September 25, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 25, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020 On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with […]

National/Federal

Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Lev Parnas, oligarchs and a lucrative lobbying deal
NBC News – Aubrey Belford, Adam Klasfeld, Andrew Lehren, and Dan De Luce | Published: 9/22/2020

On January 19, 2017, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, sat down with Brian Ballard, a well-connected lobbyist serving as vice chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Also at the table were the two men who set up the meeting: Mübariz Mansimov, a shipping magnate now in a Turkish jail facing terrorism charges, and Lev Parnas, a colorful businessperson whose backchannel dealings in Ukraine would, two years later, feature prominently in Trump’s impeachment. The meeting, which has never before been disclosed, marked the start of Turkey’s ambitious lobbying of the Trump administration that involved back-channels, Russian-linked oligarchs, and Parnas. The lunch eventually led to multi-million-dollar contracts for Ballard Partners to lobby on behalf of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Campaigns Adjust as Voters Cast Ballots Before Election Day
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 9/17/2020

More voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail or in person before Election Day this year due to concerns about crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. For campaigns and outside groups, a surge in early voting, by mail or in person, means there is less time to get their messages out to voters. But it also means they need to spend more time on turnout efforts. In past election cycles, the end of summer was the unofficial start of campaign season, when political ads started to blanket the airwaves. But that has not been the case this year.

Chamber to Lay Off a Dozen Employees, Expand Advocacy Efforts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 9/17/2020

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender on federal lobbying, is laying off 12 employees as part of a restructuring that the group’s insiders say will also aim to expand its policy advocacy. Most of the laid-off employees were tied to the operation of the group’s building, across from the White House, or to putting on in-person events. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said the organization will accelerate efforts to be a leader in virtual events. She also announced Executive Vice President Neil Bradley will oversee a new umbrella group called Strategic Advocacy, with three divisions – government affairs, policy, and political affairs and federal relations.

DeVos Under Investigation for Potentially Violating Hatch Act Because of Fox News Interview
Politico – Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford | Published: 9/21/2020

The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she criticized Joe Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The law prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration has not paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses. At least 12 Trump senior officials violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC. In most cases, the office decided the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Trump for action, and he did not act on it.

How Republicans Are Trying to Use the Green Party to Their Advantage
New York Times – Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Nick Corasaniti | Published: 9/22/2020

With President Trump trailing Joe Biden in most national and swing-state polls, Republicans are again trying to help third parties that may appeal to Democratic voters and siphon off votes from Biden. This is taking place alongside a broader pattern of disinformation and skepticism by the president and his allies that has sown confusion and undermined confidence in the election. Republican efforts to aid the Green Party are not new. In 2016, a billionaire backer of Trump, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, provided support to Jill Stein, the Green candidate, according to people with knowledge of the strategy, who said the effort was done with the knowledge of some officials at the Trump campaign and its chairperson at the time, Paul Manafort.

Judges in D.C. Threatened, Harassed After High-Profile, Political Legal Battles
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 9/18/2020

In the last three years, the number of threats tracked by the U.S. Marshals Service has dramatically increased as attacks targeting federal judges and their rulings have proliferated on social media. The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington, D.C. with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016. It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

Pelosi Unveils Watergate-Style Anti-Corruption Reforms – Tailored for the Trump Era
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 9/23/2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants unveiled a sweeping anti-corruption package they are billing as a successor to post-Watergate reforms, updated for a potential post-Trump Washington. The measure, a 158-page Democratic wish list that includes curbs on pardons for close associates of the president, a requirement for campaigns to publicly report many foreign contacts, and a requirement for courts to prioritize congressional subpoenas, is House leaders’ version of an antidote to what they see as weaknesses in democratic government exposed by President Trump.

Pentagon Used Taxpayer Money Meant for Masks and Swabs to Make Jet Engine Parts and Body Armor
MSN – Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torboti (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus. Months after the funding was allocated, Pentagon lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, Hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was utilized to obtain military supplies, such as jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other needs. The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response remain.

Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden
MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/23/2020

An investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee. The investigation found Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing American policy toward Kyiv had given the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. But a report summing up the findings contained no evidence Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Brings New Uncertainty to the Battle Over Voting Rights in 2020
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2020

The vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came just over six weeks before the election, a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules and an outsize role for the courts in determining how ballots are distributed, cast, and counted. As Democrats and voting rights advocates seek to lower barriers to voting during the pandemic, the Supreme Court has largely deferred to local and state officials, showing a reluctance to upend rules close to the election. Legal experts disagree about whether the blizzard of election-related lawsuits this year makes it more or less likely that the Supreme Court could end up playing a role in determining the winner of the presidential race, as it effectively did in 2000.

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump.
New York Times – David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/22/2020

Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads. This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord: and “to denigrate” Joe Biden.

Trump Says He Will Move ‘Without Delay’ to Fill Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Seat
Washington Post – Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/19/2020

President Trump said he will nominate a woman to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election. Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contemplated her successor. Trump said he prefers a Senate vote before the election. A Trump replacement for Ginsburg can hardly be overstated in its implications for the court’s docket, the influence of Chief Justice John Roberts and perhaps even the outcome of the election, if what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in history ends up before the justices.

Trump’s Businesses Charged Secret Service More Than $1.1 Million, Including for Rooms in Club Shuttered for Pandemic
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey | Published: 9/17/2020

President Trump’s properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office, including for room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The receipts and invoices shed new light on the unprecedented relationship Trump has with his own government, where Trump’s presidential travel brings a stream of public money to the private businesses the president still owns. When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

US Judge Blocks Postal Service Changes That Slowed Mail
Associated Press News – Gene Johnson | Published: 9/18/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian blocked Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election. He said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service’s so-called leave behind policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail. Many more voters are expected to vote by mail this November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watchdog Group Calls on FEC to Investigate Donations to Trump and Others by Relatives and Associates of Louis DeJoy
Washington Post – Aaron Davis | Published: 9/18/2020

A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to an FEC complaint. It has been reported DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said an analysis of more recent contributions shows a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as an executive. Donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the CLC found.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Gets Probation, $3K Fine in Campaign Finance Case
Montgomery Advertiser – Brad Harper | Published: 9/21/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine but avoided jail time for misusing campaign finance funds. State prosecutors said Burkette failed to deposit $3,625 in campaign donations between April 2015 and January 2016, when he was running for Montgomery City Council, and instead deposited them into his personal bank account. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Burkette resigned from the Senate as part of a plea deal. In turn, the state agreed not to pursue additional charges.

Alaska In Secret Tapes, Mine Executives Detail Their Sway Over leaders from Juneau to the White House
MSN – Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2020

Two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in Alaska boasted about their influence over public officials in the state and Washington, D.C. in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its salmon fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in July the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, but informed Pebble Limited Partnership it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation. Even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

California California Prison Guard Union Places Bull’s-Eye on Black Lawmaker’s Photo in Political Ad
Los Angeles Times – Anita Chabria | Published: 9/17/2020

The union representing California prison guards posted pictures and video online of a new political ad announcing its intent to “target” state Assemblyperson Reggie Jones-Sawyer, obscuring the Black lawmaker’s face with a bull’s-eye and drawing criticism the image amounted to a threat. The incident highlights mounting acrimony in Los Angeles and across the country between law enforcement and those who seek police reforms, and it comes days after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed by a gunman, leading Sheriff Alex Villanueva to warn that “words have consequences.”

California CalPERS Board Supportive of Move to Restrict Investments by Top Staff
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 9/17/2020

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) board members expressed support for a proposal to limit personal investments by future chief investment officers. The board weighed in on a plan that would force its chief investment officers to divest from some or all of their investments or place them in a blind trust as a condition of employment. They expect to consider a specific proposal from the system’s staff in November. The proposal follows the sudden departure of former Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng, who was the subject of an ethics complaint after approving a $1 billion CalPERS investment with a firm in which he held stock. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint related to Meng’s investments.

California LA City Council Aims to Increase Accountability of Development Process
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – City News Service | Published: 9/23/2020

A Los Angeles City Council committee advanced several proposals intended to create more oversight and transparency of city development projects in response to recent corruption cases. One of the proposals the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved was to develop policies that would expand the requirements for when council members have a conflict-of-interest and must exclude themselves from voting on certain projects. These standards would be the same ones used by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority. The committee also approved a motion for full council consideration to seek ways to require any meetings between developers and individual council members be disclosed if they are held outside of a public forum.

California San Bernardino to Cap Campaign Contributions at $4,700 Per Individual Per Election
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/21/2020

San Bernardino intends to follow legislation that on January 1 sets a $4,700 limit on how much an individual can give a candidate per election. There presently are no restrictions on such contributions. City staffers had reported Assembly Bill 571 would institute a yearly cap on campaign donations. A majority of the city council supported the bill’s guidelines, but Mayor John Valdivia vetoed the move. After further review, city staffers reported the $4,700 limit is per election, not per year.

Florida Florida AG Calls for Criminal Inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M Felon Voter Donation
Politico – Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout | Published: 9/23/2020

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate “potential violations of election laws” over Michael Bloomberg’s decision to help pay felons’ fines, fees, and restitution to be eligible to vote in the state. The move comes two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition set up a fund to help people pay their court debts. Bloomberg recently announced he helped the group raise $16 million. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the FEC to investigate whether Bloomberg is “breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters.”

Illinois Alderman Lavished with Cash, Luxury Trips by Program for Caribbean Med Students
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 9/18/2020

A Chicago doctor is suing his business partner, Theresa Shaw, accusing her of “looting” more than $3.7 million from their business to finance an “extravagant lifestyle” and to lavish Ald. George Cardenas with luxurious trips, an expensive watch, and a monthly stipend for consulting services. Cardenas had been hired to drum up business for Omni Medical Student Training, which places students from Caribbean medical schools in residency programs with Chicago hospitals. The alderman was not very successful in getting hospitals to sign up, though, according to the suit. City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson questioned Siaw earlier this year as part of an investigation into Cardenas’ campaign finances.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Appoints New Chair After Previous Two Ousted Amid Earlier Shakeups
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 9/17/2020

The board in charge of enforcing Cook County’s ethics ordinance ushered in a new chairperson, the third to hold the position this year after a series of recent shake-ups. Thomas Szromba, currently the longest serving of four members seated on the Cook County Ethics Board, was voted in without opposition. Szromba’s appointment came during the board’s first meeting since the pandemic and after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ousted the two previous chairs, Margaret Daley and Juliet Sorensen. Daley has said she wondered whether their attempts to roll out proposed reforms to the ethics ordinance irked Preckwinkle.

Illinois CUB’s ‘Conflict’: How a utility watchdog got millions from the utilities it watches
WBEZ – Dave McKinney and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/21/2020

After winning Illinois lawmakers’ support for a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation in 2016, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) decided to celebrate with a pair of invitation-only events. At the second, more exclusive soiree, ComEd’s retiring top lobbyist was being toasted for getting the bill passed and for a long career in and around state government. The guest list included executives from ComEd. There were also company lobbyists and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose son was also invited. But there was another invitee who stood out. David Kolata and the organization he has led for 15 years, the Citizens Utility Board, are supposed to be thorns in the side of ComEd. But in 2016, Kolata’s consumer advocacy group instead sided with the power companies, enabling them to boost ratepayers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars over a decade to subsidize underperforming nuclear plants.

Illinois Former State Sen. Terry Link Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion Charge in Federal Court
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/16/2020

Former state Sen. Terry Link to pleaded guilty to a federal count of filing a false tax return, marking the latest conviction in a series of wide-ranging investigations against Illinois Democratic political leaders. While the felony conviction capped a swift fall from grace for Link, his case is far not over. It was reported Link agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo in exchange for what Link hopes will be leniency at sentencing. Link’s plea agreement said he listed his 2016 income as $264,450 when in fact it was at least $358,000. It is unclear where Link’s income came from that year. Link and other lawmakers went much of that year without pay because then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger withheld their salaries amid the long-running budget standoff.

Kentucky Kentucky GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Assault, Accused of Strangling Woman with Ethernet Cable
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 9/21/2020

As a freshman legislator, Kentucky Rep. Robert Goforth joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation. That same bill, now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates, became a factor in his own case. A grand jury indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault. Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report.

Louisiana In Parting Shot, Resigning New Orleans IG Says Audubon Institute Possibly Made Unlawful Deals
Nola.com – Jessica Williams | Published: 9/18/2020

In one of the last reports of his career in New Orleans, Inspector General Derry Harper rapped the private Audubon Nature Institute for spending almost $1 million over two recent years in deals he said might be unlawful. Harper said the institute spent $416,000 on federal lobbying contracts, deals that could violate rules that he said bar agencies from using public dollars to influence politicians. Another $579,570 the institute paid to employees in commissions on top of their regular salaries could run afoul of state rules meant to prevent conflicts-of-interest.

Maryland Baltimore Could End Contract with Pugh-Connected Financier After IG Details Failure to Disclose Donations to Her
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 9/22/2020

Baltimore’s top lawyer will recommend the city consider ending its contract with Grant Capital Management after the city’s inspector general found troubling omissions in the company’s bid for a lucrative contract regarding founder J.P. Grant’s donations to former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The investigation was spurred by revelations about Grant’s role in Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Grant wrote Pugh checks for $170,000, according to federal prosecutors, despite knowing she was illegally funneling the funds into her campaign and toward buying a bigger house. Grant Capital Management has an agreement to help city agencies pay for large contracts. The company quickly provides money upfront to pay for capital projects, with the city paying it back with interest over time.

Minnesota Preparing Minnesotans of Color to Wield More Power at the Capitol
MPR News – Melissa Townsend | Published: 9/22/2020

Aarcia Coleman was part of a surge in the number of Minnesotans of color running for elected office in August. Although she lost the primary, she credits a program with helping her prepare for her foray into politics and igniting a passion for influencing policy. Coleman graduated from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a free, nine-month program specifically for Black, Native American people, and people of color to get to know the lay of the land at the Capitol. Her cohort spent nearly a year getting to know their way around the buildings, the underground tunnel system, the policymaking protocols, and the culture of the place. By the end of the program, Coleman, who was seeking to be the first Black woman elected to the state Senate in its history, said she felt comfortable being in those halls of power.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ Inaugural Nonprofit Has Dissolved. Where Did the Money Go?
Jacson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 9/23/2020

Less than a year after soliciting thousands of dollars from secret donors, the nonprofit that paid for the inauguration of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has dissolved and it is unclear where its funds went. For All Mississippi’s filing documents show it was created for a political purpose – the 2020 inauguration of Reeves and his transition to office – but nonprofits are shielded from the normal disclosure laws for political organizations. There is no contribution cap, public disclosure of donors, and no public accounting of how the money was spent.

New Jersey Two NM Groups Pushed to Disclose Political Spending
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/21/2020

A group that sent out political advertisements targeting several progressive Democrats in the run-up to the June primary election has been ordered to disclose its donors. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently directed the Council for a Competitive New Mexico to make the disclosure within 10 days or face possible civil penalties. The group reported spending more than $134,000 on campaign mailers, radio ads, and phone calls in support of five incumbent Democratic senators, with some of that money also being spent on mailers that targeted four of their primary election opponents. But the Council for a Competitive New Mexico did not disclose its funding sources for the campaign-related expenditures, which is required in most cases under state law.

New York Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 9/23/2020

President Trump’s son Eric has until October 7 to speak to New York investigators probing his family’s business practices, a judge ruled rejecting his lawyers’ contention that his “extreme travel schedule” on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November election. State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”

New York New York Ethics’ Panel Renews Search for a Leader
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/18/2020

After 15 months without an executive director, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) re-posted the job listing for the position, a sign the marathon search for a new top staffer is not yet close to a finish. In March, six JCOPE members called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism the commission’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. The last executive director, Seth Agata, was before his appointment a counsel to Cuomo.

New York Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 9/21/2020

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago. The inquiry has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena the office issued for eight years of Trump’s tax returns.

Ohio Dems Blast Bogus FirstEnergy PAC Campaign Report
Youngstown Business Journal – Staff | Published: 9/19/2020

FirstEnergy’s PAC wrote $158,000 worth of checks to Ohio politicians in the weeks before an FBI corruption probe was disclosed. But those checks were never sent, the company said. The contributions were detailed on an August 20 campaign finance report, but several politicians said they had no record of receiving the money. FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said donations were made and recorded but were held “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement of the investigation into Larry Householder and others. She said the checks are recorded in the PAC’s report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check. Young said the PAC was catching up “after several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown.”

Pennsylvania Alarm Grows Over ‘Naked Ballot’ Ruling in Pennsylvania
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 9/22/2020

Pennsylvania election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm over a state Supreme Court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots,” warning the decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a legal controversy following the November elections. The ruling on so-called naked ballots – mail ballots returned to election offices without an inner secrecy envelope – carries potentially sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that President Trump won in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that Joe Biden now sees as a critical part of his path to the White House.

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Green Party Will Not Appear on State’s 2020 General Election Ballot
ABC News – Alicia Weirsema | Published: 9/17/2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Green Party presidential ticket would not be included on the state’s general election ballot this year. The move comes three days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court similarly decided Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, would not be on their state’s ballot. Hawkins and Walker were replacing another set of Green Party candidates on the ticket, but the submitted documents for the initial candidates’ filing were inadequate which ultimately barred those candidates, and their replacements, from appearing on the ballot. The ruling clears the way for Pennsylvania officials to begin certifying ballots, which they previously were unable to do due to a lack of a finalized candidate list. Once the ballots are certified, they can be printed and disseminated to voters across the state.

South Carolina Wearing Masks at the SC Capitol Is Required, but Many Found a Way Around the Order
Charlotte Observer – Maayan Schechter | Published: 9/20/2020

Anyone who enters a state government building in South Carolina is required to wear a mask. But inside the state’s top government building, lawmakers and members of the public flouted the rule recently. Though Gov. Henry McMaster’s authority does not extend into chambers, protesters without masks inside told statehouse security they could not wear a mask, invoking the health exemption in the governor’s order. One lawmaker repeatedly coughed into a tissue, her mask cradling her chin, as others observed, and a handful of other lawmakers walked around their respective chambers without any masks on at all. Security and law enforcement watched, unable to take any action.

Virginia Virginia Legislator Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus Warned His Church, but House Colleagues Say They Weren’t Informed
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 9/22/2020

The day after Thomas Wright Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus, his office sent an email to Victoria Christian Church, warning fellow worshipers the Virginia delegate might have unwittingly exposed them. But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who had met with him a week earlier when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.

Washington DC D.C. Official Who Sought Howard Job After Negotiating a Tax Break for School Fined $2,500
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 9/21/2020

A former high-ranking District of Columbia government official was fined $2,500 by the city ethics board for his involvement in legislation providing a $225 million tax break for Howard University on the same day he discussed taking a job at the university. Former city administrator Rashad Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation” of the ethics code when he rejected amendments to increase the tax break hours after the university president spoke to him about creating a job for him, according to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. The board found it was inappropriate for Young to be involved in matters at all while in active job discussions with the university. But his actions did not benefit Howard in its bid to build a university hospital with taxpayer support.

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September 18, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 18, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020 Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the […]

National/Federal

At U.S.A.I.D., Juggling Political Priorities and Pandemic Response
New York Times – Laura Jakes and Pransu Verma | Published: 9/13/2020

Political intervention has roiled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that prides itself as leading the humanitarian response to disasters, conflict, and other emergencies around the world. As President Trump campaigns for re-election and the coronavirus has claimed almost 200,000 lives nationwide, the USAID has been micromanaged by the White House and the State Department. That has prompted critics to say the intervention has slowed pandemic relief efforts to some places, weaponized aid in other areas to chastise Trump administration adversaries, and disengaged the U.S. from the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response.

Barr Accuses Justice Department of Headhunting and Meddling with Politics
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/16/2020

Attorney General William Barr delivered a scathing critique of his own Justice Department on, insisting on his absolute authority to overrule career staffers, who he said too often injected themselves into politics and went “headhunting” for high-profile targets. The attorney general directly addressed the criticism that has been building for months inside the department toward his heavy hand in politically sensitive cases, particularly those involving associates of President Trump. Barr’s comments were remarkable in that the head of the Justice Department catalogued all the ways in which he thought his agency had gone astray over the years, and in its current formulation harms the body politic.

Court-Appointed Adviser in Michael Flynn Case Says Justice Dept. Yielded to Corrupt ‘Pressure Campaign’ Led by Trump
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu | Published: 9/11/2020

A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case, called Attorney General William Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.” Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation September 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump advisor to plead guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Criminal Probe Opened into John Bolton Book
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/15/2020

A federal grand jury is investigating potential disclosures of classified information in the book former national security adviser John Bolton published over objections from the Trump administration. The development signals Bolton may face much more severe legal trouble than just the pending lawsuit that seeks to strip him of the proceeds from “The Room Where It Happened,” the tell-all account that generated a slew of critical press coverage for President Trump. The judge assigned to that suit rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block publication of the book, but said Bolton appeared to have deliberately violated nondisclosure agreements he signed and could face criminal jeopardy.

Democrats Used to Rail Against ‘Dark Money.’ Now They’re Better at It Than the GOP.
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Wald | Published: 9/11/2020

Watchdogs are concerned with super PACs, which can accept donations of unlimited size but must reveal the names of their donors and regularly disclose their activity. But they are more worried about “dark money” groups: nonprofit organizations that cannot be as explicitly political as super PACs but can keep their donors secret forever and do not have to reveal much about activities before elections. While concerns about campaign finance reform that once animated Democratic voters have been eclipsed by the desire to oust President Trump, advocates are left to wonder if the party can really be trusted to follow through on its promises to dismantle a system that may help them get elected.

Devin Nunes’ Legal Setbacks Pile Up, but His Lawsuits Go On with Appeals and New Filings
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 9/14/2020

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has had little success in the battery of lawsuits he filed against media organizations and critics, but his efforts are running up legal bills for the groups he considers his adversaries. Altogether, Nunes has filed seven lawsuits against media organizations, anonymous online critics, and other political actors. The only case that has concluded is one his campaign filed and dropped against a retired farmer in Nunes’ congressional district who challenged the Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters. Judges have dismissed or greatly diminished three of the cases. Each time, Nunes appealed the decision or attempted to file an amended complaint to restart the case.

Justice Dept. Watchdog to Review Handling of Roger Stone Sentencing Recommendation
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 9/14/2020

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has begun reviewing the controversial handling of the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump who was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone’s treatment has long drawn criticism from legal observers and lawmakers who said Attorney General William Barr seemed to be inappropriately affording favorable treatment to a friend of the president.  Earlier this year, when Stone was still awaiting his sentence, Barr personally intervened to overrule the sentencing recommendation career prosecutors had offered to the court, prompting all four of them to withdraw from the case.

Nora Dannehy, Connecticut Prosecutor Who Was Top Aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia Investigation, Resigns Amid Concern About Pressure from Attorney General William Barr
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 9/11/2020

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned, at least partly out of concern the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Postal Service and State Officials Feud Over Mail Voting as Election Looms
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Haley Fuchs, Nick Corasaniti, and Luke Broadwater | Published: 9/16/2020

The Postal Service postcard urging voters to “plan ahead” if they intended to vote by mail seemed innocuous enough. But not to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued the agency to halt its delivery, arguing the mailer was filled with misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Such is the toxic state of the relationship between some state and local election administrators in both parties and the Postal Service six weeks before Election Day, as officials throughout the country scramble to prepare for what is expected to be an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots in an extraordinary pandemic-era election. The feuding suggests a pre-emptive blame game between the nation’s mail-delivery agency and those charged with administering and counting the vote.

Pro-Trump Youth Group Enlists Teens in Secretive Campaign Likened to a ‘Troll Farm,’ Prompting Rebuke by Facebook and Twitter
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2020

Social media messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views, standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to people with independent knowledge of the effort.

Russian Hackers Targeting U.S. Campaigns, Microsoft Says
Associated Press – Frank Bajack | Published: 9/10/2020

Microsoft said the same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants. The intrusion attempts reflect an increased effort to infiltrate the American political establishment, the company said. Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified. Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.

Trump Officials Interfered with CDC Reports on Covid-19
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 9/11/2020

The Department of Health and Human Services’ politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained the agency’s reports would undermine President Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails.

Twitter Steps Up Its Fight Against Election Misinformation
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/10/2020

Twitter announced it is expanding its policies against election-related misinformation, setting new rules that will likely force the platform to more aggressively fact-check President Trump during the final months of the 2020 campaign. Trump has more than 85 million Twitter followers, and the company has previously flagged misleading claims from the president, including the assertion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s expanded policies come as social media has become the central electoral information battlefield, as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning. The tech companies have heeded the advice of experts who predict the election result may not be settled quickly in part because of mail-in ballots this year, leading to potential confusion about who wins.

Unions Dealt Major Blow With 1st Circuit Ruling on Lobbying Dues
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 9/15/2020

A three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board ruling that said private-sector unions cannot charge non-members for costs related to lobbying. The U.S. Supreme Court held that public-sector unions cannot force dissenting employees to contribute to them at all because this would violate the First Amendment. That decision overruled more than 40 years of precedent. But the First Amendment does not apply in the private sector, where a union-security agreement can force dissenters to pay for union activities that relate to collective bargaining, contract administration, or handling grievances. The First Circuit panel ruled lobbying does not fall into any of those categories.

Will COVID-19 Close the Revolving Door?
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 9/15/2020

A new assessment of congressional staffing, concludes that relatively low compensation, leading to high turnover among aides, fuels the dysfunction and diminished clout of today’s legislative branch. But with the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil of this year’s elections, has the private sector lost some of its sheen for these aides? Is the revolving door from Congress to K Street still a viable option for congressional aides looking to cash in?

Canada

Canada Canada’s Ethics Czar Says Former Envoy to Washington Broke Conflict-of-Interest Law in His Work for Palantir
Politico – Angy Blatchford | Published: 9/16/2020

Canada’s ethics watchdog says former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton broke conflict-of-interest law and is ordering nine senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to cease all official dealings with him for one year. Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion published the order following his investigation of MacNaughton, a close ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The probe was launched amid complaints about MacNaughton’s interactions with cabinet ministers and other key officials after leaving his ambassador’s job to take on a senior role last year with data analytics firm Palantir.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Former Alabama Senator Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/15/2020

Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of misusing his campaign checking account and resign from the Senate, according to a plea deal. Burkette agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and to not run for or accept a public office for 10 years. The plea agreement says that when Burkette was a candidate for the Montgomery City Council he intentionally put $3,625 in campaign funds in his personal checking account.

California 13 Years After Indictment, No Trial or Plea Deal for California Charter Academy Defendants
San Bernardino Sun – Beau Yarbrough | Published: 9/11/2020

On September 4, 2007, San Bernardino County prosecutors indicted former Hesperia Mayor Tad Honeycutt and California Charter Academy founder Charles Steven Cox on suspicion of misappropriating $5.5 million in state and federal funds. Thirteen years later, they have never been tried, have not taken a plea deal, and their case has never been dismissed. The case has faced years of delays, due in part to its complexity and Honeycutt’s political connections, and now complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin, the prosecutor on the case.

California San Bernardino Mayor Vetoes Council-Approved Cap on Campaign Contributions
San Bernardino Sun – Brian Whitehead | Published: 9/10/2020

San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia vetoed legislation that on would have set a yearly $4,700 limit on how much someone can give a candidate for county or city office. The item is expected to be taken up again in October. Signed into law last fall, Assembly Bill 571 on January 1 will set the default contribution limit at $4,700 per year per individual for cities and counties without their own laws regulating campaign donations. Jurisdictions can adopt their own rules before then to avoid defaulting to the limits already in place for state Assembly and Senate candidates.

California San Diego Ethics Commission Taps Deputy City Attorney as New Chief
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 9/16/2020

San Diego’s Ethics Commission, which oversees the city’s campaign and election laws, selected a deputy city attorney with expertise in those areas to serve as the commission’s new executive director. Sharon Spivak, a former journalist and private sector attorney, will replace longtime Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst if the city council approves the selection. Fulhorst is scheduled to retire in February after more than 17 years leading the agency. Spivak is expected to start work in early November, which would allow for a three-month overlap and transition period.

Colorado A Nonprofit Tied to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Shifts Focus to Advocacy and Raise Ethics Concerns
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 9/14/2020

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formed Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit organization that can accept unlimited personal and corporate contributions and not disclose its donors, after he won the 2018 election in order to help him recruit members of his administration and form the policy platform for his first term. Now, it has shifted its focus to support efforts to lower the cost of living in the state, including expanding access for early childhood education and addressing rising health care costs. The language echoes the governor’s policy priorities, and his ties to such a group raise concerns with watchdogs who suggest it amounts to a “shadow governance group.” The move comes as the governor campaigns for a key 2020 ballot initiative to achieve one of his campaign promises and two years before he faces reelection.

Connecticut Report: Public financing has added women, minority legislators in CT
San Francisco Chronicle – Ken Dixon (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/14/2020

About 85 percent of candidates for the General Assembly used public funds to seek office in 2018, helping to make Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program a national model, according to a new analysis by Common Cause. The watchdog group said the law fostered competitive races, advanced progressive public policy, and landed more women and minorities in the Legislature. The report found that in the 2018 races, 99 percent of candidate funding came from individuals, with minuscule amounts from other sources. In 2006, nearly half of the $9.3 million raised by candidates came from lobbyists, PACs, and other entities.

Florida County Commissioners Move Forward with Changes to Lobbying Regulations
Tallahassee Reports – Lexie Pitzen | Published: 9/16/2020

The Leon County Commission approved an ordinance amending lobbying regulations. The ordinance clarifies definitions related to lobbying and who qualifies as a lobbyist. It also outlines new regulation enforcement models, including processes for filing and investigating complaints as well as guidelines for lobbying violation penalties. The ordinance modifies lobbyist exemptions.

Florida Florida Felons Lose Voting Rights Case in Federal Appeals Court
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 9/11/2020

A federal appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that people with felony convictions do not have to pay off all court fees and fines before voting. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled plaintiffs did not prove a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs included more than a dozen people with felony convictions who accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers of imposing a “poll tax” by requiring them to pay off all court-ordered costs relating to their felony convictions before voting. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it virtually guarantees the estimated 800,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who owe fines, fees, or restitution to victims will not be allowed to vote in the November election.

Florida Miami Herald Editor Blames ‘Internal Failures’ After Publishing an Anti-Semitic, Racist Insert
Washington Post – Jaclyn Pieser | Published: 9/16/2020

Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami Herald, opened their papers recently to find a paid insert called “LIBRE.” In a column headlined, “American Jews and Israeli Jews” in the insert, an author claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The Herald apologized and promised to never again run the insert, which editors now say had included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Misinformation and racism are a growing concern in media targeting Florida’s Latino community. Radio Caracol, a news station in Miami, aired a 16-minute paid program claiming if Joe Biden won the election, the country would become a dictatorship run by “Jews and Blacks” and falsely saying he supports killing babies.

Georgia Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard Indicted for Fraud, Possessing Machine Guns and More
WXIA – Jonathan Raymond | Published: 9/16/2020

Jim Beard, the former chief financial officer for Atlanta, was indicted by the federal government under charges that include wire fraud, possessing a machine gun, and more. He is accused of defrauding the city out of tens of thousands of dollars by using those funds in a range of inappropriate ways, including: personal purchases, “including two machine guns”; to pay for official travel which the host later reimbursed him for, which he then kept himself; and to pay for travel he then misrepresented in his tax filings.

Illinois Chicago Ethics Board to Enforce Ban That Would Prohibit Elected Officials Outside the City from Lobbying City Hall
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 9/15/2020

After a four-month grace period, the Chicago Board of Ethics will start enforcing a ban on “cross-lobbying.” With federal investigators swarming around state and city government, the city council voted to prohibit aldermen from lobbying state and local government and preventing their counterparts at those levels from doing the same at City Hall. Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin has said the board wanted to see if an amendment Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced this spring got passed. But board released a statement saying the mayor’s ordinance apparently will no proceed, and the new rules will be enforced starting October 1.

Illinois Former Chicago Firefighter Fined $2,000 for Violating City’s Ethics Ordinance
Chicago Sun-Times – Fran Spielman | Published: 9/15/2020

A former Chicago firefighter was fined $2,000 for helping to draft bid documents for a $7.36 million fire training contract while negotiating a job with the company subsequently awarded the contract, then returning to work on the training in violation of the “revolving-door” provision. Chicago Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon said the fine would have been higher if not for the extenuating circumstances. “… This guy only did it at the request of the Chicago Fire Department and only did it for the benefit of the city. While wrong, that mitigated the fine in our mind,” Conlon said.

Illinois Former Chicago Public Schools Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Charges of Lying to FBI
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/11/2020

A former top aide to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about whether he passed secret bid information about a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders. Pedro Soto, who resigned as Jackson’s chief of staff before he was charged, admitted in a plea agreement he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.” Sources said it was an offshoot of the FBI’s investigation into then-Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis, who at the time had already been recorded on numerous wiretapped calls talking about exchanging favors for official action.

