November 2, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 2, 2018

      National: ‘My Comrades Will Kill You’: Pipe bombs sent in year of many death threats against politicians Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 10/25/2018 Political violence has dominated the news recently, with pipe bombs mailed to CNN’s New York office […]

 

 

 

National:

‘My Comrades Will Kill You’: Pipe bombs sent in year of many death threats against politicians
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 10/25/2018

Political violence has dominated the news recently, with pipe bombs mailed to CNN’s New York office and prominent Democrats, as well as liberal donor George Soros and actor Robert De Niro. Threats of violence have become commonplace in American politics. New Jersey Rep. Jay Webber, a Republican candidate for Congress, received a note calling him a liar and a “scumbag” and threatening him and his children. “You BETTER hope that you don’t win! Or else,” the note read. “How many kids do you have…7? Unlucky 7. This is what we think of you. Time to get out of politics!” In a year when record numbers of women are running for office, many have been harassed or become targets of sexist or threatening remarks.

Voters Could Clamp Down on Ethics, Campaign Finance at The Ballot Box
National Public Radio – Peter Overby | Published: 10/30/2018

Voters in more than a dozen states will consider ballot measures on November 6 that would affect ethics and campaign finance reform. Some of the initiatives would exceed federal standards, which have been steadily relaxed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress last passed a major campaign finance bill in 2001. “It’s telling that we have so many challengers for Congress that are running on this issue,” said Larry Norden of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “But to get real change now, the only way to do that is at the local and the state level.”

Federal:

How ActBlue Is Trying to Turn Small Donations into a Blue Wave
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine and Chris Zubak-Skees | Published: 10/25/2018

ActBlue, a nonprofit whose online fundraising tools have been used to varying degrees by nearly every Democrat running for Congress, says it has raised more than $2.9 billion for Democrats and progressive organizations since its founding in 2004. September 2018 was the biggest month in its history. Donors are using the platform to reshape the map of competitive races this year, becoming a powerful force that could sway Democratic politics beyond November’s election.

Mueller Refers Sex Misconduct Scheme Targeting Him to FBI for Investigation
NBC News – Brandy Zadrozny, Ben Collins, and Tom Winter | Published: 10/30/2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the FBI to investigate an alleged scheme to manufacture sexual assault stories about him. At issue is an email widely circulated among journalists from someone who claimed she had been approached with an offer to pay her tens of thousands of dollars if she would answer questions about Mueller and then sign a sworn affidavit accusing him of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment. The plot appeared to be the latest, and one of the more bizarre, in a string of attempts by supporters of President Trump to discredit Mueller’s investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Begich Spent Four Years as a Consultant. As Governor, He Could Sign Bills Affecting Former Clients.
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 10/30/2018

For nearly four years, Mark Begich has owned a public affairs and consulting firm, Northern Compass Group, which has worked with clients that intersect with both state and federal government. If Begich is elected as Alaska’s governor on November 6, he will likely be faced with decisions that will directly affect the businesses, unions, and Native organizations that have been paying his business for advice. Alaska politicians often emerge from the worlds of public policy and business, and Begich is far from the first with potential for conflicts. Begich’s work is significant, though, because of the number of clients he has had, as well as the recentness of his work, said state Rep. Jason Grenn, who helped lead a successful push for legislative ethics reforms this year.

Arizona: Arizona Commissioner Andy Tobin Texted APS Lobbyists Frequently, Including About Open Rate Case
Energy Policy Institute – David Pomerantz | Published: 10/29/2018

Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) member Andy Tobin exchanged text messages throughout 2018 with lobbyists from Arizona Public Service (APS), often to complain about negative media coverage of APS’ rate increase requests before the commission. On one occasion, Tobin asked an APS lobbyist whether the utility had a “public information strategy planned” to combat negative media coverage of a rate increase request while the case was still pending before Tobin and the commission. The ACC, which is supposed to regulate APS in the public’s interest, has been embattled by scandals for the past four years, ever since two non-profit “dark money” organizations spent $3 million on the ACC elections in 2014. APS never confirmed nor denied being the source of that money.

Maine: Pro-Offshore Oil Group Chaired by LePage Is Run by Energy Lobbyists
Biddeford Journal Tribune – Colin Woodward (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/28/2018

A coalition of governors headed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage that seeks to open most federal waters to oil and gas exploration is staffed by employees of an oil industry lobbying firm. The Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, which LePage joined in 2015 and has chaired for the past two years, outsources its day-to-day staffing, research, and communications tasks to an advocacy group purporting to represent energy consumers. But a closer look at the group, the Consumer Energy Alliance, reveals it is funded by energy producers and staffed and run by senior officials of HBW Resources, an energy-focused lobbying and consulting firm.

Maryland: Question G Would Undercut Independence of Baltimore Ethics Board, Chairwoman Says
Baltimore Brew – Mark Ruettner | Published: 10/31/2018

Question G on the November ballot in Baltimore would tether the director of Legislative Reference to the mayor and city council president. The director of Legislative Reference is also the chief advisor to the city Board of Ethics. By making the director an “at will” employee of Mayor Catherine Pugh and Council President Bernard Young, as Question G does, that same employee is placed in a very awkward position on the ethics board. “Our director may be faced with having to handle an ethics complaint against one of the two people who appointed him,” said board Chairperson Linda Pierson.

Montana: How Big Sky Country Became the Front Line in a Long Battle Over Dark Money
Yahoo! News – Christa Case Bryant | Published: 10/29/2018

Two women are central figures in a fight in Montana over money in politics, one that may well set the tone for the rest of the nation. Jamie MacNaughton is the sole lawyer at the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices, which is tasked with enforcing Montana’s strict campaign finance laws. She is helping to prepare two cases under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. Anita Milanovich serves as the Montana outpost for the Bopp Law Firm, which is led by the preeminent lawyer fighting campaign finance regulations across the country. Now the firm is pursuing the legal cases against MacNaughton’s office.

Oklahoma: Legislators Act As ‘Super Donors,’ Sending Their Own Donors’ Cash to Other Candidates
KGOU – Trevor Brown (Oklahoma Watch) | Published: 10/30/2018

A review of contributions in Oklahoma found sitting lawmakers and legislative candidates’ campaigns have given more than $746,000 to other legislative candidates since January 1, 2016. About 75 percent of the money came from about a dozen Republican and Democratic legislators, almost all of whom hold or have held leadership positions. The sharing of contributions means these lawmakers act as de facto “super donors,” or at least bundlers, who dole out thousands of dollars to candidates running in a wide range of races. The large amounts of circulating cash have raised concerns at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, which is examining a possible rule change, still being drafted, that would block candidates from transferring campaign funds to other candidates.

Pennsylvania: State Rep. Vanessa Brown Guilty on All Counts; Took $4,000 Bribe in Sting
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy | Published: 10/31/2018

A jury convicted Pennsylvania Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown of charges she accepted $4,000 in cash from an undercover informant. Brown was the last defendant in an ambitious and controversial sting investigation launched by state prosecutors nearly a decade ago but secretly ended by then-state Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The guilty verdict represented the most dramatic repudiation yet of Kane’s criticism of the sting, which she had contended could not produce winnable cases in court. Under the law, Brown, who is running unopposed in the November 6 election, will also be barred from her House post upon her sentencing.

South Carolina: SC Rep. Harrison Found Guilty in Public Corruption Case, Gets Prison Sentence
Greenville News – John Monk (The State) | Published: 10/27/2018

A jury found former South Carolina Rep. Jim Harrison guilty of perjury and misconduct in office, marking the fifth conviction of a legislator in the past four years and capping off the first trial to come out of the high-profile probe into corruption in the statehouse. Prosecutors accused Harrison of secretly profiting from an influential consulting firm that pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying earlier this year. That firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, has been at the center of the five-year corruption investigation because of its once sprawling network of lawmakers, lobbying interests, and corporate clients. Harrison, the former chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

West Virginia: For a Groundbreaking Candidate in West Virginia, Big Money and Attention Come with Downsides
Washington Post – Greg Jaffe | Published: 11/1/2018

Back when his campaign had raised just $7,000, when just about anyone who knew anything about politics gave him zero chance of winning, West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda decided to make a campaign video for his run for Congress. The pivotal moment for Ojeda came near the end of the shoot when he gave out his personal cell phone number. Ten months later, Ojeda was driving past burned-out houses and abandoned storefronts in the coal town where he had spent his childhood and still lived. The polls had him neck and neck with his Republican opponent. It was 21 days until the election and his cellphone was now ringing 100 times a day with calls from all over the United States and the world. At a moment in American politics when authenticity is everything, Ojeda is being hailed as an unpolished, authentic voice.

Wisconsin: Last-Minute Surprises and Secretive Moves Hide Wisconsin Lawmakers’ Actions from Public View
Wisconsin Public Radio – CV Vitolo-Haddad and Dee Hall (Wisconsin Center For Investigative Journalism) | Published: 10/29/2018

Since voters swept Republicans into power in 2010, Wisconsin lawmakers have increasingly used secretive maneuvers to keep the public in the dark about major spending and policy changes. An investigation found the Legislature systematically diminishes the voices of the public by Introducing budget amendments at the end of the approval process with no public notice or debate; approving anonymous, last-minute budget motions containing changes, including major policy items that have nothing to do with state spending; and altering the scope and impact of a bill after its public hearing has been held, which excludes citizens from having influence on legislation before it is enacted. When Democrats controlled the Legislature and governor’s office they played that game, too, notably with their own end-of-the-session wrap-up budget bills of anonymously authored items.

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October 26, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 26, 2018

      National: How a Billionaire from Another State Could Influence Your Elections Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 10/18/2018 Twenty-five American billionaires have invested more than $70.7 million for initiative campaigns this year in 19 states where […]

 

 

 

National:

How a Billionaire from Another State Could Influence Your Elections
Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 10/18/2018

Twenty-five American billionaires have invested more than $70.7 million for initiative campaigns this year in 19 states where they do not reside. Meanwhile, as little as $7.2 million has gone from their wallets and those of other billionaires to campaigns in their home states. In total, the $78 million tally from all 34 billionaires may be pocket change to them, but it is more than 10 percent of the $648 million disclosed so far this year for statewide ballot measure campaigns. The contributions from the wealthy to campaigns across state lines rankle some local opponents, even though no one questions their legality. Just who should decide issues in their states, they ask – the people who live there or some rich folks from out-of-state?

Three Secretaries of State Are Refereeing the Election While Running in the Field
McClatchy DC – Tim Johnson | Published: 10/18/2018

In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player. Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas, who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states, are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict-of-interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate. While the three secretaries of state are Republican, concerns about inappropriate actions by partisans who hold the office transcend parties.

Federal:

Inside the Saudis’ Washington Influence Machine: How the kingdom gained power through fierce lobbying and charm offensives
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Justin Reinhard, and Justin Moyer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2018

A sophisticated influence machine has shaped policy and perceptions of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. for decades, batting back critiques of the kingdom by doling out millions of dollars to lobbyists, law firms, prominent think tanks, and large defense contractors. In 2017, Saudi payments to lobbyists and consultants in Washington more than tripled over the previous year. Beyond their spending, the Saudis have enjoyed a priceless advantage: a warm relationship with President Trump, who has done business its wealthy citizens, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who developed a close bond with the crown prince as he crafted the administration’s Middle East policy.

U.S. Begins First Cyberoperation Against Russia Aimed at Protecting Elections
MSN – Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2018

The United States Cyber Command is targeting individual Russian operatives to try to deter them from spreading disinformation to interfere in elections, telling them that American operatives have identified them and are tracking their work. The campaign, which includes missions undertaken in recent days, is the first known overseas cyberoperation to protect U.S. elections, including the November midterms. The operations come as the Justice Department recently outlined a campaign of “information warfare” by Russians aimed at influencing the midterm elections, highlighting the broad threat the American government sees from Moscow’s influence campaign.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: State Regulators to Alaska Lobbyist: Stop helping candidates raise money
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Hertz | Published: 10/18/2018

Alaska lobbyists have been breaking an anti-corruption law by promoting fundraising events on behalf of candidates, according to a preliminary opinion from the state’s campaign finance watchdog. Lobbyist Ashley Reed asked for the formal opinion from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. He wanted to know whether state law allows for lobbyists to email copies of invitations to fundraisers for political candidates. The Legislature banned lobbyists from engaging in fundraising activity more than two decades ago. But despite the ban, Reed and lobbyist Jerry Mackie have been sending copies of fundraiser invitations to their clients and friends.

Florida: Text Messages Raise New Questions Over Andrew Gillum’s Lobbyist Connections
WRAL – Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2018

Undercover FBI agents paid for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s hotel room and his ticket to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” during a 2016 trip to New York City, according to newly released documents that raise questions just before Florida’s gubernatorial election, in which Gillum is locked in a close race with former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who set up meetings with the agents, show Gillum knew the tickets came from men he believed to be businesspeople looking to develop property in Tallahassee, but were undercover FBI agents investigating public corruption in the city. The records contradicted Gillum’s past statements on the state ethics probe.

Indiana: No Charges Against Hill, But Investigation Reveals Searing New Details
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Ryan Martin, and Kaitlin Lange | Published: 10/23/2018

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will not be charged over allegations he groped a state lawmaker and several staffers at a party celebrating the end of the legislative session. He also was cleared of any ethical breaches by the inspector general’s office. Special Prosecutor Daniel Sigler, who said he believed the women’s stories to be “true and credible,” announced that bringing charges would be difficult due to the time that elapsed between the alleged incident in March and the filing of the claims against Hill. But the fallout from Hill’s alleged behavior that night is likely to continue as his accusers prepare a civil lawsuit and Republican leaders continue to call for his resignation.

Kentucky: Kentucky AG Defends Campaign Finance Reform in Sixth Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Kevin Koeninger | Published: 10/18/2018

The constitutionality of several Kentucky ethics laws was debated before a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with the state’s attorney general arguing they are necessary to maintain citizens’ confidence in the government. Plaintiffs alleged numerous restrictions on campaign financing and lobbying were unconstitutional, including contribution limits and a prohibition on gifts to legislators and their spouses. Kentucky made sweeping changes to its campaign finance laws in 2017, which mooted several of the plaintiffs’ claims. But U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman sided with the plaintiffs on several issues last year. Bertelsman struck down the law that prevents legislators and their spouses from receiving “anything of value,” ruling the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

Maine: Crowdfunding of Collins Opponent in 2020 Likely Faces Legal Challenge
Lewiston Sun Journal – Kevin Collins (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/22/2018

In an effort to pressure U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, organizers pledged to collect contributions nationwide and give them to a hypothetical Democratic challenger in 2020 if Collins voted to confirm the nominee. If she opposed Kavanaugh, whose nomination nearly collapsed amid allegations of sexual misconduct, no money would be collected. The unprecedented campaign, which Collins has labeled a bribe, is a testament to the power of small-dollar “crowdfunding” at a time when corporations, interest groups, and wealthy donors can dump unlimited money into elections. Yet the tactics used by the three organizations behind the campaign to pressure Collins are raising sticky legal questions that could end up in court, with national implications.

Missouri: Clean Missouri Proposition Puts Redistricting Front and Center, Limits Lobbyist Influence
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 10/23/2018

Amendment 1 on the November ballot in Missouri would limit the meals, entertainment, and travel a lobbyist can give a lawmaker, and place a two-year waiting period on lawmakers and their staff to become lobbyists. It would also lower contributions limits for state House and Senate candidates, as well as alter how state legislative districts are drawn. Supporters believe the measure will make lawmakers more responsive to people instead of special interest groups or lobbyists. Detractors believe the initiative is not about improving ethics, and instead is about giving Democrats a leg up on the state legislative redistricting process.

