July 5, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 5, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal 2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019 In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question […]

National/Federal

2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms
Philadelphia Inquirer – Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2019

In a defeat for President Trump, his administration ended its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, saying it will begin printing forms that do not include the contentious query. The move comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court the rationale for the question as “contrived.” Officials determined there would not be enough time to continue the legal battle and meet the printing deadlines for the census questionnaire. Critics of the question, including some at the Census Bureau, said it could cause an undercount of millions of people in immigrant communities who would be afraid to return the form, leading to an inaccurate number that could skew representation and apportionment in favor of Republican areas.

Ethics Panel Launches Gaetz Investigation Over Cohen Tweet
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/29/2019

The House Committee on Ethics announced it is investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for a February tweet in which he threatened to release embarrassing personal information about President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The committee said it has opened a formal inquiry into Gaetz’s comment based on a complaint from a fellow lawmaker, who is not identified. According to the ethics panel, Gaetz disregarded an initial review of the complaint, an extraordinary rebuke to his colleagues. Gaetz’s initial attack on Cohen came a day before the former Trump confidant was slated to testify to the House Oversight Committee, a high-profile hearing in which Cohen ultimately slammed the president as dishonest and provided evidence he paid hush money to women ahead of the 2016 election.

Gregory Craig Preps for Trial Tightrope in Foreign Agent Case
Law.com – Andrew Strickler | Published: 7/1/2019

Attorney Gregory Craig was charged with misleading Department of Justice officials six years ago about a Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom report commissioned by Paul Manafort and public-relations activities that would have triggered a duty for Skadden to publicly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Craig has vehemently denied lying to FARA officials or helping spin the report to influence a U.S. audience. He has also argued that neither of the government’s charged statutes imposed a clear obligation on him to reveal to FARA officials all the information they might have wanted to know.

House Democrats Sue for Trump’s Tax Returns
Politico – Brian Faler | Published: 7/2/2019

House Democrats sued for President Trump’s tax returns, marking the beginning of a high-stakes legal fight over his efforts to keep them secret. Democrats are seeking six years’ worth of returns under a 1924 law allowing the leaders of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s confidential tax information. Democrats hope the documents will answer a host of questions about Trump’s finances. The president has defied a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns, and his administration is fighting the effort to force his hand, arguing Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for seeking the information. While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.

It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.
New York Times – Lisa Lerer | Published: 7/2/2019

Three years after nominating the first woman in history to head a presidential ticket, nearly six months after a wave of energized women swept Democrats into power in the U.S. House, and as a record number of women run for president, the party finds itself grappling with the strangely enduring question of the electability of women, and with the challenge for the candidates of refuting it before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Privately, Democratic strategists, candidates, and officials say they have been alarmed by how deeply doubts about female electability have taken hold. A portion of the party’s voters suggest they are eager to see a woman on the ticket but fear that putting her in the top slot could cost them the White House again.

Journalists, Pundits and Retired Politicians Put on a Show for Lobbyists
MAPLight.org – Andrew Perez, Abigail Luke, and Tom Zelina | Published: 7/2/2019

The practice of paying high-profile Washington, D.C. insiders to speak at industry trade shows and conferences, known as “buckraking,” is not a recent development. But as the rules on political participation by nonprofits and trade associations have been loosened, it has become common for lobbying groups to pay large sums to influential insiders who drive news coverage and public opinion. Guidelines on paid speeches vary widely across the industry, although the Society of Professional Journalists calls for reporters and editors to “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

NRA Meltdown Has Trump Campaign Sweating
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/3/2019

The National Rifle Association (NRA) aired an avalanche of television ads and pushed its five million-plus members to the polls for Donald Trump in 2016, propelling him in the Rust Belt states that delivered him the presidency. Now, the gun rights group is in total meltdown and senior Republicans and Trump campaign officials are alarmed. The turmoil is fueling fears that the NRA will be diminished heading into the election, leaving the Republican Party with a gaping hole in its political machinery. With the Chamber of Commerce and Koch political network withdrawing from their once-dominant roles in electing conservatives, Republicans worry that three groups that have long formed the core of their electoral infrastructure will be effectively on the sidelines.

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Affairs with Congressional Staff Raise Sexual Harassment Concerns
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 6/28/2019

Republican Party leaders have demurred on whether U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter should resign over revelations he pursued relationships with two congressional staffers, including one of his own aides. But that does not mean allegations that Hunter had “intimate relationships,” as U.S. attorneys described them in a recent court filing, with two staffers will not trigger consequences on Capitol Hill. The relationships were revealed in a motion filed in connection with Hunter’s upcoming trial on charges alleging he misused campaign funds for personal expenses. Hunter dipped into campaign coffers to pay for drinks out, couples’ trips, and Uber rides from the women’s homes to his congressional office, prosecutors say. The relationships predate a law that amended the House’s code of conduct to prohibit members of Congress from dating subordinates. But Hunter’s behavior still raises ethical concerns, experts say.

‘The Enigma of the Entire Mueller Probe’: Focus on origins of Russian investigation puts spotlight on Maltese professor
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Shane Harris, and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2019

A conversation between Maltese-born academic Joseph Mifsud and Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, eventually relayed by an Australian diplomat to U.S. government officials, was cited by special counsel Robert Mueller as the event that set in motion the FBI probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. With Attorney General William Barr’s review of the counterintelligence investigation underway, the origins of the inquiry itself are now in the spotlight and with them, the role of Mifsud. Some of President Trump’s allies and advisers have been floating a provocative theory: that Mifsud was a Western intelligence plant, citing exaggerated and at times distorted details about his life. Such a notion runs counter to the description of Mifsud in the Mueller report, which states he “had connections to Russia” and “maintained various Russian contacts.”

The Nationwide Battle Over Gerrymandering Is Far from Over
Politico – Steven Shepard and Scott Bland | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that federal courts have no business deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much did not end the fight over how politicians draw political lines, it just moved the battlefield. The justices accelerated the race between the two parties to tilt the system to their advantage by electing as many governors and legislators as possible or, in some states, getting voters to support ballot measures to take the redistricting process out of politicians’ hands by 2021. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. It was there that Democratic-aligned plaintiffs successfully demolished Pennsylvania’s Republican-drawn congressional map before the 2018 elections.

