July 27, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 27, 2018

      Federal: In Ruling Against Trump, Judge Defines Anticorruption Clauses in Constitution for First Time WRAL – Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 7/25/2018 A federal judge rejected President Trump’s effort to block a lawsuit that alleges he is violating […]

 

 

 

Federal:

In Ruling Against Trump, Judge Defines Anticorruption Clauses in Constitution for First Time
WRAL – Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 7/25/2018

A federal judge rejected President Trump’s effort to block a lawsuit that alleges he is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments. The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia claim Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign governments without congressional approval. In the first judicial opinion to define how the meaning of the Constitution’s anticorruption clauses should apply to a president, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte said the framers’ language should be broadly construed as an effort to protect against influence-peddling by state and foreign governments.

Mueller Examining Trump’s Tweets in Wide-Ranging Obstruction Inquiry
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from President Trump about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey, according to people briefed on the matter. Several of the remarks came as Trump was also privately pressuring the men – both key witnesses in the inquiry – about the probe, and Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry. Mueller’s interest in them is the latest addition to a range of presidential actions he is investigating as a possible obstruction case, like misleading White House statements, public attacks, and possible pardon offers to potential witnesses.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Rep. Randy Davis Indicted on Bribery Charges
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 7/25/2018

Alabama Rep. Randy Davis was indicted on charges of conspiracy and bribery over what prosecutors describe as an attempt to pressure Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to cover insulin therapies offered in health clinics in which he had a financial interest. The indictment accuses Davis of working with former Rep. Micky Hammon, an investor in the clinics, to recruit investors, from which he received finders’ fees. Prosecutors also accused Davis of trying to lobby BCBS on behalf of Trina Health, which operated the clinics. Later, the indictment alleges, Davis and Hammon worked together to push a bill through the 2016 legislative session that would have forced coverage of the insulin treatment offered at the clinics.

California: New Head of California Political Watchdog Agency Says It Is Moving on After Period of Tumult
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 7/22/2018

Alice Germond is taking over an agency that has been mired in turmoil for months following a dispute between commissioners over the sharing of power. But the new chairperson of the California Fair Political Practices Commission said she has talked to the other commissioners and believes the panel can put the past behind them to focus on enforcing campaign finance laws ahead of the midterm elections in November. A power struggle in recent months pitted some part-time commissioners against the chairperson at the time, Jodi Remke, who they felt left them out of key decisions on budgets, personnel, legal issues, and policy changes.

Colorado: Colorado Campaign Finance Loophole Allows Dark Money Flyers
Colorado Independent – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/23/2018

Colorado’s campaign finance law has a loophole that allows printed literature, mailers, or other materials about candidates to be distributed without disclosing who paid for them if they do not include so-called magic words such as “vote for” or “vote against.” Colorado was one of only 10 states that did not require disclosure of an ad’s sponsor in the 2016 election cycle. It is a form of “dark money” that prevents voters from tracing who is behind a campaign message.

Florida: South Miami’s Mayor Shut Down an Opponent at Meetings. Now He Faces an Investigation.
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 7/18/2018

When Stephen Cody approached the podium at a South Miami commission meeting, Mayor Philip Stoddard had a good idea of what he might say. A few days earlier, a group that Cody created criticized Stoddard for the city’s firing of its former police chief and a resulting lawsuit. Stoddard refused to let Cody speak and demanded he first register as a lobbyist. When Cody returned to the commission the next month, without having registered, Stoddard again cut him off when he began to discuss the police chief’s firing. The county ethics commission ruled there was probable cause Stoddard had violated Cody’s “right to be heard” under the county’s Citizens’ Bill of Rights.

Georgia: Georgia State Rep. Jason Spencer to Resign in Wake of Sacha Baron Cohen Pants-Dropping Debacle
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 7/24/2018

Georgia Rep. Jason Spencer, who was fooled into repeatedly yelling a racial epithet on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s television show, intends to resign effective July 31. “Who Is America?” has pranked a long list of sitting and former lawmakers. In this segment, Cohen played an Israeli antiterrorism expert and Spencer was seen on camera dropping his pants, mocking a stereotypical Asian accent, and seemingly not requiring much coaxing to yell the racial epithet, spurring immediate outrage. Spencer lost in the primary in his bid for a fifth term and initially said he would serve out his final months, but calls for him to resign became too loud.

Illinois: Rauner Blasts Chicago Mayoral Candidate Willie Wilson’s Cash Giveaway, State Says He Didn’t Violate Campaign Rules
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne and Rick Pearson | Published: 7/23/2018

The Illinois State Board of Elections said Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson’s handing out of nearly $200,000 in checks at a recent church event did not break campaign finance laws. A campaign spokesperson said Wilson gave the money to people to help them cover the cost of their property taxes and other expenses as part of his philanthropic work through the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, a registered nonprofit. “As far as we can see, it looks like he didn’t use campaign funds for this and there doesn’t appear to have been any quid pro quo, like, ‘Here’s some money, vote for me,'” said elections board spokesperson Matt Dietrich. “So, from our perspective, it doesn’t look like there was anything illegal about this.”

Indiana: Secret Donations to Fuel Hill’s Defense Against Groping Allegations
Indianapolis Star Tribune – Tony Cook, Kaitlin Lange, and Ryan Martin | Published: 7/23/2018

Supporters of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill have set up a legal fund to defend him against accusations that he inappropriately touched four women. Attorney Jim Bopp announced the creation of Fairness for Curtis Hill, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization formed to collect tax deductible funds for Hill’s defense. Some tax and campaign finance experts questioned whether the new fund could even operate as a charitable nonprofit under the law. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at Notre Dame, said a 501(c)(3) charity cannot benefit one person. Usually defending public officials from allegations also is not considered charitable, he said. “The name alone should have been a red flag for the IRS,” Mayer said.

Maine: Ethics Commission to Delay Clean Elections Funding Until Court Ruling
Lewiston Sun Journal – Colin Ellis | Published: 7/25/2018

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices delayed action on Clean Elections in the hope that a court ruling on the matter might be issued soon but did not rule out the possibility of calling a special meeting should the money continue to be held back. Commissioners agreed it was unfair that certain candidates have not received funding ahead of the November election but said they were not in a position to release funding at this point. Gov. Paul LePage has refused to release $1.4 million in public funding for Clean Election candidates, and Republican House members have refused to fix a typographical error in the law that provides additional funds to be used this year.

Montana: Gov. Bullock Sues IRS Over Decision to Stop Requiring Some Tax-Exempt Groups to Identify Donors
Helena Independent Record – Amy Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 7/24/2018

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sued the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department to stop them from removing requirements that politically active nonprofits disclose their donors’ identities. Bullock said the Trump administration failed to give proper notice of or seek public comment on changes to the decades-old rule requiring such disclosure. He is asking a federal judge to find the rollback illegal and set it aside. This is the third time in recent months that Bullock has inserted himself and Montana into national issues and continues his efforts in support of transparent elections.

New York: Who Needs Small Donors When You Have Friends? Ask Gov. Cuomo.
WRAL – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has always relied on large donations to accumulate a $31.1 million campaign account. But even as he emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific fundraisers, he has all but ignored grassroots contributors. Now, mindful of the party’s insurgency, and facing a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, the governor has raced to find small donors. But disclosures revealed the extent to which Cuomo remains dependent on big donors, and some of the maneuvers undertaken to obscure that fact. One donor gave 69 times to Cuomo in the final days before the deadline – 67 of them one-dollar donations, driving down his average contribution size.

North Dakota: Anti-Corruption Measure Headed for North Dakota Ballot
West Fargo Pioneer – John Hageman | Published: 7/23/2018

North Dakota voters will decide whether to add anti-corruption language to the state’s constitution this fall. A ballot measure would prevent lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials and would establish an ethics commission that could investigate officials, candidates, and lobbyists. It would also prevent public officials from being a lobbyist while holding office and for two years after leaving their post. State lawmakers would be required to pass legislation mandating “public disclosure of the ultimate and true source of funds” spent to influence elections and government actions.

Ohio: Cincinnati Firm Lobbies for Taxpayers – and Companies That Want Their Money
Cincinnati Enquirer – Dan Horn | Published: 7/23/2018

Anne Sesler once acted as spokesperson for both FC Cincinnati and Hamilton County simultaneously. That is because Government Strategies Group, a firm for which Sesler is a consultant, is paid by both the county and the new Major League Soccer team to handle their lobbying and communications work. The county hired her in 2017 and the team hired her in January. Some say that is a conflict because the interests of FC Cincinnati and Hamilton County are not the same: FC Cincinnati needed $15 million last year for a stadium parking garage and taxpayers picked up the tab. And those are not the only Government Strategies clients with interests that sometimes overlap.

Pennsylvania: Board of Ethics Says Pro-Soda Tax Coalition Violated Lobbying Law
Philadelphia Business Journal – Alison Burdo | Published: 7/20/2018

The leading group that pushed for passage of Philadelphia’s controversial soda tax agreed to pay $8,000 in civil penalties after the Board of Ethics cited it for violations of the city’s lobbying law. Philadelphians for a Fair Future (PFF) formed in 2016 and raised more than $2 million to promote the tax, which was proposed by Mayor Jim Kenney. The board found the group gave incomplete information in required reports on its spending. In addition, four companies and individuals PFF employed to lobby failed to register as required.

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July 20, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 20, 2018

      Federal: Alleged Russian Agent Ordered to Remain in Custody After Prosecutors Argue She Has Ties to Intel Agency MSN – Tom Jackman and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2018 A Russian national arrested on charges of acting as an […]

 

 

 

Federal:

Alleged Russian Agent Ordered to Remain in Custody After Prosecutors Argue She Has Ties to Intel Agency
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/18/2018

A Russian national arrested on charges of acting as an illegal foreign agent was in contact with Russian intelligence services, federal prosecutors argued, offering details about what they say was a wide-ranging influence campaign in the U.S. The court filings add to the portrait of Maria Butina, who the Justice Department says worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate American political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, and gather intelligence for a senior Russian official. Prosecutors also alleged she had a personal relationship with an American political operative and offered sex to another person in exchange for a position with a special interest organization.

From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin interfered
MSN – David Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 7/18/2018

Before his inauguration, Donald Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Putin, who had described to the CIA how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the briefing. But ever since, Trump has tried to cloud the clear findings he received on January 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

IRS Will No Longer Require Certain Nonprofits to Disclose Large Donors
WRAL – Patricia Cohen, Kenneth Vogel, and Jim Tankersley (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2018

The U.S. Treasury Department will no longer force some tax-exempt organizations to identify their donors. The new rule will affect labor unions, social clubs, trade organizations, and politically active advocacy groups. The names of donors to these nonprofit groups have not been publicly available, but the organizations were required to disclose the information to the IRS. These groups generally do not operate as charities, however, and their donors do not receive tax deductions in exchange for their contributions. As a result, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the IRS does not need their donor information to police tax laws.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Arizona Rep. Paul Mosley Accused of Inappropriate Comments Involving Women, Religion
Arizona Republic – Rachel Leingang and Yvonne Winget Sanchez | Published: 7/16/2018

Arizona Rep. Paul Mosley made inappropriate comments about marital status, working mothers, and religion to several people at the Capitol while they were working, lawmakers and lobbyists said. Mosley, who has come under fire after reports of excessive speeding, has asked whether people are married, why they do not have children, and why working mothers are not, instead, home with their children. The recollections of encounters with Mosley come as the statehouse continues to grapple with a culture that some have deemed sexist and demeaning toward women. And some lawmakers have said they are uncomfortable with Mosley’s aggressive manner in pushing for legislation, some of which could personally benefit him.

Arizona: Mistrial Declared in Bribery Case Involving Arizona Corporation Commission
Arizona Republic – Michael Kiefer and Ryan Randazzo | Published: 7/17/2018

The influence-peddling trial of former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on charges he accepted bribes from a water company owner in exchange for favorable regulatory decisions. A mistrial also was declared for Pierce’s wife, Sherry, water company owner George Johnson, and lobbyist Jim Norton. Prosecutors alleged Gary Pierce helped pass a rate increase and a beneficial tax policy for Johnson Utilities in exchange for $31,500 paid to his wife. The payments were made under the guise of consulting work and were funneled through the office of Norton’s wife. The indictment also alleged Johnson was going to fund the purchase of real estate worth $350,000 for Gary Pierce. Norton, who lobbied on Johnson’s behalf, was accused of facilitating the bribery scheme.

California: State Supreme Court Removes Measure to Split California into Three States from November Ballot
Los Angeles Times – Maura Dolan | Published: 7/18/2018

The California Supreme Court blocked a proposal to split California into three states from appearing as a ballot measure in November. The proposal, championed by venture capitalist Tim Draper, had gathered at least 600,000 signatures which was enough to earn a spot on the ballot. “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election,” the court wrote. The justices also agreed to rule eventually on the measure’s constitutionality, a ruling that is likely to go against the initiative.

Florida: ‘Look Right into My Soul,’ Michael Grieco Said. But He Was Lying, Ethics Board Alleges
Miami Herald – Nicholas Nehamas | Published: 7/18/2018

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found probable cause to charge Michael Grieco with two counts of violating a county charter provision that prohibits municipal officials from “knowingly furnish[ing] false information on any public matter.” The commission also said Grieco broke a Miami Beach ordinance against soliciting city vendors for campaign funds. The ethics panel claims Grieco, a former Miami Beach commissioner, was lying to the public when he denied involvement in a campaign fundraising operation last year and asked Miami Herald reporters to “look right into [his] soul” for the truth, which is a violation of the charter’s “truth in government” provision.

Maryland: As Governor, Larry Hogan’s Real Estate Business Continues to Thrive – Prompting Questions
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 7/12/2018

While Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan stepped aside from his firm, Hogan Companies, and turned his assets over to be managed by a trust when he took office, the governor has continued to profit. Hogan released tax returns that show he has made about $2.4 million in corporate earnings while governor. According to a review of financial disclosure forms, his corporate holdings include stakes in commercial real estate deals as well as residential and retail developments around Maryland. As Hogan seeks a second term, this arrangement has drawn criticism from Democrats, and renewed a debate about the lengths to which businesspeople-turned-politicians should wall themselves off from their private enterprises.

Massachusetts: Walsh Vetoes City Lobbying Rules, Calling Proposal ‘Inadequate’
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 7/12/2018

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh vetoed an ordinance that would have amended the city’s lobbying law. The mayor said the reforms failed to properly define and regulate lobbying, as well as create a proper enforcement mechanism. He sent back his own versions of both the local ordinance, with revised enforcement provisions, and a home rule petition, with what he called clearer definitions of lobbying. In his veto, Walsh scrapped the council’s attempts to provide exemptions for lawyers representing residents on routine matters before a city board. The mayor called for having anyone who does any lobbying work to register, which has already caused pause among council members.

Montana: Report: Rosendale uses accounting to skirt contribution limits
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 7/12/2018

U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale used excess donations from wealthy Republican donors to pay himself back for personal loans from a previous congressional run, then he turned around and loaned that money right back to his Senate campaign, according to campaign records. That accounting shuffle has given Rosendale a way to fund his campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester with money given by donors above the individual campaign contribution limits. Campaign finance watchdogs said Thursday that what Rosendale is doing is unusual but legal, and effectively raises contribution limits from $5,400 to $8,000 for some donors.

New York: Architect of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Project Is Convicted in Bid-Rigging Scheme
WRAL – Benjamin Weiser and Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 7/12/2018

A federal jury convicted key players on charges related to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program. The trial put a spotlight on how lucrative contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars were awarded for redevelopment projects aimed at revitalizing upstate New York. Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, and his co-defendants were accused of working together to rig the open-bidding process for lucrative contracts to make sure they went to LPCiminelli and COR Development. The convictions were the latest in a string of guilty verdicts in federal corruption trials focused on state officials.

