March 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019 Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make […]
Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure
Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make sure the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires disclosure of lobbying on behalf of foreign interests, is more aggressively enforced. One focal point may be Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies say waged a disinformation campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. Assistant Attorney General John Demers also warned that law firms should take FARA registration seriously, citing the example of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which agreed to pay $4.6 million and admitted it should have registered for a report aimed at discrediting a former Ukrainian prime minister.
From the States and Municipalities:
Connecticut: Election Officials: State contractor ban on political donations applies to marijuana producers, but not dispensaries
Hartford Courant – Neil Vigdor | Published: 3/7/2019
The State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled that a prohibition on campaign donations from state contractors extends to marijuana producers – but not dispensaries – because the value of licensing agreements they have with the state exceed $50,000. Medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012. In anticipation of the legislative debate over recreational marijuana, the industry asked for guidance from last year about whether political contributions to legislators and statewide office holders comply with Connecticut’s 2005 clean elections law. A ban on state contractor contributions is a hallmark of the program.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Member Jack Evans’ Use of Government Office for Personal Gain Inappropriate, Chair Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Peter Jamison | Published: 3/4/2019
District of Columbia Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said council member Jack Evans acted inappropriately when he emailed business proposals to potential employers and offered them his influence and connections as an elected official. Evans faces growing scrutiny after The Washington Post reported he sent solicitations on his government email to law firms that lobby city government, offering his contacts and sway as the council’s longest serving lawmaker and as chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The authority’s board of directors directed its ethics officer to investigate Evans. The Post reported a federal grand jury has also been investigating Evans and issued a subpoena to officials for documents related to legislation that Evans promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital sign company.
Kentucky: Kentucky Secretary of State Staff Searched Voting Records for Investigators and Rivals, Records Show
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 3/6/2019
Kentucky officials released records that show employees in the secretary of state’s office used the voter registration system to look up political rivals, state investigators, and a range of political operatives. It is not clear in many instances why Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office was looking up people and their personal information such as political affiliation, and some Social Security numbers but it has led critics to conclude her office abused its access to the system to gain information about her political opponents and those involved in multiple investigations of her conduct while in office. Grimes had maintained her office had done no inappropriate searches.
Louisiana: Entergy Fined $5M, Can Move Forward with New Power Plant
Louisiana Weekly – Michael Issac Stein (The Lens) | Published: 3/4/2019
The New Orleans City Council approved a new Entergy power plant in city limits while imposing a $5 million fine against the company for using paid actors to influence its decision during the approval process. The council concluded Entergy “knew or should have known” that one if its subcontractors was paying people to fill seats and speak in favor of the project at public hearings. Entergy agreeing to the fine was contingent on the council not revoking its prior approval of the plant. Critics of the vote noted most council members have either worked for Entergy or received campaign donations from their PAC. Councilperson Cyndi Nguyen’s non-profit received at least $27,625 from Entergy. Councilperson Jay Banks revealed he once worked for the company as a government relations consultant.
Maryland: Maryland Delegate Says She Won’t Resign after House Censures Her for ‘Racist and Hateful Slur’
MSN – Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 2/28/2019
The House of Delegates censured Del. Mary Ann Lisanti for her use of a racial slur, which members said, “brought dishonor to the entire General Assembly of Maryland.” After the vote, Lisanti said she would not resign, despite calls for her to do so. She also said she did not believe she had used an offensive term to describe African-Americans, although she acknowledged earlier in the week that she had done so. Lisanti came under fire after it was reported she used the racial slur during an after-hours gathering in January at an Annapolis bar. Lisanti told a fellow lawmaker that when he helped a candidate in Prince George’s County, he was knocking on doors in a “n—– district,” according to the report.
Nevada: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson Resigns
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer | Published: 3/5/2019
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned after admitting to using campaign funds for personal use and said he will plead guilty to federal charges. Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro was elected by Senate Democrats as the new leader of the majority. Cannizzaro becomes the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader in the state’s history. Details of the investigation, including how much money was misappropriated and what exactly Atkinson used the money for, remain unclear. Atkinson’s resignation marks the first time a lawmaker has left mid-session since 2013. But it is far from the first time a state lawmaker has recently found themselves on the wrong side of campaign finance laws.
New Hampshire: GOP Lawmakers in N.H. Wore Pearls While Gun Violence Victims Testified. Activists Were Outraged.
Boston Globe – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2019
Republican members of the New Hampshire House are drawing scrutiny for wearing pearl necklaces while activists with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America shared their experiences with gun violence at a recent hearing on a bill that would make it easier to take weapons away from potentially dangerous people. Critics who posted the images on social media said the implication was clear: the politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage – and, specifically, female outrage. Some pro-gun advocates argued the legislators’ intent was to represent opposition to the bill. Kimberly Morin, president of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, said opponents of gun control measures have been wearing pearls at gun-related hearings since 2016.
New Mexico: Former Public Servants Lobby Ex-Colleagues
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/28/2019
Former Rep. Debbie Rodella Rodella is one of a few former officials who were public servants during the last legislative session and lobbyists this year, including Keith Gardner, the chief of staff under then-Gov. Susana Martinez. Also making the immediate transition are former Reps. Bealquin Gomez and Jim Smith. New Mexico law does not prohibit ex-lawmakers from lobbying once their terms end. Some legislators have tried repeatedly to change that, with proposals to impose a one- or two-year waiting period. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said a “cooling-off” period would be appropriate. “It just doesn’t feel right to immediately be in a position where you’re coming back to your colleagues, who you were an equal with, and the next day you’re lobbying them on behalf of a client,” said Wirth.
North Carolina: Why a Judge Ruled That the Entire North Carolina Legislature Is Illegitimate
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/27/2019
Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins struck down two constitutional amendments that had been approved by North Carolina voters in November. One regarded voter ID requirements and the other a cap on state income taxes. The amendments had been placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Collins ruled the lawmakers had no standing to approve constitutional amendments because they were elected using maps that federal courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. “An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” Collins wrote.
Oregon: Lawmakers Come and Go, but the Lobby Remains a Powerful Constant in Oregon Legislature
Portland Tribune – Claire Withycombe, Aubrey Wieber, and Paris Achen | Published: 3/1/2019
Interest groups in Oregon spent $12 million more on lobbying in 2017 than they did a decade earlier. That spending is only part of the cost of doing business in Salem. Donating to campaigns and other political operations is routine – interest groups sank $25 million into last year’s state elections. Now that the legislative session is underway, the focus is on trying to shape the laws and spending that will affect every Oregonian. The lobbyists return year after year, some decade after decade. In contrast, some legislators last only one term. “In a Legislature that has extremely high turnover, there are different institutional forces that have impact on the outcomes of legislation … but the one constant in Salem is gonna be the lobby,” said state Rep. Dan Rayfield.
Oregon: Oregon Legislature Reaches $1.3M Settlement Over Sexual Harassment
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/5/2019
Oregon legislative leaders announced they have signed a $1.3 million settlement with state labor regulators and nine women who experienced sexual harassment at the Capitol. The women will receive $1.1 million and the Legislature will pay the Bureau of Labor and Industries $200,000 to cover the agency’s legal costs. As part of the deal, the women agreed not to pursue legal action against the Legislature and other named defendants. For its part, the Legislature agreed to implement a list of reforms to make the Capitol a safer place to work, including adopting a definition of harassment with specific examples and using an independent lawyer to handle any discrimination and harassment complaints until it creates a new Equity Office.
South Carolina: SC Politicians, Lobbyists and More 0we $2.4M in Ethics Fines, But Many Will Never Pay
The State – Lucas Deprile | Published: 3/6/2019
There are 337 candidates, political parties, and lobbyists who owe the South Carolina Ethics Commission a total of $2.4 million in fines, many of which will likely never be collected. More than half of those who owed fines eight years ago still have not paid them, even though many large penalties have been reduced. The law says those who fail to file the appropriate forms must pay $10 per report every day after they are notified that they owe money. But after 10 days, that increases to $100 per missing report per day. The maximum fine is capped at $5,000, but until 2011, there was no ceiling to how much someone would owe.
West Virginia: Poster Linking Rep. Ilhan Omar to 9/11 Sparks Outrage at West Virginia Capitol
Los Angeles Times – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2019
The chairperson of the West Virginia Republican Party said the GOP does not condone an anti-Muslim poster displayed at the Capitol during a Republican event that linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The poster featured a picture of planes flying into the World Trade Center with the phrase “never forget, you said” and then under it, a picture of Omar with the words “I am proof you have forgotten.” Del. Michael Angelucci said he heard Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman, the chamber’s principal law enforcement official, call all Muslims terrorists. Lieberman disputed that accusation yet submitted a resignation letter. Del. Mike Caputo admitted to kicking open the chamber doors out of anger, an act that reportedly injured a doorkeeper.
March 1, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Federal: Cohen Tells Congress Trump Knew About WikiLeaks’ Plans, Directed Hush-Money Payments MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2019 Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, laid out for Congress […]
Cohen Tells Congress Trump Knew About WikiLeaks’ Plans, Directed Hush-Money Payments
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, and Rachael Bade (Washington Post) | Published: 2/27/2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, laid out for Congress for the first time a series of deceptions by the president. He charged that Trump lied to the public about business interests in Russia, lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails, and told Cohen to lie about hush payments to cover up sexual misconduct. The accusations, aired at a daylong hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, exposed a dark underside of Trump’s business and political worlds in the voice of one of the ultimate insiders. Perhaps no close associate has turned on a president in front of Congress in such dramatic fashion and with such high stakes since John Dean testified against President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arkansas: Arkansas Grapples with Ethics Cleanup Amid Federal Probes
4029tv – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 2/24/2019
A flurry of corruption cases in the past two years has been eye-popping, even for the most jaded veterans of Arkansas politics. Among those who have been charged are a nephew of the current governor, a champion of campaign finance reform, and a top county official who admitted to taking bribes funneled through the church where he was a pastor. The recent cases have stirred fears the Capitol is becoming better known as a hotbed of corruption than for any policy achievements, and legislative leaders are scrambling to repair that image and find ways of deterring future misdeeds.
California: The Political Playbook of a Bankrupt California Utility
MSN – Thomas Fuller and Ivan Penn (New York Times) | Published: 2/23/2019
Despite evidence Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was responsible for repeated safety violations and involved in deadly wildfires, lawmakers in California continued to benefit from political donations from the company. Investigators are now determining whether PG&E equipment was responsible for the state’s deadliest wildfire, the inferno in and around Paradise that killed 85 people and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. With the state’s tech giants focused on their influence in Washington, D.C., perhaps no company in California is more entangled with local Democratic politics than PG&E, which in January filed for bankruptcy. PG&E’s restructuring will test whether Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democratic leaders can push to create a company free from what critics say has been a culture of cronyism between regulators and the regulated.
Florida: The SWAT Team Showed Up at a Florida Mayor’s Door. Then He Started Shooting, Police Say.
Washington Post – Reis Thebault and Eli Rosenberg | Published: 2/21/2019
The mayor of a small Gulf Coast town in Florida was arrested after shooting at a SWAT team that had come to arrest him on charges of illegally practicing medicine. Dale Glen Massad, mayor of Port Richey, a town of around 2,600 north of Tampa, fired two shots at officers who raided his home in the early hours of the morning. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was investigating Massad, a former doctor who gave up his license in 1992, after being tipped off that Massad was still practicing medicine. No officers were injured and Massad was arrested without further incident. He is charged with two counts of attempted homicide, according to the complaint.
Georgia: Nine Lawyers in Running to Head State Ethics Commission
Yahoo Finance – R. Robin McDonald (Law.com) | Published: 2/28/2019
Nine lawyers are in contention to become the new head of Georgia’s ethics commission, which has moved to replace former Executive Secretary Stefan Ritter. He resigned following an internal investigation, which stemmed from the discovery of hundreds of pornographic images on his state-issued computer. Complaints also accused Ritter of squelching ethics inquiries of several Atlanta mayoral candidates and possible campaign violations by a gubernatorial campaign. Finalists for the job include Robert Lane, deputy executive secretary of the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, and Michael Sullivan, director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Illinois: At Chicago City Hall, the Legislative Branch Rarely Does Much Legislating
ProPublica – Mick Dumke | Published: 2/25/2019
From 2011 through 2018, Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell was the chief sponsor of more than 900 separate ordinances in the city council, most of them pertaining to such hyperlocal issues as business sign permits, driveway alley access, and parking meter hours for single addresses. That volume of ward-specific legislation is typical for aldermen. Except in rare instances, the council signs off on the mayor’s agenda, even letting the city’s executive pick its legislative leaders. In return, aldermen are allowed to reign over matters large and small in their wards, which some openly describe as “fiefdoms.” The structure of the council has received new attention over the last several months, as the city’s political establishment has been rocked by scandals involving aldermen.
Louisiana: Louisiana Cap on Legislative Wining and Dining Grows to $62
Tacoma News Tribune; Associated Press – | Published: 2/24/2019
When the new budget year begins in a few months, lobbyists can spend $62 per occasion on food and drink for a public official in Louisiana. The current cap is $61. The 2008 law that sets the limit allows annual adjustments tied to increases in the federal Consumer Price Index for food and beverages.
Maryland: Maryland Del. Mary Ann Lisanti Stripped of Leadership Post Over Use of Racial Slur
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 2/26/2019
A Maryland lawmaker who witnesses say used a racial slur to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s County has been stripped of her leadership position and will undergo sensitivity training. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti issued a public apology after addressing the executive committee of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Lisanti used the slur in front of several colleagues at an Annapolis cigar bar in January. She told another white lawmaker that when he campaigned in Prince George’s on behalf of a candidate last fall, he was door-knocking in a “n—– district,” said Del. Jay Walker, who witnessed the comment and represents the district in question.
New Hampshire: NH Lobbyists Paid Record Fees in 2018 But Info Hard to Track
Manchester Union Leader – Kevin Landrigan | Published: 2/23/2019
Unofficially, the nearly 500 private or public interests that hired lobbyists in New Hampshire last year paid out nearly $10.7 million in fees. The Manchester Union Leader constructed a database of the fees paid to these lobbyists from information available on the secretary of state’s website. But the state’s website is not searchable. State officials scan all the forms and post them online. This means anyone trying to aggregate all the fees paid to any firm has to total up all the individual forms. In 2018, more than 1,000 lobbying firms filed these reports because several firms have more than one associate working for them. For example, the Sheehan Phinney Capitol Group has five registered lobbyists who represent 40 clients. To find out what the firm got paid in total requires looking at more than 120 forms.
North Carolina: In N.C., a Surprise: In the end, everyone agreed it was election fraud
Chicago Tribune – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/23/2019
North Carolina will hold a new election in the Ninth Congressional District following a hearing that outlined how a political operative had orchestrated an absentee ballot scheme to try to sway the race in favor of Mark Harris, the Republican candidate. Harris was under scrutiny for hiring Leslie McCrae Dowless, who allegedly assembled a crew to illegally collect, fill out, and forge mail-in ballots in two rural counties in the district. Mark Harris’s son, John, testified before the State Board of Elections that he warned his father he believed Dowless had broken the law in a previous election and should not be hired for the 2018 campaign. The elder Harris had maintained in interviews with reporters that he was unaware of red flags about the operative’s alleged tactics.
Ohio: Even After FBI Probe of Ohio Speaker, Tracking Lawmakers’ Travel Remains Challenging
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 2/24/2019
Each year, several Ohio lawmakers spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on out-of-state travel. They meet legislators from other states, learn about how foreign countries tackle problems, and make connections that could help them professionally and politically. But figuring out how much each lawmaker travels and who pays for those trips is far from easy. Legislators must report some travel for official business on annual ethics forms but not all. Some lawmakers use campaign contributions to pay for travel and document trips there. But lawmakers can also receive free trips from national groups or pay for the trips themselves – it is impossible to tell.
