June 3, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Montana: “U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law” by Holly Michels for Bozeman Daily Chronicle Pennsylvania: “Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court” by Matt […]

Campaign Finance

Montana: “U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law” by Holly Michels for Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Pennsylvania: “Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court” by Matt Miller for PennLive.com

Elections

National: “As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion” by Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

National: “Interior Watchdog: Agency official pressed EPA to hire relative” by Ben Lefebvre for Politico

National: “Judge Asks Court Not to ‘Short Circuit’ His Review of Flynn Case” by Charlie Savage for New York Times

California: “Lawyer at Center of Tax-Sharing Deals Being Probed on Ethics Law” by Laura Mahoney for Bloomberg Tax

Michigan: “Gov. Whitmer: I didn’t OK Dem firm for coronavirus project, despite emails” by Jonathan Oosting for Bridge Michigan

West Virginia: “This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.” by Ken Ward Jr, and Alex Mierjeski for ProPublica

Legislative Issues

National: “Lawmakers Have Been Sleeping in Their Capitol Offices for Years, Coronavirus Is Reviving a Push to End It” by Cristal Hayes for USA Today

Procurement

Florida: “Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China” by John Haughey for The Center Square

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May 15, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – May 15, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020 Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national […]

National/Federal

Biden Plans to Stay Home, Testing Limits of Virtual Campaign
AP News – Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples | Published: 5/12/2020

Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national presidential election can be won by a candidate communicating almost entirely from home. The virtual campaign Biden is waging from Wilmington, Delaware, is a stark contrast with President Trump, who is planning travel despite warnings from public health experts about the coronavirus’s spread. It also intensifies the spotlight on how Biden will manage his campaign, with some in his party fretting his still-developing approach is not reaching enough voters.

Court Asks Retired Judge to Oppose Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Michael Flynn Case, Examine Whether Ex-Trump Adviser Committed Perjury
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Matt Zapotosky, and Devlin Barrett | Published: 5/13/2020

Michael Flynn’s sentencing judge asked a former federal judge to oppose the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s guilty plea and examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s requested a nonbinding recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt hearing for pleading guilty to a crime of which he now claims to be innocent: lying to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Democratic Party Moves Toward Remote Voting for Its Summer Presidential Convention
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

The Democratic Party opened the door to remote delegate voting for its summer presidential convention, a clear indication the party is moving toward either a scaled-back event or a virtual gathering in August as the coronavirus threat continues to transform the election year. With a vote of the rules and bylaws committee, Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaders agreed to give convention planners broad flexibility to change the structure and tradition of the nominating convention. The proposal passed unanimously, and it will be taken up in the coming weeks for ratification by a vote by mail of the full DNC.

Democrats Accuse Conservatives of a ‘Dark Money’ Bid to Influence Judges
New York Times – Ben Protess and Rebecca Ruiz | Published: 5/12/2020

Some top Democratic senators accused the Federalist Society of supporting a conservative “dark money” campaign to influence the federal judiciary, including who gets selected to become a judge and how he or she rules once on the bench. In a sharply worded letter, the senators said they supported a proposal by a judicial ethics panel that would ban membership among judges in the conservative legal group. The Federalist Society has been instrumental in identifying judicial nominees with legal careers focused on causes that have appealed to Republicans, such as opposition to gay marriage and to government funding for abortion.

Ethics Committee Sitting on Alleged Misconduct Report Due to COVID-19
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 5/12/2020

The House Committee on Ethics is unable to vote because of the coronavirus pandemic, an impediment that is restricting action on alleged lawmaker misconduct. Until its members can physically reconvene to vote, the ethics panel cannot issue a subpoena, empanel an investigative subcommittee, nor discipline members for conduct unbecoming of the chamber. These actions all require an affirmative vote of a majority of committee members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that ethics committee work should be done in-person and not use technology, like Zoom, because the material is so sensitive and open to cybersecurity breaches.

Federal Watchdog Backs Reinstating Ousted Vaccine Expert
Politico – Sarah Owermohle | Published: 5/8/2020

A federal watchdog is recommending that ousted vaccine expert Rick Bright be reinstated while it investigates whether the Trump administration retaliated against his whistleblower complaints when it removed him from a key post overseeing the coronavirus response, Bright’s lawyers said Friday.  The Office of Special Counsel is recommending that Bright be temporarily reinstated for 45 days as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a multibillion-dollar agency that funds companies to develop tests, treatments and vaccines.

Federal Watchdog to Examine Official’s Role in Tribal Fund Distribution
New York Times – Emily Cochrane and Mark Walker | Published: 5/11/2020

A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official – Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs – violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical portion of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed. Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native corporations, for-profit businesses that support tribal villages in Alaska, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes. Lawmakers have raised concerns about Sweeney’s involvement in that decision, given she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations.

House Democrat Reintroduces Bill to Reduce Lobbyist Influence
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/11/2020

U,S, Rep. Jimmy Gomez reintroduced a bill to reduce the influence of lobbyists and to close the so-called revolving door. The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act, would, among other provisions, prohibit former officials who oversaw federal contracts from joining private sector contracting firms and ban senior government officials from lobbying the agencies they worked for two years after leaving the federal government.

House Democrats’ Relief Package Would Give Washington Lobbying Giants Access to Small Business Aid
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 5/13/2020

House Democrats’ newest coronavirus relief proposal would allow influential Washington lobbying groups to access forgivable small business loans.  The bill would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief to states, cities, and tribal governments and authorize a second round of direct payments to American families. Buried in the 1,815-page bill is a provision that allows trade associations, unions, and 501(c)(4)s, not just charities, to access coveted small business loans. The legislation sets aside a portion of small business loans specifically for nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. The Democratic Policy Center found that over 99 percent of trade associations and chambers of commerce have fewer than 500 employees.

Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Case Against Michael Flynn
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 5/7/2020

The U.S.  Justice Department said it is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Russia investigation. The action was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. It comes even though prosecutors have maintained Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn himself admitted as much, pleading guilty before asking to withdraw the plea, and became a key cooperator for Mueller as the special counsel investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Justices Fear ‘Chaos’ If States Can’t Bind Electors’ Votes
AP News – Mark Sherman | Published: 5/13/2020

U.S. Supreme Court justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos to suggest they think states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College. The justices heard arguments on an unusual voting issue that could have important consequences for the 2020 presidential election in an era of intense political polarization. So-called faithless electors have not been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a contest with a razor-thin margin.

On the Same Day Sen. Richard Burr Dumped Stock, So Did His Brother-in-Law. Then the Market Crashed.
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis | Published: 5/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, also dumped tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares. In 2017, President Trump appointed Fauth to the three-person panel of the National Mediation Board. Fauth avoided between $37,000 and $118,000 in losses by selling off when he did, considering how steeply the companies’ shares fell in recent weeks.

Pence’s ‘Special Envoy’ in Foreign Aid Office Sparked an Ethics Complaint Just Weeks After He Started His Job
ProPublica – Yageneh Torbati | Published: 5/13/2020

In 2018, an incoming Trump political appointee and ally of Vice President Mike Pence made an unusual suggestion to a United Nations agency whose funding hinged on support from a skeptical Trump administration: he pitched them to do business with one of his private-sector clients. “Might merit your team’s consideration,” Max Primorac wrote in January, weeks before he formally started at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he would eventually become an adviser to Pence. The client pitch by an incoming official sparked a complaint a month later from an anonymous State Department official. The U.N. agency, the United Nations Development Program in Iraq, had by then received over $190 million in funding from USAID, the complaint said.

Senate Committee Advances Nomination of FEC Commissioner
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 5/7/2020

A U.S. Senate committee voted to advance President Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the FEC, which would restore the agency’s ability to conduct official business. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee voted along party lines to nominate James Trainor III and move his nomination to the full Senate. The nomination of Trainor had been in limbo amid questions over his social media postings and a standstill among Senate leaders on the logistics of appointing commissioners. Government transparency groups widely oppose Trainor’s confirmation.

Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2020

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom paid $11 million to avoid being sued by Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister. The law firm paid the money after Tymoshenko accused it of writing a report that was used to help justify her imprisonment by a political rival, former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. The payments come after Skadden paid $4.6 million to settle an investigation by the Justice Department into whether its work for the Yanukovych government violated foreign lobbying laws. The firm subsequently revealed in it had been paid a total of more than $5.2 million for its work. One of the lawyers who assisted with the report, Alex van der Zwaan, admitted lying to federal investigators year about his communications related to the firm’s work for Yanukovych’s government.

States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 5/9/2020

In Connecticut, a long-fought battle for paid sick leave resulted in the state becoming the first in the nation to pass a mandate in 2011. According to researchers who interviewed lawmakers and lobbyists, the state’s public financing program for governor and legislative campaigns was instrumental in electing officials who implemented paid sick leave policies. In several other states that have adopted paid sick leave policies, key players responsible for pushing the measures forward participated in the public financing system for their campaigns.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Releasing Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 5/12/2020

The very nature of the presidency was under scrutiny at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments on whether House committees and prosecutors may obtain troves of information about President Trump’s business affairs. The court’s ruling could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry. But some of the justices’ questions raised a third possibility: that the court could return the cases to lower courts for reconsideration under stricter standards. That would have the incidental effect of deferring a final decision beyond the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Judge Puts Justice Department’s Move to Drop Charges Against Michael Flynn on Hold
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Emmitt Sullivan said he would allow interested parties to weigh in on Michael Flynn’s case, delaying the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) effort to drop the charges against the former national security adviser. The case was upended recently when the DOJ moved to dismiss its charge against Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in 2016. The attempt to dismiss the case prompted accusations the criminal justice system was caving to political pressure from the Trump administration. Legal experts said the order would permit requiring both sides to produce evidence and revisit the case for and against Flynn.

Canada

Canada Former Canadian Envoy to Washington Defends Work Pitching for Palantir
Politico – Andy Blatchford | Published: 5/7/2020

Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, says has done nothing wrong in his senior role with the data-analytics firm Palantir amid questions about whether he has been lobbying the top ranks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. A member of Parliament is drafting a letter to the federal lobbying regulator following suggestions MacNaughton has been engaging Canadian officials on how Palantir can help with the Covid-19 response. MacNaughton became president of Palantir’s Canadian branch shortly after leaving his envoy’s post last summer. Neither MacNaughton nor Palantir are registered as lobbyists with the Canadian government and, as a former designated public office holder, he is subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying activities.

Canada Illegal Lobbyist Donations Not Significant Enough to Warrant Prosecution: Report
Powder River Peak – Graeme Wood | Published: 5/12/2020

Lobbyists and others who violated the Elections Act by filing their company’s donations under their own name will face no consequences. The investigation began in March 2017 in the lead up to British Columbia’s provincial election. A Globe and Mail article spurred the probe by reporting how some lobbyists were donating in their own names but being compensated by their employer, which is illegal. Mitigating factors played a role where there were violations. For instance, police concluded “many of the lobbyists identified in the reports quickly filed corrections with Elections BC, confirming that donations made by corporations or union employees were in fact made by their employees.”

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Bid by Groups to Gather Online Initiative Petition Signatures
MSN – Andrew Oxford (Arizona Republic) | Published: 5/13/2020

The Arizona Supreme Court will not let initiative campaigns collect signatures online to qualify for the ballot in November, a move several campaigns had urged as a public health precaution as the coronavirus pandemic upended the usual practices of circulating petitions in public places or door-to-door. The court rejected a request by four ballot measure campaigns to use the same website, known as E-Qual, that candidates for state offices use to get signatures for their nominating petitions.

California Desperate for Coronavirus Help, California Spending Billions on No-Bid Contracts with Little Accountability
Los Angeles Times – Melody Gutierrez, Adam Elmahrek, Ben Poston, and Kim Christensen | Published: 5/7/2020

In a frantic effort to secure face masks and respond to the coronavirus crisis, California has committed to spend more than $3.7 billion on no-bid contracts, scores of them with businesses that have no track record with the state. There have already been examples of questionable deals and alleged fraud across the country. Spending watchdogs acknowledge state governments are under immense pressure to secure medical supplies during times of crisis. But they caution that if officials do not adhere to accepted purchasing protocols, such as dealing only with companies that have direct lines to manufacturers and proven track records in government contracts, they could result in bad deals.

California L.A. City Hall Corruption: Consultant agrees to plead guilty in bribery scheme
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and Joel Rubin | Published: 5/13/2020

A real estate consultant agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering charge in the ongoing federal “pay-to-play” corruption probe at Los Angeles City Hall. George Chiang will admit to playing a lead role in a scheme in which a Chinese real estate company allegedly bribed a Los Angeles City Council member in exchange for help on a major development project. Under the agreement, Chiang will fully cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation into cash payments, air travel, free tickets, and other perks prosecutors say were provided to the council member and other city officials.

Florida In Florida, Felons Must Pay Court Debts Before They Can Vote. But with No System to Do So, Many Have Found It Impossible.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa | Published: 5/13/2020

The promise of an amendment to Florida’s state constitution seemed huge when it was overwhelmingly approved in November 2018: as many as 1.5 million felons previously barred from casting ballots in the state would soon be able to vote. But Republican-backed legislation circumscribing the reach of Amendment 4 had made it virtually impossible for most felons to participate. The law requires felons to pay all court-related fines, fees, and restitution before registering to vote and to swear, under penalty of perjury, that the debts are paid. But a vast number of felons are too poor to pay their fines. And even if they can afford to do so, a patchy system of court records does not always allow them to know what they owe or whether they have paid.

Florida Lee County Sheriff’s Office Classified Retirement Event Expenses as ‘Career Development’ Training
Fort Myers News-Press – Devan Patel | Published: 5/13/2020

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and six high-ranking agency members spent thousands of taxpayer dollars earlier this year to attend the retirement celebration of Florida Highway Patrol Chief Derek Barrs, classifying their trip as a training course for “career development”” Between wages, per diems, transportation costs, and lodging, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office used more than $5,000 in public funds for its members to attend the event. Other than the two-hour celebration, no other training or educational purposes were noted or disclosed. Under Florida law, public funds must be spent for a public purpose with past advisory opinions stating expenditures need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Idaho Lobbying Disclosure Complaint Filed Against Ada GOP Chairman
KPVI – Thomas Plank (Idaho Press) | Published: 5/6/2020

Ada County Republican Party Chairperson Ryan Davidson, who is running for a seat on the county commission, is the target of a lobbying disclosure complaint filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. The complaint alleges Davidson has breached a number of disclosure laws, including failing to report lobbying-related expenses for 2018 and for an $11,532 legislative event in 2019, as well as not registering as a lobbyist within 30 days after agreeing to work as one.

Illinois Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment
Peoria Journal Star – Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 5/9/2020

A judge ruled against an Illinois organization that claimed restrictions implemented to combat the coronavirus made it impossible to gather the necessary signatures to place a constitutional amendment on November’s general election ballot. The Committee for the Illinois Democracy Amendment is advocating for a constitutional change that would obligate the General Assembly to take roll call votes on bills proposing “stronger ethical standards for Illinois public officials.” It would also allow residents to propose related bills by submitting a petition with at least 100,000 signatures. The committee’s attorneys argued in a court document that social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions forced voters to weigh their health against their First Amendment rights.

Indiana Indiana Attorney General’s Law License Suspended for Groping
AP News – Tom Davies | Published: 5/11/2020

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will have his law license suspended for 30 days over allegations he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled. The decision said the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that [Hill] committed the criminal act of battery.” But the court gave Hill a less serious punishment than a a suspension of at least 60 days recommended by a hearing officer for his actions during a party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Kentucky Bill Banning Statehouse Sexual Harassment Fails to Pass, Again
WKYU – Ryland Barton | Published: 5/8/2020

The Kentucky Legislature again declined to pass a bill explicitly banning lawmakers from sexually harassing their employees during this year’s legislative session. The Legislature’s ethics rules do not currently ban sexual harassment, though lawmakers have been punished for harassing employees under a rule that bans misuse of their official positions. House Bill 168 would have defined sexual harassment as an ethical violation and created a process for the Legislative Ethics Commission to review sexual harassment complaints.

Maryland Super PAC Supporting Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Mary Miller Seeks to Win with White Votes in Majority-Black City
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 5/13/2020

A PAC supporting Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller is seeking to win the race by attracting white voters in the majority-black city. In an email sent in recent weeks to potential donors, Martin Knott Jr., treasurer for the Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC, laid out the group’s strategy: use negative campaigning to lure white voters away from two candidates regarded by some as Miller’s chief rivals for white voters, former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and city council President Brandon Scott. Miller is the only white candidate among the leading Democratic contenders. Baltimore’s population is about 63 percent black and 30 percent white.

Michigan Armed Militia Helped a Michigan Barbershop Open, a Coronavirus Defiance That Puts Republican Lawmakers in a Bind
MSN – Moriah Balingit (Washington Post) | Published: 5/12/2020

Members of a militia group, the Michigan Home Guard, stood watch over Karl Manke’s business in case the police came to shut him down. They were determined to reopen his barbershop in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders designed to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. Protests over Whitmer’s actions forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance. GOP lawmakers, who hold narrow margins in both the state House and Senate, have tried distancing themselves from the most vocal protesters while being careful not to appear to hew too closely to Whitmer’s shutdown policies.

Missouri Missouri Lawmakers Send New Redistricting Proposal to Voters
AP News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 5/13/2020

Missouri lawmakers sent a ballot proposal to voters asking them to reconsider their earlier backing of a redistricting system that stresses fairness and competitiveness over everything else. The new plan would ask voters later this year to make those the least important criteria, reversing key parts of the earlier ballot initiative. The proposal is backed largely by Republicans, who argue the 2018 ballot initiative deceptively packaged popular ethics reforms with a redistricting plan that they say will split up communities and lead to gerrymandering. Senate Joint Resolution 38 also includes ethics changes, including a total ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and campaign contribution limits.

Missouri Probe into Roll Out of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Expands
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/7/2020

A legislative probe into the roll out of Missouri’s medical marijuana program has expanded into Gov. Mike Parson’s office. A House panel is seeking records involving the governor’s deputy chief of staff, chief operating officer, and a longtime adviser to the governor who has been under FBI scrutiny. The House Special Committee on Government Oversight sent a letter to the Department of Health and Senior Services demanding records of interactions with industry insiders and details on how key decisions were made.

Nevada Las Vegas Mayor Faces Recall Effort Over Coronavirus Response
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Shea Johnson | Published: 5/6/2020

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is facing a recall effort in the wake of her response to the coronavirus pandemic, including controversial comments she made recently on national television. Former professional poker player Doug Polk filed a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition with the city clerk’s office, the first step in seeking to oust a public official from their seat. From the start of the pandemic, the mayor has resisted measures to slow the spread of the virus. She said statewide business closures would be “total insanity.” But it was her appearances on national television in April that prompted the fiercest criticism.

New Jersey U.S. Supreme Court Throws Out Bridgegate Convictions, 6 Years After an Epic Traffic Jam
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/7/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the convictions of two government officials implicated in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal, in which then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s allies schemed to punish a local mayor. The justices said in their unanimous decision that while the scheme involved deception and corruption, it did not violate federal law. The case centered around convictions of Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to Christie, and Bill Baroni, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, for their role in a scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create traffic problems for the mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse Christie’s reelection. They were convicted of fraud for lying about a fake traffic study to justify the lane closures.

North Carolina The Southern Democrat with the Power to Shut Down Trump’s Convention
Politico – Maya King | Published: 5/8/2020

North Carolina’s Roy Cooper is a Democratic governor, up for reelection in a Republican-leaning Southern swing state, pushing a go-slow approach to reopening the economy as protests intensify and neighboring states move quicker. How the governor handles his state’s reopening will likely dictate whether President Trump and the Republican Party can forge ahead with a full-fledged convention in Charlotte this summer. Trump has been adamant about having a full-scale in-person convention, but as those plans forge ahead, Cooper will have to walk a fine line between protecting and alienating his constituents.

North Dakota North Dakota Governor Funds PAC Targeting Fellow Republican
AP News – James MacPherson | Published: 5/13/2020

North Dakota Gov. Burgum is helping bankroll a PAC that so far has set its sights on defeating one of the state’s most powerful legislators, a member of his own party. The move to campaign against House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Jeff Delzer in the June primary has drawn criticism that the first-term Republican governor and wealthy former software executive is crossing the separation-of-powers-line by reaching deep into his own pockets to buy a Legislature more obliging to his wishes. Political and election law experts say such a move by a governor to oust a member of his own party is unusual.

Rhode Island R.I. Ethics Panel Says Ex-IGT Chairman Had Nothing to Gain from Proposed Contract, Despite His 38,000 Shares
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 5/12/2020

A week after dismissing a complaint alleging unethically close ties between Gov. Gina Raimondo and former International Game Technology (IGT) chairperson-turned-lobbyist Donald Sweitzer, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission disclosed its reasoning. The complaint alleged Raimondo violated the state’s ethics code when she negotiated and promoted a stalled 20-year, no-bid extension of IGT’s contract that would potentially benefit a “business associate.” It was filed at a time when Raimondo chaired the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and Sweitzer was the veteran Democratic fundraiser she chose as DGA treasurer. The commission decided neither had anything personal to gain from the contract extension.

South Carolina SC Statehouse Corruption Probe Has Concluded but Fight Over Its Methods Rages On
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith | Published: 5/13/2020

South Carolina’s long-running statehouse corruption probe has apparently run its course, with no new targets in the offing. But the special prosecutor leading the investigation is still taking on critics and defending his decision to allow companies to sidestep prosecution in return for financial payments. First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe revealed the state grand jury last met on the case about a year ago. No more sessions or indictments are anticipated. The probe will conclude once pending cases are resolved in court, Pascoe said. He also challenged a state Supreme Court justice’s description of the probe as a “prosecutive mess.”

Wisconsin Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Wisconsin’s Stay-at-Home Order That Closed Businesses to Limit Spread of Coronavirus
MSN – Molly Beck and Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 5/13/2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and struck down the decision by Gov. Tony Evers to extend a stay-at-home order intended to quell the spread of the coronavirus, marking the first time a statewide order of its kind has been knocked down by a court of last resort. The decision curbed the power of Evers’ administration to act unilaterally during public health emergencies. Although the opinion centered on the technical method by which the limits had been set, several conservative justices conveyed their dismay at the restrictions themselves.

