April 20, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Patrick Kennedy Profits from Opioid-Addiction Firms Politico – Adam Cancryn | Published: 4/17/2018 Patrick Kennedy, who stepped down from Congress amid his battles with addiction and mental illness, is a high-profile mental health advocate who sat on President Trump’s […]
Patrick Kennedy Profits from Opioid-Addiction Firms
Politico – Adam Cancryn | Published: 4/17/2018
Patrick Kennedy, who stepped down from Congress amid his battles with addiction and mental illness, is a high-profile mental health advocate who sat on President Trump’s opioid commission. At the same time, he has served as chief executive officer of the Kennedy Forum, which is funded in part by major drug makers and addiction-treatment companies. He received more than $1.1 million from the organization between 2014 and 2016. Kennedy also sits on the boards of eight corporations invested in Washington’s response to the opioid crisis, from which he collects director fees and holds an equity stake in the firms. The many entanglements make Kennedy a one-man nexus of government, private-sector, and patient-advocacy work. Despite his extensive advocacy work, Kennedy said he has not registered as a lobbyist because his activities do not meet the legal specifications of lobbying.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Woman at Center of Phoenix Lobbyist Forgery Scandal Convicted, Sentenced
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardner and Rick O’Dell | Published: 4/13/2018
Beth Briggs, a legal assistant with the firm Burch & Cracchiolo, pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent lobbying documents with the city of Phoenix. She must pay a $1,000 fine and complete 200 hours of community service. Investigators said Briggs falsely backdated documents, forged a former attorney’s signature, and signed an affidavit falsely claiming she had mailed the forms. The forged documents made it appear as if Burch & Cracchiolo had complied with an ordinance that requires lobbyists at regular intervals to register, list their clients, and disclose contributions or gifts to elected officials. The firm, however, had not filed the required forms for about two years, even as one of its top attorneys lobbied the city.
Florida: Fernandez Gave Football Tickets to City Officials; Investigation Finds ‘No Rule Violation’
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 4/16/2018
Two high-ranking city officials accepted Florida State University football tickets in 2016 from former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez, who was ousted this year for accepting football tickets from a local lobbying firm under FBI scrutiny. The city, in an internal inquiry, determined the employees did not violate Florida law by accepting the tickets or not reporting them as gifts because they did not exceed a $100 threshold. However, the city found, had the tickets cost a penny more, they would have exceeded the statutory threshold.
Florida: Stymied in Effort to Fill Empty Seats, North Miami Beach Commission Can’t Take a Vote
Miami Herald – Kyra Gurney | Published: 4/18/2018
A week after Mayor George Vallejo resigned and pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, North Miami Beach scrambled to fill a vacancy on the city commission so the elected body had enough members to function. Only four of the commission’s seven seats were filled and it needed at least five members present to take any action. The city secured a last-minute order from a judge allowing recently ousted Commissioner Frantz Pierre to return for an emergency meeting so the commission could appoint a new member. Then, Commissioner Anthony DeFillipo announced he could not participate in the meeting. With that, the commissioner marched out of the meeting, leaving the panel where it started, one vote shy of the number needed to fill a vacant seat.
Illinois: Cook County Tax Officials Take Excess Campaign Donations from Appeals Firms, Ethics Panel Says
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long and Hal Dardick | Published: 4/13/2018
Records show Cook County officials who decide the outcome of property tax appeals accepted more than $500,000 in campaign donations from law firms and other businesses that help challenge tax bills, far more than permitted under a county ethics ordinance. Assessor Joseph Berrios and Board of Review members Larry Rogers Jr., Dan Patlak, and Michael Cabonargi were told to return about $440,000 of about $600,000 given by the law firms or other companies involved in the property tax appeals business. Hoping to prevent “pay-to-play,” the county board set caps on contributions from people or businesses that have “sought official action by the county within the preceding four years.” Donations are limited to $750 in a non-election year and $1,500 in an election year.
Iowa: Regulator: Iowa official won’t have to ID outside businesses
WRAL – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 4/18/2018
Secretary of State Paul Pate will not be required to identify his private businesses in a conflict-of-interest disclosure form because other state officials have kept similar information secret without consequence, said Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Director Megan Tooker. Pate owns a strip mall and two rental storage businesses that he did not list on a recent ethics filing. As mandated by state law, the form asked Pate to identify “each business, occupation, or profession” in which he was engaged during 2017 and warned of criminal and civil penalties for failing to do so.
Kansas: Gov. Colyer Signs Sweeping Executive Branch Transparency Measure
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 4/16/2018
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a bill that will require people trying to influence an executive branch official on contracts to register as a lobbyist. “Senate Bill 394 will equalize the treatment of lobbying within all branches of state government,” Colyer said in a statement. An investigation last year by The Kansas City Star found the state has one of the most secretive governments in the nation.
Kansas: Kobach Helped Lead Trump’s Election Panel. A Judge Just Found Him in Contempt in a Voter ID Case
Denver Post – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 4/18/2018
One of President Trump’s leading voter-fraud investigators was ruled in contempt of court for flouting a judge’s orders to ensure voters in his home state were not misled ahead of the 2016 general election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was vice chairperson of the election integrity commission the the Trump administration disbanded, was cited by U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson for a “history of noncompliance and disrespect” for the court’s decisions. In 2016, Kobach lost a challenge to the Kansas Documentary Proof of Citizenship law. He then failed to comply with the court’s directive that he inform affected voters they would be deemed registered and qualified to vote, according to the ruling .
Massachusetts: Thornton Law Firm Didn’t Break State Campaign Finance Laws, Prosecutor Says
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 4/18/2018
A probe of the Thornton Law Firm found “no conclusive evidence of a crime,” despite an initial review from Massachusetts regulators saying there may have been campaign finance violations, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance had asked Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate contributions from the firm’s partners and spouses. The agency raised questions over whether partners sought to disguise where the money came from and whether the contributions were with personal funds and were not paid or not reimbursed by the law firm. State law bans corporations from contributing to campaigns and prohibits a person from reimbursing someone else for a political donation.
Missouri: Hawley Says Probe into Greitens, Charity Indicates Potential Felony by Governor
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy), Jason Hancock, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 4/17/2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already facing a felony charge related to an extramarital affair, could soon face another after the state’s attorney general cited evidence that suggests Greitens’ use of a charity donor list for political purposes may have broken state law. Attorney General Josh Hawley said an investigation by his office shows Greitens took computer data listing the top donors to The Mission Continues without the consent of the veterans’ charity he had founded and used it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign. Hawley said he referred the matter to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has jurisdiction to decide whether to charge Greitens with a crime. He also referred his findings to a special House committee that is considering whether to recommend impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Montana: Dark Money Group Pays $30K Fine for Breaking Montana Campaign Finance Law
Montana Current – John Adams (Montana Free Press) | Published: 4/14/2018
A political group has agreed to pay a $30,000 fine for violating Montana’s campaign finance laws in the 2012 elections. The Montana Growth Network claimed to be an incidental political committee that did not have the primary purpose of supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues and therefore did not have to disclose its donors. The commissioner of political practices concluded the group should have registered as an independent political committee and reveal donors.
New York: Cuomo Touts Political Ad Transparency Law as Other Reforms
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/19/2018
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that prohibits foreign entities from creating independent expenditure committees or buying political ads, requires anyone who purchases an online political ad to register as an independent expenditure committee, and requires online ads to include information about who paid for them, as is currently required of traditional media platforms. The state Board of Elections will also now create a public archive of those online ads and retain them for five years. The bill was a component of Cuomo’s larger Democracy Agenda that otherwise fell by the wayside during budget negotiations and seem unlikely to pass in the remaining months of the legislative session.
New York: New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons
New York Times – Danny Hakim and William Rashbaum | Published: 4/18/2018
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked legislators to amend state law so prosecutors can charge individuals who have benefitted from a presidential pardon. Right now, New York law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. In explaining the need for the change, Schneiderman cited recent reports that President Trump may be considering pardons that could impede criminal investigations. Schneiderman argued that due to the current statute, a “strategically-timed pardon” could protect individuals who have violated New York laws.
Washington: Many of the State’s Powerful Lobbyists Work from One Olympia Neighborhood
The Olympian – Joseph O’Sullivan (Seattle Times) | Published: 4/16/2018
Nearly one-third of the 62 homes found immediately south of the Capitol in Olympia are owned or used by lobbyists, corporations, or unions, according to a review of public records. Those homes, some just across the street from the Capitol campus, are a physical manifestation of the close relationship between Washington’s nearly 800 registered lobbyists and the state’s elected officials. Last year, seven of the state’s 10 highest-earning lobbying firms had a presence in the neighborhood. Some lobbyists say they use their Olympia homes only for sleep or light work before and after the long days of the legislative session. With sessions in recent years lasting between two and seven months, the homes can remain vacant for long stretches in between.
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.
April 13, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: AP Finds Legislatures Lack Public Records on Harassment Arizona Daily Star – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 4/11/2018 In the past 15 months, dozens of state lawmakers have been forced from office, removed from their leadership roles, reprimanded. […]
AP Finds Legislatures Lack Public Records on Harassment
Arizona Daily Star – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 4/11/2018
In the past 15 months, dozens of state lawmakers have been forced from office, removed from their leadership roles, reprimanded. or publicly accused of sexual misconduct in a mounting backlash against misbehavior by those in power. Yet the majority of state legislative chambers across the country have no publicly available records of any sexual misconduct claims over the past 10 years. They say no complaints were made, no tally was kept, or they do not legally have to disclose it. Some lawmakers and experts on sexual wrongdoing in the workplace say that suggests legislators are not taking the problem seriously.
Facebook Fallout Deals Blow to Mercers’ Political Clout
MSN – Nicholas Confessore and David Gelles (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2018
The revelation that Cambridge Analytica improperly acquired the private Facebook data of millions of users has set off government inquiries, plunging Facebook into crisis. But it has also battered the nascent political network overseen by wealthy conservative donor Rebekah Mercer and financed by her father, Robert Mercer. Cambridge Analytica was co-founded by Robert Mercer. An advocacy group backing President Trump and controlled by Rebekah Mercer has gone silent following strategic disputes between her and other top donors. And no American candidate or super PAC has reported payments to Cambridge Analytica since the 2016 campaign.
Facebook’s New Rules Aim to Thwart the Kind of Ads Bought by Russian Trolls During the Election
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 4/6/2018
Facebook announced a series of moves meant to improve the transparency of political ads and pages on its social media service. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that the company has started requiring advertisers to verify their identity and location before they can run political ads. That verification is meant to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. Facebook will also soon start verifying the identify and location of people who run large Facebook pages. Officials say Russian agents used pages to pose as Americans on different sides of the political spectrum in an attempt to spread misinformation before the election.
Investigators Focus on Another Trump Ally: The National Enquirer
WRAL – Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel, and Mike McIntire (New York Times) | Published: 4/11/2018
President Trump has deep connections with the country’s largest tabloid publisher, American Media Inc (AMI), which publishes The National Enquirer. The company’s chairperson, David Pecker, is a close friend of the president’s. Since the early stages of his campaign, Trump, his lawyer Michael Cohen, and Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies. Now AMI has been drawn into an investigation of Cohen’s activities, including efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about Trump during his run for the White House. The inquiry presents thorny questions about AMI’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Ivey Signs Ethics Exemption for Developers into Law
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 4/6/2018
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will exempt economic developers from the state ethics law. Economic developers would not be considered lobbyists and would not register with the state and disclose their employers and activity as lobbyists do, under the legislation. Supporters said developers do not currently register, but the law needed to be clarified because of recent questions over whether they should. Critics had argued that anyone seeking deals with the state should not be exempted, and such exemptions could be exploited.
Arizona – Ducey Signs Bill Overriding Local Laws on Certain Campaign-Finance Disclosures
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 4/5/2018
Arizona cities are losing their right to demand that nonprofit groups seeking to sway local elections divulge who is financing the effort. Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that pre-empts local ordinances requiring these groups to register as PACs. The measure, which takes effect this summer, also makes any effort to identify contributions off limits. It is not known whether Tempe will challenge the new law as an unconstitutional infringement on local powers. Tempe residents voted earlier this year to mandate disclosure of spending on local races.
Georgia – Man Gets Prison for Obstruction in Atlanta Bribery Probe
Washington Times – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 4/9/2018
An Atlanta man who threw a concrete block through a city contractor’s window to discourage him from talking to federal investigators was sentenced to prison for obstructing their bribery probe. Shandarrick Barnes had pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. He is the fourth person to receive a prison sentence after entering a guilty plea in the ongoing federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said Barnes used “mob-like tactics” to try to keep construction contractor Elvin Mitchell Jr. from cooperating with investigators.
Hawaii – What’s Up with All the Gut-And-Replace Trickery at The Legislature This Year?
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 4/5/2018
Watchdog groups have called on the Hawaii Legislature for years to end “misleading practices which keep the public in the dark,” as their 2013 petition to the House and Senate put it. There is the “gut-and-replace” tactic, which involves removing the entire contents of a bill and inserting the contents of another in its place without any notice. And there are the so-called Frankenstein bills that keep the original contents of one bill and add the contents of another that had died earlier in the session. A common practice this session combines both tactics while giving a couple of days’ notice.
Kansas – Kansas AG Wants Court to Bar Out-of-State Residents from Running for Governor
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 4/10/2018
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a lawsuit to put the brakes on out-of-state gubernatorial candidates after 10 people living outside the state’s borders took initial steps to run. State law makes no express statement about candidates’ age or residency. News coverage about the lack of requirements has led to a slew of teenagers and non-Kansans forming campaign committees for a gubernatorial run. A man tried, and failed, to get his dog on the ballot.
Missouri – Woman: Sexual encounter with Greitens was not consensual. Lawmakers find her credible
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy) and Jason Hancock | Published: 4/11/2018
The crisis confronting Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens deepened with the release of a legislative report that outlines in detail new allegations about the governor’s behavior toward a woman who was his hair dresser. While Greitens has described the extramarital relations as “consensual,” the woman said it included unwanted and potentially coerced sexual acts that she felt afraid to say no to and physical violence, in addition to the threat of blackmail. The governor is facing a felony charge that he invaded the woman’s privacy by taking a nude photograh of her without her consent. The report raised the specter of impeachment for Greitens and prompted another round of calls for him to step down.
New Mexico – Biggest Donors Get Around Contribution Limits
New Mexico Political Report – Marjorie Childress (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 4/9/2018
Even though New Mexico passed campaign contribution limits in 2009 after several high-profile elected officials went to jail for corruption, people still have the potential to contribute more than the limits by giving through companies they own, or combining with family members to give. A debate over contribution limits since then has often included arguments that limits just push money into political committees or “dark money” groups that spend money independently, making it more difficult for the public to know who is paying for political ads and other activities designed to influence elections. But good government advocates disagree.
New York – JCOPE Reaches Settlement with Top Lobbyist Over de Blasio Donation
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/9/2018
Lobbyist James Capalino agreed to pay $40,000 to settle an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). The commission has been investigating Capalino’s fundraising for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s now-defunct nonprofit Campaign for One New York. The probe relied on JCOPE’s re-interpretation of the state gift ban law. The law disallows public officials from accepting “valuable gifts” from people with business before state government if such a gift appears intended to influence the official. JCOPE in 2014 said donations to an official’s nonprofit are covered under the law.