Kansas D.C. Mail Ballot Non-Profit Stokes Confusion for Kansas Voters, Backlogs in Offices
Kansas City Star – Matthew Kelly | Published: 9/14/2020

When Cynthia Herron received a mail-in ballot application from the Center for Voter Information (CVI) in August, she thought it seemed official enough. The request form, sent from a Post Office box in Springfield, Missouri, had Herron’s name and address already typed out. So, she signed and returned it in a prepaid envelope addressed to the Johnson County Election Office. Herron was confused when, three weeks later, she opened her mailbox to find a vote-by-mail request form from the county. Worried her initial request had not been accepted, Herron sent that one back too. When a third ballot application showed up in the mail, this one again from CVI, Herron began to suspect she was being intentionally misled.

New Jersey These N.J. Companies Got Millions in Federal Bailout Money, Even with History of Legal Troubles
Newark Star Ledger – Riley Yates (NJ Advance Media) and Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 9/13/2020

A review by NJ Advance Media revealed more than a dozen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans went to companies that have been sued or paid settlements over alleged fraudulent business practices in New Jersey. They included construction contractors, technology companies, and car dealerships that ran afoul of federal or state prosecutors, among them a builder once accused of cheating its workers and covering it up by falsifying payroll records, a key component of how lenders calculated PPP awards. Those businesses likely represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering the companies that received loans of less than $150,000, which number more than 65,000 in the Garden State alone, have never been named by the Treasury Department.

New York Gaddy’s Plea in Bribery Case Delivers More Bad News for Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Graig | Published: 9/16/2020

Former lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft of $1,500 in government money, while agreeing to cooperate with investigations into “campaign finance matters.” Gaddy’s plea deal said he was approached by an FBI informant in September 2017 and was given cash to try to induce a New York Assembly member to introduce legislation that could impede a proposed development in Rochester. Gaddy recommended that Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo be approached. He assisted Errigo, who died earlier this year, with introducing legislation. Gaddy said he claimed he “greased the skids” with the late Assemblyperson David Gantt, but Gaddy had not done so. Instead, Gaddy kept $1,500 of the””intended bribe” for himself.

New York Why a Progressive N.Y. Party Is Fighting for Its Survival
New York Times – Dana Rubinstein | Published: 9/14/2020

Just months after progressives in New York concluded one of their most successful primary seasons in history, a political party representing their interests is fighting for its survival. Because of rules backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning third parties, the Working Families Party must garner at least 130,000 votes or two percent of the total vote, whichever is higher, on its party line for the presidential election in November, or it will lose its automatic ballot line in New York. The rules present an unusual challenge for small parties in the state; the parties must encourage New Yorkers to vote for a presidential candidate on their line, even if that candidate is also running on the line of a mainstream party. So, the Working Families Party must persuade voters to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in its column, not on that of the Democratic Party.

North Carolina Every Charlotte City Council Member Has an Ethics Complaint. Here’s What’s Going
Charlotte Observer – Alison Kuznitz | Published: 9/12/2020

A cascade of formal ethics complaints has flooded the city clerk’s office in Charlotte in recent weeks. It started with scrutiny on one Republican city council member and his nonprofit, which was poised to run a taxpayer-backed jobs training program, using COVID-19 relief funds. Soon after that, two Democrats on council who raised questions about the arrangement found themselves the target of ethics accusations. All council members, including the mayor, are facing at least one ethics complaint. The allegations range from elected officials luring campaign donations from developers to making racially charged comments during closed-door meetings, and to using city business for private business gain.

Ohio Alleged Householder Texts About Nuclear Bailout Are MIA, House Says
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal) | Published: 9/15/2020

Prosecutors say they have a text message sent from then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder seeking to pressure a fellow lawmaker to vote for a bill at the center of a criminal “pay-to-play” scheme, a text an ally allegedly sought to get deleted. But the House said in response to a records request that the text could not be located from Householder’s phone as it was a “transient document” that did not need to be preserved. Householder, according to an FBI investigation, texted a male House Republican (only identified as “Representative 7”) on May 28, 2019, and pressured him to support House Bill 6, the beating heart of what prosecutors have called the largest bribery scheme in the state’s political history.

Ohio FirstEnergy’s PAC Reported Giving $158K to Ohio Politicians in July. They Say They Never Got the Money.
Akron Beacon Journal – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 9/16/2020

In the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians. FirstEnergy’s PAC reported giving the money to 65 politicians between July 6 and July 16, the same day a federal complaint was filed against Householder and four others in connection with what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers would call one of Ohio’s largest bribery schemes. To critics, the donations are an “insurance policy” as lawmakers now ponder repealing a scandal-scarred bailout, House Bill 6, that had helped FirstEnergy and its affiliates. The company says it is just working to help its customers and shareholders. But several Republicans and Democrats said their campaigns never received the money.

Ohio Ohio Judge Says Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s One Ballot Drop Box Per County Rule Is ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable’
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/15/2020

A judge ruled Ohio has no legal basis to limit drop boxes for completed absentee ballots to one per county, as Secretary of State Frank LaRose did in an order to county boards of election as they prepared for the November presidential election. Siding with arguments made by the Ohio Democratic Party, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye did not go so far as to block LaRose from enforcing the order. But Frye said he may do so, noting LaRose has said he would support allowing additional drop boxes if they were deemed legal.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Taps Politically Connected Lobbyist to Be Chief of Staff
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Brad Bumsted | Published: 9/14/2020

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman tapped a lobbyist with a politically connected Harrisburg firm to serve as his new chief of staff, the latest example of the close relationship between elected officials in the Capitol and special interests trying to influence them. Corman, who is widely considered next in line to ascend to the chamber’s top leadership post, said he hired Krystjan Callahan, a partner at Maverick Strategies, a well-known lobbying firm run by Ray Zaborney, who also runs Corman’s campaigns. Callahan was once the top staffer to a Republican leader in the House. For the past five years, he has worked for Zaborney, who together with his wife runs a trio of companies known as The Mavericks.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. Republican’s Campaign Sues Journalists Over Public Records Costs
Pennlive.com – Mike Wereschagin (The Caucus) and Ed Mahon (Spotlight PA) | Published: 9/15/2020

The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s campaign filed the suit seeking $6,070 from The Caucus, Caucus Bureau Chief Brad Bumsted, and Spotlight PA reporter Angela Couloumbis. Scarnati’s campaign alleges the trio owes $5,070 for work an accounting firm conducted to produce public records the journalists requested during an investigation into his and other lawmakers’ campaign spending. The campaign also wants $1,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.

South Dakota Councilor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Heated Four-Hour Hearing
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 9/11/2020

After a tense, and at times hostile, four-hour hearing, the Sioux Falls City Council dismissed an ethics complaint against Councilor Greg Neitzert, declaring there “is not clear and convincing evidence” he violated an ordinance when he made an expense-free trip to a conference of Republican municipal and county officials last year. The hearing ended at least one leg of the saga, which has spanned two separate complaints, numerous public hearings and, finally, the transformation of Carnegie Town Hall into a sort of jury-rigged courtroom.

South Dakota State Investigators Will Release Investigation into Attorney General’s Crash, Noem Says
Rapid City Journal – Arielle Zionts | Published: 9/15/2020

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) will release its investigation into the state attorney general fatally hitting a pedestrian with his car. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer but realized he killed a man when he searched the site the next morning while on his way to return the car he borrowed from the local sheriff. The Highway Patrol, which is part of the DPS, is leading the investigation, DPS Secretary Craig Price said. He said the Highway Patrol often asks the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to help investigate fatal crashes but that wouldn’t be appropriate in this case since DCI is under Ravnsborg’s office.

Washington A Washington Lawmaker Shared Conspiracy Theories. She Threatened a Reporter Who Wrote About It.
Washington Post – Jaclyn Peiser | Published: 9/15/2020

Daniel Walters was surprised to see an incoming call from Washington Rep. Jenny Graham on August 27. The journalist wrote a story that day about Graham sharing false articles on Facebook, including a story claiming thousands of missing children are kept in dungeons and raped by demons. When Walters called the state representative back, she unleashed a barrage of hateful insults. Walters and his editor tried calling Graham back a few times, asking what about his story was inaccurate. He also texted her, offering to talk off the record. But the representative did not respond. Instead, she turned to her Facebook page, where she posted about Walters about 15 times, he said. She called the reporter “pathetic,” “hateful,” “disgusting,” and a “lying piece of dung.”

Wisconsin GOP Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Advised Green Party
Associated Press News – Scott Bauer | Published: 9/15/2020

A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state. The commission deadlocked on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.

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September 11, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 11, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal $2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 9/10/2020 A House investigation showed how Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, spent more than $3.5 million on a range […]

National/Federal

$2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed
Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 9/10/2020

A House investigation showed how Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, spent more than $3.5 million on a range of GOP-connected consultants, who polished her public profile, wrote her speeches and Twitter posts, brokered meetings with high-profile individuals, and even billed taxpayers for connecting Verma with fellow Republicans in Congress. Verma, who advised then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy before joining the Trump administration, has rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in her consulting practices.

COVID-19 Tests Unions’ Ability to Deliver Votes, Manpower, Money to Democrats
Roll Call – Jim Saska | Published: 9/10/2020

Unions’ strength amid the epidemic will be tested this fall. Democrats rely heavily on labor’s political support every November. That is no different this year, but the coronavirus is. Laid-off workers do not pay union dues, meaning the pandemic may cut into organized labor’s electoral spending. More worrisome for Democrats, COVID-19 could kneecap unions’ most potent campaign contribution: legions of door-knocking volunteers. Unions influence elections in three main ways: members’ votes, manpower, and money.

Democrats Fear Partisan Slant at Postal Service as Trump Allies Dominate Board
MSN – Luke Broadwater, Hailey Fuchs, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 9/8/2020

A powerful but little-known group of Republican donors installed by President Trump to oversee the U.S. Postal Service has helped raise more than $3 million to support him and hundreds of millions more for his party over the past decade, prompting concerns about partisan bias at the agency before the November election. The largest amount of fundraising has been by groups with connections to Robert Duncan, who continues to sit on the boards of two super PACs pushing for Republicans to win in 2020. But he is only one of five Republican members that Trump has named to the board, most of whom have given generously to the party, who have taken a hands-on role in trying to defend the embattled agency against accusations that it is trying to help the president win a second term by sabotaging voting by mail.

Family Business in Decline? Fewer Get to Congress Through Heredity
Roll Call – Paul Fontelo | Published: 9/9/2020

Political dynasties were on the decline in Congress even before the recent Massachusetts Senate primary, in which Rep. Joseph Kennedy III became the first Kennedy to lose a congressional race ever in the Bay State. Other members set to retire after this year do not have children running to replace them. Only six current members can say they directly followed their fathers into Congress by replacing them in their seats. That number is taking a hit in 2020, with a pair of lawmakers felled by primary defeats, and one having resigned after an ethics scandal.

GOP Candidate Poses with Rifle, Says She’s Targeting ‘Socialist’ Congresswomen
Washington Post – Rachael Bade abd John Wagner | Published: 9/4/2020

A House candidate whom President Trump recently called “a future Republican Star” posted an image of herself holding a rifle with photos of three liberal congresswomen of color and the vow to “go on the offense” against members of the “Squad,” an unprecedented threat against lawmakers from a probable future colleague. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP candidate for a Georgia congressional seat in a heavily Republican district and a professed QAnon conspiracy believer, posted the photoshopped image on Facebook. Before it was removed, the caption under the gun-toting Greene read: “Squad’s worst nightmare.”

GOP Congressman Spent $70K in Campaign Cash on Meals
Politico – Ally Mutnick | Published: 9/8/2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has used campaign funds for hundreds of trips to restaurants, and occasionally to stay at lavish hotels. He has spent over $70,000 from his campaign account since 2017 to fund meals at some 370 meetings. The individual receipts are fairly modest in most cases, typically ranging from $12 to a few hundred dollars. But together, watchdogs say, they suggest a consistent pattern: Turner uses his donors to subsidize his personal dining costs, expensing an average of two meals a week. Members can expense meals that are incidental to their role as a candidate or an officeholder, such as food for campaign events, fundraisers, or strategy sessions. But the frequency and total of his expenditures raised alarms from good-government groups that he could be misusing his election funds.

How Trump Draws on Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills
MSN – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 9/5/2020

President Trump was proudly litigious before his victory in 2016 and has remained so in the White House. But one big factor has changed: he has drawn on campaign donations as a piggy bank for his legal expenses to a degree far greater than any of his predecessors. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts, and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency, helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015. The spending includes also cases in which he has a personal stake, including attempts to enforce nondisclosure agreements and protect his business interests.

How Trump’s Billion Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage
MSN – Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/7/2020

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration betting the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year. It seemed to have worked. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage. Five months later, Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election.

Judge Won’t Force Disclosure of Key Parts of Mueller Interviews
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/3/2020

A federal judge approved the Justice Department’s decision to deny the public access to large swaths of the thousands of pages of FBI reports on witness interviews from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged ties between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled officials had the right to white out the information from public releases because the exchanges with witnesses reflected the thought processes of Mueller’s prosecutors and of FBI personnel working at their direction.

Justice Dept. Intervenes on Behalf of Trump in Defamation Case Brought by Woman Who Accused Him of Rape
MSN – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2020

The Justice Department moved to replace President Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Carroll and thus could be defended by government lawyers, in effect underwritten by taxpayer money. Though the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office.

Louis DeJoy’s Rise as GOP Fundraiser Was Powered by Contributions from Company Workers Who Were Later Reimbursed, Former Employees Say
MSN – Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2020

Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, pressured employees at his former North Carolina-based business to make contributions to GOP candidates, expenses that DeJoy reportedly reimbursed through bonuses. Five people who worked for New Breed Logistics say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his mansion in Greensboro. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece. Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

Network of News Sites Must Register as a Political Committee Due to Democratic Links, Complaint Alleges
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/3/2020

A complaint filed with the FEC alleges a national network of local media websites must register as a political committee because of its ties to a Democratic-aligned group. Courier Newsroom, which includes seven news sites concentrated in presidential swing states, is backed by ACRONYM, a politically active nonprofit run by Democratic strategist Tara McGowan. Federal election laws and regulations do not apply to media outlets unless they are “owned or controlled by” a political party, committee, or candidate and are acting as a media outlet rather than a political one. But the complaint alleges Courier Newsroom is not eligible for that exemption and the media group failed to register as a political organization and report its donors and expenses as is required of political groups under federal law.

Political Groups’ ‘Dark Money’ Spending Set to Exceed $1 Billion Since Citizens United Decision
Washington Times – Ryan Lovelace | Published: 9/9/2020

“Dark money” spending soon will exceed $1 billion reported to the FEC since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that ensured political spending was protected speech. The billion-dollar threshold, set to be eclipsed this month, is a major milestone for the industry of donors and activists who want to keep their political activity hidden from public scrutiny and contribute to groups that do not disclose their donors. The $1 billion contribution threshold, which includes tens of millions of dollars in the 2020 cycle, does not capture the full picture of undisclosed money shaping U.S. politics. Anna Massoglia, researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, said much of the cash being spent is not recorded by the FEC.

Senior DHS Official Alleges in Whistleblower Complaint That He Was Told to Stop Providing Intelligence Analysis on Threat of Russian Interference
MSN – Shane Harris, Nick Miroff, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2020

A senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official alleges he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security. The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with President Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

Voting Is a Challenge for the Homeless. Advocates Are Trying to Make It Easier.
Washington Post – William Moyer | Published: 9/9/2020

While advocates are registering people to vote in a polarizing election held during a pandemic, they are also registering a population traumatized by, in some cases, years on the streets. It is these barriers to voting that Pathways to Housing DC, is trying to overcome. Some are battling mental illness and addiction. Others are illiterate, or simply might not have a pair of reading glasses they need to fill out a form. Megan Hustings, managing director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said her organization has worked to register homeless people to vote since the 1990s. The obstacles are immense not just for its clients, but for anyone living in poverty, she said.

Canada

Canada WE Charity, at the Center of Trudeau’s Latest Scandal, Shuts Down in Canada
Washington Post – Amanda Coletta | Published: 9/9/2020

The charity at the center of an ethics scandal that has ensnared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his former finance minister said it would be shutting down its Canadian operations. WE Charity blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the political turmoil over the federal government’s decision to tap it to run a $690 million grant program for student volunteers for the decision. Trudeau announced his government had picked the charity to administer a program that would offer grants to postsecondary students unable to find a job during the coronavirus outbreak if they volunteered in their communities. The arrangement, under which WE Charity stood to earn up to $33 million, raised eyebrows. Trudeau has spoken at several WE Days, his wife is an ambassador for the charity, and there was no public bid.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alaska Group Backing Independent Candidate Appears Linked to Democrats
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 9/9/2020

A new outside group formed to support an independent candidate running against U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan in Alaska appears linked to prominent Democratic super PACs in Washington, as Democrats grow increasingly interested in what could be a low-budget play at a dark-horse Senate contest. Independent Alaska, an independent expenditure committee formed September 3, appears set to purchase advertising on behalf of Al Gross, a surgeon and commercial fisherman running as an independent against Sullivan. The arrangement is similar to an outside group that sprang up to run ads promoting an arch-conservative candidate in Kansas, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Alabama Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette Arrested for Campaign Finance Violation
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/3/2020

Former state Sen. David Burkette was arrested for a misdemeanor violation of Alabama’s campaign finance law. Burkette resigned days before. He is accused of intentionally depositing $3,625 in campaign contributions in his personal bank account instead of a campaign account in 2015 and 2016, when he was running for the Montgomery City Council. Last year, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause Burkette violated the law, forwarding the case to prosecutors.

Alaska Alaska Gov. Dunleavy Will Pay $2,800 to Settle Ethics Complaints Over Publicly Funded Political Ads
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 9/7/2020

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy agreed to reimburse the state $2,800 his office spent on mailers that may have violated state ethics laws barring partisan political activity. The complaints targeted a social media and mailer campaign launched by the governor’s office that attacked some of his opponents in the Legislature and boosted some of his allies. State ethics law bars the spending of state money on “partisan political purposes,” and Dunleavy’s opponents said the advertising campaign did just that.

California CalPERS May Force Next CIO to Unload Personal Holdings
Los Angeles Times – Bloomberg | Published: 9/4/2020

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) may force its next chief investment officer to sell securities that could pose conflicts-of-interest, as the pension giant considers new rules in the wake of the recent departure of Chief Information Officer Ben Meng. Under another proposal, trustees may require that all board members be told whenever the system opens a probe into one of its top executives. Meng’s surprise resignation raised questions about oversight at the $400-billion pension system, the largest in the United States.

California What Are Lobbyists Doing at San Jose City Hall? That’s a Good Question
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 9/4/2020

Two prominent business groups – the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the San Jose Downtown Association – have filled out weekly lobbying disclosures, which require them to divulge who at San Jose City Hall they are meeting with, how the communication happened and, most importantly, the topic being discussed. But instead of revealing why they met, as required by city law, both groups simply posted a generic mission statement. ordinances. San Jose’s lobbying rules were created in 2007 to increase transparency and allow the public to understand how lobbyists are influencing politicians. The sunshine ordinance requires the city clerk to post weekly reports which require lobbyists to disclose the “topic of lobbyist action” for every meeting.

Colorado ‘LLCs Are Not Constituents’: Fort Collins council puts new caps on election
Fort Collins Coloradoan – Jacy Marmaduke | Published: 9/2/2020

Fort Collins approved several campaign finance changes that will take effect in time for the April 2021 city election, including limits to how much individuals can contribute to limited liability corporations and political committees to support or oppose city races. The change will prevent people from surpassing individual donation limits by contributing to campaigns through LLCs they are part of. There will be a $100 cap on donations to political committees. There is currently no limit on contributions to political committees, which consist of two or more people who join together to accept contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidate.

Florida Secretive Group Pushing Florida Constitutional Amendment Raised Money Linked to Big Businesses
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 9/9/2020

A nonprofit financing a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution in the future has raised money from a group linked to a lobbying organization for Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp., and other big businesses. Keep Our Constitution Clean has spent more than $9 million on a campaign to pass Amendment Four on the 2020 ballot – which, if approved by voters, would require all future amendments to go through two statewide referendums. Keep Our Constitution Clean is a “dark money” group because it is organized under a section of federal law that allows it to hide the identities of its donors even though it is spending money to influence an election. Federal tax records reveal one donor: another “dark-money” nonprofit, A Better Miami Dade, which transferred $150,000 to Keep Our Constitution Clean in 2018.

Georgia Georgia Secretary of State Says as Many as 1,000 Potential Cases of Double Voting Detected
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 9/8/2020

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the state identified as many as 1,000 instances of double voting in this summer’s primary and runoff elections, which saw an influx of votes cast by mail and were also marred by equipment failures and other breakdowns of voting machinery. Raffensperger pledged to investigate each of the potential cases of double voting, which he called “unacceptable,” and said his office would look to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. It is possible, however, that some of those cases could be attributed to data errors on behalf of election officials, noted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who runs the United States Election Project. McDonald urged that Raffensperger’s announcement be treated with caution.

Hawaii Hawaii Health Inspector Fined $25,000 For Ethics Violation
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 8/28/2020

A Hawaii Health Department employee is being ordered to pay the state $25,000 after he used inspections of adult care homes to find real estate clients. Roel Salanga was a nurse consultant for the Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance and was responsible for performing on-site inspections of adult residential care homes. During one inspection in 2018, Salanga offered his real estate services to the operator. Over the next year, he sent her emails on state time on over 20 occasions. He ultimately earned a $22,750 commission for his real estate brokerage firm, out of which he received $9,947.50. Meanwhile and afterward, Salanga was still the inspector of the woman’s care home.

Illinois Former ComEd VP Charged with Bribery Conspiracy in Scheme to Sway House Speaker Michael Madigan
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 9/4/2020

A former vice president for Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) was charged with bribery conspiracy, alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility. Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information. Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

Illinois Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s Office Subpoenaed by Feds Who Wanted Information on Land Parcel in Chinatown
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick and Jamie Munks | Published: 9/4/2020

Add Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office to the long list of organizations, politicians, lobbyists, and others subpoenaed in a wide-ranging federal probe that has already led to a series of corruption charges and convictions. The U.S. attorney’s office demanded that Harmon’s office turn over all documents and communications related to a state-owned parking lot long coveted by developers. The possibility of the state transferring the property to developer See Y. Wong was discussed in a meeting among House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. Madigan has been subpoenaed in the probe, Solis wore a wire for federal investigators and Wong has been charged with fraud.

Kansas Kan. Audit Peels Away Thin Layers of Publicly Financed Lobbying
Salina Post – Tim Carpenter | Published: 9/8/2020

School districts, cities, and counties in Kansas each invested about $250,000 last year in public tax dollars for deployment of registered lobbyists to influence the state’s political process. Sixty-three of the state’s 550 registered lobbyists reported receiving public funding from state agencies, local governments, or associations tied to government activities. This cadre of lobbyists disclosed this universe of clients bankrolled by taxpayers paid them nearly $1.3 million in tax dollars during 2019. The Legislature’s division of post audit says the assessment of lobbying with publicly funding was “incomplete” due to limitations of state lobbying law and of requirements to disclose information.

Maine PAC Spending on Tires, Clothing Spurs Complaint Against State Republican Leader
centralmaine.com – Kevin Miller | Published: 9/4/2020

An ethics complaint against House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Trey Stewart alleges he improperly spent PAC money on personal items. But it is unclear how the state ethics commission will come down on the complaint because rules governing PACs are far less stringent than those imposed on candidates participating in Maine’s public campaign financing system. While Stewart is currently running for office as a Clean Elections candidate, the expenditures in question were made by his Star City PAC and date back to 2018 or 2019.

Massachusetts Demo Contractor Fined $75,000 for Illegal Donations
Worcester Telegram – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/8/2020

A New Hampshire contracting company will pay a $75,000 fine after the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance determined it illegally provided corporate funds to employees for donations to the campaigns of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and a city councilor. In violation of campaign finance law, employees of Select Demo Services donated a total of $21,000 from their personal accounts for which they had been paid by the company. Donations made by personal check were dated on or about December 4, 2019. Select Demo had issued $1,000 checks to each of those workers on or about December 3, 2019, according to the investigation.

Michigan Feds: Ex-Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith to plead guilty to federal criminal charge
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 9/9/2020

Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith agreed to plead guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge for encouraging two of his assistant prosecutors to help cover up his theft of $70,000 from a campaign fund. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Smith stole the money from his reelection account to use on “his own personal whims.” Schneider said he believes Smith should serve at least 15 months in federal prison for betraying the public’s trust. Schneider described Smith’s attempts to cover up $70,000 his campaign said it spent on rent and political consulting that, in reality, was kicked back to Smith.

Michigan Pandemic Takes Bite Out of Lawmakers’ Free Food from Lobbyists
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 9/4/2020

Restaurant closures and restrictions on gatherings are crimping one of the perks of serving in the Michigan Legislature: lobbyist funded meals. Over the first seven months of the year, lobbyists reported spending $221,429 on food and drink purchases for state officials, the lowest total disclosed over that period in 19 years. The figure represents a 62 percent drop in reported spending over the first seven months of 2019. The drop in food purchases reflects another trend during the pandemic: a decline in campaign giving to House candidates by interest groups’ PACs, said Simon Schuster, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Missouri After Two Court Losses, State Doesn’t Ask High Court to Weigh in on ‘Clean Missouri’ Question
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/2/2020

A Missouri appeals court order tossing the ballot summary for a Republican-backed constitutional amendment on redistricting could be the final word on the topic before voters weigh in on November 3. The state has opted not to ask for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in after unsuccessfully defending the ballot summary twice, once in Cole County Circuit Court and again before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. Even though the state had opted not to appeal the order, haggling over what language is to appear on the ballot is not over just yet.

Montana Appeals Court Denies Green Party Candidates Ballot Access
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 9/8/2020

A federal appeals court denied a request for an emergency injunction to allow Montana Green Party candidates to appear on the November ballot, a decision that one of the plaintiffs says puts an end to the issue. Several weeks after the Green Party was declared to have qualified for the primary ballot it was learned the state Republican Party bankrolled the $100,000 signature gathering effort, violating campaign finance laws in the process. The Green Party has said they were not behind the effort.

New Jersey How ‘Illegal’ Donations Helped One NJ Law Firm Make Millions Off Taxpayer Dollars
New Jersey Herald – Terrence McDonald (Bergen Record) | Published: 9/2/2020

Friends and family members of a partner at O’Donnell McCord donated over $200,000 on behalf of the law firm to politicians in towns all over New Jersey, authorities say, while it nabbed lucrative contracts with many of those towns. Public records show the firm earned more than $16 million from 20 public entities since 2010. The allegations illustrate again how monied interests take advantage of lax oversight to nab public contracts. Indeed, when the investigation led to bribery charges against five politicians in December, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says one of them was recorded telling a cooperating witness, “Nobody questions anything.”

New York Robert Freeman, NY Open-Government Expert, to Pay $15K Fine for Inappropriate Conduct
The Journal News – Jon Campbell | Published: 9/9/2020

Robert Freeman, former director of the state Committee on Open Government, will pay a $15,000 fine to settle claims he systematically sexually harassed women while on the job, including several reporters who sought his advice on public transparency disputes. The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics finalized a settlement agreement with Freeman, a nationally renowned public-records expert who was abruptly fired from his state job in April 2019 after holding his post for more than 40 years. Freeman admitted his conduct toward women, as well as using his state-issued computer to view sexual images, violated state Public Officers Law.

Oregon Reporting on Timber Lobbying Prompts Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to Call for Audit of State Institute
OPB – Tony Schick and Rob Davis | Published: 9/2/2020

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown requested an audit of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) after a media investigation revealed the tax-funded agency worked to discredit academic research and acted as a lobbying and public relations arm for the timber industry. OFRI was created in 1991 to educate the public about forestry and to teach landowners about logging laws and sound environmental practices. Lawmakers established a tax on logging to pay for the institute while cutting taxes paid by the timber industry that helped fund schools and local governments. By law, OFRI is prohibited from attempting to influence policy.

Tennessee State Registry Fines Rep. Staples $26K for Expense Irregularities; He Says He’ll Appeal
MSN – John North (WBIR) | Published: 9/9/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance assessed a $26,640 civil penalty against state Rep. Rick Staples for campaign spending irregularities. Separately, Staples has pledged to pay back his campaign fund about $11,000 in questioned expenses. Questions arose early this year about some of the ways Staples was spending campaign donations – on meals, hotels, trips to Florida, landscaping, and about $1,900 spent on a warranty for his vehicle.

Virginia Third Former Staffer for Virginia Republican Scott Taylor Charged with Election Fraud
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/9/2020

A third former campaign staffer for Scott Taylor, the Republican former member of Congress who is seeking to reclaim his seat in Virginia’s Second District, has been indicted on a charge of election fraud tied to a 2018 scandal. Heather Guillot, a campaign consultant for Taylor during his failed bid for reelection, was charged with making a false statement in connection with a fraudulent petition scheme. Guillot and others were accused of forging signatures on petitions to get a potential spoiler third-party candidate on the ballot two years ago, ostensibly to siphon votes from Taylor’s opponent, Elaine Luria. She narrowly defeated Taylor, helping Democrats form a majority in the House. Taylor is challenging her in November.

Wisconsin Watchdog: Outside group omitted campaign spending on GOP from tax return
Wisconsin Examiner – Erik Gunn | Published: 9/8/2020

A lobbying group with close ties to the Republican Party spent nearly $1 million to help elect 13 GOP lawmakers in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles in Wisconsin without filing required reports, according to a complaint. The Jobs First Coalition (JFC), exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS, transferred $920,000 in the tax years of 2016 through 2018 to a separate political fund it operates, according to the complaint by the Campaign for Accountability. The complaint states, “JFC reported to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that it spent nothing on political campaign activities between 2016 and 2018.”

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September 4, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 4, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal 1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020 More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about […]

National/Federal

1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says
MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020

More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November. In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to August 13, the agency’s inspector general found election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of the election, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted. Hundreds of ballots were mailed after elections were over, meaning they could not be counted, and only a small percentage used the proper tracking procedures, the audit found.

As Clashes Between Armed Groups and Leftist Protesters Turn Deadly, Police Face Complaints of Tolerating Vigilantes
MSN – Joshua Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2020

As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days. The incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training, and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.

As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2020

The Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939, applies on paper at least to civil servants and political appointees alike. But the top Trump administration officials showcased in prime-time appearances and speaking slots at the Republican National Convention serve as a reminder that when it comes to flouting the separation between governing and politicking, there appears to be a two-tiered system of consequences. Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who was appointed by President Trump, cited at least nine high-level Trump appointees for abusing their government roles to further the president’s reelection or disparage his rivals. They have largely thumbed their noses at the law. Career employees, meanwhile, have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government.

Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett | Published: 9/1/2020

Attorney General William Barr imposed new rules tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers, a move likely to cheer conservatives who have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said before the FBI and Justice Department seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor the communications of an elected official, a declared political candidate, or any of their staff and advisers, officials must first consider warning that person foreign governments may be targeting them, and if they choose not to give such a warning, the FBI director must spell out in writing the reasons for not doing so.

D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/31/2020

A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the U.S. House’s investigative power, ruling the House cannot go to court to enforce subpoenas because there is no statute giving that chamber the authority to do so. The ruling marked the second time a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals panel essentially voided a subpoena the House issued last year to Donald McGahn demanding the former White House counsel testify about his dealings with President Trump related to the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the decision stands, it could cripple the House’s ability to demand information from sources unwilling to give it up readily.

Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

Foreign governments such as Russia and China continue to try to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, but officials have seen no evidence of countries trying to manipulate or manufacture mail-in ballots, officials said. Federal authorities are ramping up their efforts to keep state and local election systems secure, particularly in light of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which led to criticism the government had been slow and soft in its response. Those assurances are in contrast to statements by President Trump, who has repeatedly argued mail-in voting is so ripe for abuse that he would block additional funds for the U.S. Postal Service to handle a surge in mail ballots this year.

Facebook Will Block New Political Advertising the Week Before Election Day
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg | Published: 9/3/2020

Facebook announced it would ban new political advertisements from its platform in the week leading up to the November election. The move to limit ads, part of a spate of election-related announcements, is an attempt to reduce misinformation that is expected to flood social networks as Election Day draws near. The company also said it would label posts by any candidate or campaign that tries to declare victory before the results are in, directing people to the official results from Reuters. It will do the same for any posts that try to delegitimize the outcome of the election. It has also started to limit users’ ability to forward articles on its Messenger platform to large groups of people.

Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden
New York Times – Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/2/2020

The Department of Homeland Security declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joe Biden’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department. Before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson asked the inspector general for the department to review the matter. The department’s leaders and its intelligence office have already attracted criticism for appearing to shape decisions around the political whims of the White House, such as actions at the U.S.-Mexican border and the deployment of tactical teams to Portland and Washington, D.C., against the wishes of local governments.

How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2020

Donald Trump has now visited his own properties 270 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally. Through these trips, he has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups. Federal spending records show taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. New documents give more detail about how the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service – a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.

Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment
MSN – Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a series of missteps recently, following flip-flops earlier this year on authorizing and then revoking clearance for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its initial decision not to regulate Covid-19 antibody tests. It also feeds a long-running narrative of a White House repeatedly undermining its health and science experts, not just at the FDA but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “I’ve been following health regulatory decisions for decades and have never seen this amount of White House arm twisting to force agencies … to make decisions based on political pressure, rather than the best science,” said Jerome Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 9/1/2020

Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under scrutiny for his alleged role in a campaign to persuade high-level Trump administration officials to drop an investigation of Malaysian government corruption, as well as for his attempt to push for the extradition of a Chinese dissident back to his home country. He has been in discussions with the Justice Department and could ultimately reach a plea deal in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. After the 2016 election, Broidy served as a national deputy finance chairperson for the Republican National Committee. He resigned in the wake of a report he had paid a woman $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged.

Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/31/2020

A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, allowing the legal saga to continue. The decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the go-ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. The decision by the full court reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to close the case. Judge Thomas Griffith said it would be premature for the appeals court to intervene and force Sullivan’s hand before he had rendered a decision.

Postal Chief DeJoy Has Long Leveraged Connections, Dollars
Associated Press News – Matthew Daly, Brian Slodysko, and Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 8/30/2020

How Louis DeJoy was hired as postmaster general is among the questions Congress is trying to unravel as lawmakers scrutinize a series of operational changes at the Postal Service that have resulted in widespread mail delays and fears the agency will not be able to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration denies any impropriety in the selection of DeJoy, a former supply chain chief executive who is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades not to be a career postal employee. DeJoy’s prolific giving to organizations and Republican candidates, including $1.2 million to President Trump, has also drawn a spotlight to the transactional appearance of some of his contributions.

PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/28/2020

The Paycheck Protection Program is not accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in. The law firm where U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works – and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million – received a loan between $5-$10 million. Conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion CARES Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck – Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.

Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/28/2020

Five lobbying and public affairs firms have set up their own holding company, an unconventional partnership in the influence industry that allows them to expand their businesses while remaining independent. The Public Policy Holding Company will specialize in advocacy and is owned by the participating firms, a contrast to the more common practice of massive multinationals gobbling up K Street firms. The benefits for the firms include being able to offer clients a suite of lobbying, public affairs, and state-level advocacy without sacrificing their individual brands or businesses.

Canada

Canada Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 9/1/2020

For the first time in four years, the federal government added a new company to its blacklist of suppliers. Les Industries Garanties Limitée is banned from bidding on federal contracts for a decade after an employee admitting bid-rigging in 2017. The company, which bills itself as “Montreal’s largest and most innovative leader in air conditioning services for commercial, industrial, residential and institutional sectors,” is only the fourth company to be deemed ineligible for federal contracts or real property agreements under the Integrity Regime. The regime aims to weed out and sanction any potential federal supplier who has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery, bid-rigging, or illegal lobbying.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison
Associated Press News – Kim Chandler | Published: 8/31/2020

The Alabama Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision upholding much of the 2016 ethics conviction of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and the state attorney general said it is time for the once-powerful Republican to report to prison. The court this spring overturned five of the counts in Hubbard’s ethics convictions while upholding six others. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of leveraging his powerful public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. His defense lawyers maintained the transactions were all aboveboard.

Arizona Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/31/2020

A charity founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported raising more than $50,000 during its first year in operation but has not reported how it spent a single penny during that time. Instead, tax filings by the American Sheriff Foundation are largely blank, leave at least $18,000 unaccounted for, and do not disclose business relationships between board members that must be reported to the IRS. While the organization touts itself as building bridges between community and law enforcement, records obtained by The Arizona Republic leave unclear how much money the foundation is spending on charity and where the rest of its funds are going.

Arkansas 2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – John Moritz | Published: 8/28/2020

The Arkansas Supreme Court removed a pair of proposed changes to the state constitution from the November ballot, halting attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. The court disqualified both measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the wording the groups behind the measures used to certify their paid canvassers met all the requirements to collect signatures. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas wrote in submissions they “acquired ” criminal background checks for each of their canvassers. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, however, said the groups needed to certify that the canvassers “passed” the background checks.

California Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract
Associated Press News – Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood | Published: 8/27/2020

The California agency that oversees elections has signed a $35 million contract with a firm linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to produce advertising to encourage voters to participate in the November election. Under the contract, SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, will help run the “Vote Safe California” campaign, which will urge people to vote during the pandemic. Anita Dunn, the firm’s managing director, is a senior strategist for Biden’s presidential campaign. The firm’s work for Biden is highlighted on its website, with a headline saying the company is “proud to be a part of Team Biden.”

California He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/30/2020

When a real estate developer proposed a $1.2-billion skyscraper near downtown Los Angeles, city council member Curren Price stepped forward to champion the project, despite warnings it would accelerate gentrification in the area. Price urged his colleagues to approve the development in 2016, saying it would create hundreds of jobs. He also ensured that developer Ara Tavitian received permission to install three digital billboards on a 12-story building already located on the site, over objections from city planning commissioners. Months later, three of Tavitian’s real estate companies poured $75,000 into a PAC working to reelect Price.

Connecticut Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care
Connecticut Post – Emilie Munson | Published: 8/28/2020

A Connecticut judge ruled candidates for elected office can use public campaign funding to pay for childcare while they are campaigning, clearing the way for more parents to run for office in the state. The plaintiff, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira ran for state representative in 2018. The state agency that oversees campaign finance laws rebuked her attempt to use public election grants to cover childcare. The grants can be used to pay for travel and other expenses produced by a campaign.

Georgia State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 9/2/2020

The fallout from a long and expensive 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is still being felt some three years later as ethics investigations dog the participants. In August, the Georgia’s ethics commission fined the losing candidate, Mary Norwood, $27,000 which she immediately paid off. But the commission said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not cooperating with its investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspected illegal campaign contributions. The commission notified Bottoms this past December they found evidence of nearly $400,000 of financial irregularities within the campaign.

Illinois Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/1/2020

Jeff Tobolski, a former Cook County commissioner and mayor, admitted he took “multiple extortion and bribe payments” worth a total of more than $250,000. He admitted conspiring with an unnamed McCook police officer to get cash payments from a restaurant owner in exchange for giving permission to the business to sell liquor. Media reports said a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commission while the businessperson’s application for a county property-tax break was pending. In one email, Tobolski said the tool-and-die business should contribute campaign cash annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost” of doing business in his district.

Illinois Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/31/2020

Federal prosecutors charged a central figure in their ongoing corruption probe in Chicago involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed. The one-count criminal information alleges Omar Maani, who was co-owner of the company, conspired with Patrick Doherty, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, and another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of red-light cameras there. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager. Maani’s cooperation with federal authorities already has led to charges against a number of politicians and power players, including then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.

Illinois Naperville Council Member Proposes Ethics Policy to Limit Influence of Campaign Donations on City Business
Chicago Tribune – Erin Hegarty (Naperville Sun) | Published: 9/2/2020

Naperville City Councilperson Theresa Sullivan requested the city look into whether it could enforce stricter ethics policies to keep campaign donations from influencing city council votes. Sullivan proposed city staff research amending Naperville’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on an agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to the mayor or council member’s most recent campaign.

Indiana Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say
Northwest Indiana Times – Lauren Cross | Published: 8/27/2020

Longtime Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts, and support his adult daughter, federal prosecutors said in announcing felony charges against him. Diane Stahura transferred money from the campaign committee’s bank account to the Stahuras’ personal bank account, authorities said. Prosecutors said Joe Stahura filed a false tax return in 2019, falsely listing his gross income and not accounting for $51,480 stolen from the campaign account in 2018. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the loan repayment amount to his campaign by approximately $40,000, prosecutors said.

Iowa Judge Voids 50,000 Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa County
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 8/28/2020

A judge ordered an Iowa county to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Trump’s campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling them with voters’ personal information. Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction ordering Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to notify voters in writing the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed. Instead, they will have to either fill out new requests for absentee ballots or vote on Election Day. Republicans said the ruling would hold a “rogue auditor” accountable and enhance voting security, while Democrats called it an act of voter suppression.

Kentucky Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/28/2020

When it passed a law in 2019 requiring candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically, the Kentucky General Assembly was aiming for increased transparency. The new system would let taxpayers know as soon as possible who was contributing to whom. The law went into effect this year, but so far has fallen short of that aim. The system delays run counter to the essential mission of the agency, providing timely transparency on who is bankrolling political campaigns. It makes any major financial push by special interest groups difficult to detect.

Missouri Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure
Associated Press News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 8/31/2020

A Missouri appeals court panel rewrote a summary for voters describing a November ballot measure that would revamp the state’s model for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. The Legislature’s combined the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved,” according to the ruling written by Judge Alok Ahuja.

Montana COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 8/28/2020

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices dismissed two complaints filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Steve Bullock, saying they did not meet ethics code violations. In one case, Commissioner Jeff Mangan warned that ethics complaints, with and without basis in law and fact, are on a “steep rise” and he will begin charging complaints when cases fail to meet legal standards. He said conclusory statements, assumptions, or opinions are not enough to support a proceeding under the ethics code.

Montana Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 8/31/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell upheld Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order that requires companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the order, which requires reporting of contributions even to “dark money” groups. Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if it exceeds $2,500.

New York Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election
ABC News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2020

A federal appeals court granted President Trump a temporary reprieve in the fight over his tax returns, barring Manhattan’s top prosecutor from getting the records while Trump’s lawyers embark on another bid to overturn the subpoena seeking them. With a temporary stay in place and Trump expecting a return to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely the case will be resolved or any tax returns will be turned over before the November election. A lawyer for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office argued further delays to the enforcement of a subpoena issued nearly a year ago would only hamper their investigation, which he said covers a wide range of business dealings connected to the Trump Organization.

Ohio FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/27/2020

Interviews and a review of hundreds of pages of court documents and campaign finance reports, show FirstEnergy and its affiliates have used an army of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, as well as political contributions, to pressure Ohio lawmakers to get what they want when they want it. The companies have used a rough-and-tumble political style to gain legislators’ support through fear or favor, according to interviews and court records. The tactics have sought to mold even the most independent lawmakers into compliant followers. The strategy became clear when the racketeering indictment of Former Speaker Larry Householder and four associates linked to House Bill 6 underscored the political influence of FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020

The Ohio Elections Commission fined the group behind the failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law, for failing to disclose who funded their efforts. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a fine of at least $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since a January 31 campaign finance deadline. Commission members approved the fine recommended by staff after the group failed to file a routine report detailing donors and campaign expenses. Particularly since House Bill 6 was implicated in a federal corruption investigation, advocates and state lawmakers have cited the fight over the bill in calls for reforms to increase transparency in Ohio’s campaign finance system.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020

Larry Householder and his allies committed dozens of violations of state campaign finance law, including bribery, while helping Householder become and retain his power as speaker of the House, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. LaRose referred 162 elections complaints to the Elections Commission against Householder and four other men: his former top political aide Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Neil Clark. The alleged violations parallel a federal investigation, which has charged Householder and the others of accepting more than $60 million in bribes, funneled through a network of political groups, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to help Householder get elected as speaker in 2019.

Ohio Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/1/2020

The Ohio House is moving to remove state Rep. Larry Householder from his seat on a legislative ethics board, six weeks after Householder was arrested in a federal corruption probe. Republicans added language to an unrelated bill to make it possible to remove Householder from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), which oversees lobbying and ethics rules for the Legislature. Householder had gotten an automatic seat on the JLEC board when he was speaker, and state law otherwise was designed to prevent removing a lawmaker once they are on.

Oregon Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/30/2020

As the first state in the nation to adopt vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration, Oregon has built a reputation for high voter turnout. But while Oregon voters have their say at the ballot box, corporations have their say more frequently in the Legislature, by keeping the state’s politicians awash in campaign cash. Oregon is one of five states that lack any limits on campaign contributions made by corporations, and one of eleven that lack any limit on individual donations to a candidate. The result is the state is number one in per capita corporate political donations and sixth overall in total corporate political donations. Heading into the November election, a coalition of state groups is putting the issue of unlimited corporate money in state politics before voters in a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution.

Virginia Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/1/2020

For vision-impaired voters in Virginia, there was no easy way to vote. They would either have to risk their health during a pandemic to vote in person or forgo voter privacy by asking someone to fill in the blanks on their mail-in ballot forms. Now, after the center and several other groups advocating for the blind filed a federal lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Elections has agreed to offer a new option. A consent decree will allow vision-impaired individuals to electronically receive mail-in ballots compatible with screen-reader assistive technology. The agreement applies only to the November 3 election.

Washington Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone | Published: 9/2/2020

Nearly one in five of Washington’s roughly 800 registered lobbyists previously worked in state government or elected office. That includes about 60 lobbyists who came from high-ranking public positions. They include former chiefs of staff of governors, Cabinet secretaries, and deputy directors for state agencies. Several are former state lawmakers or attorneys for the Legislature. Government-reform advocates say the “revolving door” creates the potential for powerful interests to influence public servants who could be in line to land a job outside government. Then, as lobbyists, former officials can use their extensive knowledge and contacts to potentially exercise outsized influence on policy and legislation.

West Virginia Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama
Wheeling News-Register – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 8/30/2020

Depositions filed in federal court revealed the internal drama behind the selection of standardized tests and the rivalry between the former state superintendent of schools and a lobbyist. It was a rivalry that spilled into social media with attacks on the West Virginia Department of Education, state education officials allegedly threatening one major testing supplier and even pressuring another testing supplier to hire their own lobbyist to “combat” and “neutralize” the other lobbyist. The lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb against Steve Paine, former state superintendent of schools, and Jan Barth, assistant superintendent for the Division of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, showcases the fight between two companies to become the state’s new standardized test.

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August 28, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 28, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020 Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in […]

National/Federal

After Online Warnings, Armed Civilians Bring Threat of Violence to Protests in Kenosha and Elsewhere
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Mark Guarino | Published: 8/26/2020

Civilians carrying assault rifles and handguns were visible on the streets in Kenosha throughout the chaotic events that left two people dead and another wounded. This included the alleged shooter, who was captured on video running with an assault rifle near a gas station at the center of the unrest. Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed.

Appeals Court Backs Greater Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/21/2020

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found the FEC’s donor-disclosure regulations regarding groups that spend money on independent expenditures – ads that expressly support or oppose political candidates – were too weak to comply with federal law. While donors to super PACs are disclosed, even politically active nonprofits typically do not disclose their donors, creating the opportunity for some wealthy individuals to secretly spend tens of millions of dollars on political races. The appeals court decision appears to wipe out at least some of the methods groups and individuals have utilized to keep donations secret.

Black, Latino Lobbyists Bristle at Progressives Pushing Corporate K Street Ban on Biden
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 8/25/2020

A battle is brewing on K Street over an effort by progressives to ensure a Biden administration is devoid of any former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists. Black and Latino lobbyists say a ban of that sort would end up shutting out minorities and could make the administration less diverse if Democrats win back the White House. The tensions date back to April, when eight progressive groups wrote a letter calling on Joe Biden to vow not to appoint any “current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison corporations” to his transition team, Cabinet, or as top aides. That demand did not sit well with some minority lobbyists, who argue corporate lobbyists should not be denied a spot in the administration.

Consultant Charged in Covert Lobbying of Trump Officials
Courthouse News Service – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Prominent Hawaii political fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis and several others are being accused of using their clout to thwart an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund. Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two fundraisers helped arrange a meeting between President Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak. Federal prosecutors say Davis failed to disclose to the lobbying effort was done on behalf of a fugitive Malaysian financier who has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to launder billions of dollars. Davis was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Democrats Push to Revamp Political Money System That’s Boosting Their Campaigns
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/19/2020

Democrats adopted a platform at their convention that calls for an overhaul of campaign finance laws, including forcing the disclosure of covert sources of political spending, money that right now is helping to boost the party’s candidates for the House, Senate, and White House.  Big donors, super PACs, and nonprofit groups that may shield their donors’ identities are going all in for the 2020 campaigns, funding ads and other efforts for candidates in both parties. Yet if Democrats hold the House and win control of the Senate and White House, activists say they plan to step up the pressure on the party to revamp the system, even though it would be that system that helped put them in charge.

Focus on Trump’s Official White House Actions as Part of Republican Convention Programming Raises Hatch Act Concerns
Philadelphia Inquirer – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020

The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event violated federal law. The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said. While the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the law, they are subject to two criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act, said Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University.

Inside the Democratic Party’s Plan to Prevent Vote-by-Mail Disaster
Politico – Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider | Published: 8/25/2020

The Democratic Party is kicking off the most complicated get-out-the-vote campaign in history. The party’s virtual convention marked the unofficial start of a massive public education, voter contact, and legal strategy to make voting by mail a success in the fall. Record high numbers of people plan to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that group skews heavily Democratic, according to polling. But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party’s campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles.

Kellyanne Conway to Leave the White House at the End of the Month, Citing the Need to Focus on Her Family
Washington Post – Ashley Parker | Published: 8/23/2020

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving the White House at the end of August. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She and her husband became an object of fascination as George Conway ramped up his criticism of the president in 2018 while Kellyanne Conway remained a top adviser to Trump.

More Than 500,000 Mail Ballots Were Rejected in the Primaries. That Could Make the Difference in Battleground States This Fall.
MSN – Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/23/2020

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year, nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall, illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes, and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election. The stakes are high as the most chaotic presidential election in memory collides with a once-in-a-century pandemic, which has led 20 states to expand or ease access to voting by mail as a public health measure. The rates of rejection could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin.

New Bill Seeks to Bring Lobbying Out of the Shadows
Sludge – Donald Shaw | Published: 8/20/2020

U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips and Ben Cline introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act of 2020, which would require companies, trade groups, and other entities that employ lobbyists to begin disclosing information about the “strategic lobbying services” they employ in support of their lobbyists. The bill would require reporting of individuals employed in strategic planning, polling, production of public communications, and encouraging people to take action to support or oppose a legislative or regulatory action through the formation of formal or informal coalitions. Requiring disclosure of strategic services will partially address “shadow lobbying” by former members of Congress who join lobbying firms without technically registering as lobbyists to comply with ethics laws.

The Pandemic Is Creating a New Crop of Political Candidates: Unemployed workers
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 8/24/2020

Thousands of people are running for office this year, and while most made the decision well before the pandemic struck, a small crop of candidates have more recently jumped into political races after losing their jobs or dealing with other work-related fallout from the pandemic. These candidates have little political experience but have survived through the devastating economic fallout that caused more than 20 million workers to lose their jobs. There are no numbers on these candidates nor any guarantee of their chances to win, but they show how, increasingly, pandemic unemployment is becoming a major influence on politics.

Top U.S. Officials Told C.D.C. to Soften Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
MSN – Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/26/2020

Trump administration officials defended a new recommendation that people without Covid-19 symptoms abstain from testing, even as scientists warned the policy could hobble an already weak federal response as schools reopen and a potential autumn wave looms. The day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the revised guidance, there were conflicting reports on who was responsible. Two federal health officials said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher-ups in Washington at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump Praises Baseless QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Says He Appreciates Support of Its Followers
Washington Post – Colby Itkowitz, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa, and Rachael Bade | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump gave a boost to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he appreciated the support of its followers. At a briefing about the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, he claimed not to know anything about it other than the affection its adherents have for him. But when a reporter outlined the claims underlying the theory – “that you are secretly saving the world from this Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals” – Trump seemed to embrace that role for himself. Though its followers have been heralding Trump for years, there is concern the philosophy is seeping into the mainstream as candidates who espouse its ideas are now competing in, and winning, congressional races.

Trump’s Suggestion of Deploying Law Enforcement Officials to Monitor Polls Raises Specter of Voting intimidation
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 8/21/2020

More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, President Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color.

Wife of Ex-California Congressman Duncan Hunter Sentenced for Corruption
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Julie Watson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2020

Margaret Hunter, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to misusing more than $150,000 in campaign funds in a corruption case that ended her husband’s career. Prosecutors noted Margaret Hunter’s cooperation with the prosecution of her husband in arguing against putting her behind bars and for allowing her to serve the sentence at home. Duncan Hunter was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty.

Canada

Canada Conservatives Claim ‘Coverup’ After Trudeau Shuts Down Parliament
CBC – Kathleen Harris | Published: 8/19/2020

Conservative lawmakers are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a “coverup” by shutting down Parliament to dodge scrutiny of his government’s role in the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau announced Gov. Gen. Julie Payette granted his request to prorogue Parliament until September 23. He said the move will allow his government to present a long-term economic recovery plan for Canada after the Coronavirus pandemic and an opportunity for the House of Commons to vote on whether it has confidence in the government to move forward on that plan. WE Charity was awarded a $43.5 million contract to manage the $900 million student volunteer grant program. Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from talks on the deal, despite both having family ties to the organization.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Maricopa County Won’t Pursue Charges Over Explicit Photos of Arizona Lawmaker Sent to Lobbyist
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/25/2020

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will not file charges after investigating allegations the husband of a state legislator sent explicit photographs of the lawmaker to a lobbyist, who believed the couple was trying to solicit her for sex. Records show state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and her now husband, former gubernatorial aide Brian Townsend, refused to speak with investigators about the photos. The records also show the lobbyist told investigators the images she received were unsolicited and unwanted and she believed the two were taking advantage of their positions of power. Rep. Anthony Kern raised questions about whether the incident involved violations of Arizona’s law against what is known as revenge pornography.

California Elections Watchdog OK’s Settlement Over LA County’s Measure H Advocacy
Los Angeles Daily News – Chris Haire | Published: 8/20/2020

Los Angeles County will pay a $1.35 million settlement under an agreement approved by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to resolve claims that its board of supervisors misused taxpayer money when it hired a communication firm to promote a proposed sales tax hike. Supervisors hired TBWB Strategies to execute a public education campaign and advertising surrounding the ballot measure. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued the county spent money on what should be considered campaign-related activities. If that were the case, under state law, the county would have had to make various public disclosures, including having its name and “paid for by” on any advertisements.

California FBI L.A. Chief Reassigned Amid Flap Over Agents’ Meeting at Dodgers Playoff Game
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/25/2020

The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department inspector general’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet. Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food. Paul Delacourt was reassigned from his post overseeing the regional office. Delacourt disputed the report’s findings.

California Lobbyist Agrees to Plea Deal in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and Joel Rubin | Published: 8/25/2020

Lobbyist and former :Los Angeles City Hall official Morrie Goldman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Federal prosecutors say Goldman was part of a bribery scheme in which one of his clients, a real estate developer, agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars to a PAC in exchange for city Councilperson Jose Huizar taking steps to help a project. Prosecutors alleged Goldman pressured real estate developers to give to a committee that was set up to benefit a relative of Jose Huizar planning to run for his seat.

Connecticut Top Lamont Aide Had a $100K Job in 2017 with Eversource, the Utility That the Governor Says He’ll Hold Accountable
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 8/22/2020

At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s request, state utility regulators are investigating Eversource and United Illuminating over their failures in responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, to determine, among other things, whether civil penalties should be imposed on them. Yet at the same moment Lamont says he wants to hold the two big utility companies accountable, his chief of staff is Paul Mounds Jr., who three years ago had a $100,000 researcher’s job with Eversource, for which he registered as a company lobbyist in 2017 with the Office of State Ethics.

Florida Ethics Referendum Passes with 62% Support from Voters in City of Naples
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carolini | Published: 8/18/2020

The referendum amends the city’s charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for Naples’ ethics code. Once formed, the commission will be provided the authority to receive and investigate complaints and impose penalties. The ethics office will be responsible for items such as keeping records, filing complaints, and offering training programs. The referendum results are the outcome of years of debate and a court case regarding the city’s ethics rules and the legality of the proposed referendum.

Illinois Feds Charge a Former Cook County Commissioner with Corruption
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 8/21/2020

In the latest in a series of public-corruption cases filed in the Chicago area, federal prosecutors leveled two felony counts against Jeff Tobolski, a former Democratic Cook County commissioner and mayor of the village of McCook. The charges of extortion and lying on his income taxes came nearly a year after investigators raided the village’s Town Hall on the same day they searched a variety of sites across the state, including a state lawmaker’s office at the Illinois Capitol and the municipal offices of other Chicago suburbs.

Kansas With Teen Staying in Kansas House Race, Democrats Weigh Bad Behavior Against Voter Will
Kansas City Star – Jonathan Shorman and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 8/25/2020

Aaron Coleman acknowledged sordid behavior in middle school, when he threatened to share a girl’s nude photograph if she did not send other pictures to him. He posted caustic messages to social media earlier this year, saying he would “giggle” when a former Republican lawmaker died of the coronavirus. Then he upended the established political order, defeating a longtime Wyandotte County lawmaker in the Democratic primary election. Coleman, a 19-year-old college student and dishwasher, vowed to campaign on to November. Coleman’s candidacy is forcing Democrats to confront uncomfortable questions about what should happen when voters choose someone whose past behavior has been universally condemned.

Maryland MES Board Members Say McGrath Assured Them Governor Was on Board with Payout; Hogan Says He Wasn’t Involved in Decisions
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 8/25/2020

Members of the Maryland Environmental Service board of directors told a legislative committee the agency’s director, as he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff, assured them the governor was on board with a proposal to give him a year’s salary as severance. Three members of the board told legislators they feel misled by Roy McGrath about his severance. They testified at an oversight hearing that McGrath assured them Hogan supported the plan to pay McGrath about $238,000. The governor said he had no role in the board’s decisions involving McGrath as he prepared to join his team.

Missouri GOP Lawmakers Appeal Rebuke of ‘Unfair’ Cleaner Missouri Ballot Language They Wrote
Springfield News-Leader – Austin Huguelet | Published: 8/19/2020

Republican lawmakers asking voters to repeal changes they made to the state’s redistricting process on the 2020 ballot are not giving up on framing the question their way. The day after a Cole County judge called the way they summarized a proposal they put on for the November ballot as “misleading” and “unfair”
and wrote a new summary, the state attorney general’s office filed notice that lawmakers plan to appeal. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce tore into Republican legislators in a ruling, saying they failed “to even allude to” the main point of their plan in the language meant to describe it to voters on the ballot.

Missouri Plenty of Blame: Audit slams Page, council and county auditor for failures that enabled Stenger schemes
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 8/20/2020

Weak oversight by the St. Louis County Council under then-Chairperson Sam Page and by County Auditor Mark Tucker contributed to the abuses of former County Executive Steve Stenger, according to a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office. The audit also found several instances, before and after Page succeeded Stenger as county executive, in which he and the council had shored up vulnerabilities Stenger had exploited. The audit said Stenger and his close advisers manipulated the county’s procurement process or meddled with contracts issued by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority.

Montana Supreme Court Rejects Republican Effort to Restore Green Party Candidates on Montana Ballot
Courthouse News Service – Nicholas Iovino | Published: 8/25/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to place Green Party candidates back on state ballots this November, a move some argued would benefit Republicans by drawing votes away from Democrats. The decision follows a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state District Court judge’s decision to strike Green Party candidates from the ballot due to a signature-gathering scandal. More than 560 people asked for their names to be removed from ballot petitions after they learned the Republican Party funded the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and failed to disclose the spending in violation of campaign finance laws.

New Jersey N.J. Man Indicted on Corruption Charges for Paying City Employee to Help Secure $350K Contract
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/19/2020

Jeanmarie Zahore was indicted on public corruption charges after he allegedly made numerous cash payments to a city of Orange employee who helped the man’s company get a $350,000 contract with the city. According to authorities, Zahore allegedly “engaged in a scheme” starting in August 2015 to offer and give “corrupt cash payments” to an unnamed Orange public official in exchange for the city employee using their influence to reward Zahore’s computer consulting business, JZ Nettech, with a lucrative city contract to install a computer networking system at the municipal complex that houses the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.

New York N.Y. Attorney General Asks Judge to Order Eric Trump’s Testimony
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Danny Hakim | Published: 8/24/2020

The New York attorney general’s office has asked a judge to order Eric Trump to provide testimony under oath and the Trump Organization to hand over documents about four Trump properties it is investigating, asserting the company has stalled the inquiry for months. The filings come as President Trump faces legal actions on several fronts. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has suggested it is investigating possible bank and insurance fraud by the president and the Trump Organization. State Attorney General Letitia James started the civil inquiry after President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the president had inflated his assets in financial statements to banks when he was seeking loans and had understated them to reduce his real estate taxes.

New York Sheldon Silver Begins Prison Sentence in Corruption Case
Associated Press News – Tom Hayes and Michael Balsamo | Published: 8/26/2020

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, started his prison sentence after years of fending off going behind bars. He was sentenced earlier this year to six-and-one-half years in a corruption case. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and convicted later that year, but appeals had kept him out of prison. “His time has come,” District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said. “He needs to go to jail.”

North Carolina N.C. Political Donor Gets 7 Years in Prison, Hayes Probation
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/19/2020

A federal judge sentenced North Carolina’s largest political donor to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme unearthed by an FBI sting. Businessperson Greg Lindberg was sentenced after the judge gave probation to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes for lying to FBI agents during the government’s investigation. Hayes and Lindberg were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give over $1.5 million to help state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s 2020 campaign, in exchange for Causey removing an official in his department. The third person convicted in the case, John Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

North Carolina Powerful NC Lawmaker Took Donors’ Money for His Own Use, Prosecutors Say
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 8/20/2020

One of the most powerful Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature was charged with federal financial crimes in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take money from his political donors for personal use. State Rep. David Lewis for the last several years has been chairperson of the influential House Rules Committee. The charges outline $65,000 he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018. Lewis had filed to run for re-election this year, but then in July surprised the political world with an announcement he would retire at the end of his term this year.

North Dakota North Dakota Supreme Court Orders Measure 3 Removed from Ballot
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 8/25/2020

The North Dakota Supreme Court sided with opponents who sued to keep off the November ballot a measure that would write many new election processes in the state constitution. The measure is a constitutional initiative that would enact new processes for military-overseas voting, election audits, open primaries, instant runoffs, subdivided state House districts, and new legislative districts drawn by the state’s Ethics Commission, which voters approved in 2018. Opponents disputed the petition’s title and cited the omission of the full text of a statute mentioned in the measure’s petition.

Ohio How Mid-Level Ohio Political Operative Jeff Longstreth Found Himself at Heart of Householder Scandal
Akron Beacon Journal – Jesse Balmert (Concinnati Equirer) | Published: 8/24/2020

The man behind the scenes of Ohio’s largest bribery scheme might be the state’s most powerful political operative no one has ever heard of. Jeff Longstreth is called former Speaker Larry Householder’s “implementer” and “political guy” by federal investigators laying out detailed allegations of a nearly $61 million “pay-to-play” scheme. Longstreth was not a key player in Ohio politics until Householder needed someone to help him stage a political comeback. Together, they took control of the Ohio House, passed a $1.3 billion bailout for nuclear plants, and defended that law against a ballot initiative to block it, according to a complaint used to arrest the duo and three others.

Ohio Ohio Elections Commission to Consider Sanctioning Failed Campaign to Repeal Nuclear Bailout Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/25/2020

The failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law now at the center of a federal corruption investigation, is facing possible sanctions from the Ohio Elections Commission for not disclosing who funded the campaign. Commission members will consider a complaint against Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the well-financed political group that attempted to repeal the law through a citizen’s referendum. The group disbanded last year, shortly after it missed a deadline to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Commission staffers recommend the group be fined $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since January 31, the deadline to report for campaign groups that performed political work during 2019.

Ohio Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale Subject of Campaign-Finance Complaint from Secretary of State Frank LaRose
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/26/2020

Secretary of State Frank LaRose accused an outspoken state lawmaker of a series of campaign finance violations via a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. LaRose said the review began after Rep. Nino Vitale submitted a blank page on June 5, when the most recent campaign finance report was due. LaRose accuses Vitale of improperly using his campaign resources, including his website and social media account, to promote his personal concealed-carry firearms training business, and also alleges Vitale failed to properly report fundraising activity in his most recent report he filed in June.

Pennsylvania A Dark Money Mystery
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch | Published: 8/20/2020

Launched by Ray Zaborney, a political strategist who doubles as a lobbyist, the Growth and Opportunity Fund has been operating in Pennsylvania for six years. For those seeking to influence the agenda in Harrisburg without public scrutiny, such groups are particularly useful tools. They do not have to who bankrolls them and must only make public limited information on spending. Political operatives can move seamlessly and simultaneously between campaigns, dark money groups, and lobbying, capitalizing on a system with weak rules and little oversight.

South Dakota Asked by City Council to Clarify Report, Board of Ethics Says ‘Read It Again’
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/6/2020

Asked by the city council to clarify their report on a complaint against a councilor, a clearly frustrated Sioux Falls Board of Ethics added nothing to a report except a note saying the council should read it again. The complaint centers on a trip taken by Councilor Greg Neitzert to Dallas in October 2019 with Mayor Paul TenHaken. The two attended a conference of Republican municipal and county officials, hosted by the group Community Leaders of America. In a complaint against Neitzert, says he violated the city’s ethics policies when the group paid for his travel expenses.

