April 26, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 25, 2019

 

 

 

National: 

Constraints on Presidency Being Redefined in Trump Era, Report Fallout Shows
MSN – Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 4/22/2019

The events that have followed the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report threaten to redefine the legal and ethical standards that have long served as constraints on the American presidency. They also suggest that few, if any, of the traditional guardrails that have kept Donald Trump’s predecessors in check remain for this president and possibly those who will follow him. Current and former aides say they do not expect Trump to change his behavior, saying he is unlikely to be responsive to anything other than political pain in the form of a real revolt by Republican leadership or a sharp drop in poll numbers.

How the IRS Gave Up Fighting Political Dark Money Groups
ProPublica – Maya Miller | Published: 4/18/2019

“Dark money” spending is legal because of a massive loophole. Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code allows organizations to make independent expenditures on politics while concealing their donors’ names as long as politics is not the organization’s “primary activity.” The IRS has the daunting task of trying to determine when nonprofits in that category, known colloquially as C4s, violate that vague standard. But the IRS’ attempts to police this class of nonprofits have almost completely broken down. Since 2015, thousands of complaints have streamed in that C4s are abusing the rules. But the agency has not stripped a single organization of its tax-exempt status for breaking spending rules during that period. The IRS’ abdication of oversight stems from a trio of causes.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – How a Lawyer, a Lobbyist and a Legislator Waged War on a Birmingham Superfund Site
AL.com – Steven Mufson (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2019

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted to clean up toxic soil in the 35th Avenue Superfund site in Birmingham. The agency notified Drummond, a coal company, and four other manufacturers nearby that they would have to dig up and replace the soil on hundreds of residential yards. David Roberson, Drummond’s vice president and top lobbyist, worried it would cost his company $100 million or more. Roberson and his lawyer, Joel Gilbert, decided they needed someone who could persuade the people living on contaminated land to protest not the pollution, but the cleanup. They chose Oliver Robinson Jr. then a state representative. Prosecutors ultimately charged Robinson with receiving bribes, while Gilbert and Roberson were charged with bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering in the scheme to stop the EPA.

Alaska – As Capitol Reporters Dwindle, Alaska Lawmakers Grapple with Rise of Political Blogs
KTOO – Nat Herz | Published: 4/23/2019

The press corps in Juneau has a new addition this year: Jeff Landfield, a failed candidate for state Senate who is now running a colorful political blog called the Alaska Landmine. He is one of a growing number of political bloggers who are trying to fill in gaps left by Alaska’s shrinking mainstream media, posing challenges for both lawmakers and the bloggers themselves. Landfield was standing outside the chambers where the House meets recently, and he was getting some attention because he had a black eye. It was a souvenir, Landfield said, from when a legislative aide punched him a few days before at a Juneau bar.

Connecticut – Two Rival Politicians Accused Each Other of Using Drugs. The Result Was a Showdown at a Urinalysis Lab.
Washington Post – Antonia Noori Farzen | Published: 4/22/2019

Two feuding politicians in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, spent much of the past week accusing each other of being on mind-altering substances after getting into an ugly fight in the comments section of a local political blog. Bridgeport City Councilperson Ernest Newton and Board of Education member Maria Pereira concluded they could only settle their dispute one way: by challenging each other to a public drug test. Newton, whose political career was interrupted by a five-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, once struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine. Both tested negative for all 10 substances. But the feud did not die down.

Florida – Andrew Gillum Agrees to Pay $5,000 Ethics Fine
News Service of Florida – Tampa Bay Times | Published: 4/24/2019

Former Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to settle a complaint he violated state law by accepted gifts worth more than $100 from lobbyists or their clients who had interests in the city and failed to report them. The Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to drop four additional counts in the settlement. The commission had found probable cause that Gillum violated ethics laws for allegedly accepting gifts from Tallahassee entrepreneur Adam Corey and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. Corey had been a close friend of Gillum and lobbied city officials. The charges related to trips to Costa Rica and New York, a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty, and a ticket to the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”

Florida – Opioid Lawsuit Bill Stalls in Florida Committee Chaired by Sister-in-Law of Walgreens Lobbyist
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrencwe Mower | Published: 4/22/2019

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors, accusing them of recklessly supplying Floridians with millions of drugs per year. But a bill that is critical to the lawsuit moving forward has stalled in the committee of a powerful lawmaker: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who said her committee would not hear it because of concerns the bill could invade the privacy of patients. Benacquisto said her objections are not related to her brother-in-law, Chris Hansen, a lobbyist whose clients include Walgreens – one of the defendants in Moody’s lawsuit.