Ohio – Amid FBI Investigation, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger Resigns
Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson and Jessie Balmert | Published: 4/10/2018
Facing an FBI investigation into his spending and overseas travel, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he will resign from office on May 1. Rosenberger has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, which includes traveling around the world and staying in a luxury Columbus condominium owned by a wealthy Republican campaign donor. In August, Rosenberger took a four-day trip to London with GOP leaders from other states for an event paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. Steve Dimon, a registered lobbyist for title lender LoanMax, also was on the trip. Title and payday lenders have been lobbying against proposed legislation in Ohio that would place restrictions on their industry. Dimon declined to say whether the two discussed any legislation or if he has been questioned by the FBI.
South Dakota – South Dakota a ‘Standout’ in Limiting Voters’ Ability to Bring Issues to the Ballot
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Dana Ferguson | Published: 4/6/2018
South Dakota voters in 2016 passed a sweeping ethics reform initiative, which state legislators then struck down. A year after Initiated Measure 22’s demise, lawmakers passed a dozen bills tightening the reins on the initiative and referendum process. The onslaught of bills puts South Dakota in a league of its own in terms of restricting direct democracy. Now, advocates are scrambling to undo the laws that do the most damage before they are left fighting under the new constraints imposed on the process.
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.
April 6, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Young Women Help Lead Campaigns to Success at the Polls New York Times – Michael Tackett | Published: 4/2/2018 Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election prompted a surge of Democratic women running for office this year, and right […]
Young Women Help Lead Campaigns to Success at the Polls
New York Times – Michael Tackett | Published: 4/2/2018
Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election prompted a surge of Democratic women running for office this year, and right behind them, a new legion of young women managing campaigns. With a seat at the head of the table, they will be responsible for strategy, message, staff, and creating networks for future campaigns. This year, 40 percent of the campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women. In contrast, Kelly Dittmar, a political scientist at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, recalled excising data on female campaign consultants from a book she wrote in 2010 because the numbers were too small to be statistically reliable.
Pruitt Had a $50-a-Day Condo Linked to Lobbyists. Their Client’s Project Got Approved.
Anchorage Daily News – Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 4/2/2018
Williams & Jensen, the lobbying firm at the center of the controversy surrounding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50-a-night Washington, D.C. apartment, has assisted oil and gas companies in navigating the agency’s environmental regulations. The wife of J. Steven Hart, chairperson of the lobbying firm, had allowed Pruitt to use her apartment in a pricey neighborhood as he needed it, for $50 a night last year. The EPA signed off last March on a Canadian energy company’s pipeline-expansion plan, even though the agency, at the end of the Obama administration, had moved to fine Calgary-based Enbridge $61 million in for an oil spill. Williams & Jensen was registered to lobby for Enbridge at the time of the EPA action.
Top Government Ethics Chief Walter Shaub and Staff Used Headspace Meditation App to Deal with Stress of Working Under Trump
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 3/29/2018
To help staff members deal with stress from working under President Trump, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub said he started holding daily group meditation sessions. Shaub, who resigned in July, said at least six of about 70 staffers regularly attended the 10-minute meditation breaks he held with the Headspace app, which guides users through breathing and relaxing imagination exercises. “The problem is the direct assault on the ethics program which is the thing that every person in that room had committed their lives to,” Shaub said.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Controversial Economic Developer Bill Goes to Gov. Kay Ivey
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 3/29/2018
Alabama legislators passed a bill that opponents said would carve a loophole in the state’s ethics law. House Bill 317 exempts economic developers from having to register as lobbyists. Supporters said it would help Alabama recruit employers who value confidentiality in their search for project sites. Lobbyists must file public reports that list their clients, file quarterly activity reports, and meet other requirements. Rep. Chris England said the bill would weaken the law. “It creates a set of people who are lobbying but don’t have to register as lobbyists,” England said.
Alabama – State Rep, Former AL GOP Chairman Arrested on Bribery Charges
Montgomery Advertiser – Melissa Brown | Published: 4/2/2018
State Rep. Jack Williams and Marty Connors, a lobbyist who once chaired the Alabama Republican Party, were arrested on conspiracy charges related to payments made to another lawmaker to advance a bill. The owner of Triana Health diabetes treatment centers, G. Ford Gilbert, was also arrested. Prosecutors said Gilbert paid then-House Majority Leader Rep. Micky Hammon to push legislation that would require Alabama’s dominant insurance company to cover treatments at Triana clinics. Prosecutors said Connors, who was lobbying for the bill, knew about the payments to Hammon and recruited Williams to use his position as a committee chair to hold a hearing on the bill. Williams also knew of the payments and acted to help Hammon, “who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems,” prosecutors said.
Arizona – ‘Dark Money’ in the States: Arizona GOP Blocks Cities from Implementing Transparent Elections
Newsweek – Josh Keefe | Published: 4/2/2018
The Arizona Legislature passed a bill to protect anonymous political spending, less than a month after Tempe residents voted overwhelmingly to increase transparency on that type of spending in local elections. The battle between city and state opens a new front in the national debate over so-called dark money in politics; it is also the first time a state has banned local governments from shining light on secret spending. Under House Bill 2153, non-profits in “good standing” with the IRS would not have to register as a PAC, and would not have to respond to audits, subpoenas, or produce evidence regarding a “potential political campaign finance violation, among other provisions.
Hawaii – Super PAC’s Attack Reveals Gaps in Hawaii Campaign Finance Law
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 4/3/2018
Megan Kau launched a super PAC and website attacking former Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee, who is running for governor this fall. But voters will not know the source of the money behind the committee or how much she is spending trying to tarnish the candidate over 30-year-old domestic violence allegations before absentee ballots go out for the Democratic primary. Three years ago, lawmakers added a reporting deadline for non-candidate committees, such as super PACs, to help improve transparency between the primary and general elections. But they did not address filing deadlines for reports before the primary.
Illinois – Rahm Emanuel, Challengers Won’t Have Fundraising Limits in 2019 Mayoral Election
Chicago Tribune – Bill Ruthhart | Published: 4/8/2019
Willie Wilson made a $100,000 contribution to his own campaign for Chicago mayor, a donation that lifts the caps on campaign contributions for all candidates in the crowded 2019 race. Under state law, individual donors are limited to making no more than a $5,600 contribution to a single campaign. Businesses are limited to $11,100 and PACs are capped at $55,400. Those limits are lifted if a candidate gives $100,000 or more to his or her campaign fund within a year of the election, which is what Wilson said he has done.
Maryland – Maryland, ACLU Reach Settlement Over Governor Deleting Critical Comments on His Facebook Page
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 4/2/2018
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan must be more permissive of social media commenters who disagree with him under a settlement to resolve a lawsuit that accused him of censoring constituents by blocking them on Facebook. The settlement includes a $65,000 payment to the four plaintiffs and a revised social media policy for Hogan’s social media accounts. The lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union alleged the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights had been violated when Hogan blocked them from his official Facebook page or deleted their comments. The lawsuit was one of several filed over the past year against high-profile elected officials across the country accusing them of blocking constituents on social media.
Maryland – Nathaniel Oaks Is the Latest Maryland Politician to Be Convicted. Is Enough Being Done to Prevent Corruption?
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/30/2018
Hours after resigning from the Maryland senate, Nathaniel Oaks pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. He admitted in federal court that he accepted more than $15,000 in bribes from a man he thought was a real estate developer, in exchange for help securing funds for a project. Oaks is the latest in a long line of Maryland politicians who violated laws meant to ensure ethical government. The state has seen a governor, a vice president, several county executives, and a mayor brought low after corruption probes. Some of those political players have resurfaced and now occupy prominent roles once again in state politics.
Minnesota – Tony Cornish’s Capitol Visit Might Spark Restraining Order
Minnesota Lawyer – Kevin Featherly | Published: 4/3/2018
A surprise visit to the Capitol by former Minnesota Rep. Tony Cornish has one of his sexual-harassment accusers threatening to file for a restraining order. But Cornish says the visit might be his last. He made that declaration just before being told his visit has lobbyist Sarah Walker, who has alleged he repeatedly harassed her, contemplating a restraining order against him. Walker was one of several women who accused Cornish of harassment last year. She said Cornish repeatedly propositioned her, once pushing her up against a wall and attempting to kiss her. Cornish resigned his seat.
Oregon – Commission Approves Kitzhaber Ethics Settlement
Portland Tribune – Paris Achen | Published: 3/30/2018
The Oregon Ethics Commission accepted a settlement reached with former Gov. John Kitzhaber, closing this chapter of a years-long scandal that forced him to resign. Kitzhaber will pay a civil penalty of $20,000. The maximum fine that could have been levied was $50,000. The violations stem from conflicts-of-interest involving an overlap between Kitzhaber’s role as governor and his interest in a business owned by First Lady Cylvia Hayes. She had a dual role as an unpaid adviser in the governor’s office and was privately paid to consult on the same issues. In January, the commission found Hayes committed 22 ethics violations during her time as first lady.
Oregon – The Oregonian Places Lien on Home of Kitzhaber Fiancée
Bend Bulletin – Gary Warner | Published: 3/29/2018
Oregon’s largest newspaper has placed a six-figure lien against the home of Cylvia Hayes, the fiancée of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned in February 2015 over allegations that Hayes used her position as first lady to lobby for clients of her consulting firm. The Oregonian, based in Portland, filed the lien to recoup a $124,837 judgment against Hayes. The state attorney general had agreed to release some of the 72,000 emails to and from Hayes during Kitzhaber’s time in office. Hayes filed a lawsuit seeking to block the release. A judge ruled in the Oregonian’s favor and found Hayes liable for the newspaper’s attorneys’ fees.
South Carolina – Is Vote-Trading by South Carolina Lawmakers Illegal? Question Arises from Allegation
Greenville News – Tim Smith | Published: 3/29/2018
Sen. Sandy Senn’s allegations on the floor of the Senate have spurred a request for a state attorney general’s opinion on whether vote-trading by South Carolina legislators is illegal. Senn, alleged Sen. Gerald Malloy had offered to trade votes with her over her bill on school threats when it came before the Judiciary Committee. Sen. William Timmons said federal law bans vote-trading for members of Congress but state law is murkier about the issue. He said it might be considered a violation of the state’s ethics laws if a vote was considered a thing of value.
Wisconsin – Gov. Scott Walker Calls Special Elections; Senate Chief Drops Bill to Sidestep Court Order
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein | Published: 3/29/2018
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called special elections to be held for two vacant legislative seats after three judges in the last week ordered him to do so. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have dropped their effort to pass a bill that would eliminate a provision in state law that requires the governor to promptly call special elections for vacant seats. Appellate Court Judge Paul Reilly dismissed Walker’s argument that the court should allow time for the Legislature to rewrite state law that would effectively block the special elections. “Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are, as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow,” Reilly wrote.
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.
March 30, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Political Lobbyists Are the New Hot Thing in Pop Culture MarketWatch – Tom Teodorczuk | Published: 3/26/2018 Lobbyists have long been a fixture of movies ranging from “The American President” to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Now, the process […]
Political Lobbyists Are the New Hot Thing in Pop Culture
MarketWatch – Tom Teodorczuk | Published: 3/26/2018
Lobbyists have long been a fixture of movies ranging from “The American President” to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Now, the process of influencing elected representatives is increasingly taking center stage in plays, movies, and literature. The desperate lobbyist is starting to rival the embattled politician and scoop-hungry reporter as a staple character of pop culture. Sarah Burgess said her inspiration for writing “Kings” was a newspaper story. “I happened to encounter an article about these retreats that lobbyists will attend with politicians at big resorts and that seemed funny to me and so American,” Burgess said.
Fund-Raiser Held Out Access to Trump as a Prize for Prospective Clients
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and David Kirkpatrick (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2018
After Donald Trump’s election, Elliot Broidy quickly capitalized, marketing his connections to Trump to politicians and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records. Broidy suggested to clients and prospective customers of his defense contracting company, Circinus, that he could broker meetings with the president, his administration, and congressional allies. Broidy’s ability to leverage his political connections to boost his business illuminates how Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has spawned a new breed of access peddling in the swamp he vowed to drain.
Manafort Associate Had Russian Intelligence Ties During 2016 Campaign, Prosecutors Say
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 3/27/2018
Court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team reveal that Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairperson, Richard Gates, was knowingly working with an individual with ties to Russian intelligence during the presidential campaign. Prosecutors alleged this unnamed person worked for one of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort’s companies and was in touch with Gates in September and October 2016. The filing identifies the ex-spy only as “Person A.” The description matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian manager of Manafort’s lobbying office in Kiev.
Rep. Didn’t Report $50K in Donations as Registered Lobbyist
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci did not disclose nearly $50,000 in campaign contributions he made while registered as a federal lobbyist. Registered lobbyists are required to disclose all federal political donations of more than $200. His campaign said he was registered as a lobbyist with the consulting firm he helped launch in 2008 only as a precautionary measure. Renacci’s attorney, Laura Mills, provided the Associated Press with a form that listed Renacci’s status as “inactive” as of August 1, 2009. The campaign said only active lobbyists are required to disclose their contributions. But the AP found Mills did not file the companion form required to deactivate his registration until May 2011. Renacci continued to file and digitally sign lobbyist disclosure reports, other than the two he missed, through mid-2011, as an active lobbyist would.
Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort as Special Counsel Closed In
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2018
The New York Times reported that John Dowd, the former lead defense attorney in charge of managing President Trump’s communications with special counsel Robert Mueller, suggested the possibility of pardons for two of the most critical figures in the Russia investigation at the height of the inquiry. Dowd spoke to lawyers representing former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort last year, as Mueller’s investigation was closing in on both men. The discussions raise questions about whether Dowd was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. Legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.
From the States and Municipalities:
Maryland: Supreme Court Again Weighs Voting Maps Warped by Politics
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 3/28/2018
Dealing with an issue that could affect elections across the country, U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled with how far states may go to craft electoral districts that give the majority party a huge political advantage. But even as they heard their second case on partisan redistricting in six months, the justices expressed uncertainty about the best way to deal with a problem that several said would get worse without the court’s intervention. The arguments the court heard were over an appeal by Republican voters in Maryland who object to a congressional district that Democrats drew to elect a candidate of their own. The Maryland case is a companion to one from Wisconsin in which Democrats complain about a Republican-drawn map of legislative districts. That case was argued in October and remains undecided.
Missouri: An Affair, a Photo and a Felony Charge: Missouri’s governor is waging a campaign for political survival
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan | Published: 3/22/2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who once volunteered with Mother Teresa, is aggressively trying to clear his name after allegations he took a naked photograph of a woman without her consent – after taping her hands to exercise rings and blindfolding her. Under indictment for felony invasion of privacy related to an extramarital affair, Greitens is seeking to discredit the Democratic prosecutor who went after him and battling back against Republicans calling on him to step down. Greitens is getting a fierce blowback from fellow Republicans already fed up with his bare-knuckle politics and broken promises of the past year.