Trump Advisers Pursue Democratic Drug-Price Ideas as Campaign Looms
Washington Post – Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Laurie McGinley | Published: 7/2/2019

As President Trump presses to make health care a central plank of his 2020 reelection bid, he is frustrated with those he thinks are thwarting his ability to deliver on a major campaign promise: lowering drug prices. That has included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug executive who until very recently pushed back on proposals to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and negotiate drug prices in Medicare. Now, though, under pressure to deliver campaign talking points, Azar has reversed his long-standing opposition to ideas traditionally espoused by Democrats and reviled by most Republicans and the drug industry.

Trump Facebook Ads Use Models to Portray Actual Supporters
AP News – Robert Condon | Published: 7/2/2019

A series of Facebook video ads for President Trump’s re-election campaign shows what appears to be a young woman strolling on a beach in Florida, a Hispanic man on a city street in Texas, and a bearded hipster in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., all making glowing, voice-over endorsements of the president. But the people in the videos that ran in the past few months are all actually models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil, and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee. Though the 20-second videos include tiny disclaimers that say, “actual testimonial, actor portrayal,” they raise the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models.

Twitter Adds Labels for Tweets That Break Its Rules – a Move with Potentially Stark Implications for Trump’s Account
Boston Globe – Elizabeth Gwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019

Political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels. The new policy comes amid complaints that President Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence. From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service’s rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation. Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet will not be removed. Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won’t use its algorithms to “elevate” or otherwise promote such tweets.

Ukraine Role Focuses New Attention on Giuliani’s Foreign Work
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/30/2019

Pavel Fuks, a wealthy Ukrainian-Russian developer looking for ways to attract more investment from the U.S. to his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine, enlisted an especially well-connected American to help him: Rudolph Giuliani. Fuks hired Giuliani, who in 2018 would become the president’s personal lawyer, under a one-year deal to help improve Kharkiv’s emergency services and bolster its image as a destination for investment. Fuks’s description of Giuliani as a lobbyist further highlighted a controversy over what some say is a pattern by Giuliani of providing influence with the Trump administration. Democrats have asked whether Giuliani’s role working in a number of foreign countries fits the legal definition of lobbying and requires him to register as a foreign agent, something Giuliani has not done.

Welcome to 2020, the Era of Crowdfunded Presidential Debates
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 7/2/2019

Democrats this year are giving not only to help their preferred candidates, but also to offer a small token of appreciation for a clever policy idea for someone else, or to keep an underdog in the game. Welcome to the 2020 primaries, an era of crowdfunded presidential debates. Campaign donations and debates have become intermingled this year, with the Democratic National Committee for the first time requiring that candidates reach a certain number of donors to qualify for primary debates. That has created an intense focus on fundraising, with candidates asking supporters for money specifically to help them qualify for the widely watched forums. More than 100 debate viewers from across the country responded to a call-out by The Washington Post on Instagram, asking them about the moments that resonated with them and drove them to give money.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona A GOP Governor Wants to Cancel a Nike Contract after Flag-Shoe Flap, but the City It’s Headed for Isn’t Backing Down
Greenwich Time – Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/3/2019

Nike stopped production of shoes that featured the image of an American flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly lodged a complaint. Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, said he found the Betsy Ross flag designed in 1777 offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he ordered state authorities to revoke an incentive package it offered Nike to open a factory in the state. But Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said the city would honor the agreement. Boycotts by companies and independent contractors over governmental policies that cross what some see as lines on race or gender have become a common. Ducey’s decision inverted the calculation – in this case, a state would monetarily punish a private company for a political decision it made.

Connecticut They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 7/3/2019

Watchdogs are concerned the Connecticut General Assembly’s relationship with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) could undermine campaign finance reforms adopted in 2005. Near the end of the 2019 session, a deal by legislative leaders sped an elections bill that contained a calculated slap at the SEEC through the Senate in little more than a minute. It would have set term limits on the agency’s director, treating elections enforcement differently than the state’s other watchdogs. The measure marked the fifth time since 2011 the Legislature has at least attempted to curb the powers of the SEEC or loosen campaign finance rules, reflecting a longstanding antipathy towards the agency that not only enforce the laws, but bankrolls campaigns.

Missouri Meet the Consultant Who Got Stenger Elected, and Why He’s Still ‘Proud’ He Won
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 6/30/2019

Two days after Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to federal “pay-to-play” charges, Democratic consultant Michael Kelley was on television, sounding as though he barely knew the former St. Louis County executive. “… An absolutely ridiculous thing for Steve Stenger to have been involved in,” Kelly said. Left unsaid was the fact that Stenger’s campaign had paid Kelley’s Show Me Victories – the political communications arm of the Kelley Group – $550,000 during his two successful election campaigns. Nor did Kelley mention that Stenger, as county executive, had been a regular at the Kelley Group’s offices, visiting almost weekly for meetings in 2018. In addition to the Stenger campaign, Show Me Victories has worked on nearly every major local ballot proposition in the last few years.

New Jersey U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Bridgegate Appeal. Stunning Move Keeps Alive Case That Dogged Christie.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/28/2019

Bridget Anne Kelly, the one-time aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie whose “time for some traffic problems” email became a key focal point of the Bridgegate corruption scandal, will get a final chance to argue she was wrongfully convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Kelly’s appeal – weeks before she is due to report to federal prison – reviving a case that many had thought was finally over. The decision to review her conviction could raise new questions about the ability of the government to take on major political prosecutions, by a court that has taken aim at a number of high-profile corruption cases in recent years. Lawyers for Kelly had argued that federal prosecutors used criminal fraud statutes typically used in cases of personal gain, such as bribery, to instead criminalize routine political behavior.

North Dakota Legislator as Landlord: Financial disclosures don’t highlight state agency leases with North Dakota elected officials
Jamestown Sun – John Hageman | Published: 6/30/2019

Several current or former elected state officials in North Dakota have an interest in property rented by state agencies, but those financial relationships were not readily apparent on campaign disclosure forms. The officials defended the leases, which are not awarded through a formal competitive bidding process, as a byproduct of North Dakota’s citizen-run Legislature and said they do not affect their decision-making. Dina Butcher, who led the effort to pass last year’s ballot measure etching new ethics rules into the state constitution, did not directly criticize the state officials because the arrangements are not illegal, and she was not aware of any leases being unfairly awarded. But she said the ethics commission created by Measure 1 may take up the issue once it is formed.

