legislature took no action to amend or reject them.

New York Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/15/2020

The lobbying firm that once employed two top staffers for New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has successfully persuaded the council on several controversial land-use projects, raising hackles among good-government advocates. The Kasirer firm, the highest-earning lobbyist in the city for the past three years, has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Johnson since 2017, when its namesake president Suri Kasirer backed him for speaker. Jason Goldman and Genevieve Michel, two Kasirer alums, also now work for Johnson, with Goldman serving as his chief of staff and Michel as deputy chief of staff. John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said while it appears no rules are being broken, the relationship raises serious ethical concerns.

North Carolina ‘Tip of an Iceberg’: Evidence in NC bribery case hints at more intrigue
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/12/2020

Evidence in the bribery trial of North Carolina’s biggest political donor hints at a wider world of intrigue than even his $5.5 million in documented campaign contributions previously revealed. Recorded conversations, texts, and emails name-checked a who’s who of North Carolina elected officials as Greg Lindberg, who owns a slew of businesses, pressed for a lighter regulatory touch on his insurance companies. A jury convicted Lindberg and his political fixer, a John Gray. Jurors agreed with the FBI and prosecutors that the men offered state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey campaign donations if he would replace a key regulator in his department. Causey wore an FBI camera that took in not only evidence of the crime, but also offhand remarks that tease at a larger tale, leaving substantial questions unanswered.

Ohio Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Move to Close Primary Polls Due to Coronavirus Spawns Confusion, Criticism
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 3/17/2020

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to close the polls for the state’s primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic created confusion and drew criticism from voting advocates. The governor said Amy Acton, the state’s health director, ordered the polls to be closed. DeWine acted after a judge rejected his effort to have the polls closed, saying the governor’s push to reschedule the election would “set a terrible precedent.” The decision from DeWine has led to increased uncertainty for how the state will proceed. It is rare for a governor to delay an election. While some praised DeWine for putting safety ahead of an election, others online decried the governor’s order as voter suppression and “an absolute tragedy of democracy.”

Rhode Island ‘Fall Guy’ Says House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Asked Him to Sign False Affidavit
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 3/14/2020

In newly filed court papers, political operative Jeffrey Britt says the chief of staff for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello asked him to sign an affidavit about a controversial campaign mailer, but he refused to sign it because it was false. Britt is charged with money laundering and making a prohibited campaign contribution during Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign. He is accused of funneling money to Republican Shawna Lawton, so she could put out a mailer endorsing Mattiello, a Democrat, who ended up edging another Republican by 85 votes.

Tennessee Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Fines Stay at $80K, Board Rejects Request
MSN – Scott Broden and Joel Ebert (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 3/12/2020

Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron still faces a recent $10,000 campaign finance fine after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Board rejected his reconsideration request. “I’ve got a serious, serious problem with any consideration on anything that he’s got,” said Tom Lawless, chairperson of the registry. It brings the total to eight unpaid $10,000 fines to Ketron for late filing of campaign finance reports. Lawless also questioned why Ketron kept his daughter as the treasurer of the campaign accounts until recently replacing her while she faced criminal charges of fraudulent insurance practices and theft of $65,000 from her father’s campaign accounts.

Washington DC Jack Evans Withdraws from D.C. Special Election Triggered by His Resignation
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/18/2020

Former District of Columbia Council member Jack Evans said he will not run in the special election to fill the vacancy he created by resigning before he could be expelled for ethics violations. Evans is still running in the June 2 Democratic primary to reclaim the Ward 2 seat for a permanent four-year term that starts in January. “I have decided it is best to not seek to run for the position which I resigned from in January and instead focus on a new start for the next four years,” Evans said. “Not running in the special is also a way of showing my sincere regret for the mistakes I made.”

Wisconsin Democrats Sue to Extend Wisconsin Primary Voting Deadlines
Courthouse News Service – Joe Kelly | Published: 3/18/2020

A lawsuit filed by Democrats in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., asks state election officials to extend absentee voting deadlines and suspend certain voter registration rules for the April 7 primary in light of widespread disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint brought by the Democratic National Committee and Wisconsin Democratic Party names the six commissioners of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission as defendants. The Democrats argue that forced confinement and social distancing implemented to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus will prevent people from voting, regardless of whether they are able or willing to leave their homes.

Continue Reading - 34 min read Close

March 13, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 13, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020 When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients […]


Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020

When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients girding them for what a Sanders administration might look like. Less than three weeks later, the same firm is preparing clients for a much less worrying prospect: the likelihood that Joe Biden, a more conventional candidate, will win the Democratic nomination after he rocketed past Sanders with a string of big victories. “There’s an immense amount of relief – make no mistake,” said Democratic lobbyist Scott Eckert. But a Biden administration, if he were to secure the nomination and defeat President Trump in November, could pose its own problems for K Street.

Bloomberg Aides Cut Loose Despite Yearlong Employment Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 3/10/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s shuttered presidential campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and inviting them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee, despite extending guarantees of being paid through the November election when they were hired. The former New York mayor is now underwriting an outside effort to help Democrats defeat President Trump. The Bloomberg campaign has said it plans to remain active in six battleground states and could give priority to the aides still on payroll. But it is unclear how many positions the new independent expenditure will have. Federal rules require Bloomberg to designate a new vehicle to fund Democratic efforts and pay staffers.

Business Money Flows Through Gaps in Anti-Corporate PAC Pledge
Roll Call – Kate Ackley and George LeVines | Published: 3/11/2020

More than 50 sitting federal lawmakers have taken a pledge not to accept direct donations from the PACs of corporations. The pledge has led to growing concerns among corporate PAC leaders about what it means for their future. Yet a review of contribution records found the political money of business interests – to the tune of $2.6 million last year alone – continued to find a way to most of the lawmakers who have taken the pledge. Typically, that route is through the PACs of trade associations and professional organizations. Trade association and member organization PACs are not designated as corporate PACs under the FEC’s classification process and therefore do not violate the no-corporate-PAC pledge as crafted by advocacy groups promoting it.

Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck | Published: 3/9/2020

Presidential campaigns, parties, and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions. The virus suddenly brought every assumption about the unfolding of the 2020 race into question, even the viability of activities as core to campaigning as knocking on doors. It also intensified fears about election interference and disinformation.

Democrats Boost National Fundraising for State Legislatures
Roll Call – Jacob Fischler | Published: 3/11/2020

After nearly a decade of virtually ceding state legislative races to Republicans, the Democratic Party organization dedicated to winning those seats and other allied groups nationally are ramping up fundraising in a bid to win control of state chambers ahead of census-driven redistricting. But funding disadvantages in individual races show the headwinds that persist. Flipping chambers as the Democrats did in Virginia in 2019 is about flipping individual seats. And the boost in funding to outside groups has not trickled down to individual Democratic candidates in key states.

Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 3/10/2020

House Democrats scored a legal victory as a federal appeals court panel granted them permission to access grand jury secrets from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The ruling from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the House’s ability to see the deleted passages in the public version of the Mueller report, the tome that describes the two-year investigation into potential links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report also examines Trump’s attempts to stymie the Russia probe. If it stands, the ruling would give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and entire pages – nearly 1,000 portions in all – as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s review.

Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2020

Erik Prince, a security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, and other groups. Two operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has used hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Trump’s agenda.

Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads
Reuters – Elizabeth Culliford and Mark Brown | Published: 3/5/2020

Facebook removed ads by President Trump’s re-election campaign that asked users to fill out an “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” because the ads violate the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census. The ads, which come from the pages of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, link to a survey on an official campaign website and then to a page asking for donations. “We need Patriotic Americans like YOU to respond to this census, so we can develop a winning strategy for YOUR STATE,” the ad read. The online newsletter Popular Information, which first reported on the ads, said Facebook had originally said they did not violate its policy.

GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC Probe into His Father
Politico – Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan | Published: 3/6/2020

The FEC is investigating potentially improper straw donations to U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ 2018 campaign that were paid for by his father, the latest political headache for the embattled Republican. At the heart of the FEC probe is whether Watkins’ father made illegal contributions to boost Watkin’s congressional bid. Steve Watkins Sr. confirmed the FEC is investigating him for giving thousands of dollars to his daughters, a home-building contractor, and the contractor’s wife, which they then used to max out to Watkins’ campaign. Those types of contributions violate campaign finance laws. The elder Watkins, who also dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a super PAC to support his son’s election, insisted he did not know what he was doing was illegal.

House Democrats Request Appeal Asking Court to Enforce Subpoena for Former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2020

House Democrats asked a federal appeals court to reconsider enforcing a congressional subpoena for President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn. The request comes after a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the courts have no authority to resolve the separation-of-powers dispute between the White House and Democrats in Congress. Lawyers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want a full complement of judges on the appeals court to overturn the ruling from a three-judge panel of the same court. If the ruling stands, it means the president’s former White House counsel can defy the subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. Even if the full appeals court agrees to take a second look, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP
MSN – Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 3/9/2020

President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fundraising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure. Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee (RNC), the operatives have consolidated power – and made money – in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the RNC, and a range of other Republican clients.

Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence
New York Times – Julian Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Adam Goldman | Published: 3/10/2020

Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence. President Trump attacked the briefings earlier in the day, accusing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, of dwelling too much on Russian election interference. Two intelligence officials pushed back on any suggestion the officials were politicizing their assessments. They said career professionals had made the conclusions about Russia and they represented the current view of various intelligence agencies.

Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States
AP News – Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman | Published: 3/11/2020

Joe Biden decisively won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory there, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, dealt a serious blow to Sanders and substantially widened Biden’s path to the nomination. Biden again showed strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders’ narrow hopes for good news rested on North Dakota and Washington state. Washington’s primary was too early to call, and because all votes there are cast by mail or by dropping them off in a ballot box, many ballots were marked for candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2020

A federal appeals court is wrestling with the powers of House investigators to get accurate information when pursuing ethics investigations into members of Congress and their staff. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments stemming from the prosecution of David Bowser, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, on charges of misleading investigators about the hiring of a House-paid employee to do political work for Broun. The appeals judges who took up Bowser’s case offered some glimmers of hope for his defense, but it sounded unlikely he would see a ruling that wipes out all the guilty verdicts against him. Judge Robert Wilkins expressed concern that the court not be seen as criminalizing the widespread practice of congressional staffers moonlighting for campaigns.

Juul Labs Sought to Court AGs as Teen Vaping Surged
AP News – Matthew Perrone and Richard Lardner | Published: 3/9/2020

The nation’s largest electronic-cigarette company, Juul Labs, has met with state attorneys general from around the country and donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns, part of an effort to build relationships with these powerful officials and potentially head off legal challenges over how Juul promoted and sold its vaping products. The company also donated $50,000 each to the Republican and Democratic fundraising committees that support the election of attorneys general candidates. Those donations won Juul corporate membership in both groups, a status that came with invitations to semiannual retreats and conferences attended by attorneys general and their staff. These events provide opportunities for companies to lobby state officials.

Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.
MSN – Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2020

Days after U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore an enormous gas mask during a floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, he announced he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel virus. He said he will close his Washington office while he is in quarantine. Gaetz said he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested and expects results soon. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Douglas Collins, who attended the same conference, also announced they would self-quarantine.

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal More Secret Service Payments to Trump Properties
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2020

The U.S. Secret Service was billed $157,000 more than was previously known by President Trump’s clubs and properties for nightly room rentals in the last three years, documents show. In total, the agency – and by extension, taxpayers – has been billed at least $628,000 by the properties since Trump took office in 2017. The payments show Trump has an unprecedented, and still partially hidden, business relationship with his own government. The Secret Service accompanies the president and family members wherever they go, and while on protective duty its agents are exempt from federal limits on hotel room spending. But there appears to be no requirement that presidents must charge the Secret Service. In fact, most recent presidents and vice presidents have allowed the Secret Service to use space on their properties free.

Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds
Washington Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/6/2020

Experts at New York University performed a security audit of Facebook’s online ad archive between May 2018 and June 2019. Their conclusions, spelled out in a new paper, point to myriad opportunities malicious actors may have had to exploit the platform’s powerful targeting tools while hiding their tracks, misleading users and evading Facebook’s enforcement. In the years after Russian agents weaponized the social-networking platform as part of their efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election, Facebook developed verification measures designed to prevent foreign actors from purchasing political ads. It also undertook transparency initiatives that placed paid posts in a public archive. But researchers found a series of defects that still could “enable a malicious advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their political ads,” as they wrote.

Trump FEC Pick Offers Mixed Messages on Donor Disclosure
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/10/2020

Trey Trainor, President Trump’s Republican nominee to the FEC, tried to quell concerns from Democrats and some good government groups that he would avoid enforcing campaign finance law if confirmed. During his nomination hearing, Trainor said he believes political donors should be disclosed despite his past support for secret election spending. He defended a “dark money” group from state regulators and previously invoked the Federalist Papers to defend undisclosed political spending. Trainor followed that statement by indicating he would abide by the FEC’s current system of tackling undisclosed election spending.

Watchdog Group Says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Hong Kong Lobbying Broke the Law
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 3/6/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen broke the law when she signed on as a consultant for the Hong Kong government during her one-year lobbying ban after she left office. In April 2019, Ros-Lehtinen was named a “team leader” for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as part of her work with Akin Gump, according to a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ros-Lehtinen retired from Congress in January 2019 and was barred from lobbying Congress for one year. The one-year lobbying ban also includes a blanket ban on any work for a foreign government for at least a year.

From the States and Municipalities

California Ex-L.A. Councilman Englander Charged with Obstruction in Probe Alleging Lavish Spending and Escorts
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 3/9/2020

Former Los Angeles City Council member Mitchell Englander was charged with obstructing an investigation into him accepting cash, escort services, hotel rooms, and meals from a businessperson. Englander is the first City Hall figure to be publicly charged in connection with a probe that has delved into the worlds of politics and real estate development. In 2017, Englander and one of his top aides went to a Las Vegas resort and casino with the businessperson. At the resort, Englander took an envelope containing $10,000 in cash from the businessperson in a bathroom, according to the charges. The indictment also details meetings Englander had with the businessperson in Palm Springs. Englander allegedly accepted an envelope with $5,000 in cash from the businessperson during a brief encounter in a casino bathroom while the men attended a golf tournament.

California Glendale Officials Now Must Disclose Familial, Business Relationships to Those Seeking the City’s Ear
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 3/10/2020

Glendale adopted a lobbyist and disclosure ordinance that imposes rules on how city officials and individuals attempting to influence them can interact, with the intent of bringing more transparency to City Hall. Lobbyists will now have to identify themselves, who they are working for, and how much they are being paid or risk being slapped with fines or a misdemeanor charge. Each year, lobbyists – whether they are individuals or firms – will now need to register with the city.

Connecticut Lawmakers Question Funding Behind Anti-Vaccine Groups Who Swarmed State Capitol
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 3/5/2020

Democratic senators in Connecticut said three groups that are working against a bill to end the state’s religious exemption to vaccines for schoolchildren “have active social media presences, have purchased billboard advertising, created professional websites, and have distributed paraphernalia such as stickers and posters at legislative hearings,” appearing to exceed the $3,000 threshold that requires such groups to register as lobbying organizations with the Office of State Ethics. The senators said the groups are also soliciting online donations.

Florida Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation into Nonprofit That Enriched CEO
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 3/11/2020

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, adding the prospect of criminal charges to the government actions mounting against former Chief Executive Officer Tiffany Carr and the agency’s board of directors, accused of misusing millions in taxpayer dollars. The investigation is the latest response to revelations that members of the board allowed Carr to be paid $7.5 million in executive compensation over three years. Florida lawmakers have passed a bill to end the state contract with the coalition, which had been the clearinghouse for $52 million in annual state and federal funding for 42 domestic violence shelters.

Florida Leon County Commission Gives Green Light to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 3/10/2020

The Leon County Commissioners moved forward changes to the lobbying ordinance that would clear up ambiguity on who is required to register and streamline enforcement efforts. The proposed language, which will go before a public hearing, comes after recent reporting that highlighted the blurry lines at the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy. No lobbyist has ever been cited for a violation in the county, said outgoing County Attorney Herb Thiele, who added that any instances that could have resulted in a fine were handled by instead reminding lobbyists to register. But he described the process, if a lobbyist were to be cited, as “cumbersome.”

Florida Lobbyist Sought City Benefits for Westside Property He Owned with Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 3/6/2020

Local lobbyist Deno Hicks sought financial incentives from Jacksonville City Hall for a city property he co-owns with JEA’s now-fired chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and that he is now trying to sell to a company affiliated with Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida’s former lieutenant governor. Zahn’s business partnership with Hicks came under scrutiny in his final days at JEA – a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility – which had hired Hicks’ former lobbying firm during Zahn’s tenure. Zahn did not disclose his ownership stake in the land to JEA’s ethics department. City attorneys who investigated Zahn concluded he failed to disclose business and personal conflicts-of-interest, which was one of two dozen instances of misconduct the board of directors used as evidence to fire Zahn earlier this year.

Louisiana In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law
Houston Public Media – Patrick Madden (WWNO) | Published: 3/5/2020

In Louisiana, casinos are prohibited from making campaign contributions to state politicians or campaigns. But casinos can donate money to federal groups such as the Democratic and Republican governors associations. These outside groups can spend freely on state races.  This money can be hard to trace because governors. associations don not disclose their donors until months after an election. Many other states have similar “pay-to-play” laws that prohibit specific special interests from making campaign contributions. But with outside groups free to raise and spend unlimited money without the same restrictions, watchdog groups worry these state-level “pay-to-play” laws could lose their effectiveness.

Maine CMP Project Backers Urge Lawmakers to Defeat Bill Barring Foreign Influence in Maine Elections
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 3/11/2020

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar foreign nationals and certain foreign corporations from spending to influence ballot campaigns. It is designed to close a loophole in the election law, but it could also have an immediate impact on Hydro-Quebec, the electricity supplier for a controversial $1 billion transmission line through western Maine. Hydro-Quebec formed a ballot question committee to support the project, and it has since been buying print and digital ads, touting its purported environmental benefits to Maine. But the Canadian utility’s involvement immediately raised questions about foreign influence in a Maine election and highlights an election law loophole that allows foreign nationals and companies controlled by foreign governments to spend on state ballot initiatives.

Maryland Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 3/9/2020

A Baltimore businessperson Lance Lucas pleaded to federal charges stemming from bribes totaling $42,500 he paid to former state Del. Cheryl Diane Glenn while she was still in office. Glenn pleaded guilty to accepting more than $33,000 in bribes from people other than Lucas. Lucas made 11 payments to Glenn, starting with four money orders, each for $500, in May 2018 after he told her about the significant costs that an unnamed company had incurred in its pursuit of a medical marijuana dispensary license. During a lunch meeting, Glenn suggested she would have drafted a bill benefiting the company had he paid her the money spent in the effort to get the license, according to the charging document.

Maryland Maryland House of Delegates Passes Campaign Finance Reform Package
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/12/2020

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation. One bill would help the State Board of Elections investigate suspicious campaign donations by requiring the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to forward a list of businesses that have forfeited their registrations to the elections board. Another bill prohibits a candidate’s family member or employee of the candidate from serving as the campaign’s treasurer. The four bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts
Baltimore Sun – Lance Lucas | Published: 3/9/2020

A bill that would allow labor unions to set the terms for how employees are hired on city construction projects has run into early opposition from Baltimore’s minority and nonunion contractors. Speaking in front of City Hall, representatives of several construction firms said the proposed legislation would be a burden on the city’s nonunion shops, many of which are minority-owned and employ people rejected by union groups like those with criminal records. The proposed bill would require project labor agreements, a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement between a contractor and a labor organization that establishes a labor group to represent everyone who works on the project. It would apply to all city construction projects valued at $25 million or more, or long-term capital improvement plans of more than $15 million that involve projects at multiple locations.

Missouri Businessman Involved in St. Louis County Scheme Sentenced
AP News – Jim Salter | Published: 3/5/2020

A businessperson who admitted to providing bribes as part of a “pay-to-play” scandal that led to the downfall of St. Louis County’s former top elected official was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. John Rallo pleaded guilty to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. He is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison. Two others also pleaded guilty to federal crimes as part of the scheme.

Missouri Kansas City Mayor Is Turned Away from Polls, Told He ‘Wasn’t in the System’
Kansas City Star – Allison Kite, Robert Cronkelton, and Glenn Rice | Published: 3/10/2020

Moments after making a plea for people to get out and vote in the Missouri primary on March 10, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said as turned away from the polls and told he “wasn’t in the system.” Lucas tried to cast his vote at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, where he said he has voted since 2009. Election officials later blamed the incident on a mistake by a poll worker, and Lucas returned later in the day and voted. But the mayor said the incident pointed to a larger problem in how elections are run.

New York Cuomo Resurfaces Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Plan
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/5/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again trying to require nonprofits and political advocacy organizations to publicly disclose their donors, after a similar law he spearheaded was struck down in October. But representatives from nonprofits fear the proposal would quash charitable giving and violate free speech protections. Nonprofits already disclose their major donors on tax forms to both the IRS and state attorney general’s office, but that information is currently kept confidential. This proposal in the state budget would require the state to list the donors online who give more than $5,000.

North Carolina Durham Businessman Found Guilty of Bribing NC Official
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/5/2020

A federal jury convicted businessperson Greg Lindberg on public corruption and bribery charges in a scheme to influence North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg offered Causey up to $2 million more to ease regulations on Lindberg’s insurance companies. The jury also found John Gray, a Lindberg consultant, guilty of helping set up the deal. Causey recorded those conversations for the FBI. Former North Carolina Republican Party Chairperson Robin Hayes had already pleaded guilty in this case, admitting he lied to federal investigators about the deal, which included money flowing through the state party but ultimately bound for Causey’s campaign coffers.

Vermont House Panel Seeks to Weaken Corporate Campaign Contribution Bill
Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 3/10/2020

Campaign finance reformers have spent years seeking to limit the flow of corporate money into Vermont elections. Now a bill that would do just that is being watered down by a House committee. Senate Bill 47 was originally drafted to prohibit corporations from making direct donations to Vermont candidates and political parties. It passed the Senate last March but has languished in the House thereafter. The House Committee on Government Operations is now poised to approve the bill with one major change: it would continue to allow political parties to accept corporate contributions.

Virginia PR Consultants Linked to Social Media Campaign Opposing Northern Va. Slots Won’t Say Who’s Behind It
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/11/2020

Someone has been running a social media campaign built to look like grassroots opposition to slot machines in Northern Virginia. In almost $50,000 worth of Facebook ads, a group called Not in Nova has warned that “out-of-state Big Gambling special interests and their lobbyists” were sneaking a bill through the General Assembly that would make the area more crowded and expensive. But none of the group’s public materials connect back to any identifiable citizen activists working against a proposal to allow Colonial Downs to operate hundreds of slots-like historical horse racing machines in Dumfries. The secretive nature of the advocacy campaign and the fingerprints of the public relations firms that seem to be carrying it out have fueled questions on social media and around the Capitol about who is actually behind it.

Washington Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/9/2020

Businessperson Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg agreed to pay $250,000 in fines and legal expenses after a judge found they violated Washington’s campaign finance law, but the defendants insist the case is a serious overreach by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder ruled Greene and Moberg unlawfully concealed they were responsible for spending $3,900 on political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor. Moberg was assessed the bulk of the settlement: $230,000. That includes $115,000 in fines and $115,000 for legal costs incurred by the state. “Intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Ferguson said.

Washington DC Jack Evans Probably Qualifies for Public Campaign Money in Comeback Bid, Records Show
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/11/2020

Jack Evans appears to qualify for public campaign funds in his bid to reclaim the District of Columbia Council seat he gave up amid an ethics scandal. The city’s new public financing program allows ward council candidates to receive taxpayer dollars if they collect at least $5,000 in small campaign contributions from 150 residents. Evans’ filing showed he raised nearly $10,000 from more than 200 residents. If regulators verify that he met the requirements to qualify for public financing and this summer’s election ballots, Evans would receive $40,000 in grants and up to $50,000 in matching donations. Public financing for Evans would mark a dramatic shift for the former council member, who has relied on raising money from developers, businesses, and moneyed interests over three decades.

West Virginia Ethics Panel Clears Justice’s Flights to, from Lewisburg
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/6/2020

Gov. Jim Justice may fly in the state plane from his home in Lewisburg to destinations other than Charleston to participate in official state business, and while in those locations, may take part in campaign activities before making the return flight home, the West Virginia Ethics Commission determined. In an advisory opinion, the commission said Justice has to meet several criteria to assure his travel does not violate the Ethics Act’s prohibition against using public office for private gain. The commission stressed it was not addressing a current legal challenge before the state Supreme Court contending that, by living in Lewisburg, Justice is violating a requirement in the state constitution that the governor reside at the seat of state government.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

March 6, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 6, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020 A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on […]


Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas
AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020

A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.

Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/4/2020

Michael Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a surprising collapse for the former New York City mayor, who pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign. Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere.

Cashing in On Justice
Roll Call – Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms | Published: 3/3/2020

Before they put on their robes, dozens of federal judges appointed during the Trump and Obama administrations made significant campaign contributions to Senate Judiciary Committee members and their home-state senators, the very people who could make or break their nominations. Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed. Home-state senators who have not served on the panel also wield considerable influence on who becomes a federal judge. They have received significant contributions from donors who ended up on the bench.

Inspector General to Probe Whether VA Chief Robert Wilkie Tried to Discredit Woman Who Reported Sex Assault
Fayetteville Observer – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2020

The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington, D.C. hospital. Inspector General Michael Missal, after a preliminary review of Wilkie’s conduct following the woman’s report last fall, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he has decided to move forward with a full-blown inquiry. Wilkie, who previously ran the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness operation, has denied making inquiries about the woman, Andrea Goldstein.

Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post
National Public Radio – James Doubek | Published: 3/1/2020

A federal judge ruled Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to a top immigration position in the Trump administration was unlawful, saying several directives issued by Cuccinelli to tighten asylum rules must now be “set aside.” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when it tapped Cuccinelli in June 2019 to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees legal immigration into the country. The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and the former attorney general of Virginia, that introduced new restrictions on the asylum process.

Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden
AP News – Sara Burnett | Published: 3/2/2020

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president’s White House bid. Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she could not turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests. Klobuchar could not match her top competitors in fundraising. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant she was not able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals.

Pete Buttigieg Is Ending His Presidential Bid
MSN – Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2020

Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who rose from virtual unknown to top-tier Democratic contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in the primary. Buttigieg’s departure may help add some clarity to a Democratic presidential field that at one point included more than two dozen candidates but has dwindled to just a handful.

Rep. Matt Gaetz Wore Gas Mask While House Voted on Coronavirus Response Bill
USA Today – Savannah Behrmann | Published: 3/4/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor while the chamber voted on a coronavirus funding bill. It was not clear whether Gaetz was wearing the gas mask to troll those panicking over the outbreak, as multiple health organizations have repeatedly stated not to wear face masks. But Gaetz, one of President Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, reportedly told journalists that he believes “members of Congress are human petri dishes.”

Sanders’s Rise Unnerves K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/28/2020

The rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary is unnerving K Street lobbyists and their clients. The self-described democratic socialist, who has touted an ambitious agenda to rein in special interests and corporations, has been gaining in the polls and is the Democratic frontrunner after wins in two primary states. While there is a long road ahead in the 2020 election, the senator’s new status is provoking sharp reactions on K Street, where lobbyists say clients are already asking about the fallout of a Sanders nomination, and maybe even presidency. Sanders has vowed to shake up how the influence world does business, with proposals to ban donations from federal lobbyists and corporations and to prohibit the corporate funding of party conventions.

Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/4/2020

Senate Republicans are set to advance a Republican nominee to the FEC, which would restore a working quorum to the agency but break with a tradition of confirming nominees in bipartisan pairs. The Rules and Administration Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing March 10 on President Trump’s nomination of James Trainor, an election lawyer from Austin, Texas, who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. If the committee approves him, Trainor could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an FEC staff attorney, for a Democratic commission vacancy, but Trump has not nominated her.

Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Buble | Published: 3/4/2020

President Trump signed into law a bill to clarify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) responsibilities during changes in presidential administrations as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before elections. The GSA, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will now have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The law requires presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethics that all members must sign.

Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 2/29/2020

A divided three-judge panel handed President Trump a victory by dismissing a congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the dispute between the executive and legislative branches. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives. The panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to McGahn was lawful. In that ruling, Jackson declared “no one is above the law.”

Union Lobbying Question Confounds at 1st Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 3/4/2020

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared conflicted as to whether private-sector unions can ever force members to subsidize lobbying. Appearing skeptical of the National Labor Relations Board’s holding that lobbying is not germane to a union’s legal duty to represent workers, Judge Bruce Selya emphasized in oral arguments that “lobbying activity is not monolithic.” But when the court then tried to come up with a rule as to what specific types of lobbying were germane, it struggled.

Warren Ends 2020 Presidential Bid after Super Tuesday Rout
AP News – Will Weissert | Published: 3/5/2020

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner could not win a single Super Tuesday state, not even Massachusetts.  For much of the past year, Warren’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising, and a political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance. Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday.


Canada Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website
Edmonton Journal – Canadian Press | Published: 2/27/2020

The Senate has voted to suspend Lynn Beyak a second time over derogatory letters about Indigenous Peoples posted on her website. Senators approved a report from the upper house’s ethics committee, which recommended Beyak be suspended without pay for the duration of the current parliamentary session. Beyak, a senator from Ontario appointed in 2013, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and eventually suspended without pay last May after refusing to remove the offensive letters from her website. She apologized recently, after which some of her Conservative colleagues tried unsuccessfully to refer the matter back to the ethics committee. But Independent senators took the position that Beyak needed to be suspended again while undergoing anti-racism training and that the matter could be revisited after that.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska House’s Minority Republicans Put Controversial Wasilla Representative on Probation
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 3/4/2020

The Republican minority in the Alaska House will temporarily remove Rep. David Eastman from legislative committees for disrupting the work of fellow members and delaying legislative action in order to draw public attention. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the action is a one-month “pause” that is a step short of ejecting Eastman from the caucus. While Eastman has a reputation as an iconoclast willing to challenge established norms, members of the GOP said two recent actions stood out and prompted the action.

Arizona Agriculture Industry Lobbyist Out of Job Amid Ethics Investigation into Arizona Lawmaker
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 3/5/2020

An agricultural trade association said it no longer employs a lobbyist at the center of an ethics investigation into alleged conflicts-of-interest at the Arizona Legislature. The House is looking into two complaints regarding state Rep. David Cook. The first involves an allegation he carried on a romantic relationship with the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr. Another complaint alleges Cook intervened to stop the local sheriff from seizing property from her family’s farming business to pay for back taxes. Knorr worked for the Western Growers Association. When intimate letters from Cook to Knorr emerged in January, the group said it had placed her on administrative leave and was probing allegations of professional misconduct. The association recently said Knorr is no longer its lobbyist.

Arizona Lobbyists Navigate Lawmakers’ Bad Behavior, Professional Relationships
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway and Andrew Nicla | Published: 2/28/2020

At the Arizona Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior. And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.

Arkansas Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 3/4/2020

In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election, in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Moody then agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction in January, leading the plaintiffs’ attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. Moody lifted the stay on March 3, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.

California Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/2/2020

As CalMatters reported in its series of articles, nonprofits created by individual California lawmakers or special caucuses of lawmakers are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said these affiliated nonprofits “can provide valuable resources” and he has no problem with them “if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.” But even as he called for transparency, Rendon did not endorse changing any laws or rules of the Assembly, nor did he call on his members to change their conduct.

California Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Recruiting Ownership Group in Effort to Buy Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Lillis | Published: 3/4/2020

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is working to form a local ownership group that could purchase The Sacramento Bee, separating the 163-year-old publication from its parent company and more than two-dozen sister newspapers across the U.S. The Bee’s current owner, McClatchy Co., is moving through Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt. If the restructuring plan is approved by a judge, the likely owner of The Bee and 29 other publications would be Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. “Are we better off in any way if we lose one of the most important voices for independent journalism? The answer is obviously no, and so it’s my job to rally and to organize and to help bring forward some real ideas that might … save the day,” Steinberg said.

California SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens
San Francisco Chronicle – Dominick Fracassa | Published: 2/27/2020

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s recent arrest on fraud charges. Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. FBI agents raided Wong’s offices on the same day that Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested. Federal officials have alleged Nuru accepted a trip to China and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of wine, from a billionaire Chinese developer in exchange for help with a development deal. The San Francisco Chronicle has previously reported Zhang was the billionaire developer referenced anonymously in the federal complaint against Nuru and Bovis.

Florida Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/4/2020

The Department of Children and Families filed a lawsuit against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) as ongoing investigations reveal millions of dollars were funneled into bonuses for the nonprofit’s staff. Since 2003, the coalition has managed about $52 million annually as the single state clearinghouse for 42 domestic violence centers. The suit accuses the FCADV of misrepresenting how state and federal funds were used to pay its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years. The investigations show a small group of members of the coalition’s board, as appointed by Carr, operated as the compensation committee and allowed Carr to claim she had a brain tumor while she padded her compensation and produced no evidence of a medical condition.

Florida Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/28/2020

Records show Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. Patronis faces a criminal investigation by the Leon County State Attorney’s Office for disclosing the sexual harassment complaint against the regulator, Ronald Rubin. An ethics complaint has also been filed against Patronis for disclosing another complaint. Rubin sued Patronis last year, accusing him and lobbyist Paul Mitchell, who represents financial companies that work with Patronis’ office, of fabricating the woman’s complaint against him. Phone records show Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.

Florida Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/2/2020

Tallahassee’s former independent ethics officer, who exited her post amid acrimony, has been hired by the same firm representing her in her lawsuit against City Hall. Meadows-Keefe, who served more than five years as the city’s first ethics officer, recently announced on social media she has accepted a position as an attorney with the Mattox Law Firm. Last year, Meadows-Keefe said she would step down following controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed official. She later sued the city, saying she was forced out, and the Ethics Board, which she said did nothing to stop it.

Florida Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 3/4/2020

North Miami’s parks and recreation director was not disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team. But now, after the details were exposed at a city council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave. Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.

Illinois 3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 2/28/2020

Three members of the state board that oversees the Illinois horse racing industry were forced out after making campaign contributions that are prohibited under the major gambling expansion legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last summer. Illinois Racing Board Chairperson Jeffrey Brincat and commissioners Greg Sronce and Edgar Ramirez resigned at the governor’s request. The resignations come after the previous chair of the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the casino and video gambling industries, resigned over political contributions. Gaming board members have long been prohibited from engaging in political activity.

Illinois Joe Berrios Must Pay $168,000 in Fines after Cook County Judge Dismisses His Complaint Against Ethics Board
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 2/27/2020

Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and his political committees must pay $168,000 in fines after a judge dismissed his complaints challenging the county Ethics Board’s findings and ability to sanction him. The board previously fined Berrios, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Cook County Assessor, and his 31st Ward Democratic Organization for accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits. At the center of the ethics board’s rulings was a 2016 county ordinance stating that donors who seek “official action” with the county may contribute no more than $750 in nonelection years. Attorneys for Berrios sought to overturn the rulings, arguing the county limits are unconstitutional and higher limits set by state law should apply, among other objections.

Iowa State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding
Cedar Rapids Gazette – Erin Jordan | Published: 2/28/2020

In signing a $50 million contract for a new cloud-based computer system, Iowa sidestepped traditional competitive bidding procedures and chose Workday, a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ former chief of staff. What concerns some lawmakers is the way the state chose Workday. Instead of seeking proposals from multiple companies to see which best met Iowa’s needs and was most affordable, state officials chose a generic contract that Workday had signed in 2015 with a for-profit procurement organization in Texas. A company spokesperson said Jake Ketzner, Reynolds’ chief of staff for more than a year, had no role in Workday’s contracts, but there have been further questions.

Maryland ‘Any Means Necessary to Win’: How prosecutors say Pugh used ‘Healthy Holly’ scam in 2016 Baltimore mayor’s race
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 2/28/2020

As federal prosecutors laid out what they described as a “shocking” corruption case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, they ticked off a list of victims: buyers who paid for her self-published children’s books that were never printed; schoolchildren who never received copies; and the federal government, which Pugh shorted of thousands of tax dollars. But there was another victim in the background: the voters of Baltimore. That is because the “Healthy Holly scam,” as prosecutors called it, was not just a years-long self-enrichment scheme. It also was a way for Pugh to try to illegally influence an election and achieve her dream of becoming mayor, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Michigan Detroit Official Wooed Investment Dollars from Billionaire – Now He’s Going to Work for Him
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen | Published: 3/4/2020

Ryan Friedrichs, Detroit’s chief development officer who is tied to an ongoing criminal investigation into deleted government emails, is quitting his city job. Friedrichs will work for real estate mogul Stephen Ross in development of a new innovation center on the site of the aborted Wayne County jail project. Friedrichs is a central figure in the ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning deleted city emails related to conflict-of-interest and preferential treatment allegations against Mayor Mike Duggan. Friedrichs was one of two officials identified who carried out orders from Duggan’s chief of staff to delete the emails, which were later recovered. Friedrichs said that his decision to leave his city job was unrelated to the controversy involving the deleted emails.

New Hampshire Proposal Advances to Strengthen N.H. Legislature’s Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Josh Rogers | Published: 3/4/2020

A committee in the New Hampshire House approved a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill’s outcome. The legislation spells out that lawmakers should recuse themselves when they or a member of their household have anything more at stake in the bill’s outcome than a member of the general public would. In November, the Legislative Ethics Committee found House Majority Leader Doug Ley violated ethics guidelines because of his involvement in legislation that affected the teachers union that employs him.

New York Ethics Commissioner: Cuomo leak probe was a ‘sham’
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 3/1/2020

A longtime member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said the state inspector general’s investigation last year into the alleged unlawful disclosure of confidential information to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a “sham” that led him to refuse to sign a sworn statement affirming he was not responsible for the leak. Commissioner Gary Levine confirmed his decision to decline to sign the affidavit after The Albany Times Union, following a months-long Freedom of Information struggle with the inspector general’s office, was provided copies of the affidavits that had been signed by other commissioners and employees of JCOPE, affirming they were not responsible for the leak. The inspector general’s office had previously declined to identify any individuals who had declined to sign the affirmations.

New York Ethics Office Lacks Some LIPA Lobbying Records
Huntington Now – Donna Deedy | Published: 3/4/2020

Taxpayers could save money under a New York Senate bill that prevents the Log Island Power Authority (LIPA) from collecting back taxes should the utility win its challenge to a power plant’s tax assessment. The Senate easily passed the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions. The Assembly’s companion bill has faced a different fate. Industry lobbyists have waged fierce opposition to the bill, including LIPA itself. Not all of it, though, appears to be as fully and publicly documented as state ethics laws that govern lobbying require. LIPA retained Millennial Strategies in 2019 specifically to fight the Assembly bill. But the state has no record of that activity.

Ohio Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn | Published: 3/2/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard resigned her office, less than a week after being arrested on federal charges that accuse her of trading votes on a development deal for cash. Dennard did not have to resign under the city’s charter, which has no provisions spelling out what happens when a council member is accused of a crime in office. Dennard is facing federal charges of bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion for what federal prosecutors say was an attempt to trade her votes for cash payments totaling $15,000. The votes were related to a complicated land swap and construction of a music venue at The Banks on Cincinnati’s riverfront.

Ohio Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 2/28/2020

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther will return $66,000 in donations, including from city vendors, that funded his State of the City address. The decision came after the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the city attorney’s office to warn the practice could potentially violate state law. “There was a potential for a conflict-of-interest and that was an ongoing practice,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said. “It was a practice that we were not aware of, [and] no one had sought advice.” The city will work with the commission to clarify the process of how and under what circumstances the city solicits vendors, something that is happening in municipalities across Ohio, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said.

Rhode Island Why A RI Supreme Court Justice Has Been Fighting a $200 Ethics Fine for Over A Year
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 3/4/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2019 fined state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose he was the president of a Catholic legal group while he was ruling on a priest’s sexual abuse case. Flaherty has contested the fine, claiming the violation stemmed from an unknowing mistake that resulted in a decision denying him due process. Flaherty also argues former commission Chairperson Ross Cheit should have recused himself because Cheit, a professor who specializes in repressed memory and child abuse, has written extensively on the topic, including some cases involving sexual abuse of minors and the Catholic Church. The commission noted its members do not participate in the investigation or prosecution of ethics complaints. It also refuted the implication that Cheit is biased.

South Carolina Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Potentially Reshaping the Democratic Race
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/29/2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary, as the first Southern contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year. What is not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, or result in a long slog to the convention.

Vermont In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’
New York Times – Sarah Lyall | Published: 3/4/2020

It can seem like neighbors cannot speak to neighbors of differing political persuasions without rancor and recrimination. Though Super Tuesday should theoretically offer some relief to voters eager to have their voices heard, politics itself seems suffused by alarm and dread. And so, Vermont’s annual town meetings, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in March, provide a welcome corrective. They are a chance for voters in the state’s municipalities to discuss taxes, budgets, roads, schools, the environment, and whatever else might be on their minds.

Washington Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/27/2020

The Public Disclosure Commission rejected a settlement to allow Facebook to walk away from charges of violating campaign finance law with a $75,000 fine, no admission of guilt, and no written promise to fully comply with Washington’s political ad disclosure law going forward. Commisssioners voted to refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further investigation and possible prosecution. The case has its roots in requests for local Facebook political ad data made by The Stranger and, separately, a private citizen. Facebook has refused to respond to those requests even though state law requires the company to disclose significant information on the financing and reach of election ads sold to influence this state’s local races and ballot measures.

Wisconsin Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 3/3/2020

A day after a gunman shot and killed five co-workers and himself at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors facility, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign hosted a fundraiser at a shooting range. The fundraiser invited people to contribute by amounts tied to gun calibers: the “10mm” level of $1,000, the “0.25 ACP” level of $2,500, or the “50 Cal M2HB” level of $5,000. Donors had the opportunity to shoot and were advised to visit the range before the fundraiser to complete a background check.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

February 28, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 28, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal ‘All Traitors Must Die’: Feds charge man for threatening whistleblower attorney Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 2/20/2020 Federal prosecutors in Michigan charged a man with making a death threat against one of the attorneys for a whistleblower who initiated […]


‘All Traitors Must Die’: Feds charge man for threatening whistleblower attorney
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 2/20/2020

Federal prosecutors in Michigan charged a man with making a death threat against one of the attorneys for a whistleblower who initiated the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The man, Brittan Atkinson, allegedly emailed the attorney in November, calling him a “traitor” who “must die a miserable death.” The attorney, Mark Zaid, confirmed he received the email the day after Trump held up Zaid’s photo and read some of Zaid’s tweets during a rally. The indictment follows months of rhetorical salvos by the president and his allies against the whistleblower, whose purported identity has been posted on social media and even read aloud in the U.S. Senate despite federal laws that allow whistleblowers to remain anonymous.

Dressing for the Campaign Trail Can Be Tough for Female Candidates. M.M. LaFleur Is Lending Free Clothes to Ease the Burden.
Washington Post – Taylor Telford | Published: 2/19/2020

Research shows physical appearance remains a point of scrutiny for female candidates, while the looks or dress of their male peers are scarcely factored into their potential. Women running for office say they often feel pressure to look the part lest they not be taken seriously. But the expense and upkeep of a professional wardrobe can be a barrier for many. That is why workwear retailer M.M. LaFleur is offering to lend clothing to female candidates this election season. The company has received more than 550 responses from women in state, local, and federal races and an outpouring of support from customers. M.M. LaFleur is leaving the onus on candidates in local or state races to ensure the donation of clothing is acceptable under their jurisdiction’s campaign finance laws.

Environment Regulator’s Husband Listed as Lobbying Her Agency
Bloomberg Environment – Stephen Lee | Published: 2/27/2020

A disclosure form lists the husband of the general counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality as lobbying his wife’s employer on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the council’s top issue. Both the council and lobbying group deny any such lobbying happened. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a proposal to speed environmental permitting for major projects recently. The proposed changes have also prompted scrutiny of the work of the council. Viktoria Seale is the agency’s general counsel. Her husband, John Seale, is director of federal affairs at the American Chemistry Council. On its lobbying disclosure form for the last quarter of 2019, the group lists NEPA among its many lobbying issues. It also lists CEQ among the agencies the group has approached, and John Seale among the individuals “who acted as a lobbyist in this issue area.”

Group Asks Congress to Investigate How Devin Nunes Is Paying for His Lawsuits
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 2/26/2020

A watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, calling for a congressional investigation into how the California Republican is paying for his lawsuits against media companies and critics. Nunes filed six lawsuits and sent two letters implying possible legal action in 2019. He has not disclosed how he is paying for the legal work, and the kind of lawsuits he is filing – alleging defamation and conspiracies against him – can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The complaint argues he would only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee. In all those cases, the complaint says, Nunes must disclose the legal help he is receiving by filing a legal expense fund, otherwise it would represent an illegal gift given to Nunes under congressional ethics rules.

How Conservatives Learned to Wield Power Inside Facebook
MSN – Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020

The debate over Facebook’s “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst disinformation pages being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within the company since Donald Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions, and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to employees. These sensitivities have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters to the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election.

In a Historically Old Presidential Field, Candidates Refuse to Release Health Records
MSN – Matt Viser and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020

Donald Trump became the oldest person to win the presidency in 2016 after a campaign in which he released only a letter from his doctor attesting to his “astonishingly excellent” health. Now, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are following his lead. Four of the six major Democratic candidates are 70 or older, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack about five months ago, an episode he at first failed to disclose. But the candidates, for the most part, have declined to release full dossiers on their health, relying instead on a physician testimonial. No law requires presidents to divulge intimate medical details, and previous occupants of the White House have not always done so. But in general, presidential candidates have felt an obligation to assure voters they are physically up to the job.

Once Cold War Heroes, ‘Miracle on Ice’ Team Struggles with Backlash from Donning ‘Keep America Great’ Hats at Trump Rally
MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 2/25/2020

Mike Eruzione and his teammates from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team had not meant to make a political statement when they appeared onstage as President Trump’s surprise guests at a recent campaign rally in Las Vegas. They happened to be in town to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” when they got a call from Trump’s campaign inviting them to a private photo line with the president. The next thing they knew, Eruzione said, Trump was introducing them at the rally and a campaign aide was handing them “Keep America Great” hats as they took the stage. Four of the former players chose not to wear them, but 10 others did, prompting a backlash on social media from Trump’s critics, who view the distinctive red hats as politicized symbols of hate, racism, and xenophobia.

Reliability of Pricey New Voting Machines Questioned
AP News – Frank Bajak | Published: 2/23/2020

In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems. Nearly one in five U.S. voters will be using ballot-marking machines this year, compared with less than two percent in 2018, according to Verified Voting.

Republican Lobbying Firms Riding High Despite Uncertainty of 2020 Race
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/26/2020

Republican lobbying firms are riding high after three years of President Trump and a GOP-controlled Senate. But those firms also face a tumultuous presidential election, a heated fight for the Senate, and a wave of Republican retirements from both chambers. That is sparking questions about whether they can keep that stretch going. K Street as a whole has been booming in recent years, but the gains for Republican lobbyists in particular have been notable, as firms have beefed up their Washington teams and seen revenue surge. Some question whether GOP firms should brace themselves for the uncertainty ahead and the prospect their party could lose the White House. Many lobbyists from Republican firms who spoke to The Hill, however, said they expect the boom to continue no matter how 2020 shakes out.

Richard Grenell’s Paid Consulting Included Work for U.S. Nonprofit Funded Mostly by Hungary
MSN – Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Dalton Bennett (Washington Post) | Published: 2/24/2020

Richard Grenell’s public relations consulting and foreign policy commentary are part of an unusual résumé for a leader of the U.S. intelligence community, a job Grenell assumed when President Trump named him acting director of national intelligence. That promotion is drawing scrutiny of Grenell’s past, including his foreign affairs commentary and consulting work after he served as U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations. His work for a Hungarian-funded nonprofit is the type of activity that has drawn the attention of Justice Department investigators tasked with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law requires people who advocate in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign power to register and disclose their activities, but Grenell did not register.

‘Scam PAC’ Treasurer Sentenced to Federal Prison
Center for Public Integrity – Sarah Kleiner | Published: 2/21/2020

A federal judge sentenced political operative Scott Mackenzie to 12 months and one day in prison for making false statements to the FEC. He also must pay $172,200 in restitution. Mackenzie, one of Washington’s most prolific and controversial political fundraisers, has served as treasurer of more than 50 federal PACs. At least a dozen of these purported to raise money for political and social causes, but they spent most of the money they raise from unsuspecting donors on fundraising, salaries, and overhead. Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer, said the decision is “a historic campaign finance prosecution” – the first time he is aware a professional PAC accountant has been sentenced to prison for filing false reports with the FEC.

Senior Intelligence Official Told Lawmakers That Russia Wants to See Trump Reelected
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, and Anne Gearan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/21/2020

A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. Trump replaced Maguire with a vocal defender, Richard Grenell. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who are not defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Steve Bannon’s Use of Private Jet Linked to Chinese Businessman Could Violate Campaign Finance Law
ProPublica – Justin Elliott | Published: 2/25/2020

President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, used a private jet apparently owned by a wealthy Chinese businessperson to fly to events to promote Republican congressional candidates in 2018. The previously unreported flights could run afoul of a campaign finance law that bars foreign money from U.S. elections, according to campaign finance experts, though it depends on several factors that are not known. One of the unknowns is whether Bannon paid Guo Wengui, who is a vocal critic of the Chinese regime, and with whom he has other reported financial ties, for the use of the jet.

Trump Campaign Says It Is Suing New York Times Over Russia Opinion Piece
Reuters – Steve Holland | Published: 2/26/2020

President Trump’s re-election campaign said it was filing a libel suit accusing The New York Times of intentionally publishing a false opinion article that suggested Russia and the campaign had an overarching deal in the 2016 U.S. election. In an escalation of the Republican president’s long-running battle with the news media, campaign officials said the lawsuit was being filed in state court in New York. Trump’s criticism of what he calls liberal bias in the American news media plays well with his conservative political base and generates applause at his political rallies, where his supporters often jeer journalists. Trump regularly refers to various media outlets as “fake news” and has called elements of the U.S. media “the enemy of the American people.”

Watchdog ‘Disappointed’ with Review of State’s Lobbying Act
Irish Times – Jack Horgan-Jones | Published: 2/25/2020

Ireland’s lobbying watchdog criticized the government for failing to give it extra powers to police the “revolving door” between the private and public sectors. Sherry Perrault, who is in charge of ethics and lobbying at the Standards in Public Office Commission, said it was “disappointed none of its recommendations were adopted” during a review of lobbying laws. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found there was no convincing case for updating the laws introduced in 2014.

Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere
Chicago Tribune – Mihir Zaveri and Alan Yuhas (New York Times) | Published: 2/25/2020

For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag – buttons, mugs, guacamole bowls – to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers, and gather data about supporters. Less attention has been paid to what happens to all those things after most of those campaigns end, sometimes abruptly. Surplus items often end up in storage or in the homes of staff members and volunteers. Some are given a second life with a new campaign. Most are thought to be recycled or thrown away. Lori Ferber Collectibles has been gathering campaign ephemera for over 40 years, said Steve Ferber, the company’s vice president. He said the company had sold everything from Reagan yo-yos to a Nixon pizza box. “It can get pretty strange, but everything sells eventually,” Ferber said.


Canada Facing Senate Suspension, Sen. Lynn Beyak Apologizes ‘Unreservedly’ for Posting Racist Letters Online
National Post – Canadian Press | Published: 2/25/2020

Sen. Lynn Beyak sought to stave off suspension from the upper chamber, pledging to do more to make amends for the harm she caused by posting offensive letters online. The letters were sent to Beyak, a senator from Ontario, in support of her defense of the residential school system. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded the system caused horrific abuse and alienation for generations of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children, Beyak has suggested there were benefits to the program that have been overshadowed. The letters she received and published online echoed her views, but some also went further, including suggestions that Indigenous Peoples and their cultures were inferior.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Marijuana Industry Works to Curry Favor with Local Politicians
Anchorage Daily News – Aubrey Wieber | Published: 2/23/2020

Since recreational marijuana became legal in Alaska, local businesses have joined other industries in the state like oil, fishing, and tourism in working to influence how their trade is regulated. By holding fundraisers and interacting with local and state leaders, Alaska’s marijuana industry is building its political capital, aiming to shape everything from rules restricting signage to how the industry is taxed. In Anchorage, the marijuana industry uses its growing political influence to suggest local regulation changes.

Arizona A Veteran Running for Congress Is Suspending His Campaign After a Heroin Overdose
Washington Post – Meryl Kornfield | Published: 2/26/2020

An Arizona Republican running for the U.S. House suspended his campaign to go into treatment after a heroin overdose. Chris Taylor, a 33-year-old Army veteran and city council member in Safford, said he was sober for “many solid years” before the relapse. He was found unresponsive in his home, where paramedics revived him with naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids. As the opioid crisis has continued to make headlines, only a few politicians, especially at the federal level, have come forward with their own stories of addiction.

Arkansas Ex-Nonprofit Chief Sentenced to 2 Years in Corruption Case
Texarkana Gazette – Eric Besson (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) | Published: 2/27/2020

The founder and executive director of South Arkansas Youth Services received a two-and-one-half year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty as part of a public corruption investigation spanning Arkansas and Missouri. Jerry Walsh pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was convicted in July 2018 of funneling more than $380,000 of the nonprofit’s money to former Arkansas lobbyist Milton Cranford, one of Cranford’s relatives, and an unnamed former Arkansas senator. Walsh spent the money, without his board’s approval, as part of an effort to preserve the agency’s state contracts to run youth detention facilities in Arkansas and to otherwise secure favorable treatment from officials, he said in his plea.

California A New Voting System in L.A. Raises the Stakes for California’s Primary
Los Angeles Times – John Myers and Matt Stiles | Published: 2/24/2020

When Los Angeles County set out to build a new voting system from scratch more than a decade ago, election officials knew the challenges in serving an electorate larger than those found in any of 39 states. But what they did not know was that their efforts were on a collision course with a series of statewide election changes and the most consequential presidential primary in modern California history. Should Angelenos not understand what to do or where to go, the effects could be felt both statewide and – in terms of the Democratic presidential race – across the country.

California Steak Dinners, Secret Donors: How the Tech Caucus is courting Silicon Valley with charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/20/2020

As the number of nonprofits run by California lawmakers or staff has grown in the last decade, most have publicly reported donors to the Fair Political Practices Commission. But the Foundation for California’s Technology and Innovation Economy, overseen by three board members with close ties to Assemblyperson Evan Low, last year stopped disclosing where its money comes from. The choice highlights the potential for secrecy in the growing niche of nonprofits run by government officials. “Legally they’re not required to give a lot of detail, which is one reason these groups can be so opaque and remain in the shadows; It just depends on what a group chooses to disclose,” said Anna Massoglia of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Colorado Denver Auditor Finds Serious Deficiencies in Ethics Board, Gift Reporting
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 2/24/2020

City Auditor Timothy O’Brien found in a new report that Denver’s volunteer ethics board suffers from lack of enforcement powers and inability to take complaints anonymously. In a survey question that 1,237 city employees responded to, 41 percent said they had observed unethical behavior and did not report it to the board. They cited fear of retaliation and the expectation of no corrective action taken as the most common justifications for non-reports. The report also discovered noncompliance with deadlines among elected officials and their appointees for disclosure of gifts worth $50 or more.