New Hampshire: N.H. Legislators Look to Lobbyists for Reliable Source of Re-Election Cash
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 10/19/2018

A review of fundraising reports in New Hampshire over the most recent legislative session shows donations from lobbying interests with a direct stake in the decisions made by state senators accounted for roughly half of all the money raised by those same senators’ re-election campaigns. The rate of reliance on lobbying money varied from as little as 16 percent to 75 percent or more. In many cases, senators’ fundraising reports reflected the intersection of money and influence inherent to statehouse lobbying. Candidates can, and often do, accept separate contributions from lobbying firms, the lobbyists they employ, and the clients they represent, magnifying their impact in legislative races.

New York: Dean Skelos, Ex-New York Senate Leader, Gets 4 Years and 3 Months in Prison
WRAL – Benjamin Weiser and Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 10/24/2018

Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on federal corruption charges, including soliciting bribes and defrauding the public. The sentence was lighter than the five years that the same judge imposed in 2016 when he was convicted on the same charges. That conviction was overturned. Skelos’ son, Adam, who was convicted along with his father, was sentenced to four years in prison. Prosecutors accused Dean Skelos of using his position to pressure three companies to provide his son with consulting work, a “no-show” job, and a $20,000 payment.

North Dakota: All of the Above? The Ancient Voting Method One City Might Adopt
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 10/19/2018

In November, voters in Fargo, North Dakota, will decide whether to adopt a ballot measure that would create a system known as “approval voting” for local elections. Under the system, everybody can vote for as many candidates as they would like. If there are four candidates for the city commission, for example, you could choose to vote for one of them, or for two, or for the whole lot. Unlike the other multiple-choice method known as ranked-choice voting, which is gaining favor in some places, each vote would count the same. The person with the highest total would win. Supporters say voters would not have to worry about wasting votes on spoilers with little chance of winning since they can also select candidates expected to be more popular. In theory, however, candidates with extreme viewpoints would have a harder time since the winner would have to be broadly acceptable to most voters.

Pennsylvania: Ex-Allentown Mayor Gets 15 Years in Prison on Corruption Charges
Philadelphia Inquirer – Associated Press | Published: 10/23/2018

Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was sentenced to 15 years in prison on corruption charges. He was convicted of trading city contracts for campaign donations to fund his bids for mayor, governor, and U.S. Senate. Jurors found him guilty on 47 counts in connection to eight schemes, including those involving contracts for a city pool, tax collection service, cybersecurity, and streetlight installation. Pawlowski must also pay more than $93,000 in restitution in restitution to the city and to vendors that prosecutors say were cheated out of a fair and open bidding process.

South Carolina: Should SC Roads Be Named After Lawmakers Who Have Pleaded Guilty to Corruption?
The State – Avery Wilks | Published: 10/22/2018

A few days after he resigned from the South Carolina Senate and pleaded guilty to misconduct in office, John Courson asked the Department of Transportation to remove the signs bearing his name from a state road. But another former state senator, Robert Ford, who pleaded guilty to corruption in 2015, says he earned the right to have a Charleston road named after him and would not give up the honor. Unseemly exits from the South Carolina General Assembly can create a host of awkward circumstances. Among them: what to do with the state roads or buildings named after politicians who have admitted to corruption?

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October 19, 2018 •

News You Can Use – October 19, 2018

      National: First Came a Flood of Ballot Measures from Voters. Then Politicians Pushed Back. WRAL – Timothy Mitchell (New York Times) | Published: 10/15/2018 Over the past two years, governors and state Legislatures around the nation have used […]

 

 

 

National:

First Came a Flood of Ballot Measures from Voters. Then Politicians Pushed Back.
WRAL – Timothy Mitchell (New York Times) | Published: 10/15/2018

Over the past two years, governors and state Legislatures around the nation have used an array of tools to overturn, delay, diminish, or pre-emptively declare unconstitutional a variety of initiatives approved by the same voters who put them in office. Those moves follow a rise in efforts by residents to enact their own legislation, in a growing battle over who will make laws – legislators or voters. In 2016, 71 initiatives were brought forward by voters; 46 were approved, and Legislatures changed or sought to alter nearly one-quarter of those. In decades past, no one tracked the number of ballot initiatives that were overturned by politicians, but experts say they have noted a significant increase lately.

Federal:

Dark-Money Groups Were Ordered to Reveal Their Donors. They Didn’t.
Politico – Maggie Severns | Published: 10/16/2018

A disclosure deadline passed with few political nonprofits unveiling any donors, even after a court threw out a regulation that let the groups keep their funding sources private, and after the FEC told the organizations to reveal anyone who gave money after the ruling at the end of September. The Campaign Legal Center tracked 18 political nonprofits that spent money on the midterm elections between the court ruling and the end of September and could thus have donations to list. It found 14 of those groups disclosed no information with the FEC. “Many groups are likely anticipating that the FEC isn’t going to second-guess their assertion that they received no reportable contributions,” said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Alaska Law Says Lobbyists Can’t Fundraise for Candidates. But the Invitations Keep Coming
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Hertz | Published: 10/11/2018

In the past year, lobbyists Ashley Reed and Jerry Mackie have emailed clients and friends invitations to political fundraisers for candidates including Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. That is in spite of a state law that bars lobbyists from helping with legislative and gubernatorial candidates’ fundraising efforts. Penalties for violations include a fine capped at $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Both lobbyists said they received permission to send the invitations from the Alaska Public Officers Commission. But the commission’s director, Heather Hebdon, said one of her employees had only issued non-binding, informal advice that would not protect lobbyists against a complaint.

California: An L.A. Councilman Held an $800-Per-Person Fundraiser. The Next Day, He Announced He Was Stepping Down
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 10/15/2018

When Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander announced he would soon step down to join a sports and entertainment firm, the news surprised many in City Hall. His decision was especially surprising to some who had shown up to a fundraiser advertised at $800 per person that Englander staged the night before. Englander used the event to raise money for his officeholder account, a fund that city politicians use to pay for food, travel, office supplies, or other expenses tied to their official duties. Englander’s handling of the episode was considered brazen even among some City Hall veterans familiar with political fundraising.

Florida: Wealthy Candidate Set Up a Blind Trust That Wasn’t Blind
WRAL – Kevin Sack and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) | Published: 10/17/2018

To shield himself from future conflict-of-interest charges, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is now running to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, created a $73.8 million investment account that he called a blind trust. But an examination of Scott’s finances shows his trust has been blind in name only. There have been numerous ways for him to have knowledge about his holdings. Among other things, he transferred many assets to his wife and neither “blinded” nor disclosed them. And their investments have included corporations, partnerships, and funds that stood to benefit from his administration’s actions. Scott’s case demonstrates the political complexities of campaigning while wealthy, a hallmark of the age of the first billionaire president.

Georgia: Showdown in Georgia Governor’s Race Reflects a Larger Fight Over Voting Rights
WRAL – Astead Herndon and Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 10/15/2018

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor, is in charge of elections and voter registration in Georgia. His Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Abrams, and voting rights advocacy groups charge Kemp is systematically using his office to suppress votes and tilt the election, and his policies disproportionately affect black and minority voters. The uproar over voting seems almost an inevitable development in the race, which pits two candidates on opposite sides of the nation’s voting wars who have battled with one another over access to the polls for years.

Maryland: Baltimore City Council Tightens Restrictions on Lobbyists, Require Forms Go Online
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 10/15/2018

The Baltimore City Council passed legislation that would tighten restrictions on lobbyists and require the ethics board to post lobbying disclosure forms online. Under the bill, lobbyists approaching city government would have officials to “affirmatively identify” their clients; disclosure reports would be filed twice a year, rather than annually; and there would be a possible three-year ban for any lobbyist who violates the law.

Michigan: ‘Lobbyists and Lansing Are Almost Synonymous’: How the city is shaped by advocacy sector
Lansing State Journal – Carol Thompson | Published: 10/18/2018

The advocacy industry – including the communications agencies and lobbyists they employ – is a unique one in Lansing, helping to shape the economy and culture of the city that serves as the state capital. It is also a growing sector of the state’s economy. The number of lobbyists has steadily increased since the 1990s. In 1998 there were 2,202 lobbyists and lobbyist agencies registered in Michigan; in 2017, there were 2,954. “We are kind of like motor oil,” said Taylor Benavente of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. “We’re behind the scenes, keeping the engine running.”

New Mexico: Long Road Brings NM Ethics Commission Proposal to Ballot
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 10/13/2018

After more than a decade of debate and disagreement, New Mexico lawmakers finally approved the framework of an independent ethics commission during the 2017 legislative session. Now, it will be up to voters to decide in November whether to put the commission in the state constitution. Even if voters approve the measure in November, and there is no organized opposition against it, there will still be key structural decisions to be made. For instance, the proposed constitutional amendment does not stipulate exactly when complaints would be made public and does not provide for a funding mechanism to pay for the commission’s operations.

New York: New York Attorney General Expands Inquiry into Net Neutrality Comments
WRAL – Nicholas Confessore (New York Times) | Published: 10/16/2018

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors, and advocacy organizations as part of the state’s investigation into widespread fake public comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over net neutrality. The FCC received a record 22 million comments ahead of its decision to repeal the rules requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Millions of comments were provided using temporary or duplicate email addresses, while others recycled identical phrases. Seven popular comments, repeated verbatim, accounted for millions more.

North Dakota: Ethics Policy Finalized for North Dakota Governor’s Office
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 10/17/2018

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum finalized an ethics policy, months after the he reimbursed about $40,000 to Xcel Energy for events related to a Super Bowl invitation to Minneapolis.  The policy applies to the governor, lieutenant governor, and all employees of the governor’s office. Its language addresses conflicts-of-interest, gifts, expenses, and political activities, among other items.

South Carolina: Will SC Lawmakers Close Loopholes Exposed by State House Corruption Probe?
The State – Maayan Schecter | Published: 10/11/2018

South Carolina legislators and Gov. Henry McMaster said they want to see the state toughen its ethics laws in the wake of a grand jury report into corruption at the statehouse. Grand jurors called for a number of reforms in the report, including eliminating “dark money” and defining the difference between lobbyists and consultants. The corruption probe report details how political consultant Richard Quinn used his consulting business and legislative network, which included his son, disgraced Rep. Rick Quinn to defeat or pass legislation on behalf of his corporate and institutional clients, in what special prosecutor David Pascoe described as “pay-for-influence schemes.”

South Dakota: Free Speech Group Can Publish Ballot Information Ahead of Election, Federal Judge Rules
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Danielle Ferguson | Published: 10/17/2018

A free speech group suing South Dakota over its campaign finance laws can distribute educational materials about two upcoming ballot issues ahead of the November election, a federal judge ruled. The Institute for Free Speech will be able to distribute an analysis on two ballot issues without fear of the state seeking prosecution for violating a law regulating independent communication expenditure in political campaigns. The institute has asked a federal judge to declare a South Dakota campaign finance law unconstitutional, saying the law regulating independent communication expenditures is vague and a violation of First Amendment rights. The court did not declare the law unconstitutional but granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from prosecuting the group for posting the analysis.

Virginia: In Virginia House Race, Anonymous Attack Ads Pop Up on Facebook
WRAL – Kevin Roose (New York Times) | Published: 10/17/2018

A competitive race in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District has a new element: anonymous attack ads on Facebook. The ads were purchased by a critic of Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock. They attack Wexton with language and imagery not typically found in even the roughest campaigns. Since 2016, when Facebook ads were used to spread disinformation and Russian propaganda ahead of the presidential election, the social network has clamped down on political advertisers. But the owner of “Wacky Wexton Not” was able to remain anonymous by taking advantage of a loophole in Facebook’s policy.

West Virginia: W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Loughry Guilty on 11 Counts, Not Guilty on 10 Counts; Jury Hangs on 1 Count
West Virginia MetroNews – Brian McElhinny | Published: 10/12/2018

A jury convicted suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry on 11 of the 22 charges he faced at his trial. The House impeached him and three other justices over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence, and neglect of duty. Loughry still faces an impeachment trial. Jurors convicted Loughry on seven wire fraud counts, which related to his use of state vehicles and credit cards for travel during weekends and holidays. One of the two convictions for making false statements showed he lied to investigators about using the vehicles and credit cards for personal business. The jury found Loughry attempted to make Kim Ellis, director of administrative services for the court, misremember conversations they had about the cost of renovations to his Supreme Court office.

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October 12, 2018 •

News You Can Use – October 12, 2018

      National: Out-of-State Donors Pour Cash into Democrats’ State Races Center for Public Integrity – Rui Kaneya and Joe Yerardi | Published: 10/10/2018 Nationwide, many Democrats running for state-level offices from governor to state representative are also collecting a significant amount […]

 

 

 

National:

Out-of-State Donors Pour Cash into Democrats’ State Races
Center for Public Integrity – Rui Kaneya and Joe Yerardi | Published: 10/10/2018

Nationwide, many Democrats running for state-level offices from governor to state representative are also collecting a significant amount of money from across state lines. Though Democrats still trail Republicans in the overall fundraising tally, they have so far raised at least $101 million from out of state, about $29 million more than their GOP counterparts have taken in. The influx of out-of-state contributions comes from a mix of companies with local interests, networks of contacts scattered across the country, and newly emboldened national groups that are mobilizing to influence state-level elections, mindful that the outcomes will have an impact on politics at the state and national levels lasting well into the next decade.

Federal:

FEC Guidance to Limit Impact of Dark Money Court Ruling
Associated Press – Brian Slodysko | Published: 10/5/2018

The FEC issued new guidance in response to a U.S. District Court ruling that found the agency improperly allowed “social welfare” nonprofits to skirt disclosure requirements for some donors. While the guidance answers some questions, it raises others. “A lot of people were very excited when [the case] first came out, but when you get into the weeds, one has to acknowledge that the opinion is not as broad some people had hoped,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub.

Saluting the Trump Administration, Not So Nicely
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 10/9/2018

At the White House, the nearby Trump International Hotel, and wherever the presidential motorcade goes, Washingtonians are greeting Donald Trump’s presidency with an extended middle finger. As episodes like the separation of migrant families and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court continue to inflame passions in Washington, D.C., these one-fingered salutes have become a pervasive marker of an administration under siege in its own city. Tourists posing for photographs, passengers in the cars that drive by the White House, and pedestrians caught unaware by motorcades have all made increasing use of the vulgar gesture since Trump came to town. Some do it subtly; others make a show of it.

Wall Street Is Booming Under Trump. But Many of Its Donors Are Embracing Democrats.
WRAL – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 10/7/2018

The stock market is booming, unemployment is hitting record lows, and Republicans pushed through $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. But despite all that, for the first time in a decade, the broader financial community is on pace to give more money to Democratic congressional candidates and incumbents than their GOP counterparts. Some of the same grassroots energy coursing through the Democratic Party, House candidates from Kentucky to Montana to New York are reporting record sums of small donations, has spilled into the corporate boardrooms of American finance, even amid increasingly hostile rhetoric from Democrats in Washington and on the campaign trail toward Wall Street.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Are Political Swamps in California and Washington Mostly Drained? This Study Says They Are.
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 10/9/2018

California ranks second in the nation for anti-corruption laws, according to a new report from the Coalition for Integrity. California share second-place Rhode Island; both states fell behind Washington state, which claimed the best score in the 2018 States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index. The index looks at eight metrics when assigning a score to a state, including whether there is an ethics agency with subpoena and sanction power, and whether elected and appointed executive branch officials are prohibited from accepting expensive gifts from lobbyists. At the other end of the spectrum, the S.W.A.M.P. Index rated North Dakota as worst in the nation for ethics and transparency laws.