New Mexico: New Mexico Outlines Future Limits on Federal Campaign Cash
Modesto Bee – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018
Politicians returning from Washington, D.C. to run for office in New Mexico are likely to find a clear legal path in the future to bring stockpiles of campaign dollars with them under a new agreement signed by state campaign finance regulators and attorneys for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. A proposed settlement allows Pearce to use more than $900,000 he raised while in Congress in his campaign for governor as the lone Republican contender. Linked to the settlement are guidelines aimed to prevent federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico campaign finance law, said Joey Keefe, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.
New York: Corruption Trial Bruises Powerful Law Firm
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 3/24/2018
Todd Howe, a onetime government insider, testified recently against Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his three co-defendants in a corruption trial. Howe also inflicted collateral damage to the Albany-based law and lobbying firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, where Howe managed to stay employed for six years even after being convicted of bank fraud. Percoco was convicted on three of the six counts against him, including honest services fraud and soliciting bribes. In the wake of the trial, people are “certainly going to connect corruption with that law firm,” said Vincent Bonventre, a law professor at Albany Law School.
New York: De Blasio Donor Says He Steered Thousands in Bribes to Mayor’s Campaigns
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal | Published: 3/22/2018
Harendra Singh testified about his efforts to use campaign contributions funneled to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – as much as $80,000 raised from others, and much more personally by using “straw donors” to skirt contribution limits – to gain better terms from the city during lease negotiations for one of his restaurants. Singh also suggested for the first time that de Blasio not only knew of the illegal arrangement, but the mayor encouraged it and actively helped the restaurateur. Singh was testifying in the corruption trial of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive, and John Venditto, the former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, both of whom Singh has pleaded guilty to bribing.
Oregon: John Kitzhaber Agrees to Pay $20,000 for Ethics Law Violations
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/28/2018
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle 10 violations of state ethics law, signaling a close to the years-long scandal that forced him to resign. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will meet to sign off on the agreement. The maximum fine that could have levied was $50,000. The violations stem from conflicts-of-interest involving an overlap between Kitzhaber’s role as governor and his interest in a business owned by First Lady Cylvia Hayes. Hayes had a dual role as an unpaid adviser in the governor’s office and was privately paid to consult on the same issues.
Pennsylvania: Lobbyist, Lawmakers Entwined in Complex Relationship: Is it influence peddling, or essential?
StateImpact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 3/27/2018
There are more than 1,200 registered lobbyists in Harrisburg. Some work for firms, which take on multiple clients and represent different interests. Often, former lawmakers or regulators serve this role, using their old relationships for leverage. Some work specifically for a company or nonprofit. State Sen. Judy Schwank used to work for a nonprofit, and she says they are outgunned at the Capitol. “[Nonprofits] don’t have the dollars necessary to influence legislation the way that some other organizations that are for profit do,” said Schwank.
Washington: Inslee Signs Campaign Finance Bill
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 3/29/2018
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill transforming how the state administers and enforces its campaign finance laws. House Bill 2938 aims to make clearer for filers how to follow reporting rules and avoid mistakes that can incite a complaint against them. Under the new law, every complaint must first be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Staff will have greater ability to deal with minor errors and technical corrections, and authority to refer large and complex cases to Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin GOP Will Aim to Block Judge’s Order to Gov. Scott Walker to Call Special Election
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein | Published: 3/23/2018
Wisconsin Republicans refused to accept a court order to hold special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, calling lawmakers back to Madison to rewrite election laws in an extraordinary session. Legislative leaders said the court order means special elections and regular elections for the open seats will occur simultaneously, confusing voters and wasting tax dollars. The Legislature must reconvene to revise special election statutes, they said. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Republicans were throwing a “temper tantrum” because they lost in court and fear the open seats could flip to Democratic control.
March 23, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: There’s Never Been a Native American Congresswoman. That Could Change in 2018. New York Times – Julie Turkewitz | Published: 3/19/2018 There are at least four indigenous women running for Congress, three more are bidding for governors’ offices, and […]
There’s Never Been a Native American Congresswoman. That Could Change in 2018.
New York Times – Julie Turkewitz | Published: 3/19/2018
There are at least four indigenous women running for Congress, three more are bidding for governors’ offices, and another 31 are campaigning for seats in state Legislatures, from both sides of the aisle. The numbers far outstrip past election cycles, longtime observers of native politics say, and they are only partly driven by the liberal energy and #MeToo declarations that have flourished since Donald Trump’s election. More broadly, they are part of a decades-long shift in which native communities, long marginalized by U.S. voting laws and skeptical of a government that stripped them of land and traditions, are moving into mainstream politics.
Bye-Bye Box Seats? Tax Law May Curb Corporate Cash at Games
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Marcy Gordon (Associated Press) | Published: 3/18/2018
K Street lobbyists who helped craft the Republican tax legislation could now be pinched by it. American companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on entertaining customers and clients at sporting events, tournaments, and arts venues, an expense that until this year they could partially deduct from their tax bill. But a provision in the new law eliminates the long-standing 50 percent deduction in an effort to curb the overall price tag of the legislation and streamline the tax code. The provision is one of the many under-the-radar consequences slowly emerging from the new tax law.
Federal Election Officials Failed to Enforce Campaign Finance Requirements on Outside Group in 2010, Judge Rules
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 3/20/2018
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ruled the FEC did not properly enforce campaign finance laws in the case a “dark money” group that was active during the 2010 midterm elections. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleged that certain political ads paid for by the nonprofit American Action Network should be considered “electioneering” activity and therefore subject to disclosure requirements of who paid for the messages. The FEC deadlocked along party lines and dismissed two complaints. Cooper said the dismissals ran “contrary to law” and were based on erroneous and narrow interpretations of federal statutes governing the FEC’s enforcement powers.
Judge Rules Defamation Case Against Trump May Proceed
Washington Post – Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers | Published: 3/20/2018
A New York judge rejected a bid by President Trump to dismiss a lawsuit relating to his alleged groping of Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on “The Apprentice.” Lawyers for Trump argued he was immune from the suit in state court while serving as president. “Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote. The ruling raises the possibility that Trump could be ordered to submit to a deposition about his conduct toward Zervos and perhaps other women, as well.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Etowah Sheriff Pockets $750k in Jail Food Funds, Buys $740K Beach House
AL.com – Connor Sheets | Published: 3/13/2018
A sheriff in Alabama took home as personal profit more than $750,000 that was budgeted to feed jail inmates and then purchased a $740,000 beach house. And it is perfectly legal in Alabama, according to state law and local officials. The state has a Depression-era law that allows sheriffs to “keep and retain” unspent money from jail food-provision accounts. Sheriffs take excess money as personal income and, in the event of a shortfall, are personally liable for covering the gap. In most cases, the public does not know how much money is involved because sheriffs do not need to report extra income of less than $250,000 a year.
Arkansas – Former Arkansas Legislator’s Name Surfaces in Graft Case
Arkansas Online – Doug Thompson | Published: 3/17/2018
An Arkansas judge admitted to accepting $100,000 in bribes from an indicted lobbyist while the judge was a state lawmaker, federal prosecutors said. Jefferson County Judge Henry Wilkins IV admitted to the FBI in February that he took the money from lobbyist Milton Cranford. Cranford, an executive for the nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and accepting bribes. Prosecutors say the nonprofit paid bribes through Cranford’s lobbying firms to win state grants and taxpayer money. Prosecutors said Wilkins received the money in the form of donations to a church where he serves as pastor. In exchange for the contributions, authorities say, Cranford counted on Wilkins’ support while he served in the state Legislature from 2011 to 2015.
California – Imperial County Is a Web of Friends and Family. Is It Too Small to Investigate Itself?
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Sammy Roth | Published: 3/15/2018
When Gilbert Otero said he would investigate the Imperial Irrigation District, he took on a case involving more than $100 million in energy contracts and some of the most powerful people in Imperial County, California, where Otero is the district attorney. But there are close ties between Otero and the individuals he is investigating. The Imperial Irrigation District and the county government wield most of the political power, and top officials at those agencies are often friends or relatives of powerful farmers. Many of them have done business together. For some legal ethics experts, the links between Otero’s office and the people he is investigating are a clear sign he should recuse himself and refer the case elsewhere. They are also a sign that Imperial County may be too small to investigate itself.
Florida – In Miami, MCM Thrives on Big County Contracts. Now It Faces the FIU Bridge Catastrophe
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 3/19/2018
Munilla Construction Management (MCM) has a long record of winning contracts and favors from local officials in South Florida, a legacy now facing its harshest test as the firm was behind the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed and killed six people. The catastrophe threw a spotlight not just on MCM’s large projects, but on its ties to Miami’s political circles as well. In past years, the company has hired both of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s sons – Julio as an executive and C.J. as a registered lobbyist. The mayor’s wife, Lourdes, is a cousin to the Munilla brothers, and C.J. Gimenez has offered the firm pro bono communications advice after the bridge collapse.
Illinois – Denounced by His Party as a Nazi, Arthur Jones Wins Illinois G.O.P. Congressional Primary
New York Times – Liam Stack | Published: 3/21/2018
A Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi has officially become the Republican nominee for a congressional seat in Illinois. Arthur Jones won the nomination after running uncontested in the GOP primary for the Third Congressional District, which includes part of Chicago and its suburbs. Jones’s campaign website contains a page devoted to the Holocaust, which he said in an interview was “a greatly overblown nonevent” and “an international extortion racket.” The state Republican Party has sought to distance itself from Jones in recent weeks, blanketing the district with campaign fliers and robocalls urging voters to “stop Illinois Nazis.” GOP leaders are in talks with several potential candidates to run as an independent in November.
Nevada – Lack of Transparency Questioned in Campaign Theft by DA’s Aide
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German and David Ferrara | Published: 3/19/2018
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was not obligated under Nevada law to publicly disclose the theft of nearly $42,000from his campaign account, the secretary of state’s office said. “Money stolen from a campaign account and then returned within a few weeks does not qualify as a reportable contribution or expense,” said Jennifer Russell, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. But some are questioning that interpretation of the statute, saying it goes against the law’s intent to maintain transparency in the election process.
New Mexico – Avenue for Lobbyist Harassment Complaints Unclear
Albuquerque Journal – Marie Baca and Dan Boyd | Published: 3/20/2018
Lobbyists in New Mexico are regulated by the secretary of state’s office, which oversees their registration and financial disclosures and can refer individuals to law enforcement when they are not in compliance with regulations. But the office does not have the authority to investigate harassment or sexual misconduct complaints that involve lobbyists as either alleged perpetrators or victims. Sexual harassment is illegal under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which defines it as a subset of sexual discrimination and often forms the basis of harassment-related civil lawsuits. But the avenue for state investigation and discipline as it relates to harassment is unclear when one of the parties is a lobbyist.
North Carolina – Cooper Names 8 to North Carolina Elections and Ethics Board
Durham Herald-Sun – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2018
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced his initial choices for a new state board that administers both elections and ethics laws, even as he presses his latest legal challenge against the law that created the combined panel. Cooper, a Democrat, appointed eight people – four Democrats and four Republicans, as the law requires. The law took effect March 16 because Cooper decided to let it become law without his signature. There has not been a board seated since last June, the result of extended litigation between Cooper and GOP leaders. That has led to difficulties for the state board and county boards to carry out their responsibilities.
Pennsylvania – Supreme Court Refuses to Stop New Congressional Maps in Pennsylvania
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 3/19/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court refused an emergency appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans to block the implementation of a new court-ordered congressional map, a decision that all but assures that new district lines making several races more competitive for Democrats will be in place for this year’s midterm elections. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled the state’s congressional map had been warped by partisan gerrymandering and then imposed one of its own. Republican lawmakers said the state Supreme Court had usurped the Legislature’s role in violation of federal law. Generally, the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.
South Dakota – ‘Pay to Play’ Questions Emerge in South Dakota Governor’s Race
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – John Hult | Published: 3/18/2018
South Dakota’s campaign finance laws do little to stop companies and citizens who contract with the state from donating to the candidates who might hire them after the election. Individual donors who own or work for state-contracted companies commonly give to candidates, but state law does not require them to disclose their employer or industry. The FEC requires disclosure of occupation and employer for individual donors giving $200 or more to a candidate committee, and 32 states have similar rules. Attempts in Pierre to tighten the laws have fallen short, however. Lawmakers also overturned a voter-backed ethics law called Initiated Measure 22 last year after a judge issued an injunction against it.
Washington – Wash. Gov Signs Universal Voter Registration Law
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 3/20/2018
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter access in the state, including a measure to preregister 16- and 17-year-olds and another that allows in-person voter registration to occur the same day of an election. Inslee also signed a bill that requires nonprofit organizations, who are not defined as political committees, to file statements with the Public Disclosure Commission if they make contributions or expenditures on campaigns above a specified threshold and to disclose certain contributors, starting January 1, 2019.
March 16, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: A Super PAC Has Raised Millions to Mobilize Black Voters. Does It Matter That Its Funders Are White? Center for Public Integrity – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 3/12/2018 BlackPAC spent nearly $614,000 on canvassing and calls in a matter […]
A Super PAC Has Raised Millions to Mobilize Black Voters. Does It Matter That Its Funders Are White?
Center for Public Integrity – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 3/12/2018
BlackPAC spent nearly $614,000 on canvassing and calls in a matter of weeks last year in Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election, ranking it among the biggest super PAC rainmakers in a race that attracted more than $19 million in non-candidate spending overall, including the primaries. Avowedly anti-Donald Trump, anti-white supremacy, and pro-black political power, BlackPAC is now positioning itself as a difference-maker headed into the 2018 midterm elections. But some to wonder if BlackPAC is little more than a convenient rent-a-group for wealthy Democratic interests struggling to connect with black voters in a post-Barack Obama political era.
Companies Fretting Over ‘Foreign Agents’ Label
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/13/2018
Legislation in Congress would eliminate a provision that has long shielded international corporations with U.S. subsidiaries from having to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The exemption allows private entities, like non-U.S. companies, to disclose their activities through the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than register as a foreign agent, which comes with a much stricter disclosure regiment. FARA also requires disclosure of more than just lobbying, including advisory services and public relations. While watchdogs support the potential change, saying it would help curtail abuse, international corporations warn that being called a “foreign agent” could create the wrong impression.
White House Aides Blur the Legal Lines Between Partisans and Public Servants
New York Times – Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Published: 3/12/2018
Over the past 14 months there have been at least eight complaints against White House officials for potential violations of the Hatch Act, the law that since 1939 has barred government officials from using their positions to engage in partisan politics. A handful of high-profile violations and the increased number of complaints suggest that, more than a year after taking office, President Trump, who has openly defied many norms of government ethics and transparency, is surrounded by aides who blur the line between their roles as partisans and public servants, sometimes skirting or disregarding altogether decades-old standards that govern the behavior of senior White House officials.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – ‘Hamilton’ Tickets Without the Wait – or the Cost? It Helps to Be an L.A. Politician
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 3/10/2018
For many Los Angeles politicians, getting into the hottest show in town was much easier than for the public. Instead of making city council members line up outside the theater to see “Hamilton,” the Pantages Theatre came to them, offering each one a coveted pair of tickets to opening night. Council President Herb Wesson ultimately accepted six tickets to the August show from the theater owner, a gift worth nearly $1,000. Free tickets are a routine part of political life in Los Angeles, where lawmakers have been given free seats at Dodgers games, galas, and other events. Politicians can legally accept them if they stay within city and state rules, which include restrictions on who can give them gifts and how much they can accept.