Maine – Numbers of Maine Lawmakers Who Went on to Lobby
AP News – Marina Villeneuva | Published: 4/21/2019

At least 14 Democratic and eight Republican lawmakers in Maine have gone on to register as paid lobbyists over the past three decades, a practice that is being targeted by a bill moving through the state Legislature. The House and Senate advanced a bill to ban future lawmakers from any paid lobbying within their first year out of office. The state ethics commissions had called for the change in 2017. The Associated Press (AP) compared state lobbying reports with legislative rosters and found that nearly half of the 22 former lawmakers who registered as lobbyists over the past three decades did so within the same year of leaving office. The lawmakers-turned-lobbyists have raked in $3.6 million in total compensation for their firms, according to the AP analysis.

Maryland – Federal Agents Search Baltimore City Hall and Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Home
Washington Post – Ann Marimow, Peter Hermann, and Lynh Bui | Published: 4/25/2019

Federal agents searched Baltimore City Hall and Mayor Catherine Pugh’s home among other sites amid fallout from lucrative children’s book deals she cut with businesses connected to the government she has run since 2016. Pugh took an indefinite leave of absence beginning April 1 attributed to health issues following criticism of the more than $700,000 she was paid for her self-published “Healthy Holly” book series. The book-deal revelations have led to calls from the city council and state lawmakers for Pugh’s resignation; an investigation by the state prosecutor; and to the firing of several of her aides. Investigators are scrutinizing Pugh’s deals with entities including Kaiser Permanente, which was awarded city contracts, and the University of Maryland Medical System, on whose board she sat for many years.

Massachusetts – Amid ‘Slush Fund’ Criticism, Nearly All Legislative Caucuses Will Forgo Outside Donations
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 4/24/2019

All but one of the nearly two dozen caucuses formed by Massachusetts lawmakers say they will not solicit outside contributions, weeks after a new internal rule allowing legislative groups to raise private funds stirred controversy on Beacon Hill. The rule, which requires all caucuses to register with the House Committee on Rules, also bars lobbyists from donating and says caucuses must receive approval from House counsel before taking any gift of more than $50. The potential of taking donations outside of campaign finance disclosure laws drew intense heat, including criticisms it could create a legislative “slush fund.”

Minnesota – Minnesota Lawmakers, Lobbyists Describe Cautious Capitol in Wake of #MeToo
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jessie Van Berkel | Published: 4/21/2019

A year and a half after reports of sexual harassment rocked the Minnesota Legislature and prompted two resignations, lawmakers and lobbyists describe a changed atmosphere at the Capitol. People are more cautious and aware of what crosses the line. There is also a new group of House members, many of them younger women, who are outspoken about addressing harassment and gender equality. But some at the Capitol say they worry the good behavior and awareness will fall by the wayside if the energy of the #MeToo movement fades from the spotlight.

Missouri – Lobbyist’s Crusade to Change Title IX in Missouri Stems from His Son’s Expulsion
Kansas City Star – Edward McKinley | Published: 4/23/2019

After his son was expelled from Washington University last year through the school’s Title IX process, a leading Jefferson City lobbyist launched a campaign to change the law for every campus in the state. Richard McIntosh has argued to legislators that Title IX, the federal law barring sexual discrimination in education and mandating that schools set up internal systems to police sexual violence, is tilted unfairly against the accused. His proposals create more protections for those accused of Title IX violations. Had McIntosh’s amendment been enacted, it would have allowed his son to appeal the result of his hearing to the state Administrative Hearing Commission, where his mother and McIntosh’s wife is the presiding and managing commissioner.

South Dakota – S.D. House Speaker Paid $12,000 for Lobbyist’s Legal Fees
KELOLAND – Bob Mercer | Published: 4/23/2019

South Dakota House Speaker Steven Haugaard authorized a payment of $12,000 for a lobbyist’s legal fees after he banned her from the chamber floor, and South Dakota Municipal League Executive Director Yvonne Taylor’s attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss the league’s lawsuit against Haugaard. Court documents say Haugaard called Taylor into his office and brought up her column from the league’s magazine. In the article, which appeared prior to the June 2018 primary elections, Taylor suggested voters make a distinction between what she called “The Normals” and the “Wackies” in the Legislature. One sentence said: “We desperately need to get that ‘wacky ratio’ down.” A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Haugaard and said the speaker was not protected by legislative immunity.