Oregon Campaign Finance Limits on Track to Oregon Ballot
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 7/1/2019

Voters in Oregon will decide next November whether the state constitution should allow limits on campaign donations. Legislative approval of the historic campaign finance measure comes three months after The Portland Oregonian revealed how the outsize influence of corporate campaign money helped limit environmental protections in a state that once aimed to be an environmental pioneer. Per capita, corporate interests have given more money to the average Oregon lawmaker than in any state in the country, the investigation found. Lawmakers also passed House Bill 2716, under which some large funders will need to be disclosed in some advertisements.

Texas How a Longtime Aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Became a Top Lobbyist
Austin American-Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 6/27/2019

Daniel Hodge, a former aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who is now a lobbyist, earned as much as $3.7 million this year representing more than two dozen clients at the state Legislature. It illuminates how someone like Hodge can, within a couple of years of hanging a shingle, become one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state. Longtime lobbyists say the transition is a natural one, using knowledge learned and relationships built in the public sector for effective advocacy outside it. But watchdogs have pointed to the close link between the Legislature and those who peddle access to government funds as an erosion of public trust. In recent years, lawmakers have tried, with limited success, to expand restrictions on the path from state government to lobbying.

Wyoming Wyoming Tribe Funded Effort to Kill Gambling Regulations; Sides Dispute Who Created the Group
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 7/1/2019

A casino managed by the Northern Arapaho tribe gave thousands of dollars to a secretive organization trying to defeat regulated gambling in Wyoming, records show, but tribal officials say they were duped by their lobbyist who set up the group. The tribe fired the lobbyist, Mark Howell recently. Howell, and a minority of tribal leadership, denied the officials’ version of events, saying they ordered the group’s creation. The Wind River Hotel and Casino put more than $80,000 into the Wyoming Public Policy Center, which formed prior to the 2019 legislative session. The group has spent more than $60,000 in lobbying expenses and engaged in a sophisticated advertising campaign. Little had been known about the group’s activities prior to the filing. Hidden behind a wall of anonymous filings in multiple jurisdictions, the group had been afforded a level of secrecy unavailable in states with stricter corporate filing laws.

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July 4, 2019 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Connecticut: “They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.” by Mark Pazniokas for Connecticut Mirror Elections National: “It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.” by […]

Campaign Finance

Connecticut: “They Love Public Financing. The Oversight, Not as Much.” by Mark Pazniokas for Connecticut Mirror

Elections

National: “It’s a Question No One Says They Want to Ask. But the Women Running for President Keep Hearing It.” by Lisa Lerer for New York Times

National: “NRA Meltdown Has Trump Campaign Sweating” by Alex Isenstadt for Politico

National: “Trump Facebook Ads Use Models to Portray Actual Supporters” by Robert Condon for AP News

Ethics

National: “2020 Census Will Not Include Citizenship Question, DOJ Confirms” by Ann Marimow, Matt Zapotosky, and Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) for Philadelphia Inquirer

National: “House Democrats Sue for Trump’s Tax Returns” by Brian Faler for Politico

Lobbying

California: “‘Big Soda’ Reaffirms Its Clout in California, Blocks 5 of 5 Bills on Sugary Beverages” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times

Procurement

Arizona: “A GOP Governor Wants to Cancel a Nike Contract after Flag-Shoe Flap, but the City It’s Headed for Isn’t Backing Down” by Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) for Greenwich Time

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June 28, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 28, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019 The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to […]

National/Federal

Beltway ‘Inundated’ with Fundraisers as Deadline Nears
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/25/2019

The subject line of a recent email solicitation from U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s campaign captures the upcoming fundraising scene in Washington perfectly: “You’re about to be inundated. Sorry in advance.” With the second quarter fundraising deadline looming, lawmakers are sounding the alarms for their donors – making pleas to far-flung, small-dollar givers online and reliable contributors from K Street’s lobbying community to help them boost their numbers. Even though lawmakers and their challengers still have 17 months before the 2020 elections, the second quarter of this year can be pivotal for incumbents looking to scare away potential opponents in primaries or even the general election with impressive cash-in-hand totals.

Biden’s Ties to Segregationist Senator Spark Campaign Tension
Boston Globe – Matt Viser and Annie Linskey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

When Joe Biden was a freshman in the U.S. Senate, he reached out to an older colleague for help on one of his early legislative proposals: the courts were ordering racially segregated school districts to bus children to create more integrated classrooms, a practice Biden opposed and wanted to change. The recipient of Biden’s entreaty was Sen. James Eastland, at the time a well-known segregationist who had called blacks “an inferior race” and once vowed to prevent blacks and whites from eating together in Washington. The exchange, revealed in a series of letters, offers a new glimpse into an old relationship that erupted as a major controversy for Biden’s presidential campaign.

Candidates Hunt Desperately for Viral Moments
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 6/24/2019

As the crowded field of Democratic candidates jostle for the presidential nomination, the hunt for elusive breakout opportunities is increasingly urgent. But while viral moments are presented as spontaneous – and uniquely revealing about the candidates — the process can be anything but random, and the campaigns are devoting significant resources to spotting, cultivating, and publicizing them. Or in some cases, creating them outright. A good viral moment can help a candidate stand out in the sprawling field. A great one can telegraph positive qualities – humor, intelligence, compassion – in ways that reverberate far beyond the reach of a coffee shop in New Hampshire. In the best-case scenario, a single episode pushes interested voters over the fence to become full-fledged supporters.

Claiming to Be Cherokee, Contractors with White Ancestry Got $300 Million
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Paul Pringle | Published: 6/26/2019

An investigation by The Los Angeles Times demonstrates a failure in the efforts to help disadvantaged Americans by steering municipal, state, and federal contracts to qualified minority-owned companies. Since 2000, the federal government and authorities in 18 states have awarded more than $300 million under minority contracting programs to companies whose owners made unsubstantiated claims of being Native American. The vetting process for Native American applicants appears weak in many cases, government records show, and officials often accept flimsy documentation or unverified claims of discrimination based on ethnicity. The process is often opaque, with little independent oversight.

Duncan Hunter Had Affairs with Women He Worked With, Including His Own Aide
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 6/25/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter illegally used campaign donations to finance extramarital romantic relationships with women he worked alongside, including one of his own aides, according to federal prosecutors. Hunter pursued five “intimate relationships” in total, and tapped donor funds to finance his liaisons, including ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office to their homes. Government attorneys argued information about the relationships should be heard during the trial because they are central to his case, not “prurient.” Hunter’s infidelities have been alluded to in public court documents before, but the affairs were only described as “personal relationships.” Hunter faces trial in September for allegedly using his campaign committee as a personal bank account.