Tennessee Tennessee Gov Signs Bill Upping Penalties on Some Protests
Associated Press News – Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise | Published: 8/21/2020

A new Tennessee law makes it a felony for protesters to camp out overnight on state property. If convicted, they could lose their voting rights and face up to six years in prison. Although some states are moving towards restoring voting rights for felons, it remains illegal for felons to vote in Tennessee. Lawmakers advanced the bill amid nearly two months of frequent protests outside the Capitol. The mostly young Black activists who spearheaded the demonstration had been calling for racial justice reforms and for a meeting with Gov. Bill Lee. The governor and some lawmakers have defended the protest bill by pointing to a demonstration that resulted with some participants setting fires inside and outside a courthouse.

Wisconsin Milwaukee Ethics Board Votes to Subpoena Former Fire and Police Commission Chairman’s Income Tax Records
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Alison Dirr | Published: 8/24/2020

Milwaukee’s Ethics Board voted to subpoena tax records from former Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Chairperson Steven DeVougas. He is still a member of the FPC but was replaced as chair. An ethics complaint brought by the Milwaukee Police Association raises concerns about DeVougas’ presence in the police interview of a powerful real estate developer accused of sexual assault. The complaint charges DeVougas’ presence with the developer, who was also his client, violated the public’s trust and was a misuse and abuse of his position at the FPC. The other counts allege DeVougas did not list his ties to the developer’s company on documents known as statements of economic interest.

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August 21, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 21, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020 When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to […]

National/Federal

Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020

When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to purge their influence from his future administration. Joe Biden does not appear to have the same concerns. The DNC started accepting checks from lobbyists again in 2016 and has continued to do so as Biden accepted the Democratic nomination. While the Biden campaign has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, it has dispatched top staffers to headline at least four Zoom fundraisers benefiting the DNC and hosted by prominent Democratic lobbyists.

‘Climate Donors’ Flock to Biden to Counter Trump’s Fossil Fuel Money
New York Times – Lisa Friedman | Published: 8/18/2020

The changing climate is now a core campaign issue and a focus for fundraising. Joe Biden has raised more than $15 million in contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause. That climate-specific fundraising may make up about five percent of the total he has raised so far. It is dwarfed by fossil fuel donations to President Trump, who took in $10 million from a single fundraiser held by oil billionaire Kelcy Warren. It is not known how much unregulated money is going to super PACs aligned with Democrats from other self-identified climate donors. But the hard money climate donations represent a growing counterweight to oil, gas, and coal money that has long warped the energy conversation in Washington. D.C.

Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl
NBC News – Ginger Gibson | Published: 8/17/2020

The absence of in-person nominating conventions this year means lobbyists have been effectively sidelined. Washington, D.C. lobbying has been turned upside because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventions are no exception, leaving the influence industry to assess how it will operate when life returns to normal. Much of the work of lobbying generally involves making the trek up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to explain a client’s point of view. But with the halls of Congress closed, meetings have shifted to Zoom calls. So, with this year’s conventions, lobbyists will be grappling not only with the inability to secure face time with decision makers but also with corporate clients trying to survive the pandemic-induced recession.

Democrats, Election Watchdogs See ‘Glaring Hole’ in Postal Service Pledge to Roll Back Recent Changes
Washington Post – Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, and Jacob Bogage | Published: 8/19/2020

The U.S. Postal Service will pause its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election. The about-face announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halted a series of cost-cutting measures, including the removal of machines that sort mail and the public boxes that collect it. But confusion persisted after the move. It is unclear whether Americans would receive their ballots on time, or if they would be able to return them easily. Nor was it clear whether DeJoy would promptly restore the sorting machines he had ordered removed from some postal facilities, or if the changes he has made across the agency under the watch of President Trump would introduce delays into one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history.

Ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged in Border Wall Scheme
Associated Press News – Larry Neumeister, Colleen Long, and Jill Colvin | Published: 8/20/2020

Federal prosecutors arrested Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and three other men they alleged defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors using a crowdfunding campaign that was advertised as raising money to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. But according to the criminal charges, very little of the wall was constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.

FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Lawmaker, Family in Corruption Probe
Associated Press News – Danica Coto | Published: 8/17/2020

FBI agents arrested Puerto Rico Rep. María Milagros Charbonier after the legislator who once presided over the island’s House Ethics Committee was charged in a public corruption case that officials say also involved her son, husband, and an assistant. U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said it was a simple scheme in which Charbonier allegedly received some $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks after increasing the pay of her assistant, Frances Acevedo, from $800 every two weeks to nearly $3,000, and then received between $1,000 to $1,500 in return for every paycheck.

Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say
CNN – Marshall Cohen | Published: 8/12/2020

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict-of-interest. Outside experts were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings. DeJoy and USPS have said he fully complied with the regulations. Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price. This could lead to a separate conflict, given President Donald Trump’s disdain for Amazon.

GAO Finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli Are Ineligible to Serve in Their Top DHS Roles
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/14/2020

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure. The GAO referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for further review and potential action. The office also urged the inspector general to consider the consequences of actions taken by invalidly appointed officials.

‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’
Politico – Eli Okun and John Harris | Published: 8/13/2020

Four years ago, after most journalists were caught surprised by Donald Trump’s victory, there was an almost universal critique about how the profession needed to do better next time. Reporters needed to get off Twitter and cable and get into the field. Journalists needed to liberate themselves from conventional wisdom and the distorting effects of their cultural bubbles and learn what is really happening in the country. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, journalists are spending more time in their own homes than ever, a phone in one hand and television remote in the other. The presidential campaign has gone remote in multiple senses of the word, the most dramatic shift in the rhythms and day-to-day logistics of newsgathering that political journalism has seen in decades.

Judge Balks at White House’s Executive Privilege Claim over Ukraine Emails
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/10/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold a batch of emails about a hold President Trump put on U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2019. Jackson said the government had failed to make a convincing case showing the messages between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey were eligible for protection under legal privileges protecting the development of presidential advice or decisions made by other government officials. The messages are considered key evidence about the event that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year: his decision to halt aid to Ukraine in what critics and even some administration officials said was an attempt to pressure that country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden.

Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker | Published: 8/16/2020

Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington, D.C. for federal help that could increase its profits. Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies, including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds, have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.

Senate Report Details Security Risk Posed by 2016 Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Karoun Demirjian, and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 8/18/2020

An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee portrays Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as posing counterintelligence risks through its contacts with Russia, eager to exploit assistance from the Kremlin and seemingly determined to conceal the extent of its conduct. The report contains new findings that appear to show more direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence, and it pierces the president’s attempts to dismiss the Kremlin’s intervention on his behalf as a hoax. Like the Mueller report, the Senate document does not explicitly accuse the Trump campaign of direct collusion with Russian intelligence. But it carries weight because it is the first major investigation of Russian interference in 2016 to be conducted by a Republican-controlled committee and endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.

Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC
The Fulcrom – Sarah Swann | Published: 8/18/2020

Sixty-six staff members, about one-fifth of the FEC workforce, sent a letter asking President Trump to nominate and the Senate to confirm at least one person of color for the three vacancies on the commission, which has been shut down for the past eight weeks for lack of a quorum. In its 45-year history, the FEC has had 31 commissioners – all but one of them white. The complaint from the nonpartisan civil servants suggests how beleaguered the agency is these days, and how the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism this year has taken root in most every corner of society. The letter was an outgrowth of a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion the agency staff held this summer.

Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 8/18/2020

Democrats’ biggest donors are used to being feted at the party’s national convention, breezing through a maze of tiered luxury suites and V.I.P. rooms with free-flowing appetizers, access, and alcohol. This year, though, even those who have given $500,000 and up were stuck watching the virtual event from home. Ahead of the virtual gathering, the party and the Biden campaign mailed along a care package to tide over any forlorn financiers: notebooks embossed with the number 46 (as in the potential for Biden to be the 46th president), hats, buttons, posters, and a bag of “Cup of Joe” coffee. Like nearly everything else in American life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the already cloistered world of political fundraising, as campaigns and contributors alike figure out how to raise tens of millions of dollars.

They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 8/14/2020

A grassroots fundraising group known as 31st Street Swing Left, a chapter of the national organization Swing Left, is focused on flipping red seats blue. It is one of countless such fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle. But the group also stands out for its evolution, growing from a Washington, D.C.-area assemblage of 30 political novices knocking on doors to support Democratic candidates in Virginia into a fundraising army of nearly 1,200 members in three years.

With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 8/16/2020

With Democrats wary of traditional door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic, and with the Biden-Harris campaign discouraging it, conservatives have less competition. The Americans for Prosperity’s operation started weeks ago, at an initial cost of nearly $900,000 across the country. Their targets included U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina. and Texas, as well as a few congressional races. Since kicking off, they had contacted 6 million voters, but unlike the GOP, they were not mentioning the president in their messaging or surveys.

Canada

Canada Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal
Politico – Lauren Gardner | Published: 8/17/2020

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will resign his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Commons amid an ethics controversy surrounding a charity with ties to his family and that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Morneau’s recent high-profile troubles are centered on his failure to recuse himself from a Cabinet decision awarding a no-bid contract to WE Charity to administer a student grant program as part of the Trudeau government’s Covid-19 response. He admitted to repaying the charity for costs incurred during a 2017 trip to Ecuador with his family just before testifying in front of a parliamentary committee.

Canada WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees
HuffPost Canada – Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/13/2020

WE Charity registered as a lobbyist of the federal government months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program. The controversy has triggered investigations into potential breaches of conflict-of-interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/16/2020

An Arizona city official making $107,000 a year resigned after an investigation found he used city workers for an outside job involving an attempt to secure irrigation water for farmers who paid him with a goat. The inquiry found the possibility of cash down the road also was discussed by Frank Stevens, the now-former former water resource portfolio manager for the city of Surprise. One of the farmers told an investigator they gave Stevens the goat because “he liked the animal and [Stevens said] it would keep his kids happy when they came home from school.”

California California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 8/17/2020

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed it is opening an investigation into two complaints regarding former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng. He resigned abruptly on August 5 after being on the job overseeing the pension fund’s $412 billion investment portfolio for less than two years. Meng’s departure followed an anonymous complaint to the FPPC that Meng had approved a $1 billion deal with Blackstone Group, a financial firm in which Meng was a shareholder.

California Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims
Sacramento Bee – Kim Bojorquez | Published: 8/19/2020

Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement to resolve a complaint charging it misused government funds to promote a 2017 sales tax increase, marking one of the largest-ever financial penalties considered by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The county’s potential penalties are even greater if the FPPC rejects the settlement. It faces up to $2.4 million in penalties stemming from money the county spent promoting Measure H without reporting it as a political contribution.

Colorado Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 8/12/2020

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes, a question the company helped write. Altria was part of the negotiations that led to House Bill 1427, which placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years. The question also would require retailers to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. The discount tobacco company Liggett Group is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.

Florida A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 8/14/2020

Darryl Daniels, the sheriff of Clay County, Florida, dialed his deputy while driving with an urgent plea for backup: He was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger.” But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: it was Cierra Smith, his former employee and mistress of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair. Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up behind bars. Following a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.

Florida Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/18/2020

A federal appeals court spent more than two hours weighing whether to overturn a contentious Florida law restricting felon voting rights, with one judge suggesting doing so would paradoxically require the court to strike down a public referendum that eliminated the state’s ban on felon voting. The judges, sitting the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered lawyers with questions about whether the state law constitutes an illegal poll tax because it requires people who have served time for a felony to pay off any court debts before they can register to vote. It remains unclear if the court will make a decision before the November election.

Illinois Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 8/14/2020

Proposed revisions to Cook County’s ethics ordinance, which the ethics board voted to recommend in January, include forbidding both nepotism in county hiring and county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs. They also would mandate lobbyists disclose if they have relatives who work for the county, introduce new rules to clamp down on sexual harassment, prohibit the state’s attorney from settling ethics lawsuits without the ethics board’s approval, and increase fines for certain violations. Now, three of the board members who crafted the reforms are gone, and their recommendations have not moved forward.

Illinois Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes
Chicago Tribune – Jamie Munks | Published: 8/13/2020

A group of Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois issued a series of ethics proposals ahead of the fall veto session, including term limits for legislative leaders and a process for temporarily removing members from leadership posts if they are caught up in a criminal investigation. The Democrats also want to prohibit lawmakers from lobbying at other levels of government and an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist :revolving door”; a requirement for more comprehensive disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income; and a more robust Legislative Inspector General’s office. They also noted the ongoing federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several legislators makes this an opportune time to pass a large-scale ethics package.

Illinois State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/13/2020

Illinois Sen. Terry Link was charged with a federal count of income tax evasion, the third Democratic state senator to face felony charges in a little more than a year. The criminal information accused Link of failing to report income on his 2016 tax return to the IRS. Defendants are typically charged via an information if they intend to eventually plead guilty. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Link wore a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Federal prosecutors alleged Arroyo had sought an unnamed state senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.

Missouri Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading
Associated Press News – David Lieb | Published: 8/17/2020

A judge rewrote the summary for a legislative redistricting measure that will appear on the November ballot, ruling Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature tried to misleadingly entice voters into repealing an anti-gerrymandering reform that voters approved two years ago. The decision by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the Legislature’s ballot summary for Amendment 3 as insufficient, unfair, and partly false. She replaced it with a ballot summary suggested by a group that sponsored the successful 2018 measure and is opposed to this year’s revision. Like the 2018 measure, the Legislature’s revision combines the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.

Nevada Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 8/18/2020

Former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter agreed to pay $24,406 in ethics fines for violating state laws prohibiting him from using his longtime public position to enrich himself. The fines stem from Ralenkotter’s use of LVCVA-bought airline gift cards on personal travel and his negotiation of a consulting contract with the tax-funded agency before he retired, according to a proposed agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

New Jersey Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash
Bergen Record – Steve Janoski | Published: 8/14/2020

Five more people have been charged in a years-long corruption investigation that already ensnared a former state Assembly  member and a Jersey City school board president. The new defendants allegedly gave a total of $239,000 to political parties and candidates before being secretly reimbursed by a law firm, the attorney general’s office said. The firm then claimed it had made no reportable contributions in towns where it sought lucrative contracts. New Jersey law prohibits political donations on behalf of others.

New Jersey Trump Campaign Sues New Jersey Over Mail-In Voting
The Hill – Morgan Gstalter | Published: 8/19/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring every voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot, in addition to being allowed to vote in-person if desired, as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign claims Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey Legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.

New York Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 8/20/2020

A federal judge rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, dismissing Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith. The ruling marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has been seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.

North Dakota North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes
Ballotpedia – Jackie Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

North Dakota voters will decide on three constitutional amendments in November. One would amend the state constitution to make multiple changes to election and redistricting procedures. The measure would establish top-four open primaries for all statewide, legislative, and congressional races. The measure would also make the state’s ethics commission, which was created by voters through a 2018 citizen initiative, responsible for state legislative redistricting. Another provision would require a paper record for all ballots and audits of each election within 120 days by the secretary of state.

Ohio Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff | Published: 8/13/2020

Although indicted in a criminal case and removed as House speaker, state Rep. Larry Householder is still a member of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), the body that investigates and rules on ethics and lobbying matters for the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp removed Householder as vice chairperson of JLEC, but state law prohibits removal of a member from the ethics panel. Householder was arrested in July by FBI agents and charged with racketeering.

Ohio Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/14/2020

The Ohio House turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena but withheld 30 documents, claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege. The House released some of the records in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many involve routine constituent correspondence, various versions of the nuclear power-plant bailout bill, and proposed amendments to the measure at the heart of a $60 million public corruption scandal. Federal authorities have charged former Speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering in a scheme to pass and protect House Bill 6 from repeal and advance his political power.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic
National Public Radio – Laura Wamsley | Published: 8/13/2020

An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it. The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2. The court said in this case, state officials were defending what is already the status quo from the last election, “and many Rhode Island voters may well hold that belief.”

South Dakota Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules
Sioux Faslls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020

The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics recommended the city council review and update their policies after an investigation found third parties are paying for councilors’ travel expenses and it was an “apparent common practice.” In their investigation of a councilperson, the board said the accused council member “acknowledges attendance at a seminar for which travel and other expenses were paid by third parties,” noting it was hosted by “a group with an acknowledged political agenda” and there were “multiple settings for attendees to be potentially influenced by commercial or political interests.”

Tennessee Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2020

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will sign a bill that toughens penalties on some protests in response to continued demonstrations in the state and nationwide over racial injustice. Lee also said he would have crafted some components differently than the Legislature, including the increased penalty on those who illegally camp on state property to a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee additionally result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote. The governor said the requirement that law enforcement offer an initial warning on camping violations strengthened the bill. He also cited the discretion of district attorneys and judges.

Virginia Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Served with Arrest Warrant over Confederate Statue Protest as Some Decry Charges
Washington Post – Emily Davies, Laura Vozzella, and Gregory Schneider | Published: 8/18/2020

Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was charged with damaging a Confederate monument during protests in Portsmouth. She faces two felonies: conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument causing more than $1,000 in damage. Lucas, who is the first African American president pro tempore in the Virginia Senate, is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. Legal experts say the way the Portsmouth police went about pursuing felony charges against Lucas and others is highly unusual given the political nature of the incident.

Washington DC Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 8/15/2020

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university. Rashad Young abruptly left his position as city administrator after running day-to-day government operations since the mayor took office in 2015. He told on July 31 that he was in talks for a job at Howard University and sought ethics guidance. The mayor wrote that she directed her general counsel to review the circumstances of the job offer and the city ethics board’s opinion on the matter.

Washington DC Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short
Patch – Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) | Published: 8/17/2020

Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side job. The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long hearing process. The agreement also states if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the city ethics board could seek maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000.

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August 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020 Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end […]

National/Federal

Abrupt Change to Census Deadline Could Result in an Undercount of Latino and Black Communities
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jose Del Real and Fredrick Kunkle (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2020

Census experts and advocates warn the Trump administration’s decision to end the decennial count a month earlier than expected will result in a dramatic undercount of Black and Latino communities across the country, which could have grave effects on federal funding and political representation in their neighborhoods. The census represents an important fault line in the battle over structural racism and equity, with high stakes. It dictates the allocation of federal dollars and influences everything from infrastructure investments to education programs like free and reduced lunch to public health-care spending. The data is also used when deciding the boundaries of legislative districts.

Appeals Court Rejects Key Argument Against McGahn Subpoena
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/10/2020

A federal appeals court dealt a setback to President Trump’s bid to prevent his former White House counsel Don McGahn from being forced to testify to a House committee. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the House has legal standing to use the courts to compel McGahn to appear in response to a Judiciary Committee subpoena. But the appeals court left open other legal arguments against the subpoena to McGahn, leaving it unclear when or if the former White House lawyer will appear before the panel. The ruling also left open the issue of what questions McGahn would have to answer.

Disinformation for Profit: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley Becker | Published: 8/11/2020

The reality curated by “The Bearded Patriot” and “The Wolf of Washington” is dismal. The websites tell of nonstop riots and “crazed leftists.” They warn of online censorship and the wiles of an “anarchist billionaire,” a reference to George Soros, the liberal investor and Holocaust survivor. The material is tailor-made to inflame right-wing passions. But its underlying purpose is to collect email addresses and other personal information from impassioned readers, whose inboxes then fill up with narrowly targeted ads. The effect is to monetize the anger stoked by misleading political content, for as much as $2,500 per list of contacts.

Drawing Lessons from Chaotic Primaries, Election Officials Scrambled to Head Off Voting Problems in Tuesday’s Contests
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Dan Simmons | Published: 8/11/2020

If election officials in Georgia and Wisconsin wanted to prove one thing during primary and runoff elections on August 11, it was that they could do a better job managing lines, operating equipment, and counting mail ballots than they did in earlier contests this year. They appeared to succeed, with voters trickling into the polls with virtually no wait times and election workers processing a crush of absentee ballots with no major difficulties. The contests in both states, as well as in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Vermont, drew much lower turnout than previous elections this year, a contributor to the relative quiet. But state and local officials said the bigger factor was what they learned from their earlier stumbles and how they used the intervening weeks to avoid them this time.

Federal Appeals Court Skeptical of Michael Flynn’s Effort to Immediately Dismiss Criminal Charge
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/11/2020

A federal appeals court appears poised to block an effort by former national security adviser Michael Flynn to immediately dismiss the criminal charge against him, raising the specter that the politically explosive case could continue to make headlines in the lead-up to the November 3 election. The court sounded sharply skeptical about arguments by Flynn’s attorney and the Justice Department that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan abused his authority by scheduling a hearing on efforts to drop the case, which came despite Flynn’s pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and later reaffirming his plea.

Former Clients of Acting Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf Received Millions in Department Contracts
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 8/5/2020

Several former lobbying clients of Chad Wolf, now the acting secretary of Homeland Security, have received millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts while he has held senior positions within the department. Wolf was a lobbyist for over a decade at Wexler & Walker before he took leadership roles with the department under President Trump. Wolf served as the acting chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration in 2017 and later became the chief of staff for former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Since then, several of Wolf’s former clients reaped a total of at least $160 million in contracts, according to a CNBC analysis of the public filings.

How Hotel Chains Got a Slice of Government Aid for Small Businesses
ProPublica – Isaac Arnsdorf | Published: 8/6/2020

In March, as lawmakers raced to put together a stimulus package to cope with the pandemic-related shutdowns sweeping the country, a company that invests in hotels deployed a Washington lobbyist for the first time. The lobbyist’s mission was to secure an exception in the emerging relief program for small businesses so hotel chains would become eligible. EOS Investors had more than 500 employees, putting it above the limit in the original proposal by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. The lobbyist whom EOS called on for help was Michael Bopp, a former longtime aide to Collins. One of the main criticisms of the relief been it ended up favoring well-connected businesses over mom-and-pop concerns with scarce access to other resources.

Postal Service Overhauls Leadership as Democrats Press for Investigation of Mail Delays
Anchorage Daily News – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2020

The Postal Service announced a reorganization meant to increase efficiency as Democratic lawmakers demanded an inquiry into whether changes by President Trump’s officials could threaten the effective use of mail-in ballots for the November election. Analysts say the structure centralizes power around Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump’s campaigns, and de-emphasizes institutional knowledge. The reshuffling threatens to heighten tensions between postal officials and lawmakers, who are troubled by delivery delays and wary of the Trump administration’s influence on the Postal Service as the coronavirus pandemic rages and election draws near.

Rep. Tlaib Directed to Reimburse Campaign for $10,800 in Postelection Paychecks
Roll Call – Niels Lesniewski | Published: 8/7/2020

The House ethics committee directed U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib to repay her campaign for salary she drew after Election Day 2018. Congressional candidates are allowed to draw paychecks from their campaigns, but as the committee explained in a report, the payments are only allowed during an active candidacy. Tlaib continued to be paid after the election was over. The ethics panel said no further action was necessary.

Taking Protest to the Streets, and the Mayor’s Front Door
MSN – Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (New York Times) | Published: 8/10/2020

Public protests this year have most often featured marches and rallies through public gathering places, sometimes escalating into broken shop windows, torched cars, and clashes with the police. But as the nation navigates the triple turmoil of a pandemic, a ravaged economy, and a civil rights movement, civic activism is at times becoming more direct, more personal, and for some of its targets, more frightening. Some of these demonstrations have led to thoughtful conversations between public officials and the protesters who arrived at their doors. But others insist their front yards are inappropriate venues for boisterous public debate.

The Kamala Harris Pick: Geographic balance takes back seat to gender, race
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher, Adam Nagourney, and Jennifer Medina | Published: 8/12/2020

Joe Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate marks the latest evidence that gender and race have now surpassed geographic balance when it comes to building a ticket for the White House. Ever since Black voters resurrected his candidacy in South Carolina, Biden and his campaign team have made the pursuit of Black voters a centerpiece of his bid for the White House. And he had said from the start of the process he would choose a woman as the Democratic nominee for vice president. If Harris does not put any particular new state into play, strategists and Biden allies were hoping her spot on the ticket could increase turnout and Biden’s margins across the map and strengthen his position in states Hillary Clinton lost, in no small part because of a drop in votes in African-American communities.

There’s Been a Big Gray Area When It Comes to Cable News Contributors Dabbling in Political Campaigns
Washington Post – Jeremy Barr | Published: 8/8/2020

So-called contributors on cable news networks are essentially paid guests who sign contracts to appear exclusively on one network, generally agreeing to go on-air as frequently as the news cycle demands. But as former politicians and political consultants, they exist in a sort of gray zone between full-time employees and unpaid interviewees, which makes discerning what they are allowed to say and do off-camera challenging. That is especially so when network contributors step on the campaign trail. Some of the most in-demand contributors are often those who are still active in the political arena or harbor future campaign aspirations, creating potential conflicts-of-interest.

Trump Antagonizes GOP Megadonor Adelson in Heated Phone Call
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 8/8/2020

When President Trump talked recently with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the only person in the party who can cut a nine-figure check to aid his reelection, the phone call unexpectedly turned contentious. Adelson reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he was not doing more to bolster his reelection. A person familiar with the call said it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him. GOP officials were alarmed the president had antagonized one of his biggest benefactors at a precarious moment in his campaign.

Trump Long Has Relied on Nondisclosure Deals to Prevent Criticism. That Strategy May Be Unraveling
Washington Post – Michael Kranish | Published: 8/7/2020

For decades, Donald Trump has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements as a powerful weapon against anyone who would say something critical of him. Among those who have signed agreements are two ex-wives, contestants on “Th Apprentice,” campaign workers, and business associates. But this key element of Trump’s corporate and political strategy has shown signs of unraveling, even as his campaign spends heavily to enforce such agreements. Now, in one of the most sweeping efforts by a former associate to undo nondisclosure agreements, the Trump campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts.

Trump Teases a Gettysburg Convention Speech. Experts Say It’s an Ethics Breach.
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum and Annie Karni | Published: 8/10/2020

After repeatedly throwing a wrench into plans for the Republican National Convention this summer, President Trump tried to offer something tantalizing about the upcoming gathering, saying his renomination speech would take place either at the White House or the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg. The battlefield, where Trump gave an indoor campaign speech in 2016, is federal property run by the National Park Service. This presents the same ethical conundrums his re-election team will face if the president delivers the speech from the South Lawn of the White House.

Trump’s Scottish and Irish Golf Resorts Spur a New Round of Scrutiny on His Businesses
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 8/11/2020

President Trump claimed his resorts in Scotland and Ireland brought in a total of about $179 million in revenue on U.S. documents where he is supposed to list his personal income. Records in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland indicate the revenues were millions of dollars less and they lost $77 million after accounting for expenses. Trump claimed the Scottish resorts alone were worth at least $100 million total in 2018 but the UK records indicate the resorts are not worth anywhere near that. The American Democracy Legal Fund is asking Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to probe whether Trump violated the law by filing false documents with the U.S. government to hide the financial health of himself and his company.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Two PSPRS Trustees Claim Ethics Allegations Hurt Their Businesses, Seek $624,999 from State
Arizona Republic – Craig Harris | Published: 8/6/2020

Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) board members Will Buividas and Mike Scheidt are seeking $624,999 from the state, claiming their businesses were damaged after the pension board’s chairperson publicly questioned their ethics for making commissions on real estate deals with agency staff. The notices of claim from Buividas, a Phoenix police officer, and Scheidt, a Tempe firefighter, against the PSPRS and Chairperson Scott McCarty allege defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with business relations.

California CalPERS Chief’s Abrupt Resignation Preceded by Conflict of Interest Questions
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 8/6/2020

Questions regarding conflict-of-interest disclosures preceded the abrupt resignation of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng, according to the pension fund’s board members. The announcement came three days after financial blogger Susan Webber published a post alleging Meng filed incomplete and inconsistent conflict-of-interest disclosures, known as Form 700s, with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The forms show Meng has held investments in private equity firms and Chinese companies, two areas of investment in which his decisions have drawn scrutiny since his hiring in January 2019.

California Campaign Finance Limits Coming to Riverside County
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Jeff Horseman | Published: 8/5/2020

A new California law would limit campaign contributions from individual donors to those running for supervisor or countywide offices such as sheriff and district attorney in Riverside County. Right now, there is no donation cap, although contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported online within 24 hours during election season. Assembly Bill 571 limits donors to giving a maximum of $4,700 per election to a candidate for county office. The new law allows counties to set their own limits if they do so before January 1. To that end, the board of supervisors voted to start working on county-set limits, an ordinance setting those restrictions is expected to come back to the board before December 31.

California Huizar’s Relatives Not Expected to Face Charges in Corruption Probe, Prosecutor Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/5/2020

A federal prosecutor said his office does not intend to charge family members of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar, identifying them as witnesses rather than targets of the ongoing “pay-to-play” probe. Three members of the Huizar family – his wife Richelle, hi mother Isidra, and his brother Salvador – are mentioned repeatedly in the 113-page indictment against the council member, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery, money laundering, racketeering, and other charges. Prosecutors have alleged Huizar family members laundered his bribe proceeds, receiving cash from the councilperson and then paying his bills.

California LA Leaders Want to Bar Themselves from Voting on Matters Affecting Their Campaign Donors
Los Angeles Daily Breeze – Elizabeth Chou (Los Angeles Daily News) | Published: 8/12/2020

Los Angeles city officials would be barred from voting on any issue affecting individuals or organizations donating to their campaigns under an ethics proposal advanced by a handful of council members. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently expressed support for such a measure, which would be similar to the recusal rule he and others adhere to as board members of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The measure is being proposed as city leaders seek to restore public trust of City Hall amid an FBI probe into “pay-to-play” real estate development schemes involving public officials.

Florida Florida NRA Lobbyist Loses in Latest Court Fight over Emails
Tampa Bay Times – Jim Saunders | Published: 8/11/2020

A federal appeals court rejected arguments by prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer in a lawsuit centered on graphic emails she received from an attorney after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court judge’s decision to dismiss Hammer’s lawsuit against Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to the lobbyist that included photos of gunshot wounds. Hammer raised a series of arguments in the case, including that Sorensen had violated Florida laws about cyberstalking, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Florida Payments to Florida Lobbyist Flagged in Lawsuit Against NRA
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/6/2020

Marion Hammer, one of Tallahassee’s most well-known lobbyists, received payments from the National Rifle Association under contracts that were improperly handled, according to a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James is seeking to dissolve the gun rights group, which has been a major political force nationally and in Florida, where it successfully swayed the state Legislature to pass the state’s “stand your ground” law. without trying to retreat. The complaint describes payments made to “Board Member No. 5,” a person identified as the executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida. Records list Hammer as executive director of the group.

Georgia QAnon Supporter, with Georgia Primary Victory, Is Poised to Bring Far-Right Conspiracy Theory to Congress
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2020

Republicans came a step closer to welcoming into their ranks a promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has endorsed the baseless theory and made a slew of other racist remarks on video, won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Her victory, in a swath of the state that has favored Republicans by wide margins, sets her up to become QAnon’s first devotee in Congress.

Illinois Former City Official Signals He Will Plead Guilty in Bribery Case as Federal Corruption Probe Widens
Chicago Tribune – David Heinzmann | Published: 8/9/2020

A longtime Chicago political operative who was charged in March with bribing a state lawmaker in the ongoing federal probe of Illinois political corruption signaled he may make a plea deal in the case, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors have alleged William Helm, a former deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, paid at least $5,000 to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2018 to influence the development of a road project near land owned by a construction company who employed him as a lobbyist. At the time, Sandoval was head of the Senate Transportation Committee and held significant influence over the approval of state road projects and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Illinois South Suburban Mayor Charged in Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Joe Mahr | Published: 8/7/2020

According to federal prosecutors, Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta was caught on a March 2018 recording accepting an envelope with $5,000 cash from a representative of the red-light camera firm SafeSpeed, and then lied to the FBI and IRS when asked about it that September. Prosecutors say Presta sought and received benefits from SafeSpeed representatives while company sought to expand its services in the Chicago suburb.  SafeSpeed has denied doing anything wrong and portrayed any misdeeds as the work of a rogue partner, Omar Maani, who is now believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.

Iowa Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Executive Order Restoring Felon Voting Rights, Removing State’s Last-in-the-Nation Status
USA Today – Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson (Des Moines Register) | Published: 8/6/2020

Thousands of Iowans with felony convictions who have served their sentences can now participate in November’s presidential election after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring their voting rights. Iowa was the last state in the nation that still banned all people with felony convictions from voting, even after the completion of their sentences, unless they applied individually to the governor’s office to have their rights restored. The issue received heightened attention this summer as protests for racial justice swept across the country after the death of George Floyd. Activists with Des Moines Black Lives Matter made the voting rights issue one of their top demands for the governor.

Maryland Maryland Gov. Hogan OKs Plan for Just 360 Voting Centers Statewide for November Election Amid Lack of Poll Workers
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood | Published: 8/10/2020

Gov. Larry Hogan has approved a plan to offer just 360 voting centers across Maryland for the November election despite what he said were “serious concerns” about the proposal. Hogan’s decision gives the State Board of Elections authority to proceed with the voting center plan as an alternative to opening about 1,600 polling places this fall. The voting centers, unlike polling places, could be used by any voter in a county, and would be placed primarily at public high schools across the state. The board voted to recommend the plan in response to lobbying from local election directors, who said they would not be able to staff a full complement of polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland Top Montgomery County Aide Resigns After Being Cited for Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 8/12/2020

Montgomery County’s chief administrative officer, Andrew Kleine, resigned after being cited for ethics violations. Kleine admitted in July to promoting his book while attending conferences paid for by the county and to having relationships with two private companies that landed county contracts after he assumed his role. Kleine did not receive financial compensation for connecting the companies with the county, but his actions still violated ethics law. He agreed to pay the county $5,000 for the ethics violations, but lawmakers said the punishment was insufficient. At least five county council members questioned whether Kleine should be allowed to continue in his position.