Oregon: Polluted by Money
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 2/22/2019
Over the last few years, Oregon’s most powerful industries have defeated, weakened, or stalled efforts to deal with climate change, air pollution, and other environmental matters. An investigation by The Portland Oregonian found the failure to regulate campaign finance has made Oregon one of the biggest money states in American politics, and the ready cash creates an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants. A company might give as little as a few thousand dollars per lawmaker. But taken together, legislators receive millions from industries with a shared interest in weak environmental regulation. Some state lawmakers said the campaign finance system works by showing voters who is giving money and letting them judge whether it is significant.
Pennsylvania: How Philly’s Electricians Union and Johnny Doc Converted Payroll Deductions into Political Influence
Philadelphia Inquirer – Chris Brennan and Dylan Purcell | Published: 2/25/2019
From 2002 through 2018, small-dollar donations withdrawn from the paychecks of members of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers produced just under $41 million to invest in helping elect allies to local, state, and national offices. The yearly haul has increased six-fold over the last decade. The recent indictment on corruption charges of the union’s leader, Johnny “Doc” Dougherty, entangled only one elected official – Philadelphia City Councilperson Bobby Henon – and did not charge anyone with making or receiving improper campaign donations. For a probe that took at least two years, it also gave barely a nod to the breadth of the influence and impact that Local 98 and its leader have amassed.
Texas: Most Dallas City Council Members’ Campaign-Finance Reports Show Violations – But No One Enforces Rules
Dallas News – Corbett Smith | Published: 2/26/2019
Despite a limit on how much individuals and groups can donate to mayoral and council candidates, oversight by Dallas officials is essentially nonexistent. The Dallas News reviewed the past four years of campaign finance filings, finding more than 30 questionable donations reported by 10 of the 14 city council members. A dozen more issues showed up on reports of former council members and losing candidates, but no one is in charge of combing over the forms, raising questions or scrutinizing irregularities. And no one is filing official complaints that would prompt an investigation, city officials said. Even if someone filed a complaint about campaign finance violations, there’s disagreement whether the city’s own ethics panel can even investigate the matter.
February 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: The Growing Need for Opposition Research – on Yourself – in Today’s Political World Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/15/2019 The series of recent scandals in Virginia was kicked off by the emergence of a 35-year-old yearbook page […]
The Growing Need for Opposition Research – on Yourself – in Today’s Political World
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/15/2019
The series of recent scandals in Virginia was kicked off by the emergence of a 35-year-old yearbook page from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school days. In September, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee grilled then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about entries in his high school yearbook and the calendar he kept as a student. Now reporters all over the country are scouring old yearbooks, looking for more examples of racist or otherwise disturbing images or language from the past of politicians. All this suggests that opposition research – as well as self-research, which refers to candidates hiring investigators to look into their own closets – will be a growing field in the years ahead.
Elections Commission Chief Uses the ‘Nuclear Option’ to Rescue the Agency from Gridlock
Mother Jones – Nihal Krishan | Published: 2/20/2019
Ellen Weintraub, who has been on the FEC since 2002 and became chairperson in January, has become increasingly frustrated by the agency’s lack of enforcement, which has led to less disclosure, less transparency, and more “dark money” within the campaign finance system. Weintraub now says she will not allow FEC lawyers to defend the government when the commission has been sued for not enforcing the law. This drastic step, which one former FEC lawyer called the “nuclear option,” is effectively an effort to sabotage her own agency in order to enforce the law and create more campaign finance disclosure.
Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s two-year war on the investigations encircling him
MSN – Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 2/19/2019
President Trump’s public war on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Muller is on a “witch hunt.” The president’s lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. Trump’s allies in Congress and the conservative media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the FBI to subvert a democratically elected president. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with current and former government officials and others close to Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: L.A. Ethics Commission Backs New Restrictions on Developer Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 2/19/2019
Faced with complaints about a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission backed new restrictions on political donations from real estate developers seeking city approval for their building plans. The proposed ban would cover a broad array of people “substantially involved” in a proposed development project, including real estate executives, architects, engineers, and others. Such donors would also be barred from fundraising or gathering political donations for city officials. The commission also backed new restrictions on “behested payments” – donations solicited by politicians for charitable or governmental causes.
California: Nation’s First All-LGBTQ City Council Tests Modern Meaning of Diversity
San Francisco Chronicle – Scott Wilson (Washington Post) | Published: 2/18/2019
Palm Springs achieved a measure of fame a little more than a year ago when voters elected the nation’s first city council consisting entirely of members of the LGBTQ community. The gay and lesbian community, a majority of the electorate in this city of 45,000 people, cheered the milestone as an affirmation of the community’s model tolerance. The happy moment did not last long. The council elected in November 2017 also happened to be all white. What was viewed by many as a broad step toward greater diversity instead turned Palm Springs into a forum for a debate about what diversity means – and who, exactly, is best suited to represent whom in a state shaped for decades by identity politics.
California: Why Cities, Counties May Turn to the State Political Watchdog to Enforce Local Campaign Finance Issues
San Bernardino Sun – Joe Nelson and Sandra Emerson | Published: 2/20/2019
A law that took effect on January 1 in California essentially allows local agencies to draw on the state’s experience and expertise in dealing with campaign finance and ethics laws – for a price. Under its contract with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), San Bernardino County pays the agency a flat fee of $55,000 annually and is billed at hourly rates for any work exceeding the flat amount. In return, the FPPC audits the campaign accounts of all county elected officials each election cycle, investigates complaints, provides written and verbal guidance to elected officials and their donors regarding the county’s campaign finance and ethics ordinance.
Florida: ‘Who Gave It, Who Got It?’ How Political Influence in Miami Is Bought – and Concealed
Miami Herald – Joey Flechas and Sandra Emerson | Published: 2/21/2019
Whether it is candidates or ballot measures, moneyed interests use political groups that can receive and spend unlimited, untraceable “dark money” to influence elections in Miami and pay for attack ads. Florida’s lax campaign finance laws allow donors to seed thousands of dollars into committees that can give to one or more other committees. The money that pays for the ads can be difficult to trace back to the original donor. Because state authorities do not aggressively police campaign finance reports, political committees can easily get away with concealing their donors while flouting election laws. But political groups do not necessarily need to break campaign laws to hide the sources of their money. It is allowed to be moved through a byzantine web of political committees that mask its origins.
Montana: US Supreme Court Won’t Take Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 2/19/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, declined to take up a case challenging Montana’s campaign finance disclosure law. The justices left in place a lower court’s ruling that the state’s so-called Disclose Act is constitutional. The law requires groups that engage in last-minute advertising in elections to make public how they spend money to influence the state’s elections.
New Jersey: This N.J. Mayor Is Getting Paid to Fight Legal Weed. Here’s Why That’s Causing Trouble.
Bergen Record – Payton Guion (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/15/2019
The mayor of the first town in New Jersey to ban legal marijuana sales has also spent most of the past year on the payroll as a lobbyist for a prominent anti-marijuana group in the state. But Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid has not always been upfront about that connection, raising questions about ethics and conflicts-of-interest. More than 60 towns in New Jersey have taken some step to prohibit marijuana businesses from their borders. Reid has traveled around the state, offering his hand to other towns considering a ban as the mayor of a town that’ has already done it. Since May 2018, Reid has been a paid lobbyist for New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana, and his potential conflict is the subject of lawsuit against the town.
Oregon: ‘Give Me the Money, and I’ll Give It to Her.’ Former Oregon Lawmaker Describes Participating in Dubious Campaign Practice
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 2/17/2019
On paper, two contributions to candidates last year came from former Oregon Rep. Deborah Boone. She wrote the checks and her name is listed as the donor. In reality, Boone said, the money came from donors who asked her to pass it on under her name, creating a set of transactions and reports that may have violated state law. Boone described the practice as commonplace among legislators. State records show millions of dollars have moved between Oregon politicians in the past decade in what look like straightforward gestures of support. Lawmakers also routinely give money to committees run by legislative leaders, who then redistribute it to candidates in tough races. According to Boone, the transactions are not always what they seem.
Rhode Island: Political Donations by Strip-club Industry Made in Lobbying Firm’s Name
Providence Journal – Brian Amaral | Published: 2/15/2019
Mysterious errors in campaign finance records concealed the source of thousands of dollars in donations from the Providence strip-club industry to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Instead of listing their actual employers, the series of contributions listed a lobbying firm, the Goldberg Law Offices. A lobbyist at that firm, Robert Goldberg, also worked on behalf of the strip-club industry. Goldberg said he did not know why donations from people involved in the strip-club industry – and not, in fact, employed by his firm – listed his firm as their employer. The errors raise questions about the working relationship between a high-powered lobbyist and an industry he represented and illuminate the many connections between the strip-club industry and the halls of power in the state.
Texas: Sen. Angela Paxton Files Bill That Would Allow Her Husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to Issue Exemptions from Securities Regulations
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 2/16/2019
In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, she filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, state Attorney General Ken Paxton to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.” One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment advisor” without registering. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas, one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.
Virginia: Richmond’s Donor Class and the VMI Brotherhood Stand Behind Embattled Virginia Governor
Washington Post – Gregory Schneider | Published: 2/16/2019
Gil Minor, a local corporate titan and major donor to both political parties, and Tom Slater, a prominent lawyer, met with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam soon after the shocking news broke that a racist photograph had been unearthed from Northam’s medical school yearbook page. Minor and Slater are part of a political donor class in Richmond that has rallied behind the embattled governor. Perhaps more significant, they are part of a Virginia Military Institute (VMI) brotherhood, an elite alumni corps that includes several of the state’s power brokers. They did not want Northam, the first VMI graduate to become governor, to go down in disgrace. That support is a major reason Northam has clung to office when most of the political world has called for his resignation, leaving the state locked in a limbo of dysfunction that shows no sign of changing soon.
Washington: SEIU State Council to Pay $128,000 in Civil Fines Over Campaign-Finance Lawsuit
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 2/19/2019
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Washington State Council 14 has agreed to pay a six-figure settlement over a campaign finance lawsuit. The settlement requires SEIU to pay $128,262.75 in civil fines, as well as $18,300.85 in costs and fees. Another $104,942.25 in civil fines is suspended, provided the organization has no violations over the next four years. The Freedom Foundation alleged the SEIU state council had been operating as a political committee without filing as such with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. The state attorney general’s office determined that SEIU had made significant campaign contributions but failed to register and report as a political committee in for at least the years 2014 and 2016.
Wyoming: Legislature Reforms Campaign Finance
Staff – Sundance Times | Published: 2/20/2019
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed Senate Bill 18 into law. It is intended to enhance transparency by requiring that candidates report their expenditures and contributions simultaneously and up to two weeks before the election. It also raises the threshold for reporting from $25 to $100 to account for inflation. The law also clarifies campaign advertising provisions to now include online advertising and defines “electioneering communications,” while requiring that campaign activity be subject to the disclosure of donors and expenditures whether or not that activity was done in coordination with a candidate. A disclosure must now explicitly state, “Paid for by ….”
February 15, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Ex-Lawmakers Face New Scrutiny Over Lobbying The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/12/2019 Critics say former federal lawmakers have been the biggest offenders when it comes to working as lobbyists without formally registering. Forty-eight former senators and 295 […]
Ex-Lawmakers Face New Scrutiny Over Lobbying
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/12/2019
Critics say former federal lawmakers have been the biggest offenders when it comes to working as lobbyists without formally registering. Forty-eight former senators and 295 former representatives were registered lobbyists in the last Congress, and that number is growing as the latest exiting class of lawmakers join firms. Some note the law has loopholes for determining when someone must register. The Lobbying Disclosure Act states that a person must register to lobby if lobbying activities constitute at least 20 percent of their time working for a client. That allows many former members who work for lobbying shops and big firms to handle policy issues but avoid crossing the line to require registering as a lobbyist.
FEC Raises Contribution Limits for 2020
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/7/2019
The FEC announced new higher campaign contribution limits. Donors would be able to give up to $2,800 per election, including both the primary and the general election contests, in the new cycle, a $100 increase over the 2018 cycle. Individuals will be allowed to contribute up to $35,500 to party accounts like the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee every year. The commission raises the cap every two years under a provision in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
National Enquirer’s Parent Firm Asked U.S. If It Should Register as Foreign Agent for Saudis
NBC News – Josh Lederman | Published: 2/11/2019
The company that publishes the National Enquirer was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia that it asked the Department of Justice last year whether it needed to register as a foreign lobbyist. Communications between the Justice Department and American Media Inc. offer the fullest picture to date of interactions between the tabloid publisher and the Saudis ahead of AMI’s release last year of flattering magazine about Saudi Arabia’s young leader. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people or entities that work to advance a foreign country’s political interests in the U.S. must disclose their specific activities and register as foreign lobbyists.
Ocasio-Cortez Learned Lobbyists Pay People to Avoid Waiting in Lines in D.C. She’s Not Pleased.
MSN – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2019
Paying people to wait in line to get prime seats at Capitol Hill hearings is a once-controversial maneuver that has now become accepted practice. Critics say line-standing or line-waiting is a small but visible example of how money affects politics in Washington – how people with resources buy access to lawmakers as they deliberate legislation. The practice, which is expensive but not illegal, has long been a popular one for lobbyists. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is experiencing life as a legislator in Washington for the first time, tweeted her reaction to seeing a line of people waiting for a committee hearing: “Shock doesn’t begin to cover it. Apparently this is a normal practice, and people don’t bat an eye.”
From the States and Municipalities:
California: To Do Business with L.A., City Contractors Now Must Disclose Ties with the NRA
Los Angeles Times – Dakota Smith | Published: 2/12/2019
The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that requires companies seeking contracts with the city to disclose any ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Prospective contractors now must disclose under affidavit any contracts or sponsorships they or their subsidiaries have with the NRA. The city has similar policies about companies involved in the construction of President Trump’s proposed border wall. The NRA disclosure law contains more than a dozen exemptions, including contracts involving the city’s pension funds and other investment agreements. Still, attorneys for the NRA said they would file a lawsuit if the ordinance passed, according to a letter sent to the city.
Colorado: High Cost of Influence: $33 million spent last year lobbying Colorado lawmakers
Denver Post – Nic Garcia | Published: 2/7/2019
More than $33 million was spent lobbying Colorado lawmakers in 2018. Lawmakers sometimes rely on lobbyists for expertise and resources the politicians do not have. They fill a knowledge gap for state lawmakers, who have slim staffs to help research and write legislation. Also, because lawmakers can only serve eight years in each chamber, they are limited in the institutional knowledge they can build. Critics say that gives lobbyists access and influence the general public does not always have. “They obviously provide information that is favorable to their clients and not the whole picture,” said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Florida: The Lawmaker Who Dressed in Blackface Is Pushing an Ethics Bill Today. Does It Matter?
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/12/2019
Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini has been making national headlines for wearing blackface in a high school prank 14 years ago. It has not stopped him from pushing numerous bills in Tallahassee, including a sweeping bill that would strengthen the state’s ethics laws. It includes provisions that would ban officials from getting investment advice from lobbyists, require lobbyists who influence the executive branch to register online, and make it illegal for officials to seek jobs that conflict with their lawmaking duties. Sabatini he initially felt terrible for anyone who saw the photograph and did not understand the context. But as the story grew, he felt some news reports were using the incident to be sensational, and he has since refused to apologize.
Georgia: State Ethics Commissioners Move to Fill Executive Secretary’s Post After Resignation
Yahoo Finance – R. Robin McDonald (ALM Media) | Published: 2/11/2019
Stefan Ritter resigned as executive secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission after being placed on paid leave amid accusations he misused his state-issued computer. Three formal complaints revealed Ritter’s departure stemmed from the discovery by commission staff of “hundreds of pornographic images” on his computer that at least one staff member observed Ritter viewing in the office. The complaints accused him of instructing staff not to open inquiries of multiple candidates in the 2017 Atlanta mayoral race who staffers believed may have violated state campaign finance laws. Ritter also was accused of making a similar call regarding possible campaign violations by Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign.