EPA’s Top Air Policy Official Steps Down Amid Scrutiny Over Possible Ethics Violations
Brainard Dispatch – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2019

Bill Wehrum spent only a year and a half as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top air official before announcing plans to resign amid scrutiny over possible violations of federal ethics rules. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler did not cite a specific reason for the departure of Wehrum, who as an attorney represented power companies seeking to scale back air pollution rules. But Wehrum has privately expressed concern about how an ongoing House Energy and Commerce Committee probe was affecting his former law firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth. The committee launched an inquiry of Wehrum after it was reported that questions had been raised about his compliance with President Trump’s ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to recuse themselves from specific matters involving their former employers and clients for two years.

FEC Fines Florida-Based Company for Illegal Contribution to Support Rick Scott’s 2018 Campaign
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 6/25/2019

The FEC fined a Florida company for making an illegal campaign contribution to support Rick Scott’s 2018 campaign for the U.S, Senate. The $9,500 fine levied against Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery, represents a rare penalty for a company found to have violated a 75-year-old ban on campaign contributions from federal contractors. Ring Power has received federal contracts and grants since 2007. The New Republican PAC, a Super PAC supporting Scott’s campaign, returned the $50,000 contribution in August, shortly after the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint.

GOP to Launch New Fundraising Site as Dems Crush the Online Money Game
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 6/23/2019

Republicans are set to launch a long-awaited, much-delayed online fundraising platform, a move aimed at closing Democrats’ small-donor money advantage ahead of the 2020 election.  WinRed is being billed as the GOP’s answer to the Democratic Party’s ActBlue, which has already amassed over &174 million this year. The new tool is intended to reshape the GOP’s fundraising apparatus by creating a centralized, one-stop shop for online Republican giving, which the party has lacked to this point. Republicans until now have had a factionalized ecosystem of vendors that stymied efforts to unify behind a single fundraising vehicle.

Judge: Democrats’ emoluments case against Trump can proceed
San Jose Mercury News – Ann Marimow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/25/2019

Rejecting a request from President Trump, a federal judge cleared the way for nearly 200 Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit against him alleging his private business violates an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said lawmakers could begin seeking financial information, interviews, and other records from the Trump Organization. The administration still can try to delay or block Democrats in Congress from issuing subpoenas for the president’s closely held business information by appealing directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene.

Mueller to Testify to Congress, Setting Up a Political Spectacle
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 6/25/2019

Former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress in open session on July 17 after being subpoenaed by two committees. Coming nearly three months after the release of his report on Russia’s election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, Mueller’s testimony has the power to potentially reshape the political landscape around Trump’s re-election campaign and a possible impeachment inquiry by the House. The question is what Mueller will be willing to say. He conducted his work in absolute private, despite incessant attacks by Trump in public and from within the White House, and ultimately issued a lengthy report that raised as many questions as it answered.

Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court sent back to a lower court a case on whether the census should contain a citizenship question, leaving in doubt whether the question would be on the 2020 census. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the explanation offered by the Trump administration for adding the question – asking whether a person is a citizen – was inadequate. But he left open the possibility that it could provide an adequate answer. Government experts predicted that asking the question would cause many immigrants to refuse to participate in the census, leading to an undercount of about 6.5 million people. That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed.

Supreme Court Says Federal Courts Don’t Have a Role in Deciding Partisan Gerrymandering Claims
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering, dealing a blow to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain. The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is essentially a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The ruling puts a stop to recent decisions by federal courts across the country that have found extreme partisan gerrymandering went so far as to violate the constitutional rights of voters.

Walmart to Pay $282 Million Over Foreign Corruption Charges
AP News – Matthew Barakat | Published: 6/20/2019

Walmart agreed to pay $282 million to settle federal allegations of overseas corruption, including funneling more than $500,000 to an intermediary in Brazil who was known as a “sorceress” for her uncanny ability to make construction permit problems disappear. U.S. authorities went after Walmart under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies operating abroad from using bribery and other illegal methods. The company settled both civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case by federal prosecutors in Virginia. It said the two settlements close the books on federal investigations that sand have collectively cost the company more than $900 million.

When Trump Visits His Clubs, Government Agencies and Republicans Pay to Be Where He Is
MSN – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O’Connell, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/20/2019

Since taking office, President Trump has faced pushback about his official visits to his properties from some of his aides, including inside the White House counsel’s office. They worried about the appearance that he was using the power of the presidency to direct taxpayer money into his own pockets, but Trump has rebuffed such warnings. In all, his scores of trips have brought his private businesses at least $1.6 million in revenue, from federal officials and Republican campaigns who pay to go where Trump goes. Campaign finance records show several GOP groups paying to hold events where Trump spoke. Republican fundraisers say they do that, in part, to increase the chances Trump will attend. It has also reshaped the spending habits of the federal government, turning the president into a vendor.

Canada

Canada Lobbying Watchdog Says Glitch in System Skewed Volume of Registrations
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez | Published: 6/26/2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure in office has undoubtedly brought a surge in lobbying activity, but a glitch in the registry’s system resulted in an overrepresentation of the number of lobbyists actively registered, Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger said. “During the past year, we realized that the numbers recorded in last year’s [report] included lobbyists whose registrations were no longer active,” Bélanger said. Still, the office has seen a steady uptick in the volume of communication reports posted since Trudeau took office in 2015.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Former Arkansas Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Corruption Cases
AP News – Andrew DeMillo | Published: 6/25/2019

A former Arkansas lawmaker who is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return. Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson also agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in a separate federal case in Missouri where he has been charged with accepting bribes to help Preferred Family Healthcare. Hutchinson admitted he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and did not report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes. Hutchinson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law.

Connecticut Connecticut’s Search for a New Ethics Watchdog
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 6/20/2019

The Citizens’ Ethics Advisory Board is seeking a successor to Carol Carson as executive director of the Office of State Ethics, an agency that was new and struggling to find its way when she was hired. Carson, who is retiring on August 1, is credited with returning stability and credibility to the role of ethics watchdog, enforcing the ethics code for state officials, and overseeing the lobbying industry at the Capitol. “Let’s be clear about something: there is no replacing Carol Carson,” said Dena Castricone, the board’s chairperson.