Michigan Michigan Official to Resign After Defending Racist Slur
Associated Press News – John Flesher | Published: 8/9/2020

An elected official in northern Michigan who used a racist slur prior to a public meeting will resign. Tom Eckerle, a member of the Leelanau County road commission, will step down after receiving criticism from across the U.S. A local road commission meeting started with one commissioner asking Eckerle why he was not wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit,” Eckerle said. Despite the backlash, Eckerle later doubled down on his comments, defending his position in an interview with the local public radio station. “I don’t regret calling it a n—-r,” Eckerle said. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

Montana Helena Judge Again Takes Green Party Off Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 8/7/2020

The Montana Green Party will not be on the ballot this year after an order from Helena District Court Judge James Reynolds. Enough people asked for their signatures to be removed from petitions qualifying the Green Party for the ballot that the effort no longer met the necessary threshold, Reynolds found. More than 560 people submitted signature withdrawal requests following news reports the state Republican Party paid for the petitioning that qualified the Green Party. In a separate matter, the state Commissioner of Political Practices has found the Montana GOP’s actions broke state campaign finance laws.

New Mexico Ethics Complaint Alleges Group Failed to Disclose Donors, and Suggests Connection to Prominent Lobbyist
New Mexico Political Report – Brian Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 8/8/2020

Over the course of May and early June this year, a new group called the Council for a Competitive New Mexico (CCNM) spent over $130,000 on a media campaign supporting a group of incumbent state senators, most of whom would go on to lose as part of a progressive wave in June’s Democratic primary. The media campaign included several negative mailers and automated phone calls against candidates opposing the incumbents while the public was left in the dark about who organized the group and who funded the media campaign. Now, an ethics complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office alleges CCNM broke New Mexico’s election code by not disclosing its donors.

New York JCOPE Commissioner: Non-Cuomo appointees left out of loop
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/11/2020

State ethics commissioners appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are privy to information not available to others on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), a commissioner charged. The allegation was made by Commissioner Gary Lavine, a Senate Republican appointee to JCOPE. From 2011 through 2018, Lavine had served on the ethics panel as an appointee of the governor. There are six Cuomo appointees on the commission and eight legislative appointees. Lavine said there was a “super commission” made up of the Cuomo appointees, a “two-tier hierarchy” of JCOPE. Lavine said he was echoing remarks to that effect made years ago by Ravi Batra, a former Senate Democratic appointee to the panel who resigned in 2012. But Batra’s sentiment is still true, Lavine said.

New York New York Attorney General Seeks to Dissolve NRA
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak, Larry Neumeister, and Lisa Marie Payne | Published: 8/6/2020

New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) following an 18-month investigation that found evidence the gun rights organization is “fraught with fraud and abuse.” The lawsuit alleges top NRA executives misused charitable funds for personal gain, awarded contracts to friends and family members, and provided contracts to former employees to ensure loyalty. Simultaneously, the Washington, D.C. attorney general sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by its top executives.

New York Trump Moves to Force Manhattan D.A. to Reveal Details of Inquiry
New York Times – Nicole Hong, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 8/10/2020

President Trump, seeking to block a subpoena for his tax returns, plans to ask a federal judge to order the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., to disclose details about his investigation into the president’s business practices. The letter, which Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan, was in response to a filing from prosecutors in Vance’s office, who argued they had wide legal basis to subpoena eight years of the president’s tax records and other financial documents. The office suggested it was investigating the president and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than prosecutors had acknowledged in the past.

North Carolina New N.C. Campaign Spending Rule Ends Practice Berger Used
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/11/2020

North Carolina legislators can no longer spend campaign committee money toward buying or renting homes or condominiums that they or family members own, a practice that powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger used for years. An administrative rule from the State Board of Elections that took effect recently bars such transactions for all state candidates or their campaign committees. The prohibition applies even if the residence is used as the result of holding office or if the payments are made to a business that the politician or officeholder owns. The Legislative Ethics Committee also approved new guidance in May that makes it “unethical” for a legislator to receive a daily expense check to cover lodging expenses while serving in Raleigh if the lawmaker gets them covered through another source.

Ohio Householder Case: ‘Company C’ CEO Wayne Boich gave cash to HB 6 ‘dark money’ groups
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/5/2020

The leader of a Columbus-based firm that made its family fortune in Ohio coal provided $25,000 of the money used to open bank accounts for the “dark-money” nonprofit at the center of the House Bill 6 scandal. Wayne Boich, chief executive officer of Boich Companies, also later gave $100,000 to a for-profit company that spent nearly $1.5 million to support former House Speaker Larry Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. Boich is the chief executive of “Company C,” listed in a federal court criminal complaint charging Householder and four others with racketeering, The Columbus Dispatch confirmed with a source close to the investigation.

Ohio New Ohio Speaker Has His Own Ethics Issues Involving FirstEnergy
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/10/2020

After the House speaker was indicted for taking bribes from energy companies in what a U.S. Attorney called “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio,” a new speaker with deep financial ties to the same energy companies has been appointed. Republicans elected Rep. Bob Cupp to replace indicted Larry Householder as the House leader. The energy companies accused of bribing Householder and funneling “dark money” to Generation Now, a Householder-controlled 501(c)(4) group, have been major donors to Cupp over his career. Cupp has faced his share of ethics allegations stemming from his energy industry contributions.

Ohio Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose: No extra ballot drop boxes for November election
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/12/2020

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Wednesday he is banning county boards of elections from offering more than one drop box for completed absentee ballots this November, saying it is grown too late to make changes to how the state will administer this year’s presidential election. LaRose, a Republican, more than three weeks ago formally asked state Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, for a legal opinion on whether the extra drop boxes were allowed under Ohio law. Democrats accused LaRose of voter suppression, saying the request of Yost was just a charade that would allow LaRose to eventually run out the clock.

Oregon Supreme Court Puts a Halt to Oregon Redistricting Ballot Measure
OPB News – Dirk VanderHart and Jeff Mapes | Published: 8/11/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court stopped an effort to alter how Oregon draws its legislative and congressional districts. The court granted an emergency stay that will halt, for now, a push to land a measure on the November ballot placing authority for those districts in the hands of a nonpartisan commission. In July, a coalition successfully argued that due to the coronavirus pandemic, it faced an undue burden in collecting enough signatures to place its redistricting measure on the ballot. Even though it had too few signatures to qualify, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled the group should face a lower standard. But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling.

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August 7, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 7, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020 Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the […]

National/Federal

As Trump Leans into Attacks on Mail Voting, GOP Officials Confront Signs of Republican Turnout Crisis
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/3/2020

Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing President Trump describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.” As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. Through mailers and Facebook ads, they are racing to promote absentee balloting among their own.

Biden Faces Pressure from Left Over Influence Industry Ties
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and Glenn Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2020

Advisers, operatives, fundraisers, and allies involved with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have deep connections to Washington, D.C.’s lucrative lobbying, communications, and strategic consulting industry. That puts Biden at odds with powerful elements of his party’s liberal base. Increasingly, they are expressing concern the military contractors, Wall Street banks, and other major corporations that paid members of the former vice president’s inner circle while they were out of government could hold disproportionate power in a Biden administration. Politically, it could limit Biden’s ability to cast himself as the antidote to the access peddling that has proliferated in President Trump’s administration.

Corporate Lobbyists Vote to Keep Corporate Lobbyists in the DNC
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/5/2020

A resolution that would have changed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) charter to permanently bar corporate PAC donations and ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the party organization was rejected by the DNC’s Rules Committee. Several of the committee appointees who voted against the resolution have backgrounds in corporate lobbying. At least ten current corporate lobbyists and one major former lobbyist – as well as three corporate consultants, four corporate lawyers, and five corporate executives – were among the members who voted against the proposal. Brent Welder, who introduced the resolution, said he was approached by the Biden campaign and pressured to withdraw the measure.

Demeaned, Overlooked, Fighting Back: What it’s like to be a woman in Congress
Roll Call – Kathryn Lyons | Published: 8/5/2020

When U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark first came to Congress in 2013, someone manning the House chamber tried to stop her from setting foot inside. They did not recognize her. The second time it happened, she was not even all that new. “I was walking in with a male colleague; they just looked at us together, assumed we were a couple, and he was the congressman and that I was a spouse going onto the floor when it wasn’t permitted,” the Massachusetts Democrat recalls. Clark is one of several congresswomen The Hill spoke to in recent weeks, after a vulgar comment by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho on the Capitol steps in July touched off a new round of questions about exactly how far women have come.

DHS Compiled ‘Intelligence Reports’ on Journalists Who Published Leaked Documents
MSN – Shane Harris (Washington Post) | Published: 7/30/2020

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis disseminated intelligence reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists, a reporter for The New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about department operations in Portland. Such reports are traditionally used for sharing the department’s analysis with federal law enforcement, state and local officials, and some foreign governments. They are not intended to disseminate information about American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment, officials said.

Facebook’s Fact Checkers Have Ruled Claims in Trump Ads Are False – But No One Is Telling Facebook’s Users
Anchorage Daily News – Craig Timberg and Andrew Ba Tran (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2020

Judgements on the veracity of President Trump’s campaign ads by fact checking organizations that are part of Facebook’s independent network for policing falsehoods on the platform were not shared with Facebook’s users. That is because the company specifically exempts politicians from its rules against deception. Ads containing the falsehoods continue to run freely on the Facebook, without any kind of warning or label. When Facebook’s fact checkers deem non-political ads false, the company removes them from its platform, though they remain in the publicly available Ad Library for research purposes. In the case of the Trump ads, the only public presentation of the factcheckers’ conclusions have been on their own websites.

FEC Says Convicted Utah Businessman Made Illegal Campaign Contributions to Mike Lee, Harry Reid
KSL – Dennis Romboy | Published: 8/3/2020

Convicted businessperson Jeremy Johnson agreed to not challenge allegations he made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Johnson used straw donors to give $50,000 to Lee’s Senate campaign and $20,000 to Reid’s reelection campaign in the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to a consent judgement. The FEC, which filed a civil complaint against Johnson in 2015, fined him $840,000. But recognizing Johnson owes the federal government millions of dollars in connection with other cases and is limited in earning a living, the FEC agreed to forgo the penalty. Johnson agreed not to contest a list of allegations describing how he came to make the campaign contributions, several of which involve former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.

Fresno Congressman TJ Cox Used His Office to Skirt Yosemite’s Lottery for Car Passes, Emails Show
Fresno Bee – Kate Irby | Published: 8/4/2020

U.S. Rep. TJ Cox tried to bypass Yosemite National Park’s lottery for vehicle permits over a holiday weekend, and when he was not selected, he used his office to push the National Park Service to grant him tickets, according to internal National Park Service emails. Cox requested, and eventually received, tickets for two cars to enter Yosemite on July 4. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, who heads the House Western Caucus, is asking the Department of the Interior to provide evidence that Cox was at Yosemite in an official capacity and not for personal reasons.

Full Appeals Court Agrees to Wade into Michael Flynn Case
Associated Press News – Eric Tucker | Published: 7/31/2020

The entire Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court is stepping into the legal dispute over former national security adviser Michael Flynn as it weighs whether a judge can be forced to dismiss a case the U.S. Justice Department no longer wants to pursue. The action by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacates a decision from a three-judge panel that ordered the case dropped. The move also prolongs the fight over Flynn’s fate and represents one more dramatic development in a case that has taken unexpected twists and turns over the past year. The court did not offer an explanation for its decision in a brief order but did say “the parties should be prepared to address whether there are ‘no other adequate means to attain the relief’ desired.”

House Committee Subpoenas 4 Top Pompeo Aides
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/3/2020

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Eliot Engel subpoenaed four senior aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of resisting interviews in an investigation of President Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Engel issued the subpoenas to Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String, and senior adviser Toni Porter. The subpoenas are an escalation in the committee’s confrontation with the State Department, which has resisted repeated oversight attempts by the committee since Democrats’ impeachment investigation last year.

How the Trump Campaign Came to Court QAnon, the Online Conspiracy Movement Identified by the FBI as a Violent Threat
Philadelphia Inquirer – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/2/2020

President Trump and his campaign have courted and legitimized QAnon adherents. The viral online movement, which took root on Internet message boards with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider identified as “Q,” has triggered violent acts and occasional criminal cases. Its effects were catalogued last year in an FBI intelligence bulletin listing QAnon among the “anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories” that “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.” As the worldview took shape online, its followers flocked to Trump rallies with QAnon apparel and placards. Recently, as the election has drawn closer, actions by the president and his associates have brought them more directly into the fold.

‘If Not Now, When?’: Black women seize political spotlight
Associated Press News – Claire Galofaro and Kat Stafford | Published: 8/3/2020

Black women have long been the heart of the Democratic Party, but for decades that allegiance did not translate to their own political rise. There have been no Black female governors, just two U.S. senators, and several dozen congresswomen. The people representing them instead have not met their needs: disparities in education and opportunity resulted in Black women making on average 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Now Black women are mobilized and demanding a return on their investment. Over the last several years, Black women ran and won elections in historic numbers, from Congress to county school boards. This transformation is taking place in once unlikely places, such as suburban counties in the South.

Kobach and Clay Go Down: Takeaways from a big primary night
Politico – Steven Shepard | Published: 8/5/2020

Republicans went into the August 4 primaries with problems lurking all over the ballot, but they ended the night thanking their voters for cleaning up a potential mess. Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas in more than 80 years, but Kris Kobach as the GOP nominee threatened to make the state an improbable toss-up. Instead, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall won the primary, giving the GOP a much more electable candidate to go up against a strong Democratic recruit. Meanwhile, Democrat Cori Bush’s primary win over U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay in St. Louis signaled the battle between the Democratic establishment and liberal outsiders has reached a new level: one in which even popular, progressive Black leaders are not immune from challenge.

Misuse of Taxpayer Funds Leads Ethics Committee to Reprimand and Fine Rep. Schweikert
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/30/2020

The House Committee on Ethics ordered that U.S. Rep. David Schweikert be fined $50,000 and reprimanded on the House floor for violating federal law and chamber rules by allowing his office to misuse taxpayer money, skirting FEC reporting requirements, using campaign money for personal use, and pressuring his staff to engage in campaign work. The ethics investigative subcommittee, which looked into Schweikert, decided to recommend a reprimand, a lesser sanction than censure, largely because he accepted responsibility and agreed to pay the fine.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Allegedly Misused More Than $90,000 in Campaign and Official Funds
Politico – John Bresnahan | Published: 7/31/2020

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia allegedly spent more than $90,000 in official funds and campaign money on personal expenses, including “fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment,” according to the Office of Congressional Ethics. (OCE). The agency said much of the total went to paying expenses at golf clubs where Bishop is a member. More than $16,000 in congressional funds were reportedly spent at annual holiday parties at one club for the staffs of Bishop and his wife, Vivian Creighton Bishop, a Georgia municipal judge. The OCE recommended the House ethics committee launch a full-scale investigation into Bishop.

Republicans Consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s Convention Speech
Washington Post – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey | Published: 8/4/2020

Republican National Convention planners are considering the White House South Lawn as the site of President Trump’s nationally televised nomination acceptance speech. The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events. Under federal law, government employees and property are generally barred from being used for political purposes, with notable exceptions. The Hatch Act, which prevents federal officials from certain forms of political activity at work, exempts both the president and the vice president from any restrictions.

Trump’s Campaign in Crisis as Aides Attempt August Reset Before Time Runs Out
MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/1/2020

Signs that President Trump’s reelection bid is in crisis grew steadily in recent days, one of the most tumultuous moments of a presidency increasingly operating with an air of desperation. Campaign officials pulled television ads off the air amid a late-stage review of strategy and messaging. At the same time, Trump publicly mused about delaying the November election, airing widely debunked allegations about fraud. As the campaign aims to mount a more aggressive defense of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president has reverted to touting unproven miracle cures and attacking public health officials. With Trump unable to hold traditional rallies and his central economic message no longer relevant, campaign officials are scrambling to assemble a fresh case for his candidacy on the fly.

Vaccine Project Contract Raises Transparency Questions
Politico – Dan Diamond | Published: 7/31/2020

The Trump administration is hiring consultants with drug industry ties to steer its effort to find a coronavirus vaccine under a contract that allows them to avoid disclosing potential conflicts-of-interest. The arrangement, which is covered through a contract for “Operation Warp Speed,” raises more questions about the transparency of the pandemic response and the roles of outside contractors, including top coronavirus vaccine adviser Moncef Slaoui, who are helping steer the government’s $10 billion development program. Democrats have raised persistent questions about why the Trump administration brought in Slaoui as a contractor and not as a special government employee, which would open him up to additional disclosures and ethics requirements.

Canada

Canada Trudeau Defends Work on Contract Now Engulfing His Government
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/30/2020

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aired regrets as he was criticized over a program that has him tangled in his third self-inflicted ethics controversy. The prime minister defended himself before a parliamentary committee over a sole-source contract his government awarded to a powerful charity with close ties to his family. The problems for Trudeau erupted after the contract was signed with WE Charity to administer a student grant program that is part of Canada’s coronavirus pandemic response. Trudeau has already been found guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws since becoming minister twice before and the latest ruckus kicked off a probe by the ethics commissioner, an investigation that encompasses his finance minister and spurred calls for his resignation.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Politician Resigns as a Southern Baptist Pastor After KKK Leader’s Birthday Celebration
Washington Post – Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Published: 7/30/2020

Alabama Rep. Will Dismukes said he has no plans to resign from his legislative seat amid national calls for him to step down after he attended a private celebration of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He did resign from his job as a Southern Baptist pastor of a rural church. The national uproar began after Dismukes posted on Facebook he took part in a celebration of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest the same weekend as ceremonies honoring the life of civil rights leader and member of Congress John Lewis in Alabama. Lewis led protesters in a 1965 March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

California Campaign Contribution Limit Set for Fresno County Races at $30K
gvwire.com – David Taub | Published: 8/4/2020

The days of unlimited campaign contributions for candidates running for Fresno County offices are over. The board of supervisors approved a limit of $30,000 per election cycle. The cap not only applies to individual donors but also to PACs. State legislators last year passed Assembly Bill 571, requiring counties and cities to set political contribution limits if none had been there before. If a jurisdiction fails to set limits by the January 1 deadline, maximum contributions revert to the caps for state legislative candidates of $4,700 in an election cycle.

California Charges Added to LA City Councilman in Corruption Probe
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 7/30/2020

A federal grand jury added 34 additional criminal charges against Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing corruption probe into a massive “pay-to-play” developer scheme. Huizar was arrested and charged in June with federal racketeering according to a criminal complaint that detailed bribes paid to the council member for favorable votes on committees he sat on that would allow for developer projects to be built in his district. Cash bribes were delivered to Huizar in liquor boxes, while $800,000 from an unnamed wealthy developer was used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for Huizar with a former aide in his council office.

Florida Ethics Referendum on Ballot in Naples Could Create New Ethics Commission, Office
Naples Daily News – Brittany Carloni | Published: 8/4/2020

Voters in the city of Naples, Florida, will decide on possible changes to the city’s ethics procedure. A referendum on the August ballot allows voters to say yes or no to amending the city charter to establish an independent ethics commission and an ethics office and to set minimum requirements for the city’s ethics code. The current code has weaknesses, said Councilperson Ray Christman. “The city doesn’t even have a designated chief ethics officer,” Christman said. “There’s nobody in the city designated on point and responsible for fielding ethics complaints.”

Florida Florida Commission on Ethics Lifts NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Off the Hook
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/29/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause” to believe National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer did not adhere to state lobbyist registration requirements, and it also dismissed a second allegation that she failed to properly file lobbyist compensation reports. The decision marks the second time Hammer has been cleared of wrongdoing despite failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to her from the NRA dating to at least 2007 on quarterly lobbyist compensation reports required by the Legislature.

Hawaii Alleged Oahu Crime Boss’ Nightclub Was a Popular Place for Political Fundraisers
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Nick Grube | Published: 7/30/2020

For years, the M Nightclub, owned and operated in Honolulu by alleged organized crime boss Michael Miske, was known as a den of debauchery and violence. A recent indictment that accuses Miske and his associates of a series of crimes, including murder, murder-for-hire, armed robbery, and the deployment of potentially deadly pesticides on their dance club patrons, only adds to the reputation. Yet in recent years, before the nightclub was closed down, records show some of Hawaii’s most recognizable politicians – including Gov. David Ige, state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, and former Honolulu City Councilperson Trevor Ozawa – used the club to hold lucrative political fundraisers.

Idaho Supreme Court Halts Idaho Online Signatures for Initiative
Jacksonville Journal Courier – Keith Ridler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/30/2020

The U.S Supreme Court ruled an Idaho group must stop collecting online signatures for an education funding initiative for the November ballot. The court ruled in favor of Gov. Brad Little’s request that a District Court’s order allowing online signatures be stayed until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a ruling. Arguments before that court are scheduled for the middle of August in the expedited case. Reclaim Idaho had argued Little’s statewide stay-at-home order in March because of the pandemic did not include exceptions for ballot initiative signature-gathering. Idaho does not allow online signatures for ballot initiatives. The state has argued in court documents that it undermines the election process.

Illinois ComEd Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Bribery Case; Prosecution to Be Deferred for Three Years
Chicago Tribune – Megan Crispeau and Jason Meisner | Published: 8/5/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) pleaded not guilty to an expansive federal bribery charge during what will likely be its final court hearing until 2023. The plea was a formality since the company has entered an agreement to defer prosecution. ComEd will pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate in the ongoing probe of its lobbying practices in Springfield in exchange for the charges being dropped at the end of the agreement period. But while the charges against ComEd will likely sink into the background after the arraignment, the case is far from over. In announcing the case, U.S. Attorney John Lausch said the investigation is “vibrant, and it will continue.”

Louisiana Judges Disqualify Brian Pope from Running for Lafayette City Marshal
New Orleans Advocate – Kate Gagliano | Published: 8/4/2020

Two judges disqualified suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope from running for re-election. In one hearing, the Louisiana Board of Ethics argued Pope signed an affidavit when he filed his candidacy form and attested that he did not have any outstanding fines owed to the board. The ethics agency said he currently owes $5,000 in fines and late fees and had been mailed several notice letters about the outstanding balances. In the second hearing, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Landry argued Pope is not qualified to run for re-election because he is barred from registering to vote due to his felony convictions. Status as a registered voter is required to qualify as a candidate. Pope was suspended without pay in 2018 when he was convicted of several felony counts of malfeasance.

Maryland Judge Sentences Former Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn to 2 Years, Says She ‘Sold Her Office to Pay the Bills’
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/30/2020

Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn was sentenced to two years in prison for taking bribes for legislative favors. The grand jury indictment of Glenn said she accepted five bribes during an 11-month period in 2018 and 2019 to introduce legislation favorable to people and groups giving her the money. She took $5,000 to commit to legislation that would help a business seeking a medical marijuana license, according to prosecutors. Glenn accepted another $5,000 to file a bill to lower the number of years of experience required for a medical director of an opioid clinic. Prosecutors said Glenn actively sought these payments, including telling an associate about her outstanding tax debt as a hint that someone should pay it if they wanted her help.

Michigan Ex-Chamber Attorney Challenges Mystery Funding of Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Power
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 8/3/2020

An attorney who spent decades advising the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is challenging a nonprofit’s use of money from undisclosed sources to back the campaign to limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers. Bob LaBrant, who helped write some of the state’s campaign finance laws, argues the Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, a group tied to Republican consultants, should have to file its own fundraising disclosures after making a series of contributions to the Unlock Michigan petition drive. Unlock Michigan is the effort to repeal a 1945 law that allows a governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without the Legislature’s input.

Michigan Michigan Senator Sponsors Bills to Help Pawn Shops, Which Support His Campaigns
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 7/30/2020

No Michigan lawmaker has sponsored more bills helpful to the pawn shop industry than state Sen. Peter Lucido. And no Michigan lawmaker has collected more campaign cash from pawn brokers, who are not ranked among the state’s major political donors than Lucido, who is now running for Macomb County prosecutor. Lucido, who in 2018 got pawn brokers what he said was their first rate increase in 100 years and this year is working on getting them a second one amid near-record unemployment resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, said there is no quid pro, only mutual respect.

Minnesota New Appointments Relieve Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Hamstrung by Vacancies
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 7/31/2020

Gov. Tim Walz named four new members to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, filling vacancies that threatened to paralyze the agency’s watchdog work in an election year. The six-member board, which investigates and responds to potential violations of state campaign finance law, was down to just two active members in July after several appointments expired without action by the governor and state legislators. Without a quorum of four members, the board was unable to meet, authorize investigations into complaints, or vote on fines and other enforcement actions, Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson said.

Missouri Parson PAC Fined for Reporting Lapses Connected to Super Bowl, D.C. Trips
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 8/3/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission fined a PAC supporting Gov. Mike Parson $2,000 for reporting lapses connected to a pair of flights for the governor the group chartered. The commission said there was probable cause to believe the Uniting Missouri PAC violated state ethics laws by “failing to report the fair market value of two flights within forty-eight hours of receiving the contributions.” Uniting Missouri will only have to pay $200 if the commission does not uncover any other violations within the next two years.

Nevada Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Mail-In Election Bill
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Rory Appelton | Published: 8/4/2020

President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske over changes to the state’s general election plan passed by the Legislature. The lawsuit alleges several provisions of Assembly Bill 4, “lack clear standards to guide the actions of county and city officials administering certain parts of Nevada’s elections.” It includes many of the Republican attacks leveled against enhanced voting by mail and the collection of another’s ballot with permission of the voter, commonly referred to as ballot harvesting. Specifically, the Republicans allege compromised election integrity and increased risk of fraud.

New York Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry
MSN – David Enrich, Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2020

The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, seeking financial records he and his company provided to the bank. The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Trump. But in a recent court filing, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

Ohio Coal Giant Murray Energy Is $100K Dark Money Donor ‘Company B’ in Federal Probe
MSN – Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer) and Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/31/2020

Coal company and House Bill 6 supporter Murray Energy provided $100,000 in “dark money” involved in the alleged racketeering and bribery scheme that ensnared former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others. The criminal complaint states “Dark Money Group 1,” previously identified by The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer as the for-profit company Hardworking Ohioans Inc., spent nearly $1.5 million to support Householder’s Republican candidates in the 2018 general election. A bankruptcy filing by Murray Energy shows the company gave $100,000 to Hardworking Ohioans amid its flurry of media buys backing Householder-blessed candidates as he angled to be elected speaker.

Ohio Meet ‘Representative 3,’ Who Benefited from Larry Householder’s Cover Campaign
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/30/2020

Following passage of Ohio House Bill 6, a group of lawmakers gathered to celebrate with Speaker Larry Householder. Among the celebrants, according to a federal criminal complaint, was “Representative 3,” whom The Columbus Dispatch has identified as state Rep. Jamie Callender of Lake County. He was one of the measure’s two sponsors. Before the vote, a media campaign financed by “dark money” urged voters to contact their representatives and tell them to support the $1 billion bailout of two nuclear plants. Callender’s district includes the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. A complaint by Secretary of State Frank LaRose accuses “Representative 3” of accepting corporate contributions and failing to deposit the money.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Backing Bipartisan Legislative Push Cracking Down on ‘Dark Money’ in Ohio Following Corruption Scandal
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/3/2020

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is joining a bipartisan call to crack down on anonymous political spending in the state, in the aftermath of the recent arrest of former House Speaker Larry Householder. A proposal by some lawmakers would require mandatory donor disclosures for all political spending in Ohio, even if a group is organized as a non-profit, which under federal law do not have to disclose their donors. They also want to require more frequent disclosures – once every other month, instead of the common practice of quarterly reports – and to give the secretary of state’s office subpoena power to force organizations to share records if they do not file them willingly.

Oregon How a Public Institute in Oregon Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry
ProPublica – Rob Davis (Portland Oregonian) and Tony Schick (OPB) | Published: 8/4/2020

A media investigation found the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, created in the 1990s to educate residents about forestry, has acted as a public-relations agency and lobbying arm for the timber industry, in some cases skirting legal constraints that forbid it from doing so. The timber industry has maintained outsized influence in the state, thwarting attempts to restrict logging with the help of a decades-long public opinion campaign. Through the institute, the timber industry executed that campaign from behind the veneer of the state government.

Rhode Island Ethics Commission Unlikely to Appeal Overturned $200 Violation Against Supreme Court Justice
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 7/29/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is keeping its legal options open after a judge overturned a $200 ethics violation against a state Supreme Court justice, but Executive Director Jason Gramitt said an appeal for further review is unlikely. Superior Court Judge Brian Stern vacated the commission’s ruling against Associate Justice Francis Flaherty. The violation stemmed from a 2016 complaint accusing Flaherty of repeatedly failing to disclose his leadership position in a Catholic nonprofit while also ruling on a priest abuse case. Gramitt described the decision as “narrow and limited,” meaning it would be more challenging to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal.

Tennessee Tennessee State Senator Charged with Stealing Federal Funds
Associated Press News – Adrian Sainz | Published: 7/30/2020

Tennessee Sen. Katrina Robinson was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds received by a health care company she directed and using the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses. Robinson is director of The Healthcare Institute, which provides training for jobs in the health care field. The school received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2015 through 2019, Robinson stole more than $600,000 and used it to pay for her wedding and honeymoon, a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, travel and entertainment for her family, and an event for her state Senate campaign, prosecutors said.

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July 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn | Published: 7/23/2020 Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making big money from businesses trying to tap coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. His […]

National/Federal

Chris Christie Cashes in On Coronavirus Lobbying
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn | Published: 7/23/2020

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making big money from businesses trying to tap coronavirus relief funds from the federal government. His firm pulled in $240,000 in less than three months for lobbying the Trump administration on coronavirus aid on behalf of three New Jersey hospital systems and a Tennessee-based chain of addiction treatment centers. Christie is hardly the first former governor to land on K Street. But it is unusual for a former presidential candidate who has not ruled out running again to become a lobbyist, especially without joining a major Washington firm, Christie appears to be leaning on his ties to the administration as he makes his way on K Street.

Cities, Advocates Sue Trump to Block Census Immigrant Memo
Roll Call – Michael Macagnone | Published: 7/24/2020

President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census figures that will be used to determine congressional apportionment has been challenged in federal court, the first of what experts believe could be many legal battles for the administration’s order. Common Cause, along with and other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit arguing Trump’s effort “flouts the plain language of the constitution” and tries to do with a memorandum what should take a constitutional amendment. The complaint tied the memorandum to Trump’s previous effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and a broader strategy to “manipulate the census and apportionment process to deprive immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities of political power.”

Democrats Investigating Why White House Ended Ban on Some Gun Silencer Sales
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/28/2020

Congressional Democrats said they were investigating the Trump administration’s decision to lift a ban on firearm silencer sales to foreign private buyers that had been enacted to prevent the devices from being used against American troops. Democrats are focusing in part on the involvement of Michael Williams, a White House lawyer who had worked for two years for a trade group representing silencer manufacturers that had lobbied to overturn the ban. The administration move paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new foreign sales for companies that Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association.

Dems Rebuke Culture of Sexism in Defense of Ocasio-Cortez
Politico – Caitlin Oprysko and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/23/2020

More than a dozen House Democrats lined up recently to support U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the floor of the chamber, issuing a chain of rebukes to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho for aggressively confronting the New York Democrat outside of the Capitol. Ocasio-Cortez recounted the confrontation with Yoho, which was witnessed by a reporter, in a speech lamenting the incident as an outgrowth of a toxic and sexist culture that some lawmakers still perpetuate on Capitol Hill.

DeVos Aide Played Role in Helping Failing For-Profit Colleges, Texts and Emails Show
Washington Post – Danielle Douglas-Gabriel | Published: 7/28/2020

For the past year, the Education Department has denied a top official went out of her way to help Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the Art Institutes, South University, and Argosy University, as the company spiraled into insolvency. But a batch of text messages, emails, and letters shed new light on Dream Center’s relationship with Diane Auer Jones, the head of higher education policy at the department, and her efforts to help the company regain accreditation at two of its schools. The Trump administration had a keen interest in staving off the collapse of the troubled chain of for-profit colleges, even though congressional investigators found Dream Center deceptively enrolled students at campuses that had lost accreditation and raked in taxpayer money in the process.

How the Republican National Convention Came Undone
MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2020

The chaotic unraveling of the Republican presidential nomination convention bears many of the hallmarks of the tumultuous Trump presidency: the public dismissal of scientific expertise, allegations of political conspiracy, and advisers run ragged to carry out a task that was next to impossible from the start. Even as Democrats began to rethink their event last spring, GOP planners moved forward at Trump’s urging. But ultimately, the rising coronavirus caseload, and the political cost of forcing risky behavior on thousands just months before the election, proved too great. Advisers convinced Trump that canceling the convention could help him politically as he tries to pay closer attention to the pandemic.