District of Columbia – D.C. Mayor, Reversing Course, Signs Law Creating Publicly Financed Campaigns
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 3/13/2018
In a turnaround that caught many by surprise, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill creating a public financing program for local campaigns and said she would fund it in the upcoming city budget. The law, which will first affect elections in 2020, will steer millions of dollars annually toward the campaigns of local candidates and is aimed at reducing their reliance on wealthy donors. The switch may help Bowser, who is seeking a second term, combat a perception that she has not done enough to erase a “pay-to-play” culture in city government.
Florida – State Ethics Board Sides with Watchdog Over Hagan, Hillsborough County
WTSP – Noah Pransky | Published: 3/9/2018
The Florida Commission on Ethics rejected Hillsborough County’s controversial petition seeking legal fees from a citizen watchdog who filed an unsuccessful ethics complaint against Commissioner Ken Hagan. The commission expressed concern that other citizen watchdogs could be stymied in future attempts to hold officials accountable if they required George Niemann to pay the county back more than $10,000 in legal fees related to his complaint.
Illinois – Assessor Berrios Loses Court Fight to Overturn Cook County’s Limits on Campaign Donations
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long and Hal Dardick | Published: 3/14/2018
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios lost his court challenge to the county’s campaign contribution limits, marking a legal and political setback that could restrict how much property tax appeals lawyers who handle cases before his office pour into the assessor’s political funds. Berrios, whose political committees were fined $41,000 for accepting donations exceeding caps set by the county’s ethics ordinance, is expected to appeal. Berrios’ lawyers contended the county rules violate the state constitution because only the Illinois Legislature has authority to set campaign contribution limits. They said the rules also violated the U.S. Constitution because they limited the free-speech rights of tax appeal attorneys.
Iowa – Bill Dix Resigns from Iowa Senate after Video with Lobbyist Is Posted
Des Moines Register – Jason Noble, Brianne Pfannensteil, and William Petroski | Published: 3/12/2018
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix resigned after a website posted a video showing the married lawmaker kissing a lobbyist in a Des Moines bar. The woman was identified as a lobbyist for Iowa League of Cities, an organization that seeks to sway legislation at the Capitol. As the leader of the Republican majority, Dix controlled what bills come up for debate. Sexual harassment has been a major issue in the Senate in recent years following a $1.75 million settlement reached in the case of a former staffer. Dix faced calls for his resignation over the chamber’s handling of a case, which resulted in the creation of the position of human resources manager.
Maryland – Security Video Shows Maryland Lobbyist Touching Lawmaker. He Says It Vindicates Him. She Says It Vindicates Her.
Baltimore Sun – Erin Cox | Published: 3/13/2018
A security camera video shared shows the physical contact that prompted a female Maryland senator to lodge a harassment complaint against a longtime Annapolis lobbyist, the first public accusation of sexual misconduct in the statehouse since the start of the #MeToo movement. The video shows lobbyist Gil Genn approaching Sen. Cheryl Kagan near a crowded bar at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis, putting his hand on her back and sliding it down. Kagan had accused Genn of groping her when they met on March 1. Genn strongly pushed back against Kagan’s claim that the video showed him touching her inappropriately.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Watchdog Will Be Unable to Meet after Greitens’ Inaction
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 3/13/2018
The Missouri Ethics Commission will be unable to meet because it will not have enough members to establish a quorum. The terms of three members on the six-member commission expired on March 12. It must have at least four members to meet. James Klahr, the commission’s executive director, said without a quorum, the panel will be unable to act on complaints, even though staffers still will be able to monitor issues. He said the lack of a quorum is a continuous problem. “This is an issue that comes up every two years,” Klahr said.
New York – Joseph Percoco, Ex-Cuomo Aide, Found Guilty in Corruption Trial
New York Times – Vivian Wang and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 3/13/2018
Joseph Percoco, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was found guilty of agreeing to take bribes from executives at two companies seeking to do business with the state. The jury also convicted one of the businesspeople charged with paying the bribes, Steven Aiello, an executive at Cor Development. The verdict followed a multi-week trial that put a spotlight on the attempts of private companies to gain influence with Cuomo, who once likened Percoco to a brother. The governor was not accused of wrongdoing, but the trial highlighted Albany as a place where wealthy special interests use campaign donations to gain influence and flout rules meant to regulate lobbying.
North Carolina – Cooper to Appoint North Carolina Elections Board This Week
Durham Herald-Sun – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 3/14/2018
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint members to a combined state elections and ethics board, even while he continues to fight in court over the legality of the board’s latest iteration. Cooper’s office announced the decision two days before a new law approved by legislators creating a nine-member panel is supposed to take effect. The governor has sued GOP legislative leaders three times over bills creating different versions of the joint board. A state board administering elections and campaign finance laws has been vacant since last June while the constitutionality of the combination board has been litigated.
Pennsylvania – Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country
New York Times – Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin | Published: 3/14/2018
Conor Lamb scored a razor-thin but extraordinary upset in a special U.S. House election in Pennsylvania after a few thousand absentee ballots cemented a Democratic victory in the heart of President Trump’s Rust Belt base. The Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, may still contest the outcome. But Lamb’s 627-vote lead appeared insurmountable, given the four counties in Pennsylvania’s 18th district have about 500 provisional, military, and other absentee ballots left to count, election officials said. That slim margin, in a district that Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016, nonetheless upended the political landscape ahead of November’s midterm elections. It also emboldened Democrats to run maverick campaigns even in deep-red areas where Republicans remain bedeviled by Trump’s unpopularity.
Pennsylvania – Gov. Wolf Proposes Ethics Reforms for Pennsylvania Lawmakers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Kate Giammarise | Published: 3/12/2018
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed an ethics reform package that includes a complete gift ban for elected officials. Wolf is also proposing that if lawmakers do not pass a budget by the annual July 1 deadline, pay will be suspended for himself, lawmakers, and their top aides. This deadline has been missed by state lawmakers the last three years. The plan calls for broader provisions to discourage “pay-to-play,” such as requiring disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking state contracts. The governor also suggested additional transparency for legislators who have outside income, requiring disclosure of sources, type of work, and amount of income received.
Wyoming – An Effort to Crackdown on ‘Dark Money’ in Wyoming Quietly Died at the Legislature. Nobody Is Quite Sure Why.
Casper Star-Tribune – Arno Rosenfeld | Published: 3/13/2018
The Wyoming Legislature this year sought to clarify and strengthen campaign finance rules. House Bill 2 was meant to improve the ability of law enforcement and local government to enforce the existing laws, while House Bill 67 was meant to clarify those laws. The first measure passed and has been signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead, while House Bill 67 died a quiet – and critics say alarming – death, falling victim to one of the Legislature’s many cut-off deadlines. House Bill 67 would have tightened definitions for political spending to include “electioneering communications,” messages that do not explicitly call for voters to act in a certain manner but nonetheless seek to influence an election.
March 9, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: It’s a Steep Hill to Climb for Women Running for State Office Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 3/6/2018 Nearly 500 women have shown interest in running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections, twice as […]
It’s a Steep Hill to Climb for Women Running for State Office
Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 3/6/2018
Nearly 500 women have shown interest in running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections, twice as many as compared with the same time in 2016. More women have raised their hand to run for governor in 2018 than in the past seven years combined, and scores of women plan to run for attorneys general, legislative seats, and more. Women still have a long way to go before political offices reflect the U.S. population. But women’s success in politics might not be all about winning this year, said Kim Olson, the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner. She said the elections might be as much about planting seeds that will one day grow and fill the gender gaps in the halls of Congress, governors’ mansions, and statehouses across the country.
Companies Court Lawmakers with Charitable Giving, but Don’t Always Disclose the Funds
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 3/5/2018
By law, corporations and organizations that lobby the federal government must disclose certain charitable contributions to nonprofits, including ones such as the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation that are intimately tied to lawmakers. They also must disclose spending to “honor” lawmakers and high-level executive branch officials if the spending meets certain criteria. But an analysis found more than 20 companies and trade associations that have failed to disclose payments made to nonprofit groups aligned with government officials or aimed at honoring lawmakers they may want to influence. In every instance, other companies disclosed payments linked to the same events, though varying circumstances and exceptions to federal rules allow some omissions.
Companies, Nonprofits Put Brakes on Foreign Lobbying Bills
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 3/2/2018
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to strengthen enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The new bill indicates that momentum to revamp foreign lobbying disclosures persists as the Russia probe has kept concerns about international influences in the spotlight. But opposition remains. Representatives of foreign-owned businesses and multinational nonprofit organizations say they do not want the stigma of being defined as foreign agents. They are pushing for changes to separate legislation that passed the House Judiciary Committee but has not yet been scheduled for floor action.
Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed with Special Counsel
MSN – Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2018
The New York Times reported the special counsel in the Russian election meddling probe has learned of two conversations in which President Trump asked witnesses about matters discussed with investigators. Trump told an aide that White House counsel Donald McGahn should issue a statement denying a report in January that said McGahn told investigators the president had once asked him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump also asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview with the special counsel investigators had gone and whether they had been “nice.” The episodes demonstrate that even as the inquiry appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.
What Swamp? Lobbyists Get Ethics Waivers to Work for Trump
CNBC – Associated Press | Published: 3/7/2018
President Trump and his appointees have stocked federal agencies with former lobbyists and corporate lawyers who now help regulate the industries from which they previously collected paychecks, despite promising as a candidate to drain the swamp in Washington. A week after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that bars former lobbyists, lawyers, and others from participating in any matter they lobbied or otherwise worked on for private clients within two years before going to work for the government. But records show White House counsel Don McGahn has issued at least 24 ethics waivers to key administration officials at the White House and executive branch agencies.
From the States and Municipalities:
Colorado: Colorado Rep. Steve Lebsock Is Expelled Following Harassment Complaints from Five Women
Denver Post – Brian Eason and Jesse Paul | Published: 3/2/2018
The Colorado House voted to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock after hours of emotional debate in which several members broke down in tears. Lebsock had been accused of harassing five women, including a fellow state legislator, a lobbyist, and a former staffer, in 11 separate complaints. Lebsock has denied the charges, even distributing a dossier that detailed personal information about his accusers. He is the second lawmaker in the nation to be removed from office over harassment allegations since the rise of the #MeToo movement.
District of Columbia: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Says She Won’t Testify About Schools Chief’s Resignation
Washington Post – Peter Jamison | Published: 3/7/2018
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will refuse to testify under oath to the city council about the circumstances of the resignation of the former chancellor of the public school system, setting up a showdown with lawmakers, the outcome of which could weigh on her re-election campaign. She said she would instead cooperate with a parallel investigation by the city inspector general’s office that is underway. Bowser demanded the resignations of Chancellor Antwan Wilson and the deputy mayor for education, saying she had just been notified the pair had transferred Wilson’s daughter to one of the city’s most desirable high schools, skipping a waiting list of more than 600 students, in violation of city policy. But Wilson said Bowser knew about the transfer four months ago and raised no objections.
Massachusetts: SJC May Be Option in ‘Union Loophole’ Case
Lowell Sun – Andy Metzger (State House News Service) | Published: 3/7/2018
The Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether Massachusetts can constitutionally bar corporations from making political contributions, while allowing labor unions and nonprofits to do so. James Manley, an attorney representing two Massachusetts businesses, said his clients simply want corporations to be on equal footing with other entities, and that federal law requires it. The plaintiffs would be somewhat satisfied if the court decided to rein in unions’ abilities to contribute politically, Manley told reporters.
New Mexico: Steve Pearce, State Move to Settle Lawsuit Over Gubernatorial Campaign Funds
Las Cruces Sun News – Andrew Oxford (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 3/6/2018
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce are moving to settle a dispute about access to campaign money that Pearce raised while in Congress and sought to use in his run for governor. Under the proposed agreement, the state would allow candidates to use donations collected while in federal office for state office campaigns. The contributions cannot be larger than what it is allowable under New Mexico law, and they must have been reported to the FEC. “Those conditions were included to prevent future federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico’s campaign finance laws,” said Joey Keefe, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.
New York: As Jurors Decide Fate of Key Cuomo Ally, Political Verdict May Be In
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Shane Goldmacher | Published: 3/6/2018
Federal prosecutors in the corruption trial of a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented unflattering tales of how Cuomo conducts himself and how his administration has conducted the people’s business in Albany. The governor has not been accused of illegal acts, but the trial may well tarnish the well-groomed reputation of Cuomo, who is facing re-election in the fall. It may also complicate or undercut any national ambitions of Cuomo, which would need to take flight in places like Iowa and New Hampshire next year.
North Carolina: GOP’s 8-Member Elections-Ethics Board Struck Down. Is a Third Lawsuit on the Horizon?
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 3/5/2018
A panel of state judges decided a recent North Carolina Supreme Court ruling favoring Gov. Roy Cooper means only a portion of a 2017 law combining the state ethics and elections boards is now struck down. Republicans at the General Assembly passed small changes related to the combined board’s membership and Cooper’s powers after the Supreme Court decision. Cooper’s lawyers had argued the Supreme Court ruling meant the judges should void the entire law. That would have opened the door to Cooper’s wishes. He wanted the law to revert to what it was before December 2016 – separate elections and ethics boards, and Democrats getting a majority of elections board seats.
Oregon: Multnomah County Political Spending Limits Unconstitutional, Judge Finds
Portland Oregonian – Gordon Friedman | Published: 3/6/2018
Multnomah County’s voter-approved limits on campaign contributions are an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, a county judge ruled. Judge Eric Bloch said the county and its voters cannot cap donations to candidates for county office at $500 per donor, force disclosure of the largest contributors to political mailers, or limit other types of spending. The limits are “impermissible” under the free speech guarantees within the Oregon Constitution, Bloch wrote, citing a related state Supreme Court opinion.
Pennsylvania: Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski Guilty on Most Charges in Pay-to-Play Trial; Must Leave Office
Allentown Morning Call – Peter Hall, Emily Opilo, and Daniel Patrick Sheehan | Published: 3/1/2018
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was convicted of selling his office to campaign donors in a scheme meant to fuel his political ambitions. Jurors convicted him of 47 of the 54 charges he faced, a verdict that will force Pawlowski from office and end his tenure as leader of Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. Prosecutors said Pawlowski masterminded a plan to rig city contracts for legal, engineering, technology, and construction work, all in a bid to raise money for his statewide campaigns. Pawlowski ran for governor in 2014 and U.S. Senate in 2015, suspending the latter campaign days after the FBI raided City Hall.