Indiana: Veteran Agency’s Secretive Deal with Former State Senator Possibly Violated Lobbying Laws
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Chris Sikich | Published: 2/14/2019
After a state lawmaker pushed to expand the reach of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), the agency awarded him a secretive, and possibly illegal, lobbying contract that has paid him more than $150,000. The deal, signed nine months after former state Sen. Allen Paul left office, appears to run afoul of Indiana’s “revolving door” law meant to curb politicians from cashing in on government service. Paul also failed to register as a lobbyist. While the contract was in effect, Paul rarely showed up at the office, interacted little with key lawmakers, and did not maintain an account of the hours he worked. Paul continued to be paid even after the IDVA hired a full-time employee to do essentially the same job.
Michigan: Benson: Pro-Whitmer group broke campaign finance law, will pay fine
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 2/8/2019
A group that ran television ads last year featuring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and has agreed to pay a $37,500 settlement, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. Build a Better Michigan spent more than $2.4 million in 2018 and ran a series of pro-Whitmer ads it described as a form of “issue advocacy” traditionally exempt from the law. But some of those ads violated the statute by identifying Whitmer as a “candidate for governor,” Benson said. Benson also ruled the group’s spending could not be considered an “independent expenditure” because of apparent coordination between the group and Whitmer’s campaign.
New York: Claiming Attempt to Silence Them, Advocacy Groups Oppose Cuomo Lobbying Proposal
Gotham Gazette – Lysette Voytko | Published: 2/10/2019
One provision of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reform agenda would require any individual or organization spending over $500 in a year on lobbying to be required to register as a lobbyist, lowering the threshold from $5,000. The proposal is sparking outcry from nonprofit leaders and others, who say the proposal would harm smaller organizations and activist groups that do little formal lobbying and cannot afford the labor or time to navigate the state’s complex lobbying regulations. “Perversely, while this might increase the number of filings, it will effectively silence small groups while increasing the influence of big money in government,” states a letter from 15 nonprofits.
Texas: In Texas, More Than a Million Dollars in Ethics Fines Have Gone Unpaid
Texas Monitor – Johnny Kampis | Published: 2/7/2019
Data from the Texas Ethics Commission shows state Rep. Ron Reynolds owes $52,500 in fines for failing to file timely personal finance statements required for all candidates. Reynolds is one of the worst offenders in terms of unpaid ethics fines, but he is far from alone in thumbing his nose at the commission. As of the most recent updating on February 4, the ethics agency’s delinquent filer list shows that Texas officeholders and candidates owe more than $1.3 million in fines for being lax on those financial statements.
Virginia: Virginia Democrats Looking for a Clear Path Forward from Scandals
San Francisco Chronicle – Amy Gardner and Jenna Portnoy (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2019
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are staying, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is fighting, and Virginia Democrats are grappling with how to proceed in a situation with no precedent and no one leading the way out of one of the party’s most disastrous periods in history. More than a week has passed since images emerged of Northam’s medical school yearbook page depicting a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Since then, two women have accused Fairfax of sexual assault and Herring has admitted he wore blackface as a young man. As a group, Democrats in the state publicly embraced their party’s zero tolerance for racism and sexual violence. But privately, Democrats are divided, particularly about whether ousting Northam is best for their party.
Washington: Seattle Ethics Commission May Shine Light on Political Work, City Hall Lobbying
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 2/12/2019
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission may require lobbyists to report the work they do for political campaigns. The debate follows a Seattle Times story about partners at Sound View Strategies who helped elect Mayor Jenny Durkan and have given her informal political advice. They have also been paid by corporate clients to lobby Durkan’s administration on legislation and advocate at City Hall on regulatory matters. Though Seattle already requires candidates to disclose their payments to consultants and mandates lobbyists list their payments from clients, those activities are reported separately and differently, so it can be hard to connect the dots.
February 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Inaccurate Claims of Noncitizen Voting in Texas Reflect a Growing Trend in Republican States Stamford Advocate – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2019 When Texas officials announced in January that as many as 58,000 noncitizens may have voted illegally in […]
Inaccurate Claims of Noncitizen Voting in Texas Reflect a Growing Trend in Republican States
Stamford Advocate – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2019
When Texas officials announced in January that as many as 58,000 noncitizens may have voted illegally in state elections over nearly two decades, top Republicans, including President Trump, quickly warned about the prevalence of voter fraud and the need to crack down on it. But just as quickly, the numbers stopped adding up. The secretary of state’s office called local election officials to say thousands of people on the list were in fact American citizens, eligible to vote. The episode is the latest in bungled attempts by states to show that huge numbers of noncitizens are registered to vote and have cast ballots in U.S. elections.
‘It’s the Human Way’: Corruption scandals play out in big cities across U.S.
New York Times – Richard Fausset, Monica Davey, and Tim Arango | Published: 2/5/2019
Four of America’s largest cities – Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia – are under the cloud of major federal corruption investigations. The probes raise questions about whether there can be any lasting cure for the chronic corruption problems that seem to dog big cities, so often dominated by a single party or political machine. The Chicago and Los Angeles metropolitan areas are the two most corrupt in the U.S., based on the number of federal public corruption convictions from 1976 to 2016. Philadelphia comes in at number eight. Atlanta did not make the top 10, but the city’s political atmosphere is influenced by the conviction of former Mayor Bill Campbell on tax evasion charges stemming from an earlier corruption investigation.
Firms Recruited by Paul Manafort Investigated Over Foreign Payments
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 2/5/2019
Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating payments to three law and lobbying firms recruited by Paul Manafort to help improve the image of the president of Ukraine. The previously unreported interviews are among the latest developments in the investigation of key figures who worked at the three firms: Mercury Public Affairs, the Podesta Group, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The case has drawn interest in Washington in part because of the prominence of the three main figures, each of whom has played high-profile roles in politics and lobbying. But it has also sent shock waves through the lobbying industry by underscoring an aggressive legal crackdown on lobbyists and lawyers who do lucrative work representing foreign governments without registering as foreign agents.
K Street in Overdrive as Investigations Ramp Up
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/7/2019
Lawmakers this year are vowing to press companies across diverse industries on a number of hot-button issues, including how technology companies are handling consumer data, how the nation’s companies have benefited from the tax law, and how drug makers set their prices. For corporations, a public inquiry into their practices, often with top executives hauled before Congress and cameras, is a worrying prospect. More than ever, businesses are coming to lawyers on K Street to help them handle those unique challenges. Handling congressional investigations requires a complex team with lobbyists who can provide insight into what policymakers are thinking, as well as lawyers who know how to best protect a client’s rights.
Trump Inaugural Committee Ordered to Hand Over Documents to Federal Investigators
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 2/4/2019
Federal prosecutors in New York delivered a wide-ranging request for documents related to donations and spending by President Trump’s inaugural committee. Investigators showed interest in whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee, as well as whether committee staff members knew such contributions were illegal, asking for documents laying out legal requirements for donations. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, PACs, and inaugural funds. Prosecutors also requested all documents related to vendors and contractors with the inaugural committee. The subpoena showed the investigations surrounding Trump, once centered on potential ties to Russia during the 2016 election, have spread beyond the special counsel’s office to include virtually all aspects of his adult life.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ Work as a Lobbyist Sparks Criticism in California Capitol
Los Angeles Times – Melody Gutierrez | Published: 2/4/2019
Former California Assemblyperson Sebastian Ridley-Thomas registered as a lobbyist in January, just weeks after an investigation supported claims that he sexually harassed two legislative staffers in 2016. When the allegations were made public, Ridley-Thomas’ first client, the Los Angeles Unified School District, canceled his four-week, $15,000 contract for work in Sacramento. While the Legislature spent much of the past year creating new sexual harassment policies and procedures for lawmakers and its employees, the conduct of lobbyists was largely unaddressed. A lobbyist found to have sexually harassed a legislative staffer or lawmaker might be restricted from going to certain parts of the Capitol, but the Legislature’s power is limited beyond that, said Assemblyperson Laura Friedman.
Connecticut: When the Governor’s Adviser Is Married to a Lobbyist
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 2/1/2019
Colleen Flanagan Johnson is the senior adviser to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and is married to Michael Johnson, a lobbyist at Sullivan & LeShane. In consultation with the Office of State Ethics and the Lamont administration, Flanagan Johnson said she will not meet with any of her husband’s two dozen clients, and she and her husband will not talk about his clients and the issues on which he lobbies. Flanagan Johnson and Ryan Drajewicz, the governor’s chief of staff, also will decide on a case by case basis if she needs to completely recuse herself from any issue “to avoid even the appearance of a potential conflict-of-interest.” Under the ethics code, which is established by state laws that have not changed in decades, there is no legal bar to Flanagan Johnson acting on any issue of importance to her husband or his employer.
Florida: A Florida Politician Allegedly Made a Habit of Licking Men’s Faces. She’s Now Resigned.
Washington Post – Antonia Noori Farzan | Published: 2/6/2019
Madeira Beach Commissioner Nancy Oakley is being accused of sexually harassing a former city manager. The Florida Commission on Ethics said Oakley possibly violated state law because she was “exhibiting inappropriate behavior” when she licked Shane Crawford’s face at a fishing tournament. The report said there was testimony from multiple witnesses saying Oakley also touched Crawford inappropriately, and that she was intoxicated. Since the issue was brought to light, others have said Oakley behaved in a similar manner. The sponsor of the fishing tournament where Oakley allegedly licked the city manager said she had licked his face and the faces of volunteers at other fishing tournaments. Oakley resigned to avoid being fired.
Indiana: A State Election Panel Won’t Investigate Brian Bosma. Opponents Say the Process Is Rigged.
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 2/7/2019
The Indiana Election Commission declined to investigate House Speaker Brian Bosma’s use of campaign money to uncover unflattering information about a woman who claims she had a sexual encounter with him 27 years ago when she was an intern. A separate House Ethics Committee complaint is still pending. Those who filed the complaints say the process so far appears to be rigged in Bosma’s favor. Both the election and ethics proceedings have taken place largely outside public view and without any notice to those who filed the complaints, including the former intern and her attorney. Bosma and his team were permitted to submit dozens of pages of legal arguments and other materials to the election commission with no opportunity for the person who filed the complaint to respond.
Kentucky: After Democratic Kickback Scheme, State Lawmaker Pushes for Ethics Bill
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 2/5/2019
The bribery, kickbacks, and illegal campaign money revealed in the federal convictions of political operatives Tim Longmeyer and Jim Sullivan demand the General Assembly strengthen laws over those who lobby the state’s executive agencies, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said. Stivers said the legislation he introduced, Senate Bill 6, would be as a step toward reform by requiring disclosure of fees paid to lobbyists who attempt to influence executive agencies, just as fees paid to those who lobby the Legislature have been required to be disclosed for many years. Senate Bill 6 would also clarify what is already in state law – that an executive lobbyist cannot be paid on a contingency fee basis.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts Campaign Finance Regulators Prepared to Lower Unions’ Donation Limit
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 2/4/2019
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance released draft regulations that would decrease the amount of money a union can contribute to a candidate in Massachusetts from $15,000 a year to $1,000 a year. Under state law until now, unions and trade associations could donate up to $15,000 to a candidate. Individuals can contribute up to $1,000 and businesses cannot give anything. Two business owners challenged the ban in court. They argued that businesses and unions should be subject to the same campaign finance restrictions. The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the ban on corporate contributions but noted state law is unclear regarding the different treatment of unions.
Missouri: Barred from Lobbying for Six Months, Ex-Missouri Rep Returns Anyway to Sway Lawmakers
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 1/31/2019
Less than two months after resigning from office, former state Rep. Kevin Corlew returned to the Missouri Capitol to testify for a national organization in what one watchdog said is an act of stealth lobbying. Some experts question whether his appearance goes against the state’s “revolving door” law prohibiting former lawmakers from quickly returning to lobby their former colleagues in the Legislature. Corlew lost his re-election bid last fall. He then resigned in December, before his term was up, specifically to avoid a new law banning lawmakers from returning to the Capitol as lobbyists for two years after leaving office.
New Mexico: Bill Would Reveal the Cost of a Free Lunch for Lawmakers
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/31/2019
Three proposals this year in the New Mexico Legislature would require more thorough reporting of how lobbyists are spending to influence lawmakers and the executive branch. House Bill 133 would require lobbyists to disclose the specific bills they lobbied for or against. House Bill 140 would require principles to file reports at the beginning of the session estimating how much they expect to spend on lobbying, including the compensation to the lobbyists themselves. Senate Bill 191, which was sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, would fix a loophole that allows lobbyists to spend $100 or less on, for example, buying lunch for a lawmaker without ever having to report such costs.
North Dakota: Legislative Lobbyists Feel Their Purpose Is Misunderstood
Inforum.com – Diane Newsberry (North Dakota Newspaper Association) | Published: 2/3/2019
North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said he had concerns about legislation that aims to limit the influence of lobbyists. The legislation comes as a result of last year’s ballot Measure 1, which amended the state constitution to set more guidelines about legislative ethics. Wardner cited wording in Measure 1 which may mean that if a citizen who comes to the Capitol to testify on behalf of themselves spends more than $201 in the process, that person would be classified as a lobbyist. Lobbyists feel they are often misrepresented, especially in public talks about ethics. Scott Meske, a lobbyist with public affairs firm Laventure, said his profession’s primary goal is to be a translator between his clients and lawmakers.
Virginia: Crisis Escalates in Virginia; Top 3 Democrats Under Fire
Associated Press – MSN | Published: 2/6/2019
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged he put on dark makeup and wore a wig while an undergraduate of the University of Virginia in 1980, becoming the second statewide official to admit imitating an African-American. Within hours, Vanessa Tyson put out a detailed statement describing how Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004. Fairfax denies the allegations. The revelations came less than one week after the disclosure of a racist photograph on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam led to demands for his resignation. The string of scandals could have a domino effect on state government: If Northam and Fairfax fall, Herring would be next in line to become governor. After Herring comes House Speaker Kirk Cox.
February 1, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: All Red or All Blue, State Legislatures Run to Partisan Sides MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2019 Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats […]
All Red or All Blue, State Legislatures Run to Partisan Sides
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2019
Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats now control six new legislative chambers. Along the way, though, Minnesota became the only remaining state in the nation where control of a Legislature is divided. Even in an era of single-party dominance in state Legislatures, it is the first time in more than a century that only one state has split control of its legislative chambers and is one more indication of the depth of the nation’s divided political sensibilities.
K Street Women Seek Closer Ties to Female Lawmakers
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/30/2019
A collection of female lobbyists and organizations is launching a new effort, called 131 & Counting, to welcome the unprecedented number of women now serving in the U.S. House and Senate, build connections with them, and encourage more women to run for office. Miranda Franco, a senior policy adviser with Holland & Knight who came up with the idea, envisions future events that might include panels and roundtables about women in business, the gender wage gap, and other policy matters. Though 131 & Counting is not a fundraising effort, it will connect the female lawmakers with a likely collection of potential campaign donors. Not only did a record number of women run for office last cycle but more women than ever before donated to congressional candidates.
Lawmakers Push Crackdown on Foreign Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/29/2019
Foreign lobbying has been in the national spotlight since special counsel Robert Mueller obtained guilty pleas under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) from two of Donald Trump’s campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, over their lobbying work in Ukraine. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle find FARA outdated, weak, and filled with loopholes. They have tried to change the law in the past, but those efforts have fallen short. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act in 2017 and he said recently that he wants to try again to pass the bill, which will be reintroduced this Congress.
From the States and Municipalities:
Florida: Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel Resigns After Halloween Blackface Photos Emerge
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 1/24/2019
Newly appointed Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned from office after photographs of him posing as a female Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface were obtained by The Tallahassee Democrat. The newspaper reported that the photos were taken in 2005, shortly after Ertel had become supervisor of elections in Seminole County, and depict him in blackface, wearing a New Orleans Saints bandanna around his head and a shirt with the words “Katrina Victim” written on it. Ertel would not comment on the record about the circumstances surrounding the photo. “There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel said.