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May 12, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Illinois: “Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment” by Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) for Peoria […]

Campaign Finance

National: “States and Cities with Public Campaign Financing Lead on Paid Sick Leave Policies” by David Moore for Sludge

Elections

Illinois: “Judge Rejects Suit Over Ballot Obstacles for Constitutional Amendment” by Rebecca Anzel (Capitol News Illinois) for Peoria Journal Star

Ethics

National: “Federal Watchdog Backs Reinstating Ousted Vaccine Expert” by Sarah Owermohle for Politico

Indiana: “Indiana Attorney General’s Law License Suspended for Groping” by Tom Davies for AP News

Missouri: “Investigation of Medical Marijuana Roll Out Expands to Missouri Governor’s Office” by Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

Lobbying

National: “Skadden Said to Have Paid $11 Million to Settle Ukraine Dispute” by Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Zoom Beefs Up Lobbying as Privacy Concerns Accompany Growth” by Megan Wilson for Bloomberg Government

Procurement

California: “Desperate for Coronavirus Help, California Spending Billions on No-Bid Contracts with Little Accountability” by Melody Gutierrez, Adam Elmahrek, Ben Poston, and Kim Christensen for Los Angeles Times

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April 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign Washington Post – Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes | Published: 4/8/2020 U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who rose from relative obscurity to build a movement and become a two-time runner-up for the […]

National/Federal

Bernie Sanders Ends His Presidential Campaign
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes | Published: 4/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who rose from relative obscurity to build a movement and become a two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, ended his 2020 campaign, clearing the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to be the party’s choice to take on President Trump in November. The exit by Sanders marked the apparent close of a roller-coaster primary race that started more than a year ago. Sanders’ departure presents Democrats with an immediate challenge: can the party unify as it failed to do in 2016, when a feud between supporters of Sanders and Hillary Clinton damaged its efforts to win the presidency?

Democrats Have Found a Coronavirus Bright Spot. Her Name Is Earnestine.
New York Times – Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 4/8/2020

Members of Congress grappling with how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic have few reasons to smile these days. But House Democrats have found one – Earnestine Dawson. She is kind of a mystery woman, Democrats agree. Most have never seen her, though they all know the sound of her voice. Dawson is the digital director for the House Democratic Caucus, but better known by lawmakers for her pandemic side-gig as moderator of a seemingly endless series of conference calls that have become the Democrats’ only means of communication and deliberation during the pandemic. She has brought them together through tense and serious business: the drafting of three coronavirus relief packages, hashed out during a series of calls that typically lasted two hours.

Foreign Governments Hire U.S. Lobbyists to Promote Their Efforts Fighting the Coronavirus Outbreak
NBC News – Andrew Lehren and Dan De Luce | Published: 4/2/2020

Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other foreign governments are hiring American lobbyists to promote their efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak and safeguard their countries’ reputations in the U.S. capital. Even amid a pandemic that has locked down countries and sent the global economy into a tailspin, foreign governments are seeking out K St. firms to burnish their images as leading the battle against COVID-19.

Lawmakers Granted Extension on Financial Reporting During Pandemic
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 4/7/2020

The House ethics committee is allowing lawmakers an extra 90 days to file their annual financial statements and will waive all late filing fees with issues “reasonably related” to the coronavirus. The panel’s guidance pushes the deadline for members and senior staffers to file their yearly rundown of financial assets back from May 15 to August 13. This does not eliminate the requirement for members to file periodic transaction reports for individual securities within 45 days of a trade execution.

Politics Through the Looking Glass: Virus scrambles the left-right lines
New York Times – Jim Rutenberg | Published: 4/5/2020

In this stage of the coronavirus crisis, the national political debate is inside out and upside down, sending both sides of the national divide scurrying to figure out where the new political and ideological lines will settle. As Republicans prepare for a re-election battle certain to hinge on perceptions of the Trump administration’s efficiency in performing its duty to protect American lives, the debate over government’s role in American life has entered an unfamiliar phase of discombobulation. A conservative president is now responsible for the largest federal disaster response since the Great Depression. At the same time, lingering right-wing distrust of government combined with a red-and-blue fissure over the severity of the crisis have surfaced national divisions.

Progressives Built an Organizing Juggernaut for 2020. Then the Virus Hit.
MSN – Astead Herndon and Ian Prasad Philbrick (New York Times) | Published: 4/5/2020

When it became clear that former Vice President Joe Biden would almost certainly win the Democratic nomination, many of the progressive Democrats who supported other presidential candidates were disappointed but not deterred. They quickly shifted their electoral focus to candidates lower on the ballot. The plan was straightforward: they would donate to a slew of insurgent congressional candidates, and a stable of grassroots groups would be ready and waiting to organize for the general election and beyond. But that was in a pre-pandemic America. Now many progressive candidates and the organizations that support them are struggling to adapt to a bleak reality – dried up fundraising, unclear election dates, and a moratorium on political tactics like in-person phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

SEC Rules Could Thwart Political Spending Disclosure Efforts
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/7/2020

Under pressure from big business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering new rules that could thwart efforts to mandate public disclosures of corporate political money. If adopted, the proposed regulations could block myriad shareholder resolutions targeting everything from companies’ political disclosures to environmental and corporate governance policies. Though the PACs of corporations must disclose the donations they make, there is no disclosure requirement for companies’ dues and other payments to trade associations that engage in election-related spending.

Sen. David Perdue Bought Stock in a Company That Produces Protective Medical Equipment the Same Day Senators Received a Classified Briefing on the Coronavirus
Business Insider – Sonam Sheth | Published: 4/7/2020

U.S. Sen. David Perdue bought stock in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that produces personal protective equipment, on January 24, the same day the Senate received a classified briefing on the spread of the coronavirus. The revelation came from Perdue’s financial portfolio disclosures. The latest included 110 items related to stock trades. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Perdue engaged in heavy trading in March, when markets plunged, and the virus gained a stronger foothold in the U.S.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Her CEO Husband Will Sell All Individual Stock Shares After Coronavirus Trade Furor
CNBC – Dan Mangan and Thomas Franck | Published: 4/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler said she and her husband will liquidate their individual stock share positions and related options after weeks of criticism of the couple for selling millions of dollars in stock amid the coronavirus pandemic. Loeffler reiterated her defense of the prior stock sales as legally and ethically proper, and her claim that the couple’s trading was handled by third parties without her prior knowledge. Loeffler, who is the richest member of the Senate, said in a Wall Street Journal opinion page article announcing her decision that her stock holdings would be converted to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds by third-party advisors who handle her investments.

Trump Calls Fired Watchdog in Impeachment Probe a ‘Disgrace’
ABC News – Mary Clare Jalonick and Deb Reichmann (Associated Press) | Published: 4/4/2020

President Trump criticized the ousted inspector general who handled an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked his impeachment as a “disgrace” and suggested the independent watchdog should have discussed the complaint with him. Trump informed Congress he was firing Michael Atkinson, saying in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he had lost confidence in him. Atkinson’s removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community under Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with skepticism.

Trump, GOP Challenge Efforts to Make Voting Easier Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Greenwich Time – Elise Viebeck, Amy Gardner, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/4/2020

President Trump and a growing number of Republican leaders are aggressively challenging efforts to make voting easier as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts elections, accusing Democrats of opening the door to fraud – and, in some cases, admitting fears that expanded voting access could politically devastate the GOP. Around the country, election officials trying to ensure ballot access and protect public health in upcoming contests face an increasingly coordinated backlash from the right. Much of the onslaught of litigation has been funded by the Republican National Committee, which has sought to block emergency measures related to Covid-19, such as proactively mailing ballots to voters sheltering at home.

Trump’s Resistance to Independent Oversight Draws Bipartisan Scrutiny
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 4/8/2020

Lawmakers are again confronting a president who has repeatedly defied oversight by the legislative branch, raising questions about whether new safeguards established amid the pandemic will be effective against Donald Trump. The president has shown little hesitation in dismissing independent watchdogs, ignoring congressional subpoenas, and barring current and former administration officials from cooperating with investigations. The resistance to the watchdog system come on two fronts that have largely defined the Trump presidency: his impeachment, which was triggered by his attempts to pressure Ukraine into conducting a political investigation of one of his domestic rivals; and his administration’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, in which trillions of taxpayer dollars are being disbursed.

With Campaigns in Remote Mode, Pandemic Upends Battle for Congress
New York Times – Carl Hulse | Published: 4/5/2020

The spread of Covid-19 has upended the nation’s congressional races as many were just getting started, altering the political landscape in unpredictable ways and forcing candidates in the battle for the Senate and House to adapt to unique circumstances. Campaign officials and strategists are trying to game out the new reality. The crisis could prove to be a boost for incumbents who have a built-in advantage in providing services to constituents at a time when voters are on edge and in need. But it is also shining a potentially unflattering spotlight on Washington’s response to the pandemic, which could hurt lawmakers who were already facing an uphill climb to re-election.

Canada

Canada Appeal Court Nixes Fresh Lobby Probe of Aga Khan in Trudeau Vacation Case
National Post – Jim Bronskill (Canadian Press) | Published: 4/2/2020

There is no need for the federal lobbying commissioner to take another look at whether the Aga Khan broke the rules by giving Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation in the Bahamas, an appeal court has decided. The Federal Court of Appeal says the commissioner’s original decision not to investigate a complaint about the matter is not subject to review by a judge, effectively making it final. In September 2017, then-Commissioner Karen Shepherd said there was no basis to a complaint that the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and religious leader, had violated the code for lobbyists by allowing Trudeau and his family to stay on his private island in the Caribbean the previous Christmas.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Mesa Politicians’ Spending Under Scrutiny After Spats Over Gift Cards, Las Vegas Trip
Arizona Republic – Alison Steinbach | Published: 4/8/2020

Mesa is tightening oversight of the city council’s $100,000 in yearly discretionary spending as members bicker over how the money is used. Some council members criticized Councilperson Jeremy Whittaker for what they say was a lavish trip he took to a technology conference at the city’s expense last year. Whittaker has his own concerns about numerous areas of council spending, including council members purchasing gift cards for firefighters. He asked the Goldwater Institute, a local conservative think tank, to investigate. Council members say they will no longer give gift cards and instead will find other ways to express their gratitude to public safety employees.

Colorado Colorado Election Officials Take Aggressive New Approach to Policing Campaign Violations
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 4/8/2020

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is taking a more aggressive approach against possible campaign finance violations. The stance is drawing criticism from some observers who question the state’s authority to pursue complaints and whether the law is being fairly applied. Griswold said she sought the attorney general’s opinion on the new enforcement team to ensure its legality, and the office received money in the budget to create three new positions for the enforcement staff. The reliance on the public to file complaints often resulted in a process that involved political retribution rather than compliance with the law. And the complaints did not always result in sanctions.

Florida Federal Judge Expands Voting Decision to Apply to All Ex-Felons in Florida
Washington Post – Lori Rozsa | Published: 4/7/2020

The federal judge overseeing the ongoing dispute between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and released felons who want to vote handed the governor another defeat. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle said a previous ruling he made that allowed felons to vote, even if they owe fines and fees stemming from their convictions, covers all individuals statewide, not just the 17 people who originally sued DeSantis. The order applies to an estimated 1.4 million people. Though Florida voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow automatic restoration of voting rights after prison, Republican lawmakers have sought to impose requirements that would block many from registering.

Florida Florida Election Officials Sound the Alarm Ahead of November
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 4/7/2020

Election supervisors in Florida warned Gov. Ron DeSantis that he needs to change the law to give them more flexibility to avoid a presidential election meltdown in the nation’s biggest swing state. The county officials, who issued the alert on the same day Wisconsin held a primary amid widespread fears and irregularities due to the coronavirus, said the changes are needed to accommodate more absentee ballot voters, who could be scared away from the polls if the coronavirus outbreak persists into the August primary or the November general election.

Florida ‘Open Government’ Moves Online Amid COVID-19 Thanks to Push from Jacksonville Ethics Director
WTLV – Shelby Danielson | Published: 4/4/2020

On March 20, an executive order went into effect across Florida temporarily changing how elected officials can conduct government business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, the Sunshine Law requires elected officials to meet in person. But with the social distancing standards in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, officials were unable to meet as usual. That concern only grew early on in Jacksonville when city Councilperson Sam Newby tested positive for Covid-19. Days before Newby tested positive, Jacksonville City Ethics Director Carla Miller had already sensed something needed to be done as soon as possible in order to keep government business moving and maintain the public’s access to meetings.

Idaho A ‘Liberty’ Rebellion in Idaho Threatens to Undermine Coronavirus Orders
Seattle Times – Mike Baker (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2020

In a state with pockets of wariness about big government and mainstream medicine, the sweeping restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus have run into rebellion in some parts of Idaho, which is facing its own worrying spike in cases. The opposition is coming not only from people like Ammon Bundy, whose armed takeover of a wildlife refuge with dozens of other men and women led to a standoff, but also from some state lawmakers and a county sheriff who are calling Gov. Brad Little’s statewide stay-at-home order an infringement on individual liberties. Health care providers have been horrified at the public calls to countermand social-distancing requirements, warning that failing to take firm measures could overwhelm Idaho’s small hospitals.

Michigan A Michigan Congresswoman, a Guy in Line in China and a Global Scramble to Find N95 Mask
Laredo Morning Times – Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) | Published: 4/6/2020

The race for masks and gowns to protect doctors, nurses, and paramedics from the coronavirus pandemic has consumed governors, presidents, prime ministers, and other politicians around the world. U.S. Rep. Elyssa Slotkin, the governor’s office, and the rest of the Michigan congressional delegation had been working closely with the Big Three auto manufacturers, which have long-standing relationships in China, to secure masks. But even with their help, the demand was far outpacing supply, leaving Slotkin to improvise as best she could as her office was being overwhelmed by increasingly desperate pleas from doctors and nurses begging for help.

Michigan As Coronavirus Scare Relaxes Michigan Transparency Laws, Experts Question Long-Term Effects
MLive.com – Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 4/8/2020

Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, both from 1976, set rules for meetings to ensure they are accessible to residents allow people to request and receive public documents. Neither transparency law was created with pandemics or internet capabilities in mind. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive orders in recent weeks to temporarily relax the laws due to the coronavirus pandemic. The changes are unprecedented, experts say, and happening across the country through executive order or legislative action. Michigan’s orders emphasize the need to keep up transparency and accountability more than many other states, said Robin Luce-Hermmann, Michigan Press Association general counsel.

Minnesota Lobbying on Hold as Minnesota Legislature Focuses on COVID-19
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jessie Van Berkel | Published: 4/7/2020

From social advocacy to corporate lobbying, the work of influencing state lawmakers in person has been largely put on hold as the pandemic demands the Minnesota Legislature’s full attention and forces people to temporarily abandon the Capitol. While COVID-19 has forced a surge in online advocacy, the struggle to contain the virus has taken precedence over the anticipated legislative battles over guns, insulin, legal marijuana, building projects, and other controversies that dominated the early days of the session. The focus, instead, turned to Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency orders temporarily closing schools and most public places, including many businesses that sought exemptions from the “stay-at-home” directive. But the old needs have not disappeared.

Minnesota Minnesota Lawmaker’s New College Job Sparks Conflict-of-Interest Questions
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Torey Van Oot | Published: 4/3/2020

As the legislative session got underway in mid-February, Minnesota Sen. Erik Simonson introduced a bill to secure nearly $1 million in state infrastructure bonds for a major expansion at Lake Superior College. On April 1, Simonson started a new $100,053-a-year job as executive director of continuing education and customized training at the college. While he applied months earlier, the transition, he said, was “accelerated” when cuts prompted by the coronavirus pandemic threatened his previous job as chief executive officer of the Lake Superior Zoo. The timing of Simonson’s new job with Lake Superior College has sparked questions from some experts on government ethics.

Missouri JoCo Official May Have Violated Ethics Code, Report Says. City Council Disregards It
Kansas City Star – Sarah Ritter | Published: 4/8/2020

An outside investigator found Olathe City Councilperson Karin Brownlee may have violated the city’s code of ethics when she spoke to the employer of a gay rights activist about his conduct. In a second opinion, a retired judge disagreed. Advocate Brett Hoedl, who led the push for the city to adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community, filed an ethics complaint against Brownlee in November. He accused the council member of complaining to his employer about his activism. He argued Brownlee used her position to silence residents with opinions that differ from her own. Brownlee has contended she engaged in a casual conversation.

New Jersey Murphy Officially Delays New Jersey Primary to July 7: ‘I don’t want a Wisconsin’
Politico – Matt Friedman | Published: 4/8/2020

Gov. Phil Murphy officially postponed New Jersey’s primary election from June 2 to July 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The widely expected delay allows the state more time to decide whether the election should be conducted solely by mail-in ballot or whether polling places will open. “Our democracy cannot be a casualty of Covid-19,” Murphy said.

New York Quest for COVID Gear Brings $119 Million Deal with de Blasio Donor
The City – Gabriel Sandoval | Published: 4/8/2020

New York City’s frantic hunt for protective masks and medical equipment to combat coronavirus led officials to sign emergency contracts totaling nearly $119 million with a firm run by a major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failed presidential campaign. Digital Gadgets entered into three contracts with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. Before March 25, Digital Gadgets had never appeared in the city comptroller’s decade old CheckbookNYC tracking system. Company Chief Executive Officer Charlie Tebele and family members made donations totaling $32,000 to de Blasio’s now-abandoned campaign for the Democratic nomination and related PACs. Tebele and family members also contributed at least $12,750 to de Blasio’s 2017 reelection campaign.

Ohio ‘Coingate’ Convict Tom Noe Among Ohio Inmates Gov. Mike DeWine Wants to Release Early Amid Coronavirus Fears
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 4/7/2020

Tom Noe, the central figure in the 2005 “Coingate” scandal, is among 200-plus Ohio prison inmates Gov. Mike DeWine is recommending for early release because of the coronavirus threat. Noe was once a rising Republican star, chairing the Lucas County Republican Party and serving on the Ohio Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public colleges and universities. He was convicted of racketeering, money laundering, aggravated theft, forgery, and tampering with records. The jury estimated he stole $1.1 million from the state.

Ohio Federal Judge Denies Voter Advocates’ Lawsuit to Change Ohio Primary Election
Columbus Dispatch – Rick Rouan | Published: 4/3/2020

A federal judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order sought by voter advocates who want to move Ohio’s voter registration deadline and make other changes to the state’s new election plan. The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Philip Randolph Institute argued the plan adopted by the Ohio General Assembly to extend absentee balloting until April 28, with limited in-person voting, violated the National Voter Registration Act and the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Attorneys for the state argued that changing the election again would sow more confusion among voters.

Tennessee Rep. Joe Towns Reaches Campaign Finance Violation Settlement After Board Takes Votes by Email
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 4/3/2020

Despite facing more than $66,000 in penalties for failing to file certain documents, Tennessee Rep. Joe Towns is set to once again appear on the ballot thanks to an agreement reached by a public agency that took votes via email. The behind-the-scenes decision is raising questions over whether the Registry of Election Finance violated the state’s open meetings law and a recent executive order from Gov. Bill Lee. The arrangement allowed Towns to pay $22,000 in order to become eligible to appear on the fall ballot.

Virginia Northam Reschedules Va. Primary Elections to June 23
Washington Times – Sophie Kaplan | Published: 4/8/2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam delayed the June 9 primary elections by two weeks and asked the General Assembly to push back May’s elections to November due to the coronavirus. Governors can reschedule only primary elections, so he recommended that lawmakers move the May 5 elections to November 3 when they reconvene on April 22.

Wisconsin Rulings on Wisconsin Election Raise Questions About Judicial Partisanship
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 4/7/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court both rejected efforts to delay the state’s April 7 elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. Election law experts said the stark divisions in the rulings did not bode well for faith in the rule of law and American democracy. When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on emergency applications, it almost never gives reasons. But the court’s conservative majority spent four pages explaining why it had refused to extend absentee voting. The contrasting visions of the two sides, one viewing the case as minor and technical and the other as an effort to vindicate a fundamental constitutional value, amounted to a deep disagreement about the judicial role in voting rights cases.

Wisconsin Wisconsin Now Waits for the Spring Election Results – and Then the Lawsuits
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind and Kelly Meyerhofer (Wisconsin State Journal) | Published: 4/8/2020

Wisconsin will not know the results of the April 7 election until April 13, but chances are the results will be challenged via a cascade of lawsuits in state or federal court if the margins in major races are as close as they have been in recent years. Possible legal challenges to the election results, fueled by voter complaints about voting hurdles, threaten to further undermine the perceived integrity of the election and the legitimacy of those elected as a result. Statewide, more than 10,000 voters who did not receive requested absentee ballots by Election Day, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission data, were forced to make the choice between sitting out the election or voting in person and risking their health.

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March 27, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 27, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020 American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones […]

National/Federal

As Campaigns Move Online, America’s Chief Watchdog Isn’t Following
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 3/23/2020

American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: voter townhalls are being replaced by digital meetups, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones are moving to FaceTime. In campaign advertising, that shift was long underway, with money moving from old-school broadcast and print ads to a flurry of custom messages on social media and search engines. As this change has transformed politics over the past several years, and quickly accelerated in recent weeks, one national player has been noticeably silent: the FEC. The last time the FEC updated its rules to address online advertising was in 2006. More recently it has been paralyzed by an internal argument about whether its mandate should extend further into online campaigning.

Bernie Sanders Is Considering Several Options as He Ponders His Campaign’s Future
MSN – Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 3/21/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has convened a series of weighty discussions about the future of his presidential campaign with his closest confidants, and at least three potential paths forward have come up in the private talks. People with knowledge of the talks stressed that Sanders had not yet made up his mind and was still trying to reach out to supporters. Few if any dilemmas in recent political history have been fraught with so many variables and such significant potential consequences.

Bloomberg Makes Massive $18M Transfer from Campaign to DNC
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/20/2020

Michael Bloomberg is sending $18 million from his defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), an investment in the national party that appears to push the boundaries of campaign finance law. The money will support the DNC’s “Battleground Build-Up 2020” program, an initiative in 12 swing states across the country. The money could fund potentially hundreds of organizers in those states. The transfer signals a change of plans for Bloomberg, who is nixing an earlier idea to form his own super PAC to take on President Trump in 2020.