Tennessee: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry Resigns from Office; ‘I love you, Nashville,’ she says
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison and Nate Rau | Published: 3/6/2018
Megan Barry resigned as Nashville’s mayor, weeks after admitting an affair with the police officer who ran her security detail. She announced her resignation shortly after she pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge related to the affair. Barry agreed to reimburse the city $11,000 and serve three years’ probation. The scandal drew attention to the overtime Sgt. Rob Forrest accrued while managing her detail. An affidavit detailed nude photos the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said appeared to be Barry taken on the phone of Forrest during city trips. Forrest pleaded guilty to property theft and was sentenced to three years of probation. He will reimburse the city $45,000 that was paid to him as salary and/or overtime during times when he was not performing his duties as head of the mayor’s security detail.
Texas: Talk About Big Bucks: Deer semen donations are fueling South Texas campaign
Dallas News – Jackie Wang | Published: 3/1/2018
A candidate in the race for a Texas House seat has received $87,500 in campaign donations, more than half of which is made up of deer semen. Ana Lisa Garza has received $51,000 in in-kind donations to her campaign, listed as individual donations of frozen deer semen straws. The containers are reportedly a common way for deer breeders in the state to donate to political campaigns. Garza’s campaign has valued the straws at $1,000 each. The group does not give the semen directly to the campaign, but accepts the straw donations and sells them at auction. Attorney Buck Wood said the donations technically were not “in-kind” since the money, not the semen, was given to the campaign.
March 2, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: The True Source of the N.R.A.’s Clout: Mobilization, not donations MSN – Eric Lipton and Alexander Burns (New York Times) | Published: 2/24/2018 To many of its opponents, a long string of victories is proof the National Rifle Association […]
The True Source of the N.R.A.’s Clout: Mobilization, not donations
MSN – Eric Lipton and Alexander Burns (New York Times) | Published: 2/24/2018
To many of its opponents, a long string of victories is proof the National Rifle Association (NRA) has bought its political support through campaign contributions. But the numbers tell a more complicated story. In states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the NRA derives its political influence instead from a powerful electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls. The NRA’s impact comes, in large part, from the simplicity of the incentives it presents to candidates: letter grades, based on their record on the Second Amendment, that guide the NRA’s involvement in elections.
How Skadden, the Giant Law Firm, Got Entangled in the Mueller Investigation
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Matthew Goldstein | Published: 2/24/2018
When one of its former lawyers, Alex van der Zwaan, admitted lying to the special counsel investigating Russian election interference, it exposed a profitable line of business that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom mostly keeps quiet: its work for unsavory foreign figures and their Washington, D.C. lobbyists. Robert Mueller’s team has scrutinized Skadden for its own work for the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and its role advising two other K Street firms paid to bolster his government, Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group. Rick Gates, the onetime deputy campaign chairperson for Donald Trump, has admitted he knowingly misled Skadden in a scheme to avoid complying with the Foreign Agents Registration Act over his work for Ukraine.
Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Meetings
MSN – Jesse Drucker, Kate Kelly, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 2/28/2018
Two companies made loans worth more than $500 million to Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm after executives met with Kushner at the White House. Kushner is a White House senior adviser and the son-in-law of President Donald Trump. The New York Times reported that private equity firm Apollo Global Management lent $184 million to Kushner Cos., and Citigroup lent Kushner Cos. and one of its partners $325 million. There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say ethics experts. “This is exactly why senior government officials, for as long back as I have any experience, don’t maintain any active outside business interests,” said Don Fox, a former acting director of the Office of Government Ethics.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Ethics Reforms on Hold; Panel Will Study Issues for Next Year
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 3/1/2018
A bill introduced recently would make dozens of changes to Alabama’s ethics law. But legislators will not vote on that bill this year. Instead, it will provide a framework for a newly created Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission. State Attorney General Steve Marshall said individuals and businesses affected by the ethics law have asked that certain parts of it be made clearer, and there is also an effort to tighten the law. “We’ve identified, along with the Ethics Commission, certain areas that may be loopholes or holes in the law that we need to be able to close,” Marshall said.
Arizona – Debbie Lesko Accused of Moving $50K from Campaign to a PAC That Backs … Lesko
Arizona Republic – Ronald Hanson | Published: 2/21/2018
Congressional candidate Debbie Lesko steered $50,000 from her Arizona Senate campaign to a federal PAC that has supported her, a move one of Lesko’s opponents claimed is illegal. Lesko’s campaign committee, Re-elect Debbie Lesko for Senate, gave $50,000 to Conservative Leadership for Arizona, a federal PAC authorized to spend independently of other campaigns. It was created eight days before taking the money from Lesko’s state campaign committee. The new PAC raised almost no other cash, records show. And the PAC used the money to support Lesko with yard signs, while her congressional campaign spent heavily on television ads.
California – A Tiny City with Huge Problems, Maywood Faces Its Biggest Scandal Yet
Los Angeles Times – Ruben Vives and Adam Elmahrek | Published: 2/26/2018
A Los Angeles County investigation into possible corruption in Maywood has set its sights on a broad swath that includes four current and former council members, 13 companies, five current and former city administrators, and one activist who dresses up as a clown. A search warrant suggests the wide-ranging investigation dovetails with the suspicion many Maywood residents have had about politics in the city for years. Maywood is one of Southern California’s smallest and most densely packed cities. But for its tiny size, it has suffered oversized problems for more than a decade.
Illinois – Cook County Assessor Berrios Goes to Court to Keep Property Tax Lawyers’ Campaign Contributions Flowing
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick and Jason Grotto | Published: 2/28/2018
Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios asked a judge to void county ethics rules that place limits on campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates from those who seek “official action” from the county. Lawyers for Berrios’ argued the county rules violate the state constitution because only the Illinois Legislature has authority to set campaign contribution limits. The county, however, maintained it has the power to set its own, more-restrictive limits on campaign money to avoid quid pro quo politics. Since October, Berrios has collected more than $276,000 from those attorneys, about four-fifths of what he has received in individual contributions during that time.
Missouri – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Indicted for Felony Invasion of Privacy
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kevin McDermott and Robert Patrick | Published: 2/23/2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge. He was accused of photographing a nude or partially nude person without the person’s knowledge or consent. The indictment said Greitens then transmitted the photo in a way that allowed it to be viewed on a computer, which prosecutors said made the crime a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The charge comes weeks after the governor acknowledged having an extramarital affair in 2015, but denied reports he blackmailed the woman or took a nude photo of her without permission. Greitens, who has been governor for just over a year, has resisted calls to resign, insisting he did nothing illegal.
New York – In Spite of Executive Order, Cuomo Takes Campaign Money from State Appointees
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher, Brian Rosenthal, and Augustin Armendariz | Published: 2/24/2018
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has accepted donations for his re-election campaign from his own political appointees. The New York Times reports Cuomo has taken nearly $900,000 from two dozen of his appointees since taking office, as well as at least $1.3 million from spouses, children, and businesses of the appointees. The contributions come despite an executive order signed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer banning campaign donations from most political appointees in the state. Cuomo renewed that order when he entered office. But Cuomo has reinterpreted the directive to only apply to contributions from appointees who could be fired at any time by the governor, as opposed to those appointed to set terms in office.
Oklahoma – Step Up Campaign Highlights Gap in State Disclosure Laws
Ada News – Paul Monies and Trevor Browen (Oklahoma Watch) | Published: 2/25/2018
The plan by Step Up Oklahoma to raise taxes on cigarettes, fuel, and energy failed to pass, but it highlighted a gap in state law that keeps much of the funding and spending on both sides of the issue a secret. Step Up Oklahoma, which billed itself as a grassroots coalition of business and civic groups, bought or enabled television and radio ads, robo-calls, mailers, endorsements, one-to-one outreach, and the deployment of registered lobbyists of supporting companies. Although disclosure of sources and amounts of money spent are typically required when groups directly try to influence the election of candidates and votes on ballot questions, little must be disclosed when a group or business tries to influence legislation.
Oregon – Receiving a Blanket Posed Ethical Quandary for Oregon Senator
Portland Oregonian – Andrew Selsky (Associated Press) | Published: 2/27/2018
Ted Ferrioli, the Senate Republican leader in Oregon until he stepped down in January, was presented with a beautiful wool blanket by leaders of Indian tribes as a parting gift, causing an ethical dilemma. Struggling over what to do with a blanket with a price tag of $249 shows how many public servants try to walk a fine line on gift laws. And it illustrates the scope of issues the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and its staff are tasked with dealing with.
Rhode Island – Facing Threat of Expulsion, Sen. Kettle Quits
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg and Patrick Anderson | Published: 2/22/2018
A Rhode Island senator facing charges that accuse him of extorting a teenage page for sex has resigned. The move comes a day after Senate leaders took the extraordinary step of introducing a resolution to expel Nicholas Kettle, the Senate’s minority whip. No Rhode Island lawmaker has been expelled since the state constitution went into effect in 1843. Kettle was arrested and charged with extorting a male page for sex on two occasions in 2011 and with video voyeurism that involved trading nude photographs of his ex-girlfriend and a New Hampshire woman taken without their consent. The page would have been 16 or 17 years old at the time of the alleged extortion.
West Virginia – Coal Country Divides Over an Unrepentant Boss’s Senate Bid
New York Times – Trip Gabriel | Published: 2/26/2018
When mining company owner Don Blankenship finished his one-year prison sentence for conspiracy to violate safety laws, rather than express remorse or contrition over the explosion in the Upper Big Branch coal mine that killed 29 men in 2010, he announced a run for the U.S. Senate. His return to the public eye has reawakened painful memories in West Virginia, especially for relatives of the disaster’s victims. At one of Blankenship’s meet-and-greet events with voters, protesters held signs saying: “You must be joking.” But in the coal fields, many people do not think his candidacy is a joke. Blankenship has found support there for his claim to be a victim himself, pursued unfairly by federal prosecutors and mine safety inspectors.
West Virginia – Justice Company Rep Has Unique Access to Capitol Among Lobbyists
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 2/24/2018
Among the more than 100 registered lobbyists in West Virginia, only Larry Puccio has an electronic access card to the Capitol. Puccio represents The Greenbrier resort and Southern Coal Corp., both of which are owned by Gov. Jim Justice. The card grants access to doors not open to the general public and can be used to avoid sometimes-lengthy security lines at the public entrances. House Bill 2965 would allow any person to apply for an electronic access card to the Capitol complex, which would cost $250 for people who are not state employees.
Wisconsin – State Elections Commission Chief Stepping Down Amid Criticism from Republicans
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein | Published: 2/27/2018
Wisconsin’s top elections official, Michael Haas, says he will not continue in that role, ending a showdown between the state Elections Commission, which backed Haas, and Senate Republicans who demanded his ouster. Haas said he plans to keep working temporarily at the commission as an attorney, but intends to eventually leave to pursue other opportunities. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission voted to name ethics specialist Colette Reinke as the interim replacement for former Administrator Brian Bell, who also resigned after the Senate rejected his confirmation. Reinke will serve for 90 days and not apply for the permanent job.
February 23, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Sexual Misconduct Spurs New Elections: The #MeToo race New York Times – Trip Gabriel and Jess Bidgood | Published: 2/20/2018 Allegations of sexual misconduct led to resignations by nearly a dozen state and federal lawmakers in recent months, setting […]
Sexual Misconduct Spurs New Elections: The #MeToo race
New York Times – Trip Gabriel and Jess Bidgood | Published: 2/20/2018
Allegations of sexual misconduct led to resignations by nearly a dozen state and federal lawmakers in recent months, setting off a flurry of special elections around the country to fill seats suddenly left open by the #MeToo reckoning. Yet the candidates running to replace these disgraced men, many of whom are women, are hesitating to put sexual harassment front and center as an issue in their campaigns. In at least eight state legislative and two congressional races, including special elections in Minnesota and Oklahoma that were held recently, the subject has rarely been mentioned in advertisements, rallies, or when knocking on doors.
State Officials Say They Are Told Too Little About Election Threats
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 2/19/2018
State elections officials said they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of secretaries of state, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year.
With Grief and Hope, Florida Students Take Gun Control Fight on the Road
New York Times – Brendan Farrington, Josh Replogle, and Tamara Lush (Associated Press) | Published: 2/21/2018
Students in the vanguard of protests are giving gun-safety advocates fresh hope that the violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the widespread response to it among youths, could create new momentum across the country to enact restrictions on firearms. But these students are also attracting political attacks from advocates for gun rights. And established groups, demoralized after a string of shootings that have prompted no political response, are aware of how quickly such a moment can fade. For now, however, there is momentum on the issue.
K Street Reinvents Itself in the Era of Trump
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/15/2018
Political upheaval, partisan stalemate on Capitol Hill, and technological innovations have all disrupted and transformed the $4 billion-a-year federal lobbying business. But the Donald Trump presidency, the GOP-controlled Congress, and a resulting surge of grassroots resistance have catapulted the lobbying sector into uncertain, though still lucrative, terrain. Lobbyists increasingly are adapting their methods to harness the power of social media campaigns amid the president’s atypical style of governing, which often includes policy proclamations via tweet. Trump’s administration has intensified changes to the lobbying industry that were underway well before he launched his run for office.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Kelli Ward Touts Endorsement from Fake-News Site
Politico – Jason Schwartz and Shawn Musgrave | Published: 2/15/2018
Kelli Ward posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor that endorsed her to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. But despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site. It is an anonymous, pro-Ward blog. The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement. It seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations, and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists.
Delaware – Lobbyists No Longer Have a Dedicated Room in Legislative Hall
Wilmington News Journal – Scott Gross | Published: 2/15/2018
State Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride said he has given up on his hope that Delaware’s 300-plus registered lobbyists would hang out in a conference room rather than the hallways of the Capitol. The door to the second-floor room was closed and locked for the first time since McBride first invited lobbyists to use the space in January. At the time, he dismissed questions about the optics of providing a dedicated space for professional lobbyists, noting reporters have long used a room in the basement of Legislative Hall.
District of Columbia – D.C. Public Schools Leader to Resign After Skirting School Assignment Rules
Washington Post – Perry Stein, Peter Jamison, and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/20/2018
Antwan Wilson, chancellor of the District of Columbia’s public schools, resigned after it was revealed he skirted the city’s competitive lottery system so his daughter could transfer to a high-performing school. Wilson had overhauled lottery system rules months before he broke them to benefit his daughter. Parents and politicians said Wilson had forfeited the public’s trust. His departure delivers a political blow to Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose selection of Wilson was one of the most important and high-profile appointments of her tenure.
New York – Citizens United Can’t Hide Donor Lists from NY
Courthouse News Service – Nick Rummell | Published: 2/15/2018
New York may require the public disclosure of donors who give more than $5,000 to nonprofits in the state, an appeals court said. Citizens United sued New York in 2014, saying the rule infringed upon its First Amendment rights and its donors could face public backlash if their support was disclosed. The appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling saying the regulations are “substantially related to the important interest in keeping non-profit organizations honest” and do not wrongly “chill the speech” of Citizens United or its donors.
New York – How Albany Really Works: Cuomo loyalist exposes pay-to-play culture
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 2/16/2018
Former lobbyist Todd Howe testified for two weeks in a corruption trail that has rocked Albany. The story that Howe has unfurled included tales of six-figure campaign contributions to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, made from a company with business before the state, that were purposefully divided up to hide their origin. There were private plane trips, courtesy of Howe’s clients, for Cuomo days before his first election – as well as a deep-sea fishing expedition for his campaign manager. Joseph Percoco, formerly one of Cuomo’s most-trusted aides, is on trial, along with three co-conspirators in two bribery and corruption schemes. Cuomo has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the courtroom drama has served as a stinging indictment of Albany as a city where money talks and Cuomo administration officials have listened.