Illinois: FBI Secretly Recorded Mike Madigan at His Law Office Pitching Firm’s Services
Chicago Sun-Times – John Seidel, Tina Sfondeles, and Fran Spielman | Published: 1/29/2019
The FBI secretly recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan trying to get business for his private law firm from a developer brought to him by Chicago Ald. Danny Solis, who was weighing the developer’s request to build a hotel in Chicago, according to a federal court affidavit. It makes clear for the first time that the federal investigation that has snared Ald. Edward Burke extends beyond City Hall and into the statehouse, examining politicians’ longstanding practice of merging personal and political business. It has been reported that Solis secretly recorded conversations he had with Burke, who recently was charged with attempted extortion.
Kentucky: A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 1/28/2019
In an appearance on MSNBC in July 2017, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expressed her opposition to giving voter data to President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which had requested it from election officials in all 50 states. The privacy risks were simply too high, she said. But beginning months before she made that statement, Grimes’ own staff had been looking up hundreds of voters in the very same registration system. An investigation shows the searches were extensive and targeted prominent state politicians, including gubernatorial candidate Rocky Adkins, who could have been Grimes’ opponent in the Democratic primary.
Missouri: St. Louis County’s Campaign Contribution Limit Is in Effect. Probably. Maybe. Who Knows.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 1/24/2019
St. Louis County voters in November overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment that limits campaign contributions to $2,600 per individual per election. But on December 2, Prosecuting Attorney-elect Wesley Bell accepted a contribution for $3,500; the next day he accepted one for $10,000. It remains unclear whether Bell’s campaign ran afoul of the amendment. The Missouri Constitution says county charter amendments become a part of the charter “at the time and under the conditions fixed in the amendment.” The county’s charter amendment did not have an effective date, and no one in the county government can say when, or even if, it did take effect.
New Mexico: Lobbyist Loophole Fix Heads to Gov. as Lobbyists Spend Nearly $90K
New Mexixo In Depth – Marjorie Childress | Published: 1/30/2019
New Mexico lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would close a loophole that allowed lobbyists to buy politicians meals and drinks of up to $100 without reporting it to state regulators. Senate Bill 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs Senate Bill 191, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100. Current law requires lobbyists to report expenses above $100 individually.
Oklahoma: Groups on Right, Left Oppose Proposed Grassroots Lobbying Rules
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 1/24/2019
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission had been considering disclosure requirements for advocates who buy ads supporting or opposing legislation. But commissioners let the proposed indirect lobbying rule die without a vote after an outcry against it. Most of those against the proposal called it an infringement on free speech. Leaders of nonprofits involved in politics complained the disclosure requirements would drive away donors who want to remain anonymous. More than 3,200 people signed a petition against the proposal.
Oregon: Oregon Supreme Court Could Beat Gov. Brown to Campaign Finance Change
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk Vanderhart | Published: 1/24/2019
Gov. Kate Brown says changes to Oregon’s campaign finance system are a priority in this year’s legislative session, but it is possible some of those changes will occur before she gets her chance. In a rare move, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to fast-track a case that proponents hope will let the state limit campaign contributions. The move means the matter will skip over the Oregon Court of Appeals, where cases can languish for years and will be heard by the justices later this year. At issue is a set of campaign finance changes enacted by Multnomah County voters three years ago. The new rules placed a $500 ceiling on the checks that individual donors or PACs could give to candidates for county office, and they required disclosures of top donors for political advertisements, among other provisions.
Pennsylvania: Feds Indict Powerful Philly Union Boss, City Councilman, Others
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Maryclaire Dale (Associated Press) | Published: 1/30/2019
A powerful union boss with a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region and outsized influence in city and state politics has been indicted in alleged schemes to embezzle more than $600,000 and have a councilperson on the union payroll do his bidding at City Hall. Johnny “Doc” Dougherty has steered tens of millions of dollars to political candidates in Pennsylvania during his tenure running the electricians union. According to the 116-count indictment, Dougherty pressed Comcast to steer $2 million worth of electrical work to a friend as the company negotiated the renewal of the city’s 15-year cable lease and had city Councilperson Bobby Henon investigate a towing company that seized Dougherty’s car., among other charges.
South Dakota: Lobbyist Can Return House Floor After Judge Issues Restraining Order
Rapid City Journal – Chris Huber | Published: 1/27/2019
The lobbyist who was banned from the South Dakota House floor can once again conduct business there after a federal judge granted her a temporary restraining order. Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, alleged in a lawsuit that Speaker Steve Haugaard barred her from the House floor after she wrote a magazine column saying the number of “wackies” in the Legislature was increasing. U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange said both sides are working toward a settlement, but he granted to the temporary order to “avert immediate or irreparable injury” to Taylor while those discussions occur.
Texas: Dallas Lawyer’s Young Children Are Listed as Big Donors for 3 City Council Members
Dallas News – Corbett Smith | Published: 1/30/2019
Four young children are among Dallas’s biggest political donors. Over the past two years, the children of James Stanton, a former judge in Dallas County, donated a total of $11,000 to three city council members. Those contributions appear to skirt the city’s campaign finance rules, which set a $1,000 individual limit per election cycle for city council races. Charles Sartain, an attorney who specializes in election law, said Stanton’s donations are similar to when a boss distributes money he or she wants doled out for political contributions.
Texas: In the Texas House, They’re Seen as Lobbyists. In the Senate, They Sit at the Press Table.
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 1/28/2019
Empower Texans has worked to replace moderate Republicans with hardline conservatives. The organization and its PAC – which blur the lines between newsroom, lobbying firm, and PAC – have aimed to upend the political scene, with primary challenges and by-the-minute scorecards of lawmakers’ votes. This year, two employees of the Empower Texans’ reporting arm, Texas Scorecard, sit for the first time at the press table on the Senate floor. Aside from lawmakers, staff, and special guests, only journalists are allowed on the floor of the chamber. The media credentials are an opportunity for a group that tries to influence the process. And Empower Texans’ influence is notable. Last election cycle, the group’s PAC spent millions of dollars, a hefty amount going to the Senate and to its leader, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Utah: Who Funds Utah Legislators’ Campaigns? Special Interests Provide 82% of Money, While Voters in Lawmakers’ Own Districts Gave Only 6%.
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/27/2019
Incoming Utah legislators collected only six percent of their campaign donations during the 2018 election year from voters who live in their districts. The lion’s share of contributions, 82 percent, came from special-interest groups or out-of-state donors, according to an analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune. As the Legislature convenes, the statistics again raise questions about how much influence wealthy donors and organized interests wield compared with run-of-the-mill Utah voters. Chase Thomas, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, says he doubts big-donor groups buy any votes, but their money may improve their access to lawmakers to make their case for or against legislation.
January 25, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Lawmakers Eye Changes to Ballot Measures – Passed and Future Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 1/16/2019 Ballot measures have become a popular way to enact new policies, from minimum wage hikes and legalized marijuana to ethics reforms. But voter-approved measures are […]
Lawmakers Eye Changes to Ballot Measures – Passed and Future
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 1/16/2019
Ballot measures have become a popular way to enact new policies, from minimum wage hikes and legalized marijuana to ethics reforms. But voter-approved measures are meeting more pushback. Republican lawmakers in several states are fighting ballot measures on two fronts: as was the case following the 2016 election, they are trying to overturn provisions of some laws that voters just passed in November. They are also seeking legislative changes that would make it harder to pass in the future.
BuzzFeed’s Stumble Is Highest-Profile Misstep at a Time When Press Is Under Greatest Scrutiny
Danbury News-Times – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 1/19/2019
Reporters at the Guardian, CNN, McClatchy News, and other outlets have published disputed, suspect, or uncorroborated stories about President Trump and the investigation swirling around him since special counsel Robert Mueller began his probe. Each instance has elicited cries of “fake news” from the president and his supporters, stoking the claim that the mainstream media is biased and irresponsible. But these disputed stories have tended to be about distinct events or actions; they were effectively clues rather than conclusions about Trump’s potential criminality. BuzzFeed News’ apparently mistaken story about Michael Cohen and Trump was of a different nature and magnitude.
GOP Reaches Landmark Agreement to Juice Small-Dollar Fundraising
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 1/21/2019
President Trump’s political team and top Republican officials have reached an agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatus and close the financial gap that devastated them in the midterms. With the deal, Republicans hope to create a rival to ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising behemoth that plowed over $700 million in small-dollar donations into Democratic coffers in the 2018 campaign. Republicans agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations.
Law Firm Tied to Manafort Reaches $4.6 Million Settlement
apnews.com – Chad Day and Eric Tucker | Published: 1/17/2019
A prominent law firm that helped former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort lobby on behalf of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine agreed to pay more than $4.6 million and publicly acknowledge it failed to report its work for a foreign government. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom admitted that in 2012 it acted as an agent of Ukraine by participating in a public relations campaign for a report it authored for that country’s government. The firm will register retroactively as a foreign agent. The Justice Department, which is charged with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act, had largely turned a blind eye until Robert Mueller began charging Trump’s associates, including Manafort, who had built a lucrative business advising Russia-aligned politicians and wealthy business executives in Ukraine.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Former California Lawmaker Registers as a Lobbyist After #MeToo Investigation
Sacramento Bee – Sophia Bollag | Published: 1/22/2019
A month after the California Assembly said he had likely violated its sexual misconduct policy, former Assemblyperson Sebastian Ridley-Thomas moved to return to the Capitol by registering as a lobbyist. The state’s online lobbying database shows he registered as a lobbyist with his firm Millennial Advisors, drawing criticism from anti-sexual harassment activists at the Capitol. Ridley-Thomas quit the Legislature in December 2017, citing health problems. Records released by the Assembly show at least two people accused him of harassment before he resigned. “We have made progress on #metoo issues in #caleg but a solution that does not include lobbyists is incomplete,” tweeted Adama Iwu, one of the lobbyists who started the We Said Enough movement.
California: With FBI Probe Looming, L.A. City Council Members Revive Plan to Limit Developer Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 1/15/2019
Two years ago, Los Angeles City Council members called for a ban on political donations from real estate developers seeking city approval for their projects. That plan languished at City Hall and was tabled by the Ethics Commission before it officially expired. Now, with FBI agents conducting a corruption investigation into City Hall, council members have revived the idea. Under the proposal, real estate developers would be barred from giving to city candidates and officeholders once they have turned in an application that requires city approval or other action, provided the request involves building or adding more than 4,000 square feet of floor area for residential projects or 15,000 square feet for commercial projects.
Connecticut: $97 Million of Influence: Lobbyists are fixtures at the Capitol, pushing their message amid rules on gifts, perks, receptions
Hartford Courant – Josh Kovner | Published: 1/23/2019
Every January at the Connecticut Capitol, the lobbying effort revs up to a fever pitch and does not stop until the final roll call. This session, the race to gain an edge promises to be even more frenetic, propelled by highly charged issues like gun control and taxes. With a new governor and 40 new lawmakers, lobbyists will be scrambling just to make connections. While there are substantial restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, there is a sizable exception. A lobbyist can, from his or her personal account, give a legislator up to $1,000 for each of several “life events” per year, such as a wedding or birth. Each session, staffers in the Office of State Ethics school freshman legislators on the restrictions and reporting requirements.
District of Columbia: D.C. ‘Pay-to-Play’ Ban Closer to Becoming Law after Mayor Declines Veto
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 1/18/2019
Sweeping changes to campaign finance regulations in the District of Columbia are on track to become law after Mayor Muriel Bowser opted not to veto legislation passed by the city council. Among other provisions, the measure would ban campaign contributions from companies and their top executives if they hold or are seeking government contracts worth at least $250,000; give new authority and independence to the city’s Office of Campaign Finance; and require increased disclosure from independent expenditure committees.
Illinois: Contractor Challenges Illinois Campaign Finance Law
Courthouse News – Lorraine Bailey | Published: 1/18/2019
An Illinois law prohibiting government contractors from making campaign contributions is being challenged as unconstitutional after a public housing management firm lost a contract because its founder donated to Democratic gubernatorial candidates. The Habitat Company is a Chicago-based real estate firm that has managed a building called Lake Shore Plaza. Ellen Daley, Illinois’ chief procurement officer for general services, notified the company that its founder’s campaign contributions violated state law and required voiding a 2019 management contract for Lake Shore Plaza. Habitat sued to challenge Daley’s decision and the law banning government contractors or affiliated persons from making any contribution to a political committee of the officeholder responsible for awarding their contracts.
Michigan: Outgoing State Officials Turn to Lobbying Under Lax Michigan Rules
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 1/23/2019
At least seven former state officials and lawmakers in Michigan have registered as lobbyists or joined lobbying firms since leaving office at the end of 2018. The recent moves highlight that Michigan is among a minority of states that do not ban recent legislators, department heads, or executive branch officials from immediately taking paid jobs to lobby former colleagues. Restrictions in other states and Congress are designed to reduce ethical conflicts. Those include the potential for interest groups to promise future jobs to officials in exchange for preferential treatment while they are still in office. Michigan prohibits lawmakers from resigning to take lobbyist jobs during the term they had been elected to, but its lack of broader restrictions.
New York: Gov. Cuomo Signs Major Voting Reforms
Legislative Gazette – James Gormley | Published: 1/24/2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that implements major changes to the state’s election and campaign finance laws. The new laws enact early voting in New York, synchronize state and federal elections, and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. One bill will close the so-called LLC loophole by limiting political spending by a limited liability company to a total of $5,000 annually, which is the same limit as corporations. It will also require the disclosure of direct and indirect membership interests in the LLC making a contribution, and for the donation to be attributed to that individual.
South Carolina: After Ethics Snafu, SC Lawmakers Move to Change How They Accept Gifts from Public
The State – Avery Wilks | Published: 1/23/2019
The South Carolina House moved to change its rules on accepting gifts from special interests and the public, two weeks after a donation of nearly 200 books to state lawmakers caused confusion about whether the gifts needed to be recorded on ethics filings. The new rule would prohibit anyone from dropping off gifts of any value in the House chamber. It also would require someone to get a lawmaker’s written signature before leaving any gift worth more than $25. The giver must also document with the state Ethics Commission any gift worth more than $25.
South Dakota: Lobbyist Files Suit Against South Dakota House Speaker
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Jonathan Ellis | Published: 1/22/2019
Lobbyist Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, filed suit against House Speaker Steve Haugaard after she says she was banned from the House floor for writing a critical column. According to her lawsuit, Haugaard took issue with a May column she wrote for the Municipal League’s membership magazine. Haugaard complained the column, which was published before the June primary election, made the Legislature look like “a bunch of buffoons.” Taylor complained that the number of “wackies” in the Legislature were increasing. The “wackies” oppose government and any taxation, even when groups that would pay added taxes or fees wanted them, Taylor said in the column.
Wisconsin: Judge: GOP can’t block liberal group’s Twitter comments
Charlotte Observer – Todd Richmond (Associated Press) | Published: 1/18/2019
Top Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature violated the First Amendment when they blocked a liberal advocacy group from seeing their Twitter feeds, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Court Judge William Conley’s decision marks One Wisconsin Now’s second legal victory in as many days over Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Another federal judge struck down early-voting restrictions Vos and his fellow Republicans passed in a contentious lame-duck session in December. One Wisconsin Now and other groups had challenged those provisions days after former Gov. Scott Walker signed them into law.
January 18, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service MSN – Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Benn Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/14/2019 President Trump’s inaugural committee spent roughly $100 million for an abundance of expenses, […]
At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service
MSN – Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere, and Benn Protess (New York Times) | Published: 1/14/2019
President Trump’s inaugural committee spent roughly $100 million for an abundance of expenses, including more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The expansive spending reflected Trump’s desire to make a grand entrance, with roughly 20 events around Washington. Disclosure of the spending details comes at a time when the inaugural committee is facing legal scrutiny over the donations that funded it. There is no indication of any investigation into the inaugural committee’s spending. For the most part, inaugural committees are free to spend the money they raise from private donations as they wish. But millions of dollars for Trump’s inauguration were written off in lost revenue.