Florida A Side Parking Business at PortMiami Ends for Firefighters After County Ethics Probe
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/21/2020

Parking for a week at the Port of Miami costs about $175 unless your girlfriend happened to use a travel agent who went to high school with a local firefighter who could rent you a parking spot at the county rescue station there for a fraction of that price. That is the scenario Chad Burg outlined to a county ethics investigator last fall, explaining how he wound up parking his truck at Miami-Dade Fire Station No. 39 for just $20 during a week-long cruise in September out of the county-owned port. That kind of parking deal at the world’s busiest cruise port has come to an end on the heels of an ethics investigation into a longstanding perk for county firefighters that evolved into a funding source for the station’s kitchen and recreational options.

Kentucky Lexington Businessman Found Guilty of Lying About Alleged Illegal Campaign Donations
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/25/2020

A federal jury convicted a real estate executive on 11 charges relating to obstructing a federal investigation into alleged illegal contributions to Lexington council members in the May 2018 election. Timothy Wellman could face decades in prison if given the maximum sentence on all 11 counts. Prosecutors alleged Wellman circumvented state campaign finance limits that prohibit individuals from donating more than $2,000 to a candidate by giving money to more than a dozen straw contributors and then reimbursing them. Wellman told his co-workers at CRM Companies to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said.

Louisiana Ending of 10- Year-Old Ethics Case Sets ‘a New Low Standard’ for Louisiana Public Officials
New Orleans Advocate – Andrea Gallo | Published: 2/21/2020

Former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. has come to an agreement with the Louisiana Board of Ethics to resolve charges from 10 years ago that he failed to disclose he was paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University. State public servants are required to disclose when their financial interests overlap or conflict with the state’s, yet Marionneaux was able to delay doing so for years without penalty. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” ethics reforms in 2008 required new financial disclosures from public officials. But the other ways in which Jindal rejiggered the state’s ethics system have led to a falloff in enforcement, particularly for legislators, The New Orleans Advocate reported last year.

Maryland Ex-Lawmaker’s Campaign Treasurer Gets Probation for Fraud
AP News – Staff | Published: 2/26/2020

The campaign treasurer and daughter of a former Maryland lawmaker has been sentenced to probation for misusing her mother’s campaign funds. Anitra Edmond pleaded guilty to converting more than $35,000 in campaign funds for her personal use and failing to disclose contributions on state campaign finance reports. In a plea agreement, Edmond says she used the money for fast food, hair styling, personal phone bills, and rent for a separate business. Former Del. Tawanna Gaines pleaded guilty to a related charge of wire fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Sentenced to 3 Years in Book Scheme
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 2/27/2020

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison for a fraud scheme involving her children’s book series. She also must serve three years of supervised release after getting out of prison and pay more than $411,000 in restitution. Pugh resigned under pressure as authorities investigated bulk sales of her “Healthy Holly” paperbacks, which netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal authorities accused her of double selling the books, keeping many for self-promotion purposes, and failing to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including the Baltimore City Public Schools. Pugh had a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her books for $500,000.

Maryland The NAACP Paid $100,000 To A Woman Who Accused Him of Sexual Harassment. Now He’s Likely Headed to Congress.
BuzzFeed News – Addy Baird | Published: 2/25/2020

It has been nearly three years since the #MeToo movement began, ushering in the downfall of dozens of powerful men. But slowly, in recent months, those who faced serious allegations of misconduct have begun to reenter the mainstream. How to handle their reinventions remains an open question, and it is one U.S. House Democrats will have to answer given the near certainty that Kweisi Mfume, a former member of Congress and NAACP president who was accused of sexual harassment and admitted to dating a subordinate more than a decade ago, will join their ranks in late April. The NAACP paid the subordinate $100,000 in 2004 to avoid a lawsuit. Mfume recently won the special election primary to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Massachusetts Following Bribery Scandal, Walsh Revamps Zoning Board Policies
Boston Globe – Tim Logan and Milton Valencia | Published: 2/24/2020

Six months after a bribery scandal rocked the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh detailed changes he hopes will prevent such an incident from happening again. Walsh signed an executive order designed to strengthen conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure rules for the seven-member board, which governs small and midsize development projects across the city. More substantial changes, such as adding seats to the board, would require state legislation and probably take months, if not years, to win approval. But Walsh and key city council members said such measures are crucial to restoring faith in a board that wields enormous influence on the look and feel of Boston’s neighborhoods.

Nevada Bernie Sanders Decisively Wins Nevada Caucuses
MSN – Matt Viser (Washington Post) | Published: 2/22/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him. Sanders’ advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters.

New Hampshire Lawmakers Reprimanded for Skipping Anti-Harassment Training
AP News – Holly Ramer | Published: 2/20/2020

Seven Republican members of the New Hampshire House were publicly reprimanded for failing to attend mandatory training on sexual harassment prevention in a contentious session that lasted far longer than the two-hour course. Over the course of four hours, each lawmaker was given the opportunity to explain why they did not attend the training sessions. Some said they believed the mandate was unconstitutional, others said they did not need the training. Throughout the afternoon, Republicans made their displeasure known through a variety of unsuccessful procedural stunts that delayed the votes.

New Jersey Court Ruling Bolsters Convicted Former Jersey City Council President’s Bid for His Pension Benefits
Newark Star Ledger – Ron Zeitlinger (Jersey Journal) | Published: 2/20/2020

A former Jersey City politician caught in a federal corruption sting more than 10 years ago may be entitled to pension benefits, a state appellate panel ruled. The panel reversed the state pension board’s 2018 decision that denied benefits to former City Council President Mariano Vega because of his guilty plea to corruption charges in 2010. The court did not grant Vega benefits earned from his 22 years as a Hudson County employee, but instead sent the question of benefits back to the pension board with instructions to weigh all the factors before deciding if Vega should receive all, some, or none of his pension.

New Jersey N.J.’s Oddest Political Tradition to Roll Along with Less Booze, Fewer People After #MeToo Allegations
Newark Star-Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/26/2020

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip has long been a political tradition. Politicians, lobbyists, business leaders – and anyone who wants to get close to power – can buy $700 tickets to shake hands, drink, and schmooze as they walk through a series of packed train cars on their way to Washington, D.C. This year, the Chamber is debuting new rules designed to make the trip less raucous in response to a report on sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. The report included comments from women who said they were groped and subjected to sexual comments from often-drunk men on the crowded train. Though the trip is considered a must-attend event for many, some women said they no longer attend or take other transportation to the receptions because they felt uncomfortable on the packed train.

New Mexico Ethics Panel Wants Charges Against Padilla Refiled
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/25/2020

In its first court filing, the State Ethics Commission says the New Mexico Court of Appeals should reverse the dismissal of criminal charges against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla. The Ethics Commission took no position on Padilla’s guilt or innocence. But it said the state Governmental Conduct Act established specific, mandatory duties prohibiting abuse of office that can be enforced through criminal charges. Padilla had fair warning, the agency said, that she could face criminal enforcement if she were to abuse her office. The filing comes after Padilla’s attorney won dismissal of five ethics charges last year, arguing Padilla had been charged under parts of the law that are too vague to be enforced and were never meant to be used in criminal cases.

New Mexico NM Lobbyists Spend $151,000 on Legislators
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/26/2020

New Mexico lobbyists and their clients reported about $151,000 in spending this session. That is just part of the expenditures. More-detailed reports are due in May. But what is not reported might be more interesting. Lobbyists are not required to report which specific bills they are supporting or opposing, and they often do not reveal which legislators they met or shared a meal with. Sen. Jeff Steinborn said he will push again next session to expand the disclosure requirements for lobbyists. One priority, Steinborn said, is for lobbyists to reveal which bills they are working on.

New York Even Defunct, de Blasio Campaign Draws Financial Ethics Concerns
Politico – Joe Anuta | Published: 2/24/2020

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign coffers ran dry, he paid consultants and staff from a pair of PACs ostensibly created to help other Democrats, a questionable fundraising setup that helped boost the mayor’s profile even as he positioned himself as a reformer looking to get big money out of politics. Politico has reported that de Blasio’s campaign accepted the maximum from a small group of wealthy benefactors and then took additional contributions from the same people through his PACs. The PACs then spent money to help his White House bid in what one watchdog group called a shell game, but which the de Blasio camp has defended as a legal setup.

New York New Bill Would Close Loophole for Reporting on Independent Expenditures to Influence Ballot Referenda
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 2/26/2020

New York City Councilperson Brad Lander introduced legislation that would close a loophole in city campaign finance law that currently allows groups to hide their donors when they try to influence voting on a ballot referendum. The law now requires independent expenditure committees to disclose their contributors only when they spend money to favorably or negatively affect a candidate’s campaign for elected office. The law does not require that for ballot measures, such as the five that were approved by voters in November of last year.

Ohio Tamaya Dennard: Councilwoman facing charges of bribery and extortion, court documents show
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Cooledge | Published: 2/25/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard was arrested on federal charges of wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, between August and December 2019, Dennard engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money. Dennard is accused of requesting between $10,000 and $15,000 from an individual to pay for her personal expenses. An individual working with the FBI and Dennard exchanged a total of $15,000, in increments of $10,000 and $5,000, for upcoming votes on a matter scheduled to be heard by council. Dennard deposited $10,000 in a personal bank account the same day she received it.

South Carolina SC School District Officials Hit with Ethics Fines for Votes Tied to Spouses
Charleston Post and Courier – Joseph Cranney and Avery Wilkes | Published: 2/26/2020

South Carolina’s Ethics Commission sanctioned a pair of Columbia school district commissioners who each voted for contracts that netted hundreds of thousands in public dollars for nonprofits partly controlled by their spouses. Jamie Devine, board chair for Richland County School District One, said in a statement that a commission’s ruling against him went contrary to legal advice he received regarding his spouse’s board position with the EngenuitySC, which has partnered with the district on science education programs. Fellow Commissioner Beatrice King, who once warned Jamie Devine about his potential conflict, was fined for her own failure to recuse herself on votes for district contracts that went to Prisma Health. Her husband sits on that group’s board.

Washington Tim Eyman Violated Campaign Finance Law, Concealed Payments, Judge Rules
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/21/2020

Tim Eyman has been in violation of Washington’s campaign finance laws for at least the last seven years, concealing more than $766,000 in political contributions, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled. Eyman raised the money to compensate himself for the political work he does – serially running anti-tax ballot initiatives. But he did not report any of that money to the state Public Disclosure Commission, as is required. The judge said Eyman is at least 2,706 days late in registering as a political committee. He is also a combined 173,862 days late in filing 110 monthly campaign finance reports. The penalty for filing a late report is $10 a day, and that could be bumped to $30 a day if the judge rules the violations were intentional, which could potentially leave Eyman vulnerable to a fine of more than $5 million.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

February 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020 Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New […]


Bloomberg Would Sell Business Interests If Elected President
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne | Published: 2/19/2020

Michael Bloomberg would sell the financial data and media company he created if he is elected president, adviser Tim O’Brien said. The former New York City mayor would put Bloomberg LP into a blind trust, and the trustee would then sell the company, O’Brien said. Proceeds from the sale would go to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable giving arm that funds causes from climate change to public health and grants for American cities. The only restriction Bloomberg would put on the sale is that it not be sold to a foreign buyer or a private equity company, O’Brien said. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said such an action would need to follow complex rules and be approved by the ethics office.

Bloomberg’s Meme Spree Prompts Changes in Facebook, Instagram Rules
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 2/14/2020

Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s spree of often-surreal social media memes is having one concrete impact – it prompted Facebook to make another change in its rules for paid political content. From now on, Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary will allow “branded content” from candidates, a practice in which a campaign pays so-called influencers to place supportive posts on their accounts. Previously, a Facebook spokesperson said, the platforms had banned such content from politicians by default. Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored.

Buttigieg and Super PAC Improperly Coordinated on Nevada Ads, Watchdog Group Says
Greenwich Time – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint alleging the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg improperly coordinated with VoteVets, a super PAC supporting the campaign of the former mayor of South Bend. The watchdog alleged Buttigieg’s campaign improperly accepted more than $639,000 in contributions, in violation of federal rules barring candidates from coordinating with independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. The complaint filed with the FEC centers on a tweet by Buttigieg senior strategist Michael Halle analyzing the strengths of a particular campaign message in Nevada, and a subsequent ad campaign in that state by VoteVets that appeared to follow the strategy outlined in the tweet.

DOJ Drops Probe into Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/14/2020

The Justice Department abandoned its efforts to seek criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. His lawyers were told last September that he should expect to be indicted on charges stemming from inaccurate statements he made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. But no indictment was ever returned, leading to speculation that the grand jury probing the matter took the rare step of rejecting charges. The confirmation of a formal end to the criminal investigation into McCabe’s conduct came amid a highly public tug-of-war between President Trump and the Justice Department over the handling of cases and investigations he has taken a keen interest in.

Mike Bloomberg for Years Has Battled Women’s Allegations of Profane, Sexist Comments
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2020

Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging women were discriminated against at Michael Bloomberg’s business-information company. While allegations about Bloomberg’s comments and treatment of women have received notice over the years, a review by The Washington Post of thousands of pages of court documents and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company have fought the claims. As Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements.

Political Ads Are Flooding Hulu, Roku and Other Streaming Services, Revealing Loopholes in Federal Election Laws
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 2/20/2020

Four years after Russian agents exploited popular online platforms to push propaganda, sow unrest, and promote Donald Trump’s candidacy, the U.S. government has made virtually no progress on bringing more transparency to paid political speech. The risks remain high that voters could be duped by candidates, advocacy groups, and foreign governments – particularly online, where major regulatory gaps exist. Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web. Politicians have followed people online, and over the past year, their ads have appeared on popular platforms such as Roku. But nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them.

President Pardons Ex-GSA, OMB Official
Government Executive – Tom Shoop | Published: 2/18/2020

The series of pardons that President Trump issued on February 18 included one for David Safavian, a top official at the General Services Administration (GSA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the George W. Bush administration. Safavian served time in federal prison for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a high-profile scandal. Safavian was convicted on four counts relating to a golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002. The former head of federal procurement policy at OMB was found guilty of obstructing a GSA investigation, lying on a financial disclosure form, and two counts of making false statements.

Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 Months for Lying to Congress, Witness Tampering Amid Turmoil Between Justice Dept. and Trump on Penalty
MSN – Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 2/20/2020

Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump. The penalty from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone, who was convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked emails related to Hillary Clinton. Stone was the sixth Trump associate convicted and the last person indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Rohrabacher Confirms He Offered Trump Pardon to Assange for Proof Russia Didn’t Hack DNC Email
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff | Published: 2/20/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher confirmed that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails published by WikiLeaks. In an interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery. A lawyer for Assange cited the pardon offer during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Trump Campaign Hires Alum of Controversial Data Company
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 2/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alumnus of the data firm Cambridge Analytica, a move likely to raise alarms among Trump critics and data privacy advocates who worry the president will push the technological envelope to get reelected in 2020. Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program. Cambridge gained notoriety for its work on psychological voter profiling and because it allegedly improperly obtained the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users. Trump aides have denied they used Cambridge’s Facebook data in 2016 and say they will not in 2020, either. They insist they have no interest in using psychographic voter targeting. But that has not allayed fears among Democrats that the president will resort to online dirty tricks to win another term.

Trump Commutes Former Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence
AP News – Michael Tarm | Published: 2/18/2020

President Donald Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted in a wide-ranging political corruption case just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality television show. Blagojevich’s conviction was notable, even in a state where four of the last 10 governors have gone to prison  for corruption. Judge James Zagel, who sentenced Blagojevich to the longest prison term yet for an Illinois politician, said when a governor “goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured.” He was originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, trying to trade an appointment to a U.S. Senate seat for contributions and attempting to extort a children’s hospital executive. An appeals court tossed five of the convictions.

Why Corporate PACs Have an Advantage
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 2/14/2020

To increase their clout in Washington, D.C., corporations and trade associations often use affiliated PACs to boost the campaigns of candidates. Corporations themselves cannot give directly to traditional PACs, candidates, or parties. But they are allowed to cover almost all expenses incurred by their affiliated PAC, including staff salaries, fundraising expenses, and administrative costs. And corporations may spend their treasury funds to create incentives for their employees to fund the PAC. Grassroots political organizations say the current rules create an uneven playing field in the world of PAC giving. By paying for PAC expenses with corporate funds, these companies can maximize their political giving. Issue-focused PACs, on the other hand, must spend donors’ money to pay for salaries and hefty fundraising fees.


Canada Remicade Maker Janssen Recruits Former Doug Ford Adviser as Lobbyist
The Globe and Mail – Jill Mahoney and Kelly Grant | Published: 2/17/2020

A former top policy adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford registered as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company that is trying to persuade the provincial government to keep funding the country’s most lucrative drug. Greg Harrington, who played a senior role on government health policy, registered as a lobbyist for Janssen on January 31. During his time in the premier’s office, Harrington said he met with Janssen officials once or twice over concerns the province would force patients on government-sponsored drug insurance to switch from the company’s drug Remicade to cheaper alternatives called biosimilars. Harrington is the latest in a group of lobbyists with close ties to Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party that Janssen has enlisted.

Canada Stephen McNeil’s Meeting with Premier-Turned-Lobbyist Draws Fire
CBC – Jean Laroche | Published: 2/14/2020

A year ago, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and one of his senior advisers sat down to breakfast at Halifax’s Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, a gathering arranged and hosted by former Quebec premier and one-time deputy prime minister Jean Charest, who lobbies on the group’s behalf. The private meeting coincided with a national aerospace industry effort called Vision 2025, a campaign Charest noted was part of his lobbying activities on the federal government’s lobbyist registry in November 2018. Although Charest is registered federally, he has not registered as a lobbyist in Nova Scotia.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska State Challenges Ballot Measure That Would Install Ranked-Choice Voting Statewide
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 2/19/2020

State attorneys asked the Alaska Supreme Court to split a proposed election-reform ballot measure into two or more separate votes. If not, Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox said, the justices should rule the measure unconstitutional and prevent it from coming to a vote. Fox’s request came as the justices listened to arguments over the validity of the Better Elections ballot initiative, which would eliminate party-specific primary elections, install ranked-choice voting for general elections, and impose tough new disclosure rules on campaign contributions.

Arizona Migrant-Rights Advocates File Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth After He Cuts Off Testimony
Arizona Republic – Maria Polletta | Published: 2/18/2020

Migrant-rights advocates announced they filed an ethics complaint against Arizona Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, who had them removed from a committee hearing as they protested a controversial immigration measure. Lobbyist Hugo Polanco was testifying at the hearing on behalf of Living United for Change in Arizona, saying the resolution would be “a return to the racism, divisiveness, and hate of [Senate Bill] 1070” when Farnsworth stopped him and told him not to be “vitriolic.” When Polanco insisted the legislation at hand was also “racist, divisive, and hateful,” Farnsworth cut him off. Farnsworth asked security personnel to remove Polanco if he continued to argue and announced the committee was done hearing public comment on the measure. Several members of the group were told they could be arrested and charged with trespassing if they did not leave the hearing voluntarily.

Arizona Republican Lawmaker Files Ethics Complaints After Chaotic Voting Law Hearing at Arizona Legislature
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 2/19/2020

House Elections Committee Chairperson Kelly Townsend will file an ethics complaint against two Democratic lawmakers after a hearing devolved into a fracas. The hours-long hearing culminated in Townsend attempting to cut off public testimony, throw a speaker out of the committee room, and force a vote on a multifaceted piece of legislation all while Democrats objected and the gallery jeered. Democrats accused Townsend of stifling discussion and public testimony.

Arizona Scandals Reveal Murky Workplace Standards in Legislature
Arizona Capitol Times – Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Julia Shumway | Published: 2/14/2020

Arizona Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr have said their relationship is proper and platonic, even after love letters Cook wrote to Knorr surfaced. But Cook and Knorr have faced disparate consequences since the story broke. Cook has continued to serve on committees and vote on legislation. Knorr was placed on administrative leave by her employer, the Western Growers’ Association, pending an investigation into whether her relationship with Cook presented ethical violations. That one is on leave while the other remains in the public eye highlights the different standards between the Legislature, where lawmakers have balked at adopting a code of conduct,  and private sector firms, where experts say written expectations on proper interpersonal relationships are ubiquitous.

California Gift SF Mayor Breed Received from Mohammed Nuru May Have Violated City Law
KQED – Scott Shafer | Published: 2/14/2020

San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged not only having a past romantic relationship with disgraced former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, but also accepting a $5,600 gift from him for car repairs. While the California Fair Political Practices Commission does not require disclosure of gifts “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position,” Breed said she would voluntarily report the gift on her Statement of Economic Interests form. What Breed did not mention is that the gift she received from Nuru appears to violate city ethics rules.

California Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 2/14/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he will uphold the majority of Proposition F, a San Francisco ordinance that requires print, audio, and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a PAC, that committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed. While refusing to block most of the law, Breyer agreed that requiring lengthy disclaimers for small-print and short-length political ads is likely unconstitutional because they would “clearly just overwhelm the message.”

California The New Thing for California Politicians? Sweet Charity
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/17/2020

Nonprofits run by state lawmakers and their staff host fundraisers where lobbyists can mingle at the Disneyland Hotel with politicians, and policy conferences where tech executives can dine with legislators shaping California law on data privacy and the gig economy. While state law caps the amount donors can give to campaigns, contributions to nonprofits are not limited. These groups underwrite charitable work and let public officials help the state or advance causes they care about without using taxpayer money. But unlike campaign accounts, they often offer a tax break and can raise unlimited sums from special interests, with fewer disclosure requirements. Experts say the practice has become an increasingly common way for politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits even of California’s tough regulations.

Florida Florida Loses Appeals Court Ruling on Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 2/19/2020

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida law limiting the voting rights of people with felony convictions was unconstitutional. The judges upheld a lower court decision that found the state could not deny ex-felons the right to vote just because they cannot afford to pay outstanding court fines, fees, and restitution, as required by the 2019 law. The ruling said the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Illinois Aldermen Relied on a Study to Approve $1.3 Billion for Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards. Turns Out That Sterling Bay Hired the Consultant Who Wrote It.
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 2/18/2020

Key to the $1.3 billion taxpayer subsidy for the Lincoln Yards development in Chicago was a report declaring the project met the requirements to get the money. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration promoted the record tax increment financing (TIF) deal at a public meeting, a planning official introduced the author of that report as “the city’s TIF consultant.” What the administration and consultant did not tell the crowd was that developer Sterling Bay had both picked the consultant and paid the firm. That consultant also had been retained by a Sterling Bay subsidiary to lobby City Hall on the final terms of the Lincoln Yards agreement. Experts say such arrangements pose obvious conflicts, given that the consultants who certify such projects are being paid by the very developers who are seeking approval for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Illinois Aldermen Tighten Reins on Outside Jobs for City Employees
WBBM – Staff | Published: 2/19/2020

The Chicago City Council is placing new limits on side jobs for some city employees, closing a loophole that allowed them to work for private contractors who have government deals they oversee. The ordinance that was approved would prohibit any city official or employee with contract oversight from working for subcontractors or consultants on any contract they manage as part of their government job.

Indiana Lawmaker Wants to Deregulate Wetlands. Her Family Once Was Cited for Bulldozing Them.
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich | Published: 2/17/2020

Environmental advocates are worried a bill that would prevent the state from protecting certain wetlands will lead to more flooding, less clean water, and the loss of wildlife in Indiana. But it is not just what the bill would do that has drawn criticism. Good government experts are also expressing concern over the appropriateness of who is authoring the legislation. Sen. Victoria Spartz wrote Senate Bill 229, which removes state oversight of certain wetlands near what are called regulated drains. Spartz  has her own complicated history with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s regulation of wetlands, one she did not disclose as the bill has moved through the Legislature.

Kentucky Prosecutors Contend Lexington Executive Lied About Campaign Donations as Trial Opens
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 2/18/2020

Federal prosecutors told a jury that a Lexington real estate executive went to great lengths to cover up his scheme to funnel money to co-workers and family members, who allegedly used the money to make illegal donations to candidates for city government two years ago. Timothy Wellman, an executive with CRM Companies, told co-workers to lie to FBI agents and a federal grand jury, and created false documents to cover up where money for those campaign contributions came from, prosecutors said. Kent Wicker, Wellman’s lawyer, said Wellman often loans money to people without asking to be repaid and contends a disgruntled businesses competitor hired a law firm to investigate him and spread unfounded rumors.

Maine Latest Resignation Leaves Maine Ethics Panel with Only 3 of 5 Seats Filled
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 2/14/2020

A Republican member of Maine’s ethics commission has stepped down, leaving the panel with just three of the five members it is authorized to have as the state heads into the 2020 election cycle. Bradford Pattershall is running for a state Senate seat and by law cannot also serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. Although the commission often reaches consensus in its findings, Chairperson William Lee III raised concerns about a depleted membership even before Pattershall’s resignation. Lee warned in November that an understaffed commission could leave it unable to do its job.

Massachusetts State Representative David Nangle Arrested on Charges of Using Campaign Funds to Fuel Alleged Gambling at Area Casinos
Boston Globe – Tonya Alanez and Travis Anderson | Published: 2/18/2020

Massachusetts Rep. David Nangle, who sits on the House Committee on Ethics, was arrested on federal charges alleging he raided his campaign account to pay personal expenses and sustain his casino gambling habit. An indictment says Nangle used his campaign fund to pay thousands of dollars in Lowell Golf Club dues and personal charges; rental cars for casino travel; flowers for his girlfriend; gas, hotel, and restaurant charges that he had already received state reimbursement for; gift cards for personal use; and cash withdrawals.

Michigan Ballot Language Approved for Proposal to ‘Change the Culture’ of Lobbying in Michigan – Malachi Barrett | Published: 2/19/2020

Supporters of a ballot initiative to regulate how lobbyists in Michigan interact with lawmakers hope to start collecting signatures by the March 10 presidential primary following approval of a summary of the measure from a state board. Republicans expressed concerns that the language did not reflect how the proposal regulates the speech of Michigan residents. Board member Norm Shinkle also questioned whether the proposal is overly broad, saying it would apply to many obscure state boards and commissions. Former state Democratic Party Chairperson Mark Brewer argued Michiganders have a right to know whenever a lobbyist tries to contact a public official.

Michigan Ex-Detroit Metro Official Sentenced to 10 Years for Bribery
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 2/5/2020

James Warner, a former Detroit Metropolitan Airport supervisor convicted of receiving more than $6 million in bribes – the third-largest amount in U.S. history – was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say he steered $43.7 million worth of airport contracts to three co-conspirators in return for the kickbacks. At one dinner, Warner and Gary Tenaglia, a contractor who was sentenced to 14 months in prison, discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”

Missouri ‘No Evidence of Any Wrongdoing’: Eric Greitens fined $178,000 by ethics commission
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 2/13/2020

Former Gov. Eric Greitens was fined $178,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for two campaign finance violations, while a host of other allegations contained in a complaint filed shortly after he resigned from office in 2018 were dismissed. The commission said in a consent decree released that while there were reasonable grounds to believe Greitens’ campaign broke Missouri law, its investigation “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence Gov. Greitens knew” about any violations. If Greitens pays $38,000 of the fine and commits no more violations, the rest would be forgiven.

New Hampshire Legislature Considers Whether to Tighten Its Own Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 2/19/2020

Responding to a pair of high-profile ethics cases that highlighted the lack of clear restrictions on conflicts-of-interest at the statehouse, New Hampshire lawmakers are weighing how best to balance their role as citizen legislators with a desire to prevent politicians from exploiting public office for private gain. One proposal would prevent lawmakers “from introducing legislation, testifying, voting, participating in, or influencing any legislative matter directly related to [their] employment.” A related proposal would require lawmakers to recuse themselves from official legislative activities if someone in their household is being paid by an organization with “a special interest” in that activity.

New Jersey Governor Unveils Broader State Ethics, Transparency Bill
Associated Press – Mike Catalini | Published: 2/19/2020

The Legislature will be subject to the state’s open records law, lobbying registration requirements will be tightened, and bills would not get come to a vote unless they were posted online for at least three days under bipartisan ethics legislation to be introduced in New Jersey. The legislation would require public relations experts and lawyers who are currently exempt to register as lobbyists. It would also lower the threshold for registering as a lobbyist from 20 hours a year lobbying to one hour. Other changes include “zero tolerance” for gifts to lawmakers’ offices.