Bloomberg Sued by Aides for Stiffing Them on Yearlong Pay Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelsgo | Published: 3/23/2020

Former campaign workers for Michael Bloomberg are suing the billionaire former presidential candidate for fraud, alleging in a nationwide class action lawsuit that as many as 2,000 employees were promised to be paid through the general election before he laid them off. Plaintiffs in the class action include two organizers who halted the interview process for other jobs to join the Bloomberg campaign, and another former organizer who postponed law school to work on Bloomberg;s 2020 effort. The filing comes on the same day as another class action brought by a former Bloomberg field organizer that similarly argues the employees were tricked into taking jobs they were told would continue for a year.

Burr Asks Senate Ethics Committee for Review of His Stock Sales
Stamford Advocate – John Wagner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Swain, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review stock sales he made weeks before the markets began to tank in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Burr has faced calls to resign from across the ideological spectrum since it was reported he dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings in 33 different transactions a week before the stock market began plummeting amid fears of Covid-19 spreading in the U.S. Burr also come under fire for a secret recording in which he issued a much more dire warning to a group of attendees at a private luncheon about the potential outbreak than the prognosis he was offering publicly at the time. If Burr traded stocks based on information that was not available to the public, it could not only be an ethics issue, but a criminal matter as well.

Coronavirus Response Includes $400 Million in Election Assistance. Will It Be Enough?
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/25/2020

A sweeping federal spending package responding to the coronavirus pandemic will include millions to help states administer elections, but some fear it will not be enough to prevent chaos in November. The enormous spending bill includes $400 million in election assistance, according to a partial bill text released by the Senate Appropriations Committee. That figure is a fraction, however, of the $2 billion the Brennan Center for Justice estimated is necessary for states to prepare for a surge of voters casting ballots by mail and to ensure safe in-person voting.

Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 3/23/2020

Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee cannot take place because of the coronavirus, officials said for the first time. Among the complicating factors are the uncertain nature of the professional basketball season – the arena hosting the convention is home to the Milwaukee Bucks, a top NBA team likely to play deep into the playoffs if the league’s season were to restart – and how the party’s delegates will be selected. Delegates in most states are elected to the national convention from state conventions, but many state conventions, scheduled for late spring and early summer, are also being postponed.

FLRA Sets Sights on Official Time for ‘Lobbying Activities’
Government Executive – Erich Wagner | Published: 3/24/2020

The federal agency tasked with administering federal labor law announced it will reexamine whether federal employee unions may receive official time to communicate with members of Congress. The Federal Labor Relations Authority requested comments on whether the agency should overturn decades of precedent stating that a ban on the use of federal funds for lobbying applies to federal employees who are members of a labor union. The development is in response to a request from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union advocacy group.

From Jets to Juleps, SCOTUS Perks Aren’t Always Reported
Courthouse News Service – Megan Mineiro | Published: 3/24/2020

A self-appointed U.S. Supreme Court watchdog tallied the private flights and other hidden perks justices enjoy when invited to speak at universities. In addition to the private plane trips, the report from the group Fix the Court details a $500-a-plate VIP dinner that Justice Stephen Breyer attended before a 2016 lecture at the University of Texas, as well as undisclosed gifts like Wisconsin football gear given to Justice Elena Kagan, and silver julep cups to Justice Neil Gorsuch.

House Report Tables Remote Voting
Roll Call – Katherine Tullyu-McManus | Published: 3/24/2020

Remote voting is not coming to the U.S. House anytime soon, according to a Rules Committee report. But some advocates say the report did not fully consider the options available and members are still pushing for emergency alternatives. A public report and letter sent to lawmakers outlines the options for voting procedures during this unprecedented pandemic that is spreading across the country and even the Capitol. The report was commissioned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after pressure grew from rank-and-file lawmakers for leadership to identify alternatives to gathering 435 members in a room to vote, which makes following social distancing protocols nearly impossible. Pelosi had previously shot down the idea of remote voting when raised by her caucus and reporters.

‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising
Politico – Maggie Severns and James Arkin | Published: 3/20/2020

Campaigns across the country have canceled face-to-face fundraisers for the foreseeable future in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and are scrambling to figure out how to raise enough money to stay solvent. Big donors’ stock portfolios are tanking and small-dollar, online contributors, who have never been more important to campaigns, are facing sudden financial uncertainty and the real possibility of unemployment. Major donors from both parties already are beginning to scale back after years of riding high off of a booming stock market, donors and fundraisers said.

Joe Biden Found His Footing – Then Coronavirus Changed Everything
Yahoo News – Evan Halper and Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

Even as President Trump fumbles his way through the Covid-19 outbreak, there are risks for Joe Biden if he remains in the background of this ever-changing public crisis. Fresh polling shows a diminished lead for Democrats in November, and Trump’s approval rating mostly stable despite criticism of his early efforts to downplay the significance of the pandemic. That leaves Biden in uncharted territory, a candidate awkwardly adjusting to the new reality of virtual campaigning and struggling to find a message that gets him back on voters’ radar.

Six Days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from coronavirus testing to positive diagnosis
MSN – Seung Min Kim, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2020

Aware of his extensive travel and compromised health, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul quietly got himself tested for the coronavirus on March 16. But for the six days that his results were pending, the Kentucky Republican took no steps to self-quarantine – continuing to cast votes on the Senate floor, delivering a speech lambasting a coronavirus aid bill, and meeting with other Republican senators in strategy sessions that defied federal advisories warning against gatherings of more than 10 people. Paul was defiant that he did nothing wrong, despite bipartisan criticism for his behavior and even sharper private furor among senators and aides because he had potentially exposed them to the virus.

Super PACs Step In to Attack Trump’s Coronavirus Response
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 3/24/2020

The presidential campaign has largely shifted to the recesses of public consciousness during the coronavirus outbreak. So, too, has political broadcast advertising. Calls for unity to stop the pandemic are widespread, and candidates could be accused of politicizing a crisis if they put out attack ads. But with President Trump on television constantly, Democratic strategists are worried his unabated free airtime, even amid a crippling national crisis, gives him a messaging advantage. In that vacuum, two Democratic groups have started multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns attacking Trump for his previous comments that played down the threat of the virus.

Supreme Court Rejects Keeping GOP Super PAC Donor Secret
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/23/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision allowing a trust fund to be named that was used by a donor to give $1.7 million to a Republican super PAC. The trust and a trustee sued to keep their identities secret. Once the lower court follows up on the Supreme Court’s order, FEC member Ellen Weintraub said she would release a statement with the names of the trust and trustee used to funnel money to the super PAC. Enforcement actions and court decisions are making it harder for some big donors to attempt to hide their identities, usually by funneling money to super PACs through obscure limited liability companies or other entities.

Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter, Federal Court Affirms in Ruling
Washington Post – Ann Marimow | Published: 3/23/2020

A federal appeals court let stand a ruling that prevents {resident Trump from blocking critical voices from the Twitter account he uses to communicate with the public. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the administration’s request to revisit an earlier holding that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual Twitter users who were critical of the president or his polices. The decision leaves in place a unanimous three-judge panel ruling from July. The court held that because the president uses his Twitter account to conduct official government business, he cannot exclude voices or viewpoints with which he disagrees.

Virus Brings States to a Standstill: Sessions halt, budgets crater, plans wait
MSN – Michael Powell and John Eligon (New York Times) | Published: 3/24/2020

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on statehouses across the U.S., derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction, and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed. Vast numbers of businesses have been forced to close their doors and millions of Americans face unemployment, creating a sudden need to spend on virus-related assistance, the certainty of sharp drops in tax collections and a turning of once optimistic budget projections upside down. The outbreak has forced at least 22 state Legislatures to close or postpone sessions at the busiest time of the year. The toll on state policies and spending appears likely to extend far beyond a single legislative season.

Canada

Canada COVID-19 Is Forcing Lobbyists to Significantly Shift Their Strategies
Hill Times – Beatrice Paez and Palak Mangat | Published: 3/23/2020

As the federal government in Canada ramps up its effort to control the pace of the coronavirus pandemic and stabilize the economy, lobbyists say much of their focus has either pivoted to responding to the immediacy of the crisis, or giving officials the breathing room they need. “I just don’t think there is lobbying during the coronavirus; I really think the focus has to be on getting through this,” said Joe Jordan, senior associate at Bluesky Strategy Group. As a former member of Parliament, Jordan said he may not react too kindly to being approached by a lobbyist during this type of crisis, in which thousands of people are being effectively laid off and the health-care system is under strain.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska Democrats Cancel In-Person Primary Voting, Extend Mail-In Deadline
Anchorage Daily News – Associated Press | Published: 3/24/2020

The Alaska Democratic Party will hold its party-run presidential primary exclusively by mail and is moving back the deadlines for returning and tabulating ballots. The party announced it is canceling in-person voting sites planned for April 4 due to concerns with the coronavirus. But it is extending the deadline to return ballots by mail. The party now says they must be received in Anchorage no later than April 10 to be counted.

California California Fair Political Practices Commission Offers Guidance on Campaign Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 3/21/2020

The California Fair Political Practices Commission issued an advisory acknowledging that in light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, filing of campaign statements and reports will be difficult. All candidates and committees that file campaign statements and reports with the secretary of state’s office may use the office’s online filing system. Local candidates and committees should contact their local filing officers to determine if electronic filing is available in their jurisdiction.

California California Lobbyists Adjust to a World Without Handshakes and Hallway Conversations
Politico – Carla Marinucci and Jeremy White | Published: 3/18/2020

After the California General Assembly shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sacramento’s powerful “third house’’ – the lobbyists, advocates, and attorneys who represent powerful interests – has had to adjust on the fly. Political influence has long relied on personal connections, face-to-face conversations, and buttonholing political players in the hallways, committee rooms, and fundraisers in and around the Capitol, and none of that can happen for now. Lawmakers, too, are adjusting to their new remote reality.

California Political Fundraiser Admits to Delivering Bribes in L.A. City Hall Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin, David Zahniser, and Laura Nelson | Published: 3/19/2020

A federal corruption probe into relationships between developers and Los Angeles elected officials made a major move forward with prosecutors saying a political fundraiser will plead guilty to facilitating a $500,000 bribe of an unnamed city council member. Justin Jangwoo Kim will plead guilty to a single count of federal program bribery and will cooperate in the continuing City Hall corruption probe. Prosecutors said Kim facilitated a $500,000 cash payment to the unnamed council member in a developer’s effort to resolve a labor group’s environmental challenge to a major real estate project. The council member is referred to only as a member of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Connecticut Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order
Stamford Advocate – Ken Dixon | Published: 3/23/2020

The latest executive order from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont suspends limitations on gifts that were enacted after the corruption scandal that sent former Gov. John Rowland to prison in 2005. It also takes limits off political campaign contributions. Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said while the governor’s order falls outside the jurisdiction of his agency, it appears to apply only to large state contractor gifts. Those contractors who contributed in current or recent election cycles could have fallen into a legal limbo if the new executive order had not been addressed.

Georgia Loeffler Stock Trades Roil Georgia Special Election
Politico – James Arkin | Published: 3/21/2020

One of Kelly Loeffler’s most appealing traits to Republicans who embraced her for a coveted U.S. Senate appointment – her ability to self-fund a competitive election this fall through immense wealth – is suddenly looking like a serious liability for her and the GOP. Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January, damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Trump. Collins is seizing on the stock trades by Loeffler, who is married to the head of the New York Stock Exchange.

Indiana All Indiana Voters Can Choose to Cast Ballot by Mail for June 2 Primary Election
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 3/25/2020

All Indiana voters have the option to cast their ballot by mail in the upcoming primary election to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. The Indiana Election Commission authorized “no excuse” absentee voting by mail for this election only, along with numerous other temporary changes to accommodate Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to shift the state’s primary to June 2 from May 5 Vote by mail typically only is available to Hoosiers who satisfy at least one of 11 statutory excuses for being unable to get to their polling place on Election Day.

Kentucky As Coronavirus Creates ‘Unprecedented Obstacles’ to Voting, Kentucky GOP Takes Step to Add Another: Voter ID
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/20/2020

As states across the country took steps to make voting to make voting easier in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Legislature in Kentucky approved a new measure requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, prompting an outcry from voting-rights groups. Gov. Andy Beshear has 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. Beshear, who restored voting rights to former felons in an executive order days after he took office, previously said he opposed “unnecessary roadblocks” to voting. But the governor’s power to block the measure, which would go into effect for the November election, is limited.

Maine Maine Expands Campaign Finance Laws About PACs in State
AP News – Staff | Published: 3/24/2020

A new law in Maine defines caucus political action committees as subject to the same rules as other PACs. Supporters said the rule change means the state’s ethics commission will be able to fully enforce ethics rules about PACs that are led by legislators. The law takes effect on June 16.

Maryland Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Repeatedly Voted to Approve Spending for Groups on ‘Abstentions List,’ Report Finds
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 3/19/2020

Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt voted 30 times in three years to approve city spending on organizations with which she appeared to have a connection, a review from the Office of the Inspector General found. Pratt, a member of the city’s powerful spending board, maintained an evolving “abstentions list,” noting companies and organizations with which she is affiliated. Each of the board’s five members have had such a list and used it to refrain from voting on items for which they may have a conflict-of-interest.

Michigan Ballot Drive to Change Michigan Lobbying Laws Suspended Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbon | Published: 3/20/2020

The group behind a ballot petition drive to change Michigan lobbying laws announced it was suspending the effort, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the cause. The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes said they were postponing the campaign until the 2022 election cycle. The coronavirus “has made the already difficult task of collecting more than 425,000 signatures to put lobby reform on the ballot in 2020 a relatively impossible one,” the group said in a statement. Getting a citizen-led initiative on the ballot typically requires in-person contact all over the state as volunteers or paid signature gatherers collect hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Minnesota In ‘the Cathedral of Hockey,’ Bipartisanship Still Exists in Minnesota
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Briana Bierschbach | Published: 3/20/2020

It is not their usual scene in St. Paul, but for decades, a group of current and former legislators, lobbyists, staffers, state employees, and anyone else they could persuade to show up have gathered every Sunday during the legislative session for a game of ice hockey. Somehow the tradition has survived contentious budget fights, government shutdowns, and increasingly divisive state and national politics. It has outlasted at least three Minnesota governors who have played on the team, too.

Montana State GOP Spent $100k to Qualify Montana Green Party for the Ballot
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 3/24/2020

The Montana Republican Party bankrolled the signature-gathering effort to get the Montana Green Party certified for the 2020 election ballot, an official for a political committee said. Democrats, who had asked the state commissioner of political practices to find out who paid for the signature gathering effort, immediately accused the GOP of election fraud and of propping up a leftist political party as a means to siphon votes from Democratic candidates this fall.

New Jersey Belmar Mayor, Three Council Members Repay Questioned Campaign Gifts After Dispute
Asbury Park Press – Ken Serrano | Published: 3/25/2020

The mayor of Belmar, New Jersey, and three council members returned campaign contributions after a resident questioned whether the donations violated the borough’s “pay-to-play” ordinance that seeks to limit the role of money in politics. Borough attorney Jerry Dasti said it was debatable whether the officials violated the ordinance, but they returned the money anyway. An expert on “pay-to-play laws” said the elected officials’ actions were a clear breach of the ordinance.

New Jersey Sparta BOE in Flap Over Promotion of Member’s Son
New Jersey Herald – Eric Obernauer | Published: 3/19/2020

A school board member in Sparta, New Jersey resigned her seat after admitting she voted on a new contract and pay increase for Superintendent Michael Rossi in the fall while her son was employed in the school district as a substitute custodian, an action that was followed by her son’s promotion to a full-time $36,000-a-year custodian’s position that the board rescinded. Karen Scott acknowledged she also neglected to disclose the employment of her son in the district on her 2019 and 2020 personal disclosure forms, which all school board members and administrators must file annually with the state School Ethics Commission, after having previously included it on her 2018 form.

New Jersey State Ethics Commission Recommends Removal of Paterson BOE Member Emanuel Capers Over Arizona Trip
Paterson Times – Jayed Rahman | Published: 3/20/2020

The New Jersey School Ethics Commission recommended the removal of Paterson school board member Emanuel Capers for taking an all-expense paid trip to Arizona. Ethics officials rejected Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss’s legal conclusions that absolved Capers in December 2019. Moss had ruled Capers did not violate any provisions of the ethics code for school board members. Capers attended the Effective Schools Conference in 2018 paid for by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s education company Woz U. Capers has argued he is not a school district employee, but an elected official.

New York Nassau Inspector General: Courthouse contractor did not ID key principals
Newsday – Scott Eidler | Published: 3/21/2020

Nassau County Inspector General Jodi Franzese questioned the “business integrity” of the company that won an $85.6 million construction contract for the new Family and Matrimonial Court building in Mineola in Mineola because it failed to identify key officials or disclose campaign contributions they made. Citing requirements in a county law enacted after contracting scandals involving former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the report said Antonios Vournou and Jenny Sakalis failed to identify themselves as principals of E & A Restoration when they bid on county contracts.

Ohio Ohio Lawmakers Sets All-Mail Primary Election Through April 28; Legal Challenge Still Possible
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 3/25/2020

Ohio lawmakers approved a plan for an all-mail primary election running through April 28, the Legislature’s fix to wrap things up after the original March 17 Election Day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would send postcards to every Ohioan with instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Anyone who has not cast an early ballot already would have to print off a paper application, or call their county elections and request one be mailed to them, and mail it in. Elections officials then would mail an empty ballot with a postage-paid envelope. Voters would have until April 27 to mail it back or drop it off at a curbside county ballot box, and votes would be counted on April 28. But it might not be the last legal word on the issue.

Rhode Island Rhode Island Presidential Primary Moving to June 2
WPRI – Steph Machado | Published: 3/23/2020

After the Rhode Island Board of Elections voted to move the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would sign an executive order to move the date of the primary, which will take place mostly by mail. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea had initially asked the elections board to keep the primary on April 28 but do it mostly by mail-in ballots. But elections board staffers expressed concern there would not be enough time to distribute mail ballots and certify the large influx before April 28. The Board of Elections instead voted to delay the primary in order to have more time to prepare to hold it mostly by mail.

Texas Texas Delaying May Primary Runoff Elections in Response to Coronavirus
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 3/20/2020

The May 26 primary election runoffs in Texas will be delayed until July in response to the growing outbreak of the coronavirus under an order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices. The elections are now scheduled for July 14; early voting will begin July 6.

Texas Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Comes Under Fire for Saying Seniors Should ‘Take a Chance’ on Their Own Lives for Sake of Grandchildren During Coronavirus Crisis
Connecticut Post – Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2020

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick faced a sharp backlash for suggesting older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats arguing that public health should remain the country’s top priority. “Let’s get back to living,” Patrick said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.” Experts have warned that loosening federal guidelines for social distancing would likely accelerate the spread of the virus and put many more Americans at risk.

Utah Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, Ousted by Scandal, Wants His Old Post Back
Salt Lake Tribune – Benjamin Wood | Published: 3/20/2020

John Swallow – the one-time Utah attorney general, driven from office by one of the state’s largest political scandals before being acquitted at trial – is running to reclaim his former office. Swallow won the 2012 election, but days after his inauguration, The Salt Lake Tribune reported his involvement in an alleged scheme to help a friend, Jeremy Johnson, enlist then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s help to avoid criminal prosecution. Johnson secretly recorded a meeting with Swallow where they discussed the deal. Subsequently, Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, were accused of extorting gifts and favors. Swallow denied the allegations, which prompted a probe by state and federal investigators, as well as a separate investigation into potential election law violations by the lieutenant governor’s office.

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March 25, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising” by Maggie Severns and James Arkin for Politico Connecticut: “Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order” by Ken Dixon for Stamford Advocate Elections National: “Bloomberg Sued by Aides […]

Campaign Finance

National: “‘It Can Be Catastrophic’: Coronavirus tanks campaign fundraising” by Maggie Severns and James Arkin for Politico

Connecticut: “Political Gift Limits Suspended in Latest Coronavirus Order” by Ken Dixon for Stamford Advocate

Elections

National: “Bloomberg Sued by Aides for Stiffing Them on Yearlong Pay Promise” by Christopher Cadelsgo for Politico

National: “Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options” by Reid Epstein for New York Times

Ethics

National: “Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter, Federal Court Affirms in Ruling” by Ann Marimow for Washington Post

National: “Six Days: Tracking Sen. Rand Paul from coronavirus testing to positive diagnosis” by Seung Min Kim, Michael Scherer, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) for MSN

Legislative Issues

Minnesota: “In ‘the Cathedral of Hockey,’ Bipartisanship Still Exists in Minnesota” by Briana Bierschbach for Minneapolis Star Tribune

Procurement

New York: “Nassau Inspector General: Courthouse contractor did not ID key principals” by Scott Eidler for Newsday

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March 20, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 20, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020 It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. […]

National/Federal

At Party for Donald Trump Jr.’s Girlfriend, Donors Helped Pick Up the Tab
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel, Steve Eder, and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/17/2020

It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The setting was Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. The guest list included dozens of Trump family members and friends. But when it came to picking up the tab, hands went out to other attendees. Among them were at least four whose families are financial supporters of the president’s re-election campaign, for which Guilfoyle helps lead the fundraising. They ended up pitching in tens of thousands of dollars, passed along to Mar-a-Lago, to help pay for what two people familiar with the planning said was a $50,000 celebration of Guilfoyle’s 51st birthday. Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center said the party created the appearance of supporters of the president currying favor with his family by steering money into his private business, which he continues to profit from.

Biden Notches 3 More Victories; Sanders Reassessing Campaign
AP News – Will Weissert and Brian Slodysko | Published: 3/18/2020

Joe Biden swept to victory in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by the coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign. Biden’s third big night in as many weeks came amid tremendous uncertainty as the Democratic contest collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that has shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead as scheduled in the three other states, election workers and voters reported problems. Still, Biden’s quest for his party’s nomination now seems well within reach.