New Members, Meet the ‘Slush Fund’
Roll Call – Stephanie Aikin | Published: 1/14/2019
More than two dozen new members of the U.S. House and Senate, many of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate money in politics, have established so-called leadership PACs. They are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to collect money for their colleagues and candidates. The vast majority of members have one, and many say they can be helpful tools to support other politicians and the issues they care about. But the PACs are not subject to the same restrictions on personal spending as individual campaign committees, leading to numerous examples of alleged misuse. Critics say they also allow politicians to evade campaign contribution limits and obscure donations from corporations and other powerful groups.
T-Mobile Execs Seeking Trump Approval for Deal Stayed Repeatedly at His D.C. Hotel
Chicago Tribune – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/16/2019
Top executives from T-Mobile booked reservations at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. one day after it was announced that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would require the administration’s approval. T-Mobile executives stayed at the hotel for at least 38 nights during 2018. The Washington Post obtained about a dozen 2018 VIP Arrivals lists which are provided to hotel staff when foreign officials, executives, and Trump family friends are customers at the hotel. Countries, interest groups, and companies like T-Mobile – whose future will be shaped by the administration’s choices – are free to stop at both and pay the president’s company while also meeting with officials in his government. Such visits raise questions about whether patronizing Trump’s private business is viewed as a way to influence public policy.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Downtown L.A. Development Is a Focus of FBI Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 1/14/2019
The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on the city’s real estate boom. Now, some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering, and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall. Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures. The investigation became public in November, when FBI agents raided the home and offices and offices of city Councilperson Jose Huizar.
Colorado: Judge: State ethics panel has no jurisdiction over many Colorado cities
Colorado Politics – Marianne Goodland | Published: 1/10/2019
A judge said the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) no longer has jurisdiction over the ethics rules of home-rule cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs. Part of Amendment 41, the voter-approved ethics law, deals with ethics codes set up by home-rule cities and counties. It says Amendment 41 does not apply to “home rule cities or counties that have adopted charters, ordinance or resolutions that address the matters covered” under the amendment. Shortly after the passage of Amendment 41, the city of Glendale adopted its own code of ethics. But the IEC, in deciding it had jurisdiction over Glendale, decided the city’s code did not contain every provision laid out in Amendment 41.
Kentucky: How Much Is Spent Lobbying Kentucky’s Executive Branch? This Bill Demands an Answer.
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 1/15/2019
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers introduced legislation to give the public more information about those lobbying the state’s executive branch. Businesses often spend more than $20 million-a-year lobbying Kentucky lawmakers, but no similar number is counted for executive branch lobbyists, who are far more numerous. Under Senate Bill 6, executive branch lobbyists would have to file with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission their payment and could not work for any type of contingency fee.
Montana: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Montana Campaign Finance Case
Montana Standard; Associated Press – | Published: 1/14/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging Montana’s campaign contribution limits, likely ending a legal challenge that has lasted more than seven years. Opponents of the caps, which are among the lowest in the country, said they are unconstitutional under the First Amendment and prevent candidates from waging effective campaigns. In declining to take up the case, the high court upheld the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the limits are a reasonable way to prevent corruption and still allow candidates to raise enough money. Since the lawsuit was filed, a federal judge has ruled twice that those limits are unconstitutional, only to be reversed upon appeal.
New York: Legislature Passes Sweeping Electoral Reforms
Albany Times Union – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 1/14/2019
New York lawmakers passed several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail, and limits on the influence of money in elections. The reforms make state primary elections the same day as federal primary elections. One bill amends the law to hold limited liability companies (LLCs) to the same aggregate contribution limit of $5,000 that applies to corporations. The legislation includes a constitutional amendment that requires the disclosure of the identity and proportion of ownership of all direct and indirect owners of the membership interests in the LLC and may go into effect as soon as 2021.
Ohio: Columbus Council Appoints Shayla Favor, Approves Campaign Finance Reforms
WOSU – Gabe Rosenberg | Published: 1/15/2019
The Columbus City Council approved the city’s first ever campaign finance reforms. The measures set requirements for disclosing the sources of campaign advertisements and include a tax credit for small donations. But the most-discussed part of the reforms are the campaign contribution limits: $12,707.79 per year. The limit is higher than any other city in Ohio. Because the provision applies annually rather than by campaign period, city officials could raise more money than state officeholders serving for the same amount of time. It applies to all municipal candidates including mayor, council member, auditor, and city attorney. The contribution limits will take effect in time for this year’s elections.
Oklahoma: Stitt Inauguration Donors May Not Be Revealed Until Summer
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 1/10/2019
Hundreds of donors and supporters will welcome Kevin Stitt as Oklahoma’s new governor during four days of events. The pre-inaugural events are a lavish and at times controversial tradition shared by newly elected presidents and governors across the country. The events will be entirely funded by private money from Stitt’s backers or those looking to gain good will with the administration. If past inaugurations are a guide, Stitt will likely raise more than $1 million from wealthy individuals, companies, and special-interest groups that are allowed to contribute without limits. But those donors can be kept secret for up to six months, until well after this year’s legislative session is over.
South Carolina: SC Ethics Advocate Creates Ethics Dilemma by Gifting Corruption Book to Lawmakers
The State – Avery Wilkes | Published: 1/10/2019
Lobbyist John Crangle, a longtime ethics reform advocate, gave the South Carolina House and Senate more than 180 copies of his book on a corruption scandal to remind legislators of “Operation Lost Trust,” the 1990 investigation that found widespread vote-selling in the General Assembly and led to criminal charges against 18 lawmakers. The books were delivered to individual lawmakers as they returned to Columbia to begin the legislative session. House Ethics Committee Chairperson Murrell Smith said staffers contacted Crangle and the publisher to verify the book was worth less than the $25 and, thus, would not need to be reported as a gift. State Rep. Kirkman Finlay said Crangle’s gift highlights the awkward spot that legislators regularly find themselves in when a gift reaches their door.
Texas: Texas Republicans Rally Behind Muslim Official as Some Try to Oust Him Over Religion
MSN – Adeel Hassan (New York Times) | Published: 1/10/2019
Shahid Shafi will retain his role as vice-chairperson of the Tarrant County Republican Party despite a push to remove him from his post because he is Muslim. Those who were in favor of Shafi’s removal said he is unequipped to be vice-chair because he does not represent all Tarrant County Republicans due to his religion. They have also said Islamic ideologies run counter to the U.S. Constitution, an assertion many Texas GOP officials have called bigoted.
Vermont: A White Nationalist’s Harassment Helped Force a Black Female Lawmaker to Resign. He Won’t Face Charges.
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 1/15/2019
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said he will not file charges in the reported racial harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, though he believes Morris and her family were victims. Donovan said he would not pursue a criminal case because the First Amendment protects free speech. Morris was the only black female lawmaker in the Legislature and she won the Democratic nomination this summer but withdrew, citing racially motivated threats and online harassment. The messages Max Misch, a self-described white nationalist, sent to Morris over a two-year period disrupted her life to the point that she sought, and was granted, a protective order against him. To Misch, the incidents were little more than a joke. “I like trolling people – it’s fun,” Misch said.
Washington: Split Court: Local initiatives subject to disclosure rule
KOMO – Gene Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 1/10/2019
The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state attorney general’s office can pursue a campaign finance disclosure case against the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation. The majority rejected the group’s assertion that the disclosure requirements did not apply to local initiatives before they are placed on the ballot. State law explicitly says that after a measure has been submitted to an elections official, donations to that campaign must be reported. That applies to statewide initiative measures, which must be reviewed by the secretary of state’s office before proponents can gather signatures. But for some local initiatives, supporters do not turn them in until after they have collected signatures.
January 11, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Federal: Feds’ GoFundMe Campaigns Open a ‘Minefield’ of Ethical Questions During Shutdown Federal News Network – Nicole Ogrysko | Published: 1/8/2019 The Office of Government Ethics said employees on unpaid furlough due to the government shutdown remain covered by federal […]
Feds’ GoFundMe Campaigns Open a ‘Minefield’ of Ethical Questions During Shutdown
Federal News Network – Nicole Ogrysko | Published: 1/8/2019
The Office of Government Ethics said employees on unpaid furlough due to the government shutdown remain covered by federal ethics policies. Many of those on furlough are exploring taking outside jobs or applying for unemployment benefits. Some are soliciting donations on “GoFundMe” pages to ease the financial uncertainty of likely missed paychecks. But existing rules open a “minefield” of questions about how the employees can ask for contributions during shutdown furloughs, if at all, said Virginia Canter, an attorney for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Typically, federal employees cannot accept gifts from “prohibited sources,” or organizations that do business with the employee’s agency. With that in mind, federal employees soliciting shutdown donations would need to ensure the source of every contribution.
How a Little-Known Democratic Firm Cashed in On the Wave of Midterm Money
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 1/8/2019
Mothership Strategies, a little-known and relatively new digital consulting firm, collected tens of millions of dollars from a tide of small donations that flowed to Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections. The firm’s rapid ascendancy as one of the highest-paid vendors of the election since its launch speaks to how lucrative the explosion of small-dollar contributions has been for a group of political consultants who saw the wave of cash coming and built a business model to capitalize. But Mothership Strategies’ rise also has sparked consternation in Democratic circles because of its aggressive and sometimes misleading tactics. Some call its approach unethical, saying the company profits off stoking fear of Donald Trump and making the sort of exaggerated claims they associate with the president.
Manafort Intended for Polling Data to Go to 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs, a Source Says
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez (CNN) | Published: 1/9/2019
Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who had paid Paul Manafort for years for his political work in their country, were the intended recipients of American polling data that Manafort shared with Konstantin Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign, a person familiar with the matter said. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been circling Lyovochkin and Akhmetov’s dealings with Manafort, as they were both generous backers of Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying work. Manafort spokesperson Jason Maloni confirmed Manafort expected to receive the $2.4 million in income from his Ukrainian political backers, including Lyovochkin and Akhmetov. But the money was meant to reimburse old debts that predated the Trump campaign, spokesman Maloni added, and it was not a quid pro quo for the polling data.
Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Partisan Gerrymandering in Maryland, N. Carolina
Salt Lake Tribune – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 1/4/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court once again will take up unresolved constitutional questions about partisan gerrymandering, agreeing to consider rulings from two lower courts that found congressional maps in North Carolina and Maryland so extreme they violated the rights of voters. The North Carolina map was drawn by Republicans, the Maryland districts by the state’s dominant Democrats. The Supreme Court has never found a state’s redistricting map so infected with politics that it violates the Constitution. It passed up the chance last term to settle the issue of whether courts have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering, sending back on technical rulings challenges to a Republican-drawn plan in Wisconsin, and the challenged Maryland map. But there will be a new set of justices considering the issue.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Secret Campaign to Use Russian-Inspired Tactics in 2017 Ala. Election Stirs Anxiety for Democrats
Denver Post – Craig Timberg, Tony Romm, Aaron Davis, and Elizabeth Dwoskin (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2019
A secret effort to influence the 2017 U.S. Senate election in Alabama used tactics inspired by Russian disinformation teams, including the creation of fake accounts to deliver misleading messages on Facebook to help elect Democrat Doug Jones in the deeply red state. But unlike the 2016 presidential campaign when Russians worked to help elect Donald Trump, the people behind the Alabama effort, dubbed Project Birmingham, were Americans. Now Democratic operatives and a research firm known to have had roles in Project Birmingham are distancing themselves from its most controversial tactics. Jones’s upset victory over Roy Moore in all likelihood resulted from other factors, political analysts say. But news of the effort has underscored the warnings of disinformation experts who have said threats to transparent political discourse in the age of social media are as likely to be domestic as foreign.
California: As Fires Ravaged California, Utilities Lobbied Lawmakers for Protection
MSN – Ivan Penn (New York Times) | Published: 1/5/2019
As more wildfires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities, the largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the last two years. Realizing their potential fire liability is large enough to bankrupt them, the utility companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their goal is a law that would allow them to pass on the cost of wildfires to their customers in the form of higher electricity rates. After an earlier lobbying push, legislators have already voted to protect the companies from having to bear the cost of fires in 2017, and utilities are seeking the same for 2018.
California: Irvine City Council Strengthens Lobbyist Policy
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 1/10/2019
The Irvine City Council strengthened its conflict-of-interest policy by adding a provision to its contracts which says if a council member or employee lobbied on behalf of a city contractor, the contract can be voided with cause and the city will get reimbursed. While there was a similar contract provision preventing employment of a city official by a city contractor, it did not address lobbying services – paid or unpaid.
Connecticut: Under the Influence: Marijuana industry seeks ruling on legality of political contributions in Connecticut
Hartford Courant – Neil Vigdor | Published: 1/8/2019
The pioneers of Connecticut’s growing medical marijuana industry say they should be allowed to donate to lawmakers who could make the state the next lucrative frontier for recreational cannabis. State election regulators came to the opposite conclusion on an informal basis early last year, finding medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are subject to the same ban on campaign contributions by state contractors under state law. But those business owners are disputing that “licensing arrangements” between the state and 18 dispensaries are contracts. They petitioned the State Elections Enforcement Commission for a formal ruling on their status.
Georgia: State Ethics Director Put on Paid Leave Over Porn, Misconduct Allegations
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 1/8/2019
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission voted to put Executive Director Stefan Ritter on paid leave and conduct an investigation after allegations he had pornography on his work computer. There also were complaints about his job performance, including irregular work hours. Ritter, who worked for over a decade as an assistant attorney general before taking over the commission, has been credited with cleaning up the troubled agency, reducing backlogs, and helping get raises for staff.
Maryland: Federal Judge Stops Enforcement of Maryland Election Law
Courthouse News Service – Edward Ericson Jr. | Published: 1/4/2019
A federal judge enjoined Maryland from enforcing a law aimed at preventing foreign interference in state elections while a challenge by a group of newspapers plays out in court. The Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act requires platforms with more than 100,000 monthly visitors to publish the names and contact information for any purchaser of a “qualifying paid digital communication,” along with the price paid, among other provisions. Some of the information the law demands is proprietary, such as how many people the ads reached. Much of the rest, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm found, is duplicative.
Michigan: Whitmer Choice Raises Questions About State’s Conflicts of Interest Laws
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 1/7/2019
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer named Orlene Hawks as director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), an agency with responsibilities that include oversight of Michigan’s new marijuana industry, liquor licensing, the regulation of utilities, and licensing of doctors and hospitals. Hawks is married to Michael Hawks, an owner and principal of Government Consultant Services Inc., which represents many clients affected by the policies and rulings of LARA and its sub-agencies. An ethics expert said the potential issues raised by the situation underline a need for stronger financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest laws in Michigan.
Montana: Montana’s Dark Money Detective
Pacific Standard – Jimmy Tobias | Published: 1/9/2019
With a history of ant-corporate populism and intimate electoral campaigns, Montana is the sort of place where someone can run for office without a lot of money and still stand a chance. It is a state with just a million people and little tolerance for big money meddling in elections. As the former commissioner of political practices, Jonathan Motl set an example for other states that are also contending with the influence of unaccountable election spending. A ruling by the state Supreme Court upholding a conviction against former Sen. Art Wittich for corruption and violating campaign finance laws was a vindication and a climactic moment in Montana’s anti-corruption efforts.
Oklahoma: Stitt Unveils Plan to Address Potential Business Conflicts
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 1/7/2019
Incoming Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is asking the state attorney general to review his plan to step away from his mortgage company as it becomes a bank and to approve a conflict-of-interest policy for his family investments. Stitt is facing potential conflicts-of-interest related to Gateway Mortgage Group, which he founded, and possibly some real estate and other personal investments. The first step in this shift from private businessperson to public official has to do with the state banking commission. Stitt pledged to have no contact with the state banking commissioner on Gateway-related matters, as it is converting to a bank. The governor appoints the banking commissioner and members of the state banking board.