New York NYC Councilman Andy King Faces New Allegations of Harassment and Misuse of Public Funds
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 2/14/2020

New York City Councilperson Andy King faces new ethics charges and calls for expulsion less than four months after the council sanctioned him for past misconduct. He was accused of trying to circumvent an independent monitor the council voted to place in his office after rampant unethical behavior. King was also charged with violating conflict-of-interest rules and the council’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, as well as disorderly conduct and misappropriating public money for his personal benefit.

North Carolina Another Court Blocks NC Voter ID Law, Citing ‘Racially Discriminatory Intent’
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/18/2020

The state’s new voter ID law appears to have been enacted with racially discriminatory intent and will be at least temporarily blocked during the 2020 elections, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. A federal court has already blocked the voter ID mandate through at least the 2020 primary elections. The most recent decision, in a separate lawsuit in state courts rather than federal courts, could also extend that block until the general election in November. It is now the second court to rule African American voters could be harmed by the way the Republican-Led legislature wrote the law behind the amendment. The activists who sued appear likely to be able to prove “that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor behind” the voter ID law, the judges wrote.

North Carolina Bribery Trial of Megadonor Greg Lindberg Opens with New Details, All-Star Witness List
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell, Michael Gordon, and Michelle Battaglia | Published: 2/18/2020

As the bribery trial of insurance conglomerate owner and political donor Greg Lindberg gets under way, new details are emerging through court documents and public records about allegations that Lindberg tried to work with the chairperson of the North Carolina Republican Party to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner. Lindberg and two of his business associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were indicted along with then-GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes, who has since taken a plea deal and could testify at the trial. The trio is accused of trying unsuccessfully to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with campaign money in exchange for actions favorable to Lindberg’s companies, including the removal of a top Department of Insurance official that Lindberg disliked.

Tennessee Proposal Would Overhaul Blocked Tennessee Voter Signup Law
AP News – Kimberlee Kruesi | Published: 2/19/2020

Tennessee lawmakers introduced a new proposal to amend the state’s legally contentious voter-registration restrictions that are currently blocked from being enforced during the 2020 elections. Last year, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that made Tennessee the first state in the country to fine registration groups for turning in too many incomplete signup forms. It also criminalized intentional infractions of other new rules with misdemeanor charges. But the law prompted two lawsuits and sparked national criticism from those who argued the law would suppress efforts to register minorities and other voters.

Texas Donate or Leave: Harris County constable accused of pressuring employees for political contributions
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 2/14/2020

Harris County Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz pressured employees to donate to his re-election campaigns and punished those who refused, deputies and civilian staff said. Thirty-eight percent of the $491,000 Diaz has raised since taking office in 2013 has come from Precinct 2 employees or their relatives, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis. Fourteen current and former Precinct 2 employees told The Chronicle that Diaz expected staff to aid his campaign by donating money and items to be auctioned, purchasing supplies for fundraisers, and block walking in the jurisdiction. Three of those former employees are part of a wrongful termination lawsuit against Diaz, who they say reassigned or withheld promotions from deputies and civilian staff who stopped participating.

Vermont Lawmakers Take a Step on Ethics Code, but Enforcement Still a Ways Off – Colin Meyn and Mark Johnson | Published: 2/14/2020

Vermont Senators moved a step closer to creating a code of ethics for state officials and lawmakers but approving that code and giving teeth to an ethics commission created three years ago remain at least a year away. The Government Operations Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 198, which requires the State Ethics Commission to produce a proposed ethics code by November 15, at the latest. That code would then be considered by the Legislature in the next biennium. The bill also asks the commission to present enforcement options. Commission Executive Director Larry Novins worries that including the issue of enforcement, which would inevitably introduce questions of funding, could be used by opponents to derail efforts to get a code passed into law.

West Virginia Death Threats and Illegal Voting: The war over a luxury resort in Harpers Ferry
MSN – Peter Jamison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2020

The strife seizing Harpers Ferry, population 281, cannot compare to the raid by abolitionist John Brown on the eve of the Civil War that made this rural hamlet famous. But the bitter political drama unfolding there easily rivals the one 60 miles away in Washington, D.C. The conflict has spilled far beyond the half-square-mile that constitutes Harpers Ferry. Voting irregularities are being examined by the West Virginia Supreme Court and secretary of state. Lawmakers are debating a bill that would strip this tiny municipality of much of its authority to govern itself, legislation that could dramatically affect other small towns in West Virginia.  Looming over this drama, figuratively and literally, is the ruin of a 130-year-old hotel.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

February 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020 Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential […]


Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020

Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential election. K Street had expectations for some bipartisan actions in 2020, but those hopes are on hold after the feud between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a turn for the worse at the State of the Union address. Now businesses and their lobbyists are worried about being drawn into the political crossfire. That is likely to prove even more difficult this year. Businesses already have a complicated relationship with Trump over his trade wars and with Democrats, whose presidential candidates are targeting many industries. One Republican lobbyist said the fresh turmoil in Washington is unnerving businesses.

Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. Justice Department lawyers defending the president said the ban refers narrowly to compensation in exchange for official action or in an employment-type relationship and does not broadly include any profit, gain, or advantage.

Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals
Forbes – John Scott Lewinski | Published: 2/11/2020

An app and web service designed to peer inside the world of corporate campaign finance is catching the ire of companies who would rather not share such information publicly. Goods Unite Us makes public who gives how much to whom on an industry-wide level. The user can view various scores on how much a brand invests on the left or right. The best numbers are reserved for firms that stays out of the fray entirely as the app’s creators would like to see dollars from public firms step out of politics in favor of individual donations. Clothing retailer Chico’s hired the national law firm of Arent Fox to send a legal request that changes be made to the Goods Unite Us data and reports.

Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term
Stamford Advocate – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

The entire prosecutorial team on Roger Stone’s case resigned after the Department of Justice asked a federal court to reduce the seven-to nine-year prison sentence the lawyers had initially recommended, sparking new questions about potential White House interference. In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Stone. The move coincided with President Trump’s declaration on Twitter that the government was treating Stone too harshly. Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties
Stamford Advocate – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Secret Service personnel traveling with President Trump to his private properties pay rates as high at $650 per night for lodging. Records show more than $471,000 in such payments from taxpayers to Trump’s business between January 207 and April 2018. The full extent of the spending is not known. The Secret Service has not listed the payments in public databases, as is usually required for expenditures over $10,000. Instead, documents have come out piecemeal through public records requests. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump said in 2019.

The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash
The World News – Rebecca Ruiz (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2020

Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg LP, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms. In under 12 weeks, Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events. Such spending has helped make Bloomberg an increasingly strong contender in the Democratic primary.

Trump’s Rhetoric Has Changed the Way Hundreds of Kids Are Bullied in Classrooms
MSN – Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2020

Since Donald Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language, often condemned as racist and xenophobic, has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as six mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies, and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black, or Muslim. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped.

When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills
Kaiser Health News – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 2/11/2020

Federal lawmakers are grappling over several approaches to curtail the practice of surprise medical billings, which can leave patients on the hook for huge costs, even if they have insurance. As it has emerged as a hot-button issue for voters, doctors, hospitals, and insurers have been lobbying to protect their own money flows. Television and internet ads are the most visible manifestation of the battle. But in taking their cause to politicians, physicians have waged an on-the-ground stealth campaign to win over members of Congress. Their professional credentials give them a kind of gravitas compared with other lobbyists.


Canada Federal Court of Appeal Dismisses Challenges of Ethics, Lobbying Commissioners Appointment – Marco Vigliotti | Published: 2/13/2020

The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a complaint from a watchdog challenging the government’s appointment of new ethics and lobbying commissioners in Canada. The presiding judges said they were not convinced by Democracy Watch’s arguments that the actions of the governor-in-council in making the appointments were “unreasonable.” Democracy Watch argued the governor-in-council acted inappropriately in naming the commissioners because both offices were actively investigating complaints implicating the government.  Democracy Watch said the governor-in-council was inextricably biased in naming the new commissioners as they would ultimately be responsible for ruling on the appropriateness of the actions of officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Bill Seeks to Tighten Rules on Recall Efforts
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 2/6/2020

An Arizona Senate committee voted to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Senate Bill 1434 adds new requirements for paid circulators and those from other states to first register with the secretary of state. This mirrors changes the Republican-controlled Legislature already imposed on those proposing new laws through initiatives. The legislation also spells out in detail exactly how petitions must be formatted, with language allowing legal challenges if the forms are not in “strict compliance” with those standards.

Arizona Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/6/2020

Republican leadership in the Arizona Senate has no interest in investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Senate Democrats said they hoped Senate President Karen Fann would investigate allegations that Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed a lobbyist in 2016 and threatened the woman in 2018. But Fann and Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray dismissed calls for an investigation in separate interviews and rank-and-file Republicans largely declined to comment. Gray said Democrats can file a complaint if they want. But he warned Democrats to be careful because one of their own members, whom he declined to name, also could be investigated.

California California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In.
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 2/10/2020

The San Francisco Chronicle’s request to Sutter County’s sheriff for information about every concealed weapon permit holder in the conservative county set off threats and vitriol – after the sheriff announced he was legally obligated to provide the names. The Chronicle has been forced to increase security at its newsroom and for its reporters. Gun owners across the country are livid, fearing a newspaper in one of America’s most liberal cities wants to “dox” the state’s gun owners by releasing a list of names of people with a concealed-carry weapons permit. The Chronicle says it will use the information to look for trends and ensure the concealed weapons system is not being abused. The blowback is the latest flare-up in tensions between defenders of the Second Amendment and the news institutions protected by the First Amendment.

Colorado Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 2/10/2020

A new Colorado law requires more immediate reporting of lobbyists’ activity. But problems with the online system impede the ability to look up electronic registrations and activity records for some of those required to file the disclosures. Even though the system allows the public to search for lobbyists and activity reports using the name of the client, the search results omit some filings. Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s staff acknowledged the problems, but because of them, the agency’s spokesperson could neither identify who the agency’s own registered lobbyist was in 2017 and 2018, nor locate their activity reports for those years for four days. The agency’s staff estimated the problem affects more than one out of every 25 of the state’s registered lobbyists.

Connecticut Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature
Hartford Courant – Amanda Blanco | Published: 2/6/2020

After state election officials rejected a candidate’s request to use her publicly financed election grant to pay for childcare, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed legislation that would allow candidates to be reimbursed for such costs. Under the bill, candidates in the Citizens’ Election Program would be reimbursed for childcare services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. Clarkson Pereira, who ran for a House seat in 2018, brought the issue to the commission when a lawyer advised her not to use her public campaign funds to hire a babysitter for her young daughter.

Florida Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided
Florida Times-Union – Jeff Schweers | Published: 2/12/2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed penalties against 14 public officials for ethics code violations, cutting by half the number of final orders from the Florida Commission on Ethics that had been languishing on his desk. DeSantis’ failure to act had left $50,000 in uncollected civil fines in limbo and public officials not held accountable months and sometimes years after they were found guilty. Among those final orders was a $5,000 fine and public reprimand against his one-time political rival, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who lost to DeSantis in 2018. Six months after DeSantis took office, the commission had approved a joint settlement agreement in June with Gillum for accepting gifts from former lobbyist Adam Corey.

Florida Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 2/10/2020

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, already facing a federal probe into his 2018 campaign, may have more trouble on his hands. The Florida Bar is also investigating whether alleged campaign finance violations by Spano ran afoul of the rules of conduct for state lawyers. If they did, Spano could face punishment from the Bar. Spano acknowledges his campaign likely broke the law, but he insists it was a mistake and not malicious. Complaints to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged Spano illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from two friends. Those loans should have been considered contributions to his campaign and subject to donation limits. In a recent interview, Spano offered a new explanation for why he took the loans: He saw someone else do it.

Illinois Yanking Out the Chair? Bill Would Strip Criminally Charged Legislators from Key Posts
Chicago Sun-Times – Neal Earley | Published: 2/12/2020

After Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, he was removed as chairperson of the Senate Labor Committee. But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions. The bill would allow the legislative inspector general to issue subpoenas without needing approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission and require reports on current and former lawmakers be made public.

Maine Company That Studied Grid May Have Had Conflict of Interest
Associated Press – Staff | Published: 2/12/2020

A company paid $500,000 by Maine regulators to study the state’s electric grid may have been ineligible to receive the contract based on conflict-of-interest rules. London Economics International was the winning bidder on the study and was tasked with evaluating the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, to consumer ownership. To avoid any conflicts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said any firm that had worked for either utility in the past five years would be ineligible. But London Economics International was paid $37,000 for work done for Emera in 2018.

Maine Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 2/7/2020

Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based company that received an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine, appears to be linked to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for re-election. That donation, which came through another Hawaii based entity, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, is now the subject of an official complaint before the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center says the $150,000 donation appears to be illegal, in part because there is no record of the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers having legitimate income. Instead, the watchdog argued, it appears the company was set up as a “dark money” front to mask the true identity of the donor to a pro-Collins super PAC.

Maryland More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/12/2020

The national wave of women running for public office following President Trump’s election has hit Baltimore with almost 20 women running for city council in the Democratic primary, waging campaigns in a majority of districts. There has been a surge in women holding public office across the region over the past two years. The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council flipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, and women now outnumber men in Howard County, as well. Prince George’s County elected its first female executive and Carroll County  choose a woman to sit on its Circuit Court bench for the first time.

Maryland The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III | Published: 2/7/2020

The owner of a historic industrial property in Middle River, Maryland, is getting help with his redevelopment efforts from a lobbyist who knows plenty about Baltimore County government: John Olszewski Sr., a former county council member who is the father of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. Olszewski Sr. has been leading Blue Ocean Realty’s efforts to get the General Assembly to approve a tax break for the project, which would turn a warehouse into a sports, entertainment, and retail complex. The arrangement does not appear to violate any ethics laws or restrictions on lobbying, experts say, but it is unusual to have close relatives working as a lobbyist and a top politician.

Mississippi Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
AP News – Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 2/7/2020

Mississippi’s state auditor said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former professional wrestler, according to indictments, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million. Federal welfare money was once spent mostly on cash assistance to poor families, but after changes in the 1990s, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money is given to states in block grants, and states can use the money on other activities meant to help people.

Missouri Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider
KCUR – Jaclyn Driscoll | Published: 2/10/2020

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item that would change how state legislative districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. The proposal now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They will choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. The new initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a five-dollar maximum for each one. The measure also lowers contribution limits for state Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.

Missouri Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 2/9/2020

In October 2018, a campaign committee that was helping then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger finance his political efforts reported a $250,000 donation from a nonprofit that supports fire districts. But it did not really come from the fire district nonprofit. It came from Great St. Louis, a nonprofit whose president is an operative for philanthropist and political donor Rex Sinquefield. The true source of the contribution sheds more light on how Sinquefield’s operation was able to funnel approximately $700,000 to Stenger. It also raises questions about why the disclosure was made over a year later, and whether the organizations tried to conceal Sinquefield’s support for Stenger, who pleaded guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme in May.

Montana Montana Supreme Court: Political cop wrong to censure regents
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/12/2020

The Montana Supreme Court ruled against the state commissioner of political practices for censuring Montana’s Board of Regents. The justices concluded that Commissioner Jeff Mangan erred when concluding the regents were illegally politicking for the six-mill levy during board meetings. The levy is a voter-approved property tax that raises about $20 million a year for Montana’s public universities and colleges. Mangan ruled the regents were public employees who were politicking on government time and using government property to do so. He fined the Regents $3,000. But the state Supreme Court ruled education boards have the right to discuss levies at meetings, and also take public positions on levies.

Nevada Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process
Connecticut Post – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. Party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing. Multiple campaign officials have complained about a lack of transparency from the party. Though there have been multiple conference calls between the state party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “tight-lipped” and slow to offer specific information about how the state’s ambitious early-voting plan would work without the use of the apps.

New Hampshire Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary; Buttigieg, Klobuchar Are Top Moderate Candidates
MSN – Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party’s left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary as two moderates, Pete Buttigieg and a newly surging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days. Sanders and Buttigieg marked their second straight strong showings – they essentially tied in the Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates. The night brought devastating returns for Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom appeared to have lost support to Klobuchar and Buttigieg and were not on course to earn any delegates.

New Mexico The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts
New Mexico In Depth – Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 2/10/2020

In a small state where face-to-face connections are critical and political ties almost inescapable, potential conflicts abound in New Mexico. It is no surprise to learn of state lawmakers who are married to lobbyists, or have lobbyists within their own families, or who regularly vote or even sponsor legislation that would support an industry in which the lawmaker has a personal business interest. “Conflict of interest is built into the New Mexico Legislature by virtue of the fact that it’s a citizens’ Legislature where legislators keep their day jobs,” said former state Sen. Dede Feldman.

New York Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/11/2020

State Sen. Robert Ortt is calling for a Senate investigation of the New York State Police’s unusual involvement in a controversial lobbying investigation of activist Kat Sullivan. “It is my hope that our highly-esteemed State Police are not being weaponized to stifle free speech,” Ortt said. A major in the State Police called the owner of the South Albany Airport last September inquiring about a flight flown out of the airport in 2018. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, had hired the plane to fly over the Capitol, which towed a banner pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) then investigated whether Sullivan had spent more than $5,000 on her efforts, which would require her to register as a lobbyist. The State Police say the call to the airport, as JCOPE was ramping up its inquiry, was made as a “courtesy” to someone at the commission.

North Carolina NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/12/2020

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger sold his townhouse in Raleigh to a lobbyist for an $80,000 profit. Berger was previously the subject of an ethics complaint for paying himself monthly rent for that townhouse with campaign funds. State ethics officials knew ahead of time that this sale was in the works and signed off on it, saying it did not appear to violate ethical rules. But Bob Hall, the former Democracy North Carolina leader who filed the complaint, says it deserves a closer look from a different set of officials. Norma Houston, a legislative ethics expert at the University of North Carolina, said while there is a prohibition against lawmakers taking gifts from lobbyists, state law specifically exempts contracts and other commercial arrangements that are “made in the normal course of business if not made for lobbying.”

Ohio Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 2/7/2020

At the back of a Starbucks in a hotel across the street from the Ohio Statehouse, there is a narrow space that is just large enough to fit three chairs and a small table. But this semi-secluded area is where a surprising amount of government and political business gets done, according to Capitol Square regulars. It is a convenient meeting spot for many politicians and lobbyists. And as it is frowned upon (though not technically illegal) for state lawmakers to accept campaign contributions on public property, they often head across the street from the Statehouse for donors to hand them checks.

Oregon Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/9/2020

A bill was introduced to enshrine the independence of Oregon’s public records advocate in law and end the governor’s role in hiring and firing the advocate. The Public Records Advisory Council pitched the idea of shielding the records advocate from the governor’s control last fall. It did so in the wake of news that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told then-Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, or report with the governor’s office before releasing them.

Pennsylvania PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff
Bily Penn – Max Marin | Published: 2/6/2020

As executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, Micah Sims aids the nonprofit’s mission to “create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest” in the Keystone State. In an unusual arrangement, however, Sims has been moonlighting as a consultant for an elected official in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to his employers at Common Cause, Sims has been working on the side as a senior advisor to Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal as she sets out to transform the scandal-plagued office left behind by her predecessor. Sims first said his consulting for Bilal was business, then switched to a claim that it was “pro bono” as a favor to a friend. Other potential questions have risen around Sims’ work.

Pennsylvania Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 2/11/2020

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has primarily benefited Republicans on the federal level, in Philadelphia, it is the progressive left that has best capitalized on the campaign finance decision and other opinions. Liberals have been beating establishment Democrats with the help of outside groups that outspend the candidates themselves. And campaign finance reform is no longer the rallying cry it once was. “It’s an interesting reality to have folks or groups who may decry Citizens United then utilizing the tools that are made available by it,” said Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy. “But in campaigns, people play to win, and I don’t think that will ever change.”

South Dakota Concerns Arise That New S.D. Electronic Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent
Keloland – Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) | Published: 2/9/2020

A new online system for drafting, co-sponsoring, and tracking bills through the South Dakota Legislature has some people concerned that the modernized system has made the legislative process less transparent and removed some of the human element from lawmaking. State officials said the new system was needed to make legislative work more efficient. Jason Hancock, director of the Legislative Research Council, which manages the drafting and flow of proposed laws, said the new workflow system is housed within the Legislature’s website and replaced the old pen-and-paper-based system for drafting, seeking co-sponsors, and amending legislation.

Texas Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 2/8/2020

Local governments across Texas are resisting a state law that took effect in September requiring they publicly post their lobbying information on their websites. But the resistance does not appear to be based on opposition to the intent of the new law. Rather, cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments object to the statute’s admittedly murky language and differing reads on what it requires. For the most part, Senate Bill 65 relates to increasing oversight on state agencies’ contracting practices. The posting requirement for lobbying was added via an amendment co-authored by Rep. Mayes Middleton, who tried last session to make it illegal for many local governments to spend money on lobbying.

Washington Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting
Washington Post – Jay Greene | Published: 2/11/2020

The failure of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses led to days of partial and unreliable results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. But mobile voting is prone to cybersecurity breaches just as other forms of election technology are, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University who studies digital election security.

Washington DC D.C. Ethics Board Reopens Investigation into Former Lawmaker Jack Evans
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/12/2020

The District of Columbia’s ethics board reopened its investigation into former city council member Jack Evans. The revival of the probe raises the possibility of additional penalties for the Evans, who has been the subject of federal investigations and multiple examinations of his private business dealings. Evans resigned from the council days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.

Washington DC D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 2/11/2020

A divided U.S. House committee advanced a District of Columbia statehood bill to the floor for the first time in nearly three decades, bringing advocates closer to their goal of making the nation’s capital the 51st state. The bill has a good chance of passing the House because Democrats have a solid majority and the cause of statehood has become a favorite of Democratic leaders, national civil rights groups, and presidential candidates. But it faces almost certain death in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Wisconsin 81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck | Published: 2/11/2020

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin absentee voters will soon receive not one but two ballots to use in the spring election, laying the groundwork for potential confusion among the voters who receive them. Under federal law, absentee ballots for the April 7 presidential primary must go out on February 20, or two days after the February 18 primary for state and local races. That means there is no way to get a complete ballot to absentee voters that includes candidates who advance through the February 18 primary election without violating state law. Election officials’ solution is to send two ballots: One will be labeled by the letter “A” and will include just presidential candidates. A second “B” ballot will be mailed in March, after spring primary election results are certified. The B ballot will include presidential candidates and candidates competing in state and local races.

Continue Reading - 34 min read Close

February 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020 In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to […]


Bolton Book Details Trump Efforts to Deploy Giuliani in Ukraine
Courthouse News Service – Tim Ryan, Jack Rodgers, and Adam Klasfeld | Published: 1/31/2020

In his unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Trump asked him to help arrange a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and the president of Ukraine at the time Trump sought to have Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump gave the instruction, Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in May that included Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The New York Times cited statements from Bolton detailing that Trump directly tied his hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine with investigations into the Bidens. The report led the administration to issue a formal threat to Bolton’s attorney. The letter said some portions of the manuscript contained information at the “top-secret level” and ordered that information removed before publication.

Checks and Balance: This summer’s conventions may be a bit unconventional
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/28/2020

Away from the political party conventions’ main stage, K Streeters are booking concert halls, hotel ballrooms, and chic restaurants in the host cities for brunches, receptions, and late-night concerts to fete their favorite politicians and bring them together with the corporate clients they represent. That tradition will carry on this summer with the Democrats in Milwaukee and the GOP in Charlotte, North Carolina. But as lobbyists and executives mull their presence at the conventions, some are not convinced the show is worth the investment, sometimes into the six figures.

Fix the FEC Quick, Bipartisan Group of Former Lawmakers Pleads
The Fulcrom – Sara Swann | Published: 1/30/2020

With the FEC ending its fifth month without a quorum, a bipartisan group of former members of Congress says enough is enough. Two former senators and seven former House members pressed Senate leadership to confirm new members of the commission right away, so it can revive oversight of campaign donations and spending in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. The group joins coalitions of good-government groups and campaign finance lawyers who have issued similar appeals in recent weeks. But President Trump and Senate leaders are showing no signs of breaking their impasse and allowing the FEC to get back to work.

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Team Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Bublé | Published: 2/5/2020

The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which has passed the U.S. House and Senate, amends the law to improve the transfer of executive power between administrations. If President Trump signs the bill, the General Services Administration, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The bill would require presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethical conduct all members must sign.

In Historic Vote, Trump Acquitted of Impeachment Charges
MSN – Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 2/5/2020

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Trump of charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end. The outcome represented a political triumph for the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who successfully held together nearly the entire GOP caucus in blocking witnesses or additional evidence from the proceedings. Just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney, voted to convict the president of abuse of power. in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality, which members of both parties conceded would come only after the November election.

Investigations Into 2020 Candidates Must Be Cleared by Top Justice Dept. Officials
ENM News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 2/5/2020

Attorney General William Barr issued new restrictions over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the FBI inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race. The order by Barr comes after a critical report by the inspector general showed how FBI agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate. The memo said the FBI and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.

Justice Department Acknowledges 24 Emails Reveal Trump’s Thinking on Ukraine
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 2/1/2020

Hours after the U.S. Senate voted against seeking new evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump, the administration acknowledged the existence of two dozen emails that could reveal the president’s thinking about withholding military aid to Ukraine. In a midnight court filing, the Justice Department explained why it should not have to unredact copies of more than 100 emails written by officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Defense Department about the hold on funds to Ukraine. Heather Walsh, an OMB lawyer, wrote that of the 111 redacted emails in the lawsuit, 24 are protected by “presidential privilege.”

Lobbyists Donate to Presidential Contenders, Who Then Reject It
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/4/2020

Democratic presidential contenders – including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren – have official policies of rejecting campaign donations from registered federal lobbyists, but lobbyists still donated to all of them in recent months, new disclosures show. Some of the K Street cash has already been refunded to the contributors, lobbyists said. Other donations may be on their way back, as some of the campaigns said they would return any newly identified contributions from registered federal lobbyists.

Online Political Ads: Cheap, efficient and ripe for misuse
AP News – Barbara Ortutay and Amanda Seitz | Published: 1/31/2020

Before Election Day, politicians across party lines are expected to spend more than $1 billion to inundate voters with millions of these cheap online ads, which can be tailored to a voter’s most personal details – down to one household or even a single individual. Experts warn this ad-targeting system is still vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments and domestic actors trying to influence the election, just as they did in 2016. Those attempts could become more sophisticated this year as tech companies wrestle with a dysfunctional Federal Election Commission and deploy haphazard safeguards that still offer plenty of loopholes.

US Antitrust Chief Leaving Google Probe Because of Lobbying
AP News – Marcy Gordon and Michael Balsamo | Published: 2/4/2020

The Justice Department official leading the investigation of big tech companies’ market dominance, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, is stepping aside from the department’s Google probe because of his previous lobbying work for Google as a private attorney. Delrahim lobbied on Google’s behalf in 2007 when the company faced antitrust scrutiny over its acquisition of DoubleClick, a competitor in digital advertising. The Justice Department’s ethics office apparently found no potential conflict-of-interest when Delrahim sought guidance as the investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple began last spring.

YouTube: No ‘deepfakes’ or ‘birther’ videos in 2020 election
AP News – Matt O’Brien | Published: 2/3/2020

YouTube said it will ban misleading or doctored videos that could impact elections, tightening its rules ahead of the crucial presidential vote. The video-streaming site said it will remove videos that spread misinformation such as deepfakes or patently false information. It will also target videos that attempt to mislead the public about the voting or election process. YouTube said it will also crack down on any attempts to artificially increase the number of views, likes, and comments on videos. It changed its systems for recommending what videos users watch last year in a push to curb harmful misinformation.