Florida When It Comes to Holding NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer Accountable, Florida Senate Ignores Own Rules
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 6/20/2019

The Florida Senate is apparently not going to ask longtime National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer why she has not reported income from the group for more than a decade. Sen. Perry Thurston and Rep. Anna Eskamani filed complaints demanding the Legislature investigate Hammer for failing to disclose annual lobbying payments since 2007 as required by Florida law. It has been reported that records show the NRA paid Hammer more than a $750,000 between 2014 and 2018, yet none of it appears on quarterly compensation reports. But Senate Rules Committee Chairperson Lizbeth Benacquisto sent the complaint back to the Office of Legislative Services, which operates within the Senate president’s office, for “review” and “appropriate action.”

Indiana Council Lawyer: Mayor unlikely to appeal campaign contribution ordinance
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 6/25/2019

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is unlikely to appeal a court ruling that struck down a controversial ordinance limiting campaign contributions from city contractors, city council attorney Joe Bonahoom wrote in a memorandum to the council president. Allen Superior Court Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance recently after Kyle and Kimberly Witwer of Witwer Construction challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit. The ordinance forbade any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner, or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the political campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

Maryland Baltimore’s Budget for Ethics Enforcement: $0
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 6/25/2019

In the midst of multiple investigations into former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s financial dealings, the city did not budget any money for ethics oversight. No city staff are dedicated to enforcing ethics rules and the word “ethics” appears nowhere in the city’s 1,035-page budget proposal for the coming year. Instead, the six-member staff of the Department of Legislative Reference must spend part of their time assisting the city’s volunteer ethics board, processing disclosure forms, answering questions from city employees, and investigating complaints.

New Jersey NJ ‘Dark Money’ Law Faces First Lawsuit Challenging Requirement to Name Secret Donors
Bergen Record; Staff –   | Published: 6/26/2019

A libertarian advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s newly signed “dark money” law that requires political groups to reveal their big-spending funders, legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed despite earlier vetoing the bill and calling it “unconstitutional.” Americans for Prosperity asked a federal judge to prevent New Jersey officials from enforcing the law until the suit is decided and to declare the law unconstitutional. The law requires 501(c)(4) political nonprofits and 527 political organizations to report all funders that give more than $10,000 or spend more than $3,000. Americans for Prosperity says the law goes beyond typical campaign finance rules that cover only election-related ads. New Jersey will now also make groups report funders for ads on ballot measures, legislation, and policymaking, which grassroots groups say will prevent people from donating to them.

Oregon Oregon Republicans Not Making Clear Whether They’ll Return to Salem, What They Want to Get Them Back
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud and Mike Rogoway | Published: 6/26/2019

As the Oregon Senate Republicans’ walkout continues, there are no signs at the Capitol or elsewhere that members of the minority caucus will return soon. And publicly, they seem to be sending mixed messages about what they want if they agree to do so. Senate Republicans have drawn national attention since they fled the state to deny Democrats quorum for a vote on a bill to cap emissions. It turns out, however, that Democrats were one vote short of the 16 senators needed to pass the bill, so it would have been stopped from passage anyway.

Wyoming A Mystery Group Has Been Pushing to Stop Gambling Regulation in Wyoming
Casper Star-Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 6/25/2019

Over the past several months, a grassroots organization of obscure origin called the Wyoming Public Policy Center has been fighting to defeat gambling regulations proposed in the state Legislature, employing experienced lobbyists and anonymously authored policy papers in efforts to influence decision making. But the group was not registered with the state until after The Casper Star-Tribune began asking questions. In Wyoming, lobbyists and lobbying groups are required to register with the state. Despite that, there is little anyone can do about it: a combination of weak state laws and few mechanisms for law enforcement make it difficult to hold such groups accountable.

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June 7, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 7, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019 Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in […]

National/Federal

A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet
MSN – Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2019

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has no formal affiliation or stake in her family’s shipping business, Foremost Group, which has deep ties to the economic and political elite in China. But she and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have received millions of dollars in gifts from her father, who ran the company until last year. And McConnell’s re-election campaigns have received more than $1 million in contributions from Chao’s extended family. Over the years, Chao has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to boost the profile of the company. Now, Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is overshadowed by its Chinese competitors. Her efforts on behalf of the family business have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.

FEC to Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and 48 More Zombie Campaigns: Why are you still here?
Tampa Bay Times – Christopher O’Donnell, Eli Murray, Connie Humburg, and Noah Pransky | Published: 5/31/2019

The FEC demanded explanations from about 50 politicians who are operating zombie campaigns – political committees that keep spending contributions long after the campaign has ended. The agency sent letters to the campaigns asking why their campaign accounts were still open. It flagged specific expenses by at least 17 campaigns and asked them to justify the spending. It is the first action taken by the FEC since it announced in April 2018 that it would start scrutinizing the spending of what it called “dormant” campaigns. Federal law does not allow campaign money to be spent improving politicians’ personal lives.

How Payday Lenders Spent $1 Million at a Trump Resort – and Cashed In
ProPublica – Alice Wilder (WNYC) and Anjali Tsui | Published: 6/4/2019

In March, the payday lending industry held its annual convention at the Trump National Doral hotel outside Miami. A month earlier, Kathleen Kraninger, who had just finished her second month as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had delivered what the lenders consider an epochal victory: Kraninger announced a proposal to eviscerate a crucial rule that had been passed under her Obama-era predecessor. This year was the second in a row the industry’s trade group, the Community Financial Services Association of America, held its convention at the Doral. In the eight years before 2018, the organization never held an event at a Trump property.

In Need of Cash, Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Turn to Wealthy Donors
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2019

Across the Democratic field, presidential candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on – a sign of increasing doubt the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders. Many of the candidates previously had held a handful of high-dollar fundraisers or avoided them altogether, seeking to tap into the populist sentiment that has animated the Democratic base. But after a disappointing fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, and as the primary drags on with no clear front-runner, many of the candidates are turning their focus to wealthy donors, a strategy that could help keep their campaigns viable but may hamper their ability to connect with base voters.