Oregon: BOLI Finds ‘Substantial Evidence’ of Sexual Harassment at Oregon Capitol
Portland Oregonian – Ted Sickinger and Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/3/2019
Oregon labor regulators found “substantial evidence” of sexual harassment at the Capitol, concluding that lawmakers and administrators have known about it for years and did little to stop it. The Bureau of Labor and Industries released its findings after a five-month investigation, as well as a laundry list of allegations gleaned from witness interviews conducted by agency investigators, legislative analysts, and an attorney hired by the Legislature to investigate the harassment claims. The report concludes the most powerful lawmakers and administrators in the Capitol mishandled, downplayed and ignored allegations of sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching, sexually suggestive language, and the lopsided power dynamics that enabled the behavior.
Washington: From Campaign Consultant to Lobbyist and Adviser: The firm that has Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ear
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb | Published: 1/6/2019
Political operatives Sandeep Kaushik and Kelly Evans helped Jenny Durkan win Seattle’s mayoral race in 2017. As Durkin embarks on her second year, they and their company, Sound View Strategies, have emerged as key players at City Hall. They successfully ran the mayor’s campaign for a $600 million education levy. Durkan’s major-initiatives director, office administrator, and chief of staff all are former Sound View employees. Kaushik describes himself and Evans as members of Durkan’s informal “kitchen cabinet,” even as they lobby her administration and advocate for corporate clients such as Comcast and Airnub. The mayor downplayed Sound View’s clout. Her ties to the company are known, and the city’s requirements are adequate to protect against real and perceived conflicts, Durkin said.
January 4, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Mueller Fuels Foreign Lobbying Crackdown The Hill – Morgan Chalfont and Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/31/2018 The Federal Agents Registration Act dates to 1938, when it was passed to ensure transparency of foreign influence in the American political process […]
Mueller Fuels Foreign Lobbying Crackdown
The Hill – Morgan Chalfont and Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/31/2018
The Federal Agents Registration Act dates to 1938, when it was passed to ensure transparency of foreign influence in the American political process as a result of fears over Nazi and communist propaganda. It has been amended twice since then but is essentially the same law. It requires that “agents of foreign principals,” typically lobbyists or consultants who work for foreign governments or political parties, register and file regular reports with the Justice Department on their activities. They also must file copies of materials they distribute for any foreign entities and keep a record of their activities. Criminal prosecutions under the law have been few and far between, but special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has changed that, at least for the time being.
Sexism Claims from Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Run: Paid less, treated worse
MSN – Sydney Ember and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 1/2/2019
Accounts of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment, as well as pay disparity, in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign have circulated in recently in emails, online comments, and private discussions among former supporters. As Sanders tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona fides, nearly a dozen former state and national staff members said. It also has raised questions among them about whether the senator can adequately fight for the interests of women, who have increasingly defined the Democratic Party, if he runs again for the presidential nomination. The former staff members said complaints about mistreatment and pay disparity during and just after the campaign reached some senior leaders of the operation.
Trump Effect: How out-of-state money fueled Democratic House wins in 2018
USA Today – Maureen Groppe and Christopher Schnaars | Published: 12/29/2018
The Democrats who captured the U.S. House by flipping 43 districts from red to blue in the November election received on average more than half of their large-dollar campaign funds from outside their states. By contrast, defeated Republicans in those districts collected only about one-third of their itemized funds from outside their states. The money that poured into House races from out-of-state donors was another example of the nationalization of the 2018 midterm elections that were partly a referendum on President Trump’s first two years in office. Analysts said the data reinforced other signs that opposition to Trump helped to motivate Democratic donors.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Ethics Revision Commission Could Give Legislators Multiple Choices
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 12/27/2018
A commission working on proposed changes to the state’s ethics law might deliver multiple options to legislators next year. Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, said the final proposals will likely include a range of options on different issues for lawmakers to take up, should they decide to revise ethics laws in the legislative session that begins next March. The Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission has taken up a number of issues, though it has spent a great deal of time on the definition of “principal,” or a person or entity who hires a lobbyist.
Delaware: Former Delaware Lawmaker Melanie George Smith’s New Career Draws Complaints of Self-Dealing
Wilmington News Journal – Scott Goss | Published: 1/2/2019
Former Rep. Melanie George Smith has launched a consulting firm that critics say is benefiting from a Delaware “sustainability” industry that she helped create during her final months in office. Her business, Sustainable World Strategies, is prompting questions about the rules that are supposed to stop state lawmakers from crafting legislation that benefits them personally. Smith rejects the notion that her business has anything to do with the legislation she sponsored. “They are completely separate,” she said. “And when you introduce legislation in Dover that is broadly beneficial to everybody, there is no conflict whatsoever.”
Florida: Lauren Book Proposes ‘Swearing In’ Legislative Speakers
Florida Politics – Jim Rosica | Published: 1/2/2019
Florida Sen. Lauren Book filed the Truth in Government Act for the 2019 legislative session that would require people appearing at legislative committees to be sworn in before speaking. Those making a “false statement that he or she does not believe to be true, … in regard to any material matter, commits a felony of the third degree,” Senate Bill 58 says. But the legislation exempts lawmakers themselves, staff members, and children. The majority of speakers before legislative panels are paid lobbyists. “I don’t think it’s necessary because it confuses 1st Amendment-right advocacy with investigatory or legal proceedings that require testimony under oath,” one lobbyist said.
Idaho: Why Does This Charity Golf Event Hosted by Idaho’s Governor Cost More Than It Gives Out?
Idaho Statesman – Audrey Dutton | Published: 1/3/2019
The annual Governor’s Cup tournament is a multiday golf and sporting affair that raises money for college and trade-school scholarships in Idaho. The event is hosted by the governor and first lady and is attended by the state’s political and business movers and shakers. Almost every year of the past decade, the nonprofit that runs the tournament has spent at least twice as much money on throwing the annual event than it has awarded in financial aid. Marcus Owens, a former director of the IRS’s division for tax-exempt organizations, said the event’s cost calls into question its primary purpose. “It sure sounds like this is an opportunity for lobbyists to do what lobbyists do outside the eyes of reporters or the general public,” said Owens.
Illinois: Feds Charge Powerful Ald. Edward Burke with Corruption
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 1/3/2019
Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was charged with attempted extortion in a federal criminal complaint. It alleges Burke tried to extort a company that owns fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area and needed help with permits for a remodeling job. The complaint also alleged Burke illegally solicited a campaign donation from an executive with the restaurant company for another politician, who is not named in the charges. The criminal charge was stunning even for a city with a long history of public corruption. While dozens of his city council colleagues have been convicted and sent to prison over the decades, Burke was largely seen as too clever or sophisticated to be caught. He had faced federal scrutiny several times before but always escaped charges.
Missouri: No More Free Lunch for Missouri Lawmakers. Literally.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 1/3/2019
Although it could face a test in court, a possible repeal by frustrated lawmakers, and varied legal opinions from ethics regulators, the so-called Clean Missouri ballot measure approved by voters in November places a five-dollar cap on gifts lawmakers can receive from lobbyists. That means fewer lobbying groups offering free food to lawmakers and legislative staffers during the busy crush of the legislative session that begins January 9 and runs through May 17. It means no more dinners being purchased by lobbyists for lawmakers at local restaurants, nor free tickets to baseball games, concerts, or golf tournaments. For lobbyists, lawmakers, and restaurateurs in Jefferson City, the changes are significant.
Missouri: State Seeks Dismissal of Lobbyist Gift Ban Lawsuit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/26/2018
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to overturn a ban on workers in the governor’s office receiving gifts from lobbyists. Gov. Mike Parson in November rewrote an order issued by his predecessor, Eric Greitens, that had prohibited all gifts from lobbyists. The change was aimed at allowing groups to distribute informational booklets to employees of the state’s chief executive. In October, the Institute for Justice said the ban on gift-giving violated the organization’s First Amendment rights to free speech because it prohibits them from giving workers in Parson’s office two books. Hawley’s office said the change makes the lawsuit unnecessary.
New Jersey: New Jersey Is the Latest Battleground in National Redistricting Fight
Politico – Matt Freidman | Published: 12/28/2018
Democrats who control the New Jersey Legislature attempted to fast track a constitutional amendment to change the way the state draws its legislative districts. The plan would have inserted a formula into the state constitution almost certainly cementing Democratic majorities for decades to come. But to a new wave of liberal activists, it reeked of an attempted power grab. Their party’s redistricting amendment gave them a new target and joined by good government groups and Republican state lawmakers who stood to see their already diminished clout reduced further, they held rallies in front of the Statehouse to oppose it. Redistricting is drawing more and more mainstream attention, with New Jersey the latest state to battle over the drawing of district lines in the run-up to 2020.
New York: N.Y.’s New Attorney General Is Targeting Trump. Will Judges See a ‘Political Vendetta?’
MSN – Jeffery Mays (New York Times) | Published: 12/31/2018
Letitia James, the incoming New York attorney general, has suggested that President Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice, and implied that foreign governments channeled money to his family’s real estate holdings, which she characterized as a “pattern and practice of money laundering.” Democratic attorneys general across the country have used their offices to confront Trump. But since her election, James has opened herself up to criticism that she has gone too far in allowing politics to shape her agenda. Her strident attacks on the president could potentially threaten the legal standing of cases that her office brings against Trump, his family members or their business interests, legal experts said.
North Carolina: NC Lawmakers Override Veto of Bill That Makes Allegations of Campaign Finance Violations Secret
Raleigh News and Observer – Craig Jarvis | Published: 12/27/2018
Republican lawmakers held off North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s attempt to muster enough Democrats to thwart an override of his veto of an elections law bill. A large majority of Democrats had voted to approve the bill, as it reflected changes in state election law that Cooper achieved in a lawsuit. But despite negotiations with legislative leaders over how to accomplish those changes, Cooper focused the argument on keeping accusations of campaign finance violations secret. Cooper opposed a provision in the bill that will require allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing to be probed by the State Ethics Commission and its findings to be referred to the State Board of Elections. The elections board could then refer the matter to local prosecutors to consider bringing criminal charges, all in confidence.
South Dakota: Undisclosed Donors Gave $95K in SD Governor Race
Rapid City Journal – Seth Tupper | Published: 12/30/2018
An out-of-state PAC that ran advertisements supporting Kristi Noem and opposing Billie Sutton in the race for South Dakota governor received $95,000 from undisclosed sources during the final week of the campaign. The money was raised by a corporation, apparently a 501(c)4 nonprofit, that does not disclose its donors. The corporation then gave the money to a super PAC, which appears to have spent most or all the money on independent expenditures in the race. The contributions from the corporation to the super PAC occurred late enough in the campaign that they did not show up on the super PAC’s campaign finance reports until a post-election report, which was filed on December 6.
December 21, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Lawmakers Push Review of New Member Events After Complaints Over Lobbyists at Harvard Orientation Washington Post – Jeff Stein | Published: 12/14/2018 Harvard invited lobbyists to speak at its orientation program for incoming members of Congress and paid for […]
Lawmakers Push Review of New Member Events After Complaints Over Lobbyists at Harvard Orientation
Washington Post – Jeff Stein | Published: 12/14/2018
Harvard invited lobbyists to speak at its orientation program for incoming members of Congress and paid for travel and board for the newly elected members of the House to attend. Under House rules, that arrangement would typically be subject to an extensive review by the ethics committee before members could be cleared to attend. But Harvard’s program was not for sitting members of Congress, it was for members to-be, who will not be sworn in until January. Lawmakers say they are planning to review House ethics rules for incoming members, bringing new scrutiny to Harvard’s decades-long orientation program, as well as a broader review of how lobbyists reach incoming freshman lawmakers.
Targets of U.S. Sanctions Hire Lobbyists with Trump Ties to Seek Relief
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 12/11/2018
As the Trump administration has increasingly turned to sanctions, travel restrictions, and tariffs to punish foreign governments as well as people and companies from abroad, targets of those measures have turned for assistance to K Street’s corridor of law, lobbying, and public relations firms. The work can carry reputational and legal risks, since clients often come with toxic baggage and the U.S. Treasury Department restricts transactions with entities under sanctions. As a result, it commands some of the biggest fees of any sector in the influence industry. And some of the biggest payments have been going to lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants with connections to Trump or his administration.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Bennett Loses Court Bid to Get Public Financing for Gubernatorial Campaign
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Srevices) | Published: 12/14/2018
A judge rejected the latest bid by Ken Bennett to get public financing for his failed gubernatorial bid in Arizona, or at least reimburse himself for the money he spent. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders acknowledged Bennett said he did have enough valid signatures on five-dollar donation forms to qualify for $839,704 which was available for candidates in the Republican primary for governor earlier this year. Bennett said he fell short only because some county election officials incorrectly classified some of them as invalid. But Sanders said there is nothing in Arizona law that provides an opportunity for a candidate to “rehabilitate” previously disqualified contribution slips.
Florida: ‘He Got Screwed’: Gillum absent from indictment after DeSantis bashed him as corrupt
Politico – Marc Caputo | Published: 12/12/2018
City Commissioner Scott Maddox and political consultant Janice Paige Carter-Smith were indicted on bribery and other charges in the first results to emerge from a years-long investigation into corruption in Tallahassee. Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order suspending Maddox from the commission. Maddox had served as mayor, while Carter-Smith was his chief of staff and business partner. The indictment alleges they conspired to run two companies as one, known as Governance, in a far-reaching racketeering scheme. It did not name Andrew Gillum, who was Tallahassee’s mayor at the time and was accused on the gubernatorial campaign trail this year of being tied to the suspected wrongdoing the FBI was investigating.
Kansas: Kansas Lawmakers Can Quickly Become Lobbyists, but Many States Make Them Wait
Wichita Eagle – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 12/20/2018
Kansas has no law stopping legislators from immediately becoming a lobbyist after they leave office, unlike the majority of states. At least 38 states have some kind of waiting period for lawmakers who want to become lobbyists. Supporters of the waiting periods say they are needed to stop lawmakers from being influenced by potential future employers while they are in the Legislature. Others question their usefulness. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ move to set up a lobbying firm while still in Congress drew attention to Kansas’ lack of a waiting period. While Jenkins is a federal lawmaker, her new firm plans to lobby at both the state and federal level. Federal rules require Jenkins to wait a year before lobbying at the federal level.
New Hampshire: Sununu, Inner Circle Received Thousands from Lobbyist-Funded Nonprofit
Manchester Union Leader – Todd Feathers | Published: 12/15/2018
Lobbying firms and corporations donated to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s inaugural party committee, helping raise $450,000. But when all the festivities were finished, there was still money left over in the accounts of The Sununu Inaugural Celebration Inc., a 501c(4) organization set up to pay for the parties. And most of the surplus funds have since been paid out to Sununu, his immediate family, and his closest advisers. The transactions create the appearance of conflicts-of-interest and improper profiteering, tax attorneys and ethics experts say, and raise a number of legal questions. The explanations for the payments are vague. Reports filed with the secretary of state’s office simply state the purposes as “expenses” or “travel.”
New Jersey: GoFundMe Violates Election Law, but Candidates Keep Using It
Bergen Record – Nicholas Katzban | Published: 12/17/2018
In a race for seats on the Rutherford school board, Kevin Wilson and Hesham Mahmoud challenged three incumbents in November’s election. The two received $375 in contributions through GoFundMe, which they reported to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). But no matter the amount, the commission said use of the site for political fundraising is prohibited due to the difficulty in tracing the source of the donations. GoFundMe’s compliance director, Stephanie Olivo, said ELEC’s policy on crowdfunding is guided by an advisory opinion issued in 2001. The statement does not address crowdfunding sites, specifically, but does outline the services that must be available through an online vendor, that would ensure each transaction complies with election law.
New York: JCOPE’s New Regs Constrained by Settlement
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/19/2018
A settlement was reached in a lawsuit challenging the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (JCOPE) new regulations on lobbying. Under the terms of the agreement, the 92 pages of rules are defined simply as a “statement” for how the agency plans to administer and enforce state lobbying law. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office agreed the regulations will not in and of themselves have the force and effect of law. That makes the guidelines different from some regulations traditionally created by state agencies, violations of which can on their own be the basis for penalties. But JCOPE Executive Director Seth Agata argued that, in practical terms, the settlement would have virtually no effect, and the agency still planned to vigorously enforce the regulations as planned.