North Carolina – Conspiracy Theories, Criminal Investigations Plentiful in NC Bail Bonds World
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 2/17/2018
Attorney Mark Bibbs and a pair of clients in the bail industry have been indicted, accused of lobbying the North Carolina Legislature without filing the proper paperwork and covering it up. The secretary of state’s office and the Wake County district attorney say Bibbs falsified records to make lobbying payments look like legal fees and the clients cooperated in the scheme. Some Democrats have suggested House Speaker Tim Moore tried to interfere in Secretary of State Elaine Marshal’s investigation of Bibbs; Moore and Bibbs are close friends. Republicans also passed legislation to move lobbying enforcement out of Marshall’s office as part of broader reforms. The secretary of state’s office sent legislative leadership a letter, pointing to the indictments as a reason to leave lobbying enforcement with the office instead of shifting it to the state’s new Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement as planned.
Oregon – John Kitzhaber Could Face Up to $50,000 in Fines for Ethics Violations
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/17/2018
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission said former Gov. John Kitzhaber violated state laws against conflicts-of-interest, misused his office for financial gain, and improperly received a gift. The scandal ended Kitzhaber’s long political career. He resigned in 2015 just over a month into his fourth term amid accusations of influence peddling involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. In January, the commission found Hayes violated a law against public officials misusing their public positions for personal financial gain. Kitzhaber has 21 days after being formally notified of the vote to say whether he will contest the ruling. The maximum fine for each violation is $5,000, meaning the commission could penalize Kitzhaber up to a total of $50,000.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Supreme Court Releases New Congressional Map
Pittsburghh Post-Gazette – Jonathan Lai and Liz Navratil | Published: 2/19/2018
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new congressional map after the previous district lines were found to be a result of unconstitutional gerrymandering from Republicans. The new map is set to go into effect in time for the state’s May 15 primaries. It leaves voters, current representatives, and potential candidates with little time to figure out their districting before the deadline hits for those running in elections to declare their candidacy. Republicans are expected to challenge the decision from the Supreme Court, saying only lawmakers and governors hold the authority to redraw congressional maps, rather than the courts.
South Carolina – After Quinn’s Probation, Shock, Dismay, Joy and Wondering: What’s next?
The State – John Monk | Published: 2/16/2018
Watchdogs say it is sad that years of accusations against South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn and his father’s consulting business ended with such a whimper. Beyond two years of probation, Rick Quinn was sentenced to community service and a fine of $1,000 after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of misconduct in office. Under a package deal, all charges were dropped against his father, Richard Quinn. His consulting firm instead pleaded guilty to failing to register as a lobbyist. “This slap is near the wrist but not even on it,” said John Freeman, the University of South Carolina law school’s professor emeritus on professional ethics.
South Carolina – S.C. Lawmakers Call for Law Enforcement Probe of Bogus Pro-Utility Emails
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 2/19/2018
South Carolina lawmakers have received a barrage of form emails from constituents in recent days urging them to avoid passing laws they say could defeat a proposed sale of SCANA Corp. to Dominion Energy. But some of the people who supposedly sent the emails say they were impersonated. It is unclear who is behind the fraudulent emails as Dominion, SCANA, and the outside group that crafted the messages say they do not know why they are being sent from South Carolina residents without their knowledge. Law enforcement officials are likely to open an investigation into the matter.
Tennessee – How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A.
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 2/15/2018
The big rigs sold by the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership in central Tennessee are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means they emit up to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks. The special treatment is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics, and suspected academic misconduct, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.
February 16, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Sinclair Broadcast Group Solicits Its News Directors for Its Political Fundraising Efforts Chicago Tribune – Paul Fahri (Washington Post | Published: 2/12/2018 Sinclair Broadcast Group is asking its executives – including the news directors at its many television stations […]
Sinclair Broadcast Group Solicits Its News Directors for Its Political Fundraising Efforts
Chicago Tribune – Paul Fahri (Washington Post | Published: 2/12/2018
Sinclair Broadcast Group is asking its executives – including the news directors at its many television stations – to contribute to its PAC. Sinclair is the largest station owner in the country, with 173 outlets. Major TV news outlets such as ABC, CBS, and CNN say they prohibit their journalists from contributing to political parties, candidates, or causes, and do not ask them to chip in to the company’s PAC. By contributing money to Sinclair’s lobbying efforts, news directors would be tacitly supporting the company’s agenda, potentially raising doubts about their stations’ impartiality and independence when reporting on controversial issues, said Lewis Friedland, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin.
VA Chief Shulkin, Staff Misled Ethics Officials about European Trip, Report Finds
Tampa Bay Times – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/14/2018
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, traveling on what he said was an “essential” trip to London and Copenhagen, improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and brought his wife at taxpayer expense, according to an inspector general’s report. The scathing report says Shulkin and several top staff members made false and misleading statements both to justify the $122,334 trip and to defend it afterward. His chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, doctored an email to convince an agency ethics lawyer to approve a $4,300 flight for Shulkin’s wife, the report found.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska – Group Picks Alaska to Challenge Unlimited Campaign Donations
Bristol Herald-Courier – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 2/7/2018
A national group is focusing on Alaska in a bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its Citizen United ruling. The decision paved the way for corporations and unions to make unlimited independent expenditures, and in Alaska, was viewed by state officials as likely rendering several provisions of state law prohibiting or limiting certain contributions unconstitutional. Equal Citizens wants to put that interpretation to the test but it could face an uphill battle. Lawrence Lessig, founder of Equal Citizens, said his group believes the Alaska Public Offices Commission sided with “what is a kind of conventional view among lawyers” that his group believes is incorrect. “What we’re trying to seek is clarification that the limits can be enforced,” Lessig said.
Arkansas – Former Arkansas Legislator Eddie Cooper Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
KUAR – Wesley Brown | Published: 2/13/2018
Former Arkansas Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper pleaded guilty to conspiring to embezzle more than $4 million from a nonprofit. Cooper pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle from Preferred Family Healthcare. Nonprofits that receive federal funds, such as Medicaid, are barred from direct lobbying efforts. From 2011 to 2017, Cooper received at least $387,501 from an Arkansas lobbying firm that received $3 million from Preferred Family. The nonprofit’s financial records show its payments were for “consulting services” when the real purpose of the payments was for lobbying and political campaign contributions, plea documents say. Cooper also received at least $63,000 in kickbacks in the conspiracy, according to his plea.
California – #MeToo Movement Lawmaker Investigated for Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 2/8/2018
A day after sexual harassment accusations against her became public, Assemblyperson Cristina Garcia said she is taking a voluntary, unpaid leave of absence while the allegations are investigated. But Garcia denied trying to grope a legislative aide and a lobbyist. Garcia is an outspoken leader of the #MeToo movement in California. She has called for male lawmakers accused of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct to step down over the last several months and refused to work with them. She was one of 147 women who signed a letter drawing attention to problems at the Capitol in October.
Colorado – If You Can Pay $250, Colorado Lawmakers May Let You Skip Security at State Capitol
Denver Post – John Frank | Published: 2/8/2018
Legislation in Colorado would allow anyone to pay a $250 fee and submit fingerprints for a background check to obtain an identification card that allows entry to the Capitol and legislative buildings without going through a security screening. Senate President Kevin Grantham supports the measure, but it is expected to face opposition in the Democratic-led House, where leaders point to the Colorado State Patrol’s problems with the bill. A similar measure that applied only to lobbyists failed in 2010 after it became known as the “Lexus lane for lobbyists” bill. But the sponsors of the new bill dismiss questions about special access because any member of the public could apply for the card.
Maryland – Wife of 80-Year-Old State Senator Accompanies Him to Work Each Day. Some Say She Assists Him with Duties.
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 2/11/2018
Since the January 10 start of Maryland’s legislative session, state Sen. Ulysses Currie’s wife has sat an arm’s length away from him in a reserved seat, Senate floor credentials dangling from a lanyard around her neck. Shirley Gravely-Currie’s presence has drawn attention not only to her husband’s diminishing health but also to the graying of the state Legislature and the delicate question of how long is too long to serve. As Americans live and work longer, it has become more common to see aging lawmakers on Capitol Hill or in statehouses across the country.
North Dakota – Amid Backlash, Gov. Burgum Reimburses Xcel Energy $37,000 for Super Bowl Tickets
Grand Forks Herald – John Hageman | Published: 2/7/2018
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he reimbursed Xcel Energy $37,000 for Super Bowl tickets in an effort to “eliminate even the perception of any conflict.” Xcel said the governor met with Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke and Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, along with other company leaders in a suite at US Bank Stadium. Meanwhile, Burgum’s legal counsel is crafting an ethics policy covering North Dakota’s chief executive and his staff.
Oklahoma – New Lobbying Rule Gets Mixed Review from Lawmakers and Those Who Try to Influence Them
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 2/11/2018
A proposed rule that would require elected officials in Oklahoma to wait two years before working as lobbyists is getting mixed reviews. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission approved the rule. It will take effect if the Legislature does not take any action by the end of the session. The proposal comes as more lawmakers are lobbying their former colleagues as a way to make a living after their terms have ended. Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the rule would prohibit policymakers from using their positions to benefit themselves.
Oregon – Oregon Ethics Watchdog Says John Kitzhaber Misused His Office for Personal Gain
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/14/2018
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber allegedly violated state ethics laws 11 times during his third and fourth terms, with the violations potentially carrying fines up to $55,000. An investigative report by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission staff outlines a suite of alleged violations. The commission is poised to vote on whether it agrees with its staff’s findings. According to the report, Kitzhaber used his office for financial gain, or to avoid financial problems, for former First Lady Cylvia Hayes and her consulting firm, 3EStrategies. Kitzhaber failed to follow laws to handle “potential conflicts-of-interest” when he took actions that may have impacted the consulting firm’s interests, ethics officials said.
Pennsylvania – Lobbyists Trying to Influence PA. State Government Will Have to Pay More If They Break the Rules
PennLive.com – Jan Murphy | Published: 2/14/2018
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1175, which requires lobbying disclosure reports to be filed electronically with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The new law also increases the daily maximum penalty for not filing reports by the quarterly deadline; doubles the maximum fine for not filing by the deadline; and requires the department to post all lobbying disclosure reports online within seven days of receiving the filing. The new penalties take effect immediately and the electronic filing requirement takes effect in 60 days.
South Carolina – Former S.C. House Majority Leader Rick Quinn Gets Probation in Misconduct Case
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Knapp and Glenn Smith | Published: 2/12/2018
Former South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn will serve two years on probation instead of prison time after he pleaded guilty to misconduct in office. Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen also ordered Quinn to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service. He is the third Republican lawmaker convicted in a statehouse corruption investigation. Mullen handed down the penalty over the objections of special prosecutor David Pascoe, who had questioned the validity of Quinn’s guilty plea while pushing for the former House majority leader to serve a year behind bars. Prosecutors accused Quinn of taking $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists. Quinn insisted his only crime was failing to report a lobbyist’s payments to his father’s political consulting firm.
Texas – Anti-Abortion Group Deletes State Senator’s Video After Questions of Legality Raised
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek and Jay Root | Published: 2/7/2018
An influential anti-abortion group abruptly deleted a Twitter video ad featuring Texas Sen. Bob Hall’s voice after reporters began asking if its paid messages adhered to laws restricting the use of corporate “dark money.” Texas Right to Life Committee also filed last-minute corrections to its December campaign finance reports indicating it had “inadvertently” attributed about $38,000 in radio ads to its corporate entity instead of its PAC. Texas Right to Life Committee is a politically active non-profit corporation that does not have to disclose its donors.
Utah – Taxpayers Reimbursed Former Lawmaker for Rooms Linked to Prostitution Allegations
St. George Daily Spectrum – David DeMille | Published: 2/12/2018
Taxpayer funds were used to pay for at least two hotel rooms that a former state lawmaker is alleged to have used to meet a prostitute last year, according to records found by a Utah House official. Rep. Jon Stanard resigned two days before British tabloid The Daily Mail published an article accusing him of meeting with the prostitute, and included screen shots of what appear to be text exchanges between the two setting up appointments and naming a price. Receipts from expense reports show Stanard was reimbursed about $225 for hotel room stays in Salt Lake City at two separate hotels in June and August of last year while he was attending legislative meetings, at locations and on dates that correspond with the text messages included in the article.
West Virginia – Democratic Candidate Turns House of Delegates Eviction Into $45k Fundraising Haul
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 2/13/2018
A candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates was cut off and removed from a hearing on oil and gas drilling on private land. Lissa Lucas spoke about her opposition to the bill, and listed donations that state lawmakers have received from oil and gas companies. She was told during her testimony that she should not be making “personal comments” regarding members of the House Judiciary Committee. “I have to keep this short because the public only gets a minute and 45 seconds while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates,” Lucas added. In a twist of fate, rallying against corporate money in politics might have made Lucas the most effective fundraiser in the House this election cycle.
February 9, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Hero or Hired Gun? How a British Former Spy Became a Flash Point in the Russia Investigation. Washington Post – Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 2/6/2018 Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote memos that came to be […]
Hero or Hired Gun? How a British Former Spy Became a Flash Point in the Russia Investigation.
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 2/6/2018
Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote memos that came to be known as the dossier and has become the central point of contention in the political brawl raging around the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller. Some consider Steele to be a hero, a latter-day Paul Revere who, at personal risk, tried to provide an early warning about the Kremlin’s unprecedented meddling in a U.S. campaign. Those who distrust him say he is merely a hired gun leading a political attack on President Trump. Steele himself struggled to navigate dual obligations – to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.
Trump Picks New Federal Ethics Chief
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 2/7/2018
President Trump nominated a new director for the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), several months after the previous director, Walter Shaub, resigned over frustration with the administration. Trump nominated Emory Rounds, a current associate counsel at the OGE, to head the independent agency. Rounds previously served as an ethics attorney at the Commerce Department and in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Navy.
White House Officials Knew About Porter’s Abuse Allegations and Scrambled to Protect Him
CNN – Kaitlin Collins, Kevin Liptak, and Dan Merica | Published: 2/8/2018
President Trump’s staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, with one presenting pictures of her blackened eye. Porter was the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, determining which policy proposals reached the president’s hands and screening the briefing materials his visitors shared with him. Sources said the allegations against Porter had contributed to a delay in granting him a permanent security clearance. Aides had been aware generally of accusations against Porter since late last year, White House advisers said.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Arizona House Expels Yuma Rep. Don Shooter After Sexual-Harassment Findings
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 2/1/2018
The Arizona House voted to expel a Republican lawmaker after a report ordered by legislative leaders of his own party showed he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward women. Rep. Don Shooter is believed to be the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be voted out of his seat since the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct began in the fall. Shooter was facing censure, House Speaker changed his mind after Shooter sent a letter to his colleagues asking that they delay the vote to consider whether there also are credible charges against Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who was the first to level harassment charges against Shooter.