Liberals Rip Democratic Leaders for Writing Drug Pricing Bill in Secret
The Hill – Peter Sullivan | Published: 6/6/2019

Progressive House Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with their party’s leadership, accusing them of writing Democrats’ signature bill to lower prescription drug prices in secret and without their input. At issue is a plan Pelosi’s office has been working on for months that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a top priority for Democrats and one the party stressed in its campaign last year to win back the House. There is now an intense debate within the Democratic caucus over the details of that proposal, with the Progressive Caucus pushing for a bill that it says is stronger because it would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if the manufacturer refuses to agree to a reasonable price in Medicare negotiations.

Meet the GOP Operatives Who Aim to Smear the 2020 Democrats – but Keep Bungling It
MSN – Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 6/4/2019

Like notorious dirty tricksters before them, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl operate in a realm where it matters little whether their outrageous claims against political opponents are proved – they hardly ever are – but only whether they somehow slip into the national consciousness. But today it is a more dangerous game: they operate in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended and in which many Americans get their information from self-affirming, partisan silos, making their brand of political cyberwarfare hyper-relevant.

Recent Ex-Members of Congress Head to K Street as ‘Shadow Lobbying’ Escalates
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/30/2019

Nearly two dozen former members of the 115th Congress have already found jobs at lobbying firms.  Lobbying is a natural next step for recently departed members who spent years cultivating relationships with their colleagues and interest groups. While former members of Congress must wait two years before lobbying their respective chamber’s ex-colleagues, they often engage in so-called shadow lobbying – participating in activities that might be considered lobbying but declining to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). “[The] LDA is nothing more than an honor system,” said Paul Miller, president of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics.

Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle
New York Times – Cecilia Kang and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 6/5/2019

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built themselves into some of the largest players on K Street as they confront threats from the Trump administration and both parties on Capitol Hill. Amazon’s expansion has been met with unease over labor conditions and the company’s effect on small businesses. The four companies spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year. Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the companies in the first three months of this year, both in-house employees and those on contract from lobbying and law firms, about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns. Amazon’s Washington office is led by a former Federal Trade Commission official, Brian Huseman. Its roster of contract lobbyists includes three Democratic former members of Congress and two former Justice Department lawyers.

Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Team Up to Ban Lawmakers from Lobbying
National Public Radio – Sasha Ingber | Published: 5/31/2019

Two lawmakers who have often been at odds found common ground in a place that often highlights polarizing opinions: Twitter. That is where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vowed to set aside their differences and work on new lobbying restrictions for lawmakers. Now an unlikely coalition is forming around their joint effort. Craig Holman, who lobbies on ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying on behalf of Public Citizen, said it is “heartening” that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez moved to bridge the deep partisan divide. “I am not sure if Congress will be willing to adopt their proposed lifetime ban, but the sheer fact of a left-and-right agreement that the revolving door is a grave problem that must be addressed is going to move the ball forward,” Holman said.

The Campaign Finance of Women’s Suffrage
WHYY – Kimberly Adams | Published: 6/4/2019

Women’s suffrage took more than seven decades of political struggle and included marches, hunger strikes, and arrests. And, like political campaigns of today, it required a lot of money. While women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were on the front lines of the movement, there were other women working behind the scenes to fund it. “We don’t tend to teach about the suffrage movement as a major lobbying force, a major well-funded organization in American political history, but it was,” said Corrine McConnaughy, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and author of “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment.”

Trump Resort Revenue Has Gone Up After Presidential Visits
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 6/6/2019

President Trump’s week-long trip to Europe included a tour of his own businesses. Trump traveled to his luxury resort on Ireland’s west coast for a visit that brought world-wide publicity and increased security to the location, and, if past trends hold, more revenue. The president’s trip to Trump International Golf Links in Doonbeg, Ireland has once again led to criticisms that he is using his office to make money for his own business. It marks the second time he has visited one of his properties outside the United States since he was sworn into office. “U.S. foreign relations should never rise and fall on the financial interests of the president and the ability to promote his own property,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which examined his financial disclosures.

Trump Urges Customers to Drop AT&T to Punish CNN Over Its Coverage of Him
Portland Press Herald – Craig Timberg, Taylor Telford, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2019

President Trump called for a boycott of AT&T, the corporate owner of CNN, saying the network paints a “false picture” of the U.S. The comment, which Trump tweeted in response to seeing CNN coverage while traveling during a European tour, fueled criticisms the president was using his power inappropriately to intimidate critics. Historians struggled to cite an equivalent threat even from presidents such as Richard Nixon renowned for their hostility toward the press. Less democratic nations with more tenuous press freedoms often use government regulatory power, criminal investigations or tax audits to punish news organizations seen as providing unflattering coverage, but past U.S. presidents rarely have taken such public shots at the businesses of the owners of major American news organizations, historians said.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Dunkin’ Donuts Owner Accuses Ethics Commission Investigator of Abuse of Power
Montgomery Advertiser – Kirsten Fiscus | Published: 5/31/2019

When Damon Dunn received notification of a discrimination complaint against his Dunkin’ Donuts store, he was concerned at first, then confused, and then angry. It is corporate policy that customer complaints are reviewed and handled in a timely manner, but the majority of those are disgruntled customers upset about a long wait time or food prepared incorrectly. Byron Butler, a man Dunn would learn is an investigator with the Alabama Ethics Commission, accused the store of charging black customers more for extra pumps of coffee flavoring known as “swirl” at the restaurant, a claim that Dunn says is unfounded. Butler told an employee he was an investigator and took a verbal statement from her about the charging practices. The employee, who is 18, thought she would face legal trouble if she did not talk with him.

Florida Lawmakers Call for Probe of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer’s Failure to Disclose Payments
Miami Herald – Samantha Gross | Published: 5/30/2019

Some Democratic lawmakers in Florida are calling for an investigation into whether prominent National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Marion Hammer violated state law by failing to disclose payments from her organization while lobbying on NRA priorities like banning the sale of bump stocks. According to Florida law, non-employee lobbyists for both legislative and executive branches are required to register and disclose their total compensation. Hammer is not an in-house lobbyist for the NRA, and therefore is required under law to submit a compensation report for each quarter during which she was registered to lobby. The Florida Bulldog reported Hammer failed to file any compensation reports with state since at least 2007.

Florida Top City Law Firm Broke County Lobbying Rules
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 5/31/2019

One of the region’s biggest law firms is among several business interests that did not meet required deadlines for registering as lobbyists, Lee County’s inspector general said in an investigative report. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, a Fort Myers based law firm; John Gucciardi, a consultant to Fort Myers Beach developer TPI Hospitality; and Waldrop Engineering each missed filing deadline. Waldrop went seven years without filing the statement. It has since filed registrations for its employees.