New York: Guilty, Again: Dean Skelos, former Senate leader, is convicted of corruption in retrial
WRAL – Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2018

Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was found guilty of using his influence to get his son jobs and payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted on eight counts of corruption. Dean Skelos was accused of using his influence to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to his son through payments and low-show jobs from AbTech Industries and another company. The elder Skelos later leaned on Nassau County officials to award AbTech a $12 million contract. Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted in 2015, but those verdicts were overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court limited the definition of public corruption. Prosecutors were allowed to retry the pair under the narrowed definition.

North Carolina: Top State Leaders Fined for Illegal Campaign Contributions from Drug Company
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 7/13/2018

Thirty-seven candidates in North Carolina were fined for accepting illegal campaign contributions from Pfizer’s PAC. The donations totaled $53,500 and were dated during the legislative session, when PACs are prohibited from giving to state office holders or candidates seeking those offices. Most of the illegal Pfizer contributions occurred in June 2016 and October 2017, when the Legislature held a special session. Each campaign must forfeit the amount of the donation, and Pfizer must pay a $53,500 fine. House Speaker Tim Moore’s treasurer wrote in a letter to the state elections board that the campaign was unaware the Pfizer checks were dated during the session because they were received after it ended.

Virginia: New Virginia Business Aims to Be Kickstarter for Political Influence
The Virginian-Pilot – Katherine Hafner | Published: 7/12/2018

A startup aims to be a sort of Kickstarter for political influence. Crowdlobby, the brainchild of University of Richmond law school graduates, recently raised $35,000 and plans to launch within the next few months. Citizens will be able to log on and contribute to an issue they care about. It has to be a specific legislative fix, not an overarching topic like education reform. Once a minimum is reached – $50,000 at the state level, $200,000 in Washington, D.C. – Crowdlobby hires a lobbyist on the donors’ behalf. Heidi Drauschak got the idea after working at a prominent Richmond lobbying firm. “I was incredibly impressed with the tool that lobbying was … but because of the price tag, the average person never considers it as an option,” Drauschak said.

Wisconsin: Questions Raised About Payment Made by Lawyer to Randy Bryce’s Ex-Girlfriend
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 7/16/2018

Congressional candidate Randy Bryce owed money to his ex-girlfriend for more than a decade. That debt, which totaled about $4,200 by late last year, has since been paid. What is unclear is exactly who paid it. Bryce’s former girlfriend said last November that she was surprised when she received the check for $4,245.73. But it turns out the check was not from Bryce – it came from the law firm Halling & Cayo. The donation limit for congressional candidates is $2,700 per election, and candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use. Corporations are prohibited from making contributions to federal candidates.

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July 13, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 13, 2018

      Federal: Atypical Lobbying Shop Targets Lawmakers from Poorest Districts Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/10/2018 A new lobbying shop, United By Interest, is so far a commercial flop, if judged solely by the number of clients it has […]

 

 

 

Federal:

Atypical Lobbying Shop Targets Lawmakers from Poorest Districts
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/10/2018

A new lobbying shop, United By Interest, is so far a commercial flop, if judged solely by the number of clients it has attracted: zero. But the lobbyists behind the effort, all of whom have their own separate K Street businesses, have managed to move an infrastructure bill with support of lawmakers from the Freedom Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. In a time when gridlock dominates Congress, these lobbyists say they are searching for a model that can produce greater flow between left and right, and legislation that will pass. In their research about what might motivate members of Congress from the extremes of both parties, they stumbled on a common theme: the poorest congressional districts. Their idea is to push together the fringes by aligning them on economic development projects back home.

Ex-Lawmakers See Tough Job Market with Trade Groups
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 7/11/2018

Retiring lawmakers could find it harder than ever to find a job at trade groups next year. Headhunters who specialize in finding candidates for high-level K Street jobs said industry groups are no longer clamoring for the cachet of hiring a former elected official. Instead, they say hiring trends have changed and high-powered groups are looking for people with management skills, policy knowledge, and industry smarts. Snagging a marquee name years ago may have been the ideal choice for some groups, but headhunters say political gridlock in Washington and the expanded work of trade associations has ushered in the need for candidates with a larger skill set.

Giuliani Works for Foreign Clients While Serving as Trump’s Attorney
Chicago Tribune – Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/10/2018

Rudy Giuliani is reportedly still working on behalf of foreign clients at his security firm Giuliani Partners after joining President Trump’s legal team, which raises conflict-of-interest concerns and could violate federal ethics laws. Lobbying experts said Giuliani’s work at the firm more than likely requires registration under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. His decision to continue representing foreign entities also departs from standard practice for presidential attorneys, who in the past have generally sought to sever any ties that could create conflicts with their client in the White House. Giuliani told the Post that he never discusses his clients with the president and has turned away potential clients, including a Russian business.

Showdown on a Trump Subpoena Could Overshadow Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation
WRAL – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 7/10/2018

President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, has expressed strong support for executive power and gun rights, and hostility to administrative agencies. Those are conventional positions among conservative lawyers and judges. But there is one stance that sets Kavanaugh apart, and it could not be timelier: his deep skepticism of the wisdom of forcing a sitting president to answer questions in criminal cases. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump and his associates, raised the prospect of subpoenaing the president during a meeting with one of his lawyers. If Mueller goes down that road, the dispute could quickly reach the Supreme Court. And if Kavanaugh is on the court by then, it could thrust him into the middle of an issue he has been wrestling with for most of his professional life.

From the States and Municipalities:

Colorado: Denver Council Approves Ethics Exemption After Debate Over City-Provided Air Travel, Freebies
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 7/9/2018

The Denver City Council adopted new rules that will allow council members and the mayor to continue receiving gifts from other city employees. The council approved an amendment that exempts city officials and departments from being considered “donors” of gifts under restrictions in the ethics code. It also requires city officials to file new semi-annual public reports listing items received from city government that are worth more than $50. Council members acted after the Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion that questioned the providing of gifts by agencies or departments when they are seeking contract approvals or other favorable decisions.

Florida: Mayors Push to Strengthen Lobbying Laws in Broward
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Meryl Kornfield | Published: 7/9/2018

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Coconut Creek Mayor Josh Rydell want to strengthen their cities’ lobbying rules, saying Broward County’s ethics laws do not go far enough. By changing the laws in 2016, the county left it up to cities to craft penalties for any lobbyist who fails to submit logs of their exchanges with elected officials. Under the county’s ethics laws, it used to be up to the government officials to log their calls, meetings, and emails. But after April 2016, the responsibility of documenting those meetings shifted to lobbyists. County officials say no lobbyists have been investigated for failing to log meetings.

Indiana: Attorney General Curtis Hill Under Investigation Following Calls by Top Indiana Republicans
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Ryan Martin | Published: 7/5/2018

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and legislative leaders called for state Attorney General Curtis Hill to resign amid what they say are credible claims that Hill drunkenly groped four women, including a lawmaker, at an Indianapolis bar. They also called for an investigation by Inspector General Lori Torres, which Torres would occur. Hill has denied the groping allegations and said he had no plans to step down. Criminal investigations into statewide office holders are not unprecedented for the inspector general’s office.

Kentucky: Andy Beshear’s ‘Tainted’ Donations May Be More Than What’s in His Fund
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 7/11/2018

When Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s top deputy was arrested for using kickbacks and bribes for political contributions, Beshear vowed to donate all the tainted money from his 2015 campaign account to charity. That was two years ago and the money is still there. But now Beshear is running for governor, bringing more scrutiny to his campaign. He has cooperated with authorities, and federal officials have said he had no knowledge of the scheme. Beshear again vowed to donate any tainted contributions to Common Cause, a government watchdog group, but only after the Registry of Election Finance completes an audit of his 2015 account.

Missouri: KC Mayoral Candidate Proposes Limiting Gifts to $5: Ethical move or political ploy?
Kansas City Star – Bill Turque | Published: 7/9/2018

A proposed ordinance sponsored by Kansas City Councilperson Scott Taylor would cut the maximum permissible value of gifts from $1,000 to five dollars. It would also restrict city-funded council travel and extend from one to two years the period ex-officials must stay away from city government before lobbying or working as a contractor. The measure was drafted to mirror portions of “Clean Missouri,” the November ballot issue aimed at reforming state government. Taylor’s council colleagues dismiss the idea that their vote can be bought for a meal or a ticket. They describe the ordinance as election-season pandering.

New York: Cuomo Campaign Amends ‘All-You-Can-Drink’ Fundraiser Invite
Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 7/9/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign amended the language of a fundraiser invitation that initially offered an “all-you-can-drink happy hour” – a pitch that appears to violate state law. The invitation to the fundraiser now touts “happy hour drinks.” State Alcohol Beverage Control law prohibits “selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price.”

Oklahoma: Rule Change Conceals Statewide Candidates’ Personal Finances
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 7/6/2018

Unlike the federal government and nearly three dozen states, Oklahoma does not require candidates to reveal even the most basic details of their finances before Election Day. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission, citing privacy concerns and the burden of added paperwork, stopped requiring candidates to file a financial disclosure statement before the 2016 elections. State ethics rules now require only elected officials to file those statements months after taking office and then annually. The form contains less information than what is required for disclosure by the federal government and many other states.

Virginia: Dominion Claims Lobbying Costs Soared to Fight ‘Fake News’
The News-Leader – Alan Sunderman (Associated Press) | Published: 7/11/2018

Dominion Energy’s tenfold increase in spending to influence Virginia politicians was prompted by the spread of “fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups,” a company spokesperson said. Disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals, and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000.

West Virginia: Justice Ketchum Steps Away from the Supreme Court
West Virginia MetroNews – Brad McElhinny | Published: 7/11/2018

Menis Ketchum, one of two justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals under fire for spending practices, resigned less than 24 hours before House members consider articles of impeachment against one or more justices. Ketchum, along with Justice Allen Loughry, were singled out by a legislative audit for possibly violating the Ethics Act by using vehicles owned by the court for their personal use. The report specifically criticizes Ketchum for using the court’s vehicles for golf outings. When brought to his attention, he reimbursed the state and amended his tax forms. Ketchum also received criticism for the cost of office renovations and for taking a $2,500 grandfather clock owned by the court.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Treasurer Candidate Says He Was Fired from Banking Job After Mounting Campaign
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck and Max Bayer | Published: 7/9/2018

Travis Hartwig, who is running for state treasurer in Wisconsin, said he was fired from his job as a mutual fund administrator at U.S. Bank because he would not drop out of the race. Hartwig’s campaign was considered by bank officials to be a conflict-of-interest because the bank does work with state agencies and it is currently seeking a $10 million contract with Wisconsin. According to emails, the bank determined “there is substantial risk to [U.S. Bank] if you are allowed to continue in your campaign … while employed at [the bank].”

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July 6, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 6, 2018

      National: Ethics Charges Could Hurt Fight Against Legionnaires’ Disease Detroit Free Press – John Wisley | Published: 7/5/2018 Conflict-of-interest charges could derail a nationwide effort to curb outbreaks of deadly Legionnaires’ disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, […]

 

 

 

National:

Ethics Charges Could Hurt Fight Against Legionnaires’ Disease
Detroit Free Press – John Wisley | Published: 7/5/2018

Conflict-of-interest charges could derail a nationwide effort to curb outbreaks of deadly Legionnaires’ disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Veterans Affairs, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and representatives of the Mayo Clinic have withdrawn from a scientific committee that has been working on the topic for years. At issue is NSF International, a nonprofit research company that has been coordinating an effort to develop new plumbing standards to reduce the growth of legionella bacteria inside buildings. NSF has said one of its for-profit ventures was partnering with Homeyer Consulting Services to help companies meet the new standard once it is approved.

Is This the Year Women Break the Rules and Win?
New York Times – Kate Zernike | Published: 6/29/2018

This year’s midterm elections have produced a surge of women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, across the country: progressive candidates running outsider campaigns powered by strong personal narratives and women’s activism that began with massive marches the day after President Trump’s inauguration and has grown through protests against gun violence and immigration policies that divide families. Whether other women become overnight stars like Ocasio-Cortez –or Stacey Abrams, whose win in the Democratic primary for Georgia governor – in Georgia sparked similar excitement – depends on the dynamics of each state or district.

Federal:

EPA Leader Scott Pruitt Out After Numerous Scandals
CNBC – Tom DiChristopher | Published: 7/5/2018

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after months of controversies over his lavish spending, ethical lapses, and contentious management decisions eroded President Trump’s confidence in one of his most ardent Cabinet members. Pruitt’s litany of ethics scandals included questions about taxpayer-funded first-class travel, a discounted condominium rental from a lobbyist, the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, and asking staff to help search for a six-figure job for his wife. In recent weeks, an exodus of trusted staffers left Pruitt increasingly isolated, and some once-loyal Republican lawmakers wearied of defending him. There are more than a dozen federal inquiries into Pruitt’s spending and management of the agency.

News Media Paid Melania Trump Thousands for Use of Photos in ‘Positive Stories Only’
NBC News – Andrew Lehren, Emily Siegel, and Merritt Enright | Published: 7/2/2018

First lady Melania Trump reportedly earned between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties from Getty Images in 2017 for the use of photographs that under a licensing could only be used in “positive coverage.” At least 12 news organizations last year used some of the photos. Several said they were not aware the images were part of a licensing deal that profited the first lady. While it is not unusual for celebrities to sign deals governing the use of their images, it is unusual for the first lady to be party to such an agreement. Getty’s licensing agreement does not offer any hint that money is also paid to the Trumps, and the arrangement did not appear to have become public until the income was listed in President Trump’s May financial filing.

Supreme Court Defeat for Unions Upends a Liberal Money Base
Seattle Times – Noam Schreiber (New York Times) | Published: 7/1/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring nonmembers to make union payments violated their First Amendment rights, since much of what unions do could be considered political activity at odds with their beliefs. In addition to unions, the decision will impact a network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates. Together, they have benefited from tens of millions of dollars a year from public-sector unions, funding now in jeopardy because of the prospective decline in union revenue. Liberal activists argue that closing that pipeline was a crucial goal of the conservative groups that helped bring the case. “If the progressive movement is a navy, they’re trying to take out our aircraft carriers,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org.

Trump Docket: New justice could sway court on president’s personal cases
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/5/2018

Lawsuits pending over Donald Trump’s personal and business conduct could put his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court in an awkward position: deciding whether to cast potentially pivotal votes on legal matters of keen importance to the president. Virtually all justices wind up ruling on policy issues affecting the president who appointed them. But Trump is enmeshed in more than half a dozen significant court cases involving everything from his alleged sexual behavior before taking office to claims his businesses are profiting from his presidency and allegations he misused funds through his charitable foundation. The justices also could be asked to rule on whether Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election was legally authorized or whether Trump has the authority to dismiss the special prosecutor.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida: Where Does She Live? A Miami Lawmaker’s Bizarre Attempt to Reside in Her District
Miami Herald – Sarah Blaskey and David Smiley | Published: 7/3/2018

State Sen. Daphne Campbell, longtime owner of a home inconveniently located outside the community she has represented as a member of the Florida House and Senate, has been difficult to find at home over the last 30 months. More accurately, her home has been difficult to find. That is until late June, when she switched her voter registration to a house in North Miami Beach. It is one of at least four addresses she has listed over the last six years after a statewide redrawing of House districts placed her own home outside the boundaries and forced her into a series of temporary residences. The extent to which she has actually lived at any of them is questionable.