Texas – Conservative Group Empower Texans Sues Lawmaker to Gain State House Media Credentials
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 4/18/2019

Months after being denied media credentials for the Texas House, the conservative organization Texas Scorecard – a product of Empower Texans, a Tea Party-aligned political advocacy group with one of the state’s best-funded PACs – filed a First Amendment lawsuit arguing its rejection from the chamber constitutes “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.” Before the legislative session began in January, two employees of Texas Scorecard applied for media credentials in the Legislature. In the Senate, their credentials were granted; in the House, they were denied. The two chambers follow similar rules about who is allowed special journalistic access to the floor, and both prohibit lobbyists. But the chambers’ political atmospheres are different.

Washington – A State Senator Said Nurses ‘Probably Play Cards’ at Work. Facing Mass Outrage, She’s Apologized.
Seattle Times – Allyson Chiu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/21/2019

While debating a bill that would give nurses uninterrupted meals and breaks at work and protect them from mandatory overtime, Washington Sen. Maureen Walsh arguing that hospitals in rural communities should be excluded from the measure because the requirements would place too much strain on those facilities. “By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks – they probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day,” Walsh said. The comment sparked an online petition calling for her to shadow a nurse and “experience what really happens” during a 12-hour shift. The senator’s office has also been flooded with angry phone calls and emails as well as packages containing decks of playing cards.

June 17, 2019 •

Bill Limiting Lobbyist Contributions Signed

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

This month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2677 prohibiting persons required to register as a lobbyist from knowingly making or authorizing certain political contributions or political expenditures. Prohibited contributions include those to another candidate, officeholder, or political committee […]

This month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 2677 prohibiting persons required to register as a lobbyist from knowingly making or authorizing certain political contributions or political expenditures.

Prohibited contributions include those to another candidate, officeholder, or political committee from political contributions accepted by the person as a candidate or officeholder or by a specific-purpose committee for the purpose of supporting the person as a candidate or assisting the person as an officeholder.

Under House Bill 2677, making a contribution described above requires a person to refrain from lobbying for a two-year period following the date the person makes or authorizes the contribution.

An exception is created for persons seeking to influence legislation or administrative action on behalf of nonprofit organizations, low income individuals, and a group of individuals with disabilities, and those not receiving compensation for their communications with members of the legislative and executive branches.

House Bill 2677 will go into effect on September 27, 2019.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 17, 2019 •

West Virginia Governor Amends Special Session

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice is adding an additional 12 bills for the Legislature to consider during the special session originally focusing on education. Gov. Justice amended his original proclamation by adding 10 new supplemental appropriation bills. One bill relates to the […]

Gov. Jim Justice is adding an additional 12 bills for the Legislature to consider during the special session originally focusing on education.

Gov. Justice amended his original proclamation by adding 10 new supplemental appropriation bills.

One bill relates to the procurement of construction work performed as part of disaster mitigation or recovery originating from a declared state of emergency.

Additionally, another bill relates to the Ryan Brown Fund.

Members of the House of Delegates are scheduled to convene today to continue the special session on education.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 17, 2019 •

NYCU Video Digest – June 17, 2019

New FARA Regulations, and changes being made to lobbying disclosures in various states. Catch up with all of it in this edition of News You Can Use Video Digest!

New FARA Regulations, and changes being made to lobbying disclosures in various states. Catch up with all of it in this edition of News You Can Use Video Digest!

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 17, 2019 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills” by Dave Levinthal for Center for Public Integrity National: “Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty” by Julie Watson for AP News New York: “Council Passes Campaign […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Why the Trump Campaign Won’t Pay Police Bills” by Dave Levinthal for Center for Public Integrity

National: “Legal Fight Tougher for Congressman as Wife Pleads Guilty” by Julie Watson for AP News

New York: “Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race” by Noah Berman for Gotham Gazette

Oregon: “Judge Strikes Down Portland Campaign Finance Limits” by Gordon Friedman for Portland Oregonian

Ethics

National: “Federal Watchdog Agency Recommends Removal of Kellyanne Conway from Federal Office for Violating the Hatch Act” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein, and Josh Dawsey for Washington Post