Colorado: Wall Street Pumping Cash Through Loophole in Anti-Corruption Rule
Capital & Main – David Sirota and Chase Woodruff | Published: 10/4/2018

If Wall Street executive look to land a lucrative contract to manage Colorado retirees’ pension money, a federal “pay-to-play” rule is designed to deter them from trying to use campaign donations to influence state officials who oversee those investment decisions. Despite that regulation, however, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign is being boosted by a political group partially sponsored by financial firms that receive investments from the pension fund Stapleton helps run. If Stapleton is elected governor, he will leave the pension fund’s board but will appoint three members of the board, potentially giving him even more influence over which financial firms get pension investments.

Indiana: Former Intern Says Brian Bosma Tried to Intimidate Her Over Alleged Sexual Encounter
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Kaitlin Lange, and Ryan Martin | Published: 10/10/2018

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma investigated groping allegations against the state attorney general and is crafting a first-ever sexual harassment policy for legislators. He is also the same man who aggressively investigated the credibility of a former statehouse intern who said she had a sexual encounter with him decades ago. Family members of the woman claim Bosma’s attorney threatened to reveal the unfavorable information about her if her account became public and to expose her name even if news organizations withheld it. The former intern, Kandy Green, did not accuse Bosma of a crime. Bosma denies the encounter took place.

Kentucky: Amy McGrath Is Avoiding Attack Ads. Can a Congressional Candidate Win Without Them?
WRAL – Michael Tackett (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2018

The race for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District between U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, has featured one of the highest concentrations of political ads in the country, almost 7,000 airings, in one of the most fiercely fought races. The contest also has one of the most lopsided ratios of negative-to-positive ads, with Barr and aligned Republican groups spending overwhelmingly on spots attacking his opponent. McGrath, so far, has not run attack ads, an approach that makes this contest a laboratory to test the proposition that while voters find negative ads distasteful, candidates use them because they work.

Missouri: Missouri Lobbying Rules Fought in Federal Court
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 10/8/2018

The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit claiming an executive order that bans all gifts, including written materials, to certain government officials in Missouri violates its constitutional rights. At issue is Missouri Executive Order 17-02 which prohibits “anything of value” to be given to a member of the state’s executive branch by a lobbyist. The Institute for Justice claims that by prohibiting the distribution of two of its publications, “Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit” and “License to Work 2,” to government employees, the executive order violates its First Amendment right to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

New Mexico: New Mexico Legislators Eat, Lobbyists Treat, but Public Left Guessing Who
Santa Fe New Mexican – Andrew Oxford | Published: 10/8/2018

Because of a loophole in New Mexico law, lobbyists for the most part do not have to disclose which officials they have been attempting to influence. Although the latest round of filings by lobbyists points to tens of thousands of dollars spent on entertaining policymakers, the representatives of companies and special interests remain largely free to conceal the issues they are advocating for and the policymakers they are trying to sway. The Legislature has shown little appetite for requiring more disclosure from lobbyists.

Ohio: Workers Allege Campaign Donations Were Expected, Rewarded by Summit Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh
WKYC – Phil Trexler and Tom Meyer | Published: 10/10/2018

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh is accused of ignoring acts of bullying, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination in her office, while allowing political campaigning to take place by favored workers, sometimes on county time, and requiring campaign donations of her workers and denying pay hikes to those who did not. Walsh’s campaign finance reports reflect the cash flow, showing her employees contributed thousands of dollars, or about half of her entire campaign funds, in the past six filing periods. Five employees have filed complaints alleging mistreatment.

Oklahoma: Attorneys Help Bankroll Campaigns of Judges Who Hear Their Cases
Oklahoma Watch – Taylor Brown | Published: 10/8/2018

Judges in Oklahoma rarely recuse themselves voluntarily or on request because they received money from attorneys arguing before them. That is despite the fact that attorneys represent the largest number of donors to district judges’ campaigns. Court filings show many of those attorneys frequently have appeared before the candidates to whom they gave money; some donated to judges while the judge was still presiding over their case. No evidence has emerged that donations from lawyers gained them or their firms more favorable rulings or treatment from judges. But campaign finance reform advocates, along with some Oklahoma judicial candidates, say the state’s system of electing district judges poses a risk to the integrity of the system.

South Carolina: SC Attorney General Tried to Impede Statehouse Corruption Probe, Grand Jury Says
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith and Thad Moore | Published: 10/9/2018

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s inaction impeded a probe into statehouse corruption, according to a grand jury report. Wilson’s conduct after former House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty and named two other lawmakers cost investigators 13 months and meant the statute of limitations on potential federal crimes like money laundering ran out, the grand jurors said. The report notes Wilson’s close relationship with political consultant Richard Quinn. The corruption inquiry focused mainly on Quinn’s consulting business, his clients, and whether he acted like a lobbyist without registering. The report gives a behind the curtain look at the blurry line between political consultants, lobbyists, and powerful businesses in the state.

Tennessee: Taylor Swift’s Stunning Statement: Famously apolitical star slams Tennessee Republican, endorses Democrats
Washington Post – Emily Yahr | Published: 10/7/2018

Taylor Swift, the pop music star who has been notably apolitical in turbulent political times, endorsed two Democratic candidates running for election in Tennessee. In a post on Instagram, Swift said she planned to vote for Phil Bredesen, who is competing in a close U.S. Senate race against a Republican candidate backed by President Trump, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, an incumbent who represents the Nashville area. Swift’s political views had previously been left up to interpretation, and at times her silence was viewed as support for Trump as well as the alt-right movement.

West Virginia: As 1 Supreme Court Justice Survives Impeachment in West Virginia, Others Face Trial
Governing – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette) | Published: 10/3/2018

One West Virginia Supreme Court justice has survived an impeachment scare. Beth Walker will remain in office after state senators rejected an impeachment article against her after a two-day trial. Senators later adopted a resolution by voice vote to issue a public reprimand of Walker. She was accused of abusing her authority. The impeachment charge stated Walker and other justices failed to control office expenses and maintain policies over matters such as working lunches and the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.

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October 5, 2018 •

News You Can Use – October 5, 2018

      National: Missing in the G.O.P.: Black and Hispanic Nominees for Governor New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/3/2018 In the first midterm elections under Donald Trump, whose campaign and presidency included strong appeals to white voters, Republicans have […]

 

 

 

National:

Missing in the G.O.P.: Black and Hispanic Nominees for Governor
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/3/2018

In the first midterm elections under Donald Trump, whose campaign and presidency included strong appeals to white voters, Republicans have no black or Hispanic nominees for governor in 2018, and few from other racial minorities, in the 36 states holding elections for the position. The overwhelming majority are white men. Democrats this year have nominated black, Hispanic, and Native American candidates for governor in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, and elsewhere. The Republican falloff is striking after past election seasons when party leaders attempted to identify and then rally behind minority candidates for governor in major states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Federal:

Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches from His Father
MSN – David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner (New York Times) | Published: 10/2/2018

Donald Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has insisted his father provided almost no financial help. But an investigation reveals Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day. Much of this money came to Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents. Records indicate Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions of dollars more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: ‘Beach House Sheriff’ Used Pistol Permit Fees to Pay for TV Commercials During Campaign
AL.com – Connor Sheets | Published: 10/3/2018

Between October 31, 2017, and July, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin paid Venture Marketing Group more than $29,000 for work related to television ads. Venture created multiple commercials that only aired during the eight months prior to the June primary election. Even though the ads feature Entrekin speaking about the sheriff’s office and promoting programs he oversees as sheriff, his campaign committee did not pay Venture for the work. Entrekin instead paid the company out of an official sheriff’s office account he alone controls called the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Fund. Nearly half of the money in the fund is generated by selling pistol permits.

Arizona: This Lawmaker Stands to Earn at Least $11M on His Own Charter Schools. His Votes Helped Lay the Groundwork.
Arizona Republic – Craig Harris | Published: 10/2/2018

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Eddie Farnsworth amended the state budget to exempt charter schools from procurement and conflict-of-interest laws, and from a requirement to disclose their entire annual spending plans on school websites. Farnsworth was not just a lawmaker interested in the details of the bill. He also runs a four-campus charter chain that because of the amendment would remain free of state oversight of its spending. Farnsworth’s involvement in the last-minute maneuver highlights how his roles as a state lawmaker and charter-school operator have for years mingled at the Capitol, almost always to the benefit of Farnsworth and the state’s other charter school operators.

California: Gov. Brown Signs Bill Requiring Lobbyists to Receive Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
San Francisco Chronicle – Bay City News Service | Published: 10/1/2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires lobbyists to receive sexual harassment prevention training.  Assembly Bill 2055 requires lobbyists’ ethics courses to include information on Assembly and Senate policies against harassment, including sexual harassment, in connection with lobbying activities. “We need to make sure that everyone who does business in the Capitol understands what we mean by our zero-tolerance policy. Mandated training is an effective method to get that message across,” Assemblyperson Marc Levine said.

California: New State Law Requires More Transparency from Social Media Political Ads
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho | Published: 10/3/2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a social media disclosure bill into law. A separate bill had bolstered the requirements for disclosing the names of the top three funders of ballot measures and independent expenditures on television, radio, and print ads. Assembly Bill 2188 now extends those same requirements to online platforms. Social media platforms that sell ads directly to advertisers will be required to keep a database of any political ad disseminated on the platform by a committee that purchased $500 or more in ads within a year.

Florida:Lobbyists Paid to Pressure County Officials Skip Filing Required Disclosures, Audit Says
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 9/29/2018

An audit found nearly 60 percent of registered lobbyists in Lee County, Florida have missed the required filing of annual or quarterly statements on their activities. The county ordinance covers contact with county commissioners and employees at the director level and above to report contacts with anyone who is paid to “influence the passage, defeat, modification or repeal,” of any matter requiring a commission vote. It also includes non-secretarial employees in the purchasing division and contracts office. Companies that employee lobbyists are required to file an annual registration statement and quarterly statements about lobbying activities.

Kentucky: Ethics Bill Seeks to Close Reporting Loophole on Groups Paying for Legislators’ Travel
Insider Louisville – Joe Sonka | Published: 9/27/2018

An ethics bill pre-filed in Kentucky could close a reporting loophole that allowed groups, including partisan advocacy organizations, to prepay for the out-of-state travel and lodging expenses of state legislators. A recent investigation estimated that up to $100,000 was spent by outside groups on lawmakers’ approved travel outside of the state last year; that spending did not have to be reported to any state agency. While public funds spent on such travel and reimbursements from private groups must be reported, there is no requirement for legislators to disclose how much those organizations spend to send them to conferences and events, so long as such groups pay for the airfare, lodging, and meals in advance.

Mississippi: In Mississippi Senate Race, an African American Democrat Faces a Republican Using a Confederate Symbol
Washington Post – Cleve Wootson Jr. | Published: 9/30/2018

U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy has tried to remind Mississippians how he has served them in the past, with three terms in the U.S. House who spent time as President Clinton’s agriculture secretary. But even his most ardent supporters worry that when many voters go to the polls in November, what Espy has done will matter much less than what he is: a black man running for one of the highest elected offices in a state with a Confederate emblem on its flag. One of his opponents is hearkening to another version of the past: Republican Chris McDaniel, a conservative fond of provocative statements whose yard signs feature the flag of the Confederate States of America.

New Jersey: Murphy Still Defends Hiring Ex-Official Jailed for Corruption (Even Though He Was Forced to Resign)
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/2/2018

Gov. Phil Murphy  continued to defend his administration’s decision to hire a former Passaic City Council member who served prison time for accepting bribes, even after the hiring was deemed unlawful and Marcellus Jackson was forced to resign. Murphy hired Jackson in July for a $70,000-a-year position as a special assistant in the state Department of Education’s Office of Civic and Social Engagement. Murphy said his administration conducted a legal review that cleared Jackson’s hiring. But Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said state law should have prevented the hire because former public officials convicted of corruption are disqualified from ever holding a public job again in New Jersey.

Pennsylvania: Alex Trebek Moderated a Gubernatorial Debate in Pennsylvania. It Didn’t Go Well.
Chicago Tribune – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2018

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, met recently in their only debate prior to the November election with “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek serving as moderator. While moderators typically ask questions and let the candidates talk, Trebek spoke at length – at times sharing his own policy opinions – during the 45-minute debate, frustrating viewers. At one point, Trebek joked that the only thing with a lower approval rating than the Pennsylvania Legislature was the Catholic Church. Polite laughter from the audience turned to boos. On Twitter, the consensus was that Trebek should stick to his day job.

Tennessee: In Tennessee Senate Race, Financial Missteps Linger in the Background
New York Times – Danny Hakim | Published: 10/3/2018

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican candidate for an open Senate seat in Tennessee, has faced questions about her spending practices. In her years as a member of Congress, she has paid out more than $370,000 from her campaign funds to her daughter and son-in-law or firms they control. Her campaigns have received 54 requests for additional information from the FEC since 2002, and in a 2008 audit, the campaign admitted receiving nearly $400,000 in unreported contributions and expenditures. Her opponent, Phil Bredesen, has had his own financial misstep. A longtime booster of the solar industry as governor, he started a solar company with two of his aides during his last year in office. After he left office, the business went on to reap some of the tax breaks the Bredesen administration had put in place.

Vermont: Governor’s Business Ties Violate State Ethics Code, Commission Finds
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 10/2/2018

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott violated the ethics code by maintaining an ongoing financial relationship with a company doing business with the state, according to the Vermont State Ethics Commission. Under political pressure, Scott sold his interest in Dubois Construction back to the company after he took office in 2017. Scott received no cash at the time of the transaction and is still owed $2.5 million by the company. The commission said the conflict arose when Dubois won a two-year contract for $250,000 in 2017, which the panel said “provides significant income to the company, and directly assists the company in meeting its financial obligation to the public official.”

Washington: Washington Court Upholds Fine Against Anti-GMO Group
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 10/3/2018

An appeals court affirmed that Food Democracy Now must pay a $319,281 fine for not reporting the names of more than 7,000 donors who supported a food labeling initiative in 2013. The court rejected the group’s argument that it should not have been convicted because it did not intentionally hide the donations. Judge Rich Melnick said the law does not make an exception for unintentionally concealing the source of campaign contributions. The fine stemmed from Initiative 522, which would have required food and beverage makers to label products with genetically modified ingredients.

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September 28, 2018 •

News You Can Use – September 28, 2018

      National: For Women on the 2018 Campaign Trail, ‘Sexism’ Is No Longer a Forbidden Word Connecticut Post – Avi Selk (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2018 Several women in high-profile national races this year have broken from decades-old conventional wisdom that […]

 

 

 

National:

For Women on the 2018 Campaign Trail, ‘Sexism’ Is No Longer a Forbidden Word
Connecticut Post – Avi Selk (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2018

Several women in high-profile national races this year have broken from decades-old conventional wisdom that cautioned female candidates against complaining of sexism, lest they be painted as weak or angry or to being accused of playing what Donald Trump called “the woman card” during his presidential campaign. Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, conducted a survey in 2012 that found fears of a backlash against speaking up were unfounded. But not until this cycle – after Trump’s win and the subsequent #MeToo movement to out powerful men accused of sexual assault – has she seen female candidates do so in numbers.