Georgia: Campaign Contributions to Top Candidates Raise Questions
Washington Times; Associated Press –   | Published: 6/29/2018

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found donations of more than $325,000 to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign from people tied to licensees and companies regulated by his office. The newspaper found contributions of more than $240,000 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign before the beginning of the 2018 legislative session from lobbyists, members of their family, or their firms, as well as another $40,000 donated after the session ended. Kemp and Cagle are locked in a runoff for the Republican nomination for governor. Critics say donations to Kemp by people with ties to businesses under the oversight of his licensing or securities divisions could undermine the credibility of one of the state’s top regulators.

Illinois: ‘I Snookered Them’: Illinois Nazi candidate creates GOP dumpster fire
Politico – Natasha Korecki | Published: 6/29/2018

Illinois Republicans botched four opportunities to stop an avowed Nazi from representing their party in a Chicago-area congressional district. Now they are paying the price. Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier who will appear on the November ballot as the GOP candidate against U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, has become campaign fodder for Democrats as they seek to defeat Gov. Bruce Rauner. And some Republicans even fear the taint from Jones‘s extremist views poses a threat to the party up and down the ticket.

Indiana: New Pay-to-Play Ban Approved
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Rosa Salter Rodriguez | Published: 6/28/2018

The Fort Wayne City Council overrode a veto to approve a bill that aims to prevent the appearance of “pay-to-play” practices in the awarding of certain city contracts. The ordinance prohibits “business entities” from bidding on city contracts if any officer, partner, or principal with more than a 10 percent ownership share in the entity and subsidiaries controlled by it contributes more than $2,000 a year to a political campaign of someone with ultimate responsibility for awarding city contracts.

Kentucky: Kentucky Broke Law by Blocking Poor People’s Campaign from Capitol, Beshear Says
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 7/2/2018

Anti-poverty demonstrators were illegally restricted from entering the Capitol in June under a policy that is not an official state regulation, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said. The opinion deferred constitutional questions raised by the policy, suggesting those could be addressed if Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration completes the process for establishing regulations on access to the Capitol. The Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign staged a series of seven demonstrations. During each standoff at the Capitol’s front door, scores of demonstrators asked if they could enter as a group. But they were blocked by a large state police presence and told of a new policy that allowed two members of the group to be in the building at a time.

New Jersey: New Jersey to Spend $5 Million on Reviving Local Journalism
WPG Talk Radio – Michael Symons | Published: 7/3/2018

New Jersey’s new state budget includes $5 million for a first-of-its-kind nonprofit effort to help finance local journalism in cities and towns where it has been decimated. Some of the money could be used to strengthen traditional media sources, such as newspapers and radio stations, and existing local websites. Funds might be used for seed investments in startups in areas without local news, or even media literacy programs. “Studies have shown what happens when local news coverage dries up or disappears. Fewer people vote. Fewer people volunteer. Fewer people run for public office. Corruption increases,” said Mike Rispoli of the media reform advocacy group Free Press.

New York: Upcoming SCOTUS Case Could Complicate NY Effort to Close Double Jeopardy ‘Loophole’
New York Law Journal – Colby Hamilton and Dan Clark | Published: 7/2/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case a case challenging the legal principle that the federal government and those of the states represent “separate sovereigns,” a long-held doctrine that has provided a work-around for state and federal prosecutors faced with constitutional double jeopardy concerns. It comes at a critical moment for supporters of changes to New York’s double jeopardy protections. Under certain circumstances, individuals close to President Trump, facing federal prosecution, could see a pardon absolve them of not only federal charges, but bar state prosecutors from bringing a similar case under New York law.

Oregon: Black Oregon Legislator Says Campaigning in Own District Triggered 911 Call
Portland Oregonian – Everton Bailey Jr. | Published: 7/3/2018

A black state representative in Oregon said one of her constituents called the police on her while she was canvassing a neighborhood in her district. Rep. Janelle Bynum said someone called the police on her to report that she “was going door to door and spending a lot of time typing on my cell phone after each house.” Bynum is up for re-election in November and said she was taking notes on her phone from conversations with constituents. A number of incidents in which police were called on people of color doing normal activities have gained widespread attention in recent months.

Virginia: Lobbying Firm to Va. Lawmakers: If you refuse Apco money, you won’t get any from us
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 6/25/2018

The law and lobbying firm Hunton Andrews Kurth said it would no longer make campaign contributions to Virginia lawmakers unless they also accept donations from one of the firm’s clients, Appalachian Power Co. The move affects legislators who signed a pledge saying they will not accept political money from the state’s regulated energy companies – Dominion Energy and Appalachian – to avoid the appearance of the companies’ undue influence on lawmakers. Whitt Clement, who heads the state government relations practice group at Hunton Andrews Kurth, said the lawmakers who do not accept contributions from Appalachian are being shortsighted because the company is an important corporate citizen in Virginia.

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June 29, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 29, 2018

      National: Voting Machine Vendor Treated Election Officials to Trips to Vegas, Elsewhere McClatchy DC – Greg Gordon, Amy Renee Leiker (Wichita Eagle), Jamie Self (The State), and Stanley Dunlap (Macon Telegraph) | Published: 6/21/2018 Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the […]

 

 

 

National:

Voting Machine Vendor Treated Election Officials to Trips to Vegas, Elsewhere
McClatchy DC – Greg Gordon, Amy Renee Leiker (Wichita Eagle), Jamie Self (The State), and Stanley Dunlap (Macon Telegraph) | Published: 6/21/2018

Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the nation’s largest voting equipment vendor, has sought to cement relationships with government officials, some of whom play roles in the award of millions of dollars in contracts. Ethics experts and election watchdogs say the company’s hospitality and hobnobbing with government officials is potentially corrupting. ES&S has for years invited state and local elections officials to serve on an “advisory board” that gathers twice annually for company-sponsored conferences. “It’s highly inappropriate for any election official to be accepting anything of value from a primary contractor …,” said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Federal:

New Emails Suggest Scott Pruitt Discussed Hiring a Friend of Lobbyist Landlord
MSN – Lisa Friedman and Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times) | Published: 6/24/2018

The lobbyist whose wife rented Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt a room in a Capitol Hill condominium at a discounted rate lobbied Pruitt’s chief of staff to hire a family friend. The exchange is among several previously undisclosed interactions that show how J. Steven Hart, who served as chairperson of the law firm Williams & Jensen until earlier this year, sought to exert influence over decisions at the agency even as his spouse was renting Pruitt a $50-a-night room in an upscale condo blocks from the Capitol. Emails also appear to undermine initial arguments that Hart had not lobbied the EPA during Pruitt’s tenure.

The Latest Sign of Political Divide: Shaming and shunning public officials
MSN – Mary Jordan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2018

Few laws expressly prohibit a business from refusing service to a customer because of political views. Civil rights lawyers said while there have been many cases in recent history involving establishments barring black people, women, or members of the LGBT community, shunning people for their political ideology or affiliation has been relatively uncommon – until now. And in a time of intense political division, social media is magnifying the confrontations. Many who disagree with the policies and tone of President Trump and his administration think silence is complicity. But others, even those who vehemently oppose the administration’s politics, do not agree with such aggressive pushback.

Who Should File as a Foreign Agent Is a Tough One to Figure Out
Bloomberg Government – Ken Doyle | Published: 6/26/2018

Until recently, advisory letters from the U.S. Department of Justice on the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) were kept confidential. Now that more than 50 of them have been made public, the trove of documents shows how complicated it is to hew to the law. Is there an easy explanation of who’s a foreign agent? “The short answer is no,” said attorney Jason Abel, who specializes in lobbying and ethics law at the firm Steptoe & Johnson. Legislation in the House would end an exemption from FARA for those who register as lobbyists with the House Clerk’s Office and Secretary of the Senate. It also would give the Justice Department new subpoena power to investigate possible FARA violations.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: California Lawmakers Approve Revamp of Sex Misconduct Policy
Sacramento Bee – Kathleen Ronayne (Associated Press) | Published: 6/25/2018

A committee of California lawmakers approved a new policy for how the Senate and Assembly will investigate sexual harassment complaints. Under the new rules, an investigative unit would look at all complaints, collect evidence, and interview witnesses. A panel of outside experts would determine whether allegations are substantiated and make recommendations on potential consequences. Aspects of the policy may require formal approval from the full Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, which could take a vote on the matter by August, said Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine.

Colorado: Ethics Board Asks Councilman to Pull Bill That Could Allow Expensive Gifts Within City
Colorado Public Radio – Ben Markus | Published: 6/22/2018

In a letter to City Councilperson Kevin Flynn, the Denver Board of Ethics requested he withdraw an amendment designed to revise the city’s ethics code, calling it the “wrong solution.” Flynn’s amendment redefines parameters of Denver’s gift policy. It would allow exchanges of things like expensive flight tickets, jackets, and other items between city agencies and elected officials. A media investigation found Denver International Airport has provided more than $420,000 expensive international business class tickets and hotel rooms to the mayor’s office and city council for a variety of purposes, including fact finding trips before key airport contract votes. Outside ethics experts have called the practice into question.

Florida: Ethics Board Member: Report shows top-down ethical ignorance at City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 6/23/2018

The investigative report and audiotaped interviews produced as part of the state investigation of former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez point to a top-down culture of easy ethics at City Hall, said key members of the city’s ethics board. The Florida Commission on Ethics unanimously found probable cause that Fernandez misused his position to accept gifts. Bill Hollimon of Tallahassee’s Independent Ethics Board, said the records show an environment in which it was a common practice to attend Florida State football games in the luxury skybox of a local lobbyist, rub elbows with celebrity chefs, and chat with developers about their projects and what they need from the city.

Kentucky: Kentucky Reviewing State Contract after Bribery Trial
Bowling Green Daily News – Adam Beam (Associated Press) | Published: 6/25/2018

An Illinois-based company’s million-dollar contract with Kentucky could be in trouble after one of its executives testified it paid a state lobbyist on a “success basis” during a recent federal bribery trial. Kentucky pays Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. (CCMSI) about $1 million a year to manage the state’s workers compensation claims. The company won the contract in 2005 and has kept it ever since. State officials recently renewed the contract for another two years. But that was before Jerry Armatis, CCMSI’s executive vice president for sales, testified during James Sullivan’s federal bribery trial. Armatis said how much money they paid Sullivan’s consulting firm depended on whether the company won a state contract.

Maine: Maine Ethics Panel Sharply Cuts Payments to Publicly Financed Candidates
Bangor Daily News – Michael Shepherd | Published: 6/27/2018

The Maine ethics commission moved to cut what could be final payments to taxpayer-funded political campaigns by nearly three-quarters if Gov. Paul LePage and Republican allies in the Legislature have their way in an ongoing dispute. The Clean Election program is in danger of being reduced to near ineffectiveness for the November election. LePage has refused to sign routine financial orders allowing the commission to increase the amount of already appropriated money that it can spend before June 30. House Republicans also have held up a bill fixing a legislative drafting error that would keep the fund from spending money as of July 1.

Minnesota: Meet the Donors Who Give to Both DFL and GOP Candidates in Minnesota
Minnesota Post – Peter Callaghan and Greta Kaul | Published: 6/26/2018

According to the most current campaign finance reports by four leading candidates for governor, five lobbying firms and/or their registered lobbyists show up on the donor lists of at least one Democratic Farmer Labor Party candidate and one Republican candidate. In addition to lobbyists and lobbying firms, at least 14 donors have given money to the campaigns of candidates from both political parties. Many of those donors, based on the information listed on disclosure reports, are associated with developers and contractors. Some lobbyists, as well as those in businesses that can be highly dependent on government regulation, need relationships with elected officials regardless of their parties. As a result, they are more likely to spread contributions across party lines than donors who are motivated by ideology.

New York: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Democrat who challenged her party’s establishment – and won
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 6/27/2018

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, once seen as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader of the House, suffered a shocking primary defeat on June 26. Crowley was defeated by a political newcomer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former organizer for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, who had declared it was time for generational, racial, and ideological change. Ocasio-Cortez’s politics are substantially to the left of most of the party, and even Sanders. In her campaign videos and posters, she came out for universal Medicare, a federal jobs guarantee, free college tuition, and the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ohio: Mike DeWine, Richard Cordray Donors Got Big Contracts from Ohio Attorney General’s Office
Cincinnati Enquier – James McNair (Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism) | Published: 6/26/2018

Ohio voters this year will choose between two candidates for governor: Attorney General Mike DeWine and his predecessor as attorney general, Richard Cordray. A review of records for the past 10 years found a strong correlation between the amount of campaign donations and the revenue received by law firms doing collection work for the attorney general’s office. Firms in the top quarter of contributors during DeWine’s tenure averaged 425 percent more revenue than those in the bottom quarter. During Cordray’s term, the top quarter of donors earned 156 percent more, on average, than the bottom quarter of contributors. Ohio does not screen and select collections contractors based on a formal scoring system. There is no competitive bidding process.

Texas: City Council Expands Campaign Disclosure Rules, Keeps Contribution Limits
Rivard Report – Iris Dimmick | Published: 6/21/2018

The San Antonio City Council approved a bill that will require anyone contributing $100 or more to a council member or mayoral campaign to disclose where they work and their title. Other measures require more frequent campaign finance reports and more contribution restrictions. The council rejected an ordinance that would have increased the donation limit for individuals.

Texas: Supreme Court Upholds Texas Voting Maps That Were Called Discriminatory
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/25/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to Texas Republicans by reviving electoral districts drawn by the state Legislature that had been thrown out by a lower court for diluting the influence of black and Hispanic voters. The court’s conservative majority ruled the challengers had not done enough to show the Republican-led state Legislature acted with discriminatory intent when it adopted new electoral maps in 2013 for state legislative and congressional seats. The court did rule, however, that one of the state Legislature districts was unlawful.

West Virginia: House Votes to Consider Impeachment of Loughry, Possibly Other Supreme Court Justices
West Virginia Record – Chris Dickerson | Published: 6/26/2018

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted to begin an impeachment investigation into members of the state Supreme Court. The investigation will target Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, who was indicted on federal corruption charges, but may also involve other justices. House Resolution 201 empowers the Judiciary Committee to investigate the court and draw up proposed articles of impeachment if committee members decide that path is warranted. But how long the investigation may take is up in the air.

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June 22, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 22, 2018

      Federal: In Trump’s America, the Conversation Turns Ugly and Angry, Starting at the Top WRAL – Peter Baker and Katie Rogers | Published: 6/20/2018 The politics of rage that animated President Trump’s rise now dominate the national conversation, as demonstrated […]

 

 

 

Federal:

In Trump’s America, the Conversation Turns Ugly and Angry, Starting at the Top
WRAL – Peter Baker and Katie Rogers | Published: 6/20/2018

The politics of rage that animated President Trump’s rise now dominate the national conversation, as demonstrated during the debate over his immigration policy that separated children from parents apprehended at the border. Harsh discourse in American politics is not new, but rarely has the president himself set the tone from the top in the way Trump does. Christine Porath, a Georgetown University professor and author of “Mastering Civility,” said the current harsh climate was affecting people beyond politics, injecting itself into everyday life at home and work. “It seems like people are not only reciprocating, but we tend to stoop lower rather than higher – it’s really putting us in an unfortunate place,” said Porath.