California – Oakland Asks District Attorney to Investigate Alleged Bribes by Cannabis Lobbyist
East Bay Times – Darwin BondGraham | Published: 2/2/2018
A man who Oakland City Council President Larry Reid says tried to bribe him to help obtain a cannabis dispensary permit also allegedly offered two businessmen assistance in getting a dispensary license in exchange for bags of cash. Developer Dorian Gray tried in January to give Reid an envelope he said had $10,000 in it, Reid said. Gray then approached the city official who oversees Oakland’s cannabis permit office and offered him a free trip to Spain to tour cannabis lounges there. The matter has been referred to the to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. The city’s Public Ethics Commission has opened its own investigation.
District of Columbia – D.C. Council Approves Fair Elections Act
Washington Times – Julia Airey | Published: 2/6/2018
The District of Columbia Council gave final approval to legislation authorizing publicly financed campaigns, clashing with Mayor Muriel Bowser, who vowed she would not fund the program. The voluntary system would allow qualified candidates to receive a base sum that varies by office, with a maximum of $160,000 for the mayoral contest as well as a five-to-one match on small donations. Supporters say the program will open local politics to new candidates, increase the power of small donors, and reduce the influence of wealthy campaign contributors. But critics including Bowser say the program, estimated to cost city taxpayers $5?million a year, will waste precious funds.
Florida – FBI Lays Out Case for Bribery, Mail Fraud in Search Warrant
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 2/5/2018
An FBI search warrant lays out a “pay-to-play” scheme where Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from clients seeking to do business with the city through his friend and business associate Paige Carter-Smith, owner of the lobbying firm Governance Services. Among the firm’s clients were Uber and FBI undercover agents posing as developers and a medical marijuana entrepreneur. The warrant says Maddox sold Governance Services to Carter-Smith between 2010 and 2012. After the sale, Maddox denied keeping an interest in the company, but continued his control of the firm and profited from its work.
Florida – Tallahassee Commission Adopts Broad New Ethics Rules
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 2/3/2018
The Tallahassee City Commission adopted an ethics reform ordinance that includes a ban on elected or appointed officials soliciting gifts from vendors, lobbyists, or tenants of city property, prohibits elected or appointed officials from accepting any gifts totaling over $100 in any calendar year, and a requires elected officials to file their financial disclosure forms and quarterly gift forms with the city treasurer-clerk. An ethics complaint filed at the same time with any law enforcement agency or the Florida Commission on Ethics will be put on hold until the other agency concludes its investigation.
North Carolina – Lobbyist Charged with Felonies After Investigation of Bail Bonds Advocacy
Raleigh News and Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 2/7/2018
Raleigh attorney and lobbyist Mark Bibbs was indicted on 10 charges, including obstruction of justice, perjury, and lobbying without registering. Prosecutors said Bibbs lobbied legislators on behalf of a bail bonds company without properly registering and then lied under oath about his actions to the North Carolina secretary of state’s lobbying compliance investigators. Investigators spent months looking into Bibbs’ work in 2016 on behalf of NC Bail Academy, Rockford-Cohen Group, All American Bail Bonds, and Cannon Surety. A complaint about Bibbs’ activities was filed by Robert Brawley, a former state lawmaker who was a partner in the Cannon Surety business.
North Carolina – Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Stanford Professor’s Election Districts for Wake and Mecklenburg
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 2/6/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court partly granted a request from North Carolina Republicans to block a voting map drawn by a federal court. That court had interceded after finding a map drawn by state lawmakers for the General Assembly had relied too heavily on race and had violated state laws. The Supreme Court’s order, which was brief and gave no reasons, partly blocked that decision while the justices consider whether to hear an appeal in the case.
South Carolina – SC Special Prosecutor Wants to Toss Out Quinn’s Guilty Plea If He Won’t Admit Crime
The State – John Monk | Published: 2/5/2018
Special prosecutor David Pascoe said when former South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn pleaded guilty to misconduct in office in December, he did so without actually admitting to any crime. Therefore, Pascoe in said in court filings, Quinn should revise his guilty plea. Pascoe wants him to make it clear he intended to commit a crime when he failed to report that a business he was associated with received nearly $30,000 from the University of South Carolina. Quinn’s crime was failure to disclose that payment, Pascoe says, adding it was legal for the business to take the university’s money.
Tennessee – Mayor Barry Recommended City Job for Daughter of Officer with Whom She Had Affair
The Tennessean – Anita Wadhwani | Published: 2/6/2018
Within months of taking office, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry recommended the adult daughter of the head of her security detail – the man with whom she later admitted to having an affair – be hired for a job in the city’s legal department. The daughter got the job. The position as an entry-level city attorney was the first newly created job in Nashville’s legal department in two years. It was not part of the existing budget. Barry approved the new job opening and no other candidate was considered. Ethics experts say that whether the mayor made the recommendation to hire the woman during her romantic relationship, or in its prelude, her involvement in a hiring decision may constitute a misuse of her office.
Virginia – Dozens of Virginia Churches Have Been Donating Cash to Campaigns for Years, Despite Law
The Virginian-Pilot – Bill Bartell | Published: 2/1/2018
For years, national Christian conservative activists have argued churches and other houses of worship should be allowed to endorse or donate money to candidates. Such support is prohibited if a religious organization wants to keep its tax-exempt status. But in Virginia, dozens of churches have been donating cash to campaigns for several years. Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. received almost two-thirds of the $31,500 that churches have given to Virginia candidates in the past two decades. Spruill argues the checks were not campaign contributions – the churches were buying tickets for their members at a reduced price to his annual campaign fundraising dinner.
Washington – Seattle Says Facebook Is Violating City Campaign Finance Law
Reuters – David Ingram | Published: 2/6/2018
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said Facebook has violated the city’s election advertising laws. It is the first attempt at regulatory action on internet companies over political ads on their platforms. The company could pay as much as $5,000 per ad in fines if it does not disclose information about campaign spending on its platform during last year’s city elections. The company has provided partial spending numbers, but not copies of ads or data about whom they targeted. The commission’s executive director, Wayne Barnett, said Facebook’s response “doesn’t come close to meeting their public obligation.”
West Virginia – Ethics Commission OKs Tourism Contract with Justice’s Greenbrier Resort
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Phil Kabler | Published: 2/1/2018
West Virginia Division of Tourism officials can partner with The Greenbrier resort in an advertising campaign after the state Ethics Commission granted the division a contract exemption. Tourism officials argued it would be an undue hardship if the state could not enter into an agreement with The Greenbrier as part of their new centralized advertising campaign. The contract exemption was needed to avoid potential conflicts-of-interest, since Gov. Jim Justice is primary owner of the resort, and as governor, has authority to hire or fire the state Secretary of Commerce and the Tourism commissioner. That effectively gives Justice direct authority over the proposed state contract with The Greenbrier, in violation of the ethics law.
February 2, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Just How Bad is Partisan Gerrymandering? Ask the Mapmakers. New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 1/29/2018 Eric Hawkins, an analyst for the political consulting firm NCEC Services, is part of a cottage industry of statisticians, computer jockeys, […]
Just How Bad is Partisan Gerrymandering? Ask the Mapmakers.
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 1/29/2018
Eric Hawkins, an analyst for the political consulting firm NCEC Services, is part of a cottage industry of statisticians, computer jockeys, and political sages whose business is to turn demographic data into electoral maps. His firm works exclusively with Democrats; others – like Geographic Strategies, run by the former Republican Party redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller – are loyal to Republicans. If most mapmakers are partisan, their work goes well beyond back-room politics. A good map meets constitutional requirements, such as allotting an equal number of people to every district, and respecting racial and ethnic populations. For their part, mapmakers point out their job is to implement political will, not to determine it.
CDC Director Resigns Because of Conflicts Over Financial Interests
Washington Post – Lena Sun | Published: 1/31/2018
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned, one day after reports that she traded tobacco stocks while heading the agency. Fitzgerald has said she divested from many stock holdings. But she and her husband were legally obligated to maintain other investments in cancer detection and health information technology, according to her ethics agreement, requiring Fitzgerald to pledge to avoid government business that might affect those interests. In Congress, some lawmakers had become increasingly concerned over Fitzgerald’s ability to do her job effectively.
Trump Groups Raised Millions, Then Paid It Out to Loyalists and a Trump Hotel
Las Vegas Sun – Kenneth Vogel and Rachel Shorey (New York Times) | Published: 1/25/2018
President Trump’s close political advisers are making millions of dollars working for several different entities gearing up for Trump’s re-election campaign, raising questions about whether they are following campaign finance laws designed to keep campaigns from coordinating with big-money outside groups. Campaign finance reports shed light on a network of groups that were formed to support Trump, but have spent less than other groups bolstering his agenda, while steering money to the president’s businesses and his most ardent surrogates.
Why the Russia Probe Demolished One Lobbying Firm but Spared Another
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 2/1/2018
Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chief, once arranged the hiring of the lobbying firms Podesta Group and Mercury to work on behalf of a nonprofit that was ostensibly independent but which prosecutors say was “under the ultimate direction” of the president of Ukraine. Manfaort has been indicted on charges that include violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The Podesta Group collapsed within weeks of Manafort’s indictment, but Mercury just had its best year ever. There is no single explanation for why one firm imploded while the other appears to be relatively unscathed, but it is evident the Podesta Group was under pressures that Mercury did not face.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Patricia Todd Says Campaign Subpoena Was ‘Last Straw’ in Decision to Not Seek Re-election
AL.com – Roy Johnson | Published: 1/30/2018
Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd says the state’s ethics laws regarding interactions between lawmakers and non-profits made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to get a job in her profession as an advocate in the non-profit sector. But after Todd announced she will not run for re-election, she received an offer from the Consumer Financial Education Foundation of America which she accepted. Todd said potential employers were skittish about regulations that consider anyone whose job entails speaking with a legislator as a lobbyist, and rules around interactions between lawmakers and lobbyists are strict.
Florida – Proposed Change to Sexual Harassment Bill Adds Sex to Lobbying Gift Ban
Florida Politics – Ana Ceballos | Published: 1/29/2018
Sexual favors between Florida legislators and lobbyists could be illegal under a proposed amendment to a bill. Sen. Lauren Book wants to incorporate any type of sexual conduct, whether engaging in it or directing others to do it, into the state’s gift ban. The change would apply to any public official, including an “employee of an agency or local government attorney.” It would also require anyone who files a public disclosure of their financial interests to certify they have reviewed the new gift ban policy.
Illinois – IG Office: Sex harassment legislation needs teeth for lobbyists
State Journal-Register – Maximilian Kwiatkowski | Published: 1/30/2018
Sexual harassment legislation passed last year is weak when it comes to requiring lobbyists to cooperate with investigations, according to two representatives of the Illinois secretary of state’s inspector general’s office. Deputy Inspector General Randy Blue said the laws do not contain strong enough penalties or ways to enforce the rules on lobbyists working in the Capitol. Prior to the legislation, the secretary of state’s jurisdiction involving lobbyists was solely with their registration and expenditure reports. Now, it oversees sexual harassment allegations, too.
Kansas – Kansas Intern Confidentiality Rule: What happens in a lawmaker’s office stays there
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy) and Hunter Woodall | Published: 1/29/2018
The Kansas Legislature requires interns to sign agreements to keep anything that takes place or is said in a lawmaker’s office confidential, or the interns could be fired. Employment law experts who reviewed the agreement say it is written so broadly it could deter interns from reporting harassment or illegal activity, and might violate the First Amendment. Legislative leaders say the agreement is intended to remind interns that private political discussions should stay private, although they acknowledge the intention is not clear.
New York – 2 Donors Plead Guilty, but the Mayor Is Not Charged. Why?
New York Times – William Rashbaum and William Neuman | Published: 1/26/2018
A major donor to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio testified he made donations to an elected official that sources identify as the mayor to win favorable treatment from City Hall. Harendra Singh made the “pay-to-play” assertion during a plea proceeding in October 2016, but his statement remained hidden from public view until now. The mayor’s ties to Singh and several other campaign donors for whom he did favors were investigated by federal prosecutors. They decided not to bring charges against de Blasio or his aides, but in doing so, they issued a cutting statement raising questions about the mayor’s ethics and making it clear he had done favors for donors.
North Carolina – In Power Struggle with GOP Lawmakers, Cooper Wins Election Board Revamp Lawsuit
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 1/26/2018
The North Carolina Supreme Court limited the Republican-dominated Legislature’s efforts to minimize Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s ability to pursue his goals, declaring unconstitutional a law devising a state elections board that hinted at deadlock. The justices ruled Cooper could not be forced to pick a politically divided, eight-member elections board from names the two major political parties selected. The law prevented the governor from removing members with whom he disagreed unless there was wrongdoing. The law makes Cooper unable to fulfill his duties to ensure election laws are followed because half of the board will be people who will probably oppose the governor’s policy preferences, the majority opinion said.
South Dakota – Ex-SD Lawmaker Returns Lobbyist Credentials Amid Concerns
Rapid City Journal – Bob Mercer | Published: 1/29/2018
Former South Dakota Sen. Corey Brown said he has given back the lobbyist badge he received to represent Sanford Health at the 2018 legislative session amid a concern he might be breaking a state law. The Legislature decided last year that many former state government officials must wait two years before starting work as private lobbyists in South Dakota. Brown retired from the Legislature at the end of 2016. He began work January 8 for Sanford Health as senior legislative specialist for South Dakota. “The confusion comes because there are different interpretations of the law,” Brown said.
Tennessee – Nashville Mayor Megan Barry Admits to Extramarital Relationship with Top Police Security Officer
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison, Nate Rau, and Dave Boucher | Published: 1/31/2018
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry apologized for having an affair with the head of her security detail, Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The affair has drawn scrutiny to the overtime that Forrest accrued while managing her detail. Forrest accompanied Barry on trips to Paris, Athens, Washington, New York, and other cities in the past year. He racked up around $33,000 in expenses for the trips and more than $50,000 in overtime in 2017 on top of an $84,500 salary. Nine of the trips were only Barry and Forrest, including a trip to Greece in September.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Ethics Commission Hits Pause Button after Senate Rejects Director
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/25/2018
Wisconsin Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell returned to his old job at the state Department of Safety and Professional Services as a policy analyst, two days after Senate Republicans refused to confirm his appointment to the commission. Ethics Commission Chairperson David Halbrooks said he hoped to eventually bring back Bell as its director but wanted to wait to see what happens on the legal and legislative front in the coming weeks.