New Jersey: “Phil Murphy’s Office Was Warned About Improper Hiring at SDA, Ethics Official Says” by Dustin Racioppi for Bergen Record

Lobbying

Canada: “Democracy Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Lobbyists Selling Tickets for Ford Fundraiser” by Jill Mahoney for The Globe and Mail

Massachusetts: “Does Sal DiMasi Have to Register as a Lobbyist? The State Says He Already Lobbied – Illegally” by Matt Stout for Boston Globe

Continue Reading - 2 min read Close

June 14, 2019 •

Alaska Legislature Adjourns First Special Session, Governor Calls Second

Alaska State Capitol Buildling - Jay Galvin [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Lawmakers ended their special session on June 13. The Legislature passed a capital budget bill but failed to reach the three-quarter threshold required to fund major provisions. Failure to reach the threshold left millions of dollars in projects unfunded and […]

Lawmakers ended their special session on June 13.

The Legislature passed a capital budget bill but failed to reach the three-quarter threshold required to fund major provisions.

Failure to reach the threshold left millions of dollars in projects unfunded and federal match money at risk.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy called a second special session in order to address the permanent fund dividends the Legislature also could not agree on.

The second special session will convene on July 8, at 1 p.m. in Wasilla.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 14, 2019 •

Massachusetts Offering Seminars on New Disclosure Reporting System

Massachusetts Capitol Building

The Lobbyist Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office announced they are transitioning to a new disclosure reporting system on June 19. Exclusive, hour-long introduction and training seminars on the new system will be held from June 19 […]

The Lobbyist Division of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office announced they are transitioning to a new disclosure reporting system on June 19.

Exclusive, hour-long introduction and training seminars on the new system will be held from June 19 to June 21.

Appointment requests can be sent to lob@sec.state.ma.us.

Firms should offer three preferable times between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any of the three available days.  Walk-ins for the seminar will not be accepted.

The Lobbyist Division will be offering additional training for all registered entities, lobbyists, and clients from June 24 to July 12.

Organizations that are unable to attend the introduction seminars can apply for these training sessions instead.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 14, 2019 •

Judge Strikes Down Portland Campaign Finance Limits

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch struck down voter-approved limits on campaign donations to candidates running for county offices. Judge Bloch’s ruling stated the $500 limit on donations violates Oregon’s expansive free expression guarantees in the Oregon Constitution. The decision […]

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch struck down voter-approved limits on campaign donations to candidates running for county offices.

Judge Bloch’s ruling stated the $500 limit on donations violates Oregon’s expansive free expression guarantees in the Oregon Constitution.

The decision mirrors one the judge issued in March 2018 striking down limits for Multnomah County races, citing a 1997 Oregon Supreme Court decision.

Judge Bloch also struck down another provision in the law requiring campaign advertising to list the top five donors, calling the provision vague and overbroad.

Supporters of the law say they will appeal the decision.

Continue Reading - 1 min read Close

June 14, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 14, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019 In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named […]

National/Federal

A Wealthy Iraqi Sheikh Who Urges a Hard-Line U.S. Approach to Iran Spent 26 Nights at Trump’s D.C. Hotel
MSN – Joshua Partlow, David Fahrenthold, and Taylor Luck (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2019

In July, a wealthy Iraqi sheikh named Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote letters to national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he checked into the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and spent 26 nights in a suite, a visit estimated to have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kasnazan said his choice of the Trump hotel was not part of a lobbying effort. His long visit is an example of how Trump’s Washington hotel, a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and people with government business, has become a favorite stopover for influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the administration.

As 2020 Candidates Struggle to Be Heard, Their Grumbling Gets Louder
New York Times – Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/11/2019

Of the 23 Democratic candidates for president, only eight routinely break one percent in national polls. Most have not yet qualified for the fall debates. And cable news channels, which have emerged as an early driving force in the race, have only so many hours of programming each day. That has moved the campaign into a new, yet familiar, phase: the ritual airing of grievances. Weeks’ worth of pent-up frustration is beginning to trickle into the public arena, as a way for candidates to explain their lowly positions, both to themselves and to the voters.  The rules around participation in the primary debates are a sore spot for second- and third-tier candidates, who fear getting shut out of the biggest stage in the race.

Bipartisan Senators Push New Bill to Improve Foreign Lobbying Disclosures
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 6/10/2019

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation that would give the Department of Justice more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak. The bill would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent. It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.