Pence Turns VP’s Office into Gateway for Lobbyists to Influence the Trump Administration
Seattle Times – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Anu Narayanswami (Washington Post) | Published: 6/15/2018

About twice as many companies and other interests hired lobbyists to contact the vice president’s office in Mike Pence’s first year than in any single year during the tenures of Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Richard Cheney. The approach has allowed Pence to emerge as a key ally for corporations inside the Trump White House even as the president vows to “drain the swamp.” Pence’s inner circle includes friends, donors, and former staffers who are among the lobbyists in regular contact with the vice president’s office. In several cases, the relationships are mutually beneficial, with lobbyists who have charged clients millions of dollars to access his office donating money to Pence-backed political causes.

Women Speak of Pervasive Harassment in DC Lobbying Culture
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 6/19/2018

For K Street denizens, deals are often done over dinner or drinks, on business travel, or retreats. Much like Capitol Hill, the lobbying industry remains dominated by men, creating an environment where women say they are often subject to harassment and worse. Unlike in other industries, few women have been willing to come forward to talk about it. The Hill reached out to women on K Street, asking whether they had similar stories to those surfacing as part of the “Me Too” movement. More than a dozen women spoke about instances of sexual harassment or assault they say they have faced while working as lobbyists and political operatives, and in public relations.

Zinke Linked to Real Estate Deal with Halliburton Chairman
Politico – Ben Lefebvre and Nick Juliano | Published: 6/18/2018

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s family is involved in a land deal with Halliburton Chairperson David Lesar, whose company does business with the Interior Department. A charitable foundation created by Zinke and run by his wife, Lola, is allowing a company co-owned by Lesar and his family to use a portion of its land in Whitefish, Montana, as a parking lot for the development. The Zinkes also own land on the other side of the development, and have long sparred with neighbors about their various plans for it. If the new hotel, retail stores, and microbrewery go through, real estate agents say, the Zinke-owned land next door would stand to increase substantially in value.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas: Legislator-Graft Case Spotlights Arkansas Ethics-Law Flaws
Arkansas Online – Doug Thompson | Published: 6/18/2018

A lobbyist whose firm spent $3.5 million in Arkansas reported total legislator-related expenses of only $12,170 from 2010 to 2017, a comparison of his federal guilty plea and state ethics records show. Milton “Rusty” Cranford could spend up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of federal program bribery. What changes the state Ethics Commission will recommend in light of events uncovered by federal investigators have not been determined, Executive Director Graham Sloan said. He said ethics laws leave reporting of lobbying and campaign expenses up to the entities involved, and the system relies on voluntary compliance, and people reporting noncompliance to the commission. Any change in that system would require new law, Sloan said.

California: ACLU Suit Targets Law That Bars Horn Honking at Protests
San Diego Union Tribune – Teri Figueroa | Published: 6/14/2018

When Susan Porter beeped her car horn in support of a political protest in San Diego last year, she quickly found herself pulled over and ticketed. According to the state vehicle code, horns are to be honked only for safety reasons or as part of a car alarm. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties is asking a federal judge to find that state law unconstitutional, arguing in a newly filed lawsuit that preventing such honking chills free speech. The suit argues Porter is “censoring herself by refraining from using her vehicle horn for expressive purposes,” including supporting political rallies.

Colorado: Colorado Enacts Replacement Campaign Finance Enforcement System
National Law Review – Andrew Garrahan | Published: 6/19/2018

A federal court recently held that Colorado’s system for enforcing its campaign finance laws was unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office has now enacted temporary enforcement rules, effective immediately. Under the new rules, any person may file a complaint, just like under the old system. But the rules now include three protections that attempt to prevent abuse of the system for political purposes. In addition to the enforcement changes, the new rules also establish a formal system for seeking advisory opinions on campaign finance issues.

Florida: A Persistent Gadfly Wins Again in the Supreme Court
WRAL – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court gave a civic activist in Florda another shot at proving his arrest at a city council meeting was in retaliation for his criticism of public officials. The court said it was ruling narrowly for Fane Lozman, whose battles with the Riviera Beach City Council had become legendary. It said a lower court had been wrong to stop his retaliation lawsuit. The case grew from an attempt to cut Logan off at a council meeting into a major free-speech showdown that carried nationwide implications for citizens arrested, as Lozman was, by government officials whom they criticize.

Georgia: Candidate for Georgia Governor Bought Condo from Lobbyist
New York Times – Kevin Sack | Published: 6/14/2018

A Republican candidate for Georgia governor reportedly bought an Atlanta condominium from a lobbyist at what appeared to be a discount. The New York Times, citing real estate records, says Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle purchased the condo 10 years ago at 24 percent less than its appraised value. It was bought from Terry Hobbs, a lobbyist who represents natural gas marketer SCANA. Cagle sold the condo last year at a 29 percent profit. As lieutenant governor, Cagle presides over the Senate and controls the flow of legislation there. Cagle said the sale was “a legitimate transaction” and Hobbs had not lobbied him on any issue around the time of the sale.

Kansas: Judge Slams Kobach for Flouting Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/18/2018

A federal judge permanently struck down Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law, rebuking Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the country’s most vocal advocates of voter-ID laws. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson said the state’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship during registration violated both the Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act. Robinson struck down the law and ordered Kobach to take six additional hours of continuing legal education that “pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence.” In an earlier ruling, Robinson held Kobach in contempt for skirting court orders related to the law and failing to send postcards confirming registration for thousands of voters.

Kentucky: Kentucky Man Gets 30-Day Sentence in Attack on Senator Rand Paul
Reuters – Suzannah Gonzales | Published: 6/19/2018

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor was sentenced to 30 days in prison for tackling the lawmaker while he was out doing yard work at his Kentucky home. Paul, who suffered broken ribs, had hoped for a harsher penalty. He said in a statement that the 21 months in prison sought by prosecutors “would have been the appropriate punishment.” Rene Boucher pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress in the attack. Boucher said he was triggered by Paul repeatedly stacking debris near their property line in Bowling Green and “lost his temper.” Boucher must serve a year of supervised release after the prison time, stay away from the Paul family, and pay a $10,000 fine.

Maryland: Candidate’s Relationship with Talk Radio Station Raises Questions About Campaign Finance
Baltimore Sun – Libby Solomon | Published: 6/18/2018

Nino Mangione’s family owns talk radio station WCBM 680. He is the station’s web manager. Until April, he even hosted a weekly, hourlong talk show. But Mangione is also running to be a state delegate, a situation one of his opponents said is problematic. “… He’s using his family-owned media platform to promote his own candidacy, and doesn’t seem to understand the conflict of interest involved,” said Justin Kinsey. Mangione said when the WCBM website posts stories about his campaign, it is just reporting the news, not advertising his campaign. Attorney Andy Levy said the relationship could potentially be considered an in-kind campaign contribution, subject to reporting requirements and limits.

Massachusetts: City Council Offers Own Lobbying Bill, Straying from Marty Walsh’s Proposal
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 6/19/2018

Boston City Council members Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty introduced a new lobbying ordinance. The proposal would require lobbyists and their clients to file notices with the city and pay an annual fee: $1,000 for a lobbyist and $500 for a client. They would have to file quarterly reports. A plan to reform the city’s lobbying law was proposed by Mayor Martin Walsh two years ago with a home rule petition that needed the state Legislature’s approval. Wu and Flaherty are proposing a local ordinance, which needs approval from only the council and mayor. But the versions are different enough to raise questions whether a deal can be reached on any changes to the city’s minimal lobbyist registration and disclosure requirements.

Ohio: Convicted Ohio Republican Businessman’s Company Targets Democrats
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 6/20/2018

Ben Suarez, an Ohio direct-marketer who was convicted of witness tampering in a campaign finance investigation, is organizing an operation to retaliate against the prominent Democrats he blames for putting him in prison. A memorandum lays out The Justice Association’s strategy for a lawsuit and ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election this year, and former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, the Democratic nominee for state attorney general. It calls them “chief culprits” in a vast effort by Democrats to unjustly prosecute Republican-owned companies under former President Obama.

West Virginia: West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Indicted in Investigation He Initiated
Governing – Lacie Pierson (Tribune News Service) | Published: 6/21/2018

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, who wrote a book on political corruption in the state, was arrested by FBI agents and faces 22 charges alleging fraud, witness tampering, and lying to investigators. The indictment says Loughry used a state vehicle and credit card for personal use, including trips to visit family. It says Loughry also sought mileage reimbursements for trips even though he drove a state vehicle and used a government credit card for gas. He was accused of moving a leather couch and a valuable desk from the Supreme Court office to his home, and of lying to federal agents about his actions and trying to influence an employee’s testimony. Loughry has been suspended without pay.

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June 15, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 15, 2018

      Federal: Meet the Guys Who Tape Trump’s Papers Back Together Politico – Annie Karni | Published: 6/10/2018 Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails, and papers the president touches, sending them to the […]

 

 

 

Federal:

Meet the Guys Who Tape Trump’s Papers Back Together
Politico – Annie Karni | Published: 6/10/2018

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails, and papers the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records. But President Trump has an odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he is done with them – what some people described as his unofficial “filing system.” White House aides realized early on they were unable to stop Trump. Instead, staffers have the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office, as well as the private residence, and send it to the records management office to reassemble. “We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” said Solomon Lartey, a records management analyst. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.”

US Lifts Secrecy on Foreign Lobbying Opinions
Talking Points Memo – Chad Day and Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 6/8/2018

For the first time, the U.S. Justice Department began releasing advisory opinions about the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The law requires lobbyists to detail their involvement in advocating for foreign governments. The release included memos issued since 2010. The department had kept the opinions secret for decades, a point of contention for transparency advocates and lawyers who specialize in advising clients on complying with the law. The opinions provide an unprecedented view into the thinking of a specialized Justice Department unit whose influence has grown in recent years, propelled by more aggressive enforcement and a special counsel investigation focused on foreign influence operations inside the U.S.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: John Merrill Questions Alabama Ethics Commission’s Waivers of Fines
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 6/8/2018

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is questioning the state Ethics Commission’s decision to waive fines for violations of campaign finance law. The penalties are in force for the first time with the 2018 elections. The commission voted to waive civil fines levied against 33 candidates and political committees by Merrill’s office. The fines were for late filing of campaign finance reports, which are required by the Fair Campaign Practices Act to show who contributes to campaigns and how that money is spent. The filing requirements are not new. But a 2015 law aimed to step up enforcement, giving the secretary of state the authority to levy fines and the Ethics Commission the authority to investigate campaign finance violations.

Arkansas: Former Arkansas Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme
WRAL – Kelly Kissell (Associated Press) | Published: 6/7/2018

Former lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford pleaded guilty to bribing elected officials in Arkansas. Cranford admitted paying bribes to former state Sen. Jon Woods, former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV, and a legislator identified only as “Arkansas Senator A.” According to federal prosecutors, the lawmakers diverted state funds and performed legislative favors for Cranford and companies he represented, at times holding up state agency budgets. Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, matches the description of “Senator A.”

California: Radical Plan to Split California Into Three States Earns Spot on November Ballot
Los Angeles Times – John Myers | Published: 6/12/2018

A proposal to partition California into three separate states earned enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative calls for splitting the Golden State into northern and southern regions, as well as the central coast and Los Angeles Basin. “Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education, and lower taxes,” said Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who sponsored the ballot measure. The proposal faces an uphill battle. If Californians vote for the separation, the state Legislature would have to approve it, and then Congress would still have to ratify the measure. If approved, it would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since West Virginia was formed out of a part of Virginia in 1863.

Colorado: Federal Judge Finds Portions of Colorado’s Campaign Finance Complaint Process Are Unconstitutional in Ruling Likely to Prompt Big Change
Denver Post – Jesse Paul | Published: 6/13/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore ruled that Colorado’s procedure for bringing campaign finance complaints is unconstitutional. The law allows anyone in the public to file a complaint that is automatically forwarded, without review for merit by the secretary of state’s office, to an administrative law judge. Moore’s ruling essentially means there now has to be some kind of screening mechanism put in place to prevent frivolous cases that can leave defendants facing high attorney fees. Colorado’s deputy secretary of state, Suzanne Staiert, said the decision now means her office has to find a way to satisfy the vetting requirements.

Florida: Ethics Commission: Fernandez misused position to get FSU tickets, catering discount
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 6/13/2018

The Florida Commission on Ethics said former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez violated the state’s ethics laws when he accepted Florida State University football tickets from a local lobbyist and a four-figure catering discount from the city-backed Edison restaurant. The panel said Fernandez solicited the football tickets and catering discount in violation of Florida’s gift law, and he either knew or should have known the gifts were given to influence his official action as city manager. The commission did not find probable cause on several other allegations involving a former Edison employee who was given a job at City Hall after Fernandez got the catering discount.

Florida: Lobbyists Face New Requirements at Citizens
WPEC – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 6/13/2018

Lobbyists who represent clients at the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will have to comply with a new registration process. A registration website will be available August 1, with lobbyists expected to comply with the policy starting September 1, said Citizens President Barry Gilway. All lobbyists currently registered with the executive branch will receive a letter advising them of the changes, Gilway said. The rules would apply to anyone that wants to sway Citizens policy or contracting and who contacts Citizens staff or board members. The rules will not apply to attorneys, agents, adjusters, or other people representing clients in insurance claims or judicial proceedings.

Montana: Governor Signs Executive Order Targeting Dark Money
Montana Public Radio – Corine Cates-Carney | Published: 6/8/2018

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order that aims to shine more light on political donations. Contractors will have to disclose if they have made campaign contributions in excess of $2,500 in the last two years to so-called dark money organizations. Those are groups that are not legally required to make their donor lists public. Any state contractor selling more than $25,000 in services, or $50,000 worth of goods to the state will have to report dark money contributions. According to the governor’s office, there are roughly 500 to 600 state contractors who would fall under the new disclosure requirements.

New York
IDC-Independence Party Campaign Finance Deal Declared Illegal
Albany Times Union – David Lombardo | Published: 6/7/2018

A fundraising agreement between a statewide third party and the New York Senate’s now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference has been deemed invalid by a state Supreme Court justice. The arrangement with the Independence Party boosted then-party leader Jeff Klein’s ability to raise and spend campaign money, as the new account was able to accept six-figure donations and transfer unlimited amounts to candidates. The increased fundraising muscle was flexed in 2016 and had been expected to play a pivotal role in September, when the eight former members of the conference may face Democratic primaries.

New York: New York Files Suit Against President Trump, Alleging His Charity Engaged in ‘Illegal Conduct’
Chicago Tribune – David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2018

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against President Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and members of the Trump family, alleging the charity violated federal and state law. The complaint alleges the foundation provided illegal support to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid by using public funding to promote his candidacy, and raised more than $2.8 million to support the campaign. The lawsuit also says Trump used the foundation to cover legal fees and to promote his properties and businesses. Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the foundation and sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC for possible further action.

Ohio: Court: States can purge voters who don’t vote or respond to warnings
USA Today – Richard Wolf | Published: 6/11/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states can clean up their voting rolls by targeting people who have not cast ballots in a while. The justices rejected arguments in a case from Ohio that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls. Ohio asks people who have not voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing in dissent, said the 1993 law prohibits removing someone from the voting rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote. In my view, Ohio’s program does just that.”

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Raises Fees to Stay in Operation
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 6/9/2018

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to raise its registration fees from $150 to $250. The change goes into effect July 1. Commissioners acted after they learned the agency could run out of money next fiscal year. They already voted in May to sue over the lack of funding the commission got from the state Legislature. Lawmakers are making the ethics agency use its revolving fund to operate. The fund is made up of the fees collected from lobbyists, candidates, political parties, and PACs.