Federal:

‘Can You Do This?’: Russia probe conflicts rampant among Rosenstein replacements
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/27/2018

President Trump may think he is getting rid of a problem if he pushes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein out of the Justice Department. But cleaning house will hardly end the president’s headaches from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Several administration appointees in line for Rosenstein’s role overseeing Mueller’s probe come with their own baggage, from direct involvement in the investigation to recent work at law firms with clients mired in the inquiry.

Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig Under Scrutiny by Prosecutors in Offshoot of Mueller Probe
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 9/23/2018

Federal prosecutors have stepped up their investigation of prominent Washington, D.C. attorney Gregory Craig for work he conducted at his former law firm on behalf of the Ukrainian government in 2012, an effort coordinated by Paul Manafort. Craig’s case, and that of two Washington lobbyists who worked with Manafort on Ukrainian matters, were referred to federal prosecutors in New York, who appear to be focused on whether the three failed to register as foreign agents while working with Manafort’s Ukrainian clients. The investigation of Craig, along with lobbyists Vin Weber and Tony Podesta, has shaken K Street’s lobbying and legal community, which until recently had faced little scrutiny of its representation of foreign clients.

Political Nonprofits Seek Answers After Court Decision Targeting ‘Dark Money’
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 9/21/2018

Nonprofit advocacy groups historically have not been required to publicly disclose their donors, as political committees must. But a federal judge threw out a rule that allowed the groups to withhold donors’ identities, broadening the type of donors who would now be subject to disclosure. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. The decision will no doubt shed more light on the contributors to politically active nonprofits, although exactly how much is uncertain as groups and federal officials take stock of the decision. In the absence of new regulation, nonprofit groups are left in a gray area, which could lead to new methods of avoiding disclosure and maintaining donor privacy.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Reform Panel to Vote on Changes to Alabama Ethics Law
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 9/20/2018

The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission will vote on proposals to amend the state ethics law at its next meeting in October, which will be sent to lawmakers. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals recommended the Legislature clarify the definition of a lobbying “principal” in its ruling upholding ethics convictions against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. The court said it believed the law was applied correctly in Hubbard’s case but could envision other cases where the definition was problematic. The definition is important because the law places restrictions on principals like it does on lobbyists, such as prohibitions on giving money or gifts to public officials.

Florida: NRA Sway: For Florida officials, it’s always Hammer time
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 9/21/2018

Those who work in the Florida agency that oversees gun permits never know when National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer will command their attention, or what about. Nights, weekends, and even holidays, she sends messages to senior department officials with complaints and demands. They often respond within minutes. Hammer’s singular power over Florida lawmakers, especially Republicans, is the stuff of Tallahassee legend. Yet according to a review of hundreds of Hammer’s emails with the state Department of Agriculture, her sphere of influence stretches far beyond gun legislation. Emails from 2014 to 2017 show the lobbyist involves herself in a wide array of day-to-day tasks of an agency that was accused five years ago in a lawsuit of being run by the NRA.

Illinois: Cook County OK to Restrict Campaign Cash from Lawyers, Others Seeking ‘Official Action,’ Appeals Court Says
Cook County Report – Jason Bilyk | Published: 9/25/2018

A state appellate court ruled Cook County has the power to make ethics rules that apply to county officers, finding the board of commissioners did not overstep in prohibiting real estate lawyers and others from contributing to the campaigns of county officials when they are seeking “official action” from the county.  While the county has for decades used its ethics ordinance to place limits on who can give money to county officials, and how much they can donate to their campaigns, the ordinance was amended in 2016 to extend restrictions which had been applied previously to lobbyists and contractors, now to reach “persons seeking official action from the county.”

Missouri: Clean Missouri Will Be on November Ballot After High Court Refuses to Hear Challenge
Kansas City Star – Alison Kite | Published: 9/24/2018

The Missouri Supreme Court will not reconsider a ruling allowing voters to decide on a ballot measure that would reform the state’s ethics laws. The decision reaffirms a state appeals court ruling letting the so-called Clean Missouri initiative appear on the November ballot as Constitutional Amendment 1. Opponents had claimed the initiative violates the state constitution by addressing too many topics. The measure would lower campaign contribution limits, eliminate nearly all lobbyist gifts, require a waiting period before lawmakers and their staffers can become lobbyists, and open legislative records. It also would turn the task of drawing legislative district maps over to a nonpartisan expert and reviewed by a citizen commission.

New York: Crystal Run Did Raise a Red Flag
WRAL – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/25/2018

In a meeting with The Albany Times Union editorial board, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphatically stated that Crystal Run Healthcare, had never warned his campaign of potential problems with its $400,000 in donations. Moreover, the governor said if the company had done so, Crystal Run would have effectively “admitted to a crime.” But in response to the newspaper’s questions about Cuomo’s statement, his campaign acknowledged what the governor said that day was not true: Crystal Run had indeed approached the campaign with concerns about its contributions. The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan have been investigating whether 10 separate $25,000 checks from Crystal Run officials to Cuomo in October 2013 were reimbursed by the company through bonuses. If that occurred, it could violate state election law.

New York: Percoco Sentenced to Six Years for Corruption
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 9/20/2018

A judge sentenced Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to six years in federal prison for accepting more than $320,000 in bribes from businesspeople looking to buy influence with state. The bulk of the bribes came in the form of a “low-show” job given to Percoco’s wife by an energy company that wanted to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. While prosecutors did not accuse Cuomo of any wrongdoing, the trial cast a shadow over his administration, especially in light of early campaign promises when he was first elected to clean up Albany.

North Carolina: NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s Legal Contract with Start-Up Raises Questions
Raleigh News and Observer – Dan Kane | Published: 9/25/2018

A short time into Anne Whitaker’s tenure as chief executive officer of KNOW Bio, a pharmaceutical start-up, she learned of a legal services contract given to an attorney she had never heard of for services she felt were of questionable value for a company that was barely a year old. The lawyer was North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. When she learned the details of his contract and his work, which struck her as federal lobbying, Whitaker said she terminated it with the support of company board members. Whitaker said KNOW Bio’s co-founder, Neal Hunter, had given Moore the contract. What Whitaker said she did not know is that Moore, as the powerful Rules Committee chairperson, had earlier helped Hunter with a controversial development that was in danger of failing.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Hit with Federal Lawsuit Over Gift Rules
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 9/26/2018

The Institute for Justice is asking a federal judge to find Oklahoma’s gift-giving restrictions do not apply to informational materials. Over the last few years, the state Ethics Commission has imposed stricter rules on what lobbyists and the organizations they represent can give to lawmakers and other state officials. Under the current rules, the institute could give a book to a state government official in recognition of a special occasion like election to office if the book costs $100 or less. It also could give a state official a $10 book once a year. In light of those limitations, it is “effectively impossible” for the organization to distribute a copy of the book “Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit,” which is valued at $15, to educate lawmakers, the institute’s attorneys said.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Supreme Court Rejects Ethics Commission Request for More Money
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 9/25/2018

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the state Ethics Commission’s request for more funding. The commission chairperson has accused legislators of cutting the agency’s appropriation because stricter rules had been imposed on their conduct. The commission asked the justices to take action to get it enough money to perform at least its basic duties. It complained lawmakers have underfunded it for years in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. To avoid running out of money, the commission is now charging candidates, lobbyists, PACs, and others more to register.

Tennessee: Nashville Judge Rules Against State in Lawsuit Over ‘Blackout Period’ for PACs
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison | Published: 9/27/2018

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle struck down a Tennessee law that prohibits nonpartisan PACs from giving campaign contributions within 10 days of an election. Under the law, only committees controlled by a political party have been able to donate to candidates 10 days out from an election. “Elected officials and political parties cannot lawfully censor disfavored political speakers while reserving special treatment in the political process for themselves,” said Daniel Horwitz, an attorney for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws. Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said the state intends to appeal the decision.

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September 21, 2018 •

News You Can Use – September 21, 2018

      National: These State Lawmakers Are Running Unopposed, but Still Rake in Campaign Cash Center for Public Integrity – Sanya Mansoor, Liz Essley Whyte, and Joe Yerardi | Published: 9/19/2018 There are at least 26 legislative leaders in statehouses across America […]

 

 

 

National:

These State Lawmakers Are Running Unopposed, but Still Rake in Campaign Cash
Center for Public Integrity – Sanya Mansoor, Liz Essley Whyte, and Joe Yerardi | Published: 9/19/2018

There are at least 26 legislative leaders in statehouses across America who are collecting campaign donations despite running unopposed this year. The safe lawmakers represent an attractive prospect for lobbyists and power-seekers: the sure bet. Contributions to these influential politicians can buy face time and favor with those who set state legislative agendas, experts say. The money also compounds their power. Legislative leaders use their accounts to buy presents to thank supporters, for example, or give to fellow lawmakers’ campaigns to reward them for voting with their party.

Federal:

Foreign Lobbying Overhaul Loses Steam in Congress
Politico – Marianne Levine and Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/17/2018

Amid partisan clashes and pushback from foreign-owned companies, the push to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) appears to be going nowhere as multiple bills have stalled. Foreign companies with American subsidiaries feared the changes would force their lobbyists to register as foreign agents, which would require them to disclose every meeting and phone call they made on behalf of overseas clients rather than under the less-restrictive disclosure rules for domestic lobbyists. “There’s these very fierce efforts to maintain the status quo,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, one of the lawmakers pushing to overhaul FARA.

Manafort Plea Deal Casts New Scrutiny on Lobbyists He Recruited
WRAL – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 9/14/2018

Paul Manafort recruited the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs to aide a pro-Russian nonprofit in Ukraine, an arrangement intended to obscure the identity of the ultimate beneficiary of the lobbying, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Relying on the word of the Ukrainian group, the firms initially registered their representation under congressional lobbying disclosure rules. Now, that work, and the decision not to disclose it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has turned the Podesta Group and Mercury, along with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, into subjects of interest in a series of probes. The new evidence was included in updated charges filed against Manafort in connection with his guilty plea. The evidence Robert Mueller’s team unveiled could help prosecutors in New York build cases against the firms.

Political Nonprofits Must Now Name Many of Their Donors Under Federal Court Ruling after Supreme Court Declines to Intervene
Chicago Tribune – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 9/18/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from a conservative political group to temporarily block a lower court ruling which would force it to disclose its donors. The request for a stay had initially been entered by Chief Justice John Roberts after Crossroads GPS disputed an earlier ruling that invalidated an FEC regulation allowing donors to remain anonymous. In the order from the full court, the justices refused to further delay the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision to invalidate the regulation. The original decision required “dark-money” groups that spend at least $250 in independent expenditures to report every donor who gave at least $200 in the past year.

Senate Candidates to Start Electronically Filing Campaign Finance Reports, Pending President Approval
Center for Responsive Politics – Kaitlin Washburn | Published: 9/19/2018

Federal lawmakers passed a bill that would require U.S. Senate candidates to file their campaign finance disclosures directly to the FEC, rather than on paper with the secretary of the Senate. The provision is part of a larger appropriations bill that now awaits President Trump’s signature. House of Representatives and presidential candidates have been electronically filing their disclosure reports since 2001. The Center for Public Integrity found numerous mistakes produced by the Senate’s archaic system. The investigation found errors in more than 5,900 candidate disclosures and were all traced back to the conversion of paper filings to electronic data.

Ted Cruz’s Campaign Marked a Fund-Raising Letter an Official ‘Summons.’ It Wasn’t Against the Rules.
WRAL – Liam Stack (New York Times) | Published: 9/17/2018

The FEC said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign did not violate any regulations when it sent out a fundraising letter designed to look like a legal summons. “SUMMONS ENCLOSED –OPEN IMMEDIATELY,” is written across the front in capital letters. The envelope does state the letter is from a campaign and includes a return address for the Cruz campaign’s Houston post office box. FEC spokesperson Myles Martin said the relevant question was whether a mailing contains a disclaimer saying it came from a political campaign. Aside from that, Martin said, “the FEC’s regulations don’t speak to how candidates may choose to word particular solicitations to potential contributors.” Cruz is locked in an unexpectedly tight race against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

From the States and Municipalities:

Georgia: Court Declines to End Paperless Voting in Georgia Before Midterms
Politico – Eric Geller | Published: 9/18/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruled Georgia need not replace paperless voting machines before the midterm elections, dealing a blow to security activists even as the judge acknowledged the machines are not secure and continuing to use them may infringe on voters’ constitutional right to a free and fair election. Switching to paper at this late date, state and county officials argued, would throw the election into chaos and cause voter confusion. The case will now proceed and deal with the plaintiffs’ constitutional arguments, and Totenberg warned Secretary of State Brian Kemp that his concerns about a chaotic election s will “hold much less sway in the future.”

Illinois: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Illinois Campaign Finance Limits
State Journal-Register (Associated Press) | Published: 9/13/2018

A federal appeals court upheld Illinois’ campaign contribution limits. The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the caps set in a 2009 law do not violate First Amendment free-speech rights. Illinois Liberty PAC had argued limits on individuals’ contributions should not be lower than those for corporations or unions.

Missouri: In Latest Legal Twist, Ethics Reform Question Back on Missouri Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 9/18/2018

A state appeals court put an ethics reform package back on the November ballot. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled that Amendment 1 can stay on the ballot pending future court decisions. The referendum asks whether voters want to tighten campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts, institute a two-year waiting period for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists, start a new redistricting system in 2020, and require lawmakers to adhere to the Sunshine Law.

Nevada: Las Vegas Judge Nullifies Results of Republican Election
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Ramona Giwargis | Published: 9/18/2018

Jason Burke defeated Mack Miller by 122 votes in the June 12 primary for a seat in the Nevada Assembly, but Clark County District Judge Jim Crockett signed an order that nullified the election, saying Burke did not file campaign finance reports on time. State law states an election may be contested if the winner was not eligible for office, illegal votes were cast, or valid votes were not counted. The secretary of state’s office said the failure to file campaign finance reports is not an automatic disqualifier.

New York: Watchdog’s Bark Silent for Cuomo
WRAL – Chris Bragg (Albany Times Union) | Published: 9/18/2018

When a sworn complaint is filed with New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), the law requires the agency to send any subject of such an ethics complaint a letter outlining possible legal violations and giving them 15 days to respond. Sworn complaints have been submitted requesting that JCOPE launch investigations Joseph Percoco’s possible use of government resources while he was managing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 campaign, as well as the governor’s potential knowledge of those activities. But the Cuomo administration and campaign have not received a 15-day letter from JCOPE. David Grandeau, the state’s former top lobbying official, said that means there is “now no doubt that JCOPE is not following the law.”

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s Ban on Gambling Contributions Struck Down
PennLive.com – Marc Levy (Associated Press) | Published: 9/19/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on political contributions from people involved in the gaming industry, ruling the law aimed at curbing the influence of casino interests was too broad. But the judge did not close the door on lawmakers reviving a similar prohibition that is narrower in scope and tailored to the purpose of fighting corruption. The U.S. Supreme Court, Rambo wrote, has ruled that preventing corruption, or the appearance of corruption, is the only appropriate reason to justify restrictions on political donations. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the ban in 2009, which initially outlawed large campaign contributions from key parties in the gaming industry. Lawmakers responded by banning all donations.