January 26, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Inside Facebook’s Year of Reckoning Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 1/22/2018 Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would step back from its role in choosing the news that 2 billion users see on its site every month. The move […]
Inside Facebook’s Year of Reckoning
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 1/22/2018
Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would step back from its role in choosing the news that 2 billion users see on its site every month. The move was one result of an 18-month struggle by Facebook to come to grips with its dark side. As outsiders criticized the social network’s harmful side effects, such as the spread of disinformation and violent imagery, internal debates played out over how forthcoming to be about Russian meddling on its platform during the 2016 election and how to fight the perception that Facebook is politically biased. Right now, the company is not confident it can prevent the problems that roiled Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Big Pharma Greets Hundreds of Ex-Federal Workers at the ‘Revolving Door’
CaliforniaHealthline.org – Sydney Lupkin (Kaiser Health News) | Published: 1/25/2018
A Kaiser Health News analysis shows hundreds of people have moved through the “revolving door” that connects the drug industry to Capitol Hill and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 340 former congressional staffers now work for pharmaceutical companies or their lobbying firms. The analysis also showed more than a dozen former drug industry employees now have jobs on Capitol Hill, often on committees that handle health care policy. In many cases, former congressional staffers who now work for drug companies return to the Hill to lobby former co-workers or employees. It raises concerns that pharmaceutical companies could wield undue influence over drug-related legislation or government policy.
FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Went to NRA to Help Trump
McClatchy DC – Peter Stone and Greg Gordon | Published: 1/18/2018
The FBI is investigating Russian banker Alexander Torshin for allegedly funneling money to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign through contributions made to the National Rifle Association (NRA). As special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe continues, investigators are now looking into Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Vladimir Putin and the NRA, two sources familiar with the inquiry said. It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
Fewer Than 16,000 Donors Accounted for Half the Federal Campaign Contributions in 2016
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/19/2018
More than 3.2 million Americans contributed to federal candidates in the 2016 elections, but fewer than 16,000 of them provided half the donations, a sign of the increasing concentration of donor activity in the U.S., according to a new report. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s analysis mapped the growing influence of wealthy political contributors and independent political groups in the seven years since federal court decisions unleashed a new era of big-money spending. Super PACs spent $1.1 billion in the 2016 elections, nearly 17 times more than such independent political committees put into federal races in 2010, the first year they came into existence, the report found.
The Mueller Effect: FARA filings soar in shadow of Manafort, Flynn probes
NBC News – Julia Ainsley, Andrew Lehren, and Anna Schecter | Published: 1/18/2018
Hundreds of new and supplemental Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms since Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged two of President Trump’s aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries. The flood of new filings provides a window into the opaque industry of foreign lobbying in Washington, D.C. The uptick, legal experts say, comes from a new awareness that a failure to disclose overseas political work could lead to federal charges.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – San Francisco Ousts a Mayor in a Clash of Tech, Politics and Race
New York Times – Thomas Fuller and Conor Dougherty | Published: 1/24/2018
The appointment of venture capitalist Mark Farrell as San Francisco’s interim mayor, and the ouster of London Breed from that position, in some ways exemplified a larger battle for the soul of the city. In seven years, the median price of a home has nearly doubled to $1.3 million – a transformation, driven by the riches of the technology industry, that continues to push out longtime residents, many of them nonwhites. Amid the debate over the tech industry’s influence, there was the powerful imagery of a black woman being thrown out of office, albeit an interim one, in a city that has a long history of discrimination against blacks.
Colorado – Puffy Jackets and Poinsettias: Gifts to Denver council members from DIA and other city offices draw ethics scrutiny
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 1/22/2018
A recent advisory opinion by the Denver Board of Ethics argued the prohibition on elected officials accepting or soliciting most items worth more than $25 – from givers with a city interest – could apply to gifts from city offices the same way it does to those from outside contractors. The opinion has drawn formal pushback from the city attorney’s office and has sparked debate among council members, who may have the last word by passing an explicit exclusion for city-provided gifts to the ethics code.
Georgia – Former Atlanta City Official Gets 2 Years in Bribery Probe
Los Angeles Times – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 1/18/2018
Atlanta’s former chief procurement officer was sentenced to serve more than two years in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for lucrative city contracts. U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones also ordered Adam Smith to pay $44,000 restitution and a $25,000 fine. He was charged as part of an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Prosecutors have not publicly identified the vendor they say gave Smith envelopes of cash at meetings at restaurants every other week for nearly two years, a total of more than 40 payments.
Maine – A ‘Pro-White’ Town Manager Who Wants Races to Separate Refused to Quit. So Town Officials Fired Him.
Washington Post – Marwa Eltagouri and Kristine Phillips | Published: 1/24/2018
Tom Kawczynski put Jackman, Maine on the map when media outlets across the country began publishing stories about the town manager’s seemingly unequivocal views that Islam has no place in the Western world, and Americans would be better off if people of different races “voluntarily separate.” Officials in Jackman – a town of fewer than 1,000 people, where nearly all residents are white – remained mostly quiet about the incident until selectmen decided to fire Kawczynski. His termination could raise questions about whether towns and corporations can dismiss employees for offensive speech, which is protected by the Constitution.
New Jersey – Phil Murphy Executive Order Tightens Gift Rules for Governor
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 1/18/2018
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order tightening rules on gift disclosures. The order requires the governor to disclose gifts from anyone he has met since January 16, 2015, three years before his inauguration. Anyone he met before then, Murphy said, would be considered a “pre-existing relationship.” Murphy’s predecessor, Chris Christie, came under criticism during his tenure for his use of an exemption that allowed him not to disclose gifts from people he claimed as friends.
New York – Vance Bans Donations from Lawyers with Pending Cases
New York Times – James McKinley Jr. | Published: 1/22/2018
Manhattan’s district attorney said he will no longer accept campaign contributions from lawyers with business before his office, including those representing people being investigated or prosecuted. The announcement by Cyrus Vance Jr. came after he faced heavy criticism for taking money from attorneys who represented movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and a lawyer who represented the Trump Organization in a fraud investigation. In response, Vance had asked the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School to make recommendations for how to vet donors to eliminate potential bias.
North Carolina – Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling
New York Times – Adam Liptak and Alan Blinder | Published: 1/18/2018
The U.S. Supreme Court said North Carolina does not immediately have to redraw its congressional district maps, meaning the 2018 elections will likely be held in districts that a lower court found unconstitutional. The decision was not unexpected, because the Supreme Court generally is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court’s ruling that such an action is warranted, especially in an election year.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Supreme Court Strikes Down Congressional Map as Unconstitutional, Orders Change Before May Primary
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai, Liz Navratil, and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 1/22/2018
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional map as unconstitutionally gerrymandered and gave lawmakers until February 9 to redraw the boundaries. Under a new map, Democrats, who hold only five of the state’s 18 congressional districts despite its status as a closely divided swing state, would likely have a much better opportunity to pick up several seats in their quest to retake control of the U.S. House. Experts have long held up Pennsylvania as one of the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering, in which district lines are precisely drawn to favor one political party over another.
Texas – Austin Lobbyists Agree to Disclose How Much They’re Paid
Austin American-Statesman – Elizabeth Findell | Published: 1/24/2018
Seventeen Austin lobbyist-lawyers who initially declined to cooperate with city rules requiring them to tell how much their clients pay them have changed their minds. A day before the Ethics Review Commission was set to hear ethics complaints, the city said all the lawyers had agreed to provide the information. Austin began requiring registered lobbyists last year to give a ballpark figure for what clients pay them to influence city officials, as they must disclose on the state and federal level. But at least 17 lobbyists who are also lawyers refused to do so, saying the disclosure would violate attorney-client privilege.
Wisconsin – Senate Votes to Force Out State Ethics and Elections Leaders
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/23/2018
The Wisconsin Senate refused to confirm the leaders of the state elections and ethics commissions, despite unanimous bipartisan support from the boards that hired them. The Senate voted against confirming elections Administrator Michael Haas and ethics Administrator Brian Bell. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he has lost confidence in both men’s ability to be nonpartisan. Both previously worked for the Government Accountability Board, which Republicans disbanded in 2015 after it investigated Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative groups. Watchdog groups have threatened to sue to keep Bell and Haas in their jobs.
January 19, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: One Year After Women’s March, More Activism but Less Unity New York Times – Farah Stockman | Published: 1/15/2018 The Women’s March a year ago aimed to start a movement of women from all walks of life who would […]
One Year After Women’s March, More Activism but Less Unity
New York Times – Farah Stockman | Published: 1/15/2018
The Women’s March a year ago aimed to start a movement of women from all walks of life who would continue their activism long after they had gone home. In many ways, that goal has been realized. Thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, especially in red states where the events provided a rare chance to build a network of like-minded people. But as the movement evolves, differing priorities and tactics have emerged among the women, nearly all of them unpaid and spread across the country. Now, on the eve of the anniversary, a rift is emerging between two groups. The split has raised questions about who can claim the mantle of the Women’s March, and the funding and press attention that goes with it.
House Judiciary Advances Foreign Lobby Overhaul
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/17/2018
The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would tighten oversight of lobbyists who work for foreign governments or companies. The committee voted to give the Department of Justice additional powers to enforce rules requiring lobbyists to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The bill would also close loopholes in FARA and require the Justice Department to develop a strategy for enforcing the law. Critics have argued that FARA reporting requirements are unclear and contain loopholes that allow American lobbyists to avoid disclosure of their foreign clients.
Trump’s Inauguration Money Is Still Missing One Year After His Administration Took Control of the White House
Newsweek – Linley Sanders | Published: 1/18/2018
Almost one year after President Trump took the oath of office, millions of dollars from his leftover inauguration funds have still not been donated to the charities they were promised to. Trump’s inauguration committee raised a record-breaking $107 million as his administration prepared to assume the White House last year, but very little has been disclosed about where the remaining money was allocated. A watchdog group is questioning why the funds disappeared, and a member of Congress is proposing legislation to keep future administrations from obscuring their own inaugural donations.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Lavish Bash for California Politicians and Lobbyists Gets a #MeToo Makeover
CALmatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 1/17/2018
For more than a decade, California’s extravagant Back to Session Bash was a place to let loose. Debauchery at the party, insiders joked, ended at least one career annually. But with the Capitol reeling from accusations of sexual harassment and assault that have caused two legislators to resign and a third to take a leave of absence, the mood at the party this month was more subdued. Many wore black, a statement inspired by Hollywood actresses to highlight efforts to stop sexual misconduct.
Delaware – Lobbyists Given a Space of Their Own in Legislative Hall
Wilmington News Journal – Scott Gross | Published: 1/10/2018
Lobbyists have been offered a dedicated room at Delaware’s Legislative Hall on a trial basis. Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride announced that the state’s more than 300 registered lobbyists could use a conference room on the second floor of the statehouse, in an effort to clear out public space. McBride says lobbyists have long “camped out in the hallways, taking up couches and space” designed for citizens’ use. Senate Republicans expressed frustration, with Minority Leader Greg Lavelle questioning the need for a “comfort station” for lobbyists.
Maine – Maine Republican Party Promoting ‘Fake News’ Sites That Target Democrats
Portland Press Herald – Brian MacQuarrie (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/15/2018
Fake news – misleading stories that have mushroomed in the age of social media and that became Internet fodder during the 2016 presidential election – has found a way into Maine politics, Democrats say. Of even more concern to some Democrats: it appeared the GOP was working directly with an anonymous conservative website called the Maine Examiner, which ran a series of negative stories against Democrat Ben Chin in the runoff election for Lewiston mayor.
Minnesota – Minnesota GOP Leader Seeks Cut of Big Donations
Federal News Radio – Kyle Potter (Associated Press) | Published: 1/17/2018
Jennifer Carnahan, the new chairperson of Minnesota’s Republican Party, is seeking a 10 percent commission from large donations to the party. Campaign finance experts said they have never heard of such an arrangement. And it risks upsetting major GOP donors and activists by diverting critical resources from a party that has struggled with debt for much of the last decade, even as it prepares for two U.S. Senate elections, a wide-open race for governor, and four or more competitive congressional elections.
Missouri – Lobbyist Gift Restriction Launched from Missouri House to Senate
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/17/2018
The Missouri House passed a bill that restricts lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. It now goes to the Senate, which has defeated such legislation in the past. House Bill 1303 would ban lobbyist expenditures on individuals save for customary gifts such as flowers. It would also exempt events in which every member of the Legislature is invited.
Montana – Montana Secretary of State Sends Email Criticizing Mainstream Media to 130,000 People
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 1/17/2018
An email sent to thousands of Montanans by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton stirred up discussion over how state resources were used to disseminate the message. The email, sent to 130,000 business owners and subscribers through an e-blast system using state funds and resources, has a subject line that reads “Be Careful What Gets Your Attention” and says there “is one huge problem with mainstream media in America.” Stapleton said the email was not in response to any specific news coverage or event, either nationally or in Montana.
New Mexico – Lobbyist Transparency Takes a Nosedive
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Melorie Bagey | Published: 1/13/2018
What money buys in Santa Fe is a pressing question these days in New Mexico, where in the past three years, a former secretary of state has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and a former state senator has been convicted of bribery. Over the last seven or eight years, due to public pressure following an earlier series of scandals, the New Mexico Legislature seemed to be opening the doors slightly on how decisions are made. So, it was a bit of a surprise when during the 2016 legislative session state lawmakers reduced the amount of money spent by lobbyists and their employers that has to be publicly disclosed.
South Carolina – South Carolina Lawmakers Overseeing Regulators Were Also Wined and Dined by Utility Companies
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 1/13/2018
Years before South Carolina was saddled with two failed nuclear reactors, utility companies hosted “appreciation dinners” for the lawmakers who pick the state’s seven utility regulators. The social affairs were held at top-end restaurants in cities across the country, with the state’s largest utilities lavishing some of the Legislature’s most influential lawmakers. All of these lawmakers were on the Public Utilities Review Committee. That little-known panel selects and oversees the commissioners who decide how much residents pay for water, gas, and electricity.
Tennessee – Tennessee Legislature’s New Home Is Less ‘Middle School,’ More ‘Corporate’
Chattanooga Times Free Press – Andy Sher | Published: 1/15/2018
In December, Tennessee lawmakers left their home in the Legislative Plaza complex to take up residence in the Cordell Hull State Building, newly renovated at a cost of $126 million. Legislative Plaza, and adjoining space in the War Memorial Building, was where lawmakers had offices and where committees did much of their work, shaping legislation that later was passed in the actual House and Senate chambers, located in the Capitol. But for all of its faults, including leaks from water fountains on the park-like plaza above, the old Legislative Plaza had more of an intimate feel, according to some lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists.
Wisconsin – As Senate Vote Nears, State Ethics Chief Blasts Former Government Accountability Board as Partisan, Inconsistent
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/18/2018
Brian Bell, the administrator of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, said he left the Government Accountability Board in 2015 because it enforced the law unevenly and one of its top attorneys, Democrat Shane Falk, “displayed open partisanship.” The denunciation comes as the state Senate is poised to vote on the confirmations of Bell and the state Elections Administrator, Mike Haas. Watchdogs signaled they may go to court over whether legislators can forcibly remove the administrators.
Wisconsin – State Report: Nearly 15 percent of Wisconsin lobbyists lobbied without authorization
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/10/2018
A Wisconsin Ethics Commission audit has determined that more than 14 percent of the state’s lobbyists may be engaging in unauthorized lobbying. The commission released its report without naming any of the potential violators. It planned to contact the 78 lobbyists identified for an explanation. Attorney Mike Wittenwyler who represents lobbyists told the commission before the report was released that the problems may be due to paperwork and process, not ill intent. The report also found that of the 691 registered interest groups that employ lobbyists, 74 appeared to have engaged in unauthorized lobbying.