Biden’s Promise to Choose a Woman Veep Reignites Hopes of a Female President
MSN – Annie Linsky (Washington Post) | Published: 3/16/2020

After watching Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and the departure of prominent female candidates from this year’s Democratic primary race, women in the party expressed hope Joe Biden;s vow to name a woman as his running mate could spell an end to the starkest gender barrier in American politics. Women have been tapped twice before as vice-presidential candidates, but with polls showing Biden leading President Trump in a general election, many see this as the most realistic possibility that a woman could wind up a heartbeat from the presidency. Biden has described himself as a “bridge” to the next generation of leaders, a comment interpreted as a signal he would serve just one term, meaning his running mate would be even more of a president-in-waiting than usual.

Coronavirus Forces Brussels Lobbying to Go Digital
Politico – Cristina Gonzales | Published: 3/17/2020

The coronavirus has put traditional networking and lobbying in Brussels on ice. The long-term impact of the pandemic on European Union lobbying industry will depend to a large extent on how much Brussels is able to legislate and regulate through a period of Europe-wide lockdowns and economic slowdown, and how willing and able policymakers are to continue engaging with outside stakeholders during that time. For now, with formal and informal meetings on hold, influencers are practicing “telelobbying” – trying to strategize and advance agendas through phone calls, video calls, webinars, emails, and instant messages.

Coronavirus Shakes Up K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 3/13/2020

K St. lobbyists said corporate leaders are looking for answers about what Capitol Hill and the White House are going to do to assist the economy and combat the spread of Covid-19. As the virus brings changes to daily life, with schools closing, events being cancelled, and people taking new precautions, lobbyists are being forced to rethink plans for meetings and high-profile events. Lobbyists who are not based in Washington have been forced to move to virtual meetings. Shoe leather lobbyists walk the halls of the Capitol or head to the White House to work for their clients, but increasingly those meetings are being handled over the phone. But as long as the work of Congress goes on, advocacy groups would need to stay engaged, said Lincoln Clapper, Prime Advocacy’s director of sales and marketing.

Coronavirus Tests American Democracy as Planning Begins for ‘Worst Case’ in November Election
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker and Amy Gardner | Published: 3/16/2020

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a singular test for American democracy, prompting states to postpone their primaries while already causing attorneys and voting-rights groups to take steps to ensure access to the November election in the event the outbreak is not contained by then. Hardly any precedent exists for the dilemma now facing campaigns and voters in the states pressing ahead with their contests. Experts said President Trump lacks the legal authority to change the date of the election. But some cautioned that increasingly stringent public health guidelines advising Americans to stay in their homes, or potential government-imposed lockdowns stretching into the fall, could present unprecedented obstacles to voting.

DOJ Memo Shows Clinton, Obama, and Trump Donor’s Shady Foreign Campaign Finance Schemes
Washington Examiner – Jwerry Dunleavy | Published: 3/17/2020

Federal prosecutors detailed the alleged foreign lobbying schemes carried out by Imaad Zuberi in a lengthy memo, alleging the campaign fundraiser who donated to Democrats and Republicans concealed work for shadowy interests around the world. Zuberi pleaded guilty in October to charges of tax evasion, making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions using straw donations and foreign funds and falsifying records of his extensive work as a foreign agent on behalf of Sri Lanka as well as lobbying for individuals and governments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain, and Libya. The Justice Department said Zuberi repeatedly violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act in receiving millions of dollars from foreign actors and lobbying Congress on their behalf.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter Gets 11 Months in Prison for Campaign Finance Violations
Los AngelesTimes – Morgan Cook and Greg Moran (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2020

Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds for his personal use. He resigned from Congress in January. Hunter and his wife were accused of stealing more than $250,000 in campaign contributions and trying to hide it on financial disclosure records. The funds bankrolled private school tuition for Hunter’s children, his wife’s shopping sprees, weekend trips with his mistress, and drinking parties in Washington, D.C. After he was indicted, Hunter ran for reelection and tried to convince voters in the district that as a staunch supporter of President Trump, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by left-leaning prosecutors trying to drive him out of office in Democratic California.

Full Appeals Court to Hear McGahn, Border Wall Cases
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/13/2020

The full District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to weigh in on two legal fights critical to President Trump: whether the U.S. House can use the courts to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, and whether the House can sue to block Trump’s effort to fund border wall construction over congressional objections. The announcement wiped out a major victory Trump scored when a smaller panel of the same court ruled the courts should not wade into subpoena fights between Congress and the White House. There seems to be little chance the Supreme Court will resolve the issues definitively before the November election, but rulings in the House’s favor could lead the justices to intervene with a stay in the coming months.

Fundraisers Shifting Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Pandemic
Campaigns and Elections – Sean Miller | Published: 3/17/2020

Handshakes are taboo, major cities are being ordered to shelter in place, President Trump has told Americans to limit gatherings to 10 people, and the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are starting to be felt far and wide. In this stark reality, political fundraising consultants are having to reinvent their strategies to keep money coming in for their clients, even as the country shuts down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In-person fundraisers have been canceled, and launch events (traditionally prime opportunities to raise money) have been postponed for campaigns across the country. Campaign and fundraising plans are also being rewritten to account for what many expect will be fundraising shortfalls, at least in the near term.

Justice Dept. Moves to Drop Charges Against Russian Firms Filed by Mueller
MSN – Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere (New York Times) | Published: 3/16/2020

The Justice Department moved to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize. The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by special counsel Robert Mueller, along with 13 Russians and another company. Prosecutors said they operated a scheme to use social media to subvert the election. Prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.

K Street Looks to Ride Coronavirus Relief Efforts
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/16/2020

Lobbyists for the private sector are looking to hitch a ride on the federal government’s coronavirus response. The deluge of “asks,” as K Street refers to such pleas, include policies that might help address the crisis and revive the economy. But other proposals are similar to ones the same industries have pushed for years and have only a tenuous connection to the pandemic. Even some in the influence industry are calling foul. “Some of the requests for aid appear opportunistic on their face while others seem truly desperate,” lobbyist Dave Oxner wrote in a recent note to clients.

Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
Albuquerque Journal – Mike Gallagher | Published: 3/13/2020

A Washington, D.C. lobbyist pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government while lobbying for the Big Crow Program Office, a government program based at Kirtland Air Force Base that could not legally pay for lobbying activities from government funds under federal law. George Lowe became the third person indicted in the scheme to plead guilty in the case. Lowe was charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States through false claims for payment of federal appropriated funds. Lowe received payment for his lobbying services with appropriated funds provided by third-party private contractors hired to provide support to Big Crow.

Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 3/13/2020

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s marriage to a political consultant has drawn renewed focus on her campaign’s payments to her new husband, Timothy Mynett, and his firm, which are at the center of a pending complaint with the FEC. Following Omar’s marriage announcement, conservative critics raised concerns about payments by her campaign to E Street Group, which is run by Mynett. Payments to the firm in the 2019-2020 cycle for Omar’s reelection campaign comprised 40 percent of total campaign expenses. Representatives for Omar’s campaign and Mynett’s firm said there was nothing improper about the payments because they were made for legitimate work.

Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’
Law.com – Jacqueline Thomson | Published: 3/13/2020

A senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sharply criticized the FEC for arguing that a legal challenge to the agency’s decision to not prosecute certain campaign finance violations cannot be reviewed by the court. The panel upheld a District Court ruling that granted the FEC summary judgement in a lawsuit from the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, finding the reasons commissioners gave for throwing out complaints of campaign finance violations were reasonable. The FEC had argued that because the challenge was over a prosecutorial decision by the commission, it was not subject to judicial review.

Some Democrats Urge Party to Weigh Alternatives for National Convention Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2020

Some Democratic Party officials have expressed concern about plans to bring tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee for the July convention, even as the party’s leadership said it was not entertaining canceling the event or holding it remotely. The fate of the convention presents a potential conundrum for Democrats. Thousands of delegates, activists, and others in the party faithful are expected to cram into the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for the event. But the quest to showcase the nominee they hope will oust President Trump could run counter to the advice of public health experts, who are advising against large gatherings, if the coronavirus outbreak remains severe in the summer.

Super PACs Outmaneuver Outdated Rules to Leave Voters in the Dark
Center for Responsive Politics – Kark Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/18/2020

Super PACs are required to disclose their donors. But by launching a new super PAC just before an election, political actors can spend unlimited sums influencing races without disclosing their funding sources until after votes are counted. The current reporting rules were crafted more than four decades ago, when committee treasurers typed their reports with typewriters and mailed their disclosures to the FEC. Now, campaigns and outside groups maintain electronic databases of their contributions and spending, making it easy to file reports quickly. But the rules have not been updated to keep up with technological changes.

Two Congressmen Test Positive for the Coronavirus
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/18/2020

Two members of Congress said they had tested positive for the coronavirus, the first lawmakers to contract the deadly disease, forcing other lawmakers who came into contact with them to announce they were self-quarantining. U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams said they began developing symptoms less than 24 hours after they had stood on the crowded House floor and voted for the coronavirus relief package. That Diaz-Balart and McAdams began feeling sick and tested positive so soon after the House adjourned on March 14 raises questions about how contagious they were during their recent time on Capitol Hill.

With 2 Lawmakers Sick, the Rest Take Turns Voting in an Empty Chamber
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferre-Sanduri | Published: 3/19/2020

As the coronavirus continues to radically change the day-to-day rituals of tens of millions of Americans, state lawmakers across the country are scrambling to balance their sworn duties with fears of infection and legislative priorities that have been upended and reshuffled. At least 17 statehouses have postponed their legislatives sessions, with lawmakers effectively retreating from public view, reshaping a core function of government, and the way constituents are able to access their elected officials at the height of a pandemic.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Governor Postpones Runoffs, Prolonging Sessions-Tuberville Battle
Roll Call – Bridget Bowman | Published: 3/18/2020

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced she is postponing the state’s March 31 runoff elections until July 14, citing concerns about the new coronavirus. The move postpones the U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. There are also primary runoffs in the open seats in Alabama’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. The federal government has recommended gatherings not exceed 10 people in order to limit the spread of the virus.

California Political Dilemma: Make ballot statement, or spend more on campaign? The answer is shaping O.C. politics
Orange County Register – Brooke Staggs | Published: 3/18/2020

Orange County candidates running for state Senate and Assembly seats had to make a strategic gamble heading into the March 3 primary. They could pay $1,000 or more to print a 250-word candidate statement in the sample ballots mailed to all 1.64 million registered voters in Orange County. Such a statement might give them a needed edge in competitive races, but it came with a catch: any candidate who prints a statement on the primary ballot has to agree to strict campaign spending limits, both for the primary and, if they go forward, the November general election. Those decisions may play an even bigger role in the general, since some candidates in close races have agreed to spending limits even as their challengers did not.

California ‘Team Newport’ Pays $27,000 to Settle with State Over Allegations of Campaign Finance Disclosure Violations
Los Angeles Times – Hillary Davis | Published: 3/10/2020

The current and former Newport Beach City Council members known collectively as “Team Newport,” along with their political consultant and campaign treasurer, have paid the state $27,000 to settle a dispute over their 2014 campaign finance disclosures. The settlement dramatically cuts the original 44 counts that California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) staff returned against the group early last year. The agreement is subject to the FPPC’s approval when it meets March 19. The allegations centered largely on how contributions for mailers and door hangers were reported.

Florida Andrew Gillum Entering Rehab to Treat Alcohol Abuse After Hotel Incident
Tampa Bay Times – David Smiley and Steve Contorno | Published: 3/15/2020

Days after police say they found him in a hotel room with a collapsed companion and baggies of crystal meth, former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced plans to enter rehab for alcohol abuse. Gillum was not arrested and was allowed to return to his hotel in Miami. According to a Miami Beach police report, officers responding to an overdose call at the found Gillum in a hotel room with two other men and too inebriated to talk. Gillum issued a statement saying he was in Miami to celebrate a wedding and had too much to drink. He said he has never used methamphetamine. His decision to step away from the spotlight clouds a political career that seemed to have no ceiling.

Florida Increase in City Oversight Is Meeting Resistance
Jacksonville Daily Record – Mike Mendenhall | Published: 3/18/2020

Some Jacksonville City Council members are pushing back on legislation that would increase the city ethics director’s oversight authority because they worry it could dissuade private companies from doing business with the city. Proponents say strengthening independent oversight of city agencies is necessary in light of JEA’s failed push to privatize the city-owned utility The proposed ordinance would grant the ethics director the same unrestricted access to records and documents as Jacksonville’s Office of Inspector General from all city employees, elected officials, and independent agencies and authorities. That access extends to private companies and their subcontractors doing business with the city and companies receiving financial incentives through economic development agreements.

Georgia Georgia Delays Primary Election
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/14/2020

Georgia delayed its presidential primary due to coronavirus. The primary, which was originally scheduled for March 24, will now be held on May 19. The presidential primary in the state will now be held on the same day as primaries in the state for local, state, and congressional offices. In-person early voting has also been halted. A statement from state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairperson of the Democratic Party of Georgia, indicated that in-person and absentee ballots that have already been cast in the presidential primary will count.

Hawaii This Hawaii Defense Contractor Has Emerged as a Major Political Player
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 3/18/2020

Over the past decade, Martin Kao has become one of the most prolific political donors to come out of Hawaii. Kao is the chief executive officer of Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based defense contractor that designs state-of-the-art ship hulls for the U.S. Navy. Kao has maintained a relatively low profile while he and his family have quietly pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of dozens of state and federal politicians. Now, some of these donations are coming under increased scrutiny, especially as Navatek expands its operations beyond Hawaii’s borders.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Presidential Primary Election to Be Delayed Because of Coronavirus
Baton Rouge Advocate – Sam Karlin | Published: 3/13/2020

The presidential primary elections in Louisiana slated for April 4 will be delayed until June 20, the latest in a series of dramatic steps government leaders have taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the administration would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation.  More than half of the state’s election-day commissioners are 65 or older, and 32 polling locations are in nursing homes or other senior facilities, Ardoin said. “This decision has been made out of an absolute abundance of caution for Louisiana’s voters, voting officials, and the general public as a whole,” Ardoin said.

Maryland Maryland Postpones Primary, Shifts Special Election to Mail Voting Over Coronavirus
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein and Zach Montellaro | Published: 3/17/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he was postponing the state’s primaries, originally scheduled for late April, to June 2 as the country grapples with the spread of the coronavirus. But Maryland will still hold one election on April 28, foreshadowing a potentially broad move toward mail voting that could pave the way for elections across the country to continue during the crisis. Hogan said he believed the special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings should forward on as a mail-in only election, the first federal election to be shifted to mail voting in response to coronavirus.

Maryland Senate Confirms Nominees to Overhauled University of Maryland Medical System Board After Self-Dealing Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/16/2020

The Maryland Senate voted to confirm nearly two dozen nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) board, which was overhauled last year after a self-dealing scandal rocked the hospital network and led to the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor. Senators voted unanimously to approve all new nominees to the board. But three Democratic senators voted against the five returning members, citing a report from state auditors that said the hospital network “hindered” a probe of the system’s finances. The Baltimore Sun reported on a new report from the auditors on UMMS finances, which uncovered more financial dealings between board members and their organizations than previously known. It revealed nearly $115 million in payments to more than two dozen board members and their related businesses in recent years.

Maryland States Are Banning Discrimination Against Black Hairstyles. For Some Lawmakers, It’s Personal.
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 3/12/2020

Maryland Del. Stephanie Smith said many of her friends have been told over the years they should style their hair differently if they want to advance professionally. It is one of the main reasons Smith introduced legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that expands the state’s discrimination law to protect hair texture, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles, such as braids, twists, and locs. “To require people to pretty much alter chemically or in some type of extreme way how their hair grows out of the head seems to me so beyond intrusive,” said Smith. A growing number of states and localities are taking steps to ban such discrimination, often led by young African American lawmakers like Smith.

Michigan ‘New Evidence’ to Retry Rep. Larry Inman for Attempted Extortion, Bribery, Prosecutors Say
MLive.com – John Agar | Published: 3/18/2020

Federal prosecutors say Michigan Rep. Larry Inman’s sworn testimony at trial has been contradicted by other lawmakers, including then-House Speaker Tom Leonard. Prosecutors want to retry Inman after a jury deadlocked on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe. Jurors acquitted him of lying to the FBI. Inman was accused of asking for campaign contributions in exchange for his vote on a 2018 repeal of a prevailing-wage law. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker in January suggested the line between seeking legitimate campaign funds and taking part in illegal activity may not be “bright and clear.”

Missouri Amid FBI Inquiry, Controversial Figures in Play for Another Huge City Power Project
Kansas City Star – Kevin Hardy, Steve Vockrodt, and Jason Hancock | Published: 3/15/2020

Two individuals involved in controversial energy projects in Independence that have drawn FBI scrutiny submitted a formal proposal to help repurpose a separate, soon-to-be shuttered city power plant. A collection of businesses led by Titan Fish Partners has a proposal with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars to repurpose the Blue Valley Municipal Power Generating Plant in Independence into a biofuels production facility. Numerous businesses and individuals are involved in the proposal, including Steve Tilley, a lobbyist and former Missouri House speaker who is ab adviser to Gov. Mike Parson. According to people who were interviewed by the FBI, Tilley has been a central figure in questions focused on a pair of questionable utility contracts in Independence and the rollout of Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

New Jersey Controversial N.J. Law to Unmask Secret Campaign Donors Is Officially Dead
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/11/2020

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti permanently halted a New Jersey law requiring increased political donor disclosure. Martinotti issued a permanent against the law that required political organizations and some nonprofits to disclose all spending over $3,000, up from $1,600. It also mandated that contributors giving more than $10,000 would be disclosed. Supporters said the law was designed to shed more light on the donors who give secret donations to groups that have an effect on state government. Critics said the law curbs free speech because it would keep people who do not want their names to become public from getting involved in politics.

New York Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 3/13/2020

A New York Supreme Court judge struck down recommendations made by the state’s Public Finance Commission and ruled it did not have the authority to create laws. The commission was tasked with formulating a new campaign finance system for state elections. It also recommended changes to ballot petition requirements and party qualification thresholds, claiming too many candidates of various parties on the ballot would bankrupt any new system and raising questions about how valid some of the state’s parties really are. The commission recommendations became law in December after the state Legislature took no action to amend or reject them.

New York Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson
New York Daily News – Michael Gartland | Published: 3/15/2020

The lobbying firm that once employed two top staffers for New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has successfully persuaded the council on several controversial land-use projects, raising hackles among good-government advocates. The Kasirer firm, the highest-earning lobbyist in the city for the past three years, has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Johnson since 2017, when its namesake president Suri Kasirer backed him for speaker. Jason Goldman and Genevieve Michel, two Kasirer alums, also now work for Johnson, with Goldman serving as his chief of staff and Michel as deputy chief of staff. John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said while it appears no rules are being broken, the relationship raises serious ethical concerns.

North Carolina ‘Tip of an Iceberg’: Evidence in NC bribery case hints at more intrigue
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/12/2020

Evidence in the bribery trial of North Carolina’s biggest political donor hints at a wider world of intrigue than even his $5.5 million in documented campaign contributions previously revealed. Recorded conversations, texts, and emails name-checked a who’s who of North Carolina elected officials as Greg Lindberg, who owns a slew of businesses, pressed for a lighter regulatory touch on his insurance companies. A jury convicted Lindberg and his political fixer, a John Gray. Jurors agreed with the FBI and prosecutors that the men offered state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey campaign donations if he would replace a key regulator in his department. Causey wore an FBI camera that took in not only evidence of the crime, but also offhand remarks that tease at a larger tale, leaving substantial questions unanswered.

Ohio Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Move to Close Primary Polls Due to Coronavirus Spawns Confusion, Criticism
Washington Post – Timothy Bella | Published: 3/17/2020

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to close the polls for the state’s primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic created confusion and drew criticism from voting advocates. The governor said Amy Acton, the state’s health director, ordered the polls to be closed. DeWine acted after a judge rejected his effort to have the polls closed, saying the governor’s push to reschedule the election would “set a terrible precedent.” The decision from DeWine has led to increased uncertainty for how the state will proceed. It is rare for a governor to delay an election. While some praised DeWine for putting safety ahead of an election, others online decried the governor’s order as voter suppression and “an absolute tragedy of democracy.”

Rhode Island ‘Fall Guy’ Says House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Asked Him to Sign False Affidavit
Boston Globe – Edward Fitzpatrick | Published: 3/14/2020

In newly filed court papers, political operative Jeffrey Britt says the chief of staff for Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello asked him to sign an affidavit about a controversial campaign mailer, but he refused to sign it because it was false. Britt is charged with money laundering and making a prohibited campaign contribution during Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign. He is accused of funneling money to Republican Shawna Lawton, so she could put out a mailer endorsing Mattiello, a Democrat, who ended up edging another Republican by 85 votes.

Tennessee Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Campaign Finance Fines Stay at $80K, Board Rejects Request
MSN – Scott Broden and Joel Ebert (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) | Published: 3/12/2020

Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron still faces a recent $10,000 campaign finance fine after the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Board rejected his reconsideration request. “I’ve got a serious, serious problem with any consideration on anything that he’s got,” said Tom Lawless, chairperson of the registry. It brings the total to eight unpaid $10,000 fines to Ketron for late filing of campaign finance reports. Lawless also questioned why Ketron kept his daughter as the treasurer of the campaign accounts until recently replacing her while she faced criminal charges of fraudulent insurance practices and theft of $65,000 from her father’s campaign accounts.

Washington DC Jack Evans Withdraws from D.C. Special Election Triggered by His Resignation
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/18/2020

Former District of Columbia Council member Jack Evans said he will not run in the special election to fill the vacancy he created by resigning before he could be expelled for ethics violations. Evans is still running in the June 2 Democratic primary to reclaim the Ward 2 seat for a permanent four-year term that starts in January. “I have decided it is best to not seek to run for the position which I resigned from in January and instead focus on a new start for the next four years,” Evans said. “Not running in the special is also a way of showing my sincere regret for the mistakes I made.”

Wisconsin Democrats Sue to Extend Wisconsin Primary Voting Deadlines
Courthouse News Service – Joe Kelly | Published: 3/18/2020

A lawsuit filed by Democrats in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., asks state election officials to extend absentee voting deadlines and suspend certain voter registration rules for the April 7 primary in light of widespread disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint brought by the Democratic National Committee and Wisconsin Democratic Party names the six commissioners of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission as defendants. The Democrats argue that forced confinement and social distancing implemented to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus will prevent people from voting, regardless of whether they are able or willing to leave their homes.