Georgia Abrams Probe Highlights Wide Reach of State Ethics Commission
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Stephan Fowler | Published: 6/5/2019

Lawyers for former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams say the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission did not follow its own rules in an investigation of her 2018 campaign. The commission alleges illegal coordination between the Abrams campaign and four outside organizations. The campaign argued the ethics panel failed to follow its rules for opening an inquiry and sharing probable cause for the allegations. But according to state law, the commission is following the rules. Rick Thompson, a former executive secretary of the commission, said in terms of procedure, the subpoenas are above board. The full scope of the probe will not be made clear until it is put before a meeting of the full commission.

Illinois Ald. Edward Burke Indicted on Expanded Federal Racketeering, Bribery Charges
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Todd Lighty, and Gregory Pratt | Published: 5/30/2019

Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was meeting with a fellow alderman in October 2017 when he allegedly expressed his displeasure over the way developers of the old main Chicago post office had so far failed to throw any business to Burke’s private law firm. “As far as I’m concerned, they can go f— themselves,” Burke told Ald. Daniel Solis, who was secretly recording the conversation. The conversation is at the center of a 14-count indictment outlining a series of alleged schemes in which prosecutors say Burke abused his City Hall clout to extort private legal work from companies and individuals doing business with the city. Also charge Burke in attempting to shake down two businesspeople seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the ward.

Kentucky Appellate Court Upholds State Ban of Gifts, Money to Kentucky Lawmakers
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 5/30/2019

A federal appeals court upheld a Kentucky law that prohibit lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators or donating to their campaigns. The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman, who struck down the bans, ruling Kentucky’s laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association. The appeals court reversed the ruling and said the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution.”

Massachusetts Convicted of Corruption, DiMasi Now Wants to Be a Lobbyist. The State Has Other Ideas
Boston Globe – Matt Sout and Andrea Estes | Published: 6/5/2019

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office rejected former state House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s application to become a lobbyist just days after he registered to lobby both the Legislature and executive branch. DiMasi appealed and is due to appear before an administrative hearing officer. His attempt at entering the lucrative industry came after he completed his supervised release following his conviction on corruption charges. DiMasi argued that because lawmakers did not include any of the specific federal statutes on which he was convicted into the state law, he should not be prohibited from registering. Laurie Flynn, Galvin’s chief legal counsel, argued DiMasi’s criminal record includes “conduct in violation” of state lobbying and ethics laws, which automatically bars him from lobbying for 10 years after his conviction, or until June 2021.

Michigan Emails Show MDOT Let Lobbyist Steer Report on Gravel Shortage for Michigan Roads
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 6/6/2019

When Michigan gravel companies wanting to open or expand a mine are opposed by neighbors objecting to the noise and dust, they point to a 2016 consultant’s study, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), that says the state is running out of gravel to rebuild its busted roads. But in fact, the Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA) – the lobbying organization for the sand and gravel industry, which is pushing for legislation that would severely restrict the ability of local governments to deny permits for new or expanded gravel mines – was behind the study, records show. The MAA recommended the consultant MDOT hired, set out the scope of work and how to price the study, and even spelled out the expected findings. The group also had a role in initiating the study.

Missouri Free Acupuncture and Eye Exams for Lawmakers Are No-Nos, Missouri Ethics Commission Says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/3/2019

Two opinions from the Missouri Ethics Commission, which read as lists of dos-and-don’ts for lawmakers and their employees, were issued in response to questions following the passage of Amendment 1 last year. One of the provisions of what is known as “Clean Missouri” limits lobbyist gifts to five dollars. Accepting engraved plaques worth more than five dollars from lobbyists or organizations that lobby is prohibited, the commission said. It also said lawmakers should avoid free use of conference rooms owned by organizations that retain lobbyists. The opinion outlines a number of other scenarios in which lawmakers or their staffs may face ethical dilemmas.

New Jersey Murphy Officials ‘Seriously Mishandled’ Katie Brennan Assault Allegation, Inquiry Finds
Bergen Record – Dustin Racioppi | Published: 6/5/2019

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s staff “seriously mishandled” a sexual assault claim by not investigating it and not telling Murphy before the hiring of the alleged assailant – details of which remain a mystery – for a top position, a legislative inquiry has found. The report by the Select Oversight Committee chronicles a series of missteps made by some of the highest-ranking officials in Murphy’s orbit in response to the allegation, made by former campaign volunteer Katie Brennan, and calls into question the “competence and culture of state government as a whole.” Brennan, now a housing official in the administration, had accused Al Alvarez, a former Murphy aide, of sexually assaulting her during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez was not charged and has denied the allegation.

New York Nassau County Implements New Ethics Rules
Newsday – Candice Ferrette | Published: 6/5/2019

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed new rules for county vendors, including a ban on gifts to county procurement officials, aimed at stemming contracting abuses that were central to federal corruption cases involving prominent local officials. Under the new Vendor Code of Ethics, county employees involved with contracting cannot accept gifts “of any kind” from vendors, “no matter how small.” Contractors also cannot discuss or offer jobs to county employees involved with procurement or to their family members. Under the new rules, vendors will be required to certify they have read and accepted the terms of the ethics code and have distributed it to all subcontractors and suppliers.

Rhode Island The Providence Mayor Raised Thousands of Dollars for a Nonprofit with Ties to His Campaign, Then He Reimbursed Himself from Its Coffers
Boston Globe – Dan McGowan | Published: 6/6/2019

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nonprofit organization with close ties to his political campaign and one that later reimbursed him and other high-ranking city employees for travel expenses to conferences all over the country. Now, the practice of soliciting donations for the Providence Tourism Fund – often from law firms and other companies that have contracts with the city – has come under fire from watchdogs who say Elorza is sidestepping Rhode Island’s strict campaign finance laws so he can collect unlimited amounts of money from corporations. Elorza did not create the fund. It was established in 2009 to raise money for a national conference that was held in Providence, but he has been far more aggressive about using it for travel than his predecessors.