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September 14, 2018 •

News You Can Use – September 14, 2018

      National: Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states Washington Post – Tim Craig | Published: 9/9/2018 Democrats are becoming concerned as moderate Republican candidates are proving to be resilient in unexpected places, even as much […]

 

 

 

National:

Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states
Washington Post – Tim Craig | Published: 9/9/2018

Democrats are becoming concerned as moderate Republican candidates are proving to be resilient in unexpected places, even as much of the GOP shifts to the right. With 36 gubernatorial races on the ballot nationwide, Democrats are still expected to make gains in statehouses this year. But recent polls suggest Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Phil Scot and of Vermont, all up for re-election this fall in states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, remain among the most popular governors in the country and are favored to win re-election. Their success in winning and governing as moderates is serving as a model for GOP candidates elsewhere, including in Rhode Island and Oregon, where officials in both parties say the governor’s race is competitive.

Viral Videos Are Replacing Pricey Political Ads. They’re Cheaper, and They Work.
MSN – Jeremy Peters and Sapna Maheshwari (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018

The wave of female, minority, and outsider candidates that is breaking cultural barriers and toppling incumbents in the Democratic Party is also sweeping aside a longstanding norm in campaigns: that the public image of politicians, especially women, should be upbeat and conventional. For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. Using documentary-style storytelling, candidates have found a successful alternative to the traditional model of raising huge sums of money that get spent on expensive television commercials.

Federal:

Activists Raised $1 Million to Defeat Susan Collins If She Votes for Kavanaugh. She Says It’s Bribery.
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 9/11/2018

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist Republican, is seen as a swing vote in Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She has said she would not vote to confirm a nominee who was hostile to Roe v. Wade. So, a group of liberal activists in Maine created an unusual crowdfunding campaign to influence Collins: they raised money in the form of pledges they said they would give to whoever decided to challenge her re-election in 2020. Donors’ credit cards will only be charged if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh. At least one ethics expert said it may violate federal bribery statutes, which prohibit giving or offering anything of value to government officials in exchange for any acts or votes.

Campaigns, Parties Can Accept Free Service From Microsoft, FEC Says
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 9/10/2018

The FEC ruled Microsoft may offer special cybersecurity assistance to candidates without violating rules against corporate contributions. One watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws. Federal election law prohibits companies from providing free services to lawmakers. But the FEC would make an exception in this case, it ruled, because Microsoft would be acting out of business interests and not trying to curry favor. The decision also noted Microsoft has promised to offer the services “on a non-partisan basis.” Opponents of the change said the exception was too broad.

In an Increasingly Diverse House, Aides Remain Remarkably White
WRAL – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018

U.S. House aides write federal policy, oversee the administration of government, and shape the public’s view of Congress. But the top staff members of the House are far less racially diverse than the country itself, or even the lawmakers who employ them. Approximately 14 percent of top staff members in the House are people of color. That compares with 38 percent of the country and 23 percent of the House. Of the 40 top Democratic and Republican aides who lead the staffs of committees, only six are nonwhite. “The House of Representatives cannot effectively create public policy that benefits all Americans if the people making policy decisions do not look like all of America,” said Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which released the study.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Banning Man Wins $220,000 from State Political Watchdog Panel
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Craig Schultz | Published: 9/7/2018

Frank Burgess was awarded more than $200,000 in legal fees after a court found the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) violated his Constitutional protections related to a fine levied against him as a member of a nonprofit hospital board. Burgess was fined $5,000 by the FPPC for trying to convince other members of the San Gorgonio Hospital board to continue doing business with his son’s moving and storage company. Burgess argued that as a nonprofit board, members did not fall under the Political Reform Act. A Superior Court judge overturned the fine, agreeing with Burgess’s contention that he had been denied due process because he had no forewarning he was considered a public official.

California: Koch-Backed Charity Must Reveal Donor List to California Officials, Appeals Panel Rules
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2018

A federal appeals court ruled the charity Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, which is linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The foundation had argued the state’s rules requiring filing of the donor list violate the First Amendment by discouraging individuals from giving and by exposing them to threats and harassment. The case could test the ability of state agencies to compel nonprofits to disclose the identities of their donors, particularly ones that are tied to “social welfare” nonprofits, commonly referred to as “dark money” groups. One such group is Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network. AFP Foundation, a sister organization, is a charity that focuses on education and research.

Colorado: Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission on Uncertain Course
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 9/10/2018

Critics say the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s (IEC) structure, staffing, and funding make it impossible for the public to have any confidence that ethics issues – whether it is investigations into potential violations, training for government employees, or guidance – are handled in a logical or even timely manner. The monthly commission meetings focus on complaints and advisory opinions. But most of the meetings are conducted in executive sessions behind closed doors. During those sessions, commissioners decide which complaints are frivolous and then will make public what they have decided. Between 2008 and 2017, the IEC received 196 complaints. All but 20 were dismissed as frivolous, out of the IEC’s jurisdiction, or withdrawn. Whether those complaints were truly frivolous will never be known.

Iowa: Iowa Governor Flew to Game on Vendor’s Plane
Associated Press – Ryan Foley | Published: 9/12/2018

Gov. Kim Reynolds received approval from Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Director Megan Tooker to fly with her family to Iowa State’s bowl game last year free of charge on the jet of a state vendor. Reynolds accepted the trip as a campaign donation from Sedgwick’s chief executive officer, who says he reimbursed his company for the plane’s use. The governor’s office said “bona fide campaign events” would take place during the half-day trip. Tooker said in December the governor could accept the flight, although Tooker now says she was unaware the airplane was owned by Sedgwick. Tooker also says she does not know what campaign activity Reynolds engaged in during the trip, which would be required for the flight to be considered an allowable campaign contribution instead of an illegal gift.

Kentucky: What’s Bevin Hiding? Worker Who Got $215K Raise Is His Old Army Buddy
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus and Morgan Watkins | Published: 9/12/2018

When Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wanted a new state chief information officer, he did not do a national search – he hired an old Army buddy and longtime business associate last October at a salary that now leads the nation for similar state. Some state lawmakers were stunned when it was reported Bevin gave Charles Grindle a $215,000 pay raise, an unusual 134 percent increase after less than a year on the job. Neither Bevin nor Grindle have responded to requests for information about their relationship and any role it might have played in Grindle’s hiring and rapid increase in pay. A former official of the Commonwealth Office of Technology said Grindle spoke openly about his long friendship with Bevin and that he had worked for Bevin in an unspecified capacity before going on the state payroll.

Maryland: Baltimore Ethics Board Rejects Mayor Pugh’s Request for Sweeping Exemption from Fundraising Rules
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 9/7/2018

The Baltimore Board of Ethics rejected Mayor Catherine Pugh’s request to be exempted from rules that bar city employees from raising money for charitable causes without prior approval. Pugh was seeking a waiver so she could solicit funds from private donors that would help pay for her administration’s social programs and other community initiatives. The board said it was unwilling to grant a blanket exception to Pugh, who could still seek waivers on a case-by-case basis. Pugh;’s office said she needed the new fundraising powers to bolster the city’s existing budget. Board member Stephan Fogleman said he was concerned the waiver the mayor sought would have made it difficult for the public to know what she was raising money for.

Michigan: Why This U-M Regent Just Returned Thousands in Campaign Donations
Detroit Free Press – Matthew Dolan and David Jesse | Published: 9/13/2018

Wealthy alumni who have sway over the University of Michigan’s $11billion endowment have given thousands in campaign donations to members of the university’s governing board. A review of state records shows two members of the university’s elected Board of Regents accepted in total nearly $30,000 in contributions from donors associated with funds receiving university investments. In addition, a family who helps guide the university’s investment strategy gave more than $29,000 to the board’s longest-serving member. To critics, some of the donations could pose a conflict-of-interest. Regent Andrea Fischer Newman pledged to return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from three wealthy businesspeople who help control millions of dollars in university investments.

Missouri: Court Affirms Major Blow to Missouri Amendment Restricting Campaign Donations
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 9/10/2018

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Missouri’s ban on donations from one PAC to another is unconstitutional. The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the ban on PAC-to-PAC giving violates committees’ right to free speech. The appeals court ruled the Missouri Ethics Commission failed to show PAC-to-PAC contributions would breed corruption because the groups are not controlled by a candidate and operate independently from any party running for political office. The decision permanently stops the commission from enforcing the ban.

Ohio: Ethics Panel Imposes Stricter Rules on Ohio Lawmaker Travel
WOSU – Jo Ingles | Published: 9/11/2018

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee said lawmakers and their employees cannot accept travel expenses from lobbyists unless those result from participation in a panel, seminar, or speaking engagement or were incurred at a meeting of a national organization of which any state agency is a dues paying member. When it comes to sharing rides with lobbyists for personal travel, starting immediately, lawmakers must reimburse the cost of their travel within a week.

Washington: Washington AG to Press for $18 Million Fine Against Foodmakers
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 9/6/2018

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office will seek to restore an $18 million fine against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which an appeals court overturned recently. The court upheld GMA’s conviction and left in place a $6 million judgment for shielding the names of food and beverage companies that contributed to a campaign against a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013. The court ruled, however, that a lower court judge erred by finding that GMA intentionally broke the law and tripling the penalty. Even at $6 million, the fine would be the largest campaign finance penalty in U.S. history.

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September 7, 2018 •

News You Can Use – September 7, 2018

      National: Cities Take Aim at the Spiraling Costs of Local Elections CityLab – Sarah Holder | Published: 9/4/2018 Several of the nation’s largest cities – including Portland, Denver, and Baltimore – are attempting to overhaul their campaign finance systems by […]

 

 

 

National:

Cities Take Aim at the Spiraling Costs of Local Elections
CityLab – Sarah Holder | Published: 9/4/2018

Several of the nation’s largest cities – including Portland, Denver, and Baltimore – are attempting to overhaul their campaign finance systems by reducing contribution limits or establishing public financing projects that make each donated dollar go further, or both. Candidates, especially those running for the first time against incumbents, are hopeful the measures will level the playing field. Jo Ann Hardesty, who is running for the Portland City Council this November, said the reforms would help her and others focus on running, not campaigning: “It will force me not to spend so much time on the phone trying to raise money, and it means that regular people can run and serve.”

Twitter Will Begin Labeling Political Ads About Issues Such as Immigration
Chicago Tribune – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2018

Twitter announced it would begin labeling political advertisements as part of a new effort to increase transparency on its platform. The company said it will move to identify electioneering ads, which the FEC defines as ads promoting a specific candidate or a party within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. Such labeling would include some kind of signifier, like a purple dot noting the tweet is prompted by a political account, according to a potential mockup the company included in a post announcing the changes.

Federal:

Company Using Foreign Workers Botches U.S. Senate Campaign Finance Records
Center for Public Integrity – Rosa Cima | Published: 9/5/2018

Unlike those running for the presidency and House, U.S. Senate candidates do not file campaign finance reports electronically. They file on paper, which must then be converted to electronic documents in a process that involves two government agencies, three private companies, and countless low-paid workers, many of them overseas, and some who may be hostile toward American interests. This document conversion process often spits out bogus, yet official public records that mislead the public and obscure who is funding Senate campaigns. An investigation found errors in more than 5,900 candidate disclosures representing over $70 million, all of them traceable to the U.S. government’s conversion of paper into electronic data.

Former Manafort Associate Reveals Illegal Foreign Payment to Trump’s Inauguration
Politico – Kyle Cheney and John Meyer | Published: 9/1/2018

W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian political party. He also admitted to lying to the U.S. Senate intelligence committee during its investigation into Russian election interference and of participating in a scheme to circumvent the ban on foreign donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee by lining up a straw purchaser to pay $50,000 for tickets to the inauguration. This is the first time the Justice Department has publicly charged a person for helping a foreigner secretly funnel money into a Trump political event. The case was referred by special counsel Robert Mueller to the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. Patten’s plea agreement requires him to cooperate with the special counsel’s probe.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas: Former Sen. Woods Sentenced to More Than 18 Years in Prison
talkbusiness.net – Jeff Della Rosa | Published: 9/5/2018

Former Arkansas Sen. Jon Woods was sentenced to more than 18 years in federal prison forhis involvement in a widespread kickback and bribery scheme. He also was ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution. Woods was convicted in schemes involving Ecclesia College and AmeriWorks, a nonprofit company. He received kickbacks on $350,000 in state General Improvement Fund grants he directed to Ecclesia and $275,000 in grants he sent to AmeriWorks. Prosecutors did not specify how much money Woods received in kickbacks because all but a $40,000 wire transfer was paid in cash.

California: As the Legislative Year Ends, the #MeToo Movement Shows Its Influence
Los Angeles Times – Melanie Mason | Published: 9/3/2018

The #MeToo campaign launched a discussion about a culture of fear and retaliation at the Capitol in Sacramento, which women said had discouraged them from reporting pervasive harassment and allowed it to go unpunished. When the Legislature reconvened in January, two members had already resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct and complaints had been lodged against three others. Lawmakers passed more than a dozen bills addressing workplace sexual harassment by the close of the two-year session. Experts said these measures could make California a national leader on the issue. The Legislature also spent months developing a new process for handling its own investigations of inappropriate behavior.

Illinois: State Farm Pays $250 Million, Ducks Trial Over Allegations It Tried to Rig Illinois Justice System
Chicago Tribune – Tim Bross, Margaret Cronin Fisk, and Jef Feeley (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/5/2018

State Farm reached a $250 million preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit claiming the insurance company funneled money to the campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004. In the 2005 case of Avery v. State Farm, Karmeier cast the deciding vote to reverse a $1 billion judgment against State Farm for its use of aftermarket car parts in repairs. The class-action lawsuit sought nearly $10 billion from State Farm. The plaintiffs alleged the company covertly supported Karmeier’s campaign to secure his win and reversal of the Avery decision. The suit claimed millions of dollars were funneled through donations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which then sent the money to a PAC and the Illinois Republican Party for use in Karmeier’s campaign.

Kentucky: Father of Alison Lundergan Grimes Indicted in Campaign Finance Conspiracy
McClatchy DC – Daniel Desrochers and Bill Estep (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 8/31/2018

The father of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was indicted for illegally funneling nearly $200,000 to his daughter’s 2014 U.S. Senate campaign to pay for various services. Gerald Lundergan used funds from his own company to pay for “audio-video production, lighting, recorded telephone calls, and campaign consulting between July 2013 and December 2015,” the Justice Department said in a press release. Lundergan and the campaign vendor to whom he made the payments, who was also indicted, concealed their arrangement from officials on the campaign, causing it to file financial records to the FEC, according to the indictment.

Massachusetts: SJC Upholds Massachusetts’ Ban on Corporate Campaign Contributions
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 9/6/2018

The Supreme Judicial Court upheld Massachusetts’ ban on corporate campaign donations, finding the prohibition does not violate First Amendment rights and can help prevent actual and perceived corruption. The law bans corporations from giving directly to candidates or establishing PACs but allows them to make unlimited independent expenditures, with certain disclosure requirements. The plaintiffs argued the law violates their right to free speech and unfairly applies to corporations but not to other entities like unions and nonprofits. Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote it would be “unrealistic for a court to require the Legislature to wait for evidence of widespread quid pro quo corruption resulting from corporate contributions before taking steps to prevent such corruption.”

New York: Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 9/5/2018

The charter revision commission created by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio voted to put three questions on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, the proposals would significantly reduce campaign contribution limits in city elections, create a new agency to civically engage the public, and apply term limits and appointment reforms to community boards. One proposal would reduce contribution limits for public financing participants as well for those who do not join the program. It would also increase the matching ratio to eight-to-one for the first $250 raised by a citywide candidate and for the first $175 raised for all other seats.