Chao Created Special Path for McConnell’s Favored Projects
Politico – Tucker Doherty and Tanya Snider | Published: 6/10/2019

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell, including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications. The circumstances highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically.

DeVos’ Student Aid Chief Quits Foundation Board Following Questions on Conflict of Interest
Politico – Michael Stratford | Published: 6/11/2019

The Education Department appointee who oversees the government’s $1.5 trillion student loan being asked about a potential conflict-of-interest. Mark Brown, a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, was selected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to be the new head of the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Until recently, he also served as an unpaid member of the board of directors of KnowledgeWorks, a non-profit foundation that holds about $30 million in federally guaranteed student loans. Several ethics experts said that arrangement raised concerns about a potential conflict because Brown’s unit is responsible for regulating and overseeing student loans backed by the government, including those that are owned by KnowledgeWorks.

Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate
Anchorage Daily News – Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 6/5/2019

Joe Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 amid questions about a value he had worked hard to convince voters he had: authenticity. The collapse had begun with news that Biden had lifted phrases and mannerisms from a British Labour Party politician while making closing remarks at a debate. Examples soon surfaced of Biden using material from other politicians without attribution, and he acknowledged he had been accused of plagiarism in law school. Now, those events are back in the spotlight for the former vice president, who is one of the most visible Democrats in a crowded field vying to run against President Trump. Biden’s campaign acknowledged it had lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.

Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns
New York Times – Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg | Published: 6/6/2019

One year out from the 2020 elections, presidential candidates face legal roadblocks to acquiring the tools and assistance necessary to defend against the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 campaign. Federal laws prohibit corporations from offering free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidates. The same law also blocks political parties from offering candidates cybersecurity assistance because it is considered an in-kind donation. The issue took on added urgency after lawyers for the FEC advised the agency to block a request by Area 1 Security, asked the company to refile the request with a simpler explanation of how it would determine what campaigns qualified for discounted services.

NRA Money Flowed to Board Members Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending by Top Officials and Vendors
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2019

The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members, the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. Eighteen members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years. The payments deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. The payments, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.

Rep. Greg Pence Amends Filing That Showed Lodging Charge at Trump Hotel
USA Today – Maureen Groppe | Published: 6/11/2019

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, reported spending more than $7,600 in campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in the first few months after his election in November, although lawmakers are supposed to pay for their own housing in Washington, D.C. Hours after USA Today pressed for details on the nature of the lodging expenses, Rep. Pence’s campaign filed an amended FEC report that changed the designation of the expenses to “fundraising event costs.” Federal election rules allow campaign funds to be spent on hotels for fundraising events. And Greg Pence separately reported more than $15,000 in catering and reception costs at Trump’s hotel in December and January.

Top AI Researchers Race to Detect ‘Deepfake’ Videos: ‘We are outgunned’
San Francisco Chronicle – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2019

Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers warn that computer-generated fake videos could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they did not really do. And researchers fear it is only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage – to sow confusion, fuel doubt, or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote. Even simple tweaks to existing videos can create turmoil, as happened with the recent viral spread of a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, distorted to make her speech stunted and slurred. That video was viewed more than 3 million times.

Trump 2020 Campaign Ad Payments Hidden by Layers of Shell Companies
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/13/2019

The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission records. The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. Trump’s reelection campaign quietly continued to funnel money to the same individuals through payments to Harris Sikes Media.

Trump Lawyer’s Message Was a Clue for Mueller, Who Set It Aside
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Charle Savage (New York Times) | Published: 6/9/2019

As the special counsel’s investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence – a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness – that might have led to him. An attorney for Trump, John Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael Flynn. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Trump, while also appearing to say that if Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Trump still liked him. Dowd never said whether Trump directed him to make the overture. And investigators for Robert Mueller declined to question Dowd about his message. Legal experts were divided on whether Mueller’s team should have sought to question Dowd.

Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Dirt from Foreign Governments on His Opponents
Keene Sentinel – Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/13/2019

President Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it and he would have no obligation to call in the FBI. The president’s comments come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. Although special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign in his probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, his report said the Russian government interfered in the election in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” and that Trump’s campaign was open to assistance from Russian sources.