Washington: Why Google Won’t Run Political Ads in Washington State for Now
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner and Christine Clarridge | Published: 6/7/2018

Google stopped accepting political ads in Washington, the same day that changes to the state’s campaign finance reporting requirements and enforcement procedures took effect. Google acted days after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company, along with Facebook, saying the firms are not obeying state law on political ad transparency. The Public Disclosure Commission issued guidelines related to the new law and passed an emergency rule that clarified that digital ad companies like Google are subject to state law requiring them to maintain publicly available information about political ads, just like television stations and other media.

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June 8, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 8, 2018

      Federal: A Courtside View of Scott Pruitt’s Cozy Ties with a Billionaire Coal Baron MSN – Steve Eder, Hiroko Tabuchi, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2018 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt enjoyed special access for […]

 

 

 

Federal:

A Courtside View of Scott Pruitt’s Cozy Ties with a Billionaire Coal Baron
MSN – Steve Eder, Hiroko Tabuchi, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2018

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt enjoyed special access for a University of Kentucky basketball game last December, scoring two of the best seats in the arena in a section reserved for season-ticket holders who had donated at least $1 million to the university. Pruitt and his son sat in seats belonging to Joseph Craft III, a billionaire coal executive who has engaged in an aggressive campaign to reverse the Obama administration’s environmental crackdown on the coal industry. Pruitt’s attendance at the game followed a year of regulatory victories for Craft, who maintains close ties to Pruitt even as he has lobbied the EPA on issues important to his company, Alliance Resource Partners.

Trade Groups in Turmoil in the Trump Era
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/7/2018

Trade associations, traditionally the backbone of K Street’s lobbying corridor, find themselves in the throes of disruption. These multimillion-dollar organizations are clamoring for ways to boost membership, and sometimes even keep their doors open, as they work to stay relevant amid the political and policy uncertainty of Washington during the era of President Trump. A number of high-profile, highly paid association chiefs have left or are on their way out, while some groups have lost significant members or are folding into other organizations, a sign that associations feel the dual storm of political turmoil and increasing pressure from their membership.

Trump Lawyer Payments Fuel AT&T Shareholders’ Push to Know More About Political Spending
Dallas Morning News – Melissa Repko | Published: 6/6/2018

Long before AT&T found itself under fire for hiring President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, some of the company’s shareholders sent up a warning: secrecy surrounding how it spends money in Washington, D.C. could put its reputation at risk. For five years, a group of shareholders has pushed AT&T to disclose how much it funds industry groups and tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities. Companies are facing pressure from shareholders to reveal how they spend money to influence legislation on Capitol Hill. But those concerns took on new relevancy at AT&T when it became public that the company paid $600,000 to Cohen to advise on various matters.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: An Alabama Sheriff Kept $750,000 Meant to Buy Food for Inmates. Voters Just Replaced Him.
Seattle Times – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2018

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, criticized for making money from the county jail’s food program, was defeated in a primary election. Alabama gives sheriffs money to feed each prisoner, and sheriffs got to pocket anything that is left over. It was reported that Entrekin pocketed more than $750,000 over the past three years from a source he identified as “food provisions,” according to ethics disclosures. It was also reported that Entrekin and his wife purchased a home for $740,000 in September.

California: Facebook Tried to Rein in Fake Ads. It Fell Short in a California Race.
MSN – Sheera Frenkel (New York Times) | Published: 6/3/2018

Facebook has faced difficulties as the company aims to prevent manipulation of its ad system in elections, especially as the midterms loom this November. While Facebook has introduced several measures to improve the transparency of political ads on its platform, some groups and individuals appear to be finding ways to flout the new restrictions, and company has not been able to catch them. That raises questions about whether there are other gaps.

Florida: Behind Florida’s Payments to Victims, Links to Lobbyists
Gainesville Sun – Gary Fineout (Associated Press) | Published: 6/4/2018

Of the $37.5 million in claims bills – payments to victims and families harmed by government actions – approved over the past two years, $16.9 million was awarded to victims represented by a lobbyist who is the brother of Florida’s outgoing House speaker, Richard Corcoran. Lobbying records show Michael Corcoran’ firm collected at least $89,000 in fees last year for its work on claims bills and is in line to receive tens of thousands more this year. During the 2013 and 2014 sessions, legislators did not approve a single claims bill, in part due to opposition by then-Senate President Don Gaetz, who said it seemed bills were passing based not on their substance, but the effectiveness of the lobbyists behind them.

Louisiana: Louisiana Lawmakers Are Pushing Bills That Benefit Their Own Businesses. And It’s Perfectly Legal.
ProPublica – Rebekah Allen (New Orleans Advocate) | Published: 6/6/2018

Louisiana’s ethics laws allow legislators to write, advocate for, and cast votes on bills that would enrich themselves, their relatives, and their clients, as long as others in the same affected industry would benefit similarly. Regardless of the law, watchdogs say, such advocacy is troubling. If a lawmaker steps over the line while pushing a bill to benefit himself or herself, complaints can only be brought forward by other members of the Legislature, not the public at large. “Would you want someone on a jury who will gain financially depending on the outcome of a particular decision? It just shows the craziness of our system,” said Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Missouri: In About-Face, New Missouri Gov. Parson Says He Won’t Accept Lobbyist Gifts
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 6/6/2018

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will abide by an executive order signed by his predecessor last year that prohibits him from accepting any gifts from lobbyists. The ban extends to his taxpayer-funded staff as well. The announcement is an about-face for Parson, who was the only statewide elected official to take any lobbyist gifts in 2017. During his six years in the state Senate, Parson and his staff accepted more than $30,000 worth of lobbyist gifts. The order also prohibits staff members from lobbying the administration upon termination of their employment.

Oregon: Former Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes to File for Bankruptcy, Attorney Says
Portland Oregonian – Jeff Manning and Hillary Borrud | Published: 6/6/2018

Cylvia Hayes, Oregon’s former first lady, will file for bankruptcy, in part to get out from under about $125,000 in debts and penalties she accrued in her legal battle to keep her emails secret. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission found Hayes misused her position as first lady and a policy adviser to secure consulting contracts worth more than $200,000. Her lawyers and the commission are now trying to reach a settlement on the fines, which could run as much as $110,000.

South Carolina: Longtime Richland Sen. Courson Resigns, Enters Guilty Plea in Corruption Probe
The State – John Monk | Published: 6/4/2018

South Carolina Sen. John Courson pleaded guilty to a corruption charge and resigned his seat. He also agreed to cooperate in the investigation of corruption at the statehouse that has resulted in guilty pleas and resignations from three other lawmakers. Courson’s plea came as his trial was about to begin on charges of misconduct in office and converting campaign money for his personal use. He said he sent campaign contributions to his political consultant, Richard Quinn & Associates, who would give him a portion back to cover years of unpaid personal campaign reimbursements. State law does not allow candidates to do that. Courson also failed to itemize the reimbursements on his disclosure reports.

South Carolina
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson Hasn’t Severed Ties to Controversial Quinn Family
Greenville News – Kirk Brown (Anderson Independent Mail) | Published: 6/4/2018

Despite years of negative publicity and withering criticism from political rivals, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has not cut his financial ties to the controversial Quinn family. As part of his bid for a third term, records show Wilson has made $117,000 in campaign expenditures since 2015 to Richard Quinn & Associates, Richard Quinn’s daughter, Rebecca Mustian, and her company, Spring Strategies. Those payments came while Richard Quinn, his firm, and his son, former state Rep. Rick Quinn, were at the center of a statehouse corruption probe. Mustian was not implicated in the investigation.

Washington: Facebook and Google Get Sued by Washington State Over Political Ads
Governing – Jim Brunner (Tribune News Service) | Published: 6/4/2018

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed campaign finance lawsuits against Google and Facebook, alleging the companies “failed to maintain legally required information on Washington state political advertising” placed online since 2013. Ferguson said companies that accept political advertising are required to keep tabs on who buys the advertising, and make that information available to the public. Collected information includes the name of the candidate or measure, dates the ads ran, who sponsored it, and the total cost spent. Once focused largely on television, campaigns have increasingly turned to online advertising in recent elections.

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June 1, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 1, 2018

    National: Who’s Behind Those Political Ads on Facebook? Now, You Can Find Out. San Antonio Express-News – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2018 Facebook and Twitter, said they are following through on promises to add verification, disclosures, and […]

 

 


National:

Who’s Behind Those Political Ads on Facebook? Now, You Can Find Out.
San Antonio Express-News – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2018

Facebook and Twitter, said they are following through on promises to add verification, disclosures, and additional information to all political advertisements. For both companies, the stakes are high ahead of the 2018 midterm election, after Russian agents spread propaganda, through ads and other posts, on social media sites in a bid to create social and political unrest in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential race. On Facebook, political ads will include a marker at the top indicating who has paid for it. Clicking on the label will bring users to a new repository of all political ads that have run on the site. Twitter said it soon would require political advertisers to prove their identity before promoting tweets on the platform.

Federal:

F.B.I. Official Wrote Secret Memo Fearing Trump Got a Cover Story for Comey Firing
MSN – Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/30/2018

Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo last year recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of McCabe’s predecessor, James Comey. His dismissal is a central focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Trump tried to obstruct the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. McCabe described a conversation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played a key role in the firing, writing a memo that rebuked Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton. In a meeting with McCabe, Rosenstein said Trump originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo. To McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence Comey’s firing was actually related to the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton inquiry.

Former Drug Industry Lobbyist Helps Steer Trump Drug Plan
Politico – David Pittman | Published: 5/27/2018

Joe Grogan – a former drug industry lobbyist who has sweeping authority over drug pricing, entitlement programs, and other aspects of federal health policy at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – did not obtain a waiver from a directive President Trump issued during his first week in office that imposed a two-year waiting period between lobbying and regulating on the same “specific issue area.” Grogan was the top lobbyist for Gilead Sciences until he arrived at the OMB last March. The administration says Grogan did not need such a waiver because his government job does not overlap with what he did for Gilead. His new role, the OMB says, affects policy for an entire industry, not simply the one company he worked for.

How a Sanctioned Russian Bank Wooed Washington
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 5/31/2018

Foreign campaigns to influence American officials are supposed to be transparent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring detailed disclosure of foreign influence efforts. But few believe FARA has been working well. It is riddled with exemptions, enforcement is weak, and criminal penalties apply only to willful violations. And lobbyists’ filings are frequently late with few consequences, making available information less valuable to the public. Now, with accusations of foreign meddling gripping the nation’s capital, FARA is drawing more scrutiny. The case of VTB, a state-owned Russian bank, illuminates what Americans learn – or do not – under FARA.

Trump Says He Will Pardon Dinesh D’Souza, an Obama Critic Who Violated Campaign Limits
USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 5/31/2018

President Trump announced he would offer a pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws but later said he was targeted for his conservative views. Trump said he is also considering leniency in number of other cases, including those of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart. D’Souza’s pardon would continue Trump’s use of clemency power to correct what he perceives as politically motivated prosecutions. But they also come amid investigations into his own campaign and inner circle, including a probe into whether his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, violated the law when he illegally paid off an adult film actress who said she had a relationship with Trump.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Women Slam Don Shooter’s Campaign for Arizona Legislature After Harassment Expulsion
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardiner | Published: 5/30/2018

Don Shooter, the former Arizona lawmaker expelled from office for sexually harassing women, has qualified to appear on the ballot as a candidate for the state Senate. The Arizona House expelled Shooter after investigators concluded he sexually harassed at least seven women over many years, including fellow lawmakers, a lobbyist, and the former publisher of The Arizona Republic. One of those women, lobbyist Marilyn Rodriguez, immediately took to Twitter to protest his candidacy. “Don Shooter is a predator and serial harasser who disgraced the honor of elected office,” Rodriguez tweeted.

California: Chairwoman of California’s State Campaign Watchdog Agency Resigns Amid Power Struggle
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/29/2018

Jodi Remke submitted her resignation as chairperson of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) amid turmoil as other members of its panel were moving to reduce her powers. The resignation comes after a majority of the FPPC supported the creation of two subcommittees to provide input on key decisions that previously have been made largely by Remke, who is the only member of the panel who has a full-time role. Remke is becoming the presiding administrative law judge for the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

Michigan: Feds: Ex-Detroit airport manager took bribes, ate evidence to cover up crime
Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas | Published: 5/23/2018

A former Detroit Metropolitan Airport official was indicted in federal court on charges he pocketed more than $5 million in bribes and tried to cover up the crime by eating evidence. Former airport utilities and infrastructure manager James Warner had the power to approve and extend maintenance projects funded through the Wayne County Airport Authority from 2010 to 2014. During one dinner, Warner and contactor Gary Tenaglia discussed contracts and kickbacks, prosecutors said. “During the meal, James Warner wrote ‘5k,’ a proposed kickback amount, on a napkin,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “He folded it and slid it across the table to Gary Tenaglia. After Gary Tenaglia acknowledged the meaning of the writing on the napkin, James Warner retrieved the napkin and ate it.”

Missouri: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns, Ending Political Career Once Aimed at Presidency
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock and Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/29/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced he will resign amid personal and political scandals that marred his once-promising career. A woman with whom Greitens had an affair alleged he took a nude photograph without her consent to use as blackmail to keep her from talking about their relationship. He was indicted on a felony count of invasion of privacy stemming from the woman’s accusations. Greitens also faced charges he used a veterans charity donor list to raise money for his 2016 campaign for governor without the permission of the group. State lawmakers called a special session to consider impeaching Greitens. In stepping down, he presented himself as a victim of an unjust political attack, despite criticism he has received from across the political spectrum.

New Mexico: New Mexico Governor Candidate Profited from High-Risk Insurance Plans
Politico – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 5/30/2018

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democratic candidate for governor in New Mexico, profited from the state’s use of a high-priced health-insurance program for seriously ill patients, even after the Affordable Care Act made such programs virtually obsolete. As most states were shuttering their subsidized health-insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions because they could get coverage through Obamacare, a firm co-founded by Lujan Grisham and a close political ally received millions of dollars to run New Mexico’s program, even as she served in Congress. Lujan Grisham denied she exerted pressure on state officials to keep the program open because of their financial interests, although watchdogs suggest that influence would be difficult to detect, in part because of New Mexico’s porous conflict-of-interest rules.

Ohio: Payday Lenders Say Ex-Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger Threatened Them, Delayed Bill
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jackie Borchardt | Published: 5/24/2018

Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger used strong-arm tactics to defeat a bill to regulate the payday loan industry, including threatening loan companies that were trying to work on a compromise with reform advocates, according to two payday loan executives and their lobbyists. The bill was introduced in March 2017 but languished in a House committee for over a year before advancing without a single change. Rosenberger resigned in April amid reports the FBI was asking questions about a trip he took to London in August, where he was accompanied by lobbyists for the short-term lending industry.

Pennsylvania: Judge Hits Ex-Pa. House Speaker John Perzel with New $1M Restitution Order on Corruption Convictions
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 5/30/2018

A year after the state Supreme Court tossed it out, a Dauphin County judge found an alternate way to reinstate a $1 million restitution order on former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel. Citing the loss to the state, President Judge Richard Lewis slapped the restitution back on Perzel as he resentenced him on his 2011 corruption convictions. Perzel was among several lawmakers who pleaded guilty or were convicted of diverting taxpayer funds to convert the House Republican Caucus’ information technology department into a high-tech campaign machine to benefit GOP candidates. The high court ruled Lewis’s 2012 restitution order was invalid because the state cannot be considered a victim for the purposes of restitution. Lewis imposed the new $1 million restitution figure under the state Pension Forfeiture Act.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Lawmakers Got $164,000 in Travel and Perks Last Year from Outside Groups
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Keegan Kyle and Patrick Marley | Published: 5/29/2018

A review shows fifty Wisconsin lawmakers last year had their meals, lodging, airfare, and other travel costs covered by outside groups, or they received payments for speaking or other services. The total amount was $164,000, with four legislators each receiving more than $10,000. Travel for lawmakers has drawn attention after former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned amid an FBI investigation into his trips. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos joined Rosenberger on some of those trips. Wisconsin law allows legislators to receive free travel if it is for official business or educational purposes. Lawmakers from both parties have long taken advantage of that opportunity.