North Carolina: Court Won’t Force North Carolina Redistricting This Year
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 9/4/2018

A panel of three federal judges ruled North Carolina’s current congressional map can be used in the 2018 midterms, despite previously ruling the map is a partisan gerrymander. The judges said there was “insufficient time” for the court to approve a new map in time for the elections that are two months away. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case had asked that a new map not be imposed on the state for the current election cycle.

North Carolina: Justice Dept. Demands Millions of North Carolina Voter Records, Confounding Elections Officials
New York Times – Richard Fausset and Michael Wines | Published: 9/5/2018

Federal prosecutors issued subpoenas demanding that millions of North Carolina voter records be turned over to immigration authorities by September 25. The subpoenas threatened to sow chaos in the state’s election machinery, while renewing the Trump administration’s discredited claims of widespread voting by illegal immigrants. The subpoenas were issued a week after federal officials announced that 19 noncitizens in North Carolina had been charged with casting illegal votes in the 2016 election. Critics say those arrests hardly constitute a wave of voter fraud worthy of such a broad demand for documents. And they raised concerns about privacy: among the prosecutors’ demands are millions of secret ballots cast by absentee and early voters whose identities could be easily traced.

Pennsylvania: Ex-Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Guilty on All Counts
Allentown Morning Call – Peter Hall | Published: 8/30/2018

A jury convicted former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer on 11 counts related to a “pay-to-play” scheme in which federal prosecutors said he traded public works contracts for campaign contributions and bribed the city council president to repeal a law limiting how much campaign money he could accept. The jury heard witnesses testify that Spencer and his campaign staff tied the award of public works contracts to donations from engineering firm executives to Spencer’s re-election campaign. His former chief of staff and campaign fundraiser also testified about Spencer’s role in making a “forgivable loan” to the wife of council President Francisco Acosta to ensure he followed through on legislation to repeal or suspend the city’s campaign reporting law.

Texas: Beto O’Rourke Dreams of One Texas. Ted Cruz Sees Another Clearly.
WRAL – Matt Flegenheimer (New York Times) | Published: 8/31/2018

A blue Texas has seemed both inevitable and impossible, the central political contradiction in a state defined by them. Any breakthrough, Democrats have long believed, would be borne of demographics and triangulation: focus on the cities, with their surging Hispanic populations and creeping cosmopolitanism. Edge to the middle a bit to bring in wary moderates. And impress upon voters just how extreme the incumbents had become. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has resolved to ignore basically all of this in his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has defined the philosophy with a line borrowed from Jim Hightower, a prominent activist who was once Texas agriculture commissioner: “The only thing you’ll find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos,” O’Rourke said.

Virginia: Citing Fraud, Judge Orders Candidate Off the Ballot in Virginia Congressional Race
Danbury News Times – Gregory Schneider (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2018

A judge ordered an independent candidate in a key congressional contest in Virginia removed from November’s ballot, citing invalid signatures gathered with assistance from staffers for the incumbent Republican. The effort to put Shaun Brown on the ballot as an independent candidate, which could have siphoned votes from the Democratic nominee, Elaine Luria, was boosted by U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s campaign staffers. Taylor had said he knew staff members were collecting signatures for Brown, but he did not direct the effort.

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August 31, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 31, 2018

      National: Democratic Embrace of Diverse Candidates Collides with Barbed Politics of Trump Era WRAL – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2018 The diverse cast of Democratic candidates this year is setting up a striking contrast for voters at […]

 

 

 

National:

Democratic Embrace of Diverse Candidates Collides with Barbed Politics of Trump Era
WRAL – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2018

The diverse cast of Democratic candidates this year is setting up a striking contrast for voters at a time when some in the Republican Party, taking their cues from President Trump, are embracing messages with explicit appeals to racial anxieties and resentment. The result is making racial and ethnic issues and conflicts central in the November elections in a way that is far more explicit than the recent past. Racial discord has never been far from the surface of American politics. But any effort by Republicans in recent years to tread lightly around racially sensitive issues has been tossed aside by Trump, who has created a permission structure for other politicians to mimic his behavior, political strategists said.

Women in Politics Often Must Run a Gantlet of Vile Intimidation
WRAL – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 8/23/2018

A record number of women ran or are running in 2018 for the Senate, House, and governorships. Many more are running for state Legislatures and local offices. In the process, they are finding that harassment and threats, already common for women, can be amplified in political races – especially if the candidate is a member of a minority group. No independent organization appears to formally track incidents of harassment, and the Democratic and Republican National Committees did not respond to inquiries asking whether they did. But several groups that work with candidates said they routinely provided personal safety training.

Federal:

Candidates Say ‘I Approve This Message’ Because of John McCain
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/25/2018

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act survived a well-funded legal challenge in 2003 only to suffer subsequent and major rollbacks in court and at the FEC. While the long effort to enact the law made U.S. Sen. John McCain a pariah in some GOP circles, it remains a significant legacy of the self-declared maverick lawmaker and 2008 Republican presidential nominee. In addition to banning large corporate donations to the party committees, the law also required candidates to say they approved their campaign ads.

Microsoft Hopes to Protect Candidates Without Violating Campaign Contribution Law
Seattle Times – Tim O’Brien (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2018

Microsoft requested an FEC advisory opinion to make sure the company’s new free package of online security protections for “election-sensitive” customers does not count as an in-kind campaign contribution. Corporations are typically barred from donating to federal candidates and political committees under federal law. Microsoft said it is offering its AccountGuard service on a nonpartisan basis to federal, state, and local candidates, party committees, and certain nonprofit groups. The company told the commission it might also work with other tech firms on coordinated election security efforts, though no agreements have been made.

When Is an Offense Impeachable? Look to the Framers for the Answer
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2018

The campaign finance violation President Trump’s former lawyer accused him of – arranging to pay hush money to influence an election – may be the sort of offense the drafters of the Constitution meant to cover in granting Congress the power to impeach and remove a president. Misconduct before assuming office is not typically a fit subject for impeachment, legal scholars said. But there is one important exception. “The main and possibly only form of pre-Inauguration Day conduct that would properly qualify as an impeachable offense is conduct relating directly to the acquisition of the presidential office,” said Joshua Matz, an author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.”

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Ethics Law Changes Mulled by Revision Commission
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 8/28/2018

The ruling that upheld former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conviction on 11 of 12 corruption charges underscored the need to tighten the language in Alabama’s ethics law, state Attorney General Steve Marshall said. The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission met to discuss the outlines of changes to the law, including the definition of a principal, which is defined as a company or person that hires a lobbyist; what lobbyists and elected officials can and cannot give; and the punishments for violating the law. Seven of the counts against Hubbard were for receiving money or favors from principals. The appeals court did not find fault with his convictions but said there could be “a serious constitutional issue” in other cases without more clarity in the law.

California: Booze Fuels Business – and Bad Behavior – at California Capitol
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff and Taryn Luna | Published: 8/29/2018

Mixing work with alcohol has been a fundamental part of the culture in Sacramento for decades. But the blurred lines between business hours and playtime have given way to bouts of excess, from drunk driving to sexual misconduct to addiction. Fundraisers are a daily occurrence at the downtown bars and restaurants around the Capitol; there were 19 evening functions over the course of three days recently, according to the Capitol Morning Report, including a “margarita mixer” and a “tequila tasting.” Lawmakers note they are largely stuck away from home for three or four nights a week with not much else to do. Many lobbyists believe these receptions are where the real work gets done.

Colorado: Campaign Financing in Denver Could Look Different Come 2020 – It’s Up to Voters Now
Denverite – Estaben Hernandez | Published: 8/27/2018

The Denver City Council approved a campaign finance reform measure for the November ballot. The proposal would establish a public financing system, with eligible candidates receiving a nine-to-one match of donations up to $50. It would lower donation limits for individuals to candidates seeking city offices, and prohibit direct campaign contributions from corporations, limited liability companies, and labor groups.

Georgia: Georgia County Rejects Plan to Close 7 Polling Places in Majority-Black Area
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 8/23/2018

Election officials in a majority black Georgia county voted to scrap a widely condemned proposal to eliminate most of their polling places in the runup to the November election. An independent consultant recommended the consolidation said the seven polling places in question do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The polling places in question had all been used for the primary election in May and the primary runoff election in July, and critics said officials should have been aware of the compliance issues. Civil Rights and Voting groups applauded the decision but said the episode demonstrates the need to restore Voting Rights Act protections that were tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

Maine: Ethics Commission Says Slashing Casino Campaign Fine Was in State’s Best Interests
Lewiston Sun Journal – Scott Thistle (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 8/30/2018

Maine’s ethics commission voted to settle penalties for campaign finance violations with two backers of a failed 2017 casino referendum, making them pay $100,000 of the $500,000 in fines the state assessed last year. The referendum would have given rights to the casino to a company run by developer Shawn Scott, but the commission levied penalties for late financial filings against four committees run by his sister, Lisa Scott of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The commission said her offshore residence would make it hard to recoup the full $500,000. Under the agreement, Lisa Scott’s committees will have to pay $50,000, and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who served as treasurer for one of the committees, will have to pay the rest.

Missouri: Buying Influence: Do dark money, lobbyist gifts affect Missouri legislators’ policy?
Kansas City Star – Alison Kite and Jason Hancock | Published: 8/27/2018

Whether lobbyists should be able to provide Missouri lawmakers with expensive gifts and meals is being debated in Jefferson City. Asked what they wanted to know about political corruption and transparency in Missouri, Kansas City Star readers wanted to know whether gifts and campaign contributions, including those made by “dark-money” organizations, could influence legislators to the detriment of the state. The newspaper’s panel of dozens of leaders from across Missouri expressed concern about the potential for lobbyist gifts to influence legislators, but some argued they were not significant enough to affect policy solutions.

North Carolina: CEOs Gave Heavily During Legislative Session, Exposing Loophole in NC’s Fundraising Ban
WRAL – Travis Fain and Tyler Dukes | Published: 8/29/2018

North Carolina law lets top corporate executives donate to campaigns during General Assembly sessions even as it bans contributions from the companies themselves year-round and forbids anyone who contracts directly with a lobbyist from giving during a session. During this year’s six-week regular session, more than $1.1 million flowed into state legislators’ campaign accounts. The total increases if the week before the session is counted, which is traditionally a time for fundraisers, as PACs with lobbyists deliver checks just under the wire. Marshall Hurley, a former general counsel for the state Republican Party, said even the concept of an in-session ban is problematic. “All it’s really done is change the date of the check – does that really alter behavior?” Hurley said.

North Carolina: Judges’ Ruling on Election Map Plunges North Carolina Politics into Disarray
WRAL – David Zucchino and Richard Fausset (New York Times) | Published: 8/28/2018

A three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s congressional redistricting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Among the court’s proposed remedies are redrawing the districts before November and holding a general election without a primary election, or redrawing the districts, holding a primary election in November and holding a general election sometime before Congress is seated in January 2019. The court also said it might allow the General Assembly another chance at redrawing the districts. The state’s political experts and power brokers had already been expecting a political brawl this year. With the rule book now in tatters, they essentially threw up their hands. “We’re wandering in the political pines, searching for directions,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.

Ohio: FBI Investigation: Ex-Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger suspected of bribery, extortion
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert and James Pitcher | Published: 8/27/2018

Documents show former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger is under federal investigation for possible extortion and bribery. While it was known since he resigned in April that the FBI was investigating Rosenberger’s overseas trips with lobbyists for the payday-lending industry, the release of search warrants and other documents painted a clearer picture of what investigators are targeting. Officials were looking for “communications or information concerning: payday lending legislation; evidence of payments, kickbacks, bribes, or other benefits (such as payment of travel-related expenses),” according to the records provided by the Ohio House. A federal grand jury has been meeting in Cincinnati to review the matter.

Texas: Ethics Commission Finds Lobbyist Innocent
El Paso Inc. – David Crowder | Published: 8/27/2018

When he received a letter from a lobbyist containing an apology and offer of five baseball tickets, El Paso Rep. Henry Rivera said the first thing that came to his mind was: “He is trying to bribe me.” Rivera filed a police report and ethics complaint accusing Jeremy Jordan of violating the city’s ethics code, lobbyist regulations, and possibly state law against attempted bribery over the letter. The El Paso Ethics Review Commission chastised Jordan but found him innocent of the ethics code violation that Rivera lodged against him in May.

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August 24, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 24, 2018

      National: Despite Year-of-the-Woman Buzz, Female Candidates Lag Behind Men in Pulling in Campaign Cash The News-Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/16/2018 Even as a record number of women run for office this […]

 

 

 

National:

Despite Year-of-the-Woman Buzz, Female Candidates Lag Behind Men in Pulling in Campaign Cash
The News-Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/16/2018

Even as a record number of women run for office this year, female congressional candidates trail their male counterparts when it comes to fundraising. Of candidates who showed viability by raising at least $50,000, men running for the House had collected almost 17 percent more on average than their female counterparts by the end of June. One key factor is many female candidates lack relationships with longtime donors who work in traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance. That is a particular challenge for women this cycle, because the majority are newcomers to politics and, like any non-incumbent, must build donor networks from scratch. But their task is often more difficult, some female candidates said, because of skepticism about their potential, based on their gender.

Federal:

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plans to Root Out Corruption in Washington, Ensure Federal Government Works for Americans
MassLive.com – Shannon Young | Published: 8/21/2018

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which lays out a multi-step approach to ending corruption and increasing public integrity. It calls for permanently banning elected and appointed officials from becoming lobbyists after they leave office, barring presidents and federal lawmakers from owning companies while in office, and ending “legalized lobbyist bribery” by preventing them from writing campaign checks or giving personal gifts to candidates or lawmakers. The bill would also create an independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and requiring elected officials and candidates to disclose more financial and tax information, among other provisions.

Hunter Indictment Could Jeopardize GOP Seat
Politico – John Bresnahan and Rachel Bade | Published: 8/21/2018

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted on allegations of using more than $250,000 of campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, private school tuition for their children, dental work, and an airline ticket for a pet rabbit. The indictment portrays the Hunters as a couple with serious financial problems. They allegedly overdrew their joint checking account more than 1,100 times during a seven-year period, leading to more than $37,000 in overdraft charges. Hunter’s indictment endangers a traditionally conservative southern California seat long held by Republicans. Hunter cannot take his name off the November ballot and California does not allow write-in candidates.

Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction
MSN – William Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and Jim Rutenberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/21/2018

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges, saying Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to fend off damage to his White House bid. Cohen’s admission marks the first time any Trump associate has gone into open court and implicated Trump himself in a crime. Under federal law, expenditures to protect a candidate’s political fortunes can be construed to be campaign contributions, subject to laws that bar donations from corporations and set limits on how much can be given. Trump denied to reporters in April that he knew anything about Cohen’s payments to Daniels.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Developer Whose Wife Sat on Ethics Commission Faces $15,000 Fine Over Political Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 8/20/2018

Six years ago, city council President Herb Wesson drew criticism for putting the wife of a campaign fundraiser on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, a panel that votes on fines for people who violate political contribution rules. Wesson had selected nonprofit executive Erin Pak, who was also the wife of architect and real estate developer Chris Pak, host of fundraising events for Mayor Eric Garcetti and other local politicians. Erin Pak left the commission three years ago. Now, Chris Pak is facing $15,000 in proposed fines from the commission for giving contributions that exceeded the city limit. All but one of the violations took place during the period when Erin Pak was on the commission.