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March 17, 2020 •

Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post National: “Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’” by Jacqueline Thomson for […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Omar’s Marriage to Political Consultant Renews Scrutiny of Campaign Spending” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post

National: “Senior Judge Calls Out FEC for Changing Arguments ‘In Its Own Self-Interest’” by Jacqueline Thomson for Law.com

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Tests American Democracy as Planning Begins for ‘Worst Case’ in November Election” by Isaac Stanley-Baker and Amy Gardner for Washington Post

Georgia: “Georgia Delays Primary Election” by Zach Montellaro for Politico

Ethics

National: “Full Appeals Court to Hear McGahn, Border Wall Cases” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

Florida: “Andrew Gillum Entering Rehab to Treat Alcohol Abuse After Hotel Incident” by David Smiley and Steve Contorno for Tampa Bay Times

Lobbying

New York: “Top Lobbyist Suri Kasirer Enjoys Strong Ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson” by Michael Gartland for New York Daily News

Procurement

Missouri: “Amid FBI Inquiry, Controversial Figures in Play for Another Huge City Power Project” by Kevin Hardy, Steve Vockrodt, and Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

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March 13, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 13, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020 When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients […]

National/Federal

Biden Surge Brings Sense of Relief to K Street
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 3/11/2020

When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses by a commanding margin in February, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm sent out a memo to clients girding them for what a Sanders administration might look like. Less than three weeks later, the same firm is preparing clients for a much less worrying prospect: the likelihood that Joe Biden, a more conventional candidate, will win the Democratic nomination after he rocketed past Sanders with a string of big victories. “There’s an immense amount of relief – make no mistake,” said Democratic lobbyist Scott Eckert. But a Biden administration, if he were to secure the nomination and defeat President Trump in November, could pose its own problems for K Street.

Bloomberg Aides Cut Loose Despite Yearlong Employment Promise
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg | Published: 3/10/2020

Michael Bloomberg’s shuttered presidential campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and inviting them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee, despite extending guarantees of being paid through the November election when they were hired. The former New York mayor is now underwriting an outside effort to help Democrats defeat President Trump. The Bloomberg campaign has said it plans to remain active in six battleground states and could give priority to the aides still on payroll. But it is unclear how many positions the new independent expenditure will have. Federal rules require Bloomberg to designate a new vehicle to fund Democratic efforts and pay staffers.

Business Money Flows Through Gaps in Anti-Corporate PAC Pledge
Roll Call – Kate Ackley and George LeVines | Published: 3/11/2020

More than 50 sitting federal lawmakers have taken a pledge not to accept direct donations from the PACs of corporations. The pledge has led to growing concerns among corporate PAC leaders about what it means for their future. Yet a review of contribution records found the political money of business interests – to the tune of $2.6 million last year alone – continued to find a way to most of the lawmakers who have taken the pledge. Typically, that route is through the PACs of trade associations and professional organizations. Trade association and member organization PACs are not designated as corporate PACs under the FEC’s classification process and therefore do not violate the no-corporate-PAC pledge as crafted by advocacy groups promoting it.

Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck | Published: 3/9/2020

Presidential campaigns, parties, and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions. The virus suddenly brought every assumption about the unfolding of the 2020 race into question, even the viability of activities as core to campaigning as knocking on doors. It also intensified fears about election interference and disinformation.

Democrats Boost National Fundraising for State Legislatures
Roll Call – Jacob Fischler | Published: 3/11/2020

After nearly a decade of virtually ceding state legislative races to Republicans, the Democratic Party organization dedicated to winning those seats and other allied groups nationally are ramping up fundraising in a bid to win control of state chambers ahead of census-driven redistricting. But funding disadvantages in individual races show the headwinds that persist. Flipping chambers as the Democrats did in Virginia in 2019 is about flipping individual seats. And the boost in funding to outside groups has not trickled down to individual Democratic candidates in key states.

Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 3/10/2020

House Democrats scored a legal victory as a federal appeals court panel granted them permission to access grand jury secrets from Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The ruling from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the House’s ability to see the deleted passages in the public version of the Mueller report, the tome that describes the two-year investigation into potential links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report also examines Trump’s attempts to stymie the Russia probe. If it stands, the ruling would give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and entire pages – nearly 1,000 portions in all – as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s review.

Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups
MSN – Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/7/2020

Erik Prince, a security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, and other groups. Two operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has used hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Trump’s agenda.

Facebook Decides to Take Down Trump 2020 Campaign’s ‘Census’ Ads
Reuters – Elizabeth Culliford and Mark Brown | Published: 3/5/2020

Facebook removed ads by President Trump’s re-election campaign that asked users to fill out an “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” because the ads violate the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census. The ads, which come from the pages of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, link to a survey on an official campaign website and then to a page asking for donations. “We need Patriotic Americans like YOU to respond to this census, so we can develop a winning strategy for YOUR STATE,” the ad read. The online newsletter Popular Information, which first reported on the ads, said Facebook had originally said they did not violate its policy.

GOP Rep. Steve Watkins’ Woes Mount with FEC Probe into His Father
Politico – Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan | Published: 3/6/2020

The FEC is investigating potentially improper straw donations to U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ 2018 campaign that were paid for by his father, the latest political headache for the embattled Republican. At the heart of the FEC probe is whether Watkins’ father made illegal contributions to boost Watkin’s congressional bid. Steve Watkins Sr. confirmed the FEC is investigating him for giving thousands of dollars to his daughters, a home-building contractor, and the contractor’s wife, which they then used to max out to Watkins’ campaign. Those types of contributions violate campaign finance laws. The elder Watkins, who also dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a super PAC to support his son’s election, insisted he did not know what he was doing was illegal.

House Democrats Request Appeal Asking Court to Enforce Subpoena for Former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn
Seattle Times – Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 3/6/2020

House Democrats asked a federal appeals court to reconsider enforcing a congressional subpoena for President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn. The request comes after a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the courts have no authority to resolve the separation-of-powers dispute between the White House and Democrats in Congress. Lawyers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want a full complement of judges on the appeals court to overturn the ruling from a three-judge panel of the same court. If the ruling stands, it means the president’s former White House counsel can defy the subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. Even if the full appeals court agrees to take a second look, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP
MSN – Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) | Published: 3/9/2020

President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fundraising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure. Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee (RNC), the operatives have consolidated power – and made money – in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the RNC, and a range of other Republican clients.

Intelligence Officials Temper Russia Warnings, Prompting Accusations of Political Influence
New York Times – Julian Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Adam Goldman | Published: 3/10/2020

Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence. President Trump attacked the briefings earlier in the day, accusing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, of dwelling too much on Russian election interference. Two intelligence officials pushed back on any suggestion the officials were politicizing their assessments. They said career professionals had made the conclusions about Russia and they represented the current view of various intelligence agencies.

Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States
AP News – Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman | Published: 3/11/2020

Joe Biden decisively won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory there, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, dealt a serious blow to Sanders and substantially widened Biden’s path to the nomination. Biden again showed strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination. Sanders’ narrow hopes for good news rested on North Dakota and Washington state. Washington’s primary was too early to call, and because all votes there are cast by mail or by dropping them off in a ballot box, many ballots were marked for candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 3/9/2020

A federal appeals court is wrestling with the powers of House investigators to get accurate information when pursuing ethics investigations into members of Congress and their staff. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments stemming from the prosecution of David Bowser, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, on charges of misleading investigators about the hiring of a House-paid employee to do political work for Broun. The appeals judges who took up Bowser’s case offered some glimmers of hope for his defense, but it sounded unlikely he would see a ruling that wipes out all the guilty verdicts against him. Judge Robert Wilkins expressed concern that the court not be seen as criminalizing the widespread practice of congressional staffers moonlighting for campaigns.

Juul Labs Sought to Court AGs as Teen Vaping Surged
AP News – Matthew Perrone and Richard Lardner | Published: 3/9/2020

The nation’s largest electronic-cigarette company, Juul Labs, has met with state attorneys general from around the country and donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns, part of an effort to build relationships with these powerful officials and potentially head off legal challenges over how Juul promoted and sold its vaping products. The company also donated $50,000 each to the Republican and Democratic fundraising committees that support the election of attorneys general candidates. Those donations won Juul corporate membership in both groups, a status that came with invitations to semiannual retreats and conferences attended by attorneys general and their staff. These events provide opportunities for companies to lobby state officials.

Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.
MSN – Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) | Published: 3/9/2020

Days after U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore an enormous gas mask during a floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, he announced he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel virus. He said he will close his Washington office while he is in quarantine. Gaetz said he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested and expects results soon. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Douglas Collins, who attended the same conference, also announced they would self-quarantine.

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal More Secret Service Payments to Trump Properties
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2020

The U.S. Secret Service was billed $157,000 more than was previously known by President Trump’s clubs and properties for nightly room rentals in the last three years, documents show. In total, the agency – and by extension, taxpayers – has been billed at least $628,000 by the properties since Trump took office in 2017. The payments show Trump has an unprecedented, and still partially hidden, business relationship with his own government. The Secret Service accompanies the president and family members wherever they go, and while on protective duty its agents are exempt from federal limits on hotel room spending. But there appears to be no requirement that presidents must charge the Secret Service. In fact, most recent presidents and vice presidents have allowed the Secret Service to use space on their properties free.

Tens of Thousands of Political Ads on Facebook Lacked Key Details About Who Paid for Them, New Report Finds
Washington Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 3/6/2020

Experts at New York University performed a security audit of Facebook’s online ad archive between May 2018 and June 2019. Their conclusions, spelled out in a new paper, point to myriad opportunities malicious actors may have had to exploit the platform’s powerful targeting tools while hiding their tracks, misleading users and evading Facebook’s enforcement. In the years after Russian agents weaponized the social-networking platform as part of their efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election, Facebook developed verification measures designed to prevent foreign actors from purchasing political ads. It also undertook transparency initiatives that placed paid posts in a public archive. But researchers found a series of defects that still could “enable a malicious advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their political ads,” as they wrote.

Trump FEC Pick Offers Mixed Messages on Donor Disclosure
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 3/10/2020

Trey Trainor, President Trump’s Republican nominee to the FEC, tried to quell concerns from Democrats and some good government groups that he would avoid enforcing campaign finance law if confirmed. During his nomination hearing, Trainor said he believes political donors should be disclosed despite his past support for secret election spending. He defended a “dark money” group from state regulators and previously invoked the Federalist Papers to defend undisclosed political spending. Trainor followed that statement by indicating he would abide by the FEC’s current system of tackling undisclosed election spending.

Watchdog Group Says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Hong Kong Lobbying Broke the Law
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 3/6/2020

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen broke the law when she signed on as a consultant for the Hong Kong government during her one-year lobbying ban after she left office. In April 2019, Ros-Lehtinen was named a “team leader” for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as part of her work with Akin Gump, according to a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ros-Lehtinen retired from Congress in January 2019 and was barred from lobbying Congress for one year. The one-year lobbying ban also includes a blanket ban on any work for a foreign government for at least a year.

From the States and Municipalities

California Ex-L.A. Councilman Englander Charged with Obstruction in Probe Alleging Lavish Spending and Escorts
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 3/9/2020

Former Los Angeles City Council member Mitchell Englander was charged with obstructing an investigation into him accepting cash, escort services, hotel rooms, and meals from a businessperson. Englander is the first City Hall figure to be publicly charged in connection with a probe that has delved into the worlds of politics and real estate development. In 2017, Englander and one of his top aides went to a Las Vegas resort and casino with the businessperson. At the resort, Englander took an envelope containing $10,000 in cash from the businessperson in a bathroom, according to the charges. The indictment also details meetings Englander had with the businessperson in Palm Springs. Englander allegedly accepted an envelope with $5,000 in cash from the businessperson during a brief encounter in a casino bathroom while the men attended a golf tournament.

California Glendale Officials Now Must Disclose Familial, Business Relationships to Those Seeking the City’s Ear
Los Angeles Times – Lila Seidman | Published: 3/10/2020

Glendale adopted a lobbyist and disclosure ordinance that imposes rules on how city officials and individuals attempting to influence them can interact, with the intent of bringing more transparency to City Hall. Lobbyists will now have to identify themselves, who they are working for, and how much they are being paid or risk being slapped with fines or a misdemeanor charge. Each year, lobbyists – whether they are individuals or firms – will now need to register with the city.

Connecticut Lawmakers Question Funding Behind Anti-Vaccine Groups Who Swarmed State Capitol
Hartford Courant – Christopher Keating | Published: 3/5/2020

Democratic senators in Connecticut said three groups that are working against a bill to end the state’s religious exemption to vaccines for schoolchildren “have active social media presences, have purchased billboard advertising, created professional websites, and have distributed paraphernalia such as stickers and posters at legislative hearings,” appearing to exceed the $3,000 threshold that requires such groups to register as lobbying organizations with the Office of State Ethics. The senators said the groups are also soliciting online donations.

Florida Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation into Nonprofit That Enriched CEO
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 3/11/2020

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, adding the prospect of criminal charges to the government actions mounting against former Chief Executive Officer Tiffany Carr and the agency’s board of directors, accused of misusing millions in taxpayer dollars. The investigation is the latest response to revelations that members of the board allowed Carr to be paid $7.5 million in executive compensation over three years. Florida lawmakers have passed a bill to end the state contract with the coalition, which had been the clearinghouse for $52 million in annual state and federal funding for 42 domestic violence shelters.

Florida Leon County Commission Gives Green Light to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 3/10/2020

The Leon County Commissioners moved forward changes to the lobbying ordinance that would clear up ambiguity on who is required to register and streamline enforcement efforts. The proposed language, which will go before a public hearing, comes after recent reporting that highlighted the blurry lines at the intersection of lobbying, private business, political campaigns, and public policy. No lobbyist has ever been cited for a violation in the county, said outgoing County Attorney Herb Thiele, who added that any instances that could have resulted in a fine were handled by instead reminding lobbyists to register. But he described the process, if a lobbyist were to be cited, as “cumbersome.”

Florida Lobbyist Sought City Benefits for Westside Property He Owned with Ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 3/6/2020

Local lobbyist Deno Hicks sought financial incentives from Jacksonville City Hall for a city property he co-owns with JEA’s now-fired chief executive officer Aaron Zahn and that he is now trying to sell to a company affiliated with Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida’s former lieutenant governor. Zahn’s business partnership with Hicks came under scrutiny in his final days at JEA – a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility – which had hired Hicks’ former lobbying firm during Zahn’s tenure. Zahn did not disclose his ownership stake in the land to JEA’s ethics department. City attorneys who investigated Zahn concluded he failed to disclose business and personal conflicts-of-interest, which was one of two dozen instances of misconduct the board of directors used as evidence to fire Zahn earlier this year.

Louisiana In Louisiana, Casinos Bet on Political Donations Not Banned by Campaign Finance Law
Houston Public Media – Patrick Madden (WWNO) | Published: 3/5/2020

In Louisiana, casinos are prohibited from making campaign contributions to state politicians or campaigns. But casinos can donate money to federal groups such as the Democratic and Republican governors associations. These outside groups can spend freely on state races.  This money can be hard to trace because governors. associations don not disclose their donors until months after an election. Many other states have similar “pay-to-play” laws that prohibit specific special interests from making campaign contributions. But with outside groups free to raise and spend unlimited money without the same restrictions, watchdog groups worry these state-level “pay-to-play” laws could lose their effectiveness.

Maine CMP Project Backers Urge Lawmakers to Defeat Bill Barring Foreign Influence in Maine Elections
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 3/11/2020

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar foreign nationals and certain foreign corporations from spending to influence ballot campaigns. It is designed to close a loophole in the election law, but it could also have an immediate impact on Hydro-Quebec, the electricity supplier for a controversial $1 billion transmission line through western Maine. Hydro-Quebec formed a ballot question committee to support the project, and it has since been buying print and digital ads, touting its purported environmental benefits to Maine. But the Canadian utility’s involvement immediately raised questions about foreign influence in a Maine election and highlights an election law loophole that allows foreign nationals and companies controlled by foreign governments to spend on state ballot initiatives.

Maryland Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker
AP News – Regina Garcia Cano | Published: 3/9/2020

A Baltimore businessperson Lance Lucas pleaded to federal charges stemming from bribes totaling $42,500 he paid to former state Del. Cheryl Diane Glenn while she was still in office. Glenn pleaded guilty to accepting more than $33,000 in bribes from people other than Lucas. Lucas made 11 payments to Glenn, starting with four money orders, each for $500, in May 2018 after he told her about the significant costs that an unnamed company had incurred in its pursuit of a medical marijuana dispensary license. During a lunch meeting, Glenn suggested she would have drafted a bill benefiting the company had he paid her the money spent in the effort to get the license, according to the charging document.

Maryland Maryland House of Delegates Passes Campaign Finance Reform Package
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/12/2020

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation. One bill would help the State Board of Elections investigate suspicious campaign donations by requiring the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to forward a list of businesses that have forfeited their registrations to the elections board. Another bill prohibits a candidate’s family member or employee of the candidate from serving as the campaign’s treasurer. The four bills now move to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts
Baltimore Sun – Lance Lucas | Published: 3/9/2020

A bill that would allow labor unions to set the terms for how employees are hired on city construction projects has run into early opposition from Baltimore’s minority and nonunion contractors. Speaking in front of City Hall, representatives of several construction firms said the proposed legislation would be a burden on the city’s nonunion shops, many of which are minority-owned and employ people rejected by union groups like those with criminal records. The proposed bill would require project labor agreements, a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement between a contractor and a labor organization that establishes a labor group to represent everyone who works on the project. It would apply to all city construction projects valued at $25 million or more, or long-term capital improvement plans of more than $15 million that involve projects at multiple locations.

Missouri Businessman Involved in St. Louis County Scheme Sentenced
AP News – Jim Salter | Published: 3/5/2020

A businessperson who admitted to providing bribes as part of a “pay-to-play” scandal that led to the downfall of St. Louis County’s former top elected official was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. John Rallo pleaded guilty to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. He is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison. Two others also pleaded guilty to federal crimes as part of the scheme.

Missouri Kansas City Mayor Is Turned Away from Polls, Told He ‘Wasn’t in the System’
Kansas City Star – Allison Kite, Robert Cronkelton, and Glenn Rice | Published: 3/10/2020

Moments after making a plea for people to get out and vote in the Missouri primary on March 10, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said as turned away from the polls and told he “wasn’t in the system.” Lucas tried to cast his vote at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, where he said he has voted since 2009. Election officials later blamed the incident on a mistake by a poll worker, and Lucas returned later in the day and voted. But the mayor said the incident pointed to a larger problem in how elections are run.

New York Cuomo Resurfaces Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Plan
City and State – Kay Dervishi | Published: 3/5/2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again trying to require nonprofits and political advocacy organizations to publicly disclose their donors, after a similar law he spearheaded was struck down in October. But representatives from nonprofits fear the proposal would quash charitable giving and violate free speech protections. Nonprofits already disclose their major donors on tax forms to both the IRS and state attorney general’s office, but that information is currently kept confidential. This proposal in the state budget would require the state to list the donors online who give more than $5,000.

North Carolina Durham Businessman Found Guilty of Bribing NC Official
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 3/5/2020

A federal jury convicted businessperson Greg Lindberg on public corruption and bribery charges in a scheme to influence North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg offered Causey up to $2 million more to ease regulations on Lindberg’s insurance companies. The jury also found John Gray, a Lindberg consultant, guilty of helping set up the deal. Causey recorded those conversations for the FBI. Former North Carolina Republican Party Chairperson Robin Hayes had already pleaded guilty in this case, admitting he lied to federal investigators about the deal, which included money flowing through the state party but ultimately bound for Causey’s campaign coffers.

Vermont House Panel Seeks to Weaken Corporate Campaign Contribution Bill
Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 3/10/2020

Campaign finance reformers have spent years seeking to limit the flow of corporate money into Vermont elections. Now a bill that would do just that is being watered down by a House committee. Senate Bill 47 was originally drafted to prohibit corporations from making direct donations to Vermont candidates and political parties. It passed the Senate last March but has languished in the House thereafter. The House Committee on Government Operations is now poised to approve the bill with one major change: it would continue to allow political parties to accept corporate contributions.

Virginia PR Consultants Linked to Social Media Campaign Opposing Northern Va. Slots Won’t Say Who’s Behind It
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 3/11/2020

Someone has been running a social media campaign built to look like grassroots opposition to slot machines in Northern Virginia. In almost $50,000 worth of Facebook ads, a group called Not in Nova has warned that “out-of-state Big Gambling special interests and their lobbyists” were sneaking a bill through the General Assembly that would make the area more crowded and expensive. But none of the group’s public materials connect back to any identifiable citizen activists working against a proposal to allow Colonial Downs to operate hundreds of slots-like historical horse racing machines in Dumfries. The secretive nature of the advocacy campaign and the fingerprints of the public relations firms that seem to be carrying it out have fueled questions on social media and around the Capitol about who is actually behind it.

Washington Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Gene Johnson | Published: 3/9/2020

Businessperson Ken Greene and attorney Jerry Moberg agreed to pay $250,000 in fines and legal expenses after a judge found they violated Washington’s campaign finance law, but the defendants insist the case is a serious overreach by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder ruled Greene and Moberg unlawfully concealed they were responsible for spending $3,900 on political fliers mailed to voters during the 2014 campaign for Grant County prosecutor. Moberg was assessed the bulk of the settlement: $230,000. That includes $115,000 in fines and $115,000 for legal costs incurred by the state. “Intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Ferguson said.

Washington DC Jack Evans Probably Qualifies for Public Campaign Money in Comeback Bid, Records Show
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 3/11/2020

Jack Evans appears to qualify for public campaign funds in his bid to reclaim the District of Columbia Council seat he gave up amid an ethics scandal. The city’s new public financing program allows ward council candidates to receive taxpayer dollars if they collect at least $5,000 in small campaign contributions from 150 residents. Evans’ filing showed he raised nearly $10,000 from more than 200 residents. If regulators verify that he met the requirements to qualify for public financing and this summer’s election ballots, Evans would receive $40,000 in grants and up to $50,000 in matching donations. Public financing for Evans would mark a dramatic shift for the former council member, who has relied on raising money from developers, businesses, and moneyed interests over three decades.