Canada Lynn Beyak Claimed She Was Métis During Her Anti-Racism Training Sessions
CBC – John Paul Tasker | Published: 2/3/2020

Sen. Lynn Beyak claimed racism does not exist in her northern Ontario hometown and displayed “overtly biased views, prejudiced opinions, and insolent behaviors” during unsuccessful Indigenous cultural competency training last year, according to an educator who administered the training. Beyak undertook training from the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on separate occasions in June and August. Nicole Meawasige said Beyak not only failed to complete the program but was also asked to leave due to the nature of her behavior and comments. Beyak’s colleagues ousted her from the upper chamber temporarily last spring after condemning as racist several letters she had posted to her website.

Canada RCMP Resolves Impasse, Pays $56K Bill Related to Trudeau’s Trip to Aga Khan’s Island
CBC – Elizabeth Thompson | Published: 2/4/2020

The cost to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) wrote a check for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations, and jet ski rentals. The RCMP, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he or she travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval. Watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Lawmaker’s Bill Would Bar Certain Campaign Spending by Out-of-Staters
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2020

The way Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe notes it is illegal for foreigners to try to use their money to influence elections in the U.S. So, he wants to enact the same law in Arizona, but with a twist: Hose Bill 2718 would make it a crime for anyone who does not live in the state to contribute to campaigns for or against candidates and for or against ballot measures. Critics have called the bill unconstitutional, but Thorpe hopes the Legislature enacts his proposal anyway as a method of mounting a legal challenge, one that likely would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Arizona Lobbyist: Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed her before Shooter expulsion
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/4/2020

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who became the face of Arizona’s #MeToo movement when her claims led to a fellow lawmaker’s expulsion, sexually harassed a female lobbyist so severely it took a toll on the woman’s mental health and career, the lobbyist alleged in a sworn deposition. Repercussions from unwanted advances by Ugenti-Rita and her now-husband, Brian Townsend, led the woman to seek therapy, turn down job offers, and miss workdays, she said. The woman describes her fear of Ugenti-Rita, and her struggles to balance her personal discomfort with her professional need to maintain a good relationship with the senator, who she said  served as a “prominent vote” for her employer’s interests.

California Assembly Candidate Dawn Addis Accepts, Then Returns, Donation from Wind Energy Lobbyist
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Matt Fountain | Published: 1/30/2020

Morro Bay City Councilperson Dawn Addis, who is running for a seat in the California Assembly, accepted a $250 donation from a registered state lobbyist. Campaign spokesperson Gail Bunting said once the campaign realized the error, the donation was immediately returned. Candidates for elected office are prohibited from accepting money or in-kind donations from lobbyists. Since returning the money, Addis’ campaign has added a disclaimer on her fundraising website explaining campaign finance rules, including that lobbyist contributions are prohibited. The donation of $250 came from Steven Black, who is registered as a lobbyist with clients in the wind energy industry.

Colorado New Lobbying Regulations Could Create Problems for Citizens Talking to State Legislators
Complete Colorado – Scott Weiser | Published: 1/31/2020

In late December, Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold issued new lobbying rules that may put private citizens at risk of being legally sanctioned if they do not follow the complex regulations, with one former staffer calling the rules potentially unconstitutional. Traditionally, private individuals who discussed legislation with officials on their own behalf were exempt from the definition of “lobbying” in the rules. The previous rules explicitly excluded “a political committee, volunteer, lobbyist, or citizen who lobbies on his or her behalf” from the definition of lobbying for the purposes of regulation. The new rules repeal that language and create two new categories exempt from the definition of lobbying.

Florida FDLE Veteran Hired as City of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Officer
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/30/2020

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board moved swiftly to find a new ethics officer after its incoming one bowed out amid controversy over his Twitter feed. The board voted unanimously to extend an offer to a previous finalist: Dwight Floyd, retired bureau chief for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which Floyd accepted. The decision came during an emergency meeting called after political tweets came to light written by Keith Powell, a veteran state ethics investigator who was set to start work as the city’s new independent ethics officer. The tweets included barbs against Democrats and a complaint about a gay kiss shown during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Florida From $1 to $1,500: Cost of alleged nepotism just went up for former Midway Mayor Wanda Range
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics took a rare step in changing an administrative law judge’s recommended one dollar fine in favor of $1,500 against a former Midway mayor who voted to appoint her first cousin to step into her role whenever she could not perform her duties. The commission also found probable cause that Wanda Range used a city vehicle and credit card for personal use and failed to report their use as gifts. Residents of Midway elect the five members of the city council, who in turn vote on the mayor and mayor pro tem positions.

Florida Lobbyists Tried to Pay for Mayor Lenny Curry’s Trip to Atlanta to Watch Baseball Game with JEA’s Former CEO
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 2/4/2020

A company run by Tim Baker and Sam Mousa, two lobbyists who have both worked for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, organized and attended a secret trip to Atlanta on a private plane to watch a playoff baseball game along with Curry, his top administrator Brian Hughes, JEA’s then-Chief Executive Officer Aaron Zahn, and city council President Scott Wilson. Curry, who cannot accept gifts from lobbyists worth more than $100, said he initially covered his $400 portion of the trip by accepting it as in-kind contribution from Baker and Mousa’s company that was made in October to a political committee that has no official ties to Curry or his campaigns. He said he decided in December to personally pay for the trip.

Florida Miami-Dade Mayor: I accepted a Super Bowl ticket from Dolphins owner, paid for 2nd
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 2/3/2020

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said he accepted one $4,000 ticket to the Super Bowl from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and bought a second for his wife. Ross also offered $3,000 tickets to county commissioners ahead of a vote on his plan to bring Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium. At least one commissioner accepted the offer. The county’s top ethics lawyer cleared Gimenez to accept the tickets, saying the $8,000 gift did not qualify as the kind of quid pro quo offer that would trigger a violation of Miami-Dade law. The Dolphins’ lobbying team is fighting county legislation that would block Ross from bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium, and Gimenez is a key ally in that effort.

Florida St. Pete Tried to Abolish Super PACs. Jeff Brandes Wants to End That.
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 2/3/2020

A St. Petersburg ordinance that is serving as a national model for “dark money” reform would be preempted under a last-minute proposal attached to a bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes. He introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1372, a measure that updates election law. The revision takes aim at a 2017 ordinance passed by the St. Petersburg City Council that abolishes super PACs and prohibits spending by foreign-influenced corporations in city elections. The bill would ban cities and counties from “adopting any limitation or restriction” on contributions to political committees or expenditures from political committees in city elections.

Georgia Sentence Reduced for Man Who Cooperated in Corruption Case
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 2/4/2020

A judge agreed to reduce the prison sentence for a former Atlanta contractor, Elvis Mitchell, by a year after prosecutors said he “substantially assisted” them in a federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. In January 2017, Mitchell was the first in a string of people to be charged in the federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed. Prosecutors have said Mitchell and another city construction contractor, Charles Richards Jr., bribed Mitzi Bickers to represent their businesses and to steer lucrative city construction contracts to their companies. During much of the that time, prosecutors have said, Bickers was a city employee.

Illinois Illinois Ethics Laws Among the Weakest in the Nation
Southern Illinoisan – Peter Hancock | Published: 1/30/2020

Government reform advocates told a panel of state lawmakers that Illinois has some of the weakest governmental ethics rules in the country and lawmakers should put more teeth into them if they hope to regain the trust of the public. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform was formed in the wake of federal investigations that led to indictments against three sitting state lawmakers, two of whom have since resigned. The panel’s most recent hearing focused on the state’s Governmental Ethics Act, and specifically its provisions dealing with conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure requirements.

Iowa Tech Firm Shadow Sought to Revolutionize Democratic Campaigns, Stumbled in Iowa
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Neena Satija, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2020

Shadow’s vote-recording app stands at the center of one of the biggest technical failures of the 2020 campaign, producing only partial and unreliable results during Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic contest for president. Shadow grew from an effort by Democrats to give their party newfound digital might. But the software was largely untested, and it proved difficult to use when it was most needed at the February 3 caucus, raising concerns about the technology undergirding American democracy and prompting pointed questions about why Iowa Democratic Party officials chose it in the first place. To developers and tech specialists, Shadow’s ambition – to build a secure and foolproof mobile app for quickly relaying vote results – seemed doomed from the beginning.

Kansas After Kobach’s 2018 Bid, Kansas Lawmakers Weigh Making Secretary of State Non-Partisan
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 2/5/2020

When then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer, won the 2018 Republican primary for governor by a razor-thin margin, it prompted concerns about conflicts-of-interest. A bill to prevent that scenario, in which a Kobach-like figure could oversee elections while campaigning for governor or Congress, is drawing some interest from Kansas lawmakers. The legislation is sponsored by a Democrat but nevertheless set to receive a hearing in a Republican-controlled committee, a sign that legislators want to at least explore the proposal.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller’s Vote to Sell City Lots to Her Church Was Conflict of Interest, Inspector General Says
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/5/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted to sell city property to her church, representing a conflict-of-interest that illuminated “administrative oversights” in her office, according to the city’s inspector general. Members of the city’s Board of Estimates, which signs off on all spending over $25,000, are supposed to abstain from voting on items that pose a conflict for them. Ahead of that 2017 meeting, Pratt says she verbally told a staff member that she wanted to abstain from a vote to sell properties to her church, but that person did not properly note the abstention and so it was not announced during the spending panel’s weekly meeting. Pratt ended up approving the sale as part of the Board of Estimate’s routine agenda.

Massachusetts Search Begins for New Campaign Finance Chief
Newburyport Daily News – Colin Young (State House News Service) | Published: 2/6/2020

As a new election year unfolds, candidates interested in becoming the next head of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) have about two weeks to submit their resumes and applications to the bipartisan commission formed to find a new director. At the end of 2019, after nearly a quarter-century in the post, Michael Sullivan retired from the agency that oversees campaign finance law in the state. For Secretary of State William Galvin, who chairs the commission that must unanimously choose the next director, the ideal candidate is someone who shares similar traits as Sullivan.

New Jersey Mahwah Mayor’s Conduct ‘Outrageous’ Say Women Confronting Abuse, Harassment in NJ Politics
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger and Terrence McDonald | Published: 1/30/2020

A New Jersey mayor who got drunk at a party and took off his pants before falling asleep in an employee’s bed exemplifies a larger problem that women working in politics face, according to two women leading the state’s fight against sexual misconduct. Mahwah Mayor John Roth’s contention that the episode was a private matter irked state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who recently launched a working group of women to tackle misogyny and sexual harassment in New Jersey politics. Roth confirmed he drank too much and removed his clothes at the party and apologized to the township employee. He also questioned whether his actions were worthy of news coverage.

New Mexico Nonprofit Loses Beef Over City’s Campaign-Disclosure Rule
Courthouse News Service – Victpria Preiskop | Published: 1/30/2020

A federal judge ruled a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending over $250 on a ballot issue passes constitutional muster. The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the Rio Grande Foundation, which claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation chilled free speech. The foundation became involved in a campaign opposing a proposed soda tax in Santa Fe. In the course of the campaign, the group set up a website, a Facebook page, and a link to a YouTube video explaining its objections to the tax. Because the group was deemed to have spent more than $250 in costs and in-kind contributions from third parties on the campaign, it was required by Santa Fe’s campaign code to disclose its donors and was officially reprimanded by the city for failing to do so.

New York JCOPE Proposes Differing Treatment for Lawmakers’ Charities
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/2/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators, a nonprofit run by state lawmakers, in ways mirrors a nonprofit founded to push the agenda of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the de Blasio group has been subjected to continuing investigation by New York’s ethics regulators, that does not mean the association will get the same scrutiny. In a draft advisory opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) apparently sought to “thread the needle” to cover de Blasio’s activities, while exempting the association, said David Grandeau, who spent a dozen years as New York’s top lobbying regulator. Good-government groups have long charged the governor and state lawmakers that appoint JCOPE’s members have undue influence over its operations.

New York State Police Had Role in Lobbying Investigation of Rape Survivor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/3/2020

Last September, a State Police official placed a phone call to the owner and manager of the South Albany Airport, Ted Zabinski. The call concerned a flight from the airstrip in 2018 that passed over the Capitol, towing a banner asking the New York Legislature to pass the Child Victims Act. The flight had been chartered by Kat Sullivan, an alleged rape victim turned activist. Both the State Police and Zabinski maintain the phone call was benign. But others, including Sullivan’s attorney, contend Zabinski was intimidated by the call, to the point he did not allow Sullivan to hire another flight from there in December, with a new banner criticizing state government. The call came as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics was ramping up its controversial probe into Sullivan for potential violations of state lobbying law.

North Dakota North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Bill Drafts to Resolve Conflicts in Ethics Laws
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 2/4/2020

Proposed legislation would change new North Dakota ethics laws that apparently conflict with a voter-passed constitutional amendment for state government ethics. Rep. Karla Rose Hanson provided fellow members of the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee with two bill drafts related to procedures and authority of North Dakota’s Ethics Commission and transparency in campaign spending. The committee is studying the 2018 ethics measure that created the new five-person panel and other ethics mandates.

Ohio Former Convention Center Employee Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 1/31/2020

A former food-services consultant for the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority faces up to 10 years in prison after signing an agreement to plead guilty to bribery. Rodney Myers, who was hired by the authority for $5,000 a month to help evaluate contracts submitted by potential food vendors, admitted he helped steer a $700,000-a-year contract to a vendor identified as “Company A.” The Columbus Dispatch has identified “Company A” as Connecticut-based Centerplate through public records. Myers later billed that company for his services. The Myers case involved former Columbus City Hall lobbyist John Raphael, who was good friends with Myers and served on the authority’s board of directors at the time while also serving as Centerplate’s paid lobbyist.

Oregon Oregon Lawmakers Quickly Launch New Fight Over Campaign Finance Limits
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 2/4/2020

Oregon Rep. Dan Rayfield wants to keep the campaign field for candidates level this year as courts and legislators untangle campaign finance reforms, but he wants to short circuit a voter-approved measure to do that. Dan Meek, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate, said Rayfield’s proposed legislation would overturn the wishes of voters while undermining efforts to rein in the way state’s politicians raise money. Oregon is one of a handful of states with no limits on how much money can be donated to candidates. Rayfield’s legislation, House Bill 4124, comes at a time when the state could be on the cusp of enacting campaign finance reform.

Pennsylvania A Group That Championed Pa.’s Lobbying Law Was Fined $19,900 for Breaking It
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Daniel Simmons-Ritchie (Spotlight PA) | Published: 2/6/2020

The state Ethics Commission imposed a $19,900 fine on Common Cause Pennsylvania after the group filed a quarterly lobbying report 112 days past the deadline. The organization has also been late in filing four other reports since the beginning of 2018. In Pennsylvania, groups are required to disclose the names of any lobbyists they employ, the subject matter they lobbied on, and the total amount of money they spent. Though Common Cause Pennsylvania reports spending only a few thousand dollars each year on lobbying, the Ethics Commission nonetheless expressed its disappointment over the group’s failures, especially since it had helped champion the current law.

Rhode Island R.I. Legislature Waits Until End of Session to Act on Many Acts, Data Show
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 2/6/2020

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea office has launched a “Lobbying and Legislation Data Exploration Tool,” saying it will let the public easily sort years of lobbying and legislative information using dozens of search functions. All the lobbying and legislative information has been public in years past, but now it is easily sorted so that people can, for example, find out the number of registered lobbyists in a given year or the number of bills introduced on a particular subject. Users can also narrow their focus to explore the activity of an individual lobbyist or the progress of an individual bill.

Texas DeSoto Officials Mired in Fraud Scandal Also Took AT&T Freebies to Attend Dinners, Audit Shows
Dallas News – Miles Moffeit | Published: 1/31/2020

Two weeks after DeSoto, Texas, officials Candice and Jeremiah Quarles took a controversial Disney World vacation funded largely by taxpayers, AT&T gave the couple free tickets to two exclusive Cotton Bowl dinners. Jeremiah Quarles, then head of economic development for the city, jumped at an offer to attend one hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. He also told the AT&T representative that his wife, Candice, who at the time was on a city zoning board, would be accompanying him. DeSoto ethics policies prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 to avoid improper outside influence over their public duties. The rules also warn officials to avoid practices that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. AT&T competes for major telecommunications services contracts that depend on the approval of city officials.

Washington City Council Member to Pay $500 Fine for Violating Ethics Code
KOMO – Michelle Esteban | Published: 2/5/2020

City Councilperson Lisa Herbold will pay a $500 fine for what the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission calls a violation of the city code. Herbold acknowledged the wrongdoing after sending text messages to Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best last October over an RV parked on her street. instead of calling the Police Department’s non-emergency line to report what Herbold said she thought was a stolen RV parked in front or her home, she texted the chief directly. An investigation found Herbold not only thought the RV was stolen, but that it was a political stunt.

Wisconsin 2 Leaders of Democratic Convention Host Committee Fired
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 2/5/2020

The two leaders of Milwaukee’s host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention – the group’s president, Liz Gilbert, and its chief of staff, Adam Alonso – were fired amid allegations they oversaw a toxic work environment, a dramatic shakeup less than six months before the showcase event in swing state Wisconsin. The host committee is a nonpartisan group responsible for raising the $70 million, recruiting the 15,000 volunteers, and providing the facilities needed to put on the convention in July. Alonso was fired less than a week after he was involved with a controversy in his home state of New Jersey, where both he and Gilbert are top-ranking Democratic operatives.

Continue Reading - 32 min read Close

January 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2020

News You Can Use

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 31 min read Close

January 24, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 24, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020 Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to […]


A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers
The Intercept – Rachel Cohen | Published: 1/16/2020

Though some organizations have been started over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete, the path to victory can still be difficult for those who cannot afford to dedicate all their time to campaigning. Under federal guidelines, candidates running in a general election are permitted to use some of their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. But FEC members worried candidates would just game the system. A compromise was reached whereby candidates can pay themselves at a per-diem rate equal to the salary of the job they had before entering the race, or the salary of the office they are seeking, whichever is less. Another FEC restriction on candidates who draw salaries makes campaigning particularly tough for primary challengers.

Bloomberg’s Billions Stay Veiled While Funding 2020 Campaign
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/22/2020

Michael Bloomberg has bought his way into the 2020 presidential race with hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune. But he may not provide any details about where that money comes from until more than half of the Democratic primary is over. While his rivals have disclosed years of financial details on everything from book deals to vacation homes, Bloomberg has not released any financial information since launching a late campaign fueled entirely by his $60 billion in wealth. The former New York City mayor was granted an extension on filing mandatory financial disclosure forms until March 20, more than halfway through the delegate race and after Super Tuesday, when Bloomberg hopes to make his first splash in delegate-rich states like California and Texas.

Bloomberg’s Massive Ad Campaign Hikes TV Prices for Other Candidates
Politico – Maya King | Published: 1/21/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s big television ad campaign has made politicking more expensive for everyone from his 2020 rivals to Senate, House, and state legislative candidates around the country. Eight weeks into his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has already spent more money on advertising, $248 million, than most candidates could spend in years. That amount has squeezed TV ad inventory in nearly every state, lowering supply and causing stations to raise ad prices at a time of high demand, as candidates around the country gear up for their primaries. On average in markets around the country, prices for political TV ads have risen by 20 percent since Bloomberg began his campaign. Meanwhile, some local politicians have already found difficulty trying to reach their own constituencies.

Courts Urged to Enforce Campaign Finance Law as Regulator Idles
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/17/2020

Hoping to bypass the paralyzed FEC, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit after the agency lost a quorum of at least four commissioners needed to vote on enforcement matters. It targets the FEC’s failure to act on alleged disclosure violations by two federal super PACs that funneled almost $6.4 million to aid the 2016 election of Eric Greitens as Missouri governor. If successful, the legal strategy could help CREW and other groups press for more transparency and enforcement of other rules in an election year expected to see record campaign spending, even if the FEC continues to be hobbled.

Dem Debates Are Magnet for Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/20/2020

Many of those flocking to the Democratic presidential debates are lobbyists with campaign experience, allowing them the chance to relieve their glory days on the trail and catch up with old friends. But it is also an opportunity to make connections and learn from the insiders working with each campaign. Clients want information about the primary including the inside scoop on who is gaining or losing steam, one Democratic consultant noted. “Clients care about how political the atmosphere is going to affect their business or their issue sets,” the consultant said. But attending the debates can also be a complicated decision for lobbyists as the industry face attacks from Democrats and progressive groups. With lobbyists and donations from special interest groups under scrutiny, campaigns also are careful to not appear too cozy with lobbyists.

Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures Before Redistricting
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/15/2020

Unprepared Democrats got bulldozed in 2010 by a $30 million Republican campaign to win state Legislatures, and the right to draw political maps that would help them hold power for the next decade. Now, Democrats are readying a massive $50 million effort of their own to shape the next 10 years of elections by flipping state legislative chambers in places as red as Texas and West Virginia. The plan represents a sea change for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a former backwater in Democratic politics that has transformed as the party grappled with the importance of redistricting. In 2020, the last election before states redraw their political boundaries using new Census data, the winners of many state Legislatures get the power to draw congressional lines that will last an entire decade.

Ethics Expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said. The experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairperson of the NRCC, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to Emmer facing an investigation by the House ethics committee. A complaint sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleges Emmer violated House rules when the NRCC repeatedly filmed Democrats in the halls of Congress, which are considered official resources, for campaign or political purposes and in violation of chamber rules and federal law.

Former Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Just Over Two Years in Federal Prison
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison for insider trading crimes he committed, ending a legal process that evolved from the New York Republican calling the charges “meritless” shortly after he was indicted to him pleading guilty and proclaiming embarrassment for his actions. Collins pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to commit insider trading and lying to the FBI to conceal his illegal activity. He resigned from Congress the day before his guilty plea. The former lawmaker also must pay a $200,000 fine and will be under one year of supervised release.

High Court to Rule on ‘Faithless Electors’ in Presidential Vote
Yahoo News – Greg Stohr (Bloomberg) | Published: 1/17/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else. Advocates for the court’s intervention say the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and the prospect of a close margin in a presidential election, although so-called faithless electors have been a footnote so far in American history. About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the popular vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. The Supreme Court accepted cases from Washington and Colorado in time to hold oral arguments this spring and decide the outcome by June.

K Street Firms Post Big Earnings Gains for 2019
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/21/2020

K Street’s top-tier firms posted sizable gains last year, fueled by technology, pharmaceutical, and big-business interests concerned with such policy matters as trade, health care, taxation, and government spending. Lobbyists say impeachment proceedings and the 2020 campaigns have not yet derailed the influence industry’s agenda this year.

Lev Is Talking. So Where Is Igor?
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Natalie Gryvnyak | Published: 1/21/2020

Lev Parnas, Rudolph Giuliani’s fixer in the Ukraine saga, has dominated the airwaves on the eve of President Trump’s impeachment trial, turning over text messages to House lawmakers and pointing the finger at the president in prime-time cable interviews. Meanwhile, his onetime sidekick and fellow Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, is nowhere to be seen. Under house arrest in Miami and facing federal campaign finance charges, Fruman has split with Parnas, retained counsel from Trump’s world, and stayed true to his reputation as the quiet partner in the duo who stumbled into a presidential impeachment scandal. Behind Fruman’s silence are many of the answers to how the two business executives cracked elite GOP donor circles, and possessed the right connections in Ukraine to connect Giuliani with high-level officials who offered to aid Trump and damage Democrats.

Park Strategies Execs Draw Ire of OFAC in Settlement
Compliance Week – Kyle Brassuer | Published: 1/22/2020

The lobbying firm Park Strategies paid $12,150 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. While the settlement amount is relatively minor compared to most enforcement actions, the penalty could have been much larger given the way in which the alleged violations were carried out. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Park Strategies entered a contract with Al-Barakaat Group of Companies Somalia in August 2017. Al-Barakaat was added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List in 2001 and characterized as a global terrorist organization.

Political Fundraiser Gets 3-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 1/17/2020

A PAC operator whose company raised more than $20 million in recent years but spent almost no money on political activity was sentenced to three years in prison. Kelley Rogers, former president of the consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in one of the first cases of its kind, a sign federal authorities are beginning to crack down on “scam PACs” that raise money from donors in the name of political causes but keep most of those funds for profit. Often, Rogers and others at Strategic Campaign Group reinvested the money they raised into finding more donors, with the help of a circle of preferred vendors that received large sums for their services.

Sanders, a Critic of Secret Money in Politics, Declines to Call on a Group Supporting Him to Disclose Its Donors
MSN – Sean Sullivan and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/20/2020

Our Revolution is a nonprofit founded by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders that has caused some awkwardness for him in his second run for president. While the group is supporting Sanders’ candidacy, it accepts large donations without fully disclosing who made them, a practice at odds with his calls for greater transparency and stated desire to curtail the power of the wealthy in elections. Sanders said he would “have no problem” with the group opting to provide more information about its donors. But he suggested he would not call on its leaders to do so while his opponents continue to rely on similar organizations. Though barred by federal laws from coordinating with his campaign, the group has emerged as a potent part of Sanders’ grassroots army, with hundreds of thousands of members and activists working across the country to promote his presidential bid.

Tech Giants Led by Amazon, Facebook and Google Spent Nearly $500 Million on Lobbying in 10 Years, Data Show
San Francisco Chronicle – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

Ten years ago, Google executives rarely spoke to Congress, Amazon employed just two of its own registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and Facebook had only recently graduated to a real office after running its Washington operation out of an employee’s living room. Since then, these companies have evolved into some of the most potent political forces in the nation’s capital, with just seven technology giants accounting for nearly $500 million in lobbying over the past decade. The data tell the story of a sector that increasingly has tapped its wealth to beat back regulatory threats and boost its bottom line. Despite scandals that exposed users’ personal information and left democratic elections in digital disarray, Congress has failed to adopt new laws to limit the industry, a reality some critics attribute in part to the Silicon Valley’s evolving lobbying prowess.

Trump Hotel’s Mix of GOP Insiders and Hangers-on Helped Give Rise to Impeachment Episodes
Anchorage Daily News – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020

For three years, President Trump’s hotel near the White House has been a relaxed hangout for Republicans. Candidates raise money in the ballrooms and members of Congress and lobbyists dine in the steakhouse. Hangers-on wait at the bar, taking selfies in “#americaslivingroom.” That arrangement worked for Republicans because it compressed a city’s worth of networking into one room. It worked for Trump because he converted political allies into private customers. But the hotel’s atmosphere of blurred lines – mixing the public interest with Trump’s private interests and mixing the GOP’s leaders and its wannabe fringes – helped give rise to a scandal that threatens to overshadow Trump’s presidency.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Agriculture Group Puts Arizona Lobbyist on Leave as Lawmaker Denies Romantic Relationship
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Published: 1/22/2020

A lobbyist was put on leave from her job with the Western Growers Association after questions were raised about a possible romantic relationship with an Arizona lawmaker. State Rep. David Cook and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr said in separate interviews that they are friends and their relationship did not cross ethical lines. The Arizona Republic received a batch of handwritten letters that portray a close relationship between Cook, a married rancher representing a rural Pinal County district, and Knorr, who works on legislation backed by the agricultural industry and is the daughter of an influential lobbyist.

Colorado Hickenlooper Faces Renewed Pressure and Questions About His Administration’s Spending in Final Months
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 1/17/2020

A little-noticed government account that is paying ongoing legal bills related to an ethics complaint against U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is facing renewed scrutiny even as his allies continue to block requests for an audit of the spending. In its final months, the former Colorado governor’s administration used federal funds from a 2003 account to cover a prominent attorney $525-an-hour fee and spent $13,385 for a legacy website designed to tell the story of how Hickenlooper and his team “paved the way for Colorado’s journey and growth.” Hickenlooper’s top rival in the Democratic primary is joining the call for the audit. And now a state lawmaker is pursuing legislation to get better answers about the off-budget spending by the executive branch.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Want Same Privacy as Cops and Judges, But Why?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/22/2020

Senate Bill 832 would give Florida lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private. But while threats made against police and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Senate committee approved the bill along party lines that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers. Under the bill, the personal information and places of employment of their spouses and children would be exempt. So, too, would be information that lawmakers do not disclose when they run for office, such as the names and locations of the schools their children attend.