Florida: After a Florida Democrat Said She’d Take Donations from the Marijuana Industry, Wells Fargo Closed Her Bank Account
Washington Post – Christopher Ingraham | Published: 8/20/2018

Nikki Fried, who is running for agriculture commissioner in Florida, said Wells Fargo terminated her campaign’s account because of her links to the medical marijuana businesses. Fried said the action came after the bank questioned her about her campaign platform and donations she had taken, as well as her stance on medical marijuana. Wells Fargo spokesperson Jennifer Dunn said the bank’s policy is to not provide services for businesses related to marijuana businesses. Fried has accepted campaign contributions from lobbyists connected to medical marijuana. If such a policy were applied nationwide it could potentially jeopardize the banking access of dozens of state and national politicians.

Georgia: Georgia Voting Rights Activists Move to Block a Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Polling Places in a Majority Black County
Chicago Tribune – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2018

Randolph County in rural Georgia wants to eliminate all but two of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterm elections because they are not in compliance with disabilities laws. Some residents and progressive groups allege the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections. Activists noted many residents have low incomes and the county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system. All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs.

Kentucky: Loophole Allows Organizations to Pay for Legislators’ Out-of-State Travel Without Disclosing Amounts
Insider Louisville – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/22/2018

Due to a loophole in Kentucky’s ethics law, a large majority of travel expenditures for state lawmakers covered by private organizations are not required to be disclosed by lawmakers to the Legislative Research Commission or the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. John Schaaf, executive director of the ethics panel, said this reporting loophole occurs when those groups pay in advance for legislators’ travel, as “there is no disclosure required of expenses prepaid for transportation, food and lodging.” Events organized by outside groups are sometimes funded by businesses and interests that lobby the Legislature.

Louisiana: Louisiana Senate President Sank Ride-Sharing Bill. His Close Pal Sells Insurance to Cabs.
ProPublica – Rebekah Allen | Published: 8/23/2018

Ride-sharing companies are not coming to many parts of Louisiana anytime soon because the state does not have legislation in place allowing them to operate. It is one of only five states that lacks such a law, instead requiring the companies to go through the costly and time-intensive process of getting approval in each locality. A bill to change that has garnered widespread and bipartisan support among politicians and was favored by many economic development groups. But the legislation has been blocked by Senate President John Alario. Many observers noted Alario’s close personal, professional, and political alliance with former Sen. Francis Heitmeier, who makes a living selling insurance to cab companies and lobbied against the ride-sharing bill. The cab industry was one of the few opponents of the measure.

Mississippi: Inside a Super PAC That Spends on Everything but Winning
Associated Press – Brian Slodysko | Published: 8/16/2018

Two billionaire political donors poured $1.25 million into a super PAC that was supposed to supercharge Chris McDaniel’s insurgent bid to be Mississippi’s next Republican senator. A year later, much of the money from Richard Uihlein and Robert Mercer is gone. Only a fraction was spent reaching voters who could boost the former state lawmaker’s uphill battle against Cindy Hyde-Smith in a November special election that will determine who finishes out Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. What the Remember Mississippi super PAC has provided, however, is a generous payday for at least 18 campaign consultants who received the lion’s share of the money.

Montana: Montana’s Campaign-Contribution Limits Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court
KXLH – Mike Dennison | Published: 8/17/2018

James Bopp Jr. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a 2017 lower-court ruling that upheld Montana’s limits on campaign contributions for state candidates. Bopp has been an attorney in many cases challenging limits on campaign spending and contributions, including Citizens United. His appeal in the Montana case is the latest development in a seven-year-old lawsuit challenging the state’s contribution limits, which were enacted by initiative in 1994.

New York: A Corrupt Lobbyist’s Influence in the Cuomo Administration Is Revealed in Newly Disclosed Emails
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 8/20/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly downplayed his relationship with his former aide Todd Howe, who became key figure in a pair of federal corruption cases after pleading guilty and reaching a deal with prosecutors. Howe’s cooperation in those cases helped convict two other former top aides: Joseph Percoco, once one of Cuomo’s closest friends and trusted advisers, and Alain Kaloyeros, the economic expert who the governor praised as a genius. But in nearly 350 pages of emails, it was clear Howe had entree to the top levels of Cuomo’s administration, a period that included the time leading up to the news of the federal probe.

New York: Cuomo Signs Bill Banning Use of Paid Intermediaries to Win State Pension Fund Business
New York Daily News – Kenneth Lovett | Published: 8/21/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Gov. Cuomo signed legislation that bars firms from using placement agents, paid intermediaries, and registered lobbyists in obtaining investments from the state pension fund. Assembly Bill 3137 puts into law a policy adopted by Controller Thomas DiNapoli nearly a decade ago amid a “pay-to-play” scandal. The probe resulted in eight people being charged criminally, including two, former state Controller Alan Hevesi and his political consultant Hank Morris, who went to prison.

West Virginia: How One West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Gave Natural Gas a Big Victory and Shortchanged Residents
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. | Published: 8/20/2018

The West Virginia House impeached the four sitting justices on the state Supreme Court for extravagant spending, among other charges. Justice Beth Walker was impeached over allegations of irresponsible spending and poorly managing the court’s administrative affairs. Left unmentioned in the debate has been a peculiar vote by Walker that benefited the natural gas industry. She made an unusual decision to reopen a case and then reverse a Supreme Court ruling that would have forced drillers to pay more in profits to residents. Walker made the decision around the time her husband owned stock in a variety of energy companies, including those participating in West Virginia’s growing gas boom.

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August 17, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 17, 2018

      National: Independents Uneasy About Taking Cash, Even from Indie Group St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 8/9/2018 Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over growing polarization in politics, a group fueled partly by what critics call […]

 

 

 

National:

Independents Uneasy About Taking Cash, Even from Indie Group
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 8/9/2018

Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over growing polarization in politics, a group fueled partly by what critics call “dark money” plans to spend $3 million this year to support and elect independents. But some lawmakers are declining their help. Unite America is endorsing and providing polling for independent gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the country. Some independents, however, are reluctant to accept the support because they distrust influence by any outside, special interest group. They are also wary of any link to so-called dark money, contributions from groups such as nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors under federal law.

Lax State Ethics Rules Leave Health Agencies Vulnerable to Conflicts
Politico – Brianna Ehley, Sarah Karlin-Smith, Rachana Pradhan, and Jennifer Haberkorn | Published: 8/12/2018

A lack of transparency in state ethics laws prevents the public from having visibility into conflicts by officials who may oversee millions of dollars in spending and make decisions that affect thousands of people. A review of ethics rules found that in one out of five states, top public health officials are not subject to any disclosure for financial holdings. Even when states do have rules on the books, they vary widely, and loopholes abound. Watchdogs and ethics experts say the uneven rules, and ill-defined consequences if problems are identified, make it virtually impossible to know whether officials might have conflicts that skew their decision-making, or to hold them accountable if lapses do occur.

Federal:

Charges Against Rep. Chris Collins Highlight Lack of Trading Limits for Congress
Chicago Tribune – Bill Allison and Erik Wasson (Bloomberg) | Published: 8/9/2018

The indictment of U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins on insider trading charges, along with his colleagues’ holdings in the biotechnology company at the center of the case, highlight how members of Congress face few restrictions on their investments and service on corporate boards, creating the potential for conflicts-of-interest. Unlike executive branch officials, who must resign from outside positions and divest assets that could pose conflicts, Congress relies on public disclosure as the main mechanism for keeping lawmakers honest. In the past, that has led to a number of scandals involving investment decisions that resulted in charges of self-enrichment and insider trading.

Trump Offers White House Staffers a Special Perk at His Golf Club
Politico – Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson | Published: 8/13/2018

White House staffers who displayed proof of their administration job are getting discounted merchandise from the pro shop at President Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. The administration officials get discounts ranging from 15 percent on regular merchandise to 70 percent off clearance items. The discount amounts to the same perk given to Bedminster members who pay a reported $350,000 annually. Watchdogs raised concerns about the practice, noting it amounts to a conflict-of-interest and is considered a gift if the discount is not available to all government employees.

Voting Rights Advocates Used to Have an Ally in the Government. That’s Changing.
MSN – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 8/12/2018

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps to suppress voter rights. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: the department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them. In the national battle over voting rights, the fighting is done in court, state by state, over rules that can seem arcane but have the potential to sway the outcome of elections. The Justice Department’s recent actions point to a decided shift in policy at the federal level toward an agenda embraced by conservatives who say they want to prevent voter fraud.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Ex-Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, Under Legislative Investigation on Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Sues Lobbyist for Defamation
Los Angeles Times – Melanie Mason | Published: 8/14/2018

Former California Assemblyperson Matt Dababneh, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault, is suing the lobbyist who accused him of pushing her into a hotel bathroom and masturbating in front of her. Dababneh sued Pamela Lopez for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking unspecified damages. A letter from the Assembly Rules Committee said an investigator determined Lopez’s allegation was “substantiated” and in violation of Assembly policy.

California – It’s an Election Year, and California’s Campaign Watchdogs Are Busy Fighting Among Themselves
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 8/13/2018

After years of limiting commissioners to $200 per month, members of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) moved in February to pay themselves on an hourly basis. They have debated whether to loosen campaign finance restrictions on lawmakers and argued over how much power to give their chairperson. As the FPPC focuses on internal issues, they are missing an opportunity to become one of the leading campaign finance agencies in the country, said Jessica Levinson, a political ethics expert at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “They are not only missing that opportunity, they watched it go by, they waved at it and they kept arguing about how much they were going to charge per diem,” Levinson said.

Colorado – Backers of Denver Campaign Finance Ballot Measure Agree to Deal That Would Delay Public Financing, Lower Limits
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 8/14/2018

Backers of a Denver campaign finance initiative have agreed to a deal with city officials that would replace the measure on the November ballot with a revised version that delays the changes until after next year’s municipal election. Voter approval for the new proposal this fall would bring about drastically lower contribution limits for candidates seeking city offices and would ban direct corporate and union contributions. It also would institute a voluntary public financing system. While the gist of those elements is unchanged, the city council is set to begin the process of referring a replacement measure to the ballot that would make several changes to dates and details such as how quickly the city must issue public funds.

Georgia – Atlanta City Council Seeks to Require Lobbyists to Register with the City
Staff, Atlanta Daily World –   | Published: 8/13/2018

A pair of ordinances were introduced in the Atlanta City Council that would require individuals and principles to register as lobbyists if they seek to influence legislative or administrative actions and encourage council members to report any violations of Georgia’s lobbying law. Atlanta currently doe not have any rules on lobbying in the city.

Illinois – Mayoral Hopeful Who Gave Thousands in Cash, Checks: ‘I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do.’
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 8/9/2018

Responding to what his Chicago mayoral campaign called an investigation by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a defiant Willie Wilson defended his recent cash giveaways and said there is “nothing wrong” with his charitable foundation’s paperwork. The controversy stems from a church event in July, where Wilson handed out more than $200,000 in cash and checks. Gov. Bruce Rauner was at the event and later criticized the giveaway, but the state election board said Wilson apparently did not violate any election laws. Noting he was raised in the Jim Crow South, Wilson, who is black, said, “I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do.”

Maine – Maine Ethics Regulators Vote to Re-Open Taxpayer Campaign Funding for 2018
Bangor Daily News – Michael Shepherd | Published: 8/16/2018

Maine’s ethics commission said it will release about $3 million in public campaign funds for one gubernatorial candidate and over 200 legislative candidates. The commission voted to release the money held up by a typo in a budget law. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration recently agreed to comply with a judge’s order to release over $1 million in public campaign funding that LePage held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders. Several commissioners said that same logic should apply to more money held up because lawmakers did not fix the error.

Michigan – Michigan Senate Winner Still Shrouded in Mystery Following Primary Shocker
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/10/2018

Betty Jean Alexander of Detroit remains shrouded in mystery after scoring a shocking win over state Sen. David Knezek in a Democratic primary race that few thought would be competitive. Alexander, whom several local party leaders say they had never heard of, did not report spending any money on her campaign and has not granted any media interviews since her surprise victory. Lamar Lemmons III, a former state lawmaker and current Detroit school board member, is under scrutiny for his role in electing Alexander, whom he describes as a 53-year-old single mother with two children who works in an administrative job.

Pennsylvania – Could Abuse Report Lead to Laws Extending Rights to Sue the Church?
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 8/15/2018

In its report detailing a coverup of child sex abuse by Catholic bishops across Pennsylvania, a grand jury recommended giving older adults the right to file lawsuits for abuse they suffered as children. Political disagreements and lobbying have repeatedly stalled bills that would have retroactively loosened the statute of limitations for claims against the Catholic Church, leading to questions of whether the new findings would lead to change. While victims say the ability to sue could help them access services to cope with the trauma, lobbyists for the church and the insurance industry have opposed such legislation, saying a flood of lawsuits would deliver a crushing financial blow.

Vermont – Christine Hallquist Wins Vermont Primary, Becoming First Openly Transgender Major Party Nominee for Governor
Washington Post – Samantha Schmidt and Kayla Epstein | Published: 8/15/2018

Christine Hallquist won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Vermont, becoming the first openly transgender candidate to be nominated for governor by a major party in the U.S. Hallquist, a first-time candidate, won in a crowded field of four Democrats. She is part of a progressive wave of political novices, women, and LGBTQ candidates running in this year’s midterm elections, many of them galvanized by the election and behavior of President Trump. But from here, her path to the governor’s office could be a narrow one, even though she is a Democrat running in a progressive state.

West Virginia – Lawmakers Impeach All 4 W.Va. Court Justices Over Spending
MSN, Associated Press – | Published: 8/14/2018

The West Virginia House voted to impeach all the justices on the state Supreme Court, a decision prompted by reports of extravagant spending on office renovations. If the justices are convicted in the Senate and removed, replacements will be named by Gov. Jim Justice. Most of the articles involved Chief Justice Allen Loughry, who has been suspended since June and is facing a federal indictment on charges of fraud and false statements. The court as a whole was impeached for not creating policies to rein in the wasteful spending. Two justices were charged with overpaying retired judges who fill in to hear cases, and Justice Robin Davis was charged with wasteful spending on her office remodeling. A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned in July before pleading guilty to fraud, having taken a state car for personal use.

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August 10, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 10, 2018

      National: Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box MSN – Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2018 Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, more than […]

 

 

 

National:

Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box
MSN – Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2018

Almost a year into an anti-harassment movement that has prompted a coast-to-coast cultural reckoning, more than a dozen politicians who have been accused of misconduct and are running for state legislative seats again anyway. Some candidates hope voters will accept their apologies. Others believe constituents will dismiss the allegations as untrue or deem them unimportant at a time when state Legislatures could play crucial roles either in advancing the Trump administration’s agenda or forming bulwarks against it. Apologies alone do not satisfy some of those who are working to ensure candidates accused of harassment do not retain political power.

Federal:

GOP Rep. Chris Collins Charged with Securities Fraud
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Jimmy Vielkind, and Laura Nahmias | Published: 8/8/2018

U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins was indicted on charges he used inside information about a biotechnology company to make illicit stock trades. The indictment charges Collins and his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, who is the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, with conspiracy, wire fraud, and other counts. Rep. Collins was Innate Immunotherapeutics’ largest shareholder and served on its board. He received an email from Innate’s chief executive alerting him the company’s highly touted drug had failed in clinical trials. Rep. Collins is alleged to have passed that information to his son, who notified Zarsky. Prosecutors say the three avoided about $768,000 in losses because of the information.