‘I’m Going to Answer the Damn Question’: Barr, House Democrats face off over Portland, politicization
USA Today – Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson | Published: 7/28/2020

Attorney General William Barr’s recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Barr came as Democrats investigate alleged political interference at the Justice Department, claiming the attorney general has turned it into a political annex of the Trump White House. The hearing touched on a year’s worth of grievances, from the widely criticized rollout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report in 2019, to interference in criminal investigations involving Trump’s allies, to the controversial ouster of Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor, to the use of force against protesters in Portland and at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

Kimberly Guilfoyle Under Fire for Trump Fundraising Disarray
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/23/2020

There is upheaval within the fundraising unit that Kimberly Guilfoyle oversees, which is primarily responsible for cultivating networks of donors who cut checks in increments up to $2,800 fort President Trump’s reelection. Interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans familiar with the campaign’s fundraising depict an operation beset by departures, staffers with no prior fundraising experience, and accusations of irresponsible spending. There are growing concerns among senior Republicans about whether the dysfunction within Guilfoyle’s team is translating into money left on the table for what has become an uphill fight for a second term.

Pelosi Mandates Wearing Masks on the House Floor After Gohmert Case
Politico – Heather Cayglde and Sarah Ferris | Published: 7/29/2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would now require all members to wear masks on the House floor after U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for the coronavirus. Lawmakers are currently encouraged to wear masks in the chamber and required to wear them in committee rooms, although some Republicans openly defy that rule and have yet to be punished. Gohmert, who frequently refuses to wear a mask around the Capitol, tested positive during a pre-screening by the White Houser before a scheduled flight with President Trump to Texas, news that quickly reverberated across Capitol Hill.

Political Donors Whose Businesses Got PPP Loans Injected $52 Million into 2020 Election
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 7/23/2020

Government rescue loans meant for struggling small businesses went to a number of well-connected firms whose executives are major contributors to lawmakers’ campaigns and political parties. Employees and PACs connected to firms that received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, and in some cases the companies themselves, contributed at least $52 million to federal committees during the 2020 election cycle. Republicans and conservative groups got $27 million from these donors, while Democrats and liberal groups received $24 million. Powerful lobbying firms, hedge funds, and real estate companies received aid while tens of thousands of small businesses closed for good.

Politics at the Point of a Gun
Washington Post – Joshua Partlow | Published: 7/28/2020

Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view – marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors – and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups. In the pandemic stay-at-home orders, they see government overreach that restricts their freedoms and harms their businesses. Many members of these armed groups consider this pre-election period a defining moment. In the months of volatile street protests, they see local authorities who lost the nerve to confront violent agitators.

The Husband Is a Top Public Health Official. The Wife Does Lobbying. She Deleted a Tweet That Showed Them Together at a Public Event.
BuzzFeed News – Paul McLeod | Published: 7/27/2020

The wife of the second-ranking official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared with her husband during an official business trip at a time she was being paid to lobby the department. Emily Hargan tweeted a photo from a July 10 press conference at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center centered around a visit by her husband, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. She has since deleted the tweet. Emily Hargan has been paid by three healthcare companies to lobby HHS. All three contracts were still active on the day she appeared with her husband on an official business trip. She has no lobbying disclosures before her HHS work in June of this year.

Trump Campaign Accused of Using ‘Pass-Through’ Vendors to Obscure $170 Million in Payments
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim and Will Steakin | Published: 7/28/2020

A watchdog group accused President Trump’s reelection campaign of obscuring nearly $170 million worth of campaign spending through “pass-through” vendors linked to campaign leadership instead of disclosing the true recipients of the funds. In an FEC complaint, the Campaign Legal Center said American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, two companies set up and by run by campaign leadership, including former campaign manager Brad Parscale, have been disguised as providing a variety of services to the campaign, when in reality they have essentially served as “clearing house” firms that dole out contracts and payments to various subcontractors and vendors without revealing the ultimate recipients of the donor money.

Trump’s Assault on Election Integrity Forces Question: What would happen if he refused to accept a loss?
Anchorage Daily News – Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2020

President Trump’s unwillingness to commit to a smooth transition of power has forced academics and political leaders to contemplate possible scenarios if loses the election in November. The resulting turmoil could surpass the contention over the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, confounding the legal system, Congress, and the public’s faith in how the country picks its leaders. Such a crisis could also have long-lasting consequences for a nation that has already been rocked this year by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic collapse, and a reckoning over racial injustice.

Wealthy Donors Pour Millions into Fight Over Mail-In Voting
AP News – Brian Slodysko and Thomas Beaumont | Published: 7/27/2020

Wealthy and often anonymous donors are pouring over $100 million into an intensifying dispute about whether it should be easier to vote by mail, a fight that could determine President Trump’s fate in the November election. In the battleground of Wisconsin, cash-strapped cities have received $6.3 million from an organization with ties to left-wing philanthropy to help expand vote by mail. Meanwhile, a well-funded conservative group best known for its focus on judicial appointments is spending heavily to fight cases related to mail-in balloting procedures in court. That is just a small slice of the overall spending, which is likely to swell far higher as the election nears.

Canada

Canada Trudeau Strains to Contain Political Scandal Engulfing His Family
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 7/24/2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is embroiled in another controversy of his own making that is inflicting political damage on him and his administration. He is struggling to contain the rapid spread of a firestorm sparked by his plan to award a sole-source contract to a powerful charity and fueled by revelations that members of his family have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by the organization over the past half-decade. The dustup also threatens to cost Trudeau his trusted finance minister. The public and parliamentary reaction in Canada to the news and further revelations of speaking fees and travel expenses paid to family members of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been swift and harsh.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona GOP Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Arizona Voting Rules Deemed Racially Biased
The Hill – John Kruzel | Published: 7/29/2020

Arizona Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to revive a pair of voting restrictions, struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory, that could make it harder for people of color to cast ballots in the battleground state this fall. In its ruling siding with Democratic challengers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals went so far as to conclude that one of the two voting rules under review was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. In their Supreme Court petition, Arizona Republicans argue the Ninth Circuit was wrong to invalidate the restrictions, which they say are needed to protect the integrity of the vote.

California A San Jose Commission Will Decide on Strong Mayor, Moving Mayoral Elections
San Jose Spotlight – Carly Wipf | Published: 7/28/2020

Just one month after the plan was devised, San Jose leaders have scrapped a November 2020 ballot measure that could have awarded Mayor Sam Liccardo considerably more power and two extra years in office. Instead, the Charter Review Commission was created to help decide whether San Jose should adopt a strong mayor system, whether mayoral elections should be aligned with presidential elections, and campaign finance reforms, including prohibiting contributions from lobbyists and requiring lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes involving organizations that have donated $250 or more to their campaigns.

California Developers Allegedly Bribed an L.A. Councilman. What Happens to Their Building Plans?
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/27/2020

Federal officials have charged Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar in an ongoing “pay-to-play” probe, accusing him of running a criminal enterprise fueled by bribes from real estate developers seeking to build in his downtown district. It is unclear, however, what might happen to the as-yet unbuilt skyscrapers planned by the executives who allegedly provided those bribes. Several council members have called for the city to reassess approvals for real estate projects mentioned in the criminal case, arguing the building plans have been tainted by the scandal.

California Former L.A. County Assessor John Noguez Again Faces Corruption Charges
Los Angeles Times – Matt Hamilton | Published: 7/28/2020

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office refiled charges against former county Assessor John Noguez, reviving the long-running bribery and public corruption case after an appellate court ordered its dismissal on a technical violation. In the new complaint, prosecutors accused Noguez, along with Mark McNeil, a top official in the assessor’s office, and tax consultant Ramin Salari of participating in a scheme in which Noguez would accept bribes to illegally lower the values of properties across greater Los Angeles so Salari’s clients would pay less in taxes.

Florida NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Takes on First Amendment in Appeal
Tampa Bay Times – Dara Kam | Published: 7/29/2020

A federal appeals court appeared skeptical of prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer’s arguments in a lawsuit stemming from graphic emails she received following the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed Hammer’s claims against attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to Hammer that included photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds. The judge’s ruling came four months after Hammer filed a lawsuit against Sorensen and three other unrelated men because of emails she received. As Florida lawmakers considered legislation in the aftermath of the school shooting, Hammer lobbied against measures that would restrict gun owners’ rights.

Georgia Georgia Senator Is Criticized for Ad Enlarging Jewish Opponent’s Nose
MSN – Rick Rojas (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2020

U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia has taken down a digital campaign ad featuring a manipulated picture of his Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, with an enlarged nose. Before being removed, the Facebook ad showed grainy pictures of Ossoff and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who is also Jewish. “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” the ad said, adding that Schumer had poured millions of dollars into the race. Perdue’s campaign said the alteration had been an outside vendor’s error. But critics said it reflected something more insidious, arguing the campaign had employed imagery long used to malign Jews at a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the country has seeped into politics.

Illinois Feds Subpoena AT&T as Part of Investigation into Speaker Madigan and Lobbying
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Hal Dardick, Jamie Munks, and Ray Long | Published: 7/23/2020

AT&T has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors amid a widening criminal probe encircling Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political operation. The subpoena is part of an inquiry into whether companies improperly used a stable of consultants with ties to Madigan as they pushed for legislation in Springfield. The revelation comes after prosecutors asked Madigan’s office for “any and all documents and communications” concerning AT&T, including contracts and correspondence related to the hiring of anyone to provide consulting or lobbying services to the public utility.

Maine Maine Lawmakers Want Hydro-Quebec to Stop Trying to Influence Voters on CMP Corridor
Bangor Daily News – Lori Valigra | Published: 7/29/2020

A group of 25 current and former Maine lawmakers wrote a letter to Quebec’s premier and Hydro-Quebec’s chief executive officer asking that they stop trying to influence the outcome of a referendum this November on Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor. So far, Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-linked group, and Hydro-Quebec have spent close to $14.7 million to promote the corridor. The lawmakers said they are concerned Hydro-Quebec is exploiting a loophole in Maine ethics laws they sought to close when the pandemic hit and the Legislature adjourned abruptly in March. A bill would prohibit contributions, expenditures, and participation by foreign nationals to influence referendum questions.

Maryland Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby Asks Inspector General’s Office to Investigate Her Travel, Businesses
Baltimore Sun – Jessica Anderson | Published: 7/23/2020

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asked the city Inspector general’s office to investigate her travel and financial disclosures. It is unusual for an official to seek an investigation of themselves, but the move comes as Mosby weathers criticism of her trips and business arrangements. The request comes after Mosby filed financial disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission, which revealed she traveled at least 20 times for events over the past two years, including trips abroad. Most of the travel, which totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars, was paid for by outside organizations.

Maryland Montgomery Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine Fined for Ethics Violation, But Officials Want More Action
Washington Post – Rebecca Tan | Published: 7/29/2020

Montgomery County lawmakers are calling for greater disciplinary action against Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine, who admitted to violating an ethics law by using public dollars to promote a book he wrote and maintaining business relationships with two companies that landed county contracts shortly after he took his job. Kleine, who is the top aide to County Executive Marc Elrich, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for the ethics violations. Some county council members say the fine is not sufficient.

Michigan Mystery Money Fuels Campaign to Limit Whitmer’s Emergency Powers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 7/27/2020

The group collecting petitions to limit Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers is primarily being funded by a nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, an organization with ties to Senate Republicans, gave $660,200 to Unlock Michigan from June 9 through July 20. Unlock Michigan is the ballot committee that wants to repeal a 1945 law that allows the governor to declare a state of emergency and keep the declaration in place without input or approval from the Legislature. The group’s board has also featured employees of a consulting firm that works with Senate Republicans. The nonprofit is listed at the same address as the consulting firm in Lansing.

Missouri Documents Say Political Consultants Tied to Mantovani Tried to Help Polish Stenger Lies about Northwest Plaza
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 7/25/2020

Two political consultants working to support Mark Mantovani’s bid for St. Louis County executive were part of an effort in 2018 by advisors to the former executive, Steve Stenger, to mislead the public about the cost of a real estate deal involving some of Stenger’s biggest campaign donors. County officials submitted statements to the county council’s ethics committee in 2019 as part of a probe into the county’s lease for office space in the former Northwest Plaza in St. Ann. A newspaper investigation would reveal the lease was far more costly than previously known, sparking an inquiry by the ethics committee. Those hearings revealed how Stenger circumvented procurement staff by placing political appointees in charge of lease negotiations. The owners of the site were among his largest campaign supporters.

Missouri Marijuana Licensing Woes Dog Missouri’s Governor
Politico – Mona Zhang | Published: 7/27/2020

After Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana in November 2018, the state’s new governor, Mike Parson, moved quickly to certify tens of thousands of patients and begin licensing cannabis businesses. But what seemed at first to be an easy source of voter satisfaction and a new cache of revenue to the state has boomeranged badly. A flood of complaints led to state and federal corruption probes that now threaten Parson’s 2020 campaign. The governor’s friend and fundraiser, Steve Tilley, is at the center of the probes. He represented clients who appeared to receive a boost in the licensing process.

Missouri PAC Money to Page from Lobbyist Under FBI Scrutiny Draws Interest in St. Louis County Executive Race
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 7/23/2020

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page last year accepted $2,049 in campaign contributions from a PAC tied to a Jefferson City lobbyist and company under FBI investigation in Kansas City. The contribution came the month after Page lent his support to a low-income housing project in Dellwood that listed Gardner Capital as its developer, and whose financial backers are the Centene Charitable Foundation and Sterling Bank. The project developers were seeking $615,000 in annual low-income housing tax credits and ultimately won approval. Gardner Capital, Sterling Bank, and Centene Corp. all retain the same lobbyist, Steve Tilley, who also is a former Missouri House speaker. It has been reported the FBI was investigating Gardner Capital and Tilley, among others, in a possible “pay-to-play” scheme in Independence.

New Jersey Gannett Reporter Faces Ethics Questions After Repeated Asks of N.J. Governor About Indoor Dining
New Jersey Globe – David Wildstein | Published: 7/24/2020

Dustin Racioppi is a statehouse reporter for The Bergen Record. He also moonlights as a bartender at Murphy’s Tavern, an old speakeasy and restaurant that is owned by his wife. Occasionally, the two jobs intersect, and alarm bells go off about a potential conflict-of-interest. As a reporter, part of Racioppi’s job is to cover Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Racioppi frequently peppers Murphy with questions about the reopening of indoor restaurant dining but has not publicly disclosed the governor’s decision to close eating establishments, including his own, has had an effect on his family’s personal income.

New Jersey Trump Keeps Touting New Jersey Fraud Case to Attack Mail Voting. Local Leaders Say He’s Not Telling the Whole Story.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2020

Days before the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, selected new members of their city council in May, a postal employee in a neighboring town spotted something suspicious in a local post office: 347 mail-in ballots, bundled together. Four men, including a city councilperson, have been charged with fraud. The county election board disqualified 19 percent of ballots cast in the race. The episode probably would have remained a local dust-up but for the interest of President Trump, who has attacked voting by mail as susceptible to massive fraud. But those involved in the Paterson case said the president is vastly oversimplifying what took place in a local election, using it to serve his own political purposes and overstating the extent to which problems in their city serve as some kind of national cautionary tale.

New York Trump Lawyers Renew Legal Assault on Tax Records Subpoena
AP News – Larry Neumeister | Published: 7/27/2020

President Trump’s lawyers filed fresh arguments to try to block a criminal subpoena for his tax records, saying it was issued in bad faith, might have been politically motivated, and calling it a harassment of the president. Attorneys filed a rewritten lawsuit in Manhattan federal court to challenge the subpoena by a state prosecutor on grounds they believe conform with how the U.S. Supreme Court said the subpoena can be contested. The high court ruled Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could subpoena tax records from Trump’s accountant over his objections.

North Dakota North Dakota Ethics Commission Requests Attorney General Opinion; Bill Drafts in Works for 2021
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 7/23/2020

The North Dakota Ethics Commission is asking for a state attorney general opinion amid its rulemaking process. Commission Executive Director David Thiele said the agency is seeking clarification on “our authority to expand on the definition of ‘lobbyist’ as it relates to gifts.” A time frame for receiving an opinion is unclear. North Dakota voters in 2018 approved the Ethics Commission in a constitutional initiative that also included a lobbyist gift prohibition that takes effect in January. Related rules are to be adopted by then. The 2019 Legislature passed Republican majority leaders’ framework for implementing the measure.

Ohio Bribery Case Shines Light on Ohio’s Campaign Finance Laws, Nonprofits
Toledo Blade – Jim Provance | Published: 7/25/2020

U.S. Attorney David DeVillers outlined a scheme by which authorities allege Ohio’s largest utility company used a series of nonprofit entities to funnel millions of dollars to the benefit of Columbus lawmakers who eventually approved a $1 billion citizen-backed bailout of the state’s nuclear power industry. But neither Ohio nor federal campaign finance laws currently require such disclosure by nonprofits. Such secrecy has long obscured the extent to which money influences politics in the Buckeye State, but it appears to be under newfound scrutiny as taxpayers take stock of the sweeping racketeering and bribery probe. Gov. Mike DeWine now says he would support closing that “dark-money” loophole in the law.

Ohio Criminal Charges Against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Echo Past Pay-to-Play Allegations
MSN – Sabrina Eaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/28/2020

More than a decade before Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s July 21 arrest in a federal bribery probe of the state’s nuclear bailout law, his aggressive fundraising practices came under law enforcement scrutiny. But no charges resulted from that case. According to previous news reports, Householder’s operatives raised millions of dollars for him and House Republicans by threatening to withhold financial support from those who did not vote with Householder on key pieces of legislation. The reporting also revealed allegations they strong-armed members to embrace no-new-taxes pledges, using political nonprofits to wage campaigns against Democrats and uncooperative Republican primary opponents.

Ohio Householder Probe Generates Campaign Cash Problem for House Republicans
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 7/29/2020

Without Speaker Larry Householder’s fundraising operation, Ohio House Republicans find themselves in a disastrous financial spot heading into competitive fall races. With fewer than 100 days until the November election, House Republicans’ campaign fund should total millions of dollars, GOP campaign operatives said. But the House Republican Campaign Committee’s (HRCC) latest financial report shows $384,000 and the current total could be even less. That is because House Republicans’ campaigns, by and large, were not bankrolled by the HRCC. Instead, money flowed through Householder’s personal campaign fund and “dark money” groups to elect Republicans loyal to the speaker.

Ohio Ohio House Ousts Top Leader After Arrest in Bribery Scheme
AP News – Farnoush Amiri | Published: 7/30/2020

The Ohio House ousted its speaker as the chamber’s top leader in a historic, unanimous, and bipartisan vote after he was charged in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme. Rep. Larry Householder is the first Ohio House speaker ever removed by lawmakers. For now, he still retains his seat in the Legislature. Remaining members of Householder’s leadership team had said he deserves the presumption of innocence but “lost the trust of his colleagues and the public” and could not effectively lead the House

Pennsylvania Former Congressman Ozzie Myers Caught in 1970s Abscam Sting Has Been Indicted Again – This Time for Election Fraud
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 7/23/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, previously sent to prison in the 1970s Abscam investigation, was charged with new allegations that he bribed a poll worker to stuff ballot boxes in local elections in Philadelphia. Federal prosecutors allege Myers, now working as a campaign consultant, paid a judge of elections to fraudulently add votes to candidates who had hired him to represent him in their races between 2014 and 2016. Prosecutors did not say whether those candidates went on to win their elections or whether the votes added by DeMuro, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in March, were decisive in tipping the outcome.

Rhode Island RI Supreme Court Justice Wins Appeal of $200 Ethics Violation
WPRI – Eli Sherman and Walt Bateau | Published: 7/27/2020

A Superior Court judge overturned the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s decision to fine state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose that he was president of a Catholic legal group while ruling on a priest sexual abuse case. Judge Brian Stern concluded the commission failed to show Flaherty’s actions were “deliberate or intentional” or that he was aware he needed to list his position as president of the St. Thomas More Society of Rhode Island on his yearly financial statements.

Tennessee Former House Speaker Glen Casada Pays $10,500 Fine with Money from Political Action Committee
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/28/2020

Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada skirted around state law to use campaign money held by his PAC to pay a civil penalty of $10,500 levied fine by the Registry of Election Finance. Using money maintained in a candidate’s personal campaign account to pay off a fine is illegal under Tennessee law. The law, however, only applies to candidates’ campaign committees and not PACs controlled by candidates, said Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. “The law is silent on PACs,” Young said.

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July 24, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 24, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020 President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified […]

National/Federal

As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020

President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified talk among party donors and strategists about redirecting money to protect their narrow Senate Republican majority amid growing fear of complete Democratic control of Washington in 2021. Almost no one is talking openly about abandoning Trump at this point. A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder. Right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds but also in deep red states.

Dan Sullivan, Marco Rubio Pay Tribute to John Lewis Using the Photo of a Different Black Congressman
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2020

Like many of their colleagues, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan posted tributes to U.S. Rep. John Lewis and aimed to include photos of themselves with the civil rights icon who died on July 17. Rubio even made the image his Twitter profile picture. There was just one problem. The photos they each posted were of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in October.

Ethics Committee Clears Rep. Trahan in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Steve LeBlanc | Published: 7/17/2020

The House Committee on Ethics cleared U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan following an investigation into allegations she accepted excessive campaign contributions and reported them as personal loans even though they may not have been sourced from her personal funds. The investigation focused on allegations that Trahan’s husband, David Trahan, deposited funds into a joint checking account she then used to make $300,000 in loans to her campaign during the 2018 election. Lawyers for Rep, Trahan argued the funds were her personal funds because the couple signed a premarital agreement under which she and her husband have equal rights to the management of all marital property.

Financially Strapped Trucking Firm Tripled Lobbying Days Before Winning Coronavirus Relief Loan
Roll Call – Jessica Wehrman | Published: 7/21/2020

The trucking company that received a $700 million coronavirus relief loan spent $210,000 on lobbyists in the days before it reached an agreement with the Treasury Department on that loan. The money YRC Worldwide spent on lobbying during the second quarter of 2020 alone was more than three times what it spent on lobbying in 2019 and more than the $140,000 the company spent in 2018 and 2019 combined. Now, a bipartisan congressional panel is criticizing the loan the company received, saying “it is far from clear” that YRC Worldwide is eligible for a lending mechanism originally designed for companies critical to national security, such as Boeing.

GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform
The Hill – James Bikales | Published: 7/16/2020

A former House Democratic aide who was fired after two criminal convictions gained unauthorized access to a virtual Homeland Security subcommittee hearing recently, according to a Republican lawmaker. Isaac Lanier Avant, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson who is now a lobbyist, was on the WebEx platform designated for lawmakers and witnesses for an hour during the hearing, Homeland Security ranking member Mike Rogers said. Avant is a registered lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, whose chief executive officer George Zoley was testifying at the hearing.

House Lawmakers Agree That Secure Remote Voting Is Possible, but Implementation Still Divides
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 7/17/2020

House lawmakers agreed that the chamber could implement a comprehensive and secure electronic remote voting system, but divisions remain over whether such a move, even in the midst of a global health crisis, is prudent. The House Administration Committee heard from the House clerk, a pioneering former speaker, and a roster of academics and business leaders on the technological feasibility of electronic remote voting and keeping it safe from hackers and other bad actors aiming to sow distrust in government. In a historic move, the House made a temporary change to the chamber’s rules to allow for a proxy voting period. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still participate in floor votes and committee meetings.

‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them
Washington Post – Katie Shepherd | Published: 7/17/2020

Several men in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone during a protest in Portland, Oregon. He was detained and searched. They drove him to the federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Two officers read his Miranda rights and asked if Pettibone would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not. Almost as suddenly as they had grabbed him off the street, the men let him go. Pettibone said he still does not know who arrested him or whether what happened to him legally qualifies as an arrest. His detention and videos of similar actions by federal officials driving around Portland in unmarked cars have raised alarm bells for many. Legal scholars questioned whether the detentions pass constitutional muster.

Lobbyists Bundle Donations to Senate Democrats, Trump Victory
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/20/2020

Lobbyist bundlers rounded up $250,000 for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm during the second quarter of this year, even as many of the party’s candidates run against the corporate interests those K Street denizens represent. It highlights how even in a pandemic, advocates trying to influence federal policy are working in support of candidates who may someday vote on it, even though the candidates are keeping their distance from corporate PAC money. Campaigns are only required to disclose bundlers who are registered federal lobbyists, so it is not possible to track the ebb and flow of other people who gather contributions from groups of donors and pool them together, unless campaigns and committees release them voluntarily.

Matt Gaetz Appears to Run Afoul of House Ethics Rules
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 7/22/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices that appear to conflict with House ethics rules. He improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant, in direct conflict with the chamber’s rules. A private company installed a television studio in his father’s home, which Gaetz uses when he appears on television. Taxpayers foot the bill to rent the television camera, and the private company that built the studio takes a fee each time he appears on air. It is unclear how much it cost the private company to construct the studio. This may run afoul of the House gift rule, which prohibits a lawmaker from accepting gifts worth more than $50. The official definition of a gift is broad and covers virtually any good or service with monetary value.

Michael Cohen to Be Released from Prison After Judge Sides with Claims of Retaliation
Washington Post – Shayna Jacobs | Published: 7/23/2020

A judge ordered the release from prison of President Trump’s former personal lawyer, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election. Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled. “I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” Hellerstein said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”

Pandemic Lobbying Tops K Street Agenda, but Spending Dips
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/21/2020

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a whirl of K Street activity during the first half of the year, but nine of the top 10 biggest spenders reported a decrease in their lobbying tabs during the second quarter, indicating a turbulent business environment in the months ahead. The pandemic has disrupted the K Street economy, as it has the rest of the nation’s businesses, thrusting most lobbyists into an all-virtual workspace and creating volatility as the November elections draw closer.

Senators Request Ethics Probe After Ivanka Trump’s Goya Endorsement
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 7/21/2020

Days after Ivanka Trump created an uproar for endorsing Goya Foods after its chief executive officer praised her father, a pair of U.S. senators want an investigation into whether she violated federal ethics rules. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics inquiring about possible disciplinary action for Ivanka Trump, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House. “The timing of her remarks creates the appearance, at least, that praise for Trump Administration officials may elicit later endorsements from these same officials,” according to the senators’ letter.

Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2020

As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the U.S. House and Senate. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems, and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which President Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”

Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts
MSN – Katie Rogers and Peter Baker (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

President Trump directed the federal government not to count undocumented immigrants when allocating U.S. House districts, a move that critics called a transparent political ploy to help Republicans in violation of the Constitution. The president’s directive would exclude millions of people when determining how many House seats each state should have based on the once-a-decade census, reversing the longstanding policy of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status. The effect would likely shift several seats from Democratic states to Republican states.

Trump’s Request of an Ambassador: Get the British Open for me
MSN – Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

In 2018, President Trump allegedly pressured the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson, to ask the United Kingdom government to relocate the lucrative British Open golf tournament to the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. While the ambassador’s deputy warned Johnson such a request would be an ethical violation, Johnson reportedly felt pressured to go forward with it. As president, Trump is immune from a federal statute making conflicts-of-interest involving “government matters that will affect your own personal financial interest” a crime. He is beholden to the emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibiting federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. As recently as 2017, Turnberry posted a seven-figure loss.

Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts
Hartford Courant – Kate Conger (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020

Twitter said it had removed thousands of accounts that spread messages about the conspiracy theories known as QAnon, saying their messages could lead to harm and violated company policy. Twitter said it would also block trends related to the loose network of QAnon conspiracy theories from appearing in its trending topics and search and would not allow users to post links affiliated with the theories on its platform. The QAnon theories stem from an anonymous person or group of people who use the name “Q” and claim to have access to government secrets that reveal a plot against President Trump and his supporters. That supposedly classified information was initially posted on message boards before spreading to mainstream internet platforms and has led to significant online harassment as well as physical violence.

Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management
AP News – Richard Lardner | Published: 7/16/2020

Seema Verma, the head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, failed to properly manage more than $6 million in communications and outreach contracts, giving broad authority over federal employees to a Republican media strategist she worked with before joining the Trump administration, a government watchdog said. The contracts were for strategic communications services, such as public engagement and interacting with the media. But the inspector general said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services used them as personal services contracts and exerted a level of control over the contractors’ work that exceeded what is allowed under that type of a federal award.

Canada

Canada How Washington Works: Inside an annual field trip for Canada’s senior bureaucrats
Maclean’s – Nick Taylor-Vaisey | Published: 7/21/2020

“How Washington Works” is a course offered by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), a training ground for that country’s federal employees that aims to “provide a broad range of learning opportunities and to establish a culture of learning.” The CSPS has for years sent senior executives south of the border. Until a few years ago, the course was conducted mostly within the confines of the Canadian embassy. But that all changed in 2015, when Maryscott Greenwood, a frequent guest speaker at the event took on a new role as facilitator. Greenwood heads up the Canadian American Business Council, an influential lobby group backed by some of the biggest corporations with cross-border business.

Canada WE Organization Under Scrutiny for Not Registering as Lobbyist Before Pitching Proposals to Trudeau Liberals
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 7/17/2020

The WE organization is coming under new scrutiny over questions as to whether it should have officially registered to lobby the federal government before it pitched two separate programs to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government last April. WE is not listed in the federal lobbying registry. Conservative members of Parliament wrote the federal commissioner of lobbying, Nancy Bélanger, asking her to investigate if WE had possibly broken the Lobbying Act.

From the States and Municipalities

California George Esparza, Ex-Aide to LA Councilman Jose Huizar, Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 7/22/2020

A former aide to now-suspended Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge arising from a purported City Hall corruption scheme in which real estate developers paid bribes to ensure building projects received favored treatment. From 2013 to 2018, Esparza worked as a special assistant to Huizar, who chaired the Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Prosecutors say Esparza and Huizar took bribes from the head of a major Chinese real estate company, who paid more than $1 million in exchange for Huizar’s support for a 77-story skyscraper the company wanted to build.

Colorado Hickenlooper’s Ethics Defense Costs Taxpayers More Than $133,000
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 7/18/2020

Taxpayers spent $133,438 covering the cost of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s defense attorney in the 18 months before he was found to have violated the state’s ban on gifts to public officials. The legal costs have raised eyebrows because they were paid with leftover money from a 2003 federal fund. The fund was supposed to be for essential government services and federal mandates, but Hickenlooper and his predecessor used the money for a wide range of discretionary spending.

Florida Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey’s Business Paid Thousands by County Contractor
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 7/22/2020

Since 2016, a business owned by Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey has been paid as much as $88,000 by an engineering firm that contracts with the county. But VanderLey did not disclose that until recently, after The Orlando Sentinel sent her questions about her income from the company and the accuracy of her public financial disclosures. VanderLey acknowledged she had made mistakes on her state- and county-mandated financial disclosure forms, which are meant to help voters understand their elected officials’ potential conflicts-of-interest. VanderLey called it a “clerical error.” County commissioners and other public officers are generally barred by state law from voting on any matter that would uniquely benefit them financially.

Florida Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 7/18/2020

A Democratic super PAC and other groups agreed to drop their voting lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party on the eve of a federal trial. The groups pushed to change Florida voting laws due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there were signs the lawsuit was in trouble. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in June refused to order changes right away, including a request that taxpayers cover postage costs for mail-in ballots. The decision to end most or all of the legal battle is another win for Republicans in a key battleground state that could make or break President Trump’s reelection effort.

Florida Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/16/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on Florida’s fight over felon voting, choosing not to overturn a lower court’s decision to keep hundreds of thousands of poor felons from joining the voter rolls ahead of this year’s elections. The decision, which was not accompanied by a written ruling, means felons who cannot afford to pay off all court fines, fees, and restitution to victims are still unable to register to vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the fight against allowing poor felons to vote, after nearly 65 percent of Floridians approved Amendment 4 in 2018. The amendment overturned Florida’s Jim Crow-era law meant to keep Blacks from voting.

Illinois Federal Investigation Draws Closer to Madigan as ComEd Will Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme; Pritzker Says Speaker Must Resign If Allegations True
Chicago Tribune – Dan Hinkel, Rick Pierson, Alice Yin, Megan Crepeau, and Annie Sweeney | Published: 7/18/2020

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) settled a federal criminal investigation into a years-long bribery scheme in Illinois. According to the deferred prosecution, the company is charged with one count of bribery. As long as it pays a $200 million fine and complies with regulations for three years, that charge will be dropped. ComEd admits it arranged jobs, subcontracts, and pay-offs for associates of “a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois.” Prosecutors in a criminal filing say that elected official is House Speaker Michael Madigan. Prosecutors put a value of $150 million on the legislative benefits ComEd received.

Iowa Iowa GOP Congressional Candidate Apologizes for Plagiarism, Cuts Ties with Consulting Firm
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 7/22/2020

Iowa congressional candidate Ashley Hinson apologized for plagiarism her opinion pieces and website and cut ties with a consulting firm she said was responsible. The New York Times reported Hinson, a former television news reporter and state representative, plagiarized passages from news outlets including The Times. Hinson repeated the passages word for word in op-eds and on her campaign site without giving credit to the original sources. She also used near-identical language as her opponent, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, used in her platform on veterans issues.