Florida Florida Supreme Court Issues Setback for Amendment 4 Supporters
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 1/16/2020

The Florida Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers who have argued that felons must pay back all court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution before registering to vote. In a narrow opinion requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis, justices gave their answer on one of the questions at the heart of the historic ballot measure voters passed in 2018. Celebrated as one of the greatest expansions of voting rights in decades, it restored the right to vote to most non-violent felons who completed “all terms of sentence.”  But the phrase “all terms of sentence” became a flash point in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers lined up behind Senate Bill 7066, which defined “all terms” to include all financial obligations.

Florida Hillsborough’s Lobbying Rules Get Tweaked
Tampa Bay Times – Anastasia Dawson | Published: 1/19/2020

Hillsborough County was one of the first local governments in the nation to create its own lobbying ordinance, a measure meant to protect the public’s right to know when elected officials interact with people paid to influence them. But county officials say a loophole in the ordinance afforded prominent operative Ed Turanchik access to county commissioners that fell outside rules requiring public oversight – and later, got him an official warning from the county attorney’s office. Going forward, parties that contract with the county will be required to provide written justification for why retaining the services of a lobbyist is essential to the project. And lobbyists looking to work as consultants with the county will be scrutinized for possible or perceived conflicts of interest, Lobbyist Registration Manager Dave Couvertier said.

Florida What’s a ‘Lobbyist’? Tallahassee Ethics Board May Recommend Broader Definition
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/22/2020

The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is likely to make recommendations to ensure public officials are being transparent about who they are meeting with and what effect those meetings have on official action. Although the board does not have the power to regulate lobbyists, it could ask city officials to expand who falls under the definition. The board could also make recommendations on the calendars that elected officials keep and expand who needs to register to include developers, and public relations and communications firms. City commissioners ultimately would have to approve any changes to the ethics ordinance.

Iowa Chaos Feared Despite Iowa Democrats’ Caucus Fixes
Fairfield Citizen – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

With at least four Democratic candidates seemingly in contention to win Iowa’s presidential caucus, some in the party fear reforms put in place to prevent the disarray of 2016 may create an entirely new set of problems in 2020. It has been the tradition that voting plays out in school gyms and church basements, with multiple vote tabulations as supporters of candidates who do not reach a threshold on the initial vote scramble to make a second choice among the remaining contenders. This year, for the first time, the state party will release the initial raw vote totals as well as the final delegate allocation. The change will mean more transparency, but it also raises the possibility that multiple campaigns could claim a victory of sorts, with supporters of one candidate seeing another’s triumph as illegitimate.

Maryland Former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges. Then She Hugs FBI Agents.
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/22/2020

Seven months after reaching a secret deal with federal prosecutors, and a month after suddenly resigning from the Maryland Legislature, former Del. Cheryl Glenn admitted taking bribes in exchange for political favors in court. In her plea, Glenn admitted she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company. She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license.

Michigan Ballot Plan Bans Lobbyists from Buying Food for Michigan Lawmakers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

Lobbyists in Michigan would no longer be able to buy meals or provide anything of value for state lawmakers under a ballot proposal by Progress Michigan. The initiative, which aims to amend the state constitution, would also create a two-year waiting period before former elected officials could become lobbyists and would require lobbyists to publicly log what topics they are discussing with lawmakers. In addition to buying food for lawmakers, lobbyists can now provide them with gifts as long as the gifts do not cost more than $63 and fund trips for them.

Missouri Proposed Measures Tackle Initiative Petitions
Jefferson City News Tribune – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/23/2020

Two years after Missouri voters approved two constitutional amendments that began as initiative petitions, some state lawmakers are trying to make it harder to pass more in the future. Sen. David Sater proposed a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments by petition, and a bill that would change several parts of the initiative process, including adding a $500 fee to file a petition, among other provisions. Missouri is one of 16 states that allow voters to put proposed constitutional amendments directly on the ballot by initiative petition. Sater said he wants to keep that process intact but wants to make it harder to change the state constitution.

New Jersey He Raised $21K But Never Ran for Office. Nobody Knows Where the Money Went.
Newark Star Ledger – Karen Yi | Published: 1/20/2020

A former member of the New Jersey Assembly named in two federal search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Orange, once collected more than $21,000 in campaign funds for a race he never ran for, and what happened with the money is unclear, records show. An NJ Advance Media review of campaign finance records show Willis Edwards III created an election fund more than 10 years ago in a bid for East Orange mayor. But Edwards never ran in the June 2009 primary or any other East Orange race. It is unknown what happened to the thousands of dollars in his campaign coffers. No expenditure reports were filed, as is required by law.

New Mexico Report Flags ‘Outsized Influence’ of Lobbyists
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/17/2020

A report by New Mexico Ethics Watch describes a culture in which the lobbying ranks in the state are filled with relatives of legislators and even former lawmakers themselves. In the report, Ethics Watch recommended many measures to increase transparency and limit the influence of lobbyists. “Personal relationships and family ties between legislators and lobbyists are an important part of NM’s legislative culture,” the report says. “They are backed up by a formidable arsenal of campaign contributions, meals at fancy restaurants, and special events in Santa Fe and out-of-state cities where legislators gather for national conferences.”

New York After Court Rulings, Unclear Future for Push to Restrict State Legislators’ Outside Income
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 1/21/2020

After two years of legislative negotiations, commission reports, and lawsuits, parts of a planned salary increase for state officials in New York remain up in the air, and the fate of long-sought restrictions on legislators’ outside income sits entirely with lawmakers themselves. With rulings in the second half of 2019 striking down the outside income limits before they could go into effect, and other pending court decisions throwing the pay hikes into uncertainty, good government advocates and others are calling on the Legislature to take up the restrictions through statute in the 2020 legislative session.

New York Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Largely Upheld
Newsday – Yancey Roy | Published: 1/21/2020

A federal court dismissed some corruption counts against former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but upheld most of his 2018 conviction, meaning one of the most powerful New York lawmakers of the last generation is likely to serve prison time. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Silver on four counts of seven counts associated with allegations he pocketed money for doing political favors for people who had interests in Albany. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court for resentencing, giving Silver a chance to reduce the seven-year prison sentence a judge ordered two years ago. But the court’s affirmation of four charges means Silver would have to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the rest of the charges for him to go free altogether.

North Carolina State Lawmaker’s Failure to Disclose Business Ties Highlights Broader Ethics Enforcement Problem
NC Policy Watch – Joe Killian | Published: 1/15/2020

State Rep. Holly Grange failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years. In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest. Kathleen Edwards, interim director of the State Ethics Commission, said cases like Grange’s and others point to a larger problem. “We only have eight employees now, the entire commission,” said Edwards. She said the SEI unit will investigate complaints of non-disclosure, Edwards said. But beyond executive branch officials, which it is statutorily required to evaluate, it does not perform audits.

North Dakota New Director Aims to Help North Dakota Ethics Commission Make Rules
Fargo Forum – Jason Turley | Published: 1/22/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission has a new executive director who says he will try to help navigate the board through the choppy waters ahead. David Thiele once worked as a judge advocate for the U.S. Army before returning to his home state and joining the North Dakota National Guard, where he served as a lawyer and top administrator. Thiel said he will use his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard to help the commission create rules and procedures for handling complaints of ethical misconduct. The rules could also establish if certain topics, like campaign finance disclosures, fall under the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission does not yet have a detailed process for handling complaints or punishing those deemed guilty of violations.

Oklahoma Oklahoma Senators Want MAGA License Plates, Which Might Violate Campaign Finance Rules
Seattle Times – Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 1/18/2020

Oklahoma Sens. Nathan Dahm and Marty Quinn proposed specialty license plates that, if approved by the Legislature, would display two of President Trump’s campaign slogans, “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.” The plates would be added to a list of 98 other specialty designs that Oklahoma drivers can choose to purchase for $35. Of that amount, $20 goes to the designated organization that matches the theme of the vanity plate. Although the money collected from purchases of the plates would go to veteran groups and not Trump’s reelection campaign, the proposal could still violate campaign finance laws if the state uses taxpayer dollars or resources to make the plates.

Oregon Big Out-Of-State Donations Have Oregon Lawmakers Mulling ‘Pay-To-Play’ Law
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/22/2020

State lawmakers looking into campaign finance regulations say Oregon should consider limiting how much public officials can accept from people or firms seeking state contracts. Such “pay-to-play” laws are designed to limit influence companies or individuals seeking work with a public agency can wield over officials with a say on who gets that work. Oregon is one of a handful of states that currently have no campaign finance limits whatsoever. That has created a situation in which out-of-state law firms are pouring cash into campaigns of incumbent of incumbent state treasurers and attorneys general, the two officials whose departments choose which firms receive potentially lucrative contracts representing the state in class-action suits.

Oregon Campaign Donation Limits? Not This Year, Oregon Governor Says
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/20/2020

State lawmakers should not pass campaign contribution limits this year, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a briefing on the upcoming short legislative session. As a result, voters will likely have to decide in November on a state constitutional amendment that would allow donation limits without knowing what those caps might be. Last year, the Oregon House passed a bill that would have capped contributions to legislative candidates at $1,000 and $1,500, and statewide candidates at $2,800. It died in the Senate and there was talk that lawmakers might pass a similar plan this year, to give voters a clear idea of the impact they could have if they pass a constitutional amendment to allow the limits.

Oregon Complaints from Portland Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Dismissed
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 1/21/2020

Portland’s elections office will not be penalizing candidates in upcoming races for defying local campaign finance limits, which remain in legal limbo until the Oregon Supreme Court weighs in. The decision closes the first chapter on a push by Honest Elections, a local campaign finance reform group, to force candidates to cap the individual contributions they receive at $500. The group had filed three complaints with the city auditor accusing Mayor Ted Wheeler, city council candidate Jack Kerfoot, and mayoral candidate Ozzie Gonzalez of flouting the contribution limits passed by voters last year.

Texas Texas Lobbyists and Politicians Dodged $800k in Fines, Thanks to Weak Campaign Finance Laws
Houston Chronicle – Taylor Goldenstein and Allie Morris | Published: 1/23/2020

There are about a hundred candidates, lobbyists, and PAC treasurers in Texas each year who fail to file mandatory disclosures of their donors and expenses, racking up thousands of dollars in fines as a result. Candidates with unpaid fines can continue to run for office and the committees can go on operating, thanks to a weak enforcement system that allows them to dodge their responsibility to the state. The state attorney general’s office, which handles collections for the Texas Ethics Commission, since 2005 has won the right in court to collect $1.1 million from late filers, but the office has then written off $800,000 as uncollectible, effectively ending attempts to financially penalize candidates and political committees.

Utah Special Interests Provided 93.5% of Donations to Utah Legislators Last Year
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/20/2020

Utah lawmakers did not need to raise much campaign money in 2019, since it was not an election year for them. They still amassed plenty, and special interest groups supplied 93.5% of it. Academics say that is unusual because in most states, studies say lawmakers raise about half of their money from individual voters and half from special interests. Utah’s big disparity raises questions about what those special interests receive for their money. Some academics and donors say it purchases better access to the political process. Meanwhile, legislative leaders and other donors say it buys nothing and merely shows how some donors support politicians who tend to vote in ways they like.

Vermont Vermont’s ‘Fishin’ Politician’ Faults the Ethics Panel That Let Him Off the Hook
Seven Days – Kevin McCallum | Published: 1/22/2020

Vermont’s House Ethics Panel had to wrestle with some unusual questions last year as it considered a wide-ranging complaint against state Rep. Chris Bates. Is it unethical for a Vermont lawmaker to have an outstanding felony arrest warrant from another state, or to misstate one’s criminal background during a radio call-in show? Critics of the first-term lawmaker and outdoor enthusiast, aka “The Fishin’ Politician,” paint Bates as a felon who won election in 2018 only after eluding justice and concealing his criminal past from voters. Bates admits he has made mistakes but says he started a new life in Vermont only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign by some of the same online trolls who harassed former Rep. Kiah Morris out of office.

Washington DC D.C. Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over $1 Million Booking at President’s Hotel
Anchorage Daily News – Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 1/22/2020

The District of Columbia is suing President Trump’s inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel. The committee has maintained its finances were independently audited and all money was spent in accordance with the law. It is the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves, part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. District of Columbia law requires that nonprofit organizations not operate for the purpose of generating profits for private individuals.

Wisconsin After Rejection, Conservatives Try Again to Get Voter Purge Case to Supreme Court
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/20/2020

Conservatives suing over Wisconsin’s voter rolls tried to get their case before the state Supreme Court, even though the justices told them recently they would not take it. Those bringing the lawsuit effectively asked the justices to change their minds after they declined the case because of a deadlock. To gain footing, they would need at least one of the three justices who opposed taking up the matter to take a new view. That puts renewed attention on Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who sided with two liberal justices in saying the court should not consider the case. At issue is whether more than 200,000 people should be taken off the voter rolls because they have been identified as having likely moved. Both sides see the case as important because Wisconsin was so closely decided in the 2016 election.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

January 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 17, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Court Debates Using Shell Companies to Mask Political Donations Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/10/2020 A federal appeals court panel heard arguments over the use of shell companies to hide donations in a case that could affect super […]


Court Debates Using Shell Companies to Mask Political Donations
Bloomberg Law – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 1/10/2020

A federal appeals court panel heard arguments over the use of shell companies to hide donations in a case that could affect super PAC disclosure in the 2020 election. Utah businessperson Steven Lund is helping the FEC defend the dismissal of allegations that Lund and other wealthy donors used shell companies to illegally hide their donations to super PACs. Lund was among several donors accused of violating campaign finance laws by funneling millions of dollars to super PACs that supported Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. Obscure corporations were listed as the donors in reports filed with the FEC, prompting watchdog groups to complain the true donors were being hidden.

Did You Get a Text from an Unknown Number? It Might Be Bernie Sanders’ Campaign
McClatchyDC – Emily Cadei | Published: 1/8/2020

Democrats and Republicans alike are spending millions of dollars and deploying thousands of staffers and volunteers focused on texting with committed and potential supporters in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an early adopter of the tactic, has already sent nearly nine times as many text messages to voters as it did during the entire 2016 primary. Political candidates’ and groups’ use of text messaging has skyrocketed over the past several years thanks to new software and the ease and efficiency of reaching voters across the country. “Everyone reads their text messages,” said Daniel Souweine, who ran Sanders’ text message program in 2016. “It’s quickly moved from, ‘hey, what is this thing?’, to the point where you can’t run a modern political campaign without it.”

Doctored Images Have Become a Fact of Life for Political Campaigns. When They’re Disproved, Believers ‘Just Don’t Care.’
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 1/14/2020

For ginning up political resentment and accentuating a rivals’ flaws, nothing quite compares to a doctored image. It can help anyone turn a political opponent into a caricature – inventing gaffes, undercutting wins, and erasing nuance – leaving only the emotion behind. Sharing doctored images of an electoral rival is a timeworn strategy of modern politics: in campaign mailers and television ads, shadowy lighting, sinister music, and unflattering facial expressions are so expected as to be cliché. But those tactics are increasingly playing out on the Internet, the most powerful visual medium in history, where they do not require a campaign’s backing or resources to get attention.

House Votes to Send Trump Impeachment to Senate for Trial
AP News – Linda Mascaro | Published: 1/15/2020

The U.S. House voted to send two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate and approve House prosecutors for only the third impeachment trial in American history.  The nearly party-line vote moved Trump’s impeachment from the Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate, where Trump expects acquittal, even as new evidence is raising fresh questions about his Ukraine dealings. The president is charged with abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

IRS May Be Unaware of 9,774 Political Nonprofits, Watchdog Says
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 1/9/2020

The IRS has not done enough to identify noncompliant political organizations, despite having various sources of data that would enable it to do so, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said. There are 9,774 politically active tax-exempt organizations that may have failed to notify the IRS of their existence or submit the paperwork to operate tax-free. The groups are required to notify the IRS within 60 days of forming that they intend to operate as a “social welfare” group organized under tax code Section 501(c)4. The IRS could also be failing to collect millions of dollars in penalties and fees owed by these social welfare groups, the report said. The revelation comes as the IRS is seeking to finish regulations that would allow the groups to keep their donor lists secret unless they are requested by the agency.

Lev Parnas: Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on’ in Ukraine
Politico – Matthew Choi, Kyle Cheney, and Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 1/15/2020

Lev Parnas said President Trump and Rudy Giuliani directed him to urge Ukrainian officials to publicly open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Parnas asserted that the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was entirely motivated by her interference in their efforts to start a Biden investigation. Parnas said Trump was fully aware of his actions and added that Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and former national security adviser John Bolton were all aware of or involved in parts of the scheme. Elements of his story are backed up by a trove of contemporaneous documents he provided to lawmakers in recent days, files that were initially seized by law enforcement officials following his indictment on campaign finance charges and released to him only recently.

More Money, Less Transparency: A decade under Citizens United
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 1/14/2020

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the longstanding prohibition on independent expenditures by corporations violated the First Amendment. With its decision, the court allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose candidates. The majority made the case that political spending from independent actors, even from powerful companies, was not a corrupting influence on those in office. The decade that followed was by far the most expensive in the history of American elections. The explosion of big money and secret spending was not spurred on by Citizens United alone. It was enabled by a number of court decisions that surgically removed several restrictions in campaign finance law and emboldened by inaction from Congress and gridlock within the FEC.

Ocasio-Cortez Creates PAC to Push Back on the Democratic Party’s ‘Blacklisting’ Rule
MSN – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2020

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she had formed a PAC to help raise funds for progressive primary candidates. She has been a vocal opponent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy to “blacklist” vendors and firms that work with candidates mounting primary challenges against Democratic incumbents. Ocasio-Cortez was one such candidate, having run a successful primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in 2018. Democratic leadership sees the rule as necessary to protect seats and win elections, but critics say it prevents fresh voices from reaching Congress and could encumber efforts to increase diversity at the Capitol.

Robert Hyde, Erratic Ex-Landscaper, Is Unlikely New Impeachment Figure – Michael Rothfeld, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/15/2020

Even in an impeachment drama brimming with improbable characters, Robert Hyde stands out.  Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut, was thrust into the proceedings to remove President Trump from office when the House released a series of encrypted messages that he exchanged last year with an associate of Rudolph Giuliani. The messages suggest Hyde had been secretly tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time. The conversations drew alarm from Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post on Trump’s orders, and calls from a member of Congress for an investigation. It was only the latest in a series of erratic episodes for Hyde, whose congressional campaign has been marked by inflammatory comments.

Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment
MSN – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 1/13/2020

Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian gas company that is a major focus of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, according to a cybersecurity firm that says it discovered the attacks on Burisma Holdings. The Russian military hackers began an attack in November on the firm, where Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s son had served on the board. It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens, the same kind of information that Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

Sen. Cory Booker Exits the Democratic Presidential Primary, Making the Field Less Diverse
MSN – Amy Wang and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 1/13/2020

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker announced he is dropping out of the Democratic presidential race. Booker said his operation would not have the money “to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win,” particularly with a Senate impeachment trial looming and because he would be absent from the most recent debate. As a presidential candidate, Booker was often stuck, unable to convince left-wing voters that he was on their side while turning down donations and initially rejecting super PAC support that could have helped him. Democrats who watched the candidates were often surprised by Booker’s lack of traction.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Fight Over SEC’s Pay-To-Play Rule – Reenat Sinay | Published: 1/13/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a state Republican Party’s challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) power to implement a rule preventing “pay-to-play” practices by investment advisers who make political contributions, leaving in place a lower court ruling in the SEC’s favor. The rule at issue, approved by the SEC in 2016, prevents brokers from seeking government business within two years of a campaign donation. It was intended to complement the SEC’s existing rule covering investment advisers, given concerns that investment advisers might sidestep the rule by relying on brokers acting as placement agents to make the political contributions instead.

These Emails Show a Trump Official Helping Her Former Chemical Industry Colleagues
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz | Published: 1/14/2020

In 2017, Dow Chemical scored a long-sought-after victory: after a push from the U.S. government, China approved the import of the company’s genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn seeds. A grateful Dow lobbyist emailed a senior Agriculture Department official whose support had been critical: “Thank you for your efforts in support of U.S. agriculture.” That official, Rebeckah Adcock, was no stranger to Dow. Before joining the Trump administration, Adcock was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group, of which Dow was a prominent member. Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about the seed issue.

Trump Labor Agencies Ease Up on Recusals
Politico – Ian Kullgren and Rebecca Rainey | Published: 1/15/2020

President Trump promised to drain the swamp in Washington, but under his administration several high-level Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials are dealing directly with cases they touched in the private sector, raising questions about conflicts-of-interest. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, in his previous capacity as a private attorney, won a Chamber of Commerce lawsuit two years ago against an Obama-era regulation governing retirement advice. But in October, the department’s ethics lawyers cleared Scalia to participate in crafting a new version of the rule. The NLRB issued a new recusal policy in November that, barring unlikely intervention by a president or an appellate court ruling, leaves all decisions about conflict of interest to the NLRB member in question.

Voting Machine Makers Face Questions from House Lawmakers – But More Remain
NBC News – Ben Popkin | Published: 1/9/2020

For decades, the companies that dominated the U.S. voting machine industry operated in relative anonymity. Now, lawmakers want answers and transparency. The chief executive officers of the three companies that make more than 80 percent of the country’s voting machines testified before Congress for the first time, marking a new and bipartisan effort to ensure the security of the 2020 election. Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hart InterCivic, are almost entirely unregulated. But in recent years, policymakers and election advocates have begun to question who owns the companies, how they make their machines, and whether they could be susceptible to remote hacking.

Wealthy Donors Now Allowed to Give Over Half a Million Dollars Each to Support Trump’s Reelection
San Francisco Chronicle – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2020

Donors to President Trump’s reelection are now permitted to give nearly $600,000 per year, boosting the president’s ability to raise money from wealthy supporters. Under an agreement announced by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC), a single donor can give as much as $580,600 this year to support Trump’s reelection – higher than the committee’s previous caps on contributions. That means the RNC’s biggest contributors could end up having shelled out as much as $1.6 million to support Trump’s reelection over the course of the four-year election cycle. It is the latest example of the expanding fundraising power of national party committees, made possible through pivotal legal changes in 2014 that loosened restrictions on individual donations.

White House Hold on Ukraine Aid Violated Federal Law, Congressional Watchdog Says
MSN – Jeff Stein, Ellen Nakashima, and Erica Werner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2020

The White House violated federal law in its hold on security aid to Ukraine last year, according to a decision by The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress The GAO found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress. White House budget officials have defended their power to stop the money from being given to the Defense Department, arguing both congressional lawmakers and executive branch officials routinely demand delays on funding already signed into law.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona APS Boss Promises No More Campaign Cash for Regulators
Arizona Capitol Times – Dillon Rosenblatt | Published: 1/14/2020

The new chief executive officer of Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) vowed the company, its parent company, Pinnacle West, and other known affiliates would not spend money on campaigns for utility regulators while he is in charge. Jeff Guldner’s statement came at a meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission in which he fielded questions, giving them what they waited months to hear: a promise to no longer allow the utility to contribute to the elections of the regulators who will have to regulate them. Three of the current commissioners, Lea Marques Peterson, Boyd Dunn, and Bob Burns, have all accepted contributions from APS and other utilities and now have to disclose it before any vote relating to those companies under a new code of ethics.

California Slugfest at a California Conference Has Inspired a Politician to Propose a New Law
Los Angeles Times – Ruben Vives | Published: 1/13/2020

In May, two council members got into an argument at a conference in Indian Wells that turned into a brawl. The slugfest ended up involving four of the politicians from the city of Commerce and left one councilperson, Leonard Mendoza, lying on the ground unconscious. There were ripple effects: the California Contract Cities Association, the nonprofit advocacy group that hosted the conference, suspended Commerce’s membership and a local criminal investigation was launched, though no charges have been filed. Now, Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia, whose district includes Commerce, plans to introduce legislation aimed at giving the California auditor the authority to examine the finances of government lobbying organizations such as Contract Cities.

Florida Despite ‘Cone-of-Silence’ Over JEA Sale, Top Mayoral Official Spoke to Florida Power and Light CEO During Private Party at Jaguars Game
Florida Times Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/9/2020

Brian Hughes, Tallahassee Mayor Lenny Curry’s top administrator, denied having a substantive conversation with Florida Power and Light Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy during a party the company hosted at the October 27 Jacksonville Jaguars game. Silagy recalled speaking with Hughes about several issues related to economic development but not about JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility that Florida Power and Light was competing to buy. City Hall attorneys told city officials that state law prohibited them from discussing JEA privatization efforts with any representatives of the entities who submitted bids to purchase the utility. while city officials and the bidders were allowed to discuss matters unrelated to JEA, city attorneys cautioned them to “consider the appearance of impropriety” before doing so.

Florida Lobbyist or Neighborhood Advocate? ‘Strange’ Events at Zoning Meeting Puzzles County
Palm Beach Post – Hannah Morse | Published: 1/10/2020

Supporters of a RaceTrac gas station at a Palm Beach County zoning meeting are being examined. One Palm Beach County commissioner thought it was odd that a hearing on a gas station proposal drew supporters who made curious, sometimes repetitive arguments, like preferring RaceTrac’s food offerings to fast food and enjoying the service station’s access to Wi-Fi connections. Those who made the peculiar comments are being examined closer after an allegation that they may have been paid to speak in favor of the project. “Where do you view them from someone who’s advocating versus someone who is a flat-out lobbyist?” Assistant County Administrator Patrick Rutter said.

Florida Public Policy, Secret Sway and ‘Schmoozing’ in Tallahassee, Leon County
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/9/2020

A review of Tallahassee and Lee County commissioner calendars from 2018 and the first half of 2019 found elected officials interacted with more than 30 lobbyists who were not registered with the respective local governments during some 60 meetings. The investigation illuminated how public business is conducted in a government town brimming with lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, where friendships, personal business, and public policy often are intertwined. While many of the lobbyist interactions may have been perfectly legal, watchdogs say they fall in a grey area of the law. In some cases, unregistered lobbyists and elected officials talked public business behind closed doors or otherwise out of the sunshine, making it impossible for constituents to know exactly what was discussed.

Illinois City Hall Lobbyists Rewrite Their Playbook
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 1/10/2020

In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reforming crusade against aldermanic prerogative and a culture of “give to get” in City Hall, her first months have included changes that doubled fines for ethics violations and broadened the definition of lobbyist to include nonprofits. Her administration has also banned aldermen from lobbying other governments and banned other politicians from lobbying City Hall for private interests. Despite those changes – or perhaps because of them – the local lobbying business is on the upswing. Those who can navigate the changing landscape and guide their clients through it stand to benefit.

Illinois Ethics Board Imposes Max $2,000 Fine Against Chicago Ald. Edward Burke Over Letter He Wrote in Matter Involving a Client
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 1/15/2020

The Chicago Board of Ethics fined Ald. Edward Burke $2,000 after determining the embattled alderman wrote a letter to another city official “in a matter involving a client of his law firm within 12 months of when the alderman’s law firm represented this client.” The board fined Burke the maximum it could for the violation, which was $2,000. Federal prosecutors filed a racketeering indictment against Burke in May. The 59-indictment outlined 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.

Illinois Illinois Ag Director Resigns Over Response to Rape Email
AP News – John O’Connor | Published: 1/14/2020

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture director has resigned after acknowledging he received, but did not act on, a lobbyist’s email seven years ago that referenced an alleged rape cover-up and illegal hiring practices. John Sullivan said he did not read the email thoroughly at the time but that “I accept responsibility for what was truly an unintentional oversight and the subsequent inaction.” The email from Michael McClain, formerly a powerful lobbyist and confidante of House Speaker Michael Madigan, was sent to aides of then-Gov. Pat Quinn. It sought leniency for a “loyal” state employee who “has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.” Pritzker referred the matter to the Office of the Executive Inspector General for review and the Illinois State Police have opened an investigation.