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May 25, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 25, 2018

      Federal: The Princes, the President and the Fortune Seekers Seattle Times – Desmond Butler and Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 5/21/2018 Two Americans sought to leverage access to President Trump while angling for lucrative contracts from two Gulf countries […]

 

 

 

Federal:

The Princes, the President and the Fortune Seekers
Seattle Times – Desmond Butler and Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 5/21/2018

Two Americans sought to leverage access to President Trump while angling for lucrative contracts from two Gulf countries wanting to shift U.S. foreign policy against Qatar. Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy and businessperson George Nader reportedly worked to catch the president’s ear by passing along praise from the princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Broidy and Nader, who marketed themselves as having a back channel to the Oval Office, sought million-dollar contracts with the two Gulf countries for their efforts, according to the Associated Press investigation. The AP previously reported that Broidy and Nader sought to pass an anti-Qatar bill through Congress, while trying to hide their money trail related to such efforts. Nader is now reportedly cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators, who are said to be examining foreign influence inside the Trump White House.

Trump Violated the Constitution When He Blocked His Critics on Twitter, a Federal Judge Rules
Tampa Bay Times – Brian Fung and Hamza Shaban (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled President Trump cannot block people from viewing his Twitter feed over their political views. Buchwald said the president’s Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment. The government does not dispute that Trump blocked the Twitter users for political reasons, but the Justice Department had argued the president was largely acting in a personal capacity. Buchwald did not order Trump to unblock his followers, saying clarification of the law is sufficient to resolve the dispute. Should the president ignore the ruling, analysts say, future litigation could force Twitter to unblock Trump’s followers unilaterally.

Washington Lobbyists Put on Notice Over Foreign Agent Law
Associated Press – Chad Day and Eric Tucker | Published: 5/22/2018

The prosecution of a Pakistani man in Maryland reflects what current and former U.S. Justice Department officials say is an aggressive enforcement strategy against unregistered foreign agents that began even before special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation exposed a shadowy world of international influence peddling. Officials say they are not interpreting any differently the little-known law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people to disclose when they lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments or political entities. But they have been taking a more aggressive approach, asking more probing questions of people and firms they suspect need to register, requesting more documents, and conducting investigations with an eye toward bringing criminal charges when appropriate.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Reform Commission Begins Work on Alabama Ethics Law
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 5/17/2018

A committee created to propose changes to the law governing ethics for Alabama officials, public employees, lobbyists, and others is aiming to have a proposal ready in October, allowing time to fine tune it before the 2019 legislative session starts March 5. Deputy Attorney General Mike Duffy was the main author of an ethics bill that was introduced during the 2018 legislative session. Lawmakers decided to set it aside and created the Ethics Reform Commission with the goal of passing reforms next year. Duffy said meetings with people affected by the law helped identify areas of concern that were addressed in the bill, such as more clearly defining who is considered a “principal.”

Arizona: Array of Arizona Politicians, Lobbyists Connected to Bribery Case
Arizona Capitol Times – Katie Campbell | Published: 5/18/2018

The trial of a former regulator, a utility owner, and a lobbyist has tentacles that stretch to many others in Arizona’s political universe. Eighty-two prospective witnesses may be called to testify at the trial scheduled to begin May 30. Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce and his wife, Sherry, along with lobbyist Jim Norton and Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson, face charges of felony conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. Barry Aarons, who has lobbied at the Legislature for 40 years, said the public is in for a bad impression of Arizona politics no matter the outcome of the trial. “It reinforces that sense people have that the whole thing is corrupt,” said Aarons.

Florida: Florida’s Porous Campaign Finance Laws: ‘You can do almost anything’
Tampa Bay Times – Gary Fineout (Associated Press) | Published: 5/21/2018

So far, at least $13 million has been spent on television ads in the Florida governor’s race that includes six candidates vying for the job that will be vacated by Rick Scott. Television ads are poised to play a crucial role in the race since polls continue to show a majority of the state’s voters do not really know the Republican or Democratic candidates vying to replace him. Some of the ads are being paid for by groups that insist they have no legal obligation to disclose who is paying for them. Other ads are being coordinated with campaigns relying on their own legal interpretation to sidestep laws and rules intended to place limits on ad campaigns being funded by large donors. Mark Herron, an election law attorney based in Tallahassee, said: “You can do almost anything in Florida if you put it in the right bucket.”

Florida: Want to Speak at a Miami Beach Meeting? For Business Owners, That Could Cost $850
Miami Herald – Kyra Gurney | Published: 5/24/2018

Businesses owners who want to speak to public officials in Miami Beach are required to register as lobbyists under Miami-Dade County law and the city charges lobbyists a $500 registration fee plus $350 for each issue on which they plan to lobby. Most cities waive lobbying fees for business owners speaking on their own behalf. While the Miami Beach fees might not be a problem for big businesses and the lobbying firms hired to represent them, they have deterred several “mom-and-pop” business owners from speaking at a city commission meeting.

Georgia: Stacey Abrams Wins Georgia Democratic Primary for Governor, Making History
MSN – Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2018

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams won the Democratic primary, bringing her a step closer to becoming the nation’s first African-American woman governor. By defeating Stacey Evans, Abrams also became the state’s first black nominee for governor. The general election is sure to draw national attention as voters determine whether a black woman can win in the Deep South, a region that has not had an African-American governor since Reconstruction. Abrams has signaled she is unlikely to spend much time persuading rural whites to return to a Democratic Party they have largely abandoned. She has embarked instead on a strategy of energizing a coalition of young and nonwhite Georgians who represent a growing share of the state’s population.

Louisiana: New Orleans City Council to Investigate Entergy for Paying Actors to Lobby for Power Plant
New Orleans Times-Picayune – Beau Evans | Published: 5/18/2018

In the wake of Entergy’s admission of waging an “astroturf” lobbying campaign leading up to the approval of a power plant in New Orleans, the city council will change public comment cards and introduce legislation to require lobbying groups register. Entergy conducted an internal investigation that found one of its contractors, Hawthorn Group, hired Crowds on Demand, which admitted to paying actors to testify in support of the power plant. The investigation also found Entergy’s contractors coordinated to have other people paid to sit in the audience of a council meeting to show support for the plant with handmade signs.

Maine: Legislative Typo Threatens to Undermine Clean Elections Campaigns
Lewiston Sun Journal – Kevin Miller (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 5/21/2018

Maine lawmakers left dozens of measures in limbo when they adjourned the 2018 legislative session. Advocates for the state’s public campaign finance system and a state ethics commission official warn that a little-noticed victim of the partisan rancor could have significant financial ramifications for the November 2018 elections. Lawmakers failed to pass a routine “errors and inconsistencies” bill to correct unintended budget language that prevents the ethics panel from disbursing additional money to clean elections candidates starting on July 1. As a result, more than 200 legislative candidates and potentially three gubernatorial campaigns will be unable to tap into at least $3 million, money that lawmakers already have budgeted for the public campaign finance system, in the final months of the election season.

Missouri: Missouri Lawmakers Can Keep Accepting Lobbyist Gifts After Failing to Pass Amendment
Kansas City Star – Allison Kite and Jason Hancock | Published: 5/18/2018

Missouri lawmakers can keep accepting free meals, drinks, and event tickets after the House defeated a proposed constitutional amendment. Sen. Jason Holsman had sought to ban lobbyist gifts and alter legislative term limits. The House brought up the proposal in the last hour of the legislative session only to move on moments later after some lawmakers tried to attach tried to attach amendments and sink the proposal. When the session ended, the proposal died.

Montana: Appeals Court Upholds Montana Campaign Finance Reform Law
Washington Times; Associated Press –   | Published: 5/23/2018

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Montana’s 2015 law to increase campaign reporting and disclosure meets constitutional muster. A group called Montanans for Community Development was unwilling to register and disclose its donors and spending as required under the statute. The appeals panel called the group’s constitutional claims against the law “scattershot.” It also called the group’s argument “absurd” that the law’s requirement to file electronic campaign reports may be unconstitutional.

New York: From the E.R. to the Garden, M.T.A. Chief Holds Unusually Powerful Perch
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal | Published: 5/22/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last June selected Joseph Lhota to head the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). But Lhota would only agree to return to the position he held in 2012 on the condition that he could keep his full-time job as the chief of staff of one of the state’s biggest hospital networks, and also retain the prerogative to join any other paid board he wanted. While Lhota remains a respected official, his growing web of jobs has led to potential conflicts-of-interest and competition for his time, complicating the still-flailing effort to resuscitate a transit system used by millions of people every day. Nobody has ever led the MTA while balancing as many other leadership posts as Lhota.

Oklahoma: Many Felons Can’t Vote, But They Can Lobby at the Capitol
Oklahoma Watchdog – Paul Monies | Published: 5/16/2018

Questions have come up in recent years about who can be barred from becoming a registered lobbyist in Oklahoma and whether elected officials should be banned from accepting jobs as lobbyists shortly after leaving office. An Ethics Commission rule requiring a two-year waiting period before certain officials could become lobbyists was rejected by the Legislature this year, with some lawmakers saying it was unjust to deny people the freedom to seek private employment. The issue becomes trickier when it involves someone convicted of a felony. Nothing in state law or ethics rules prohibits lawmakers convicted of felonies from lobbying their former colleagues, but their ability to do so depends largely on prosecutors’ demands.

Pennsylvania: Pa. House GOP Leaders Planning to Impose Sanctions Against Rep. Nick Miccarelli
PennLive.com – Jan Murphy | Published: 5/17/2018

Pennsylvania House Republican leaders said they were moving to take away committee assignments from Rep. Nick Miccarelli, who is accused of abusing two women who dated him, including a fellow lawmaker who is now assigned a bodyguard while she is at the statehouse. The GOP leaders accused Miccarelli of repeatedly violating a caucus policy against retaliation, even after he was told several times about it. Rep. Tarah Toohil obtained a protective order against Miccarelli in March and House leaders provided her with a security escort when she is in the Capitol. The leaders said they also are moving Miccarelli’s desk on the chamber floor, so it will be farther from Toohil’s.

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May 18, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 18, 2018

      National: These Women Mostly Ignored Politics. Now, Activism Is Their Job. WRAL – Campbell Robertson (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2018 Since retiring eight years ago as a high school French teacher, Kathy Rentz was content to spend her time […]

 

 

 

National:

These Women Mostly Ignored Politics. Now, Activism Is Their Job.
WRAL – Campbell Robertson (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2018

Since retiring eight years ago as a high school French teacher, Kathy Rentz was content to spend her time gardening, knitting, and spoiling her grandchildren. Now she is the kind of person who writes “Not For Trump’s Golf Trips” across her federal tax return. The grassroots activism on the left has been powered to a large degree by college-educated women in midcareer or retirement. They often have no prior interest or experience in politics. But with the election of Donald Trump, they were aghast at how they felt the political system, which most had taken for granted to the point of indifference, had allowed things to fly so far off the rails.

Trump, Schneiderman, Greitens and the Changing Shape of Sex Scandals
Chicago Tribune – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 5/13/2018

In politics, entertainment, sports, and other industries, the arc and impact of sex scandals are changing, and the difference centers on coercion and consent. Prominent cases have led the cultural wave, as allegations of abuse derailed the public careers of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who announced his resignation hours after he was accused of physically assaulting women. But even as politicians from both parties resign or pull away from re-election bids because of accusations they abused or coerced women, a two-year procession of allegations from women who accused President Trump of sexual improprieties has had no visible impact on his popularity.

Federal:

A Secret Mission, a Code Name and Anxiety: Inside the early days of the F.B.I.’s Trump investigation
Anchorage Daily News – Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2018

Days after they closed their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the FBI began scrutinizing Donald Trump’s campaign. The two cases have become inextricably linked in one of the most consequential periods in the history of the bureau. The FBI sent a pair of agents in 2016 to meet the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who had evidence one of Trump’s advisers, George Papadopoulos, knew in advance about Russian election meddling. The agents’ report on the interview helped provide the foundation for a case that became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of FBI officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

Ethics Chief Knocks Trump Over Stormy Daniels Payment
Politico – Louis Nelson, Matthew Nussbaum, and Lorraine Woellert | Published: 5/16/2018

President Trump formally disclosed he paid his attorney as much as $250,000 as reimbursements for expenses, which included a payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump. The disclosure came in the president’s annual financial disclosure report to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Trump said he was listing the reimbursements to Michael Cohen “in the interest of transparency,” even though he was not required to disclose them. OGE Director David Apol questioned why Trump did not include this in his previous year’s disclosure and passed along his concerns to federal prosecutors. “I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing,” Apol wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

FEC Allows Candidate to Use Campaign Funds for Child Care
The Hill – Aris Folley | Published: 5/10/2018

The FEC ruled a candidate can use campaign funds to pay for child care. Liuba Grechen Shirley had petitioned the FEC for permission to pay her babysitter out of money donated to her campaign. Grechen Shirley, who previously cared for her children full time, argued she needed the sitter only for her bid for office and that the payment therefore constituted a campaign expense. The FEC noted Grechen Shirley’s child care needs were a direct result of her run for Congress and essential to her continuing a bid. Therefore, the spending would not be considered a violation of rules that prohibit personal spending.

Thousands of Pages of Congressional Testimony Shed Light on 2016 Trump Tower Meeting
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2018

Thousands of pages of interview transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee offer the most detailed account to date of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who has admitted to being an “informant” to Moscow. The documents show a constellation of efforts over several years by two powerful Russian real estate developers, Aras and Emin Agalarov, to arrange meetings and provide assistance to Donald Trump. The efforts culminated in setting up the meeting with Trump Jr. on the promise to the president’s eldest son that it would deliver political dirt on Hillary Clinton. While the documents reveal the willingness of the Trump campaign to accept the Agalarovs’ help when it was convenient, they do not show the extent to which the president was aware of the meeting’s stated purpose.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Legislature Will Boot Ballot Measure If Governor Signs ‘Government Accountability’ Bill
Juneau Empire – James Brooks | Published: 5/14/2018

If signed into law by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, House Bill 44 will prohibit lawmakers from accepting per diem after Day 121 of the legislative session if a budget has not been approved. Lawmakers will also be required to disclose financial conflicts-of-interest in committee, not just on the floor, and lobbyists will be further restricted from providing meals and drinks to legislators. Amendments to the legislation make it “substantially similar” to an ethics reform ballot measure. Under the Alaska Constitution, an initiative may be removed from the ballot if the Legislature passes a bill that is “substantially the same” as the initiative.

Arizona: Arizona Lawsuit Says Measure Undermines Clean Elections
KNAU; Associated Press –   | Published: 5/16/2018

A lawsuit claims a ballot referendum eviscerates the authority of the state’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The agency administers public financing of elections. A ballot referendum that passed earlier this year would ask voters if they want to put the commission’s rulemakings under the oversight of the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, which is staffed by gubernatorial appointees. The suit says the commission has independent rulemaking authority by design, since it regulates politicians.