West Virginia Ethics Panel Clears Justice’s Flights to, from Lewisburg
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler | Published: 3/6/2020

Gov. Jim Justice may fly in the state plane from his home in Lewisburg to destinations other than Charleston to participate in official state business, and while in those locations, may take part in campaign activities before making the return flight home, the West Virginia Ethics Commission determined. In an advisory opinion, the commission said Justice has to meet several criteria to assure his travel does not violate the Ethics Act’s prohibition against using public office for private gain. The commission stressed it was not addressing a current legal challenge before the state Supreme Court contending that, by living in Lewisburg, Justice is violating a requirement in the state constitution that the governor reside at the seat of state government.

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March 11, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Washington: “Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case” by Gene Johnson for AP News Elections National: “Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck for Washington […]

Campaign Finance

Washington: “Grant County Pair to Pay $250,000 in Campaign Finance Case” by Gene Johnson for AP News

Elections

National: “Coronavirus Threatens to Pose an Unprecedented Challenge to the 2020 Elections” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck for Washington Post

National: “How The Trump Campaign Took Over The GOP” by Danny Hakim and Glen Thrush (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Joe Biden Has Another Big Primary Night, Wins 4 More States” by Will Weissert and Laurie Kellman for AP News

Ethics

National: “Judges Wrestle with Power of House Ethics Office” by Josh Gerstein for Politico

National: “Matt Gaetz Made Light of Coronavirus by Wearing a Gas Mask. Now He Is in Quarantine.” by Kim Belllware and Donna Cassata (Washington Post) for MSN

National: “Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence, Judges Rule” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico

Maryland: “Baltimore Businessman Admits to Bribing Former Lawmaker” by Regina Garcia Cano for AP News

Procurement

Maryland: “Minority Contractors Protest Baltimore City Council Bill That Would Require Union Agreements for Major Contracts” by Lance Lucas for Baltimore Sun

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March 6, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 6, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020 A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on […]

National/Federal

Biden Claims 9 Super Tuesday Victories, Including Texas
AP News – Steve Peoples and Will Weissert | Published: 3/4/2020

A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier. But his rival Bernie Sanders seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half-dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.

Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden
AP News – Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 3/4/2020

Michael Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a surprising collapse for the former New York City mayor, who pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign. Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere.

Cashing in On Justice
Roll Call – Joshua Eaton, Ilana Marcus, and Ed Timms | Published: 3/3/2020

Before they put on their robes, dozens of federal judges appointed during the Trump and Obama administrations made significant campaign contributions to Senate Judiciary Committee members and their home-state senators, the very people who could make or break their nominations. Three Republican senators – Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed. Home-state senators who have not served on the panel also wield considerable influence on who becomes a federal judge. They have received significant contributions from donors who ended up on the bench.

Inspector General to Probe Whether VA Chief Robert Wilkie Tried to Discredit Woman Who Reported Sex Assault
Fayetteville Observer – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/28/2020

The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington, D.C. hospital. Inspector General Michael Missal, after a preliminary review of Wilkie’s conduct following the woman’s report last fall, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he has decided to move forward with a full-blown inquiry. Wilkie, who previously ran the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness operation, has denied making inquiries about the woman, Andrea Goldstein.

Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully to Top Immigration Post
National Public Radio – James Doubek | Published: 3/1/2020

A federal judge ruled Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to a top immigration position in the Trump administration was unlawful, saying several directives issued by Cuccinelli to tighten asylum rules must now be “set aside.” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said the administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when it tapped Cuccinelli in June 2019 to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees legal immigration into the country. The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and the former attorney general of Virginia, that introduced new restrictions on the asylum process.

Klobuchar Is Ending Her Presidential Bid, Will Endorse Biden
AP News – Sara Burnett | Published: 3/2/2020

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president’s White House bid. Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she could not turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests. Klobuchar could not match her top competitors in fundraising. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant she was not able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals.

Pete Buttigieg Is Ending His Presidential Bid
MSN – Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/1/2020

Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who rose from virtual unknown to top-tier Democratic contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized in South Carolina, where he finished fourth in the primary. Buttigieg’s departure may help add some clarity to a Democratic presidential field that at one point included more than two dozen candidates but has dwindled to just a handful.

Rep. Matt Gaetz Wore Gas Mask While House Voted on Coronavirus Response Bill
USA Today – Savannah Behrmann | Published: 3/4/2020

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the House floor while the chamber voted on a coronavirus funding bill. It was not clear whether Gaetz was wearing the gas mask to troll those panicking over the outbreak, as multiple health organizations have repeatedly stated not to wear face masks. But Gaetz, one of President Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, reportedly told journalists that he believes “members of Congress are human petri dishes.”

Sanders’s Rise Unnerves K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/28/2020

The rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary is unnerving K Street lobbyists and their clients. The self-described democratic socialist, who has touted an ambitious agenda to rein in special interests and corporations, has been gaining in the polls and is the Democratic frontrunner after wins in two primary states. While there is a long road ahead in the 2020 election, the senator’s new status is provoking sharp reactions on K Street, where lobbyists say clients are already asking about the fallout of a Sanders nomination, and maybe even presidency. Sanders has vowed to shake up how the influence world does business, with proposals to ban donations from federal lobbyists and corporations and to prohibit the corporate funding of party conventions.

Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 3/4/2020

Senate Republicans are set to advance a Republican nominee to the FEC, which would restore a working quorum to the agency but break with a tradition of confirming nominees in bipartisan pairs. The Rules and Administration Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing March 10 on President Trump’s nomination of James Trainor, an election lawyer from Austin, Texas, who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign. If the committee approves him, Trainor could be confirmed by a simple majority vote in the Senate. Senate Democrats have recommended Shana Broussard, an FEC staff attorney, for a Democratic commission vacancy, but Trump has not nominated her.

Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements
Government Executive – Courtney Buble | Published: 3/4/2020

President Trump signed into law a bill to clarify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) responsibilities during changes in presidential administrations as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before elections. The GSA, presidential transition teams, and federal agencies will now have new obligations in the lead-up to Election Day and during the ensuing change in administrations. The law requires presidential candidates to create and release an ethics plan for their transition team prior to the election. The plans must indicate if there are any current or former lobbyists on the teams, disclose conflicts-of-interest for the candidate and team members, and include a code of ethics that all members must sign.

Trump Wins Bid to Block McGahn Testimony Sought by House Democrats
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 2/29/2020

A divided three-judge panel handed President Trump a victory by dismissing a congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the dispute between the executive and legislative branches. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives. The panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena to McGahn was lawful. In that ruling, Jackson declared “no one is above the law.”

Union Lobbying Question Confounds at 1st Circuit
Courthouse News Service – Thomas Harrison | Published: 3/4/2020

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared conflicted as to whether private-sector unions can ever force members to subsidize lobbying. Appearing skeptical of the National Labor Relations Board’s holding that lobbying is not germane to a union’s legal duty to represent workers, Judge Bruce Selya emphasized in oral arguments that “lobbying activity is not monolithic.” But when the court then tried to come up with a rule as to what specific types of lobbying were germane, it struggled.

Warren Ends 2020 Presidential Bid after Super Tuesday Rout
AP News – Will Weissert | Published: 3/5/2020

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner could not win a single Super Tuesday state, not even Massachusetts.  For much of the past year, Warren’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising, and a political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance. Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday.

Canada

Canada Senate Votes to Suspend Lynn Beyak Again Despite Her Apology for Posting Offensive Letters on Website
Edmonton Journal – Canadian Press | Published: 2/27/2020

The Senate has voted to suspend Lynn Beyak a second time over derogatory letters about Indigenous Peoples posted on her website. Senators approved a report from the upper house’s ethics committee, which recommended Beyak be suspended without pay for the duration of the current parliamentary session. Beyak, a senator from Ontario appointed in 2013, was kicked out of the Conservative caucus and eventually suspended without pay last May after refusing to remove the offensive letters from her website. She apologized recently, after which some of her Conservative colleagues tried unsuccessfully to refer the matter back to the ethics committee. But Independent senators took the position that Beyak needed to be suspended again while undergoing anti-racism training and that the matter could be revisited after that.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Alaska House’s Minority Republicans Put Controversial Wasilla Representative on Probation
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 3/4/2020

The Republican minority in the Alaska House will temporarily remove Rep. David Eastman from legislative committees for disrupting the work of fellow members and delaying legislative action in order to draw public attention. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the action is a one-month “pause” that is a step short of ejecting Eastman from the caucus. While Eastman has a reputation as an iconoclast willing to challenge established norms, members of the GOP said two recent actions stood out and prompted the action.

Arizona Agriculture Industry Lobbyist Out of Job Amid Ethics Investigation into Arizona Lawmaker
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 3/5/2020

An agricultural trade association said it no longer employs a lobbyist at the center of an ethics investigation into alleged conflicts-of-interest at the Arizona Legislature. The House is looking into two complaints regarding state Rep. David Cook. The first involves an allegation he carried on a romantic relationship with the lobbyist, AnnaMarie Knorr. Another complaint alleges Cook intervened to stop the local sheriff from seizing property from her family’s farming business to pay for back taxes. Knorr worked for the Western Growers Association. When intimate letters from Cook to Knorr emerged in January, the group said it had placed her on administrative leave and was probing allegations of professional misconduct. The association recently said Knorr is no longer its lobbyist.

Arizona Lobbyists Navigate Lawmakers’ Bad Behavior, Professional Relationships
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway and Andrew Nicla | Published: 2/28/2020

At the Arizona Capitol, where relationships are everything and the caprice of a single lawmaker can derail months of policy work, lobbyists must balance representing clients and fighting for policy positions with the costs of not calling out bad behavior. And as women at the Capitol and across the country grow more empowered to speak out about behavior that would have been ignored in years past, some male lawmakers have responded by doubling down on a boys’ club mentality, granting greater access to male lobbyists than their female counterparts out of a stated wish to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. In some instances, lobbyist Tory Roberg said, lobbying for issues she cares about means putting up with a lot in the hopes that it will someday get a bill across the finish line.

Arkansas Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Linda Satter | Published: 3/4/2020

In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election, in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Moody then agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered the appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction in January, leading the plaintiffs’ attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. Moody lifted the stay on March 3, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.

California Legislators’ Charity Use Has Prompted Calls for Reform – But Not from the Assembly Speaker
CalMatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/2/2020

As CalMatters reported in its series of articles, nonprofits created by individual California lawmakers or special caucuses of lawmakers are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said these affiliated nonprofits “can provide valuable resources” and he has no problem with them “if people are going about their activities ethically and with full transparency.” But even as he called for transparency, Rendon did not endorse changing any laws or rules of the Assembly, nor did he call on his members to change their conduct.

California Sacramento Mayor Steinberg Recruiting Ownership Group in Effort to Buy Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Lillis | Published: 3/4/2020

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is working to form a local ownership group that could purchase The Sacramento Bee, separating the 163-year-old publication from its parent company and more than two-dozen sister newspapers across the U.S. The Bee’s current owner, McClatchy Co., is moving through Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debt. If the restructuring plan is approved by a judge, the likely owner of The Bee and 29 other publications would be Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund. “Are we better off in any way if we lose one of the most important voices for independent journalism? The answer is obviously no, and so it’s my job to rally and to organize and to help bring forward some real ideas that might … save the day,” Steinberg said.

California SF Corruption Investigation Yields 14 New Subpoenas Served as Nuru Probe Widens
San Francisco Chronicle – Dominick Fracassa | Published: 2/27/2020

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a flurry of subpoenas in a widening public corruption investigation started after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s recent arrest on fraud charges. Herrera’s office issued 14 subpoenas to firms with ties to either Walter Wong, a San Francisco building permit consultant, or Zhang Li, a billionaire real estate developer from China. FBI agents raided Wong’s offices on the same day that Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested. Federal officials have alleged Nuru accepted a trip to China and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of wine, from a billionaire Chinese developer in exchange for help with a development deal. The San Francisco Chronicle has previously reported Zhang was the billionaire developer referenced anonymously in the federal complaint against Nuru and Bovis.

Florida Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross | Published: 3/4/2020

The Department of Children and Families filed a lawsuit against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) as ongoing investigations reveal millions of dollars were funneled into bonuses for the nonprofit’s staff. Since 2003, the coalition has managed about $52 million annually as the single state clearinghouse for 42 domestic violence centers. The suit accuses the FCADV of misrepresenting how state and federal funds were used to pay its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years. The investigations show a small group of members of the coalition’s board, as appointed by Carr, operated as the compensation committee and allowed Carr to claim she had a brain tumor while she padded her compensation and produced no evidence of a medical condition.

Florida Florida’s CFO Called Lobbyist Before Suspending State Banking Regulator, Records Show
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 2/28/2020

Records show Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made multiple phone calls to a Tallahassee lobbyist on the day he illegally released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint, raising fresh questions about last year’s ouster of the state’s banking regulator. Patronis faces a criminal investigation by the Leon County State Attorney’s Office for disclosing the sexual harassment complaint against the regulator, Ronald Rubin. An ethics complaint has also been filed against Patronis for disclosing another complaint. Rubin sued Patronis last year, accusing him and lobbyist Paul Mitchell, who represents financial companies that work with Patronis’ office, of fabricating the woman’s complaint against him. Phone records show Mitchell and Patronis were in close contact before the complaint against Rubin was made public.

Florida Former Tallahassee Ethics Officer Julie Meadows-Keefe Lands Job with Firm Handling Her Lawsuit Against City
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/2/2020

Tallahassee’s former independent ethics officer, who exited her post amid acrimony, has been hired by the same firm representing her in her lawsuit against City Hall. Meadows-Keefe, who served more than five years as the city’s first ethics officer, recently announced on social media she has accepted a position as an attorney with the Mattox Law Firm. Last year, Meadows-Keefe said she would step down following controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed official. She later sued the city, saying she was forced out, and the Ethics Board, which she said did nothing to stop it.

Florida Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 3/4/2020

North Miami’s parks and recreation director was not disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team. But now, after the details were exposed at a city council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave. Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.

Illinois 3 Illinois Racing Board Members Forced Out Over Campaign Contributions They Made in Violation of 2019 Gaming Law
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 2/28/2020

Three members of the state board that oversees the Illinois horse racing industry were forced out after making campaign contributions that are prohibited under the major gambling expansion legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last summer. Illinois Racing Board Chairperson Jeffrey Brincat and commissioners Greg Sronce and Edgar Ramirez resigned at the governor’s request. The resignations come after the previous chair of the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the casino and video gambling industries, resigned over political contributions. Gaming board members have long been prohibited from engaging in political activity.

Illinois Joe Berrios Must Pay $168,000 in Fines after Cook County Judge Dismisses His Complaint Against Ethics Board
Chicago Tribune – Gregory Pratt | Published: 2/27/2020

Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and his political committees must pay $168,000 in fines after a judge dismissed his complaints challenging the county Ethics Board’s findings and ability to sanction him. The board previously fined Berrios, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Cook County Assessor, and his 31st Ward Democratic Organization for accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits. At the center of the ethics board’s rulings was a 2016 county ordinance stating that donors who seek “official action” with the county may contribute no more than $750 in nonelection years. Attorneys for Berrios sought to overturn the rulings, arguing the county limits are unconstitutional and higher limits set by state law should apply, among other objections.

Iowa State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding
Cedar Rapids Gazette – Erin Jordan | Published: 2/28/2020

In signing a $50 million contract for a new cloud-based computer system, Iowa sidestepped traditional competitive bidding procedures and chose Workday, a company with little state government experience whose lobbyist is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ former chief of staff. What concerns some lawmakers is the way the state chose Workday. Instead of seeking proposals from multiple companies to see which best met Iowa’s needs and was most affordable, state officials chose a generic contract that Workday had signed in 2015 with a for-profit procurement organization in Texas. A company spokesperson said Jake Ketzner, Reynolds’ chief of staff for more than a year, had no role in Workday’s contracts, but there have been further questions.

Maryland ‘Any Means Necessary to Win’: How prosecutors say Pugh used ‘Healthy Holly’ scam in 2016 Baltimore mayor’s race
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 2/28/2020

As federal prosecutors laid out what they described as a “shocking” corruption case against former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, they ticked off a list of victims: buyers who paid for her self-published children’s books that were never printed; schoolchildren who never received copies; and the federal government, which Pugh shorted of thousands of tax dollars. But there was another victim in the background: the voters of Baltimore. That is because the “Healthy Holly scam,” as prosecutors called it, was not just a years-long self-enrichment scheme. It also was a way for Pugh to try to illegally influence an election and achieve her dream of becoming mayor, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Michigan Detroit Official Wooed Investment Dollars from Billionaire – Now He’s Going to Work for Him
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen | Published: 3/4/2020

Ryan Friedrichs, Detroit’s chief development officer who is tied to an ongoing criminal investigation into deleted government emails, is quitting his city job. Friedrichs will work for real estate mogul Stephen Ross in development of a new innovation center on the site of the aborted Wayne County jail project. Friedrichs is a central figure in the ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office concerning deleted city emails related to conflict-of-interest and preferential treatment allegations against Mayor Mike Duggan. Friedrichs was one of two officials identified who carried out orders from Duggan’s chief of staff to delete the emails, which were later recovered. Friedrichs said that his decision to leave his city job was unrelated to the controversy involving the deleted emails.

New Hampshire Proposal Advances to Strengthen N.H. Legislature’s Conflict of Interest Rules
New Hampshire Public Radio – Josh Rogers | Published: 3/4/2020

A committee in the New Hampshire House approved a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill’s outcome. The legislation spells out that lawmakers should recuse themselves when they or a member of their household have anything more at stake in the bill’s outcome than a member of the general public would. In November, the Legislative Ethics Committee found House Majority Leader Doug Ley violated ethics guidelines because of his involvement in legislation that affected the teachers union that employs him.

New York Ethics Commissioner: Cuomo leak probe was a ‘sham’
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 3/1/2020

A longtime member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said the state inspector general’s investigation last year into the alleged unlawful disclosure of confidential information to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a “sham” that led him to refuse to sign a sworn statement affirming he was not responsible for the leak. Commissioner Gary Levine confirmed his decision to decline to sign the affidavit after The Albany Times Union, following a months-long Freedom of Information struggle with the inspector general’s office, was provided copies of the affidavits that had been signed by other commissioners and employees of JCOPE, affirming they were not responsible for the leak. The inspector general’s office had previously declined to identify any individuals who had declined to sign the affirmations.

New York Ethics Office Lacks Some LIPA Lobbying Records
Huntington Now – Donna Deedy | Published: 3/4/2020

Taxpayers could save money under a New York Senate bill that prevents the Log Island Power Authority (LIPA) from collecting back taxes should the utility win its challenge to a power plant’s tax assessment. The Senate easily passed the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions. The Assembly’s companion bill has faced a different fate. Industry lobbyists have waged fierce opposition to the bill, including LIPA itself. Not all of it, though, appears to be as fully and publicly documented as state ethics laws that govern lobbying require. LIPA retained Millennial Strategies in 2019 specifically to fight the Assembly bill. But the state has no record of that activity.

Ohio Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard Resigns ‘with Great Sadness’
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Dan Horn | Published: 3/2/2020

Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard resigned her office, less than a week after being arrested on federal charges that accuse her of trading votes on a development deal for cash. Dennard did not have to resign under the city’s charter, which has no provisions spelling out what happens when a council member is accused of a crime in office. Dennard is facing federal charges of bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion for what federal prosecutors say was an attempt to trade her votes for cash payments totaling $15,000. The votes were related to a complicated land swap and construction of a music venue at The Banks on Cincinnati’s riverfront.

Ohio Ginther Returns State of the City Donations After Ethics Warning
Columbus Dispatch – Bill Bush | Published: 2/28/2020

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther will return $66,000 in donations, including from city vendors, that funded his State of the City address. The decision came after the Ohio Ethics Commission contacted the city attorney’s office to warn the practice could potentially violate state law. “There was a potential for a conflict-of-interest and that was an ongoing practice,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said. “It was a practice that we were not aware of, [and] no one had sought advice.” The city will work with the commission to clarify the process of how and under what circumstances the city solicits vendors, something that is happening in municipalities across Ohio, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said.

Rhode Island Why A RI Supreme Court Justice Has Been Fighting a $200 Ethics Fine for Over A Year
WPRI – Eli Sherman | Published: 3/4/2020

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2019 fined state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty $200 for failing to disclose he was the president of a Catholic legal group while he was ruling on a priest’s sexual abuse case. Flaherty has contested the fine, claiming the violation stemmed from an unknowing mistake that resulted in a decision denying him due process. Flaherty also argues former commission Chairperson Ross Cheit should have recused himself because Cheit, a professor who specializes in repressed memory and child abuse, has written extensively on the topic, including some cases involving sexual abuse of minors and the Catholic Church. The commission noted its members do not participate in the investigation or prosecution of ethics complaints. It also refuted the implication that Cheit is biased.

South Carolina Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Potentially Reshaping the Democratic Race
MSN – Cleve Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/29/2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary, as the first Southern contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year. What is not clear is whether Biden’s triumph in a state supporters have long called his “firewall,” where African American voters had a significant say for the first time, will provide only a momentary lift, result in a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, or result in a long slog to the convention.

Vermont In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’
New York Times – Sarah Lyall | Published: 3/4/2020

It can seem like neighbors cannot speak to neighbors of differing political persuasions without rancor and recrimination. Though Super Tuesday should theoretically offer some relief to voters eager to have their voices heard, politics itself seems suffused by alarm and dread. And so, Vermont’s annual town meetings, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in March, provide a welcome corrective. They are a chance for voters in the state’s municipalities to discuss taxes, budgets, roads, schools, the environment, and whatever else might be on their minds.

Washington Washington Agency Rejects Facebook Settlement, Refers Campaign Ad Violation Charge to AG’s Office
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 2/27/2020

The Public Disclosure Commission rejected a settlement to allow Facebook to walk away from charges of violating campaign finance law with a $75,000 fine, no admission of guilt, and no written promise to fully comply with Washington’s political ad disclosure law going forward. Commisssioners voted to refer the matter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson for further investigation and possible prosecution. The case has its roots in requests for local Facebook political ad data made by The Stranger and, separately, a private citizen. Facebook has refused to respond to those requests even though state law requires the company to disclose significant information on the financing and reach of election ads sold to influence this state’s local races and ballot measures.