What the Governors Feuding with Their Own Parties Have in Common
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/11/2019

A handful of governors presiding over one-party states are now taking serious hits from legislators and leaders in their own political parties. In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is engaged in a feud with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that has led to threats of a primary challenge. In Kentucky, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanne Hampton warned recently about “dark forces” operating within Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Craig Blair, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee in West Virginia, called on Republican Gov. Jim Justice to resign. In states with divided governments, it is almost to be expected that governors and legislators will sometimes sling arrows at each other. But most states are dominated by a single party, and their most powerful politicians are finding that it can still be difficult to get along.

With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 6/11/2019

It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state Legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones. Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic. Analysts said issues addressed by state Legislatures this year, which included gun control and health care, might have more lasting effect than anything approved in Washington, D.C., where government is divided.

From the States and Municipalities

California Democrats Say They Don’t Take Big Tobacco Money. But JUUL Had a Sponsorship at Convention
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 6/7/2019

JUUL Labs, maker of a line of e-cigarette products in popular use among middle and high school students, had a prominent sponsor slot on the stage of the California Democratic Party’s state convention, where politicians like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a bevy of presidential candidates and state officials spoke. State Sen. Jerry Hill, an outspoken critic of tobacco companies, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the sponsorship. “I was baffled because it’s a long-standing policy of the Democratic Party not to take money from Big Tobacco,” Hill said. JUUL is one-third owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA.

Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Introduce Ethics Package Aimed at Fighting City Hall Corruption
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 6/5/2019

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to follow through on her campaign pledge to clean up a City Hall that for months has been rocked by an FBI investigation and racketeering charges against Ald. Edward Burke by introducing an ethics reform package. The former federal prosecutor’s proposal looks to tighten the rules for aldermen holding outside jobs and would require nonprofits lobbying City Hall to register as lobbyists. It also would give city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the power to audit city council committees. Lightfoot is  also pushing for more modest increases to fines for ethics violations than the city Ethics Board has proposed.

Indiana Judge Rules Against Fort Wayne’s Pay to Play Ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/11/2019

Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote ruled against the city of Fort Wayne in a case regarding its controversial “pay-to-play” ordinance. DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts. The ordinance prohibited any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

New Hampshire Top N.H. Lawmaker Says No Lobbying Involved in His Union Job, But His Predecessor Was a Lobbyist
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 6/6/2019

House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant he has not broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature. He has also maintained his work on the union’s behalf – testifying at public hearings, rallying support or opposition for specific bills, and sending out “legislative bulletins” to union members – does not count as lobbying. But Ley’s predecessor at the union, Laura Hainey, said she did consider much of the same kind of advocacy work she did at the statehouse to constitute lobbying. And, unlike Ley, she registered as a lobbyist during her term as the union’s president.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Lawmakers Reach Deal on Dark Money Disclosure
Burlington County Times – Dave Levinsky | Published: 6/10/2019

Facing the likelihood that lawmakers would vote to override his earlier veto, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to sign a “dark money” disclosure bill originally sent to him. Lawmakers agreed to vote again on the original legislation and Murphy has agreed to sign it with no changes. The bill mandates the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by dark-money groups in recent years.

New York Inside the Stealth Campaign for ‘Responsible Rent Reform’
New York Times – Vivian Wang | Published: 6/10/2019

Confronted with a Democratic takeover of the state Legislature and emboldened progressive activists, the city’s landlords and developers, long accustomed to ruling New York through political donations and expensive lobbyists, are adopting the tactics of their activist foes. They have sent buses of electricians and boiler repair workers to Albany to protest the proposed changes, organized rallies outside public hearings, formed groups with generic names to run social media advertisements, and paid for mailers urging constituents to call their representatives. The goal is to deliver the industry’s message that too-strict rent regulations would affect not only wealthy landlords, but also the working class in a way that does not seem like it is coming from the industry.

Wisconsin Hours Before a Trial Was Set to Start, Wisconsin Supreme Court Reinstates Most GOP Lame-Duck Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 6/11/2019

The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated most of the lame-duck laws Republican lawmakers approved in December to trim the powers of the state’s top Democrats. With a pair of orders, the high court canceled a trial and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal. After the rulings, just two provisions of the lame-duck laws have been kept from going into effect. One would have limited early voting; the other would have required a public commenting period for older government documents. The status of the laws could change in the months ahead because the Supreme Court has to make more rulings in the case. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages.

Continue Reading - 20 min read Close
Back to all posts