Kentucky Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign
Louisville Courier-Journal – Deborah Yetter | Published: 7/16/2020

Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairperson and the father of former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for campaign finance violations related to his daughter’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Lundergan was convicted last year with Dale Emmons for being part of a scheme to funnel more than $200,000 in illegal campaign donations to the campaign in which Grimes ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Kentucky Well-Connected Unemployment Director Quietly Fired Amid Crisis
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Eleanor Klibanoff and Jared Bennett | Published: 7/20/2020

Muncie McNamara, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance, was quietly fired on May 5 amid an unprecedented number of jobless claims, a race to overhaul an archaic computer system, and a belatedly reported data breach. McNamara had been on the job only four months. The lawyer had no experience with unemployment systems or state government before taking the job. But what he did have was connections. He volunteered for and donated to Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign. His wife, a recent chairperson of the Nelson County Democratic Party, considers Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman “a good friend.” Coleman called McNamara to offer him the job personally, he said. McNamara was paid $15,000 more than his predecessor, a career official who the cabinet kept on staff as a special assistant.

Maryland Political Operative Used Maryland’s DC Lobbyist in Seeking $12.5M Coronavirus Supplies Contract That Went Sour
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 7/16/2020

A company that failed to deliver millions of dollars’ worth of masks and ventilators to Maryland landed the contested deal with the help of a political connection, documents indicate. An adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan helped Blue Flame Medical get its foot in the door with state purchasing agents. The company was founded in March by two Republican political operatives with no medical experience as the coronavirus swept across the country. Tiffany Waddell, Hogan’s director of federal relations, sent an email introducing Blue Flame Medical co-founder Mike Gula to Ellington Churchill, the state’s secretary of the Department of General Services.

Michigan Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Charged with Misconduct in Office, a Felony
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 7/17/2020

The Monroe County prosecutor charged Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland with misconduct in office. The felony charge comes a month before Leland was scheduled to go to trial in federal court on three counts of bribery for allegedly demanding $15,000 from Bob Carmack to help the businessperson in a dispute with the city. The misconduct in office charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000, indicates Leland’s fate will be decided in state court rather than U.S. District Court. There are several reasons Leland may prefer to resolve the case in state court.

Montana GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 7/21/2020

A primary election contest led to potential fines for the state auditor candidate who won and another Republican candidate. Montana Commissioner of Political Practice Jeff Mangan said the winning candidate, Troy Downing, had seven violations while another candidate who lost, Scott Tuxbury, had one violation. Downing failed to provide opposing candidates with copies of a campaign direct mail promotion and a television advertisement that mentioned them and were used within 10 days of the primary election. Mangan said Tuxbury failed to disclose details of a $79,000 in-kind contribution to his campaign.

New Mexico Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work
New Mexico Political Report – Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 7/17/2020

As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District heated up in May, two mysterious groups began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive advertisements about Leger Fernandez but did not disclose who paid for them. Other candidates condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads. But a review of FEC filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race, Valerie Plame, the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign. It is not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups do not disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.

New York NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office
Adirondack Daily Enterprise – Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 7/22/2020

A month after resigning as New York Senate Republican leader, John Flanagan is holding on to his campaign fund, which contains $376,018. Flanagan’s campaign account, though substantial, is dwarfed by the $1.3 million held former state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who retired from the Legislature at the end of 2018. While neither Flanagan or DeFrancisco has plans to seek office again, state allows former office holders to keep their campaign funds active, though good government groups have pushed for years for a requirement that they be dissolved anywhere from six to 18 months after they leave office. The law only requires the fund be dissolved when the person who held or is holding office dies, said John Conklin of the state Board of Elections.

New York Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/16/2020

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is accusing President Trump’s lawyers of deliberately stalling a legal battle over a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax records. During a court hearing held one week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s most sweeping arguments against the grand jury subpoena, an attorney from District Attorney Cy Vance’s office said it was evident Trump’s legal team was playing for time. The president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, did not respond directly to that claim but said there were strong indications that Vance’s investigation was a political errand on behalf of Democratic lawmakers in Washington seeking the same set of records.

North Dakota ND GOP Fined $8,000 for Campaign Finance Violation
Grand Forks Herald – Barry Amundson | Published: 7/18/2020

The North Dakota Republican Party was fined $8,000 by the FEC for failing to report a major campaign contribution within the required timeframe during the 2016 election. Nick Hacker, who was treasurer of the party in October 2016 when the reporting violation was made, said a staff member for the party did not make the corrected report within the 30 days required. Instead, he said, it was corrected within 45 days.

Ohio Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 Others Charged in $60M Bribery Case Tied to Bailout of Akron’s Energy Harbor
Akron Beacon Journal – USA Today Network Ohio | Published: 7/21/2020

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were arrested in a federal corruption investigation connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of the state’s two nuclear power plants. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme that had “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” Householder, chief political aide Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyists Matt Borges, Neil Clark, and Juan Cespedes used the bribe money to expand the speaker’s political power and enrich themselves by millions of dollars through “dark-money” groups and bank accounts.

Texas If Texas Capitol Remains Closed, Lobbyists Say Special Interests Will Thrive Away from Public View
KXAN – John Enger | Published: 7/20/2020

Legislation is debated and voted on inside the Texas Capitol in Austin every other year. But it is two blocks down the road where much of the action takes place. At the corner of Ninth Street and Congress Avenue, buildings house dozens of lobbyists who welcome lawmakers to discuss their clients’ policy and financial goals. With the state’s biennial legislative session approaching, and the Capitol still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, some lobbyists say special interests could have an even greater role in the coming year.

Texas Oil-and-Gas Money Flows to Railroad Commission Nominee Who Pledged to Recuse Himself
Austin American Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 7/16/2020

In March, when James Wright, with little money in his campaign account, remained an obscure Republican primary challenger to a sitting Texas oil-and-gas regulator, he pledged to recuse himself from matters involving campaign donors. But campaign finance reports show that after Wright’s out-of-nowhere upset primary victory, hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests flowed his way. Wright qualified his earlier pledge, saying should he be elected in November to the Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil-and-gas industry, he would recuse himself only on matters that involved donors who give money directly ahead of a commission vote.

Virginia A Politician’s Return of a $10,000 Donation Was Never Cashed. The Transit Union Says It Lost the Check.
Washington Post – Patricia Sullivan | Published: 7/23/2020

The $10,000 donation that cost former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMTA) board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said. Dorsey, an Arlington County Board member, who served as one of WMTA’s appointed leaders until February, lost that unpaid job over his failure to disclose the union contribution within 10 days, as the board’s ethics policy requires.

Washington DC Trump Attended a Fundraiser Without a Mask. The City Sent an Investigator to Inspect His Hotel.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Julie Zauzma | Published: 7/22/2020

The president’s recent maskless appearance at his Trump International Hotel, in apparent defiance of District of Columbia coronavirus regulations, caught the attention of local authorities, who inspected the hotel to check for compliance with city rules. The investigator found no violations at the time of the visit, but the agency pledged to continue monitoring the hotel. President Trump did not wear a mask while greeting Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn at his downtown Washington hotel, according to video of their interaction. Nor did multiple guests standing near one another in the lobby, the video shows.

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July 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 17, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020 Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking […]

National/Federal

America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020

Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states’ chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them – politically, personally, and logistically. They have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured, an unending and public test on a scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states, and their political careers at stake. The pandemic has many of America’s governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.

Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 7/9/2020

A recent report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds that, on average, 73 percent of state campaign funding from 2016 through 2019 came from large donors or PACs, while just 12 percent came from small donors contributing $250 or less. if small donors are incentivized to donate state campaigns, the share currently given to politicians by large donors and special-interest PACs could be flipped on its head with nearly three-quarters of campaign funding could come from amplified donations of $250 and under, according to a previous CFI report that examined public financing in New York.

Chief of White House’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Vaccine Effort Can Keep Investing in Pharma Firms, Under IG Ruling
Albany Times Union – Christopher Rowland (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020

The co-director of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed can maintain extensive investments in the drug industry and avoid ethics disclosures while he continues to make decisions about government contracts for promising coronavirus vaccines under a decision by the Health and Human Services inspector general. The ruling came in response to a complaint that said the administration has carved out an improper exception to federal conflict-of-interest rules for Moncef Slaoui, a former high-ranking official at GlaxoSmithKline. Slaoui took the helm of the initiative as what the administration described as a volunteer contractor. That allowed him to avoid the requirement for government employees to disclose financial interests and divest in holdings that conflict with their responsibilities.

Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/13/2020

Michael Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers. But he could not overturn a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted to protect American troops overseas. Then Williams joined the Trump administration. As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials, and creating pressure within the State Department. On July 10, the State Department lifted the ban. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new sales for companies Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association. His role follows a pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies.

Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/14/2020

CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered U.S. House Democrats at the top of the party’s priority list this November. But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting politicians. This activity – creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom – diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.

Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job
MSN – Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020

Attorney General William Barr repeatedly pressured then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to resign and take another job, including as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to clear the way for President Trump to install a political ally as the leader of the powerful federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. Berman, who testified privately before the House Judiciary Committee, described in a written statement the unusual sequence of events that led to his departure on June 20. The revelation of Barr’s tactics adds to the picture of what was already known about the extraordinary turn of events that culminated in Berman stepping down amid suspicions he was being ousted for political reason.

‘She Knows Better’: Ex-ethics chief Walter Shaub says Ivanka Trump broke rule by promoting Goya beans
USA Today – William Cummings and David Jackson | Published: 7/15/2020

Ivanka Trump is facing questions of whether she violated ethics rules in a social media post that promoted Goya Foods, whose chief executive officer angered opponents of President Trump by praising the president at an event. Ivanka Trump posted an image of herself on Twitter holding aloft a can of Goya black beans, along with a caption featuring the company’s slogan, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that because Ivanka Trump often uses her Twitter account to conduct official business and includes her job description in her profile, “Ms. Trump’s Goya tweet is clearly a violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”

States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show
Anchorage Daily News – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020

Business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. It also sheds light on the thinking of governors who have pledged not to reverse course on reopening, even as coronavirus cases spike in their states. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say. Across the country, moves to reopen the economy before containing the virus offered a lesson in “how the political system accommodates the needs of business,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.

The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force
MSN – Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2020

A “Never Trump” rebellion that began four years ago as a largely ineffective cadre of Republicans has transformed in recent weeks into a potentially disruptive force in this year’s presidential race. Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the president. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, with an emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president.

Trump Commutes Longtime Friend Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence
AP News – Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2020

President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the U.S. House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. The move is another intervention by Trump in the nation’s justice system and underscores his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.

Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 7/12/2020

President Trump on July 4 retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking. It was not the first time Trump has nodded, accidentally or not, to QAnon followers on Twitter. But his QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. The engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes inspired by the conspiracy theory.

Trump Replaces Campaign Manager as Polls Show Him Trailing Biden in Presidential Race
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

President Trump announced he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as recent polls show him falling further behind Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy. The president said Parscale will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected. Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign, He was formerly a top aide to then-New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie. Stepien was expelled from Christi’s orbit in the aftermath of bridge lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, an episode known as Bridgegate.

Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?
ProPublica – Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz | Published: 7/13/2020

President Trump complained via Twitter that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done, not mentioning his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls. With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a three-mile border fence along the Rio Grande. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed. The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”

White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami | Published: 7/13/2020

President Trump was granted a second 45-day extension to file his personal financial disclosure forms, which will give the American public its only detailed look at the president’s private business interests. The forms are supposed to detail Trump’s income, debt, stock holdings, and outstanding loans for 2019. Federal law allows only two such extensions. Trump appears to be the only president since 2001 to need an extension for his financial disclosure filing.

Canada

Canada PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events
CTV – Rachel Gilmore | Published: 7/9/2020

Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid a total of nearly $300,000 over the last four years to speak at WE Charity events. The charity group is at the center of an ethics investigation into Trudeau. The federal ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Trudeau over his government’s now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program, which is slated to pay students and new graduates for their volunteer work this summer. While the charity has backed out of the management of the program following days of controversy, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said the request for an investigation “satisfies the requirements” laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law
Yellowhammer News – Tim Howe | Published: 7/9/2020

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute filed briefs urging Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June. Reid ruled BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as landing fees paid by airlines. Alabama law says an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics statutes if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

Alabama Jeff Sessions Loses Runoff in Alabama as Trump Helps End Career of Key Supporter
Anchorage Daily News – Paul Kane and Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020

Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Doug Jones. The result culminated four months of President Trump imploring the state’s voters to reject Sessions, the man who the president once said he leaned on for advice in forming his “America First” agenda. Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville in the race has always seemed to have more to do with Trump’s anger at Sessions over his recusing himself from the Russia investigation while attorney general than with any particular support for the former Auburn University football coach.

Arizona Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook
KJZZ – Associated Press | Published: 7/9/2020

The head of a special Arizona House ethics committee said he was dropping an investigation into the actions of a fellow Republican lawmaker who faced complaints he engaged in an improper relationship with a lobbyist and helped her avoid a tax seizure. Rep. John Allen said in a letter announcing his decision that he did not believe Rep. David Cook’s conduct “unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules” and the state constitution. The unilateral decision brought protest from Democrats on the panel.

Arkansas State Lawmaker Is Hired to Lead Youth Lockup; Red Flags Raised, Watchdog Say
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ginny Monk | Published: 7/14/2020

Arkansas Rep. Jasen Kelly was hired as director of Rite of Passage, the firm that manages all four of the state’s residential facilities for juvenile offenders for the Division of Youth Services. Kelly said the job does not conflict with his duties as a legislator or pose an ethical issue. He plans to recuse himself from votes or discussions that deal with Rite of Passage. Tom Masseau, executive director of Disability Rights Arkansas, called for Kelly’s resignation from the House, saying it was the only way to resolve a potential conflict-of-interest.

California California’s Department of Conservation Rolls Out New Ethics Policy After Years of Complaints
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Mark Olalde | Published: 7/15/2020

The California Department of Conservation, which has for years weathered accusations of a cozy relationship with the oil industry, introduced a new ethics policy that has drawn praise from advocates of good governance. The new conflict-of-interest manual, which came into force in March and applies across the department’s five agencies, forbids employees from maintaining financial holdings in businesses they regulate without written approval from the department’s director. Media reports found that leadership in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources held investments in major oil companies, including Chevron, which has a large footprint in the state.

California L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/13/2020

Investigators have turned the spotlight in Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar’s corruption case on an unlikely figure in a “pay-to-play” scandal: an elderly woman who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, once worked in a meatpacking plant, and has lived in a modest home in Boyle Heights. Isidra Huizar, the 80-year-old mother of the embattled council member, is one of the unnamed figures mentioned in the sprawling case. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that Isidra Huizar helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Huizar’s mother, identified only as Relative A-2, repeatedly received cash from her son, then used the proceeds to pay his expenses, according to an affidavit.

Colorado Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/10/2020

Outside groups spent nearly $1.7 million on eight highly contested Colorado legislative primary races in 2020. But it is not always easy to figure out where the money came from, despite a 2019 law touted as bringing more transparency to a system that includes cash from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. In other instances, discerning where the money came from is possible if you have time to track all the state and federal committees involved until the funder is revealed. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold acknowledged the loophole in the law that some committees use to avoid naming nonprofit donors. She attributed it to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending in political contests as long as committees do not coordinate with candidates or political parties.

Florida Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal
Politico – Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon | Published: 7/8/2020

The Florida Democratic Party announced it was returning at least $780,000 in small-business loans after its own lawmakers criticized the acceptance of the money as highly questionable if not unethical and illegal. The party immediately applied for the loan after Congress first passed the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, even though there was discussion at the time that the money should go to neither lobbyists nor political causes. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden.

Florida Florida Lawmaker’s Ties to NFL Robbery Case Sparks Investigation
Tampa Bay Times – Meghan Bobrowsky | Published: 7/14/2020

The Florida Bar opened an investigation into the actions of state Rep. and lawyer Michael Grieco after it was reported his office was the scene of what appeared to be payoffs to victims of an alleged robbery by National Football League players Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker in May. Grieco had previously been representing Dunbar and Baker were accused of stealing money and jewelry from people at gunpoint at a party. It was revealed that police believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash in Grieco’s office. The victims reportedly signed sworn affidavits alleging Dunbar did not have anything to do with the robbery.

Florida Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus
Florida Politics – Staff | Published: 7/14/2020

A Florida lobbyist who attended a recent Republican fundraiser near Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Another lobbyist who briefly attended the event and asked to remain anonymous said they left after entering the reception and seeing no one wearing masks. Some attendees also attended an event two days later with Vice President Mike Pence where he thanked members of the Republican National Host Committee for their work on the Jacksonville event.

Florida NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/13/2020

Florida’s top gun lobbyist Marion Hammer faces a probable cause hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding her failure to disclose payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA). State Sen. Perry Thurston filed complaints about Hammer with the Senate and the ethics commission in May 2019. Two weeks before, it was reported the NRA paid Hammer hundreds of thousands of dollars she had not disclosed for a decade on quarterly lobbyist compensations reports required by the Legislature. State law says the fine for late reports is “$50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.”  Hammer, however, was not fined or otherwise disciplined.

Florida RNC Restricts Convention Attendance as Florida Coronavirus Cases Climb
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/16/2020

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to sharply limit attendance for its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, shrinking the event celebrating President Trump’s renomination amid concerns about coronavirus. RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, said attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates.

Illinois Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/9/2020

A Florida fuel distributor that lost a recent bid for a $43 million contract to provide diesel to the city of Chicago filed an official protest, saying the process was skewed to take care of an influential local company linked to an ongoing federal corruption probe. The protest filed by World Fuel Services alleged its proposal, which was the lowest of three submitted to the city, was rejected in favor of the second-lowest bidder that used Black Dog Petroleum as its minority-owned subcontractor. Black Dog and its owner, Amit Gauri, were named in search warrants and subpoenas by federal prosecutors in a probe of former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and suburban mayors and industry heavyweights.

Kansas Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 7/15/2020

U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged with three felonies, including illegal voting. The charges came three weeks before Kansas’s Republican primary election. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local city council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing. The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election in Topeka without being qualified.

Kentucky Breonna Taylor Protesters Sat on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Lawn. Police Charged 87 with Felonies.
Portland Press Herald – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

Protesters who refused to leave the front lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron were arrested and each one was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. The activists had come to demand Cameron charge the three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor inside her home while executing a no-knock warrant. The felony charge applies to people who use “physical force or a threat” to influence “the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion” of a participant in the legal process, like a victim, a witness, or a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the felony charges filed against the protesters, calling them “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate.”

Missouri FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 7/13/2020

The FBI has once again requested records from Independence City Hall, the latest in a series of inquiries by federal authorities over the last year that appear to be focused on a pair of utilities contracts and medical marijuana regulations. The Independence City Council in 2017 awarded Environmental Operations the contract to tear down a power plant in Missouri City that Independence Power and Light was no longer using.  The contract was immediately controversial since Environmental Operations got the job with a $9.75 million bid, more than twice that of the other bidder. Environmental Operations’ owner, Stacy Hastie, is well connected in Missouri politics. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year demanding records on four medical marijuana applicants.

Missouri St. Louis Prosecutor Receives Death Threats as Trump Defends Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters
Stamford Advocate – Meagan Flynn, Tom Jackman, and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the prosecutor investigating the couple who aimed guns at protesters, says she has received racist attacks and death threats that have worsened as President Trump has thrown his support behind the couple. Both the president and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson have offered impassioned defenses of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who went viral after brandishing guns at protesters on the private street outside their mansion.  Parson, who said the couple had “every right to protect their property,” said he spoke with Trump recently. He said Trump made it clear he “doesn’t like what he sees and the way these people are being treated,” referencing the McCloskeys.

New Jersey New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation
ProPublica – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 7/13/2020

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put a freeze on the continued disbursement of $578 million worth of tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie. A task force’s lead investigator said he referred several companies to law enforcement for making potentially fraudulent threats to move out of state to obtain tax breaks. Of the 12 companies whose awards are under review, five are connected to Democratic Party boss George Norcross and represent most of the money – $540 million. Some companies provided the same out-of-state location where they claimed they would move if they did not get a tax break, Blue Hill Plaza in Rockland County, New York. But the applications were approved.

New Mexico New Mexico Group ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Ordered to Pay Fines, Register as Political Committee
AP News – Russell Contreras | Published: 7/11/2020

The New Mexico group, Cowboys for Trump, must register as a political committee in the state, and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports, an arbitrator ruled. Cowboys for Trump has protested the requirements because it argues campaign finance laws violate free speech, and the group does not meet the definition of a political committee. Cowboys for Trump members say the group is a for-profit organization.

New York Probe Into De Blasio’s Old Charity Given Green Light by State Judge
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile | Published: 7/15/2020

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) received approval from a judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled JCOPE has the authority to pursue a probe into Broadway Stages’ communications with de Blasio as well as $60,000 in donations. Broadway Stages claimed JCOPE cannot investigate individuals who give “gifts” and is limited to regulating officials who receive those monetary donations. It also denied giving to Campaign for One New York following a request from de Blasio or any another public official.

New York Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 7/15/2020

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue the district attorney’s subpoena was too broad and politically motivated. The president and the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.

Ohio Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations
Toledo Blade – Tom Troy | Published: 7/11/2020

Investigators say Toledo City Council members Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson, all Democrats, engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme that exchanged money for votes. They face federal bribery and extortion charges. More than $34,000 changed hands between business owners and the council members during the investigation. Several local politicians and campaign experts, however, contend the line between what constitutes a campaign contribution and what constitutes a bribe may be fuzzy to some because of a culture in which politicians and businesses, interest groups, and unions symbiotically support each other through political donations and favorable votes on legislation.

Oregon Oregon AG Appeals Federal Judge’s Order on Redistricting Bid
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 7/15/2020

Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced she is fighting a federal judge’s order for Oregon to give more leeway to a group that seeks to change how the state draws its electoral districts. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown orders prevented People Not Politicians from obtaining the required number of signatures by a July 2 deadline to put the issue on the ballot for the November election. The Legislature is currently responsible for redrawing district lines. People Not Politicians wants an independent citizen redistricting commission to do it instead and seeks to have voters approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow that.

South Carolina Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 7/12/2020

Anonymous donors poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a South Carolina Senate primary for a seat that covers Myrtle Beach, exploiting the state’s weak campaign finance laws and influencing voters in Horry County. The large amount of money spent on the primary runoff between state Sen. Luke Rankin and John Gallman highlights the outsize role that so-called dark money groups can play in state elections in South Carolina. Combined, the organizations were able to spend more than three times what Rankin was able to raise for his own campaign. That is because people who give directly to candidates are subject to contribution limits in South Carolina, whereas these groups are not.

Tennessee Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/9/2020

Campaign finance officials followed through on a plan to levy a $10,500 penalty against former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada after an audit determined he failed to adequately retain receipts for roughly $100,000 in expenditures. Despite Casada being eligible to face more than $2.9 million in fines, the Registry of Election Finance voted in favor of the smaller penalty. Although the audits found a number of issues with Casada’s personal campaign committee and a PAC controlled, the registry only fined him for failing to have receipts for 299 expenditures.

Texas Ronny Jackson, Ex-White House Doctor, Wins Texas House Runoff
MSN – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2020

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with President Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, left the West Wing in December after becoming Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to withdraw his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct. Jackson made a series of mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. But after Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked two senior members of Trump’s re-election campaign to step in.

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July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 3, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020 Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs […]

National/Federal

A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers
MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020

Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs has always been a subject of fascination. In the Trump White House, being the relative of someone with a big administration job seems to be one crucial advantage. Family connections, through marriage or direct blood ties, turn up in several places among the people who are in charge of communicating the administration’s agenda or involved in his reelection effort. In a legal opinion written in early 2017, the Justice Department concluded the president has “special hiring authority” and that a decades-old anti-nepotism statute did not apply to the White House.

A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020

A dozen donors gave about $480,000 to cover Vice President Mike Pence’s legal bills in the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Jim Atterholt, Pence’s former gubernatorial chief of staff, started the fund with $25 in December 2018. Since then, donors gave between $5,000 and $100,000, including business executives from Pence’s home state of Indiana and longtime Republican contributors. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials from receiving excessive gifts, and watchdogs have called on clearer guidelines for legal expense funds to prevent the potential for conflicts-of-interest or undue influence.

As Support for Mask-Wearing Grows, So Do Political Risks for Forgoing Them
MSN – Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2020

President Trump makes a point of not wearing a mask in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, has gone in the other direction. A mask is part of his 2020 signature look. This divergent accessorizing once highlighted yet another partisan divide. For Trump allies, going barefaced is about individual liberty. For Biden supporters, the mask is a symbol of science and sound policy. But as infections spike in red states, support for masks has grown. Some Republicans have urged the public to cover their faces in public, arguing it is the best way to slow the virus. This shift in rhetoric highlights the potential risks for the president as he continues to ignore the advice of public health experts, who agree masks are crucial to slow the spread of the virus.

Congressional Black Caucus Seizes on Push for Racial Justice to Wield Greater Influence
MSN – Rachel Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2020

The Congressional Black Caucus is seizing the national moment of reckoning over systemic inequality and racial injustice to wield its greatest level of influence inside the Capitol and in national politics. The caucus took the lead in crafting policing legislation the House passed, an expansive measure to stop police brutality after the death of George Floyd. Three caucus members – Sen. Kamala Harris and Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass – are on the shortlist of potential running mates for Joe Biden. And with black candidates around the nation channeling the public clamor for equality into likely primary upsets recently, the group is poised to expand its ranks next year when it marks its 50th anniversary.

Democrats Confirm Plans for Nearly All-Virtual Convention
AP News – Bill Barrow | Published: 6/24/2020

Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual presidential nominating convention August 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming. Joe Biden plans to accept the nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience there to see it. The Democratic National Committee said in a statement that official business, including the votes to nominate Biden and his yet-to-be-named running mate, will take place virtually, with delegates being asked not to travel to Milwaukee.

Devin Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over Statements by Fake Cow, Judge Rules
McClatchy DC – Kate Irby | Published: 6/24/2020

A judge ruled U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother, and a Republican strategist. Judge John Marshall said Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms. Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes, and strategist Liz Mair. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged defamation.

DOJ Files Charges Against Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 6/25/2020

Jack Abramoff is set to return to prison after agreeing to plead guilty to violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). He is the first person charged with violating the LDA, which was amended in 2007 after his earlier scheme was uncovered. It was one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent history, resulting in 20 convictions or guilty pleas. Prosecutors said that in 2017, Abramoff agreed to seek changes in federal law and met with members of Congress on behalf of the marijuana industry without registering as a lobbyist. He was also charged with marketing a cryptocurrency to potential investors with a series of false claims. Abramoff made a public showing of rehabilitating himself after he was released from prison in 2010.

For Months, Trump Allies Hunted for Tapes of Biden in Ukraine. Now They’re Turning Up.
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and David Stern | Published: 6/30/2020

President Trump’s allies were in pursuit last year of tape recordings of Joe Biden speaking to Ukrainian officials while he was vice president, conversations they believed could help them damage Biden’s current bid for the White House. Now, with just months to go before Election Day, that material is surfacing in Ukraine and being touted by some of the president’s backers in the U.S. Recordings show Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general. The tapes do not provide evidence to back Rudolph Giuliani’s accusation that Biden sought to have him fired to block an investigation of a gas company that had hired his son Hunter. The authenticity of the audio files, which appear heavily edited, could not be verified.

GOP Appointee Resigns from Federal Election Commission, Once Again Leaving It Without a Quorum
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/26/2020

Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on FEC, announced he is stepping down on July 3, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions. Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the confirmation of Republican James Trainor. The White House announced its plans to nominate campaign finance lawyer Allen Dickerson to replace Hunter. Dickerson is the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit that opposes limits on political speech and advertising. The FEC, which is ideologically split by design, is now left with one Republican, one Democrat, and an independent who often caucuses with Democrats.

Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary
Politico – James Arkin and Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/30/2020

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado and will face U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this fall. It was just one of several major races across the country. Hickenlooper was the prohibitive favorite for months, leaning on his successes in his two terms as governor and his universal name recognition and positive image among voters. But he stumbled in the closing stretch of the race, apologizing for racially insensitive comments, and being held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, which ruled he twice violated state ethics laws as governor.

House Republican Leaders Support GOP Nominee Open to QAnon Conspiracy Theory
Washington Post – Paul Kane and Colby Itkowitz | Published: 7/1/2020

Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive U.S. House seat despite her openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott Tipton. Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.

Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America
Politico – Nahal Toosi | Published: 7/1/2020

International activists, groups, and institutions are increasingly focusing on the United States as a villain, not a hero, on human rights. While the country has never fully escaped such scrutiny, former officials and activists say that under President Trump, American domestic strife is raising an unusual level of alarm alongside U.S. actions on the global stage. Some groups also flag what they say is an erosion of democracy in a country that has long styled itself as a beacon of freedom.

Judge Sets July 14 Surrender Date, Immediate Home Confinement for Roger Stone
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/26/2020

A federal judge ordered longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone to prison on July 14 and into home confinement until then, citing Stone’s own evidence of medical issues that he cited to request a delay of his June 30 surrender date to begin a 40-month jail term. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until September 3. Jackson sentenced Stone to his 40-month jail term in February following his conviction on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

New York Court Sides with Publisher of Explosive Book by President Trump’s Niece
Seattle Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

A court lifted a temporary restraining order against the publication of a book by President Trump’s niece, enabling publisher Simon & Schuster to continue printing and distributing the insider account by Mary Trump. A New York Supreme Court judge agreed to impose the restraining order to allow the parties to present their arguments, raising doubts about whether it would be published. But the Supreme Court’s appellate division lifted the restraining order that had been imposed on Simon & Schuster, while leaving in place the one regarding Mary Trump. That effectively enables the publisher to continue distributing copies of the book in preparation for the planned July 28 publication, even as the overall merits of the case are argued.

Reddit Closes Long-Running Forum Supporting President Trump After Years of Policy Violations
MSN – Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin (WashingtonPost) | Published: 6/29/2020

Reddit shut down its popular but controversial forum devoted to supporting President Trump, following years in which the social media company tried but often failed to control the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, glorification of violence, and conspiracy theories that flourished there. The move by Reddit comes amid a broader crackdown by technology companies to try to rein in hateful, deceptive. and other problematic content on their platforms, typically after high-profile scandals prompted action. Reddit also implemented its first policy banning hate speech and closed about 2,000 individual forums, what the company calls “subreddits.” The company already had a policy against “divisive language” in advertising.

SBA Exempted Lawmakers, Federal Officials from Ethics Rules in $660 Billion Loan Program
Washington Post – Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg | Published: 6/26/2020

A brief and barely noticed “blanket approval” issued by the Trump administration allows lawmakers, Small Business Administration (SBA) staff, other federal officials and their families to bypass long-standing rules on conflicts-of-interest to seek funds for themselves, adding to concerns that coronavirus aid programs could be subject to fraud and abuse. Policy experts and watchdogs said the blanket waiver could allow officials to write the rules to benefit themselves. Josh Gotbaum, a Brookings Institution scholar who has worked in economic policy under Democratic and Republican administrations, said he was “appalled” by the waiver.

The Lincoln Project Is Trolling Trump. But Can It Sway Voters?
Politico – Tina Nguyen and Elena Schneider | Published: 6/29/2020

In the past few months, the Lincoln Project, an anti-President Trump PAC run by Republicans, has successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events, and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it is the District of Columbia. market or his golf courses across the country. And every time Trump responds, the Lincoln Project scores an incalculable amount of earned media, and millions of views online. But though the PAC has successfully caught the president’s attention, Trump’s critics worry the ads may not work to “prosecute the case” against his reelection, as the group vowed to do in December.

Zuckerberg Once Wanted to Sanction Trump. Then Facebook Wrote Rules That Accommodated Him.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2020

Facebook constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy allowing politicians to lie, and altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims it was biased against conservatives, according to documents and employees. A document shows it began in 2015 when as a candidate, Donald Trump posted a video calling for a ban of Muslims entering the U.S. Facebook executives declined to remove it, setting in motion an exception for political discourse. Concessions to Trump paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to push out misinformation and incendiary political language. It has complicated the understanding of major events and contributed to polarization. Fear of Trump’s wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network.

Canada

Canada Alberta Local Elections Bill Gets Mixed Reaction from Experts, Former Candidates
CBC – Madeleine Cummings and Michelle Bellfontaine | Published: 6/28/2020

Policy experts and former candidates are giving a mixed reaction to amendments to Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Amendment Act. Among the changes proposed are removing the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to Election Day, removing limits on spending by third-party advertisers outside the local election campaign period, and allowing individuals to donate up to $5,000 to as many candidates as they want during an election.

Canada Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government
Canada.com – Christopher Nardi | Published: 6/29/2020

WE Charity, which has close ties to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, and which will get millions of dollars to administer a federal student volunteer grant program. has received a series of exclusively sole-source contracts from the federal government over the last three years. Sole-source contracts are government contracts that are handed directly to a chosen supplier, without the opportunity for others to provide competing bids for the business. The contracts were for vague services such as “Management consulting,” “Public relations services,” and, in three cases, “Other professional services not otherwise specified,” according to records.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 6/29/2020

Alabama officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct elections in the midst of a national health crisis in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed an application to the high court to overturn a lower court’s injunction that found the requirements could violate the constitutional right to vote for some elderly and disabled voters during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue in Alabama are two requirements state officials say combat voter fraud. Voters must submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot application, and absentee ballots must contain a voter affidavit that is either notarized or signed by two witnesses.