Wisconsin Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range
Madison.com – Riley Vetterkind | Published: 3/3/2020

A day after a gunman shot and killed five co-workers and himself at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors facility, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly’s campaign hosted a fundraiser at a shooting range. The fundraiser invited people to contribute by amounts tied to gun calibers: the “10mm” level of $1,000, the “0.25 ACP” level of $2,500, or the “50 Cal M2HB” level of $5,000. Donors had the opportunity to shoot and were advised to visit the range before the fundraiser to complete a background check.

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March 5, 2020 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee (1)” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government Arkansas: “Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Wisconsin: “Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Senate Breaks Tradition by Advancing Only GOP FEC Nominee (1)” by Kenneth Doyle for Bloomberg Government

Arkansas: “Election Funding Law’s Hold to Resume” by Linda Satter for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Wisconsin: “Day After Milwaukee Rampage, Dan Kelly Campaign Holds Fundraiser at Shooting Range” by Riley Vetterkind for Madison.com

Elections

National: “Bloomberg Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Biden” by Kathleen Ronayne and Alexandra Jaffe for AP News

Ethics

National: “Trump Signs Bill to Strengthen Presidential Transition Ethics Requirements” by Courtney Buble for Government Executive

Florida: “Parks Chief Sold Jerseys from His Company to City Football Team. Now He’s on Leave” by Aron Leibowitz for Miami Herald

Florida: “Florida Sues Nonprofit and Its Former CEO Who Was Paid $7.5M” by Mary Ellen Klas and Samantha Gross for Tampa Bay Times

Rhode Island: “High Court Judge Spends a Year Fighting Low-Dollar Fine” by Edward Fitzpatrick for Boston Globe

Procurement

Iowa: “State of Iowa Signs $50 Million Computing Contract Without Typical Competitive Bidding” by Erin Jordan for Cedar Rapids Gazette

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February 14, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – February 14, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020 Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential […]

National/Federal

Business Groups Try to Avoid Partisan Crossfire
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 2/11/2020

Business groups are facing a new challenge as they look to advance their agendas in an increasingly polarized Washington and ahead of a contentious presidential election. K Street had expectations for some bipartisan actions in 2020, but those hopes are on hold after the feud between President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a turn for the worse at the State of the Union address. Now businesses and their lobbyists are worried about being drawn into the political crossfire. That is likely to prove even more difficult this year. Businesses already have a complicated relationship with Trump over his trade wars and with Democrats, whose presidential candidates are targeting many industries. One Republican lobbyist said the fresh turmoil in Washington is unnerving businesses.

Individual Members of Congress Can’t Sue Trump Over Business Dealings, Court Rules
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Individual members of Congress cannot sue President Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provision. Justice Department lawyers defending the president said the ban refers narrowly to compensation in exchange for official action or in an employment-type relationship and does not broadly include any profit, gain, or advantage.

Political App Faces Legal Challenge Over Donation Reveals
Forbes – John Scott Lewinski | Published: 2/11/2020

An app and web service designed to peer inside the world of corporate campaign finance is catching the ire of companies who would rather not share such information publicly. Goods Unite Us makes public who gives how much to whom on an industry-wide level. The user can view various scores on how much a brand invests on the left or right. The best numbers are reserved for firms that stays out of the fray entirely as the app’s creators would like to see dollars from public firms step out of politics in favor of individual donations. Clothing retailer Chico’s hired the national law firm of Arent Fox to send a legal request that changes be made to the Goods Unite Us data and reports.

Prosecutors Quit Amid Escalating Justice Dept. Fight Over Roger Stone’s Prison Term
Stamford Advocate – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann Marimow, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

The entire prosecutorial team on Roger Stone’s case resigned after the Department of Justice asked a federal court to reduce the seven-to nine-year prison sentence the lawyers had initially recommended, sparking new questions about potential White House interference. In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Stone. The move coincided with President Trump’s declaration on Twitter that the government was treating Stone too harshly. Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Secret Service Has Paid Rates as High as $650 a Night for Rooms at Trump’s Properties
Stamford Advocate – David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol Leonnig, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2020

Secret Service personnel traveling with President Trump to his private properties pay rates as high at $650 per night for lodging. Records show more than $471,000 in such payments from taxpayers to Trump’s business between January 207 and April 2018. The full extent of the spending is not known. The Secret Service has not listed the payments in public databases, as is usually required for expenditures over $10,000. Instead, documents have come out piecemeal through public records requests. These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump said in 2019.

The Bloomberg Campaign Is a Waterfall of Cash
The World News – Rebecca Ruiz (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2020

Michael Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg LP, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms. In under 12 weeks, Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events. Such spending has helped make Bloomberg an increasingly strong contender in the Democratic primary.

Trump’s Rhetoric Has Changed the Way Hundreds of Kids Are Bullied in Classrooms
MSN – Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2020

Since Donald Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language, often condemned as racist and xenophobic, has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as six mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies, and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black, or Muslim. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped.

When Your Doctor Is Also a Lobbyist: Inside the war over surprise medical bills
Kaiser Health News – Rachana Pradhan | Published: 2/11/2020

Federal lawmakers are grappling over several approaches to curtail the practice of surprise medical billings, which can leave patients on the hook for huge costs, even if they have insurance. As it has emerged as a hot-button issue for voters, doctors, hospitals, and insurers have been lobbying to protect their own money flows. Television and internet ads are the most visible manifestation of the battle. But in taking their cause to politicians, physicians have waged an on-the-ground stealth campaign to win over members of Congress. Their professional credentials give them a kind of gravitas compared with other lobbyists.

Canada

Canada Federal Court of Appeal Dismisses Challenges of Ethics, Lobbying Commissioners Appointment
iPolitics.ca – Marco Vigliotti | Published: 2/13/2020

The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a complaint from a watchdog challenging the government’s appointment of new ethics and lobbying commissioners in Canada. The presiding judges said they were not convinced by Democracy Watch’s arguments that the actions of the governor-in-council in making the appointments were “unreasonable.” Democracy Watch argued the governor-in-council acted inappropriately in naming the commissioners because both offices were actively investigating complaints implicating the government.  Democracy Watch said the governor-in-council was inextricably biased in naming the new commissioners as they would ultimately be responsible for ruling on the appropriateness of the actions of officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Arizona Bill Seeks to Tighten Rules on Recall Efforts
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 2/6/2020

An Arizona Senate committee voted to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Senate Bill 1434 adds new requirements for paid circulators and those from other states to first register with the secretary of state. This mirrors changes the Republican-controlled Legislature already imposed on those proposing new laws through initiatives. The legislation also spells out in detail exactly how petitions must be formatted, with language allowing legal challenges if the forms are not in “strict compliance” with those standards.

Arizona Senate Leaders Not Interested in Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegation Against Ugenti-Rita
Arizona Capitol Times – Julia Shumway | Published: 2/6/2020

Republican leadership in the Arizona Senate has no interest in investigating allegations of sexual harassment made against state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Senate Democrats said they hoped Senate President Karen Fann would investigate allegations that Ugenti-Rita sexually harassed a lobbyist in 2016 and threatened the woman in 2018. But Fann and Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray dismissed calls for an investigation in separate interviews and rank-and-file Republicans largely declined to comment. Gray said Democrats can file a complaint if they want. But he warned Democrats to be careful because one of their own members, whom he declined to name, also could be investigated.

California California Newspaper Asked for Sutter County Concealed Gun Permits. Then the Threats Rolled In.
Sacramento Bee – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 2/10/2020

The San Francisco Chronicle’s request to Sutter County’s sheriff for information about every concealed weapon permit holder in the conservative county set off threats and vitriol – after the sheriff announced he was legally obligated to provide the names. The Chronicle has been forced to increase security at its newsroom and for its reporters. Gun owners across the country are livid, fearing a newspaper in one of America’s most liberal cities wants to “dox” the state’s gun owners by releasing a list of names of people with a concealed-carry weapons permit. The Chronicle says it will use the information to look for trends and ensure the concealed weapons system is not being abused. The blowback is the latest flare-up in tensions between defenders of the Second Amendment and the news institutions protected by the First Amendment.

Colorado Despite New Transparency Law, State’s Online Lobbying Database Incapable of Basic Search Functions; State Refuses to Provide Data
Colorado Springs Gazette – Evan Wyloge | Published: 2/10/2020

A new Colorado law requires more immediate reporting of lobbyists’ activity. But problems with the online system impede the ability to look up electronic registrations and activity records for some of those required to file the disclosures. Even though the system allows the public to search for lobbyists and activity reports using the name of the client, the search results omit some filings. Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s staff acknowledged the problems, but because of them, the agency’s spokesperson could neither identify who the agency’s own registered lobbyist was in 2017 and 2018, nor locate their activity reports for those years for four days. The agency’s staff estimated the problem affects more than one out of every 25 of the state’s registered lobbyists.

Connecticut Child Care Would Be Eligible Campaign Expense Under Bill Spurred by Fairfield Mom’s Run for Legislature
Hartford Courant – Amanda Blanco | Published: 2/6/2020

After state election officials rejected a candidate’s request to use her publicly financed election grant to pay for childcare, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed legislation that would allow candidates to be reimbursed for such costs. Under the bill, candidates in the Citizens’ Election Program would be reimbursed for childcare services for any child under age 13 for whom the candidate is the parent or legal guardian. The services must be necessary as a direct result of campaign activity. Clarkson Pereira, who ran for a House seat in 2018, brought the issue to the commission when a lawyer advised her not to use her public campaign funds to hire a babysitter for her young daughter.

Florida Cutting Backlog by Half, Gov. Ron DeSantis Imposes Ethics Penalties on Gillum, Others; Shirk’s Fate Undecided
Florida Times-Union – Jeff Schweers | Published: 2/12/2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed penalties against 14 public officials for ethics code violations, cutting by half the number of final orders from the Florida Commission on Ethics that had been languishing on his desk. DeSantis’ failure to act had left $50,000 in uncollected civil fines in limbo and public officials not held accountable months and sometimes years after they were found guilty. Among those final orders was a $5,000 fine and public reprimand against his one-time political rival, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who lost to DeSantis in 2018. Six months after DeSantis took office, the commission had approved a joint settlement agreement in June with Gillum for accepting gifts from former lobbyist Adam Corey.

Florida Florida Bar Investigating Ross Spano for Campaign Finance Violations from Irregular Loans
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Contorno | Published: 2/10/2020

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, already facing a federal probe into his 2018 campaign, may have more trouble on his hands. The Florida Bar is also investigating whether alleged campaign finance violations by Spano ran afoul of the rules of conduct for state lawyers. If they did, Spano could face punishment from the Bar. Spano acknowledges his campaign likely broke the law, but he insists it was a mistake and not malicious. Complaints to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged Spano illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from two friends. Those loans should have been considered contributions to his campaign and subject to donation limits. In a recent interview, Spano offered a new explanation for why he took the loans: He saw someone else do it.

Illinois Yanking Out the Chair? Bill Would Strip Criminally Charged Legislators from Key Posts
Chicago Sun-Times – Neal Earley | Published: 2/12/2020

After Illinois Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, he was removed as chairperson of the Senate Labor Committee. But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee. Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions. The bill would allow the legislative inspector general to issue subpoenas without needing approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission and require reports on current and former lawmakers be made public.

Maine Company That Studied Grid May Have Had Conflict of Interest
Associated Press – Staff | Published: 2/12/2020

A company paid $500,000 by Maine regulators to study the state’s electric grid may have been ineligible to receive the contract based on conflict-of-interest rules. London Economics International was the winning bidder on the study and was tasked with evaluating the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, to consumer ownership. To avoid any conflicts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said any firm that had worked for either utility in the past five years would be ineligible. But London Economics International was paid $37,000 for work done for Emera in 2018.

Maine Tangled Web of Campaign Cash Connects Hawaii to Maine
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 2/7/2020

Navatek LLC, a Honolulu-based company that received an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine, appears to be linked to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for re-election. That donation, which came through another Hawaii based entity, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, is now the subject of an official complaint before the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center says the $150,000 donation appears to be illegal, in part because there is no record of the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers having legitimate income. Instead, the watchdog argued, it appears the company was set up as a “dark money” front to mask the true identity of the donor to a pro-Collins super PAC.

Maryland More Baltimore Women Running for City Council, Mirroring National Trend: ‘We sure can’t go backward’
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richman | Published: 2/12/2020

The national wave of women running for public office following President Trump’s election has hit Baltimore with almost 20 women running for city council in the Democratic primary, waging campaigns in a majority of districts. There has been a surge in women holding public office across the region over the past two years. The seven-member Anne Arundel County Council flipped in 2018 from all-male to majority female, and women now outnumber men in Howard County, as well. Prince George’s County elected its first female executive and Carroll County  choose a woman to sit on its Circuit Court bench for the first time.

Maryland The Lobbyist for a Baltimore County Project Happens to Be the County Executive’s Father. A ‘Clear Line’ Prevents Conflict, They Say.
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood and Wilborn Nobles III | Published: 2/7/2020

The owner of a historic industrial property in Middle River, Maryland, is getting help with his redevelopment efforts from a lobbyist who knows plenty about Baltimore County government: John Olszewski Sr., a former county council member who is the father of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. Olszewski Sr. has been leading Blue Ocean Realty’s efforts to get the General Assembly to approve a tax break for the project, which would turn a warehouse into a sports, entertainment, and retail complex. The arrangement does not appear to violate any ethics laws or restrictions on lobbying, experts say, but it is unusual to have close relatives working as a lobbyist and a top politician.

Mississippi Auditor: More than $4M stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
AP News – Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus | Published: 2/7/2020

Mississippi’s state auditor said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former professional wrestler, according to indictments, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million. Federal welfare money was once spent mostly on cash assistance to poor families, but after changes in the 1990s, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families money is given to states in block grants, and states can use the money on other activities meant to help people.

Missouri Missouri Senate Passes Another Legislative Redistricting Plan for Voters to Consider
KCUR – Jaclyn Driscoll | Published: 2/10/2020

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item that would change how state legislative districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. The proposal now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They will choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. The new initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a five-dollar maximum for each one. The measure also lowers contribution limits for state Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.

Missouri Sinquefield Donated $700,000 to Stenger, Much of It Through a Fire District Nonprofit
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 2/9/2020

In October 2018, a campaign committee that was helping then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger finance his political efforts reported a $250,000 donation from a nonprofit that supports fire districts. But it did not really come from the fire district nonprofit. It came from Great St. Louis, a nonprofit whose president is an operative for philanthropist and political donor Rex Sinquefield. The true source of the contribution sheds more light on how Sinquefield’s operation was able to funnel approximately $700,000 to Stenger. It also raises questions about why the disclosure was made over a year later, and whether the organizations tried to conceal Sinquefield’s support for Stenger, who pleaded guilty in a “pay-to-play” scheme in May.

Montana Montana Supreme Court: Political cop wrong to censure regents
Billings Gazette – Tom Lutey | Published: 2/12/2020

The Montana Supreme Court ruled against the state commissioner of political practices for censuring Montana’s Board of Regents. The justices concluded that Commissioner Jeff Mangan erred when concluding the regents were illegally politicking for the six-mill levy during board meetings. The levy is a voter-approved property tax that raises about $20 million a year for Montana’s public universities and colleges. Mangan ruled the regents were public employees who were politicking on government time and using government property to do so. He fined the Regents $3,000. But the state Supreme Court ruled education boards have the right to discuss levies at meetings, and also take public positions on levies.

Nevada Nevada Democrats Lay Out New Plan for Caucuses, Trying to Alleviate Growing Concerns About the Process
Connecticut Post – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2020

After scrapping a pair of apps similar to the one that caused chaos in Iowa, the Nevada State Democratic Party said it would use paper ballots and an online check-in process in its presidential caucuses, a plan unlikely to end growing concerns about the coming vote. Party officials outlined several new procedures for early caucusing. Multiple campaign officials have complained about a lack of transparency from the party. Though there have been multiple conference calls between the state party and the campaigns, several Democrats said party officials had been “tight-lipped” and slow to offer specific information about how the state’s ambitious early-voting plan would work without the use of the apps.

New Hampshire Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary; Buttigieg, Klobuchar Are Top Moderate Candidates
MSN – Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan (Washington Post) | Published: 2/12/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed unchallenged control of the Democratic Party’s left wing with a victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary as two moderates, Pete Buttigieg and a newly surging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, vied for the opposition mantle in a campaign that has been remade over the past eight days. Sanders and Buttigieg marked their second straight strong showings – they essentially tied in the Iowa caucuses, with Sanders carrying the popular vote and Buttigieg winning a slight edge in delegates. The night brought devastating returns for Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom appeared to have lost support to Klobuchar and Buttigieg and were not on course to earn any delegates.

New Mexico The Legislature: A tangled web of relationships and potential conflicts
New Mexico In Depth – Michael Gerstein (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 2/10/2020

In a small state where face-to-face connections are critical and political ties almost inescapable, potential conflicts abound in New Mexico. It is no surprise to learn of state lawmakers who are married to lobbyists, or have lobbyists within their own families, or who regularly vote or even sponsor legislation that would support an industry in which the lawmaker has a personal business interest. “Conflict of interest is built into the New Mexico Legislature by virtue of the fact that it’s a citizens’ Legislature where legislators keep their day jobs,” said former state Sen. Dede Feldman.

New York Sen. Ortt Seeks Probe of State Police Role in Lobbying Inquiry
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/11/2020

State Sen. Robert Ortt is calling for a Senate investigation of the New York State Police’s unusual involvement in a controversial lobbying investigation of activist Kat Sullivan. “It is my hope that our highly-esteemed State Police are not being weaponized to stifle free speech,” Ortt said. A major in the State Police called the owner of the South Albany Airport last September inquiring about a flight flown out of the airport in 2018. Sullivan, an alleged rape victim, had hired the plane to fly over the Capitol, which towed a banner pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) then investigated whether Sullivan had spent more than $5,000 on her efforts, which would require her to register as a lobbyist. The State Police say the call to the airport, as JCOPE was ramping up its inquiry, was made as a “courtesy” to someone at the commission.

North Carolina NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Made $80,000 Selling His House to a Lobbyist
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 2/12/2020

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger sold his townhouse in Raleigh to a lobbyist for an $80,000 profit. Berger was previously the subject of an ethics complaint for paying himself monthly rent for that townhouse with campaign funds. State ethics officials knew ahead of time that this sale was in the works and signed off on it, saying it did not appear to violate ethical rules. But Bob Hall, the former Democracy North Carolina leader who filed the complaint, says it deserves a closer look from a different set of officials. Norma Houston, a legislative ethics expert at the University of North Carolina, said while there is a prohibition against lawmakers taking gifts from lobbyists, state law specifically exempts contracts and other commercial arrangements that are “made in the normal course of business if not made for lobbying.”

Ohio Ohio’s Most Unlikely Political Hotspot Is a Coffeeshop Nook
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 2/7/2020

At the back of a Starbucks in a hotel across the street from the Ohio Statehouse, there is a narrow space that is just large enough to fit three chairs and a small table. But this semi-secluded area is where a surprising amount of government and political business gets done, according to Capitol Square regulars. It is a convenient meeting spot for many politicians and lobbyists. And as it is frowned upon (though not technically illegal) for state lawmakers to accept campaign contributions on public property, they often head across the street from the Statehouse for donors to hand them checks.

Oregon Should Oregon’s Top Transparency Official Be Independent? Lawmakers Will Decide
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/9/2020

A bill was introduced to enshrine the independence of Oregon’s public records advocate in law and end the governor’s role in hiring and firing the advocate. The Public Records Advisory Council pitched the idea of shielding the records advocate from the governor’s control last fall. It did so in the wake of news that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told then-Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, or report with the governor’s office before releasing them.

Pennsylvania PA Government Watchdog Is Working Questionable Side Job with Philly’s New Sheriff
Bily Penn – Max Marin | Published: 2/6/2020

As executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, Micah Sims aids the nonprofit’s mission to “create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest” in the Keystone State. In an unusual arrangement, however, Sims has been moonlighting as a consultant for an elected official in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to his employers at Common Cause, Sims has been working on the side as a senior advisor to Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal as she sets out to transform the scandal-plagued office left behind by her predecessor. Sims first said his consulting for Bilal was business, then switched to a claim that it was “pro bono” as a favor to a friend. Other potential questions have risen around Sims’ work.

Pennsylvania Philly Progressives Used to Criticize Weak Campaign Finance Laws. Then They Learned How to Use Them.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 2/11/2020

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has primarily benefited Republicans on the federal level, in Philadelphia, it is the progressive left that has best capitalized on the campaign finance decision and other opinions. Liberals have been beating establishment Democrats with the help of outside groups that outspend the candidates themselves. And campaign finance reform is no longer the rallying cry it once was. “It’s an interesting reality to have folks or groups who may decry Citizens United then utilizing the tools that are made available by it,” said Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy. “But in campaigns, people play to win, and I don’t think that will ever change.”

South Dakota Concerns Arise That New S.D. Electronic Bill Monitoring System Makes State Government Less Transparent
Keloland – Nick Lowrey (South Dakota News Watch) | Published: 2/9/2020

A new online system for drafting, co-sponsoring, and tracking bills through the South Dakota Legislature has some people concerned that the modernized system has made the legislative process less transparent and removed some of the human element from lawmaking. State officials said the new system was needed to make legislative work more efficient. Jason Hancock, director of the Legislative Research Council, which manages the drafting and flow of proposed laws, said the new workflow system is housed within the Legislature’s website and replaced the old pen-and-paper-based system for drafting, seeking co-sponsors, and amending legislation.

Texas Local Governments Aren’t Posting Lobbying Records Despite New Law
Texas Monitor – Steve Miller | Published: 2/8/2020

Local governments across Texas are resisting a state law that took effect in September requiring they publicly post their lobbying information on their websites. But the resistance does not appear to be based on opposition to the intent of the new law. Rather, cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments object to the statute’s admittedly murky language and differing reads on what it requires. For the most part, Senate Bill 65 relates to increasing oversight on state agencies’ contracting practices. The posting requirement for lobbying was added via an amendment co-authored by Rep. Mayes Middleton, who tried last session to make it illegal for many local governments to spend money on lobbying.