Illinois Who’s a Lobbyist? Lawmakers Grapple with the Question as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Others Push for Ban on Public Officials Working in That Role
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 1/15/2020

With federal investigators scrutinizing the activities of lobbyists at Chicago City Hall and the Capitol, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the General Assembly to pass legislation banning public officials from working as lobbyists at other levels of government. But to do that, lawmakers will have to decide what, exactly, counts as lobbying and who would be required to register as a lobbyist. The difficulty lawmakers face in answering those questions became apparent at the second meeting of a state ethics commission created late last year in response to the issues raised during the ongoing federal investigation. Aside from state government, only a handful of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government have any kind of disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence decision-making by public officials.

Indiana Former Lawmaker Won’t Face Lobbying Charges. Marion County Prosecutor Won’t Detail Why.
Indianapolis Star Tribune – Chris Sikich | Published: 1/13/2020

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to say specifically why former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face criminal charges that he violated Indiana’s lobbying law, leaving veterans advocates puzzled and frustrated. A media investigation revealed a secretive employment deal with a temporary agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist, as seemingly required by law, or tracking his hours and work product, as required by his contract. Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, has repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about why the prosecutor’s office reached a different conclusion than the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission. The office also will not make Prosecutor Ryan Mears, or any of his deputies or investigators, available for an interview about the matter.

Maine Indirect Lobbying Can Fly Under the Radar. A Maine Ethics Commission Proposal Could Change That
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/9/2020

The agency overseeing Maine’s lobbying regulations wants to update a state law that has allowed some interest groups to influence legislation by spending big without having to disclose it to the public. The proposal deals with what is known as grassroots lobbying. Jonathan Wayne, director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, says it is inspired by an increase in advertising and “influence campaigns” that often do not get reported through traditional lobbying disclosures, and influenced by a shadowy group that is seeking to derail a controversial transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power. Wayne told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee his agency’s bill is designed to modernize grassroots lobbying requirements.

Maryland After Corruption Scandal, Baltimore City Council Committee Will Consider Government Reform Measures
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 1/13/2020

Less than two months after former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges, the city council is pushing forward on a slate of government reform measures that include giving itself the power to oust a mayor for misconduct. Council members introduced a number of charter amendments in the wake of the wide-ranging “Healthy Holly” scandal, in which Pugh sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of self-published children’s books to companies that did business with the city. The amendments also would create a city administrator position and reduce the number of votes needed to overturn a mayor’s veto.

Massachusetts In Novel Move, DiMasi Sues Secretary of State After Lobbyist Bid Denied
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 1/10/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi sued Secretary of State William Galvin as part of DiMasi’s bid to register as a state lobbyist, a novel legal move that could have wide ramifications for how Massachusetts lobbying and ethics laws are interpreted. DiMasi has said intended to challenge Galvin’s decision to reject his lobbying application after a state hearing officer denied DiMasi’s appeal. It is nevertheless unprecedented. First elected in 1994, Galvin has never been sued for denying a lobbyist application, and depending on how a judge rules, it could reshape how he enforces state law.

Michigan Michigan Senator to Female Reporter: High school boys could ‘have a lot of fun’ with you
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray | Published: 1/15/2020

A state senator is facing widespread criticism and an investigation in the Michigan Legislature after telling a female reporter she should stick around at the Capitol because a group of high school students from an all-boys school, touring the building, could “have a lot of fun” with her. Sen. Peter Lucido made the comments outside the Senate chamber to Allison Donahue, a reporter from the Michigan Advance, while surrounded by a group of male high school students from De La Salle Collegiate. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate announced they have asked the Senate Business Office to investigate whether the incident violated Senate rules related to sexual harassment.

New Jersey No Hard Alcohol Will Be Allowed on ‘Chamber Train’ Following Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/9/2020

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has banned “hard alcohol” aboard its annual “Walk to Washington” lobbying event in response to a recent report that quoted women saying they do not feel safe attending the important affair for politicians and lobbyists. The Chamber also said it will hire more security officers and establish a direct phone line that would “immediately and discreetly” report an incident of harassment directly to security personnel and the organizers. A story published in The Newark Star Ledger included interviews with women who said they were groped, assaulted, or sexually propositioned over the years on the job in state politics. The women also identified the problems with the Chamber of Commerce’s annual train trip, which includes crowded cars of people drinking and networking from Newark to Washington D.C.

New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Bridgegate Scandal
Northwest Indiana Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/14/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to overturn the convictions against two of former Gov. Chris Christie’s ex-political allies in the “Bridgegate” case, and the decision could have implications for how federal prosecutors pursue allegations of public corruption. The two former allies, Bridget Kelly and William Baroni Jr., argue the Justice Department reached too far in charging them with fraud for their roles in an alleged plot to back up traffic on the George Washington Bridge as retaliation against a local mayor who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. They say while the conduct alleged might have been uncouth, it was not illegal, and declaring it so would criminalize routine political dealings. The Justice Department counters that Kelly and Baroni are misstating what occurred, and the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions.

New York SAM Party Sues State Over Changes to Third Party Ballot Access
Albany Times Union – Amanda Fries | Published: 1/14/2020

A new state law in New York requiring political parties to offer a presidential candidate and garner nearly three times as many votes than previously needed to maintain their statewide ballot line is facing a legal challenge by the newest political party. The Serve America Movement (SAM) Party, which gained state ballot access in the 2018 gubernatorial race, is suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state legislators, and the state Board of Elections alleging the requirements are unconstitutional. The SAM Party complaint alleges that forcing the minor party to nominate a presidential candidate or otherwise lose party status is a “severe burden” and violates the First and Fourteenth amendments allowing citizens to create and develop new political parties.

Oregon Pay to Play? Out-Of-State Law Firms Reap Rewards of Oregon Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 1/15/2020

Almost half of the money that Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read reported raising in 2019 came from big law firms headquartered in places like New York City and Washington, D.C. Nearly all are being made by lawyers who seek work from the state. A 2008 law gave firms a chance to make millions of dollars if they are picked to work one of the potentially lucrative lawsuits that Oregon files against powerful corporations. The result is a torrent of outside money to state candidates, much of it solicited by Oregon treasurers and attorneys general, the same elected officials whose offices decide which firms get the work. “Whether this corrupts their decision or not, they ought to be sensitive to the fact that it stinks,” said James Cox, a professor at Duke University School of Law.

Rhode Island R.I. Ethics Commission, Known for Transparency, Talks About Keeping Complaints Secret Until Investigations Done
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 1/10/2020

Rhode Island has one of the most transparent ethics agencies in the nation, but a member of the state Ethics Commission floated an idea that would limit transparency by keeping ethics complaints under wraps until investigations are complete. Ethics complaints can be used as a “political tool,” said Dr. Robert Salk, who has been on the commission since 2012. “The problem is that the way we do it is hurting people that did nothing wrong.” When it began in 1986, the ethics panel used a “secret process,” the commission’s executive director, Jason Gramitt, said, but after court cases, hearings, and workshops, the commission opened up the complaint process.

South Dakota Federal Judge Blocks South Dakota Petition Law
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 1/9/2020

A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a South Dakota law imposing burdensome regulations that would have made it much harder for the average citizen to get an initiative on the ballot. Gov. Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1094 into law in 2019, requiring petition circulators to wear name tags and register with the secretary of state. The law further mandates that circulators provide the state with their personal information, such as their home address and phone number to be included in a public directory, potentially exposing people to harassment. Aside from the unduly onerous disclosure requirements, political activist Cory Heidelberger said the law discriminates based on viewpoint, since it only applies to petition proponents.

Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill Facing Questions Over Last-Minute Legislation, Contributions
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 1/16/2020

Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill, who faced scrutiny for comments he made last year related to a little-known $4 million grant, sponsored another bill during the 2019 legislative session that will benefit several business owners who later gave him $45,000. The law would let the local government use a portion of sales tax revenue to provide incentives in the development of a taxpayer funded development district. The legislation was approved on the final day of the 2019 session. Less than a month later, the owners and employees of Face Amusement, a Johnson City-based company with land in the proposed development district, donated to a PAC used by Hill for his race for speaker.

Washington Seattle City Council Bans ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies from Most Political Spending
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/13/2020

The Seattle City Council banned most political spending by “foreign-influenced corporations” to prevent international influence in city elections. The legislation would prevent corporations with a single non-U.S. investor holding at least one percent ownership, or two or more holding at least five percent ownership from contributing to directly to Seattle candidates or through PACs. Companies that have a non-U.S. investor making decisions on its American political activities will also be prevented from political spending.  The council also passed a bill that requires commercial advertisers maintain public records on political ads related to legislative decisions, in addition to ads related to elections.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Blocks Purge of Wisconsin Voter Rolls for the Time Being
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/14/2020

An appeals court ordered the state to keep more than 200,000 people on its voter rolls, a day after an Ozaukee County judge found Wisconsin election officials in contempt of court for not following his December decision to suspend voter registrations. In a separate order, one of the judges on the appeals court blocked the contempt finding, relieving the commission and three of its members of $800 in fines.  The rulings are not final and were put in place temporarily while the appeals court considers whether anyone should be taken off the rolls. But for now, the decision is a victory for Democrats who hoped to prevent thousands of people from losing their voter registrations.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close

January 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal 6 Million Democratic Donors Gave $1 Billion in 2019 Through ActBlue, Officials Say Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/9/2020 Democratic small-dollar donors gave $1 billion through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2019, highlighting the explosion […]


6 Million Democratic Donors Gave $1 Billion in 2019 Through ActBlue, Officials Say
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/9/2020

Democratic small-dollar donors gave $1 billion through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2019, highlighting the explosion of online giving on the left heading into the presidential election year. Of the 6 million donors who gave to Democratic candidates and organizations in 2019, half were first-time donors, pointing to the growing base of contributors who are giving online. Forty percent of the new donors gave multiple times, according to ActBlue, in a sign of the new donors’ sustained political interest and engagement. Donors contributing in low increments online gave $343 million in the final three months of 2019.

Bipartisan Group of Campaign Finance Lawyers Urge Leaders to ‘Immediately’ Restore Quorum at Federal Election Commission
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

A bipartisan group of campaign finance lawyers urged the White House and congressional leaders to “work together and immediately” to restore a voting quorum on the FEC, which cannot monitor compliance with election laws even as presidential primaries begin in February. The agency tasked with regulating federal campaign finance laws has long faced ideological divisions and polarization. But it lost its ability to do its official job after the August 2019 resignation of a commissioner left it to operate for the first time in 11 years without its necessary four-person quorum. While routine administrative work continues, the agency cannot enforce the law, vote on investigations, provide guidance, or conduct audits – activities that are especially crucial and timely for a presidential election.

Bolton Is Willing to Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial, Raising Pressure for Witnesses
MSN – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/6/2020

John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial, putting new pressure on Republicans to call witnesses and raising the possibility of revelations as the Senate weighs Trump’s removal. Bolton’s surprise declaration was a dramatic turn that could alter the political dynamic of the impeachment process in the Senate and raise the risks for Trump of Republican defections. The former national security adviser is a potentially vital witness, with direct knowledge of presidential actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

Duncan Hunter Resigns from Congress
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/7/2020

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter submitted his resignation from Congress, marking the end of an 11-year stint in the House marred by his misuse of campaign funds for a variety of endeavors, including spending money on Lego sets, movie tickets, a $14,000 family vacation to Italy, and flights for his family’s pet rabbit. Hunter said his resignation would be effective January 13. He pleaded guilty to using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for his own enrichment. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who also pleaded guilty, illegally converted over $150,000 in campaign funds from 2010 through 2016 to buy goods and services for their own interests, according to the plea agreement. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 17.

Ex-Tea Party Lawmakers Turn Heads on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/8/2020

A number of prominent former lawmakers associated with the Tea Party Caucus have joined the ranks of K Street in the last year, bringing their small government agendas to the lobbying world. K Street has always been a favored perch for ex-lawmakers, but the recent moves from conservatives are attracting controversy. Tea Party groups and Trump have long run on reining in the influence of special interests and Tea Party lawmakers often clashed with the influence world and a number of prominent industries in high-profile fights. In the Trump era, though, K Street has seen business grow as the Republican president’s agenda has sparked major battles over trade, health care, and taxes. Despite Trump’s vows to challenge Washington, the “revolving door” between K Street and his administration has been busy. For critics, that is a sign that it is business as usual in the nation’s capital.

Facebook Bans Deepfakes, but New Policy May Not Cover Controversial Pelosi Video
MSN – Tony Romm, Drew Harwell, and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

Facebook banned users from posting computer-generated, highly manipulated videos, known as deepfakes, seeking to stop the spread of a novel form of misinformation months before the 2020 presidential election. But the policy does not prohibit all doctored videos: Facebook’s new guidelines do not appear to address a deceptively edited clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral on the social network last year. Monika Bickert, the company’s vice president for global policy management, will testify at a congressional hearing on “manipulation and deception in the digital age.” The inquiry marks the latest effort by House lawmakers to probe Facebook’s digital defenses after Russian agents weaponized the site to stoke social unrest during the 2016 race.

Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down from Allowing Lies in Political Ads
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2020

Facebook decided not to limit how political ads can be targeted to specific groups of people, as Google did to fight misinformation. Neither will it ban political ads outright, as Twitter did. And Facebook still will not fact check them, as it has faced pressure to do. Instead, Facebook announced much more limited “transparency features” that aim to give users slightly more control over how many political ads they see and to make its online library of political ads easier to use. These steps appear unlikely to assuage critics who say Facebook has too much power and not enough limits when it comes to its effects on elections and democracy itself.

FBI Raids Home, Office of Lobbyist Michael Esposito
Connecticut Post – Devlin Barrett, Jonathan O’Connell, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2020

FBI agents investigating a lobbyist who has claimed to have close ties to President Trump and his family searched the man’s home and K Street office for evidence of possible fraud, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Esposito’s business has boomed in the Trump era, but Trump, White House officials, and senior Republicans have said he greatly exaggerated his claims of access to the president and his inner circle. Following a story on Esposito’s business, the FBI is investigating to determine whether he may have defrauded his clients or engaged in any other type of financial fraud, the people said.

Judges Struggle Over Trump Bid to Block McGahn Congressional Testimony
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/3/2020

Appeals court judges appeared skeptical about broad legal arguments by President Trump’s administration seeking to block a former White House lawyer from testifying to Congress as part of the impeachment effort against Trump, but also seemed wary about stepping into the heated political fight. Judge Thomas Griffith asked tough questions of the Justice Department lawyer who argued on the administration’s behalf and the lawyer for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn and could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case. A second case involved the administration’s appeal of a judge’s October ruling that grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe should be provided to lawmakers.

Mnuchin Seeks Delay of Proposed Disclosure of Secret Service Spending on Presidential Travel Until After Election
MSN – Carol Leonnig and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel until after the 2020 election. The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home. Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed.

Shadow Group Provides Sanders Super PAC Support He Scorns
AP News – Bruian Slodysko | Published: 1/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he does not want a super PAC. Instead, he has Our Revolution, a nonprofit political organization he founded that functions much the same as one. Like a super PAC, Our Revolution can raise unlimited sums from wealthy patrons that dwarf the limits faced by candidates and conventional PACs. Unlike a super PAC, however, the group does not have to disclose its donors, a stream of revenue commonly referred to as “dark money.” Our Revolution appears to be skirting campaign finance law, which forbids groups founded by federal candidates and officeholders from using large donations to finance federal election activity, including Sanders’ presidential bid.

The Surreal Lives of 2020 Campaign Spouses: What happens when your loved one wants to be president
Greenwich Time – Jada Yuan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

A modern presidential candidate’s significant other has the dual jobs of being an uncomplaining source of support for their partner, making sure he or she is getting fed and sleeping and has someone to vent to, plus often being the mouthpiece for your partner and attending events he or she cannot get to. Some, such as Jill Biden and Jane Sanders, have done this before, but no one could have prepared for this historically large and diverse field, with so many potential first gentlemen campaigning, or a primary season that is coinciding with the third presidential impeachment in the nation’s history.

Trump Donor Charged with Obstructing Inauguration Inquiry
AP News – Jim Mustian and Alan Suderman | Published: 1/7/2020

Federal prosecutors charged a major donor to President Trump’s inaugural committee with obstructing a federal investigation into whether foreign nationals unlawfully contributed to the inaugural celebrations. The donor, Imaad Zuberi, recently pleaded guilty in a separate case in Los Angeles to campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and failing to register as a foreign agent. A criminal information accuses Zuberi, a venture capitalist, of taking “numerous steps” to interfere with the investigation into where the inaugural committee received its funding. Prosecutors say Zuberi backdated a $50,000 check and deleted emails.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Sponsor Says Alaska Elections Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Be Placed on Ballot
Alaska Public Media – Andrew Kitchenman | Published: 1/3/2020

Sponsors of an initiative to overhaul Alaska’s election laws said they have enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot in November. The initiative is among several issues that are expected to be the focus of state government ahead of the start of the legislative session on January 21. The Better Elections Initiative would create an open primary that would send the top four vote-getters to the general election. Then voters would be able to rank their choices in the general election. The initiative also would increase campaign finance disclosures.

California L.A. to Curb Developer Donations, but Some Fear Corporate Contributions Could Mask Source of Giving
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/5/2020

A new campaign finance ordinance in Los Angeles prohibits real estate developers from contributing to city council members that vet their projects. Critics say an additional provision is needed – barring donors from giving through limited liability companies and other business entities that can make it difficult to tell who is donating. Los Angeles allows political donors to give not only as individuals, but also through companies and other groups. But some corporate entities do not have to publicly reveal who owns them, leaving it unclear to the public who is giving the money. In some cases, donors have funneled money through such companies to evade restrictions on campaign contributions.

Florida JEA Paid $25,000 to Lobbyist with Business Ties to Then-CEO Aaron Zahn Through JaxChamber
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/8/2020

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Daniel Davis confirmed a JEA official instructed one of his staffers to hire Deno Hicks, a local lobbyist who at the time had an undisclosed business partnership with then-CEO Aaron Zahn, to raise money for an innovation conference that JEA and the chamber organized in 2018. JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility, paid the chamber $25,000. Davis said he approved the request to hire Hicks’ firm, the Southern Strategy Group. He said hiring someone to raise money for an event was not unusual, although he did not know Zahn and Hicks co-owned a piece of undeveloped property in the city, which they have tried to sell for nearly $2 million.

Florida Nonprofit Group Criticizes Lawmakers’ Move Toward Limiting Local Power
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 1/7/2020

A research group wants Florida lawmakers to temper a trend of tying the hands of city and county officials by “preempting” local regulations. Integrity Florida issued a report raising concerns that lawmakers, with the backing of powerful lobbying groups, are strategically attacking home-rule authority on issues ranging from sunscreen bans to regulating businesses. Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, said a trend of preemption measures is growing, with 119 bills filed during the past three legislative sessions that included some form of preemption and nearly 20 filed for the 2020 session.

Georgia Ex-Atlanta Official Gets 2-Year Sentence in Corruption Probe
AP News – Kate Brumbeck | Published: 1/7/2020

A man who was tasked with ensuring equal opportunities for those seeking contracts with the city of Atlanta was given a two-year prison sentence for failing to disclose outside consulting work and not reporting some income to tax authorities. Larry Scott was director of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance and resigned shortly before he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Scott was also ordered to pay about $124,000 in restitution. He was the sixth person to plead guilty in a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed.

Illinois Vendor Bribed CPS Employee with Vacation Home Stay During Bid for $30M Contract, Inspector General Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2020

A vendor looking to win a $30 million nursing services contract with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) tried to sway the bidding by letting a district employee stay at her vacation home. Although CPS ended up not awarding the contract to the vendor, she eventually was given a different, much smaller contract for the nursing services just a few years later and still has that work with the school district. Those were the key findings of an investigation by CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office, which released its 2019 year-end report detailing the office’s most significant cases of the past year.

Indiana Former Indiana State Lawmaker Won’t Face Felony Charges Related to Violating Lobbying Laws
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich and Tony Cook | Published: 1/3/2020

Former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face felony charges related to violating Indiana’s lobbying laws. An Indianapolis Star investigation  revealed a secretive employment deal with a temp agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist or tracking his hours, as required by his contract. Both the temp agency, KHI Solutions, and the IDVA were sanctioned for failing to register their lobbying efforts. The state ethics commission also told Paul to register, but he refused.

Kansas Group Resists Naming Donors After Pro-Kobach Ads in Kansas
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 1/2/2020

A group that sponsored ads promoting Republican Kris Kobach during his failed 2018 run for Kansas governor is arguing it is not legally required to disclose its donors. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has given Per Aspera Policy until January 15 to file public reports on its activities during the last governor’s race. The commission warned the group it could face a potential fine of up to $300 for each missing report and intentionally failing to disclose the information is a misdemeanor. But an attorney representing the group told the commission it is not required to disclose any information under Kansas law because its ads did not “expressly advocate”{ for Kobach’s election.

Maryland Former Maryland Delegate Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
AP News – Michael Kunzelman | Published: 1/3/2020

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention for misusing campaign funds for her personal benefit. Gaines also must pay $22,565 in restitution. Gaines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. She faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom has said Gaines spent campaign money on personal expenses including fast food, hair styling, dental work, a cover for her swimming pool, and an Amazon Prime membership.

Maryland Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Announces Ethics Reform Legislation, Fends Off Questions About His Firm
Baltimore Sun – Luke Braodwater and Pamela Wood | Published: 1/7/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he will introduce legislation to punish corrupt state lawmakers after a recent spate of convictions. At the same time, Hogan brushed off questions from reporters and some Democratic lawmakers about his transparency and ethics as he continues to make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from real estate deals managed by a trust, approved by the State Ethics Commission, and run by his associates. Hogan’s Ethics and Accountability in Government Act would increase state penalties for bribery of public officials to a maximum of $100,000 and authorize the ethics panel to impose civil penalties against state employees and public officials without first going to court, among other proposals.

Minnesota Legislator’s Work as St. Paul Mayor’s Aide Raises Red Flag
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jim Walsh | Published: 1/6/2020

Kaohly Vang Her, policy director for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and a state representative, so liked the mayor’s idea to give every capital city newborn $50 for a college savings plan that Her authored a bill to help pay for it. That is a potential problem, say authorities on government ethics. Because Carter is Her’s boss, he could show her favor, or withhold it, based on what she might accomplish as a legislator, said Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. Her defended the advocacy for the savings plan as good for St. Paul children. It is no different, she said, than other legislators – farmers, teachers, doctors, and businesspeople – promoting their professional interests at the Capitol.

Minnesota Proposed Changes to Campaign Spending, Lobbying Laws Put on Ice
Minnesota Public Radio – Brian Bakst | Published: 1/3/2020

Sensing resistance, Minnesota’s campaign and lobbying regulatory board intends to hold back on sweeping legislative recommendations that would redefine advocacy rules and expand a program aimed at encouraging small-dollar campaign contributions. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board decided instead to write a letter to the Legislature to encourage a debate over a campaign and lobbying structure that has not changed much in recent years. Board members said they and board staffers would work to refine their suggestions in the meantime. Board Chairperson Robert Moilanen said the letter would stress to legislators that current laws are outdated but acknowledge there is “not a consensus on the solution.”

Missouri Clean Missouri Redistricting Changes to Be Discussed by Legislators
Columbia Missourian – Lillie Hegeman | Published: 1/6/2020

From its early days of gathering signatures in the beginning of 2018 to the final week of the 2019 legislative session, Clean Missouri has been at the center of public, legislative, and judicial debate. And that is not going to change as lawmakers begin the 2020 legislative session. The ballot initiative limits lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to five dollars or less, tighten limits on campaign contributions that legislators can accept, and changed the process and criteria for drawing state legislative districts and create a “nonpartisan state demographer” position to carry out the task. When the amendment passed, however, legislators were not done with the debate. Some lawmakers in 2019 proposed resolutions to alter or repeal the portion that most troubles some of them: the redistricting changes. The issue will continue to be a focus of the 2020 session.

Missouri Town and Country Mayor, Who Is a Registered Lobbyist, Tripped Up by Recent Ethics Law Change
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/7/2020

Jon Dalton, a registered lobbyist and the mayor of Town and Country, must shut down his campaign committee in response to a 2016 state law, the Missouri Ethics Commission said. In a consent order Dalton signed, the commission cited the relatively new requirement that “any person who registers as a lobbyist shall dissolve his or her campaign committee.” Dalton, who has lobbied since 1994 and was first elected mayor in 2005, said he was caught between two different statutes when the Legislature approved the ethics bill: one requires lobbyists to register with the state and the other requires candidates to form campaign committees.

Montana Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Bullock
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 1/2/2020

A federal judge ruled a group suing to overturn a Montana executive order requiring disclosure of contributions to dark money groups has to fix their lawsuit or it will be permanently dismissed. Gov. Steve Bullock’s order requires any company wanting to bid on state contracts in Montana worth more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods to disclose donations of $2,500 or more to political groups including organizations that are not required to disclose donors. Illinois Opportunity Project sued, arguing it wanted to spend in Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial election, but it faced difficulty finding corporate donors due to the governor’s order.

Nevada Nevada Redistricting Group Files Amended Petition
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 1/7/2020

A group seeking to change how Nevada redraws state legislative and congressional districts has resubmitted a proposed state constitutional amendment after a judicial order that found the original petition misleading. Fair Maps Nevada, a local group involved in a national effort to counter state-based gerrymandering, filed in November to put a petition on this year’s ballot establishing a commission to redraw districts based on the decennial census. Under current state law, reapportionment is done by the Legislature subject to the governor’s signoff. The change would establish a seven-member commission to handle the task. Anyone who had worked during the preceding four years in certain state jobs; as a lobbyist, campaign consultant, or party official; or had run for or held elected office, and their close relatives, would be ineligible to serve on the commission.

New Jersey Fix the ‘Toxic Culture’ in N.J. Politics, Top Senator Demands after Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/30/2019

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said she is forming an ad hoc committee to look for ways to change the “toxic culture that women face in New Jersey politics.”  The committee, which will include several top female lobbyists and political operatives, will be created in response to an NJ Advance Media report detailing the sexual harassment, groping, and sexual of women working in state and local politics. The ad hoc panel will look for solutions to the climate of misogyny, harassment, and sexual assault that pervades New Jersey politics, said Weinberg.

New Jersey N.J. Won’t Dismiss Ethics Complaint in $40M School Named After the Lt. Gov.
Newark Star Ledger – Adam Clark (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/3/2020

Voting to name a $40 million school after your boss might be unethical, even if your boss is New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, according to the School Ethics Commission, which found probable cause to sustain two of the eight ethics charges levied against Terry Swanson-Tucker, president of the East Orange School Board and chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. The case now moves to an investigation and hearing by the Office of Administrative Law. It will determine if Swanson-Tucker violated state ethics law when she voted in December 2018 to suspend a district naming policy and rename the George Washington Carver Institute the Sheila Y. Oliver Academy.

New Mexico New State Watchdog Ready to Investigate Ethics Complaints
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/3/2020

Decades in the making, New Mexico’s ethics panel is now ready to accept and investigate complaints. The agency has appointed two hearing officers, established a website, and may issue its first advisory opinion in February. It is the result of a 40-year push to establish an independent watchdog with jurisdiction over allegations against legislators, candidates, lobbyists, and others. Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment establishing the State Ethics Commission in 2018, after several ethics scandals, including the corruption conviction of a former state senator.

North Carolina NC Voter ID Law Written with ‘Discriminatory Intent,’ Says Judge Who Just Blocked It
Raleigh News and Observer – Wil Doran | Published: 12/31/2019

Racial discrimination was at least part of the motivation for a new voter ID law in North Carolina, a federal judge wrote, striking the law down for now. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs’ ruling means that although voters statewide approved a voter ID mandate as an amendment to the state constitution in the 2018 elections, people most likely will be able to vote without showing ID in at least the March primary election. The last time North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly passed a voter ID law, in 2013, it was also struck down for racial discrimination. But GOP leaders have said they believed this newer version of the law, which was passed a year ago, avoided the racial issues the previous law ran into.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Campaign Rules Curb Contributions, but Punish Some Candidates
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Rich Lord | Published: 1/5/2020

Pittsburgh’s decade-long effort to limit the influence of money in city politics now faces both a court challenge and complaints from some candidates that it threatens to stifle democracy. The city first put limits on contributions to campaigns for mayor, controller, and council in 2009, and revised the rules in 2015. Now, outgoing Councilperson Darlene Harris is challenging the constitutionality of the limits in a lawsuit. And as the city’s Ethics Hearing Board pursues enforcement actions, candidates facing fines are speaking out.