North Carolina: Secrecy Provision in Elections Board Bill Prompted Cooper Veto
WRAL – Matthew Burns | Published: 12/18/2018
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he will veto legislation that again overhauls the state elections board because it also would make investigations of potential campaign finance violations confidential. The bill comes amid an investigation by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement into suspicious absentee voting in the Ninth Congressional District, and Cooper said lawmakers should be more concerned about building public confidence in elections than in protecting politicians who bend the rules. House Bill 1029 also would place a four-year statute of limitations on investigations, with the clock starting once the board knows, or should have known, about a violation of the state’s campaign finance rules.
North Dakota: Wary of New Ethics Rules, North Dakota Lobbyists Rethink Plans for Legislator Receptions
Bismarck Tribune – John Hageman | Published: 12/13/2018
Some lobbying groups are rethinking plans to hold events with state lawmakers after North Dakota voters passed a ballot measure establishing new ethics rules in the state constitution. Industry group leaders cited language in Measure 1 that prevents lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials. Although that provision is not effective for two years and includes exceptions for educational and social settings meant to “advance opportunities for North Dakota residents to meet with public officials,” lobbyists said they were taking a conservative approach to the new rules.
Oklahoma: State Rule Would Disclose Hidden Backers of Groups Trying to Affect Legislation
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 12/17/2018
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is proposing to close a gap in law that keeps certain funding and spending on efforts to influence legislation a secret. Although sources and amounts of money are typically required to be disclosed when groups seek to influence an election involving candidates or state ballot questions, little must be revealed when a group tries to push or oppose legislation. The proposed rule would mandate certain disclosures for groups that pay for communications about pending bills. Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the proposal just adds another category for what is called “indirect lobbying” at the Legislature.
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Ethics Commission Fines Workers Comp Law Firm’s Lobbying Wings for Late Disclosure of Influence Peddling
Allentown Morning Call – Steve Esack | Published: 12/7/2018
A pair of lobbying groups connected to the law firm Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano violated Pennsylvania’s lobbying law and were fined. If at least $2,500 is spent to lobby legislation, the lobbyists involved are given 10 days to register and must file quarterly expenditure reports. The State Ethics Commission determined PA Works Now and Citizens to Protect Our Pennsylvania failed to register and did not report $115,800 spent on professional lobbyists, online posts, billboards, and flyers aimed at defeating two Workers’ Compensation bills. PA Works Now did not register its lobbying activities until 388 days after it started. PA Works Now must pay a fine of $13,580 and Citizens to Protect Our Pennsylvania was fined $15,500.
South Carolina: SC Lawmaker Benefiting from Law Change That Opened Top State Agency Slot for Him
Charleston Post and Courier – Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 12/10/2018
As South Carolina lawmakers considered reauthorizing the state’s land preservation agency this year, they proposed restricting legislators from taking over the department for one year after leaving office. But in the final version of the bill, the one-year waiting period for the Conservation Bank was removed. Now, just a few months after the bill passed, a lawmaker who has supported the agency for years stands to benefit from that last-minute change. State Rep. Mike Pitts, who oversaw the agency’s budget and headed the House ethics committee, announced he is retiring to take over the Conservation Bank.
Vermont: As Ethics Panel Director Steps Down, Differing Explanations Are Offered
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 12/14/2018
Vermont Ethics Commission Executive Director Brian Leven has resigned but he and the panel’s chairperson have offered different reasons why the separation occurred. Leven said he believed the commission exceeded its authority in an advisory opinion involving Gov. Phil Scott issued earlier this year. After taking the executive director job last December, he said he resigned because he and the commission were at odds over what powers the Legislature intended to give the board. Commission Chairperson Madeline Motta said the panel and Leven parted ways because of his “work performance.”
Washington: Facebook, Google to Pay Washington $450,000 to Settle Lawsuits Over Political-Ad Transparency
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 12/19/2018
Google and Facebook agreed to pay $455,000 for violating Washington’s campaign finance law. Google will pay $217,000 and Facebook will pay $238,000 in response to two lawsuits filed by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson that accused the companies of not obeying the state law requiring them to maintain detailed records about who is paying for online political ads on their platforms. The lawsuits came after the state’s Public Disclosure Commission issued regulations related to a new law and passed an emergency rule that clarified digital ad companies like Google and Facebook are subject to state law requiring them to maintain publicly available information about political ads, just like television stations and other media.
December 7, 2018 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
National: Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan Push to Curb Power of Newly-Elected Democrats Washington Post – Mark Berman, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, and Dan Simmons | Published: 12/5/2018 Following losses in statewide elections, Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan have responded with pushes to limit the power […]
Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan Push to Curb Power of Newly-Elected Democrats
Washington Post – Mark Berman, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, and Dan Simmons | Published: 12/5/2018
Following losses in statewide elections, Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan have responded with pushes to limit the power of Democrats who won those offices, as advocacy groups threaten to block their efforts with legal action. Wisconsin Republicans passed bills that effectively kneecap the state’s incoming Democratic governor and attorney general with measures that limit or eliminate their abilities to act on aspects of gun control, a lawsuit on the Affordable Care Act, and various other state matters. Republican lawmakers in Michigan are similarly attempting to shift authority from the Democrats recently elected as governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, the first time the party will hold all three positions in nearly three decades.
Prosecutors Ramp Up Foreign Lobbying Probe In New York
TPM – Eric Tucker, Desmond Butler, and Chad Day (Associated Press) | Published: 12/5/2018
Spinning off from the special counsel’s Russia probe, prosecutors are ramping up their investigation into foreign lobbying by two major Washington, D.C. firms that did work for former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation had been quiet for months since special counsel Robert Mueller referred it to authorities in Manhattan because it fell outside his mandate of determining whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia. But in a flurry of new activity, Justice Department prosecutors in the last several weeks have begun interviewing witnesses and contacting lawyers to schedule additional questioning related to the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs.
Saudi-Funded Lobbyist Paid for 500 Rooms at Trump’s Hotel After 2016 Election
MSN – David fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2018
Saudi lobbyists moved some business to President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., last year following the 2016 election, paying for an estimated 500 nights’ stay over just three months at the Trump International Hotel. Until December 2016, the lobbyists were booking at hotels in Northern Virginia. The lobbyists, backed by the Saudi Arabian government, spent around $270,000 at the Trump hotel in total, housing dozens of U.S. military veterans brought to the district to lobby Congress against a recently-passed law allowing victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks to sue other governments. The 500 nights in Trump’s hotel came at a discounted rate, and organizers claim that is the reason they moved their business there. Some of the veterans said they were not aware they were lobbying on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Ruling Restores Expanded Oversight by Clean Elections Commission Over Campaign Finances
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 12/6/2018
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer ruled that major parts of a rewrite of Arizona’s campaign finance laws violate the state constitution. The judge said parts of the law illegally strip power from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The power to investigate campaign finance violations and act as filing officer for candidates was handed to the secretary of state under the law. The 2016 law created large exemptions in what counts as a contribution, including allowing political parties to spend unlimited sums backing a candidate. It also allowed unlimited spending on legal fees and other types of support for candidates and political committees without being counted toward contribution limits. Palmer ruled all those provisions violate the Voter Protection Act.
California – L.A. Councilman’s Wife Was a Paid Fundraiser. Ex-Aides Say He Assigned Them to Help
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek, David Zahniser, and Emily Alpert-Reyes | Published: 11/30/2018
Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar personally asked companies that do business at City Hall to donate to a private school where his wife was working as a professional fundraiser and also assigned his staff to help with the effort. Huizar instructed staffers to work on a yearly fundraiser for Bishop Mora Salesian High School, and the assignment was considered part of their job duties. Huizar also sent an email to aides in 2013 identifying lobbyists, city contractors, and others whom he had contacted about making a donation. In the email, Huizar said two of his staff members were assisting in the fundraising effort. Two donors who gave to Salesian in 2015 said they were asked to do so by Huizar staffers.
District of Columbia – D.C. Council Approves Sweeping Changes to Campaign Finance, Bans ‘Pay to Play’
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 12/4/2018
The District of Columbia Council passed legislation that addresses the city’s “pay-to-play” culture. The bill would ban campaign donations from firms and their top executives if they hold or are seeking government contracts worth at least $250,000. It would also give new authority to the city’s Office of Campaign Finance and require increased disclosures from independent expenditure committees. Amendments to the bill allow contractors to contribute to their own campaigns if they run for office and extend the deadline for closing campaign committees to 12 months after an election. Mayor Muriel Bowser could sign or veto the legislation or let it become law without signing it. She has not taken a position on restricting campaign donations from government contractors.
Hawaii – City Ethics Commission Is Investigating Far Fewer Cases Than 2 Years Ago
Honolulu Civil Beat – Natanya Friedheim | Published: 12/6/2018
The Honolulu Ethics Commission has kept a low profile since the tumultuous departure of its former director, Chuck Totto, more than two years ago. Totto’s replacement, Jan Yamane, has shifted the commission’s focus from investigating misconduct to training city employees and encouraging good behavior. “It doesn’t mean enforcement isn’t going to happen, but we would like to be more proactive,” Yamane said. In the years leading up to Totto’s departure, the commission saw a dwindling number of requests for advice, from an average of 342 per year from fiscal years 2012 to 2016 to just 182 requests in the 12 months following Totto’s exit. For some, the commission is now too quiet.
Illinois – Chicago Architects Don’t Just Draw – They Shower Aldermen with Campaign Cash
Chicago Tribune – Blair Kamin and Todd Lighty | Published: 12/6/2018
Chicago architects have long been viewed as more high-minded than developers, who are seen as plying the city’s aldermen with campaign money to get their projects off the ground. But that image of political purity bears little relation to reality. A virtual who’s who of Chicago architects has given tens of thousands of dollars to city council members who hold near-total power to determine whether their projects get built. Architects even have hosted fundraisers for aldermen. In some cases, donations are made while a project’s future hangs in the balance. In others, aldermen reported receiving the contributions not long after the proposals were approved. Watchdogs worry the contributions give architects an advantage over ordinary residents who oppose projects but may not have their alderman’s attention.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Campaign Finance Law on Union Donations Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 12/5/2018
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, after losing a challenge to the state’s ban on corporate political donations in the Supreme Judicial Court, is seeking to challenge the law before the U.S. Supreme Court. Massachusetts law prohibits corporations from contributing directly to candidates or establishing PACs but allows them to make unlimited independent expenditures, with certain disclosure requirements. The plaintiffs in the state case argued the ban violates their First Amendment rights and unfairly applies to corporations but not entities like unions and nonprofits. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled the ban on corporate donations does not violate free speech rights and can help prevent actual and perceived corruption.
Minnesota – You Know You Want to Read This Sexy Story about Legislative Process Reform
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan | Published: 11/29/2018
There might have been no better illustration of how long the lack of transparency at the Minnesota Legislature has been a problem than the testimony provided by a longtime lobbyist and former legislative staffer at a recent hearing on legislative process reform. Phil Griffin dug up and offered testimony on the shortcomings of the legislative process he had delivered before – in 2008. The concerns were much the same back then, Griffin said, and they remain today: The Legislature is hard to follow, even for those who get paid to do so. Too much work is done out of public view, too much is left for the closing days, and too much business is left to be addressed in massive omnibus bills that include dozens and sometimes hundreds of bills. Others echoed those complaints.
Missouri – Missouri Lawmakers Resign Ahead of New Lobbyist Limits
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 12/4/2018
Three Missouri lawmakers have resigned just ahead of the date a new constitutional amendment takes effect requiring legislators to wait two years before they can become lobbyists. State Sen. Jake Hummel confirmed he resigned in order to preserve his right to register as a lobbyist sooner rather than later. Current law requires legislators to wait six months after the end of their elected term before they can start lobbying. The new amendment requires them to wait two years after the end of the session in which they last served, but it applies only to those serving on or after the measure’s effective date.
North Carolina – North Carolina Election-Fraud Investigation Centers on Operative with Criminal History Who Worked for GOP Congressional Candidate
Chicago Tribune – Amy Gardner and Kirk Ross (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2018
Political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless is at the center of a fraud investigation that has delayed the certification of Republican Mark Harris’s narrow victory in the Ninth Congressional District race in North Carolina and could prompt officials to call for a new election. The possibility that November’s vote will be tossed out has prompted an outbreak of partisan accusations. The case is politically fraught for the GOP, who have pushed for voter-identification laws and other restrictions while warning without evidence about the threat of rampant voter fraud. Now, amid Democratic calls for investigations of a different kind of election fraud, one that allegedly benefited the GOP, Republicans have stayed largely silent about the allegations, instead accusing the state elections board of trying to steal the race.
Pennsylvania – Bob Brady Aide Smukler Found Guilty on 9 of 11 Counts in Campaign Finance Case
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Andrew Seidman | Published: 12/3/2018
A federal jury found U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s top political strategist, Ken Smuckler, guilty of nine of 11 counts of repeatedly flouting campaign finance laws. Smukler was convicted of coordinating multiple unlawful contributions and falsifying finance reports for candidates in back-to-back congressional races. One of those campaigns, Brady’s 2012 primary bid for re-election, ended with the abrupt withdrawal of his opponent after he was promised a $90,000 payoff, which jurors concluded Smukler helped to pay. The Justice Department now has won convictions and guilty pleas against four key players in the 2012 campaign – except, notably, Brady himself.
Texas – Some Republicans Want to Oust a Muslim Doctor from His GOP Leadership Role – Because He’s Muslim
San Jose Mercury News – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 12/5/2018
The first time Shahid Shafi ran for a seat on the city council in Southlake in 2011, advisers assured him a Muslim in post-September 11 America who spoke with an accent and emigrated from Pakistan would never win an election in Texas. He won the Southlake City Council seat on his second try, in 2014, has since served as a delegate to multiple Texas GOP conventions and, in July, was appointed vice chairperson of the Tarrant County Republican Party. But that is when his religion somehow became a problem again, in the eyes of some Republican colleagues.
West Virginia – He Is West Virginia’s Speaker of the House – and a Lawyer for Natural Gas Companies
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. and Kate Mishkin (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 12/4/2018
West Virginia Del. Roger Hanshaw is expected to be re-elected as House speaker when the legislative session convenes in January. In the position, Hanshaw wields significant control over which bills are called up for votes and which are sent to committees to effectively die. When he is not at the Capitol, Hanshaw makes his living as an attorney, and his clients have included natural gas companies and gas industry lobby groups. Under the state’s ethics laws, those overlapping interests are not enough to keep him from voting on matters affecting the industry. Hanshaw illustrates both the industry’s growing ties to lawmakers and how West Virginia ethics laws allow lawmakers to advocate for their own interests or those of their clients, and sometimes leave state residents in the dark about such potential conflicts.
November 30, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: How FEC Babysitting Decision Could Pave Way for More Hill Diversity Roll Call – Stephanie Akin | Published: 11/26/2018 The FEC in May decided for the first time ever that child care was a legitimate campaign expense, on par […]
How FEC Babysitting Decision Could Pave Way for More Hill Diversity
Roll Call – Stephanie Akin | Published: 11/26/2018
The FEC in May decided for the first time ever that child care was a legitimate campaign expense, on par with polling or campaign signs. In future years, the change is expected to increase the number of middle-class parents who take on the staggering time and financial commitments of a campaign. Because the FEC decision came just six months before Election Day, it is too early to tell if that will be the case. But the candidates who reported babysitting expenses this cycle provide the first indication of the difference it will make.