Arkansas: Arkansas Judge Who Blocked TV Ads Removing Himself from Case
Sacramento Bee – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 5/16/2018

Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin, who ordered that negative political ads against Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson be pulled off the airwaves recused himself from further involvement in the case. The temporary restraining order by Martin still stands, however. Martin had reported receiving income through his wife from the law firm of Goodson’s husband. Justice Goodson is fighting a legal battle in Arkansas’ largest media markets against what she says are “defamatory” ads being run by an out-of-state group that does not disclose its donors.

Florida: It Was Supposed to Show Who Profited from Public Money. But the Rule Wasn’t Enforced
Miami Herald – Elizabeth Koh | Published: 5/10/2018

Records show despite an ethics rule that requires lobbyists for taxpayer-funded entities to submit lobbying contracts to the Florida House, the rule has not been enforced. The House’s much vaunted web page was not updated for a year and some lobbyists neglected for months to comply with the required disclosures. Today, the web page still includes outdated data on lobbying expenditures made by local governments and remains incomplete. At one point, the backlog left hundreds of documents off the books in the last two years.

Maryland: Mayor Pugh Seeks Broad Ethics Exemption to Raise Private Money to Fund Baltimore Programs
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 5/15/2018

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh wants to be exempted from city ethics rules that require officials to obtain approvals before soliciting private funds for community programs and events. Calling Baltimore “a poor city,” City Solicitor Andre Davis questioned the constraints on the mayor’s ability to solicit monetary assistance. The ethics rules are designed to ensure transparency around gifts and charitable support that officials receive from individuals and businesses they may wield influence over in the course of their duties. In addition to seeking approval up front, officials are required to submit reports detailing fundraising activities.

Missouri: Case Against Greitens Is Dropped, for Now. Legislative Leaders Say Nothing’s Changed
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry, Jason Hancock, Kelsey Landis, Allison Kite, and Steve Vockrodt | Published: 5/14/2018

Prosecutors dropped an invasion-of-privacy charge against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens but still hope to pursue a case against him for allegedly taking a revealing photograph of a woman with whom he was having an affair. The move came after the judge granted a request by Greitens’ lawyers to call the case’s prosecutor, Kim Gardner, as a witness for the defense. The defense team has criticized Gardner’s handling of the case. “The court’s order places the circuit attorney in the impossible position of being a witness, subject to cross-examination, [including by her own subordinates],” a Gardner spokesperson said. Greitens remains charged for allegedly using a donor list from a charity in his gubernatorial campaign. The Legislature will convene a special session to consider whether to initiate impeachment proceedings against Greitens.

Missouri: Donors Behind Political Cash Cannot Be Concealed, Ethics Watchdog Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Sky Chadde | Published: 5/10/2018

The Missouri Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion stating nonprofits that contribute to campaigns cannot conceal the identities of their donors. The opinion targets so-called dark money groups, who do not have to disclose their donors, making the origin of the funds nearly impossible to determine. Their use has increased in recent years and one prominent organization that has employed the tactic is A New Missouri, a nonprofit created to promote Gov. Eric Greitens’ agenda.

New York: Jury Finds Silver Guilty
Albany Times Union – Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 5/11/2018

For a second time, a jury convicted former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. Prosecutors accused him of a scheme in which a physician referred possible asbestos lawsuit plaintiffs to him in exchange for $500,000 in state grants. Silver passed on the clients to a law firm, which paid him more than $3 million in referral fees. He was also convicted of accepting $700,000 in fees from a real estate law firm after he steered business to the firm from two developers who benefited from his activities at the statehouse. Silver’s initial conviction was among a number of cases that were overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the activity that could constitute corruption.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Ethics Commission Votes to Sue Over Budget
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 5/12/2018

Unhappy with its appropriation, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to pursue a lawsuit over the matter. Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp would not say if the suit was related to concerns over funding or who would be named as defendant. But the commission has been vocal about its dissatisfaction on how the Legislature handled its funding. Kemp said the agency was upset about its appropriation. The Legislature swept the agency’s revolving funds, which include fees assessed by the commission, rather than making an appropriation from the general revenue fund.

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May 11, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 11, 2018

      National: Tough Choices, and Criticism, for Emily’s List as Democratic Women Flood Primaries New York Times – Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 5/4/2018 Crowded Democratic primaries, many involving two or more women, have forced Emily’s List, one of the nation’s […]

 

 

 

National:

Tough Choices, and Criticism, for Emily’s List as Democratic Women Flood Primaries
New York Times – Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 5/4/2018

Crowded Democratic primaries, many involving two or more women, have forced Emily’s List, one of the nation’s most powerful PACs, to make difficult choices that have spawned resentment around the nation. For Democratic women, no endorsement is as sought after or powerful as one conferred by Emily’s List, which functions as the political equivalent of the old-fashioned “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval for voters and potential donors. And Emily’s List has bold ambitions this year; its president, Stephanie Schriock, says her aim is to deliver the House to Democrats. So, its endorsement decisions are drawing scrutiny.

Federal:

EPA Pesticide Settlement Comes Under Scrutiny
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 5/8/2018

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to scale back a pesticide fine on Syngenta has raised eyebrows, highlighting the ethical land mines facing an administration filled with former lobbyist and business executives. Critics noted that Jeff Sands, who was a top EPA agricultural adviser at the time of the settlement, was previously a lobbyist for Syngenta. Sands said he was not involved in the decision to reduce the fine, and there is no evidence he worked on the settlement. Still, ethics experts said Sands’ connection to Syngenta illustrates the difficulties that arise from having so many former lobbyists serving in key positions.

‘I’m Crushing It’: How Michael Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions
MSN – Michael Kranish, Rosalind Helderman, Carolyn Johnson, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2018

New information shows how Michael Cohen quickly leveraged his role as President Trump’s personal attorney, developing a lucrative sideline as a consultant to companies eager for insight into how to navigate the new administration. The rapid flow of millions of dollars to Cohen shows the rush by corporations – unable to rely on the influence of K Street in dealing with a new, outsider president – to lock in relationships with Trump’s inner circle. Selling access is common in Washington, D.C., but investigators could probe whether Cohen promised specific government actions in exchange for payments, which could cause him legal trouble. If he spent large amounts of time speaking to government officials on behalf of clients, investigators could also explore whether he should have registered as a lobbyist.

Russia’s 2016 Facebook Strategy Exposed in Trove of 3,500 Ads
Bloomberg.com – Anna Edgerton and Sarah Frier | Published: 5/10/2018

Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released thousands of copies of Kremlin-linked Facebook advertisements used during the 2016 presidential election, a data dump that provides a greater understanding of a Russian company’s disinformation campaign across social media. The lawmakers released more than 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian firm with ties to the Kremlin. Over 11.4 million American users were exposed to these ads between 2015 and 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian groups earlier this year for engaging in “information warfare” during the election, alleging they had used social media and other sophisticated measures to sow discord in the U.S.

‘Scam PACs’ Rake in Millions Under Guise of Charity
Politico – Maggie Severns and Scott Bland | Published: 5/6/2018

Some new PACs have feel-good names like Cops and Kids Together and Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer. They have succeeded in raising millions of dollars from small donors in a matter of months, and spent most of it just as quickly, without supporting candidates or making a mark on a policy issue. Their activities show political groups often receive less oversight and get more leeway than charities, even though they have to disclose more details about their donations and spending. The FEC has said it is all but powerless to crack down on these so-called scam PACs.

Trump’s Appointees Pledged Not to Lobby After They Leave. Now They’re lobbying.
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/3/2018

Days after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order requiring every political appointee to sign a pledge as a condition of taking office, agreeing not to lobby the agencies they had worked in for five years after they left government service. Nor would they lobby anyone in the White House or appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the administration. But at least eight former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge. ProPublica identified at least 184 people who have left the Trump administration. Of those, at least six former officials are now registered lobbyists and several others work at firms in roles that resemble lobbying in all but name.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: An Urgent Debate for California Republicans: How to get back in the game
New York Times – Adam Nagourney | Published: 5/6/2018

There may be no Republican candidate for governor or U.S. senator on the ballot this November in California. That dispiriting possibility is beginning to sink in for Republicans, against the backdrop of a divisive debate among its candidates and leaders on how the embattled party can become competitive again in a state where Ronald Reagan was elected twice as governor. It is no secret the GOP has been in a decline for 20 years in the state. Its challenges have been aggravated by the election of President Trump, as he has pushed tougher policies on such issues as immigration and the environment, running up against strong and often bipartisan sentiment in California. A field of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor is struggling against these headwinds as they seek to end a more than 10-year drought and elect a party member to statewide office.

Florida: Fox News Plays Kingmaker in Florida Governor’s Race
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 5/8/2018

Florida Republican primary voters are largely unfamiliar with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Fox News is helping to change that. The little-known Republican, a vigorous defender of President Trump, is building a campaign around the president’s endorsement and a seemingly endless series of appearances on a news network favored by conservatives, an approach that has taken him from an asterisk in the polls to a top contender for the governorship in the nation’s largest swing state. TV Eyes, a television monitoring service, estimates those appearances equate to $7.1 million in what it calls “national publicity value” – a number that is likely smaller since the value only applies to Florida-specific exposure, but still represents a significant amount.

Hawaii: Why No One Wants to Blow the Whistle on Sexual Misconduct
Honolulu Civil Beat – Anita Hofschneider | Published: 5/3/2018

The recent resignation of a top Hawaii lawmaker who admitted to repeated sexual harassment only scratches the surface of a much deeper problem at the State Capitol, where the local tendency to “no talk stink” is compounded by fear of retaliation from people in power. The result – according to more than a dozen current and former lobbyists, staffers, and lawmakers – is a pervasive culture of silence around issues of sexual harassment. The difficulty speaking up is compounded by policies that discourage victims from filing complaints. Lawmakers are not planning to change these policies until at least next year, citing the need to do more research about the best way to improve them.

Missouri: County Council to Ask Voters to Restrict Campaign Donations
St. Louis Public Radio – Jo Mannies | Published: 5/9/2018

The St. Louis County Council approved a proposal to ask county voters on August 7 to set a $2,600 contribution limit for any county office and restrict contributions from entities bidding on county contracts. The ballot measure was aimed at county Executive Steve Stenger, who has repeatedly faced accusations during his term that donors to his campaign get favorable treatment by his administration. The ballot proposal also would restrict donations when the council is considering contracts.

Missouri: Missouri Lawmakers Agree to Call Special Session to Consider Greitens’ Impeachment
Kansas City Star – Allison Kirte, Jason Hancock, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/3/2018

The Missouri General Assembly has taken the historic step of calling itself back into special session to decide whether to impeach Gov. Eric Greitens. The announcement comes as Greitens faces widespread calls to step down amid criminal charges. The governor faces a trial on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking an unauthorized, nude photograph of a blindfolded woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Greitens was also charged with computer tampering stemming from allegations he used a veterans’ charity donor list to raise funds for his 2016 campaign for governor without the permission of the group, which he founded. The special session is set to begin on May 18, just days after the start of the governor’s criminal trial, and will last no more than 30 days.

New York: Eric Schneiderman, Accused by 4 Women, Quits as New York Attorney General
MSN – Danny Hakim and Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 5/7/2018

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned, stepping down hours after it was reported that four women accused him of physically assaulting them. The women said Schneiderman choked and repeatedly slapped them. Two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, described patterns of emotional as well as physical abuse. Selvaratnam said Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped. Both women said he threatened to kill them if they ended their relationships with him. Schneiderman denied abusing the women. For several years, his office has published a “Know Your Rights” brochure for victims of domestic violence.

New York: Furthering Split from Cuomo, Senate Passes Reform Bills
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 5/10/2018

The Republican-controlled New York Senate passed an extensive package of reforms, including bills that would increase oversight over state-funded economic development programs, prevent conflicts-of-interest, and improve transparency. In a rare gesture of bipartisanship, Senate Democrats volunteered to move many of the long-stalled bills from the Rules Committee to the floor. Taking aim at the governor’s office, one of the bills would prohibit executive agency appointees and members of their households from making campaign contributions to, or soliciting them for, the same executive who appointed them. Several of the bills have companion legislation in the Assembly and some have even been approved by that chamber. But it is unclear how the Assembly will vote on the entire package.

Ohio: Ohio Votes to Reform Congressional Redistricting; Issue 1 Could End Gerrymandering
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Rich Exner | Published: 5/8/2018

Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will reform the state’s redistricting process. The measure asked voters whether they wanted to amend the state constitution to require bipartisan support when drawing new congressional district lines. Any new maps would require three-fifths support in the state House and Senate, including support from at least half the members of the minority party. If Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature cannot agree on a map, a bipartisan commission would be assigned to draw new maps. Those maps would have to be approved with at least two votes from the minority party. If the bipartisan commission fails, the Legislature would be allowed to try to draw maps that earn support from one-third of the minority party or a four-year map with only majority support.

Oklahoma: Pruitt’s Coziness with Lobbyists Includes Secretly Buying a House with One
MSN – Hiroko Tabuchi and Steve Eder (New York Times) | Published: 5/3/2018

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt once purchased a house from a top lobbyist in Oklahoma with the help of a shell company. Two business associates involved in the 2003 purchase are now aides to Pruitt at the EPA: Kenneth Wagner is a senior adviser, and Albert Kelly runs the agency’s effort to redesign the Superfund program. According to The New York Times, the home, which was seen as a prime property because of its proximity to the Capitol, was purchased for $375,000 from a retiring telecommunications lobbyist. But that price was $100,000 less than the lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey, had paid for it just a year before. The shortfall was picked up by Lindsey’s company, SBC Oklahoma.

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May 4, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 4, 2017

      National: Crimes Are No Longer a Disqualification for Republican Candidates San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2018 Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying in the world of Republican politics. In the era […]

 

 

 

National:

Crimes Are No Longer a Disqualification for Republican Candidates
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2018

Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying in the world of Republican politics. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption. Trump has attacked some branches of law enforcement, especially those pursuing white-collar malfeasance, as his allies and former campaign officials are ensnared in various investigations. Following his lead, Republican Senate candidates with criminal convictions in West Virginia and Arizona have cast themselves as victims of the Obama administration’s legal overreach.

Federal:

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez Is ‘Severely Admonished’ by Ethics Committee, Ordered to Repay Gifts
Chicago Tribune – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2018

The Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for accepting gifts from a wealthy physician while using his position as a senator to promote the doctor’s personal and financial interests. It also ordered Menendez to repay the market value of all improper gifts he has not already repaid. The admonition stems from the same actions for which Menendez was indicted. His trial ended with a deadlocked jury and the federal government decided not to retry Menendez. In its letter of admonition, the Ethics Committee acknowledged the lack of a conviction at trial, but wrote, “The criminal system … neither enforces nor supplants the Senate’s rules or standards of conduct ….”

Giuliani: Trump repaid attorney Cohen for Stormy Daniels settlement
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Robert Costa, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2018

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said President Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to stay quiet about their alleged affair before the 2016 election. The comments by Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, contradicted a previous statement by the president, who has said he did not know about the payment. Giuliani said Trump had repaid Cohen over a series of months, and the repayments were to ensure there was no campaign finance violation. Giuliani’s comments are also in direct contrast to what Cohen has been saying for months – that he used his own money to pay Daniels.