Arizona Witness in Rep. David Cook Investigation Says Lawmaker Sent Threatening Message
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 6/29/2020

The day before a legislative ethics committee released a critical report on Arizona Rep. David Cook, the lawmaker got a copy for himself and a few hours later sent a message to one of the witnesses that the witness took as a threat. Patrick Bray was interviewed by investigators looking into claims that Cook had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist at the same time he was supporting her legislation. The investigation also looked into allegations Cook intervened to stop a local sheriff from seizing property belonging to the lobbyist’s family.

California Feds Say Tower Project Shows Toll of Bribery in Huizar Case: Less affordable housing
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 6/26/2020

In 2018, a real estate developer received the blessing of the Los Angeles City Council for a new high-rise in the Arts District. The real estate executive said the council had approved the tallest building yet in the Arts District, and with “minimal” requirements for affordable housing, according to federal prosecutors. Now l investigators are describing the Arts District project as one of the real estate developments entangled in an alleged criminal scheme headed by Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna cited it as an example of “the harm that comes with bribery.”

California Huizar, Facing Felony Charge, Will No Longer Receive L.A. Council Salary, Official Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 6/29/2020

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin moved to have the city stop paying Councilperson Jose Huizar his salary, saying it would be “unacceptable” for Huizar to continue receiving taxpayer funds while facing a felony charge in a federal corruption case. Huizar had been earning nearly $214,000 per year. Galperin said Huizar’s last day receiving a city salary was June 23, the day he was charged with racketeering in a case in which he is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes and other improper financial benefits. A Galperin spokesperson said the City Charter allows the controller to stop salary payments when a council member is not “devoting his time to duties related to his office.”

California Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 6/29/2020

The alleged public corruption engaged in by former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru was able to go on unchecked for years due to gaps in city contracting and gift rules he exploited, according to a new report. The city controller’s investigation of the Public Works department resulted in eight recommendations to reform its operations to prevent the sort of behavior for which Nuru is accused. Federal prosecutors have accused Nuru of trading favors for city contractors and developers in exchange for gifts. Nuru also created a culture conducive to public corruption, the report said.

California Permit Expediter Accused of Fraud to Cooperate in FBI City Hall Corruption Probe
San Francisco Examiner – Michael Barber and Joseph Sabatini | Published: 6/25/2020

A San Francisco permit expediter is facing criminal charges for allegedly engaging in “pay-to-play” schemes with public officials including former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru for more than a decade. Prosecutors charged Walter Wong with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI investigation into public corruption at City Hall. Wong has helped developers navigate San Francisco’s complicated permitting process for more than a decade and is also a building contractor. He is the seventh person to be charged as a result of the expanding FBI corruption probe.

Florida A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 6/25/2020

A typographical error led to a two-month legal fight between Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and firefighter Omar Blanco, and the dispute that began with a misspelled check now has Blanco accusing Gimenez of using illegal funds to qualify for the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The back-and-forth will continue, at least for now, after a judge denied Gimenez’s motion to dismiss Blanco’s lawsuit. An attorney for Blanco said Gimenez’s candidacy is illegal if his $10,400 check, written in April to qualify for the primary ballot, was paid for with funds from a PAC instead of Gimenez’s campaign account. The bank that issued Gimenez’s check said it did not have any records of a campaign account bearing Gimenez’s name, or the misspelled version – “Giminez” – that appeared on his qualifying check.

Florida Conflict-of-Interest Issues Spark Conflict Among Tourism Development Council Members
Florida Today – Dave Berman | Published: 6/25/2020

A behind-the-scenes dispute involving members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council over perceived conflicts-of-interest has become public, as Giles Malone and Bob Baugher repeatedly sniped at one another during a recent meeting. Their debate focused on Malone’s role in helping bring the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games to Brevard County and his involvement in linking athletes with hotels. The debate could lead to a larger examination of how the council handles business dealings involving its members and their companies. That includes when members must abstain from voting on certain matters and when they must formally declare they have a conflict of interest.  County officials plan to ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to help sort things out.

Georgia Georgia Lawmakers Pass New DeKalb Ethics Bill
The Champion – Asia Ashley | Published: 6/28/2020

On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed a new proposal to the DeKalb County ethics laws. The county’s ethics board has been dormant and unable to make recommendations on complaints received since August 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled the board was unconstitutional due to its members being appointed by non-elected entities. If House Bill 1243 is approved by voters in November, the new ethics board would begin their roles on January 1, 2020.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Responds to Report Alleging She Approved Contracts for Groups on Abstention List
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 6/24/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt asked the city inspector general to correct a report on her voting history, saying it may have left a misleading impression that she approved contracts in which she had a conflict-of-interest. In her response to the report, Pratt said she maintains a long “abstentions list” – organizations that she has worked with, belonged to, or filed tax returns for as a private accountant – in an effort to be transparent as a member of the city’s powerful Board of Estimates. Inspector General Isabel Cumming said she stood by the report.

Mississippi Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Changing State’s Flag, Abandoning Confederate Symbol
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Berman and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that retires the only state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. The new flag’s design will be determined later, but lawmakers have barred it from including the most recognizable icon of the Confederacy, which many people associate with racism, slavery, and oppression. Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But a growing number of cities and all the state’s public universities have abandoned it. The issue was still broadly considered too volatile for legislators to touch until the death of George Floyd set off protests against racial injustice, followed by calls to take down Confederate symbols.

Montana Official Finds Montana GOP Violated Campaign Finance Laws
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 6/26/2020

The Montana Republican Party and two minor party qualification committees violated state campaign finance laws in a successful effort to qualify the Green Party of Montana for the primary ballot without the Green Party’s knowledge. The Montana GOP has acknowledged paying Advanced Micro Targeting $100,000 to gather signatures to certify the Green Party for the ballot. The money was also listed as an in-kind contribution to a group called Montanans for Conservation, which did not register as a minor party qualifying committee until after the Green Party was certified for the ballot on March 6. The Legislature passed a law in 2019 requiring groups to report any spending for paid signature gatherers to qualify issues or parties for the ballot to ensure transparency.

New Jersey Buried in N.J.’s Budget Cuts: A break for a billionaire
New York Times – Tracey Tully | Published: 7/2/2020

New Jersey lawmakers passed a stopgap three-month budget that included $4 billion in cuts. It was fast-tracked to meet the July 1 deadline, leaving watchdogs and advocacy organizations largely in the dark about key details during a time when most traditional lobbying and legislative activities have been sidelined by the virus. Somewhere along the way a one-paragraph clause was quietly inserted. The wording could clear the way for private development in Liberty State Park, which has been eyed for decades by developers. Liberty National, an exclusive private golf club, has been pressing for years to expand into a nearby section of the park. Key lawmakers said they were blindsided by the maneuver that would likely reward the wealthy at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the nation’s economic and racial divide.

New York NYC Board of Elections Director Fined for Violating Ethics Law
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin (WNYC) | Published: 6/25/2020

New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan was fined $2,500 for violating the city’s ethics law. In 2016, Ryan served as an unpaid member of an advisory board for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), a vendor the board purchases its election machines and other supplies from. In 2018, it was revealed Ryan took nine trips paid for by ES&S. Ryan sought guidance from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board who advised him ES&S could pay for his travel expenses to attend board meetings as needed for him to fulfill his city duties. But Ryan committed an ethics violation while attending a meeting in Manhattan in 2016.

North Carolina NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Raleigh News and Observer – Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan | Published: 7/1/2020

A lobbyist who met with as many as five members of the North Carolina General Assembly tested positive for COVID-19. “I am told no legislators who met with the lobbyists have symptoms or have tested positive,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a text message. Moore said the lobbyist went to meetings and did not linger in the building. This is the second time a person who was in the Legislative Building has been reported as testing positive for COVID-19. In March, a cafeteria staff member tested positive one day after working in the building.

Ohio Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe
Toledo Blade – Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms | Published: 6/30/2020

Four Toledo City Council members and a private attorney were arrested on charges of accepting cash and other things of value from business owners in exchange for favorable votes on issues before the council, federal prosecutors said. Council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes, and Garrick Johnson, along with Keith Mitchell, an attorney who Harper allegedly used to solicit and funnel bribe payments, all face bribery and extortion charges. Details in the complaint suggest up to $34,260 changed hands between business owners, the council members, and Mitchell during the two-year investigation.

Ohio ‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha | Published: 6/28/2020

Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard pleaded guilty to accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money. According to court documents, on two separate days in September 2019, Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney to pay for her personal expenses. In exchange for the money, documents say, “Dennard promised and did provide favorable official action on behalf of” the lawyer’s unnamed client. After receiving the $15,000, Dennard continued to solicit additional money from the attorney.

Texas U.S. Supreme Court Declines Texas Democrats’ Request to Allow All Texans to Vote by Mail
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/26/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an initial bid by state Democrats to expand voting by mail to all Texas voters during the coronavirus pandemic. The high court denied the Texas Democratic Party’s request to let U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order to expand mail-in voting take effect while the case is on appeal. Biery ruled in May that Texas must allow all voters fearful of becoming infected at polling places to vote by mail even if they would not ordinarily qualify for mail-in ballots under state election law. The decision means the state’s strict rules to qualify for ballots that can be filled out at home will remain in place for the July 14 primary runoff election. Under current law, mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail.

Utah Lobbyists and a Utah Senate Leader Create What Critics Call a ‘Fake PAC’ to Help Friends
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 6/27/2020

Lobbyist Spencer Stokes and Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert were upset when the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Term Limits attacked two state Senate candidates they like, including the cousin of Hemmert’s wife. So, they helped form a new local PAC, called Utah Term Limits, to send competing mailers. They created it one day after deadlines that would have required disclosing its donors and expenses before the June 30 primary election. So, the source of the money remains hidden. Senate candidate and former Utah Rep. Rich Cunningham said it appears to have little if any membership beyond lobbyists who use dark money and late ads to muddy up who in his race really favors limiting the terms of politicians.

Washington DC Milestone House Vote on DC Statehood Is Where It Likely Ends … For Now
Roll Call – Chris Cioffi | Published: 6/26/2020

A U.S. House approved a bill to admit the District of Columbia as the 51st state, the first time a such legislation passed either chamber of Congress. It is also expected to be the bill’s last stop, at least until next year. The bill has little chance of making it to the floor in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote does mark a milestone for many who have spent years fighting for statehood, and if Democrats keep their focus, it might one day become reality if the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

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June 26, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 26, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 6/24/2020 The cliffhanger elections in Kentucky and New York did not just leave the candidates and voters in a state of […]

National/Federal

A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 6/24/2020

The cliffhanger elections in Kentucky and New York did not just leave the candidates and voters in a state of suspended animation wondering who had won. Election officials, lawyers, and political strategists in both parties said the lack of results was a bracing preview of what could come after the polls close in November: no clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. With the coronavirus pandemic swelling the number of mailed-in ballots to historic highs across the nation, the process of vote-counting has become more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to keep up and deliver timely results. The jumble of election rules and deadlines by state, including in presidential battlegrounds, all but ensure the victor in a close race will not be known on November 3.

Amid Threats and Political Pushback, Public Health Officials Are Leaving Their Posts
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Ariana Eungjun Cha (Washington Post) | Published: 6/22/2020

Public health workers are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have been fired, resigned, or have retired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.” Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation, and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”

Appeals Court Panel Orders End to Michael Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/24/2020

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directed a federal judge to drop a criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The panel ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn. The order was rare and came as a surprise, taking its place as yet another twist in the legal and political drama surrounding the prosecution of Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in the Russia investigation about his conversations in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Ex-Sens. Lott, Breaux Announce Move to Crossroads Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/15/2020

A week after exiting Squire Patton Boggs, former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and his longtime K Street colleague, ex-Sen. John Breaux, said they were joining the lobbying shop Crossroads Strategies. Both Lott and Breaux had been at Squire Patton Boggs for the past decade. Lott’s reported ousting from the firm, amid a national reckoning on racism, led some on K Street to speculate it was tied to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership in 2002. Lott, however, said the split was based on business.

Facebook Removes Trump Ads with Symbol Once Used by Nazis to Designate Political Prisoners
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps. A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, and other members of opposition parties. In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle. The symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page.

FEC to Take Public Comments on Petition to Close ‘Bloomberg Loophole’
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/18/2020

The FEC agreed to take public comments on a petition to close a loophole that allowed former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to transfer millions of dollars to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his self-funded campaign to the DNC in March, abusing a rule that allows candidates to funnel unlimited amounts of leftover campaign cash to party committees. Citizens United is seeking to limit the amount of money federal candidates can transfer to a party committee but noted the loophole could be closed in other way.

Judge: Bolton can publish book despite efforts to block
AP News – Eric Tucker | Published: 6/21/2020

A federal judge said former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed. The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security issues, even as the White House pledged to keep pursuing the onetime top aide. Lamberth also made clear his concerns that Bolton had taken it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.

Justice Dept. Officials Testify on Politicization Under Barr
MSN – Katie Benner, Nichokas Fandos, and Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/24/2020

Two U.S. Justice Department officials delivered stinging congressional testimony, accusing political appointees of intervening in criminal and antitrust cases to serve the personal interests of President Trump and Attorney General William Barr. Aaron Zelinsky, a career prosecutor who worked on the Russia investigation, told the House Judiciary Committee that senior law enforcement officials intervened to seek a more lenient prison sentence for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone for political reasons. John Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division, charged that supervisors improperly used their powers to investigate the marijuana industry and a deal between California and four major automakers. Democrats say the hearing is part of a broader investigation into Barr’s leadership of the department.

K Street May Mostly Skip Political Conventions This Year
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/24/2020

Typically, this close to the political conventions, lobbyists would have booked hotel rooms, arranged for event spaces to host receptions, and scored passes to attend high-profile speeches, including those of the party nominees. But that has not happened this year as the influence industry faces fear of the coronavirus and fallout from location and date changes for the events. K Street’s biggest shops are among those with undetermined plans. The virus is not the only thing weighing on corporate lobbying interests. Even before COVID-19 upended Americans’ lives, many corporations, worried about associating their brands overtly in politics, had been assessing whether the large investments would be worth it.

Russia. Ukraine. China. Bolton Account Highlights Pattern of Trump Welcoming Foreign Political Help.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

John Bolton’s book highlights Trump’s pattern of welcoming foreign political help and a casual comfort with what was once unthinkable in American politics – foreign intervention in U.S. elections. Experts fear Trump’s behavior may embolden nations to try to sway American voters in the 2020 campaign, particularly if foreign leaders conclude that helping lift Trump to a second term would be an effective way to curry favor with the White House. While Trump’s past outreach to foreign powers for political assistance triggered widespread condemnation, he has not suffered serious consequences. Bolton’s new allegations come as experts warn Russia, China, Iran, and other countries have been stepping up their efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

Sign of the Times: The return of campaign door knockers
Politico – Christopher Cadelago | Published: 6/20/2020

When the pandemic forced a national quarantine, campaigns were confronted with the daunting prospect of permanently sidelining the most reliable method to reach voters: knocking on their doors. But recent days have marked a shift in that thinking as states reopen for business and more Americans venture out in public. President Trump and Republican allies have resumed some level of in-person field operations in every state where they are campaigning. GOP-paid door knockers are now back in nearly every November battleground, party officials said. While Joe Biden’s campaign is not expecting an immediate return to the field, aides are in touch with local health officials and state parties to weigh their comfort level and are making assessments on a weekly basis about when it is safe to resume in-person campaigning.

Trade Groups Make Lobbying Push to Be Included in Small Business Loan Program
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/19/2020

The group that represents trade associations lobbied for professional and advocacy organizations struggling through the coronavirus to be eligible to receive small business loans. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) hosted a virtual fly-in to call for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program so 501(c)(6) organizations can receive loans. The groups, which include trade associations, professional societies, and local chambers of commerce, were left out of the program when Congress passed its $2.2 trillion relief bill in March. “As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, other revenue sources for associations are down as well, including membership dues, and things like advertising, and sponsorships,” said Chris Vest, ASAE director of public policy.

Treasury, SBA Cave to Demands for Bailout Transparency
Politico – Victoria Guida | Published: 6/19/2020

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration bowed to congressional pressure and said they will disclose information on companies that received loans under the government’s small business rescue program. The names of companies and nonprofits that got loans larger than $150,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program will be released, along with other identifying information. Loan amounts will only be given within a certain range. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move represents an agreement with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee. Those lawmakers had asked for all borrowers to be identified; the deal will cover nearly 75 percent of the more than $500 billion that has been lent out, though only a minority of the 4.5 million total beneficiaries.

Trump Crony’s Gas Deal Reignites Conflict-of-Interest Concerns
Courthouse News Service – Adam Klasfeld | Published: 6/19/2020

On the campaign trail a year before his election, Donald Trump boasted in a radio interview that his real estate holdings in Istanbul could influence U.S.-Turkish foreign policy as president. “I have a little conflict-of-interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul, and it’s a tremendously successful job,” Trump disclosed. As a second election cycle looms, Trump’s Turkish business partner on that Istanbul property is homing in on a liquefied natural gas deal that can dramatically boost the U.S.-Turkey energy trade for more than a decade. The man at the center of the gas deal is Mehmet Ali Yalçindag, chairperson of Turkey’s oldest state-sponsored trade group, who brought Trump’s real estate empire into Istanbul in 2012. He is the son-in-law of Aydin Dogan, who owns Trump Towers Istanbul.

Trump Ousts Manhattan U.S. Attorney Who Investigated President’s Associates
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky, and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2020

Attorney General William Barr said President Trump fired the top federal prosecutor in New York, ending an unprecedented standoff between Barr and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who had resisted being removed from his post. Barr informed Berman of the president’s move in a sharply worded letter, explaining that Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan until the Senate can confirm a permanent replacement. Under Berman, the office managed a number of sensitive investigations involving people close to Trump. The fight between Barr and the nation’s most powerful U.S. attorney deepened alarm among Democrats over Barr’s management of the Justice Department, generating fresh accusations the attorney general is placing the president’s interests above those of the public.

Twitter Labels Trump Video Tweet as Manipulated Media, Continuing Its Crackdown on Misinformation
MSN – Kat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2020

Twitter took the rare step of appending a warning label to one of President Trump’s tweets after the company determined it violated its policies on manipulated media. The president tweeted a doctored version of a popular video that went viral in 2019, which showed two toddlers, one black and one white, hugging. In the version Trump shared, the video has been edited with ominous music and a fake CNN headline that says, “Terrified toddler runs from racist baby.” The label is the latest flash point in an increasingly contentious debate over tech companies’ responsibility to police falsehoods and hoaxes spread by politicians on their platforms.

Why Obsessive K-Pop Fans Are Turning Toward Political Activism
MSN – Joe Coscarelli (New York Times) | Published: 6/22/2020

Amid a pandemic, a forthcoming presidential election, and inescapable conversations about race, K-pop fans – the typically young and diverse international enthusiasts of Korean pop music who congregate daily on social media – is trying to exert its influence in a new realm: the American political arena. Spurred at first by the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, K-pop stans made themselves known outside of music circles hen some took credit for helping to inflate expectations for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa by reserving tickets they had no plans to use. But while the Trump campaign denied he prank affected attendance, the call to action in K-pop circles revealed a growing realization that fans’ efficient social-media tactics for fundraising or making a song go viral can also be used for political activism.

Canada

Canada Conservative Senator Victor Oh Faces Censure for Free Trip to China
The Globe and Mail – Robert Fife and Steven Chase | Published: 6/18/2020

The Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee is recommending Senator Victor Oh be censured for violating the chamber’s conflict-of-interest and ethics code by accepting an all-expenses paid trip to China for himself and two of his colleagues. Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault criticized Oh for providing incomplete testimony and withholding information, saying his conduct “raises questions about his integrity.” Censure in Parliament is a form of severe disapproval for the ethical actions of a parliamentarian. The committee did not recommend further sanctions but urged Oh to formally apologize.

Canada Senate Ethics Committee Recommends Rescinding Suspension of Senator Lynn
The Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup | Published: 6/22/2020

The Senate should rescind the suspension of Lynn Beyak ordered in February, the standing committee on ethics and conflict-of-interest for senators. The recommendation is the latest development in a drawn-out controversy for the Ontario senator who posted letters to her website the committee found contained racist content. In February, the Senate voted to suspend Beyak for a second time after it approved a previous ethics committee report on her conduct. The report recommended she be suspended without pay for the duration of the parliamentary session, apologize, and participate in educational programs.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona House Ethics Chair Weighs Holding Hearings into Claims Against Lawmaker
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/22/2020

The House Ethics Committee chairperson is weighing whether to hold hearings into its investigation of Arizona Rep. David Cook, Rep. John Allen said he is still reviewing the evidence presented by outside investigators as well as the response submitted by Cook’s attorneys. That response demanded a full hearing to be “given the right to the fundamental protections every citizen of our country would reasonably expect to have.” Allen said there are issues to be resolved about how to handle the two basic complaints against Cook, one involving allegations of an affair with a lobbyist and the other about efforts to intervene on the lobbyist’s behalf to halt the tax sale of property.

Arizona Scottsdale Rejects Ban on Anonymous Donations, Including GoFundMe Campaigns, to Council Members
Arizona Republic – Lorraine Lonhi | Published: 6/22/2020

What began as an effort to tweak Scottsdale’s gift policy grew complicated as some residents and council members saw an opportunity to push for campaign finance reform. A growing chorus of residents in recent years have raised concerns about developers and others who do business with the city donating to council members election campaigns. When the city proposed amending its ethics policy pertaining to gifts that might be offered to elected officials of a non-campaign nature, many advocated to extend the rules to campaign donations.

California After Court-Ordered Recount, Controversial San Jose Ballot Measure Falls Short
San Jose Mercury News – Maggie Angst | Published: 6/22/2020

Following a court-ordered recount, a controversial ballot measure to shift the San Jose’s mayoral race to presidential election years and limit campaign contributions failed to garner the required number of signatures to qualify for the November election. The Fair Elections Initiative called for aligning mayoral elections with presidential years to boost voter turnout, particularly among people of color, and placing a cap on certain political donations, including those from any person or entity that has received city contracts of at least $250,000.

California Former East Bay Elections Chief Charged with 34 Felony Counts Related to Illegal Campaign Spending
San Jose Mercury News – Annie Sciacca | Published: 6/17/2020

Joe Canciamilla, the former Contra Costa County elections chief, was charged with 34 felony crimes for illegally spending campaign funds for several years. He was charged with perjury involving campaign disclosure statements and grand theft of campaign funds spent on a vacation in Asia, airfare, restaurants, and other personal expenses. The charges stem from conduct starting in 2010, when Canciamilla failed to report investment gains in a campaign bank account. Though the gains were legal, using the proceeds for personal use is prohibited, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen, adding that Canciamilla covered up the gains and losses from the investment account.

California L.A. County Has Found the Cause of Its Hourslong Poll Lines. It Wasn’t the New Voting Machines.
Politico – Kim Zetter | Published: 6/17/2020

The long wait times that snarled the March 3 primary in Los Angeles County stemmed from malfunctions in the electronic tablets used to check in voters at the polls, according to an county report that adds to questions about the nation’s readiness for November. The report concludes these devices, known as electronic poll books, and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays. Although the voting machines also had problems, the report faults inadequate planning, testing, and programming of the poll books that workers used to check in voters and verify they are registered, technology that has also been implicated in the recent Georgia primary.

California LA Councilman Jose Huizar Arrested in Pay-to-Play Scheme
Los Angeles Daily News – Elizabeth Chou | Published: 6/23/2020

Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar was arrested in an investigation into corruption at City Hall. Federal prosecutors have been probing allegations that real estate developers were shaken down for cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for Huizar’s help getting high-rise development projects through the city’s approval process. Huizar and his associates are accused of enjoying free plane travel, lavish meals, poker chips, and other perks offered by developers. In plea deals struck with the government, a former aide to the council member, one of his political fundraisers, and a real estate consultant agreed to cooperate with the investigation into Huizar and others in City Hall.

Colorado Campaign Contribution Not a Reason to Disqualify Judge from Case, Court of Appeals Rules
Colorado Politics – Michael Kralick | Published: 6/18/2020

A prominent attorney donated more than $200,000 against an Adams County judge’s retention election. But that did not mean the judge should have recused himself from a case involving the firm’s lawyers, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled. At trial, Lyubov Bocian attempted to disqualify Adams County District Court Judge Edward Moss from her case, alleging he was biased against her attorneys at Franklin D. Azar and Associates. The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure require a judicial substitution if there is a reasonable inference of a judge’s partiality toward either of the litigants or opposing counsel. The appellate court did not find Moss exhibited any hostility or prejudice toward the Azar firm based on his actions, nor did the panel determine Moss harbored ill will because Azar himself made a $224,000 campaign contribution against Moss’s retention election in 2018.

Florida FBI Investigating Mayor Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Ex-Officials Say
Daytona Beach News-Journal – Matt Bruce and Erica Von Braun | Published: 6/22/2020

Two former city employees say FBI agents have interviewed them regarding Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland’s connection to Coastal Guard. The company has a unique arrangement with the city to provide some digital services. It is also Holland’s daytime employer. Michael Schottey, the city’s former communications director and now a candidate for mayor, read emails during a virtual press conference that he said show Holland used her position as mayor to solicit business for Coastal Cloud with the city of Orlando.

Florida ‘Suspicious’ Car Rental, Other Payments by Mayor’s Campaign Not Criminal, Probe Finds
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 6/22/2020

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office investigated payments related to the 2016 mayoral campaign of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, finding a “suspicious” car rental and some “haphazard” accounting but insufficient evidence to prove any criminal activity. The investigation delved into whether Gilbert’s rental of an Infiniti QX80 constituted an unreported campaign expenditure; whether he instructed the Miami Gardens city clerk to falsify the date on an amended campaign treasurer’s report; and whether Gilbert directed his campaign to make improper payments to a for-profit company and to incorrectly label those payments as donations to a nonprofit.

Georgia Ethics Commission Fines Group That Backed Stacey Abrams $50,000
WAGA – Dale Russell | Published: 6/19/2020

A group backing Stacey Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign was fined $50,000 by Georgia’s ethics commission for failing to report the money it raised and spent to help her get elected.  The independent committee, Gente4Abrams (People for Abrams), was set up out of state and raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campaign without ever registering with the commission or disclosing how much it raised.

Georgia House Republican Leaders Condemn GOP Candidate Who Made Racist Videos
Politico – Ally Mutnick ans Stephanie Zanona | Published: 6/17/2020

The House’s highest-ranking Republicans are racing to distance themselves from a leading GOP congressional candidate in Georgia after Facebook videos were uncovered in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic views. The candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, suggested Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”; called George Soros, a Jewish Democratic donor, a Nazi; and said she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War. Greene is entering an August runoff as the favorite to secure the Republican nomination for a district where that is tantamount to winning the general election in November.

Illinois Rules Requiring Nonprofits to Register as Lobbyists Delayed Until 2021
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/18/2020

Rules requiring nonprofit organizations to register as lobbyists in Chicago were set to go into effect on January 1, 2020 but were initially delayed until April after dozens of nonprofit groups objected, saying the regulations would force them to pay costly registration fees or risk $1,000 fines. The Board of Ethics attempted to clarify the new rules, issuing three advisory opinions that exempted grassroots groups or residents who press city officials on issues they are concerned about. But that effort was still underway when the coronavirus pandemic forced City Hall to shut down, and the delay was extended until July, and will now last through the end of 2020.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Pleads Guilty in State Court to Perjury in ‘Healthy Holly’ Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/19/2020

A judge sentenced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh to six months in prison for deliberately lying on financial disclosures forms to hide her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business. Under terms of Pugh’s plea deal, her time will be served concurrent with a separate, pending three-year prison sentence. Pugh pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of perjury, admitting she withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from the disclosure forms she filed during her years as a state senator.

Missouri Missouri Attorney General Candidate Files Ethics Complaint Against Former Governor Greitens
KDSK – PJ Randhawa and Erin Richey | Published: 6/20/2020

Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens filed paperwork to run for an unspecified statewide office in 2024. Elad Gross, a candidate for state attorney general, is asking the Missouri Ethics Commission to decide if Greitens should be able to do that even though he has not publicly announced any interest in running for office again. Experts say it is part of a trend of campaign committees avoiding the state law that requires them to close their accounts and distribute the leftover money as refunds or donations if they will not be running for office again.

Missouri Missouri Politicians Get Around Contribution Limits by Using PACs
Columbia Missourian – Jordan Meier, Mawa Iqbal, and Spencer Norris | Published: 6/23/2020

In Missouri, contributions for state elections have been in place off and on since 1994, when voters approved a ballot measure. The limits withstood several court tests, but the Legislature repealed them twice. State voters reinstated them in 2016 and approved slightly lower caps in 2018, through passage of Clean Missouri. Even with limits in place, candidates have found creative ways to receive large donations. PACs have no restraints on the amount they can receive in donations, which makes them an ideal way to collect large checks from millionaires and special interests such as casinos, labor unions, and tobacco companies.

New Jersey N.J. Corruption Scheme Involving Pay-to-Play Contracts Leads to Charges Against Law Firm Partner
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/19/2020

Attorney Elizabeth Valandingham was charged with lying about alleged “pay-to-play” violations in New Jersey. Valandingham, was accused of falsely claiming her law firm had not made any reportable political contributions to candidates in two towns where the firm had been vying for contracts to provide legal services, when in fact it had. While the charges against Valandingham arose from a corruption investigation in which five New Jersey political figures are accused of accepting a total of $74,900 in bribes in the form of campaign donations, they are not directly related to the bribery allegations.

New York JCOPE Commissioners Mull Filing Criminal Complaint Over Alleged Leak
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/22/2020

Members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) are contemplating whether a criminal complaint should be filed in connection with a leak investigation last year by the state inspector general’s office that failed to confirm allegations Gov. Andrew Cuomo received details of JCOPE’s confidential vote on a matter involving a former top aide to the governor. The apparent leak, which would be a criminal offense, surfaced when Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s top counsel, Howard Vargas, called Commissioner Julie Garcia and told her that Cuomo had complained to the speaker about how his appointees to the commission had voted on the matter.

Pennsylvania Top Pa. GOP Lawmaker Fast-Tracking a Lucrative Gambling Expansion That Would Benefit a Major Campaign Donor
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Brad Bumsted (The Caucus), and Sam Jenesh (The Caucus) | Published: 6/19/2020

The top lobbyist for a gaming company seeking a lucrative gambling expansion in Pennsylvania helped host a fundraiser in Las Vegas for the leading Republican in the state Senate, Joe Scarnati. Several months later, executives from the gaming company, Golden Entertainment, poured thousands of dollars into a campaign committee controlled by Scarnati and close associates. Now, Scarnati and other top Republicans are working to secure votes for a bill that would help Golden and others like it cash in on the next frontier of expanded gambling, potentially worth millions of dollars: video-gaming terminals, known better as VGTs.

South Carolina Conflict of interest? Councilman with Ties to Richland Mega Church Pushed Road Project
The State – Andrew Kaplan | Published: 6/18/2020

Richland County Council member Chip Jackson voted nine times for improvements to Atlas Road in the county during the last three years, even though he worked for a church and its nonprofit arm that would benefit from the work. The popularity of the megachurch, Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, and its plans to sell surrounding property to developers, were part of the reason the road was originally slated for $17 million in improvements, according to the county’s transportation director. The money was to come from the county’s sales-tax program that voters approved. Jackson’s dual roles as a council member and consultant for the church is a potential ethics violation, according to experts.

Utah Utah Gave Group $400,000 to Sue the Feds on Public Lands Issues. It Never Did. What Happened?
Salt Lake Tribune – Brian Maffley | Published: 6/23/2020

In 2016, the Utah Legislature opened up its wallet to a nonprofit called the Foundation for Integrated Resource Management (FIRM), one of several groups that have received millions of dollars in recent years to push greater local and state control over Utah’s large expanses of federal land and imperiled wildlife. But FIRM’s taxpayer-supported charge was specific: file lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of Utah counties. The goal was to reverse restrictive land-use policies to promote “integrated” use of natural resources. Four years and $400,000 later, FIRM has yet to pursue a single legal action, according to ethics complaints filed with the IRS, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, and state auditor.

Vermont Candidate Incomes Outpace Average Vermonter; Advocates Seek More Disclosure
VTDigger.org – Jasper Goodman and Kit Norton | Published: 6/22/2020

Most of the top candidates seeking statewide office reported substantially higher incomes than the average Vermonter. There is no tax return requirement for individuals seeking seats in the state Legislature. Those candidates only need to fill out a brief financial disclosure form which requires reporting any source of income of $5,000 or more. But the statute requiring candidates to file the forms includes no enforcement mechanism for non-compliance. Larry Novins, executive director of the Vermont Ethics Commission, said the agency has “no ability to do anything about” candidates who do not file the forms because it has “no authority” over them. The commission can review ethics complaints but has no investigative or enforcement power.

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