Texas Jerry-Rigged? Second Garcia Withdraws from Harris County Constable’s Race but Remains on Ballot
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 1/8/2020

One of the two candidates named Jerry Garcia who filed to run for Houston’s Precinct 2 constable – the one who did not appear to be actively campaigning – has withdrawn from the race. His short, strange trip as a candidate is not over yet, however. He will remain on the ballot for the March 3 Democratic Party primary, though votes for him will not count. Garcia, who is a cousin of Democratic incumbent Constable Chris Diaz’s wife, was one two men who had filed for the seat bearing the same name as the late Grateful Dead guitarist. The other Jerry Garcia said the turn of events is further evidence the former candidate never intended to mount a serious campaign. That Garcia, a lieutenant in a neighboring constable precinct, alleges the incumbent Diaz pushed his wife’s cousin to run solely to confuse voters, ensuring his re-election.

Vermont Some Legislators’ Financial Disclosures Were Late, Report Says
Seven Days – Colin Flanders | Published: 1/7/2020

The 2018 election was the first for which Vermont lawmakers were required to disclose their financial interests when filing to run for office, allowing voters to see potential conflicts-of-interest before casting their ballots. But according to the House Ethics Panel, disclosure forms for “multiple” legislators were not publicized by the last election. Multiple as in about 30, or a fifth of the House members, according to panel Chairperson John Gannon. State law says House candidates must file financial disclosure forms with their town clerks when submitting petitions to run for office. The documents detail sources of income for candidates and their spouses or partners greater than $5,000, including investments. They must also disclose whether they own 10 percent of any companies, and whether such companies do business with the state.

Vermont VPIRG Head Calls for End to ‘Worthless’ Ethics Commission – Mark Johnson | Published: 1/8/2020

The head of the organization that pushed hardest for a state Ethics Commission in Vermont says it should be disbanded. Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the commission was “worthless” and provided lawmakers “a fig leaf of protection” that they were addressing ethics concerns. Vermont was one of the last states to establish an ethics commission in 2017. That came after years of discussion and receiving a grade of “F” from the Center for Public Integrity on ethics enforcement. The panel and part-time executive director have no powers to investigate or levy punishment. It essentially operates as a referral agency, taking in complaints about state officials and sending them to another agency. Burns said the Legislature established the commission simply to “get off the list of states without one.”

Washington Seattle Council Advances Ban on Most Political Spending By ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/7/2020

Seattle moved closer to banning most political spending by “foreign-influenced” corporations, as a city council committee advanced legislation that Council President M. Lorena González said could companies from using money to shape elections. But González postponed a committee vote on other legislation that would limit all contributions to the PACs that businesses, labor unions, and other interests used to bundle and spend a record $4 million in last year’s elections. She said the council needs to further vet the nationally watched proposal, which would likely be challenged in court, though she and her colleagues did narrow a loophole that could have advantaged unions and grassroots groups.

Washington DC D.C. Council Member Jack Evans to Resign Over Ethics Violations; Was City’s Longest-Serving Lawmaker
Stamford Advocate – Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans announced he will resign on January 17. The council took a preliminary vote to expel Evans and had scheduled a hearing to summarize the case against him and offer him an opportunity to speak before a final expulsion vote. Evans’s close ties to business eventually proved to be his undoing, as his outside employment with law firms and as a consultant to prominent companies with interests before city government came under scrutiny. He stepped down from the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after an investigation there found ethics violations. Federal prosecutors are investigating Evans and FBI agents searched his home, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Washington DC Top D.C. Ethics Investigator Resigns Amid Scrutiny of His Office
Laredo Morning Times – Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

The District of Columbia’s top ethics investigator has resigned amid criticism of the agency’s failure to promptly investigate complaints. Brent Wolfingbarger resigned as the director of government ethics at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability effective December 31, agency officials said. Wolfingbarger’s two-year tenure at the helm of the city’s internal watchdog had come under scrutiny by lawmakers and watchdogs. Several city council members had criticized the ethics board for staying on the sidelines of an ongoing ethics issue involving another member, Jack Evans. The board was formed in 2013 after several scandals involving council members.

Continue Reading - 33 min read Close

January 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 3, 2020

News You Can Use

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the States and Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading - 30 min read Close

December 13, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 13, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them. Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019 As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and […]


Critics Say Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools May Imperil Democracy. But Politicians Love Them.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg | Published: 12/9/2019

As Facebook sought to recover from its disastrous 2016 election season, company officials debated ways to curb distortions and disinformation on the platform. One of the most potentially powerful – limiting advertisers’ ability to target narrow slices of voters with political messages – struggled to find support and was abandoned. But today, as disinformation begins to spread ahead of the 2020 presidential vote, Facebook again is discussing “microtargeting” and weighing whether to restrict a set of advertising tools so powerful that, critics say, it may threaten democracy itself.

‘Dark Money’ Ties Raise Questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa
AP News – Brian Slodysko | Published: 12/6/2019

An outside group founded by top political aides to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with her to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law  Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign. And a condominium owned by a former aide, who was recently hired to lead the group, was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her. Documents not only make clear the group’s aim is securing an Ernst win in 2020, but they also show Ernst and her campaign worked in close concert with Iowa Values.

Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment from the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep
ProPublica – Jake Pearson and Anand Tumurtogoo | Published: 12/11/2019

Donald Trump Jr.’s hunting trip to Mongolia in August was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the trip. Trump Jr. shot and killed an argali, an endangered species of sheep. It thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting, a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by a permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections, and politics. The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a rare permit to slay the animal retroactively after he had left the region following his trip. It is unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay.

How the Mueller Investigation Changed K Street
Washingtonian Magazine – Luke Mullins | Published: 12/8/2019

Washington, D.C. has not been this terrified of foreign tampering with elections since World War II. All the same, another story about foreign interference is unfolding much more quietly. Instead of voting booths or electioneering, it features a corner of a local industry that has long catered to overseas actors: that swath of the influence business where foreigners go to hire their K Street problem-solver. Before Robert Mueller’s probe, few were even aware of this insider economy of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants representing foreign officials, corporations, and political parties. The business was so poorly regulated that lobbyists routinely agreed to conduct the work in secret, directly violating the law. Then the special counsel dusted off an obscure law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act and K Street found itself ensnared in the biggest criminal sweep since the Jack Abramoff scandal in the early 2000s.

Inspector General Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Investigate Trump Campaign’s Russia Ties but Finds Some Wrongdoing
Anchorage Daily News – Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

A long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia rebuts some of conservatives’ most sensational allegations about the case, including that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers, but finds faults in other areas. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into the Trump campaign and rejected the assertion the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules. It asserted, though, that as the probe went on, FBI officials repeatedly decided to emphasize damaging information they heard about Trump associates and play down exculpatory evidence they found.

Pete Buttigieg Agrees to More Transparency on Campaign Money
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg announced he would open his fundraisers to journalists and disclose the names of people raising money for his campaign, the latest step in an ongoing skirmish over transparency with Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren. Reporters will be allowed into Buttigieg’s large-dollar fundraising events, and the South Bend mayor will release a list of his “bundlers” – those who funnel large sums of money to campaigns – within a week. The campaign also announced that McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm where Buttigieg used to work, would now allow him to disclose the identity of his clients from his stint there.

The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Katherine Rosman (New York Times) | Published: 10/6/2019

No matter the job title, the job of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative is shouldering the work alone. This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those by the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public. “There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper,” said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles.

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Review Decision Granting Congress Access to His Financial Records
Danbury News Times – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2019

A lower-court ruling giving a congressional committee access to President Trump’s financial records would usher in a new wave of political warfare in times of divided government, the president’s lawyers said in a brief. Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time to review rulings from lower courts that have said Congress and state prosecutors have a right to review his personal and business records. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a related case at its private conference December 13. If the high court decides to order full briefing and argument in both cases, it could lead to landmark decisions this term on the ability of prosecutors and Congress to investigate the president.

Trump Business Dealings Argued at Federal Appeals Court in Emoluments Case
Greenwich Times – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2019

Appeals court judges expressed skepticism that members of Congress as individuals have a legal right to sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments without lawmakers’ consent. Even as the judges seemed troubled that Congress may have no other viable way to enforce the Constitution’s “emoluments” provision, they did not seem prepared to allow the lawsuit from more than 200 Democratic lawmakers to move forward, and suggested the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final word. The lawsuit is one of three similar cases pending in appeals courts and has the potential to reveal details about the president’s closely held business interests.

‘Trump Changed Everything’: Big cities break hard left in Dem primary
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 12/8/2019

From New York City to Los Angeles, many of the nation’s biggest cities have turned even harder to the left under President Trump, putting pressure on local officials to embrace the leading progressive presidential candidates, or withhold their endorsements entirely for fear of antagonizing newly energized activists. It is a drastic political shift in some places, where for decades entrenched party bosses crushed any signs of life on the left or tended to put the weight of big-city institutional support behind Democratic establishment-oriented candidates. Part of the leftward turn is the result of a surge of progressive candidates taking office in recent years. But not all of the shift can be explained by newly elected Democrats.

Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/10/2019

House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Trump, declaring he “abused the powers of the Presidency” and sought to cover up his misdeeds by obstructing a congressional investigation into his dealings with Ukraine. The two narrowly drawn articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress represented the most significant step in Democrats’ impeachment effort. Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of such a sanction for misconduct in office. Asserting that the president would “remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” the articles accuse Trump of engaging in a corrupt scheme to solicit foreign interference to help his 2020 reelection bid.

Watchdog: Interior official’s meetings broke ethics rule
AP News – Ellen Nickmeyer | Published: 12/10/2019

An assistant Interior secretary broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his old employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal tussles between the group and the agency. Douglas Domenech, the agency’s assistant secretary for insular and international affairs, convened the first of the two meetings in April 2017, three months after leaving his old job and beginning at the agency, the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office found. That violated federal ethics rules that restricted Domenech in dealing with his former employer for two years after taking the government job, the inspector general’s office concluded.

From the States and Municipalities

California Former L.A. City Hall Aide Fined $37,500 for Failing to Report Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/10/2019

Gary Benjamin, a former planning deputy to Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell, formed his own consulting company after he left his city job and worked with Elizabeth Peterson Group, which is registered with the city as a lobbying firm. His firm, Alchemy, was paid more than $209,000 over a period of two years. Benjamin said he was surprised to hear his work was seen as lobbying, describing most of his duties as “research oriented and administrative.” Under city rules, “lobbying activities” can include research and providing advice to clients if that work is part of a paid effort to contact city officials and influence a decision. Now, Benjamin must pay a $37,500 fine after failing to report he was lobbying.

California Glendale City Council Candidate Ordered to Return $10K in Donations
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 12/11/2019

A Glendale City Council candidate was ordered to return more than $10,000 in campaign donations after reportedly receiving incorrect information about the appropriate fundraising period from the city clerk’s office. Dan Brotman returned the online contributions he received and began cutting refund checks to donors, hours after he received an email from the Glendale city attorney’s office alerting him that the law prohibited him from accepting campaign donations before September 1. Brotman, a first-time candidate, said the email surprised him because the city clerk’s office had assured him it was acceptable to raise funds when he reached out to discuss the matter in July.

California Taxpayers Should Foot the Bill for ‘Clean Money’ Campaigns, L.A. Council Members Say
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/6/2019

Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and David Ryu called for full taxpayer financing of city election campaigns, resurrecting an idea that was proposed nearly three years ago but went nowhere. They want the city’s analysts to determine how much a “clean money” system would cost and where the money would come from. Under the proposal, candidates for 18 city offices would receive taxpayer funding for their campaigns as long as they collect a significant number of low-dollar donations from their constituents, refuse to collect “special interest” contributions, and decline to spend a significant amount of their own funds. The proposal was revived two days after the council voted to prohibit real estate developers who have projects pending before City Hall from giving to the campaigns of city candidates.

Colorado Bruce Rau Is One of the Most Elected Men in Colorado but Doesn’t Live in Any of the Metro Districts He Represents
Denver Post – David Migoya | Published: 12/12/2019

Bruce Rau sits on at least three dozen metropolitan district boards. Unlike any other public official in the state, however, Rau does not actually live in any of the districts he represents. He wields some of the most broad-reaching taxing authority that impacts tens of thousands of people he has never met and has been elected by fewer than a dozen voters at a time, sometimes by none at all. All of that because Colorado’s Special District Act lets him. Rau, an executive with Oakwood Homes, is also one of the most conflicted men in Colorado, having registered more conflicts-of-interest in his elected capacity than any other official in the state.

Florida Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to Be Reinstated After Acquittal in Corruption Case
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 12/11/2019

Almost two years after she was arrested on corruption charges and removed from her post as Hallandale Beach mayor, Joy Cooper will be reinstated by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Then-Gov. Rick Scott removed Cooper from office one day after her arrest in January 2018. She was accused of taking part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. A jury acquitted Cooper on all six counts against her following trial. Because Cooper was last elected in 2016 and her term was not slated to end until November 2020, she can now return to office at least until next November’s election.

Florida Local Lobbyist Database Could Increase Ethics Board’s Workload
Florida Politics – Renzo Downey | Published: 12/6/2019

A possible local government lobbyist database would significantly increase the state ethics panel’s responsibilities, said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Currently, the commission compiles publicly available lists of lobbyists at the federal and state levels. Streamlining local government lobbyist database would increase transparency and accountability, Rep. Anthony Sabatini said. Most jurisdictions keep their own record, but there is no state requirement that it be kept and made public. The package of bills would also consolidate registration fees by requiring local government lobbyists to register with the state and one annual fee instead of with each city or county.

Florida Tampa City Council Member Went to Chicago on Nonprofit’s Dime, Later Paid for It
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 12/9/2019

In October, Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes took a four-day trip to Chicago for a community development conference hosted by Neighborworks America, a national nonprofit. That trip, also attended by the volunteer head of a city board, sparked cries of a conflict-of- interest. He went because the leader of a local nonprofit, CDC of Tampa, Inc., asked him. Gudes’ travel, lodging, and transportation would be covered. CDC of Tampa, Inc. was one of 10 bidders vying to redevelop 26 vacant lots in Gudes’ district. As a voting member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Gudes would have a say in the outcome.

Florida ‘This Is Big’: City of Tallahassee ethics package passes amid challenging year, FBI probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 12/6/2019

City commissioners approved changes to Tallahassee’s ethics code, including expanding the Independent Ethics Board’s jurisdiction. The move came after more than two years of scandal at City Hall, including state ethics findings against former Mayor Andrew Gillum and former City Manager Rick Fernandez for accepting gifts from lobbyists and guilty pleas from former city Commissioner Scott Maddox in an ongoing corruption case. Under the new ordinance, a gift ban would apply to more people, including commissioner aides, employees who file financial disclosures, and those who work in procurement. The revised ordinance also includes fines up to $5,000 for lobbyists who repeatedly fail to register, among other provisions.

Hawaii Honolulu City Council Voted on Company’s Project Then Let It Buy Lunch
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 12/10/2019

Right after Honolulu City Council members voted to advance a controversial rezoning measure, they broke for lunch paid for by a company representing the landowner in the case. That is despite guidance from the Honolulu Ethics Commission that government agencies should not accept gifts – defined as anything the government did not pay full value for – from companies with business before them. Ethics Commission guidelines address this very scenario, and city agencies received a reminder of how to handle these matters in the past week.

Kentucky Bevin Pardons Include Convicted Killer Whose Brother Hosted Campaign Fundraiser for Him
Louisville Courier-Journal – Andrew Wolfson and Joe Sonka | Published: 12/11/2019

The family of a man pardoned by then-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for a homicide and other crimes raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. The brother and sister-in-law of offender Patrick Baker also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele, who prosecuted Baker, noted Baker served only two years of a 19-year sentence on his conviction for reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence. Steele also cited the fact that two of Baker’s co-defendants are still in prison. “What makes Mr. Baker any different than the other two?” Steele asked.

Kentucky Kentucky House Changes Course on Ex-Speaker Investigation
Seattle Times – Bruce Schreiner (Associated Press) | Published: 12/10/2019

The Kentucky House changed course in the probe of former Speaker Jeff Hoover, voting to disband a special committee that was formed to investigate a sexual harassment settlement he secretly signed. The committee later voted itself out of existence. The sudden reversal means the inquiry shifts fully to the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission. Hoover was already under investigation by the commission, even before the House’s action. That inquiry focuses on whether Hoover violated state ethics laws, primarily if he used money from political donors or registered lobbyists to make the settlement payment.

Louisiana Former LSU Employee Fined $111K Over Money Missing from School of Theatre, Invoices to His Company
New Orleans Advocate – Jacqueline DeRobertis and Andrea Gallo | Published: 12/5/2019

The Ethics Adjudicatory Board imposed a $111,000 fine on a former administrative coordinator at Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts after finding he violated multiple state ethics rules, including misappropriating funds. The board determined David Rodriguez misappropriated more than $60,000 over three years. A three-judge panel also found he broke three additional ethics rules when his side business assisted in catered events at the college. Prosecutors dropped criminal charges in 2017. The attorney who represented Rodriguez in the criminal case, Margaret Lagattuta, said the university’s lax oversight of the money involved in the case meant several people could have stolen it.

Maryland Baltimore Approves More Than $13 Million Financed by Pugh Donor’s Firm Amid Call for Probe of His Deals
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Talia Richman | Published: 12/11/2019

A political donor who has drawn heat for his role in the “Healthy Holly” book scandal that took down former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is still making money from the city, despite concerns about his contracts from some officials in light of allegations by federal prosecutors that he made inappropriate contributions to Pugh. Baltimore’s spending panel approved an expenditure of more than $13 million for Motorola radio equipment under the city’s master lease, a long-standing financing agreement with Grant Capital Management, the firm of financier and big campaign donor J.P. Grant. The contract was not competitively bid, as is often allowed under the master lease. City Council President Brandon Scott abstained from the vote. He said the situation highlighted the need to reform the structure of the Board of Estimates, in which the mayor controls a majority of the votes.

Maryland Federal Appeals Court Rejects Maryland Online Political Ad Law That Sought Information from Digital Publishers
Baltimore Sun – Jeff Barker | Published: 12/9/2019

A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enactment of key provisions of Maryland’s Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act. The law’s disclosure requirements would apply to any online platform with 100,000 unique monthly visitors that receives money for political ads. The platforms would be required to display, within 48 hours of an ad being purchased, information such as the identity of the buyer and the amount paid. The outlets would need to retain the information for state inspection. “… While Maryland’s law tries to serve important aims, the state has gone about this task in too circuitous and burdensome a manner to satisfy constitutional scrutiny,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson.

Michigan Before Losing Election, Clawson Mayor Sought Secret Deal to Hurt Opponent
Detroit Free Press – Bill Laitner | Published: 12/10/2019

With an election looming, then-Clawson, Michigan Mayor Deborah Wooley ordered the city manager to secretly hire a digital-detective firm, with an open purchase order for up to $5,000, and threatened to fire him if word got out. According to the city manager, Wooley’s goal was to dig up digital dirt on her political opponent, Reese Scripture, who had been a plague to Wooley throughout her two-year term, first filing an Open Meetings Act lawsuit, then running against Wooley for mayor. Wooley wanted to see whether Scripture had leaked embarrassing city emails. But the probe turned up nothing improper about Scripture’s email contacts with the city. Ultimately, they became part of a city council packet of public documents, for a meeting that exposed the scheme after the election.

Michigan County Official Who Displayed, Wore Trump Hat During Meetings Focus of Complaint – Ben Solis | Published: 12/9/2019

Muskegon County Commissioner Zach Lahring’s “Trump 2020” hat is at the center of a complaint filed with the state. The complaint alleges Lahring made contributions to the re-election campaign of President Trump using public resources by displaying and then wearing the hat during public meetings. The formal complaint is among several informal ones lodged against Lahring for his decorum at public meetings and his behavior on social media. The complaint argues Lahring violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by using a public resource, in this case the Muskegon County building, to promote and endorse a federal candidate. It also says the law prohibits Lahring from campaigning while doing the public’s work.

Michigan Inman Not Guilty of Lying to FBI; Hung Jury on Bribery and Extortion
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 12/10/2019

A Michigan lawmaker was found not guilty of lying to the FBI in connection with a bribery and extortion investigation. A federal jury could not reach a verdict on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe against state Rep. Larry Inman. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. A grand jury indicted Inman in May, alleging he sought campaign donations from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and other unions in return for “no” votes on a measure to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. Inman was expelled from the Republican caucus and lost his House office and staff after his indictment and after he admitted he sent the text messages to the unions. It is improper for a state representative to mix how he will vote with campaign finance issues, House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.

New York $100K in Campaign Cash to Gov, Mayor, County Exec Is Routine Business Expense, Cor Says
Syracuse Post-Standard – Tim Knauss | Published: 12/4/2019

Along with paying for engineering, an asbestos survey, and legal fees, Cor Development listed $114,825 for campaign donations to two governors, a mayor, and a county executive among their expenses in a Syracuse development project. Cor officials wrote in a letter that their partner on the joint venture project was expected to share the costs, including the campaign money. It was an unusual acknowledgement – because it was in writing – that business executives viewed political contributions as a cost of doing business. Critics of New York’s campaign finance laws say businesses sometimes seem to approach campaign contributions as a “corruption tax” they have to pay to get things done.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Plans Rule-Making Process
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 12/11/2019

North Dakota’s Ethics Commission will begin its administrative rulemaking in the new year after mapping out an early process recently. Chairperson Ron Goodman distributed 18 pages of what he called “very rough” rules, modified from other states. He said he will draft a code of ethics for the commission based on other North Dakota agencies’ similar policies, for discussion at the board’s January meeting. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that created the Ethics Commission to oversee conduct of state officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, and candidates.

Oklahoma Public Campaigns Being Conducted with Donations Kept Private
The Oklahoman – Chris Casteel | Published: 12/7/2019

Public campaigns being waged in Oklahoma City on local, state, and federal issues are being financed by donors who, so far, have remained anonymous. The campaigns for MAPS 4 and Medicaid expansion and against President Trump’s impeachment have all been conducted through mechanisms that do not require public disclosure of contributors, at least for now. Ashley Kemp, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said the commission in 2014 requested some changes to the campaign reporting laws for local governments to make standards and enforcement more uniform. “There was not a request by the commission to eliminate public disclosure for local ballot measures,” Kemp said.

Oklahoma Tag Agency Standoff with Gov. Stitt Over Lobbying Is Settled – for Now
Tulsa World – Randy Krehbiel | Published: 12/12/2019

An attempt to force privately owned tag agencies to stop their lobbying activities in Oklahoma has been dropped. The proposed ban on tag agency lobbying would extend executive orders signed earlier this year by Gov. Kevin Stitt to state government contractors – specifically, in this case, tag agents. It is not clear whether such a ban could include other state contractors or even state employees. Privately, some have questioned whether such a ban would survive a legal challenge. For now, tag agencies employing lobbyist Clayton Taylor may continue to do so for at least another year.

Pennsylvania Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Staff | Published: 12/11/2019

Councilperson Darlene Harris sued the city, the mayor, and the ethics board, alleging Pittsburgh’s campaign finance rules violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and a fine levied against her should be set aside. The case stems from an effort by the city’s Ethics Hearing Board to collect a $4,150 fine from Harris, in relation to her refusal to file campaign filings with that body. The city ordinance charges the Ethics Hearing board with receiving candidates’ campaign finance reports and posting the data online. Those filings are also filed with Allegheny County, under state law.

Pennsylvania He’s the FBI Agent Who Took Down Allentown’s Mayor. Now He’s Talking Publicly About the Case. – Steve Novak | Published: 12/11/2019

As Scott Curtis tells it, he was sitting alone at a bar in Pittsburgh, buried in his phone. He could not leave yet. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was meeting people in the back of the restaurant, along with an FBI informant. Curtis was the special agent heading the corruption investigation into Palowski and other public officials. He had to observe the meeting and make sure that his wired-up witness, Mike Fleck, did not try anything. Curtis would go on to close the book on one of the Lehigh Valley’s most explosive corruption cases, one that led to a number of convictions. Among them was Pawlowski, who in 2018 was found guilty of 47 charges for rigging city contracts in favor of campaign donors. He was sentenced up to 15 years in prison.

Pennsylvania She’s the Force Behind Pa.’s Efforts to Treat Drug Addiction. Critics Say ‘There Is More to the Story.’
Philadelphia Inqirer – Aneri Pattani | Published: 12/12/2019

Deb Beck is a formidable power player in Harrisburg, influencing Pennsylvania’s response to a drug addiction epidemic that has led to thousands of deaths and spawned a multimillion-dollar treatment industry. She has been in the field since 1971, and whenever lawmakers want to draft addiction-related laws, or need to get a loved one into treatment, they go to her. Now, with the state spending huge sums of taxpayer money for treatment for opioid addiction and paying greater attention to how best to reverse the deadly trend, some are questioning if Beck is using her sway to help patients or the businesses providing care. Her advocacy for long-term residential care for those suffering from opioid addiction has prompted concerns she is pushing an outdated treatment model over approaches that medical professionals say are far more effective.

South Carolina This Judge Is Married to the Sheriff. Ethics Complaints Have Piled Up.
Pro Publica – Joseph Cranney (Charleston Post and Courier) | Published: 12/5/2019

The Chester County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina accused a pair of lower court judges of unfairly blocking the sheriff’s requests for criminal warrants. A top deputy planned to file a complaint with the chief magistrate and the local state senator, who controls the county’s judicial appointments. But before doing so, the deputy turned to an unlikely ally to help craft his appeal: Magistrate Angel Underwood. The arrangement was unusual. Underwood was a sitting judge, sworn to remain impartial from those who brought matters before her. She was also the wife of the sheriff, Alex Underwood. Intermingling those two roles had recently brought her a yearlong suspension from the bench; the state’s judicial watchdog found she failed to disqualify herself in more than 100 cases brought by her husband’s department.

Texas Dannenbaum Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations
Houston Chronicle – Stephanie Lamm and Gabrielle Banks | Published: 12/6/2019

James Dannenbaum, the former head of a prominent Texas engineering firm and a major political donor, pleaded guilty to circumventing federal election laws by helping employees funnel illegal campaign contributions to congressional and U.S. Senate candidates. The company that he once led, Dannenbaum Engineering, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in November that hinged upon its former chief executive officer owning up to his role in the fraud scheme. The company agreed to a fine of $1.6 million after admitting being part in a broader scheme.

Virginia A Congressman Could Go to Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds. What He Did Is Totally Legal in Virginia.
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 12/5/2019

After federal prosecutors gathered evidence showing U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his family members had taken $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal golf outings, vacations, meals, video games, and gas, Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Though federal campaign finance laws prohibit using political funds to cover unrelated expenses, Virginia has no such rule for candidates running for state and local offices. That means Virginia campaigns do not have to be meticulous about making sure candidates do not use their political account, often filled by business interests and wealthy donors, as a personal piggy bank. In another contrast with federal law, Virginia’s rules place no limits on contribution size.

Washington How Much Money Did Tim Eyman Make Last Year: Depends what form you check
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 12/9/2019

How much money did Tim Eyman make in the last year? Eyman, the candidate for governor, says his income was less than $48,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman, the serial initiative promoter and conservative activist, says he made more than $297,000 over the last 12 months. Eyman’s newly filed statement with the state Public Disclosure Commission, now that he is announced a run for governor, appears to be in sharp contrast with his monthly reports in federal court, where he filed for bankruptcy one year ago. Eyman says there is a perfectly good explanation, but for almost his entire two-decade history as an anti-tax evangelist, his financial transparency has been called into question.

Continue Reading - 35 min read Close