Lobbyist Helped Broker Scott Pruitt’s $100,000 Trip to Morocco
Los Angeles Times – Kevin Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin, and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2018

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is facing new criticism after it was revealed his controversial trip to Morocco was partially arranged by a lobbyist and cost $100,000, more than double what was previously reported. Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who is a longtime friend of Pruitt, accompanied him on the trip and served as a liaison. Smotkin’s role in the trip is unusual and could pose more problems for Pruitt since federal laws prohibit public officials from using government resources to financially benefit friends or relatives. Months after the visit, Smotkin registered as a foreign agent representing the Moroccan government after taking a contract with the country.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas: Wilkins, Former Arkansas Legislator, Pleads Guilty to Bribery
Arkansas Business – Jan Cottingham | Published: 4/30/2018

Former Arkansas lawmaker Henry Wilkins pleaded guilty to accepting over $80,000 in bribes. Wilkins admitted that from 2010 to 2014, he accepted bribes from lobbyists and non-profit organizations. In exchange for the cash, Wilkins said he fixed shell bills, sponsored full bills, and voted for legislation. About $245,000 from Arkansas’ General Improvement funds were steered towards entities that funneled bribes to Wilkins through his church, where he served as pastor, the Justice Department said.

District of Columbia: Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories Roil DC City Government
Associated Press – Ashraf Khalili | Published: 5/2/2018

A spiraling controversy over anti-Semitic comments and conspiracy theories has roiled the government in the District of Columbia, seemingly getting worse with every public attempt to ease the tensions. The issue nearly derailed a city council meeting and resulted in the resignation of a city official who organized a disastrous “unity rally” that featured a speaker who called all Jewish people “termites.” Councilperson Trayon White ignited a firestorm by posting a short video on his Facebook page claiming an unexpected snowfall was because of “the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters.”

Georgia: Georgia Governor Candidate Aims Gun at Teen in Campaign Ad. ‘Get Over It,’ He Tells Critics.
Chicago Tribune – Samantha Schmidt (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2018

A commercial for a Republican candidate in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, which features the politician holding a shotgun while seated next to a teenage boy, is drawing condemnation for what critics see as a casual attitude toward gun violence.  In the ad, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp sits with a double-barrel shotgun, which he appears to be cleaning as he holds it across his lap with the action open. Seated next to Kemp is “Jake,” a young man interested in one of Kemp’s daughter’s. Kemp asks Jake the two keys to dating one of his daughters. “Respect, and a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment,” Jake responds as Kemp pops the break-action closed with a click.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Sen. Stan Rosenberg Resigns After Ethics Report Says He Failed to Protect State Senate from His Husband Bryon Hefner
MassLive.com – Gintautas Dumcius and Shira Schoenberg | Published: 5/3/2018

Massachusetts Sen. Stan Rosenberg will resign after a report said he failed to protect the Senate from his husband, Bryon Hefner, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Rosenberg stepped down as Senate president when the allegations first surfaced. Investigators concluded Rosenberg showed “significant failure of judgment and leadership,” and knew or should have known that his now-estranged husband was “disruptive, volatile and abusive,” and had racially or sexually harassed employees of the Senate. The report did not accuse Rosenberg of breaking any chamber rules, though it did say he violated policy by giving Hefner access to his Senate email account despite a promise to his colleagues he would build a “firewall” between his personal and professional life.

Michigan: Michigan Lawmakers Voted on Bills Even After Admitting Conflicts of Interest
Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 4/24/2018

A Center for Public Integrity analysis found seven Michigan legislators who voted on bills even when they publicly noted their own conflicts-of-interest in the matters. Currently, the penalties for voting when a conflict exists are modest., and seemingly unused. But a new bill introduced this session would make voting on such conflicts-of-interest a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and as much as four years in prison, which would make Michigan stricter than some states. But some officials say conflicts-of-interest are not a concern to their constituents, and the efforts to regulate them are just a ploy used for political attacks. Other officials and watchdogs say the measure falls short in fixing the transparency and accountability issues.

Minnesota: Allegations Against Minnesota Rep. Rod Hamilton Pose Big Test for New House Sexual Harassment Policy
Minnesota Post – Brianna Bierschbach | Published: 4/27/2018

Within 24 hours of Minnesota lawmakers adopting major changes to the House’s internal sexual harassment policy, that new policy is facing a big test as a woman filed a police report accusing state Rep. Rod Hamilton of sexual assault. Hamilton allegedly invited the woman back to his apartment near the Capitol during a snowstorm and “stroked her hair, traced her ear with his finger, kissed her cheek and held her hands and hugged her.” The woman first met Hamilton through her work advocating for sexual assault victims in Minnesota. Hamilton’s case deals with the question of how the chamber will handle an incident that involves a third party: someone who does not directly work for the House and Senate.

Montana: En Banc 9th Circuit Stays Out of War on Montana Campaign Caps
Coiurthouse News Service – John Parton | Published: 5/2/2018

Montana’s campaign contribution limits will stay in place for the June 5 primary elections after a federal appeals court decided against revisiting the issue. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not reconsider its October ruling upholding the contribution limits for state races. The decision is part of a long-running lawsuit over claims that Montana’s limits are so low that they restrict donors’ free-speech rights. The Ninth Circuit ruled he limits prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.

North Carolina: Steak Dinners, Travel, HOA Fees: How some NC legislators spend campaign donors’ money
Charlotte Observer – Will Doran and Lynn Bonner | Published: 4/25/2018

State campaign finance law allows North Carolina legislators to use donations to pay expenses that come along with being a lawmaker. They can use campaign contributions for housing, travel, and other expenses associated with working as lawmakers and spending part of the week in Raleigh. Spending on suits and other personal items is allowed for legislators who would otherwise have no need for them. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said it is up to each state candidate to determine whether spending from campaign accounts on personal items could withstand scrutiny from constituents. Use of campaign funds for living expenses points to the inadequacy of legislator pay, Phillips said.

Oklahoma: Chairman of Oklahoma Ethics Commission Accuses Legislators of Retaliation
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 5/1/2018

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Chairperson John Hawkins accused legislators of retaliating against the agency by illegally cutting its budget. Hawkins said lawmakers took the action because of new restrictions imposed on gift-getting and on becoming a lobbyist after leaving office. The commission is not getting any money next fiscal year from the state’s general revenue fund. Instead it is being required to use $710,351 from a fund made up of fees collected from lobbyists, candidates, political parties, and PACs. The commission is meeting May 11 and may decide to file a legal challenge. It contends the state constitution requires the Legislature to appropriate funds to the agency.

South Carolina: South Carolina Lawmakers Getting Help on Following State Ethics Laws
Charleston Post and Courier – Seanna Adcox (Associated Press) | Published: 4/28/2018

While the House Ethics Committee has issued official opinions since its creation in 1991, the questions have skyrocketed in the last few years as South Carolina legislators sought to avoid their colleagues’ fate in an ongoing probe into statehouse corruption. Auditing by a firm newly hired in 2016 also helps ensure House members are following the ethics laws that many of them helped craft. Ethics Committee Chairperson Mike Pitts insists his efforts have nothing to do with the corruption probe. He said he does want to help legislators clear up mistakes on their campaign disclosure reports “that could be troublesome.”

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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April 27, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 27th, 2018

      National: For Politicians Scraping Bottom, a Scarce Resource: Impeachment Lawyers New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 4/22/2018 There are only a handful of lawyers who have helped shepherd governors and lawmakers through the trauma of a possible impeachment. […]

 

 

 

National:

For Politicians Scraping Bottom, a Scarce Resource: Impeachment Lawyers
New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 4/22/2018

There are only a handful of lawyers who have helped shepherd governors and lawmakers through the trauma of a possible impeachment. Despite the high stake, the nation’s statehouse impeachment bar is made of up just a few battle-tested lawyers who have improvised legal strategies largely on history and hunches. An impeachment, lawyers who have worked on such proceedings around the country agree, is a political process imbued with law, where electoral rivalries and ambitions uncomfortably share the stage with talk of traditions and procedures. Ross Garber, after representing besieged governors in Alabama, Connecticut, and South Carolina, has arguably become the nation’s leading practitioner of a subspecialty whose relevance can be a barometer of political rancor.

Federal:

Lobbyist Whose Wife Rented to Pruitt Lobbied EPA Despite Denials
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Eliana Johnson | Published: 4/20/2018

The lobbyist whose wife rented Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt a room in a Capitol Hill condominium for $50 a night helped arrange a meeting at the agency related to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Dennis Treacy, a former Smithfield Foods executive who now sits on the board of the Smithfield Foundation, first reached out to an official in EPA’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations to arrange the session as part of his role as the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s citizen representative. Subsequently, Williams & Jensen Chairperson J. Steven Hart – whose wife was then renting a room to Pruitt – called the administrator’s aides to encourage them to take the meeting.  Hart has said he is resigning from the firm over the matter.

Mulvaney Backlash May Drive Political Money Changes
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/26/2018

Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking executives that as a member of Congress he always met with constituents, but never out-of-town lobbyists unless they gave him campaign money – part of an exhortation to the bankers to push their agenda on Capitol Hill. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you; if you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you,” Mulvaney said at an American Bankers Association conference. Campaign finance watchdogs and their allied lawmakers are seizing on the dustup to advance both long-shot legislative changes as well as voluntary ones, such as lawmakers refusing donations from PACs or registered lobbyists.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: O.C. Anti-Corruption Task Force Collapsed Amid Infighting Between Federal and Local Investigators
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Richard Winton | Published: 4/17/2018

In the wake of a grand jury report declaring that misconduct was “actively festering” in local government, Orange County created a corruption task force. But nearly four years after it began, the operation quietly fell apart last year amid conflicts between local and federal investigators who had little to show for their work together, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. Sources said federal agents harbored suspicions about supervisors in the district attorney’s office seeking information about separate FBI corruption probes. And officials clashed over separate inquiries into the mayor of Santa Ana. The end of the task force marks the latest setback in a county where attempts to target corruption have often run into apathy or outright resistance from political leaders.

Colorado: U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn Should Be Kept Off the 2018 Ballot, Colorado Supreme Court Rules
Denver Post – Jesse Paul, Mark Matthews, and John Frank | Published: 4/23/2018

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn cannot appear on the ballot in the 2018 Republican primary. The justices said Ryan Tipple, one of the petitioners Lamborn hired to collect the required signatures to qualify, was not a bona fide resident of Colorado, which is required by election law, making the signatures invalid. “We recognize the gravity of this conclusion, but Colorado law does not permit us to conclude otherwise,” the court said. Lamborn’s campaign indicated he would challenge the ruling in federal court.

Maryland: Baltimore City Council Bill Would Tighten Restrictions on Lobbyists, Require Forms Go Online
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 4/23/2018

Baltimore City Councilperson Zeke Cohen introduced a bill that would tighten restrictions on lobbyists. The Transparency in Lobbying Act would require lobbyists to identify who they are to city government officials and file quarterly disclosure reports. It also would require the ethics board to post the disclosure reports online within 30 days of their filing and consider a three-year ban for lobbyists who violate the law. Cohen said he has experienced frustration trying to figure out whom the lobbyists approaching him represent.

Michigan: Trash Titan Chuck Rizzo Gets 5½ Years: ‘I’ve let many people down’
Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas | Published: 4/23/2018

Fallen trash mogul Chuck Rizzo will spend 66 months in prison for bribing politicians and stealing money from the garbage-hauling firm he built into a regional powerhouse. Rizzo is one of the central figures in a widespread corruption scandal that ensnared Macomb County politicians, fellow businessperson Gasper Fiore, and Detroit police officers. Prosecutors said Rizzo bribed public officials in at least four communities to win lucrative contracts and embezzled $900,000 from his company and investors to line his own pockets.

Missouri: Greitens Charged with Second Felony After AG Investigation into Veterans Charity
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock, Allison Kite, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 4/20/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted for illegally obtaining a donor list from a veterans charity he founded and using it to raise money for his 2016 campaign, a new blow to Greitens in a deepening political and sex scandal that has threatened his grip on the governor’s office. He was charged with one felony count of tampering with computer data in connection with the donor list. The charge dates back to actions prosecutors say took place in April 2015, when Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, was running for governor and serving on the board of directors for The Mission Continues. According to the charging document, Greitens directed an employee of the charity to take a list of donors from The Missouri Continues.

New Jersey: Video Shows Port Authority Commissioner Telling Cops: ‘You may shut the f— up!’
Newark Star-Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/24/2018

A Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioner who abruptly resigned had been caught on camera delivering an expletive-laced tirade to police officers during a traffic stop. The Tenafly Police Department released the video showing Caren Turner attempting to leverage her influence, talking about who she knew, and complaining the police had “ruined” a holiday weekend with the stop of her daughter and three friends. The video also shows her becoming increasingly agitated with the responding officers and shouting an expletive at them. Turner resigned after the authority learned of the incident. She had chaired the agency’s ethics committee.

New York: Former de Blasio Fundraiser Facing Criminal Charges for Straw Donations in 2013 Mayoral Election
New York Daily News – Molly Newman, Shayna Jacobs, and James Fanelli | Published: 4/19/2018

Thirteen suspects and nine companies, including a major donor to New York City Mayor Bill de Blaio, were accused of rigging public works contracts and abusing the campaign finance system. Husam Ahmad, the founder of construction firm HAKS, was one of several figures linked to the company accused of paying off a Department of Environmental Protection employee to gain unfair access to information about city water system projects. Ahmad was a major contributor and fundraiser for de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and was in turn appointed to the board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

New York: JCOPE Passes Sweeping New Lobbying Regulations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/24/2018

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) approved new rules that overhaul the state’s lobbying law. A major provision will create more disclosure around so-called grassroots lobbying in which well-funded interest groups seek to sway public and elected official opinions through campaign-style efforts. The rules also include an explicit requirement that lobbyists disclose the names of the lawmakers they attempt to influence. The regulations, however, face possible legal action. David Grandeau, the state’s former top lobbying official, said the Legislature never passed a law authorizing JCOPE to broadly reinterpret New York’s lobbying rules.

Ohio: How One GOP Heiress Influenced the Ohio House – and Its Leader’s Demise
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 4/23/2018

Cliff Rosenberger was just 33 years old in 2014, when he was chosen to replace Ohio Speaker Bill Batchelder. Rosenberger did not have years of policy experience or a political pedigree, but he did have wealthy Republican donor Virginia Ragan’s money and Batchelder’s support. Ragan’s bankroll helped construct the Republican-controlled Ohio House that Rosenberger built. In the end, Ragan’s money also helped to destroy Rosenberger’s political career. The FBI is investigating Rosenberger’s many trips as a lawmaker and his lavish lifestyle generally, including a condominium he rented from Ragan.

Ohio: Questions Raised About Campaign Contributions and Influence at Columbus City
Columbus Dispatch – Doug Caruso and Rick Rouan | Published: 4/22/2018

Real-estate developers, unions, and some wealthy individuals who do business with the city contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of elected officials in Columbus. City officials raised about $8.4 million from nearly 5,000 donors disclosed on reports filed from mid-2014 through 2017, but more than 60 percent of that money came from less than four percent of the contributors, according to an analysis. These large donations have prompted critics to question what influence that money leverages in City Hall. Many of the largest donors lobby for zoning changes and compete for contracts. They negotiate with the city on union deals or seek tax incentives. More than half of the 20 largest contributors are developers or linked to companies with business interests throughout the city.

Washington: Washington’s Lottery Deputy Director Ousted After Ethics Investigation
Seattle Times – Rachel LaCorte (Associated Press) | Published: 4/20/2018

Jim Warick, deputy director of Washington’s Lottery, was fired following an investigation into ethics complaints that found he and other lottery employees accepted drinks and food from a vendor who had a contract with the agency, and several employees likely got free hotel rooms during a work trip that coincided with the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Both state law and the Lottery’s own code of ethics prohibit using their positions to secure special privileges or to accept most gifts. Lottery employees fall under a section of the law that subjects them to greater restrictions than other state employees, and under an ethics advisory opinion, those employees may not accept food when a vendor sponsors a presentation.

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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