Manafort’s Lawyer Said to Brief Trump Attorneys on What He Told Mueller
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 11/27/2018
Former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort’s attorney repeatedly spoke with the president’s lawyers about discussions with federal investigators after Manafort agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. Rudy Giuliani, who represents Trump in the special counsel’s investigation, said Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, relayed that investigators pressed Manafort on what Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign associates and a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump’s legal team has maintained a joint defense agreement with witnesses in Mueller’s investigations, including Manafort. But it is uncommon for those agreements to continue after a witness reaches a plea agreement with prosecutors.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska: Judges Open Door Wider for Out-of-State Money in Alaska Elections
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 11/27/2018
A federal appeals court panel ruled Alaska’s limit on what nonresidents can contribute to candidates is unconstitutional. But the three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld other donation limits it said were tailored to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption. The judges upheld limits on contributions made by individuals to candidates and groups that are not political parties. They also upheld caps on the total amount a political party can give municipal candidates. The majority found the aggregate limit on what candidates can get from nonresidents violates the First Amendment. The opinion says states must show limits fight potential corruption and can’t simply go after “undue influence.”
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Approves Sweeping Reforms to Combat ‘Pay-to-Play’ Politics
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 11/20/2018
The District of Columbia Council gave preliminary approval to new campaign finance regulations, including restrictions on government contractors’ political contributions, bringing a potential sea change to a city that has witnessed repeated corruption scandals. The bill would ban campaign donations from firms and their top executives if they hold or are seeking government contracts worth at least $250,000. It would also give new authority and independence to the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, long viewed as a weak enforcer, and require increased disclosures from independent expenditure committees.
Maryland: Hogan Names Panel to Redraw Maryland’s 6th District, Despite Frosh Appeal of Court Order to Fix Gerrymandering
Baltimore Sun – Michael Dresser | Published: 11/26/2018
Gov. Larry Hogan created an “emergency” commission to redraw the borders of Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District, moving ahead on a new map despite state Attorney General Brian Frosh’s appeal of a federal ruling that ordered the redraft. Hogan signed an executive order creating a nine-person commission – made up of three Democrats, three Republicans, and three unaffiliated voters – to propose a new map. The governor’s decision puts the state on two paths in responding to the decision. As Maryland’s chief lawyer, Frosh is fighting to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case and rule before a new map is created. Meanwhile, Hogan, as chief executive, is pushing forward with an effort to comply with it.
Missouri: Court Ruling Could Force Everyday Missourians to Register as Lobbyists, Attorneys Say
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 11/29/2018
An appeals court panel ruled against a man challenging a Missouri law that places restrictions on unpaid political activists. Ron Calzone was testing the law that requires anyone attempting to influence lawmakers to follow the same rules as professional lobbyists. That means an individual would have to register as a lobbyist and file as many as 14 reports with the state each year. A panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the First Amendment does not shield citizen activists from these requirements or the penalties for noncompliance. The U.S. Supreme Court has not reviewed a lobbyist registration case since 1954’s United States v. Harriss, in which the court limited the reach of a federal statute to only cover “those who for hire attempt to influence legislation or who collect or spend funds for that purpose.”
Missouri: Parson Alters Lobbyist Gift Ban Rules Imposed by Greitens
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 11/20/2018
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tweaked an order issued by his predecessor that could bring an end to a federal lawsuit over a ban on gifts from lobbyists. In a rewrite of an executive order issued by former Gov. Eric Greitens on the day he took office in 2017, Parson altered a section that prohibited executive branch employees from accepting gifts. The new wording, which adopts descriptions found in existing law, could allow groups like a Virginia-based law firm to distribute informational books to employees of the governor’s office.
New Jersey: ‘Dark Money’ Flows into NJ Politics and None of It Has to Be Accounted For
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 11/26/2018
With the midterms over, New Jersey lawmakers will soon turn their attention to the 2019 legislative races. If recent history is an indicator, outside money will flood into the state as Democrats try to bolster their majority in the statehouse. And none of it has to be accounted for. This “dark money” is hidden from the public because New Jersey’s rules governing campaign finance have not been updated in years. That is despite a push from the Election Law Enforcement Commission to strengthen the state’s disclosure laws, a push that has been met with inaction by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The result is a confusing patchwork of regulations that leave the state susceptible to massive amounts of “dark money.”
New York: Lawsuit Seeks to Block New York’s Sweeping New Lobbying Rules
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/28/2018
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) this year passed regulations overhauling the rules that cover the state’s lobbying industry. A lawsuit argues JCOPE lacks the authority to create the 92 pages of new regulations. The plaintiffs say those rules would unduly burden lobbyists and their clients and infringe on their free speech rights. The petitioners want to see the regulations struck down in state Supreme Court and are seeking an injunction disallowing JCOPE from enforcing them in the interim. While JCOPE’s staff have said the new rules largely codify decades of existing state ethics opinions, the regulations were meant to update New York’s lobbying rules, as modern lobbying campaigns emphasize the application of public pressure on lawmakers separate from more traditional person-to-person lobbying.
New York: N.Y. Democrats Vowed to Get Big Money Out of Politics. Will Big Money Interfere?
MSN – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 11/22/2018
A loophole in New York’s campaign finance law has for more than 20 years allowed corporations to create limited liability companies (LLCs) for the sole purpose of giving virtually unlimited amounts of money to candidates. Democrats, in their successful bid to recapture the state Senate for the first time in a decade, campaigned on a promise to close it. But even as they vowed to muzzle big money’s influence, they benefited from the same LLC contributions they were railing against. The corporations’ sudden generosity, and Democrats’ acceptance of it, has raised questions about whether lawmakers will make good on their promise to overhaul New York’s campaign finance system, or whether – now that they have consolidated control of Albany’s levers of power – they might prefer to bask in its perks.
Ohio: City of Columbus Proposes Campaign Finance Reforms
WOSU – Adora Namigadde | Published: 11/28/2018
Mayor Andrew Ginther and other Columbus officials unveiled a proposed campaign finance law that would limit annual individual and group contributions to $12,707.79 and require anyone running election ads to immediately disclose who paid for them. But members of a progressive group that often opposes the city’s Democratic establishment said they believe that limit is too high compared to other cities and are developing their own proposal with a much lower cap. The legislation also would require auditing of campaign finance filings to assure compliance.
South Carolina: Court Case Could Change How SC Statehouse Elections Are Funded
Charleston Post and Courier – Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 11/26/2018
Even before he won a special election to the state Senate in November, Dick Harpootlian landed a potentially game-changing blow to the way statehouse campaigns are funded in South Carolina. Inundated with television ads funded by the Senate GOP caucus, a group that includes all Republican incumbents, Harpootlian filed a lawsuit claiming the ads amounted to an excessive campaign contribution on behalf of his opponent, Benjamin Dunn. If Harpootlian ends up winning the full case, legislators and operatives believe it could have a dramatic impact on the way campaigns are financed moving forward, curbing the influence in elections from powerful party groups.
Tennessee: Mayor Briley Halts Public Works Contracts, Hires Compliance Officer Amid Questions Raised in Audit
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison | Published: 11/27/2018
Nashville Mayor David Briley halted five future Metro Public Works contracts for sidewalk, paving, and other capital projects amid questions raised in a recent audit about the department’s close relationship with a top engineering contractor. The administration also announced plans to hire the city’s first-ever chief compliance officer who will work in the mayor’s office to review ethics in the city’s procurement process. The moves come after it was reported that photos showed executives from Collier Engineering, which has won $48.7 million in Metro contracts since 2010, entertaining city officials inside a company suite at Bridgestone Arena during multiple sporting events this year. In several cases, the city employees did not appear to pay for the tickets, violating the ethics code on accepting gifts.
November 16, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Banner Year for Female Candidates Doesn’t Extend to Republican Women MSN – Susan Chira (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2018 The number of Republican women in Congress next year will drop, even as the ranks of Democratic women swell […]
Banner Year for Female Candidates Doesn’t Extend to Republican Women
MSN – Susan Chira (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2018
The number of Republican women in Congress next year will drop, even as the ranks of Democratic women swell to record heights. With a few races still undecided, the new Congress will have at least 105 Democratic women and 19 Republican women. From Congress to governor to state Legislatures, far more Democratic women ran in this cycle than Republican women. And that means fewer Republican women on the bench, gathering experience and credentials to move up to the next level. With fewer women as candidates and officeholders, Republicans risk further widening a gender gap already at historic levels, since far more women vote Democratic than Republican, said Mirya Holman of Tulane University.
Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s leaders fought through crisis
MSN – Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2018
Facebook has reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business, and daily life around the world. But as evidence mounted that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda, and inspire campaigns of hate, founder Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. Sandberg has overseen a lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics and ward off regulation. Allies of Facebook in Washington, D.C. intervened on its behalf. But trust in the company has sunk, while its growth has slowed. Regulators and law enforcement officials are investigating Facebook’s conduct with Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
House Democrats’ Win Fuels K Street Hiring
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Marianne Levine | Published: 11/7/2018
The Democratic takeover of the U.S. House, even as Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, ends two years of unified GOP control of Washington in which corporate America and its lobbyists saw major victories, including a tax bill that slashed the corporate rate and extensive deregulation. Washington offices of major corporations now are grappling with how to work a Democratic House full of newly elected members, many of whom ran on promises to resist special interests and who are generally younger and more diverse than the denizens of K Street. Some lobbying firms, the biggest of which are typically bipartisan and pride themselves on their ability to thrive no matter which party is in power, and companies have already hired new Democratic lobbyists in anticipation the party might take back the House.
Trump Involved in ‘Nearly Every Step’ of Hush-Money Payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal: WSJ
CNBC – Kevin Brueniger and Dan Mangan | Published: 11/9/2018
President Trump was heavily involved during his presidential campaign in silencing the stories of women who claimed to have extramarital affairs with him, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal that contradicts repeated denials from Trump. Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence that Trump worked with his friend and media executive David Pecker to use the National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump was allegedly involved in nearly every step of the process to prevent Daniels and McDougal from publicizing their stories and worked with his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to coordinate the deals.
Trump Seeks to Land Blow Against Media in Court Fight with CNN
Politico – Jason Schwartz and Michael Calderone | Published: 11/14/2018
Trump administration lawyers asserted in court that the president could bar “all reporters” from the White House complex for any reason he sees fit. The sweeping claim, which came in the first public hearing over CNN’s lawsuit to restore correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House credentials, could have a dramatic impact on news organizations’ access to government officials if it is upheld in court. CNN argued in its lawsuit that the White House infringed on Acosta’s First Amendment rights by revoking his access in response to a dispute at a recent press conference. The arguments represented an escalation in Trump’s fight against the media, with more than a dozen news organizations weighing in on CNN’s side.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: How a Top Official Landed in Criminal Trouble
E&E News – Sean Reilly | Published: 11/14/2018
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official in the Trump administration was indicted on charges stemming from a previous job. Trey Glenn, director for the agency’s southeast region, helped a law firm fight potential EPA actions to clean up contaminated sites in Alabama on behalf of Drummond Co., which could be responsible for the cleanups. A grand jury indicted Glenn and former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner Scott Phillips for their roles in the controversial efforts. A federal jury earlier this year convicted Balch partner Joel Gilbert and Drummond vice president David Roberson for bribing an Alabama lawmaker as part of the effort to stop the cleanup effort. Glenn and Phillips were both called as witnesses in that trial, and evidence showed they were closely with Balch on the effort to stop the cleanups.
California: SoccerCity Document Leak by San Diego Councilman Prompts Tougher Restrictions
San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 11/13/2018
Prompted by Councilperson Chris Cate’s sharing of confidential documents with SoccerCity investors last year, the San Diego City Council approved tighter restrictions on the handling of such documents. The tougher guidelines aim to prevent future disclosures and make it easier to prosecute leakers. In case a leak still occurs despite the new rules, the council also voted to make it illegal for lobbyists who may receive confidential documents from “using, accepting, or disclosing” them in any way. To avoid potential loopholes, the council added language saying a lobbyist also cannot disseminate a confidential document and cannot use intermediaries to disseminate it, such as a relative.
Florida: Inside the Republican Strategy to Discredit the Florida Recount
MSN – Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 11/13/2018
Republicans’ strategy in Florida this year to discredit the recount in the close U.S. Senate race reflects their experience in the 2000 presidential election in the state. GOP strategists say they prevailed then largely because they approached the recount as they did the race itself, with legal, political, and public relations components that allowed them to outmaneuver Democrats. The effort Gov. Rick Scott and allies are waging today is similar to that multifront war in 2000 led by the George W. Bush campaign and an army of party consultants. Lawyers are filing complaints in Tallahassee; surrogates for Scott are holding news conference calls with journalists and sitting for interviews on television, blaming Democrats for tarnishing the integrity of the electoral process; and party officials are encouraging demonstrators to gather at sites where the recounts are taking place.
Missouri: Despite Election Night Victory, Fight Over Ethics Overhaul in Missouri May Not Be Over
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 11/11/2018
Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to change ethics laws and overhaul the way the state’s political maps are drawn. But with the changes scheduled to start going into effect December 6, the initiative could face another round of scrutiny in a courtroom and at the Capitol. The same groups of opponents who tried to keep the “Clean Missouri” initiative off the ballot say they are mulling further legal action aimed at stopping the reforms. “We fully intend to oppose Clean Missouri any way we can,” said Dan Mehan, executive director of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Senate President Pro Tem-elect Dave Schatz said the Legislature may want to tinker with certain parts of the initiative.
New Jersey: Bankers’ Group Seeks End to Ban on Gifts to Local Candidates
Yahoo! Finance – Charles Toutant (Law.com) | Published: 11/11/2018
A century-old law barring banks from making contributions to candidates in local and state elections is being challenged by the New Jersey Bankers Association. The bankers filed suit seeking a declaration that the ban is unconstitutional, and asking for an order enjoining enforcement. The lawsuit claims banks’ First Amendment rights are violated by the inability to make campaign contributions. Banks are banned from making contributions of any kind or amount to, or in support of, political parties or candidates for any state or local office under the New Jersey statute. But nonbank corporations are not subject to any such prohibition, with a few exceptions, according to the plaintiff.
North Dakota: Victorious North Dakota Measure 1 Supporters Expect More Work, Lawsuits
Bismarck Tribune – Tru-Uyen Tran (Forum News Service) | Published: 11/8/2018
Voters may have approved North Dakota’s Measure 1 aimed at combating corruption but the group behind it has no plans to break up anytime soon. Being a constitutional amendment, the measure relies on lawmakers to implement it, which creates opportunities for supporters and opponents to influence that process. Ellen Chaffee, one of the founders of North Dakotans for Public Integrity, said her group will also stay together because it is anticipating legal challenges by opponents. Passage means that, among other things, the “ultimate and true source” of money spent on media to influence politics must be disclosed, lobbyists can no longer give gifts to public officials, and a state ethics commission must be formed to investigate violations.
Oregon: Oregon Lawmaker Under Scrutiny for Posting Home Addresses of Ballot Measure Petitioners
Governing – Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 11/15/2018
A gun control advocacy group called on the Oregon House to investigate state Rep. Bill Post for putting online the phone numbers and home addresses of the chief petitioners of a ballot measure to ban assault weapons. In a Facebook post, Post encouraged gun rights supporters to personally contact three Portland clergy leading the initiative campaign to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in Oregon. He posted the message on the Facebook page of a group called “The Heirs of Patrick Henry, Northwest.” The post led to harassing emails and phone calls to the petitioners, and it has had a chilling effect on others challenging the gun rights lobby, said Ceasefire Oregon Executive Director Penny Okamoto.
Virginia: U.S. Supreme Court to Take Up Virginia Redistricting Case on Racial Gerrymandering
Washington Post – Gregory Schneider and Robert Barnes | Published: 11/13/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of redistricting in Virginia, agreeing to hear an appeal filed by Republican legislators after a lower court’s ruling that 11 House of Delegates districts must be redrawn to correct racial gerrymandering. The action does not appear to halt the redistricting process, though, which is underway at the hands of a special master. It will be the second time the high court has heard the case. It sided with challengers in demanding further review of the districts, drawn by Virginia Republicans to ensure that 55 percent of eligible voters were black. What remains to be seen is whether the Supreme Court will again take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering, which it has never found to be unconstitutional.