Judge’s Ruling Invalidates FEC Regulation Allowing Anonymous Donations to ‘Dark Money’ Groups
Politico – Brent Griffiths | Published: 8/4/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell struck down an FEC rule that allowed for anonymous donations to “dark money” groups. Howell ruled the FEC regulation allowing for those donors to remain anonymous fell below the standard that Congress meant to set when it passed laws on disclosing the sources of political donations. The ruling, which is likely to be appealed, means nonprofits could be required to reveal the identities of donors who give $200 or more toward affecting federal elections. The FEC has 45 days to issue temporary regulations that would require the so-called dark money groups to reveal more about their donors.

On Appeals Court, Kavanaugh Helped to Loosen Political Money Laws
National Public Radio – Peter Overby | Published: 8/8/2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, a frequent destination for cases involving the FEC. His decisions have effectively pulled the campaign finance system rightward, letting in more money with less regulation. He is been roughly in sync with Anthony Kennedy, the justice he once clerked for and now might succeed. “I think his record on money and politics should be right up there alongside the likelihood that he’ll overturn Roe or strike down the [Affordable Care Act],” said Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies for the progressive advocacy group Demos.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Prosecutors Drop Bribery, Fraud Charges Against Former Utility Regulator, Others
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/7/2018

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona filed a motion to dismiss the indictment of a former utility regulator and others who were charged in a bribery case that ended in a mistrial. Jurors could not agree whether former utility regulator Gary Pierce, his wife, Sherry, lobbyist Jim Norton, and water company owner George Johnson had participated in a bribery scheme, as prosecutors alleged. Taryn Jeffries served as the jury foreperson. She said she was not surprised the government decided not to retry the case, which she considered “weak.” Jeffries said the jurors deadlocked at seven-to-five with those believing the defendants were guilty in the minority.

Florida: Panel Finds ‘Probable Cause’ That Five Municipal Officials, Five Lobbyists Violated State Ethics Laws
Florida Watchdog – John Haughey | Published: 8/3/2018

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that five lobbying firms filed inaccurate financial disclosure reports for 2016. The evidence turned up in random audits of executive branch lobbying firms. Among the commission’s notable actions was finding probable cause that former Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford “accepted prohibited gifts from lobbyists, or alternatively, failed to report discounts valued at more than $100 as gifts.”

Kansas: ‘That Is a Conflict’: Kobach should recuse himself from a recount, experts say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry, Steve Vockrodt, Jonathan Shorman, and Hunter Woodall | Published: 8/8/2018

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he does not plan to recuse himself from a potential recount effort in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, despite being a candidate in the race. He said while his office oversees recounts, it does not directly participate in vote-counting, which is done at the county level. Kobach is leading Gov. Jeff Colyer by fewer than 200 votes in the closely watched race. If Colyer requests a hand recount after all provisional and mail-in ballots are counted, the secretary of state’s office will decide how much the governor’s campaign would have to pay for a recount. Kobach is not required by law to recuse himself, but legal and political experts said it would be in his best interest to do so.

Maine: After Court Battle, Maine’s Clean Elections Candidates to Get $1 Million In Campaign Funds
New England Public Radio – Steve Mistler | Published: 8/8/2018

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has complied with a court order that he release about $1.4 million in public campaign funding he had held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders. The move means about 120 candidates for the Legislature and one for governor will be getting money soon to help run their campaigns under the Maine Clean Election Act. Seven candidates and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections sued LePage because he refused to release the funds, which would come from unspent money from the 2016 election cycle.

Missouri: Lawsuit Seeks to Knock Gerrymandering Issue Off Missouri’s November Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 8/6/2018

An attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. The referendum asks whether voters want to tighten campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts, institute a two-year waiting period for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists, start a new redistricting system in 2020, and require lawmakers to adhere to the Sunshine Law.

Missouri: Slay’s Role as Lobbyist Raises Questions Over Conflict of Interest in Quest to Privatize Airport
St. Louis Public Radio – Melody Walker | Published: 8/6/2018

Francis Slay, just weeks before leaving office as mayor in April of last year, initiated the process that could lead to the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. In June of this year, Slay was hired by Ferrovial Airports, a company with experience in managing airports in Europe, and considered one of three top contenders in the bidding process for Lambert. Slay registered as a lobbyist in June “to lobby local elected officials.” His role as a lobbyist for a company seeking to lease the city’s largest asset through a process he initiated while mayor has raised some eyebrows, and some serious questions about a conflict-of-interest.

New York: BOE Approves Regulations That Could Hinder Independent Investigations
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 8/8/2018

The New York State Board of Elections is moving to weaken the powers of an independent watchdog. The board voted to require the state’s independent enforcement counsel to justify in writing each subpoena they want to issue when investigating alleged campaign finance and election law cases. The board already had control over whether subpoenas could be issued in specific cases, but the new rule means the counsel must get approval on a subpoena-by-subpoena basis. Good-government groups criticized the move, which state Attorney General Barbara Underwood said will “gut” the counsel’s independence and lead to more corruption.

Texas: Dwaine Caraway Resigns from Dallas City Council, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges
Dallas News – Robert Wilonsky, Holly Hacker, and Miles Moffeit | Published: 8/9/2018

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty to federal charges of receiving $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks and resigned from the city council. Caraway admitted taking the payments exchange for votes in favor of a camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions (FXS), which sought contract work with Dallas County Schools. At times, Robert Leonard, the owner of FXS, would pay Caraway in checks that he would cash at liquor stores and pawn shops. Leonard also admitted to paying Rick Sorrells, a former Dallas County school superintendent, more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks. Their actions, prosecutors said, helped FXS secure more than $70 million in contracts and agreements with Dallas County Schools.

Texas: Texas Court Revives Lawsuit to Strip Ethics Regulators of Campaign, Elections Oversight
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughey | Published: 8/3/2018

A conservative advocacy group’s legal challenge to the Texas Ethics Commission took a leap forward after the lawsuit, dismissed in 2016 by a District Court judge, was revived by an appeals court. The decision by the Third Court of Appeals is the latest in an ongoing series of blows between Empower Texans, an influential group led by Michael Quinn Sullivan, and the commission, which years ago investigated the organization for alleged campaign law violations. The lawsuit asks whether the ethics panel has the legal authority to carry out many of its core functions, including enforcement and oversight of campaign finance rules.

Vermont: This 14-Year-Old Is Running for Governor Before He Can Even Vote
Washington Post – Kayla Epstein | Published: 8/8/2018

Unlike most states, Vermont has no age requirement for gubernatorial candidates, only a residency requirement. So, Ethan Sonneborn, who has lived in Bristol for 14 years – his entire life – makes the cut. Sonneborn declared his candidacy for governor back in August 2017, and then told his parents about it. After the secretary of state consulted with the attorney general, it was decided he would be allowed to run, but his parents would have to sign a form acknowledging they knew he was running and did not oppose him doing so.

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August 3, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – August, 3, 2018

      National: As Midterm Elections Approach, a Growing Concern That the Nation Is Not Protected from Russian Interference Washington Post – Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg | Published: 8/1/2018 Two years after Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign, the nation […]

 

 

 

National:

As Midterm Elections Approach, a Growing Concern That the Nation Is Not Protected from Russian Interference
Washington Post – Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg | Published: 8/1/2018

Two years after Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign, the nation has done little to protect itself against a renewed effort to influence voters in the coming congressional midterm elections, according to lawmakers and independent analysts. They say voting systems are more secure against hackers, thanks to action at the federal and state levels, and the Russians have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016. But Russian efforts to manipulate American voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the U.S.

Campaigns Enter Texting Era with a Plea: Will U Vote 4 Me 🙏??
New York Times – Kevin Roos | Published: 8/1/2018

Candidates in this year’s midterm elections are still sending mailers, putting ads on television, and knocking on doors to drum up support. But they have added a new, hard-to-ignore tool to their arsenal: personalized text messages sent to voters’ phones. When TV ads are skipped and email inboxes automatically filter out junk and promotions, it is not surprising that campaigns are desperate for a tool that can reliably get voters’ attention. What is surprising is how influential the lowly SMS text message has remained. Both Democratic and Republican campaigns are relying on mass-texting apps that take advantage of a clever legal loophole to send huge numbers of texts per day without running afoul of anti-spam laws.

Federal:

At Prayer Breakfast, Guests Seek Access to a Different Higher Power
WRAL – Kenneth Vogel and Elizabeth Dias (New York Times) | Published: 7/27/2018

The National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus. But the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats, and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power. The subculture around the breakfast was thrust into the spotlight with the indictment of Maria Butina, who was charged with conspiring to act as a Russian agent. Her goals, prosecutors said, included gaining access to the breakfast “to establish a back channel of communication” between influential Russians and Americans “to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation.”

Mueller’s Digging Exposes Culture of Foreign Lobbying and Its Big Paydays
WRAL – Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 8/1/2018

The case against Paul Manafort is part of a broader inquiry into the lucrative work done on behalf of the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and special counsel Robert Mueller has handed some elements of the investigation to federal prosecutors in New York. Beyond Mueller’s office, the Justice Department has also recently been pursuing such cases with greater urgency under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and related to foreign influence operations more broadly. All of this has prompted lobbyists to hunt for advice about how to comply with laws governing that sphere. “The phone rings much more often with this question than it did two years ago,” said Tom Spulak, a partner at the King & Spalding law firm who advises on lobbying compliance.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Ethics Reform Bill Signed into Law
Cordova Times; Staff –   | Published: 7/27/2018

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed a bill into law that bars lobbyists from buying meals or alcoholic beverages for lawmakers. House Bill 44 also requires that when legislators vote on an issue they or their immediate family have a financial stake in they must disclose it, among other provisions.

California: Combatting Corruption: How effective is the political watchdog Jerry Brown helped create?
CALmatters – Laurel Rosenhall and Robbie Short | Published: 7/25/2018

California voters overwhelmingly approved the Political Reform Act, which also created the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the new ethics rules championed by Jerry Brown when he first ran for governor in 1974. Yet while Brown rose to power in the 1970s expressing a passion for cleaning up politics, he has not demonstrated the same zeal in the sunset of his career. The idealism of a young candidate has been replaced with the resignation of an experienced politician who seems to doubt how much the government can regulate human foibles.

Florida: Jack Latvala Cleared of Criminal Charges by State Prosecutor
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Bousquet, Mary Ellen Klas, and Emily Mahoney | Published: 7/26/2018

Tallahassee’s state attorney, Jack Campbell, said he could not find enough evidence to charge former Florida Sen. Jack Latvala following claims he engaged in a sex-for-vote scheme. Lobbyist Laura McLeod alleged Latvala intimated on multiple occasions if she had sex with him or let him touch her that he would lend his influential support to issues she was promoting. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) concluded Latvala did not unlawfully exert his influence. Campbell submitted a letter to FDLE concurring there was not enough evidence to support the claims of public corruption.

Georgia: In Georgia Governor’s Race, a Defining Moment for a Southern State
WRAL – Kevin Sack and Alan Blinder (New York Times) | Published: 7/28/2018

Georgia’s gubernatorial race between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams has taken on the dimensions of a defining moment, one that will determine what the state represents and how it is perceived. That voters chose these two candidates reflects how Americans are embracing politicians on the basis of culture and identity, and how Georgia’s politics are catching up with its rapid demographic change. More starkly than in most midterm campaigns, the contest between Kemp, the two-term Republican secretary of state, and Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the state Legislature, has come to mirror the polarization of the Trump era and expose the consequences of a primary system that increasingly rewards those who appeal to the fringes.

Illinois: Company Used Convicted Chicago Schools Chief in ‘Highly Unethical’ Work to Win Millions in CPS Business, Watchdog Finds
Chicago Tribune – Juan Perez Jr. | Published: 7/31/2018

A for-profit company that educates at-risk students won tens of millions of dollars from Chicago Public Schools with help from then-district Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennet and her co-conspirators. That “highly unethical conduct” was essential for Camelot Education to open four campuses several years ago, Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said in a report. Schuler’s office asked the Board of Education to disqualify Camelot and two unnamed company executives from future business. If the board concludes doing so would be too disruptive, Schuler recommended the board fine Camelot $6.7 million and appoint an independent monitor to review the company’s conduct for three years.

Maine: Judge Orders LePage to Release Clean Elections Cash
centralmaine.com – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/2/2018

A judge ordered Maine Gov. Paul LePage to release about $1.4 million in campaign funds for candidates running under the state’s clean elections law. The order would provide public funding for the campaigns of about 174 candidates for the Legislature and one candidate running in the governor’s race. The ruling does not affect an additional $4.8 million in clean elections funding that is tied up in a partisan dispute in the state House.

Missouri: Divided KC Council Defeats $5 Gift Proposal – ‘We’re Doing Fine’
Kansas City Star – Bill Turque | Published: 7/26/2018

The Kansas City Council voted down a bill that would limit lobbyists’ gifts and taxpayer-funded travel. The measure slashed the maximum value of gifts from $1,000 to five dollars. It restricted city-funded council and mayoral travel to two trips per four-year term, except when representing the city before the state or federal government. It also doubled from one to two years the time ex-officials must wait before lobbying the city or working as a contractor.

New York: Sheldon Silver, Ex-Assembly Speaker, Gets 7 Years in Prison for Corruption Conviction
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Jon Campbell | Published: 7/27/2018

Sheldon Silver, the former New York Assembly speaker who brokered legislative deals for two decades before corruption charges abruptly ended his career, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Silver’s initial conviction on the charges in 2015 was tossed out by an appeals court, but a jury once again found him guilty of taking nearly $4 million in return for legislative favors he performed for a cancer researcher and real estate developers. His sentencing comes 10 days after Dean Skelos, the former New York Senate leader, and his son, Adam, were convicted of extortion, wire fraud, and bribery at a retrial for each of them.

North Carolina
‘I Have Not Been Involved,’ NC Supreme Court Justice Says of Bill Targeting Opponent
Raleigh News and Observer – Wil Doran | Published: 7/26/2018

North Carolina legislators took another step that critics say amounted to meddling in this year’s election for a seat on the state Supreme Court. State lawmakers voted along almost entirely partisan lines, deciding that only one of the two Republicans running for the seat would have her party affiliation listed on the ballot. Republicans are worried the candidate the bill affected, Chris Anglin, is not truly a Republican but rather part of a Democratic plot to influence the election. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson said she did not ask for the bill targeting Anglin. Jackson said she hardly ever speaks with legislators about anything to avoid conflicts-of-interest.

Pennsylvania: Lehigh County Pay-to-Play Law Crimps Donations from Political Candidates’ Own Parties
Allentown Morning Call – Tom Shortell | Published: 7/30/2018

Lehigh County’s “pay-to-play” law has become a factor in one of this year’s most closely watched congressional races, with one candidate’s campaign saying it has impeded fundraising. Outside groups have pumped millions of dollars into the race, which they see as a critical swing district in a fight to control Congress. But all that money flowing toward Marty Nothstein’s campaign could create complications in Lehigh County. Because Nothstein is an elected member of the county Board of Commissioners, any donations he would receive from county vendors could trigger the “pay-to-play” provisions.

Vermont: Vermont Campaign-Finance Limits Survive Appeal
Courthouse News Service – Nick Rummell | Published: 7/31/2018

An appeals court ruled Vermont does not trample the First Amendment by hinging public financing of political candidates on their adherence to certain rules. The opinion upholds the dismissal of a lawsuit by a candidate for lieutenant governor who argued his receipt of public financing should not force him to curtail expenditures and contributions from private parties. “Given the free choice to accept the grants and restrictions that public financing entails or to engage in unlimited private fundraising, candidates cannot complain that electing the former course burdens their rights,” Judge Robert Katzmann wrote.

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