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April 29, 2019 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: Pete Buttigieg Swears Off the Lobbyist Money He Once Accepted by Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher for New York Times Missouri: Columbia Developer Funnels Tens of Thousands Through Shell PACs to Lawmakers by Yue Yu (Columbia Missourian) […]

Campaign Finance

National: Pete Buttigieg Swears Off the Lobbyist Money He Once Accepted by Jeremy Peters and Shane Goldmacher for New York Times

Missouri: Columbia Developer Funnels Tens of Thousands Through Shell PACs to Lawmakers by Yue Yu (Columbia Missourian) for KPVI

New Mexico: City Now Allows Online Donations for Candidates by Jessica Dyer for Albuquerque Journal

Ethics

National: Acting Defense Secretary Cleared of Wrongdoing in Probe of His ties to Boeing by Dan Lamothe and Missy Ryan for Washington Post

Maryland: Anne Arundel County Delegate Posts Advertisements, Tries to Sell Car on Official Social Media by Chase Cook for Capital Gazette

North Dakota: North Dakota Legislature Finalizes Ethics Bill, but ‘Safeguard’ Looms over Measure 1 Implementation by John Hageman (Forum News Service) for Dickinson Press

Tennessee: Feds to Sue Sen. Steve Dickerson and Other Pain Clinic Owners Over Fraud, Forgery Allegations by Brett Kelman for The Tennessean

Procurement

California: NRA Sues City of L.A. Over Its New Contract Disclosure Law by Dakota Smith for Los Angeles Times

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April 18, 2019 •

Tallahassee Board Proposes Expansion of Ethics Code

On Tuesday, the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board proposed changes to expand the city’s ethics code.

The proposal expands the Board’s jurisdiction to procurement employees and individuals required to file state financial disclosures.

Additionally, the proposal increases the fines faced by lobbyists to $1,000 for the first intentional violation, and prohibits covered individuals from accepting or soliciting all gifts regardless of value from vendors and lobbyists.

The draft ordinance will head to the city commission for final approval later this spring.

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April 17, 2019 •

Los Angeles City Council Working Towards Banning Developer Donations

The Los Angeles City Council rules committee voted to have the city attorney draft two versions of a proposed ban on donations to city officials from developers seeking approval for their building projects.

Version one would directly follow the Ethics Commission’s recommendation to restrict non-individuals and developers from making political contributions. The restriction would apply from the date the project application is filed until 12 months after the final resolution of the application.

Version two would ban donations from any person or entity pursuing or currently working on large development projects with the city.

Both proposals would ban elected officials from soliciting behested payments from restricted sources, and lower the disclosure threshold for behested payments to $1,000 per payor per year.

Additionally, the proposals would require the disclosure of behested payments to identify whether the payor is a lobbyist, lobbyist firm, bidder, contractor, or developer.

These drafts are expected to be presented to the full City Council within the next few weeks.

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March 26, 2019 •

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Agency Lobbying Bill

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 6 on March 25. The bill requires executive agency lobbyists to disclose compensation and prohibits compensation contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on a percentage of a government contract awarded. […]

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 6 on March 25.

The bill requires executive agency lobbyists to disclose compensation and prohibits compensation contingent on awarding of a government contract or based on a percentage of a government contract awarded.

Senate Bill 6 also extends the length of time a public servant must wait to have certain government contracts from six months to one year.

The bill becomes effective 90 days after the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn sine die on March 30.

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March 20, 2019 •

Ontario to Centralize Public Procurement

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy announced the government of Ontario intends to centralize all provincial procurements in an effort to save the public money. On March 20, Bethlenfalvy tweeted centralizing government procurement will save $1 billion a year, make it […]

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy announced the government of Ontario intends to centralize all provincial procurements in an effort to save the public money.

On March 20, Bethlenfalvy tweeted centralizing government procurement will save $1 billion a year, make it easier and more efficient to deliver services to the people, and allow the province to invest in other core public services like healthcare and education.

In his press release on Monday, Bethlenfalvy said there would be interim measures, such as the limiting of long-term contracts during the building of a centralized system. The province will also hire consulting services to support the development of a centralized procurement system.

“Currently there is far too much duplication and fragmentation in the system. We are not taking advantage of our shared buying power to drive efficiencies and cost savings,” Bethlenfalvy told CP24.

 

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March 15, 2019 •

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 Bill Introduced in US House

Vendors selling internet-of-things (IoT) to the federal government may soon be required to follow certain security guidelines concerning those devices. House Bill 1668, the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on […]

Vendors selling internet-of-things (IoT) to the federal government may soon be required to follow certain security guidelines concerning those devices.

House Bill 1668, the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on March 11, would require all federal contracts involving the purchase and use of internet-connected devices meet certain security requirements to better ensure these devices are secure against cyber-attacks.

The legislation requires contractors and vendors providing internet-of-things devices to the U.S. government adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that information is disseminated.

The bill also requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.

Additionally, the legislation directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency consistent with the NIST recommendations and mandates the OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure. Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices,” said the bill’s sponsor, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, in her press release.

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March 6, 2019 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Arizona: “Judge Says Ex-AG Horne Denied Due Process in Campaign Violations Case” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star Kansas: “Prosecutors Weigh Options After Jury Acquits Michael O’Donnell on Most Counts” by Amy Renee Leiker […]

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Judge Says Ex-AG Horne Denied Due Process in Campaign Violations Case” by Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) for Arizona Daily Star

Kansas: “Prosecutors Weigh Options After Jury Acquits Michael O’Donnell on Most Counts” by Amy Renee Leiker for Wichita Eagle

Nevada: “Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson Resigns After Admitting to Misappropriating Campaign Funds for Personal Use” by Riley Snider, Megan Messerly, and Michelle Rindels for Nevada Independent

Ethics

National: “Trump Tweet Touting One of His Scotland Golf Courses as ‘the Greatest’ in the World Draws Criticism” by David Fahrenthold and Joel Achenbach (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle

District of Columbia: “Towing Contractor Hooked D.C. Officials with $50,000 in Bribes, He Admits in Court” by Ann Marimow and Peter Jamison for Washington Post

Lobbying

National: “Ilhan Omar’s Criticism Raises the Question: Is Aipac too powerful?” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg for New York Times

Canada: “Lobbying Commissioner Should Investigate Facebook, Says MP Angus” by Elizabeth Thompson for CBC

Louisiana: “Entergy Fined $5M, Can Move Forward with New Power Plant” by Michael Issac Stein (The Lens) for Louisiana Weekly

Procurement

National: “Nationwide Lobbying Push for Contractor Monitoring Software Alarms State CIOs” by Benjamin Freed for StateScoop

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