Washington Voting by Smartphone in Seattle Pushes the Limits of Electronic Balloting
Washington Post – Jay Greene | Published: 2/11/2020

The failure of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses led to days of partial and unreliable results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. But mobile voting is prone to cybersecurity breaches just as other forms of election technology are, said Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University who studies digital election security.

Washington DC D.C. Ethics Board Reopens Investigation into Former Lawmaker Jack Evans
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/12/2020

The District of Columbia’s ethics board reopened its investigation into former city council member Jack Evans. The revival of the probe raises the possibility of additional penalties for the Evans, who has been the subject of federal investigations and multiple examinations of his private business dealings. Evans resigned from the council days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.

Washington DC D.C. Statehood Bill Advances to House Floor; Likely to Pass for First Time in History
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 2/11/2020

A divided U.S. House committee advanced a District of Columbia statehood bill to the floor for the first time in nearly three decades, bringing advocates closer to their goal of making the nation’s capital the 51st state. The bill has a good chance of passing the House because Democrats have a solid majority and the cause of statehood has become a favorite of Democratic leaders, national civil rights groups, and presidential candidates. But it faces almost certain death in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Wisconsin 81,000 Absentee Voters in Wisconsin to Receive Two Ballots, Raising Concerns About Election Confusion
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Molly Beck | Published: 2/11/2020

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin absentee voters will soon receive not one but two ballots to use in the spring election, laying the groundwork for potential confusion among the voters who receive them. Under federal law, absentee ballots for the April 7 presidential primary must go out on February 20, or two days after the February 18 primary for state and local races. That means there is no way to get a complete ballot to absentee voters that includes candidates who advance through the February 18 primary election without violating state law. Election officials’ solution is to send two ballots: One will be labeled by the letter “A” and will include just presidential candidates. A second “B” ballot will be mailed in March, after spring primary election results are certified. The B ballot will include presidential candidates and candidates competing in state and local races.

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January 31, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020 Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her […]

National/Federal

House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance
The Hill – Rebecca Klar | Published: 1/24/2020

Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Georgia, is asking the FEC to let her use campaign funds to purchase health insurance. Islam says many working-class Americans choose not to run for office because of the financial impediments. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for personal use under federal election laws. The bar for what qualifies as “personal use” is based on whether or not the expenses would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign, said Erin Chlopak, the director of finance strategy at Campaign Legal Center and the former acting associate general counsel at the FEC.

How People of Color Inside the Pete Buttigieg Campaign Sought to Be Heard
Chicago Tribune – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2020

In December, more than 100 members of Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign staff gathered for a mandatory retreat about diversity and inclusion. Buttigieg advisers say the retreat was part of an ongoing effort to foster a progressive culture that empowered employees of color. For some of these staff members, however, the workplace itself was a problem, and working for a candidate with so little support from black and Hispanic voters had become demoralizing. Current and former staff members of color said they believed that senior Buttigieg officials did not listen to their concerns and ideas about the campaign. One staff member said there was a daily “emotional weight” on people of color who felt they were employed in order to help the campaign meet its ambitious diversity targets.

How ‘Scam PACs’ Fall Through the Cracks of U.S. Regulators
Reuters – Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Tanfani | Published: 1/29/2020

Regulators responsible for protecting American consumers from potentially unscrupulous fundraisers face a bedeviling new challenge: so-called scam PACs. That is what critics call political action committees that gobble up most of the money they raise rather than using it for the charitable or other causes they profess to support. Scam PACs tend to slip through gaps among agencies that govern elections, charities, and telemarketing, regulators say, leaving consumers exposed to misleading or fraudulent pitches. The FEC has jurisdiction over political spending but neither the agency nor Congress has acted on recommendations in 2016 by some of its own members to strengthen fraud protections and disclosure requirements as part of campaign law.

Sanders Supporters Have Weaponized Facebook to Spread Angry Memes About His Democratic Rivals
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 1/24/2020

There has been a wave of hostile memes about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals that both reflects the rising divisiveness in the party’s nominating contest for president and, in the view of social media experts, exacerbates it. The volume and viciousness of the memes reflect how Facebook identifies and rewards emotionally charged content to generate reactions from its billions of users. That serves the company’s ad-driven business model, which equates engagement with profit. But it also, in the view of experts who study Facebook’s effect on political speech, distorts democratic debate by confirming biases, sharpening divisions, and elevating the glib visual logic of memes over reasoned discussion.

Trump Allies Are Handing Out Cash to Black Voters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 1/29/2020

Prominent black supporters of President Trump gathered at an event in Cleveland recently, during which attendees participated in a ticket drawing. Winners received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of dollars. The rally was planned by Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The organizers say the events are run by the book and intended to promote economic development in inner cities. Charitable groups can hold events praising and honoring public officials so long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates in elections. But if a rally veers into electioneering, issues with campaign finance law can arise, experts warned. Determining when rhetoric crosses that line can be difficult.

Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/26/2020

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John Bolton. The president’s statement as described by Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army
Washington Post – Sarah Ellison | Published: 1/23/2020

Far from the White House and Capitol Hill, hundreds of regional radio hosts across the country have found themselves in the improbable position of being showered with attention by Trump administration officials and surrogates. While granting access to local media has long been an important element of running a national political campaign, Trump officials have made it a central part of their strategy. Pouring attention on regional talk-radio hosts is a classic Trumpworld move: giving relatively unknown characters proximity to the White House has paid off with a disproportionate amount of attention and praise lavished on the president and his agenda.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford | Published: 1/24/2020

An influential lobbyist told a top staff member at the Arizona House that state Rep. David Cook sent him threatening emails after the lobbyist confronted the lawmaker about excessive drinking. Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received “threatening emails on multiple occasions” from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote to the House chief of staff. Cook spent a day in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunken driving. The Arizona Republic received letters that raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Cook and AnnaMarie Knorr, who is Aja’s daughter and a lobbyist for an agricultural trade association. Their relationship has raised concerns about a conflict-of-interest because Cook sits on committees central to the industry Knorr represents.

Arkansas Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 1/28/2020

A federal appeals court ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.

California L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/21/2020

The Los Angeles City Council repealed a law requiring companies that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), weeks after a federal judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance. Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell pushed for the rules following a spate of mass shootings, including a November 2018 attack that killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. He said at the time that the NRA had been a “roadblock to gun safety reform” for decades. In a lawsuit seeking to block the ordinance, the NRA said the requirements violated the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech and association and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

California Mohammed Nuru, Head of SF Public Works, Arrested in FBI Corruption Probe
San Francisco Chronicle – Michael Barba, Joshua Sabatini, and Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 1/28/2020

San Francisco Public Works Director Muhammed Nuru and businessperson Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with public corruption by the FBI. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe an airport commissioner to help win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport in exchange for an envelope full of cash and an apparent vacation. The alleged kickback scheme was just one of five that federal authorities described in a complaint after surveilling Nuru and Bovis with wiretaps and undercover operators since at least 2018.

California Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind
CALmatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 1/27/2020

Kathy Garcia is not a typical Republican candidate for the California Senate. For one, she only just joined the GOP. She changed her affiliation to Republican in June 2019, six months before the deadline to enter the Senate race. California’s unique “top two” election system, in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are listed together on the same ballot in the first-round primary. Only the first and second place winners March 3 move on to the general election November 3, also regardless of party affiliation. The race for the Senate in the Central Valley district is the latest illustration of how the state’s decade-old electoral attempt at reform can distort the typical logic of campaigning.

Colorado Lawmakers Can Be Parents Too. But Capitol Policies Don’t Always Make It Easy
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 1/24/2020

When Colorado Sen. Brittany Pettersen gave birth to a baby boy recently, she entered a territory state law is not designed to handle. Colorado has no clear provisions in place for a lawmaker who wants to take parental leave during the session. It is prompting a closer look at the rules for working parents at the Capitol. State law says a long-term illness is the only reason for a lawmaker to miss more than 40 days of the 120-day session. For other extended absences, a lawmaker’s pay would be docked, unless the Senate president agreed to excuse them. Pettersen plans to take about a month off from work, so she is guaranteed her full salary, but she thinks the law should be updated to ensure three months of paid leave for new parents.

Florida Florida Lawmakers Advance Ban on Lobbying and Self-Dealing
Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/30/2020

A measure that will put teeth into the voter-approved ban on elected officials using their public office for private gain was unanimously approved by the Florida House and is headed to the state Senate. It puts penalties behind the ethics rules imposed by Amendment 12, the constitutional change overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to end the “revolving door” between public office and private lobbying. The constitutional amendment updates Florida law, which currently has no safeguards in place to stop state lawmakers from writing legislation that benefit their personal interests, and it extends the current two-year ban on legislators to six years.

Florida Keith Powell Bows Out as New Tallahassee Ethics Officer, Apologizes for Political Tweets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 1/29/2020

Keith Powell, who was expected to begin work soon as Tallahassee’s new independent ethics officer, decided not to take the job after politically charged tweets he wrote came to light. Powell’s Twitter feed, which has since been deleted, included jabs at prominent Democrats. In one of the tweets, he complained about a gay kiss shown during the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Ethics Board’s first officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, is leaving her post amid a lawsuit she filed against the city and the board claiming they unfairly tried to push her out of the position. Her exit came amid controversy over a personal relationship she had with a top appointed city official.

Florida Who’s a Lobbyist? Leon County May Strengthen Local Law After Tallahassee Democrat Investigation
Tallahassee Democrat – Karl Etters | Published: 1/29/2020

Leon County commissioners may revise their local ethics laws to include a broader definition of just who is a lobbyist. In his request for ways to improve transparency, Commissioner Rick Minor cited recent reporting by The Tallahassee Democrat about the intersection of lobbying, private business, and public policy. A handful of unregistered lobbyists met with elected officials in the last year, the newspaper has reported. The broad interpretation in local ordinances of what is lobbying is causing officials and watchdogs concern over who is influencing local politics.

Illinois Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair
Chicago Tribune – Lolly Bowean | Published: 1/24/2020

The Cook County Board of Ethics is recommending banning county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs, outlawing nepotism in county hiring decisions, and requiring registered lobbyists to disclose if they have relatives working for the county. The proposal came as board President Toni Preckwinkle replaced current board Chairperson Margaret Daley, a move that prompted fellow board member David Grossman to resign in protest. In its reform efforts, the board tweaked some of the ethics rules, like more specifically defining what nepotism is and carefully outlining who is considered a lobbyist.

Indiana Spectacle Entertainment’s Vigo County Casino in Jeopardy Due to Federal Probe
Indianapolis Star – Kaitlin Lange and Crystal Hill | Published: 1/24/2020

Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to open a casino in Vigo County could be in jeopardy after a political consultant pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars from an Indianapolis-based casino operator to an Indiana candidate running for the U.S. House in 2015. A spokesperson for the Indiana Gaming Commission said it understands that Centaur Gaming is the casino company referenced in the court case. Centaur’s former chief executive and general counsel now help operate Spectacle Entertainment. Spectacle Gaming received legislative approval last year to close its two recently acquired riverboat casinos in Gary and instead open a land-based casino in the area. Spectacle is also the only company that applied to the state Gaming Commission for a license to open a casino in Vigo County.

Kentucky These Jail Officials Have Second Jobs – As Jail Vendors
WFPL – R.G. Dunlop | Published: 1/29/2020

At least three Kentucky jail officials have worked second jobs for a company with financial ties to their facilities, or offered jail business to friends or relatives, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found. The issues also extend to sales of electronic cigarettes. An investigation found jailers using e-cigarette sales to prop up their Facilities’ revenue or making personal profit for themselves or their associates through e-cigarette side businesses.

Louisiana Hard Rock: Inspector general investigating collapse as part of Safety & Permits corruption probe
New Orleans Advovcate – Jeff Adelson | Published: 1/28/2020

The city inspector general’s office said the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is now part of its ongoing investigation into corruption within the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The inspector general’s investigation predates the Hard Rock’s collapse and, so far, has not publicly tied the hotel development consortium, 1031 Canal Street Development, to any corruption within the department. Described as a wide-ranging probe into permitting and inspections, the investigation has resulted in one former worker who was fired in 2015 pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge after admitting he took $65,000 in bribes for favorable inspections. Construction on the Hard Rock began in 2016.

Maine Hydro-Quebec Ballot Question Committee Pays $35k Ethics Fine
Maine Public – Steve Mistler | Published: 1/29/2020

A ballot question committee representing the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec paid a nearly $35,000 fine for the late disclosure of campaign activity in Maine. Hydro-Quebec’s ballot question committee was formed last fall to save a $1 billion transmission project through western Maine. But the committee did not disclose $100,000 in campaign spending until several weeks after it was required to.

Maryland After a String of Federal Convictions, Maryland Weighs Tightening State Ethics Laws
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 1/29/2020

With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis, from the governor to the state prosecutor to legislative leaders, is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government.  Most recently, Cheryl Glenn, a veteran delegate from Baltimore, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes. In October, Tawanna Gaines, who served 18 years in the Legislature, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign contributions to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling, and other personal expenses.

Maryland Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects
Baltimore Sun – Talia Richmond | Published: 1/27/2020

Baltimore would require collective bargaining agreements for major city projects under a proposed ordinance. Councilperson Shannon Sneed and council President Brandon Scott said it would lead to more local workers earning wages that could sustain their families. Groups representing contractors opposed the bill, saying it would put minority businesses at a disadvantage and ignores the reality of the city’s largely nonunion construction workforce.

Massachusetts Former City Council Candidate Who Alleged Forgery Scolded for Forging Signature
Fall River Herald News – Jo Goode | Published: 1/28/2020

A 2019 city council candidate in Fall River who accused a challenger of forging nomination signatures was reprimanded by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for signing another person’s name on an official document and failing to comply with state campaign finance law. Collin Dias unsuccessfully attempted to throw out about 80 nomination signatures submitted by candidate Michelle Dionne. Dias alleged those signatures were forged or illegible. A complaint this year regarded a change-of-treasurer document form from the Committee to Elect Collin Dias putting Sheila Dias, the candidate’s mother, in the role. The form had two signatures: one from Sheila Dias and one from candidate Dias. The signatures, according to the complaint, appeared similar.

Massachusetts Former City Hall Aide John Lynch Sentenced to 40 Months for Bribery
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 1/24/2020

John Lynch, the former Boston City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in a case that has cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process. Lynch pleaded guilty in September to charges he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condominium development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.

Michigan Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 1/23/2020

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration launched the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, officials said the new bureau would be “autonomous” from the state licensing department headed by a new director married to a major lobbyist. Almost a year later, concerns continue to linger about the connection of Orlene Hawks, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and Michael Hawks, an owner of Governmental Consultant Services GCSI), one of the state’s largest lobbying firms. An email shows an employee of GCSI recently lobbied Hawks’ deputy on marijuana policies, which were supposed to be primarily handled by the supposedly independent agency.

Michigan Sexual Harassment Claims Reflect Capitol ‘Culture,’ Some Michigan Lawmakers Say
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger | Published: 1/26/2020

Female lawmakers say sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Pete Lucido reflect an overall “culture” in the Michigan Capitol where inappropriate comments made to women have often occurred without consequence. The increased ranks of female lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists have forced sexist attitudes to the surface, said eight of 11 lawmakers interviewed by The Detroit News. But the changing dynamics of who is serving in Lansing have also ushered in new training and policies to address problems. Some lawmakers may soon push further changes.

Missouri Alvin Parks Still Banned from Ballot. Here’s His Plan to Get Elected in East St. Louis.
Belleville News-Democrat – Kavahn Mansouri | Published: 1/25/2020

Even after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach a settlement with the Illinois Board of Elections, Alvin Parks has entered the race for an East St. Louis office as a write-in candidate. Parks’ most recent attempt to settle a bill for $167,000 in campaign finance violation fines he owes to the state elections board was rejected. That decision came with an additional order that Parks would need to pay the full amount before he could appear on an election ballot in Illinois. Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich said Parks is still free to run as a write-in candidate. The board can only enforce keeping a candidate’s name off the ballot, Dietrich said.

Missouri Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates
AP News – Staff | Published: 1/27/2020

The Missouri Ethics Commission said the campaign contribution limit for state Senate candidates is rising from $2,500 per election to $2,559, and the limit for House candidates is rising from $2,000 per election to $2,046. The increases are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by votes in 2018, which set the original limits and called for an inflationary adjustment every two years.

Missouri Proposal Would Allow Lawmakers a Say in Initiative Petition Process
Joplin Globe – Brendan Crowley | Published: 1/29/2020

Among a group of similar proposals to tighten Missouri’s initiative petition steps, one calls for something different – letting the Legislature review measures before they get to the ballot. Under a proposed constitutional amendment, once backers gather enough signatures for an initiative petition, they would submit it to the General Assembly as a bill. The petition backers would then get to choose between their original language or the amended language from the Legislature when deciding which proposal to put before voters. If the backers used language approved by lawmakers, their initiative could pass with a simple majority at the polls. If they use language not approved by the Legislature, they would need two-thirds of the vote.

New York Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist
Albany Times Union – Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/23/2020

The NYS Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators hired the lobbying firm Patrick B. Jenkins and Associates to boost its fundraising capabilities. The move paid off as the nonprofit, which is the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office, raised substantially more revenue and gave out almost as much scholarship money to needy youth as it had for the three previous years combined. Even before Jenkins’ hiring, questions had been raised about the lawmakers’ charity receiving significant funding from interests with business before the state Legislature. Jenkins, meanwhile, in the past has raised significant campaign money for lawmakers by soliciting donations from its own roster of influential clients, then lobbying some of those same state legislators for the clients.

New York Lackluster Probes Followed Alleged Ethics’ Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 1/26/2020

The state inspector general’s investigation into allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last year failed to include interviews with key individuals in the matter, including top state Assembly counsel Howard Vargas, whose contact with a former ethics commissioner sparked the probe. The leak was revealed in January 2019, when Cuomo allegedly confronted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE voting against the interests of the governor earlier that day on an ethics complaint involving Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor.

North Carolina Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 1/27/2020

Attorney Mark Bibbs pleaded guilty to charges of criminal contempt, obstruction of justice, and lobbying without registration. Bibbs was sentenced to two years’ probation and is permanently banned from lobbying or practicing law. The criminal investigation began after WBTV uncovered evidence that Bibbs was lobbying at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of a bail bond surety company without being registered as required by law. Records have shown Bibbs was in frequent communication with House Speaker Tim Moore and with then-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, whose agency regulated bail bond surety companies, at the time of his unregistered lobbying.

Ohio Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams Sentenced to Prison
Dayton Daily News – Lynn Hulsey | Published: 1/29/2020

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams was sentenced to a year in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. Williams is one of seven people indicted in a wide-ranging federal public corruption investigation in the Dayton region. Williams must pay $28,000 in restitution for free home improvements he accepted in exchange for using his influence as a city commissioner in to help an unnamed demolition contractor get $150,000 in contracts from Dayton and CityWide Development Corp.

Oregon Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/28/2020

Oregon House Democrats introduced a bill that would put 2006 voter-approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021 even if the state Supreme Court greenlights them much sooner. Currently, the state effectively has no campaign donation caps because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative that voters passed nearly two decades ago. But the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon Multnomah County’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. If the justices find such limits to be constitutional, that would likely revive the statewide donation caps, too.

Pennsylvania Feds Charge Philly City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson with Using His Office to Enrich Himself and His Wife
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 1/29/2020

Prosecutors charged Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta and his wife, Dawn Chavous, with accepting more than $66,750 in bribes from two executives at Universal Companies, a community development charity and charter school operator. In exchange, investigators said, Johnson intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf, protecting some of its properties from seizure and passing legislation that substantially increased the resale value of one. The executives allegedly behind the payoffs, former Chief Executive Officer Abdur Rahim Islam and ex-Chief Financial Officer Shahied Dawan, face additional charges stemming from more than $500,000 they allegedly embezzled from Universal to enrich themselves and fund a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail
Philadelphia Inquirer – Julie Shaw | Published: 1/23/2020

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pleaded guilty to theft and related charges and will spend at least three months in jail in a case in which state prosecutors allege she stole more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit and spent it on family vacations, designer clothing, furs, and personal bills. Johnson-Harrell established Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. From at least December 2015, Johnson-Harrell repeatedly misrepresented financial transactions to accomplish her theft scheme, the complaint said.

Texas Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial
San Angelo Morning-Times – Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) | Published: 1/24/2020

San Angelo’s former police chief pleaded not guilty in federal court to corruption charges. A grand jury returned four indictments against Timothy Vasquez, charging him with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges against Vasquez stem from an investigation by FBI agents who uncovered what they believe to be a series of kickback payments to Vasquez in exchange for manipulating San Angelo’s purchasing process to award multi-million-dollar contracts to a vendor of a radio and communication system.

Washington Lawmakers Are Going Paperless in Olympia, But It’s Not Really About Saving Trees
Crosscut – Melissa Santos | Published: 1/24/2020

There are fresh messages posted outside many Washington legislators’ offices this year. “No paper, please,” read some of the new flyers. The key reason is not environmental. Rather, the shift is mainly a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that lawmakers must follow the same transparency rules as most other government officials. That means legislators must keep records of the work they do on the public’s behalf. The public disclosure statute says nothing about government officials being unable to accept paper documents. But many legislators are refusing to accept paper from visitors, mainly to reduce their responsibility to physically keep track of it. The paper-free policies are only one manifestation of lawmakers’ confusion when it comes to following the Public Records Act.

Washington DC Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 1/27/2020

Jack Evans is mounting a political comeback for his old seat on the District of Columbia Council, after resigning before his colleagues could expel him from office over repeated ethics violations. Seven of 13 council members blasted Evans’ comeback bid on Twitter, calling it “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous,” among other things. Evans showed up at a recent Lunar New Year celebration  in Chinatown, marching alongside the mayor and council chairperson and sitting with them to watch the festivities. A spokesperson for council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said Mendelson thought it was inappropriate for Evans to march with city officials in the parade and told him not to join them when it presented a proclamation.

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