September 4, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020 More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about […]
1 Million Primary Ballots Were Mailed Late, Postal Service Watchdog Says
MSN – Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 9/1/2020
More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, underscoring concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November. In a survey of mail-in ballots sent during primaries from June 2 to August 13, the agency’s inspector general found election boards across the country had sent more than one million ballots during the final week of the election, putting those votes at “high risk” of not making it back to officials in time to be counted. Hundreds of ballots were mailed after elections were over, meaning they could not be counted, and only a small percentage used the proper tracking procedures, the audit found.
As Clashes Between Armed Groups and Leftist Protesters Turn Deadly, Police Face Complaints of Tolerating Vigilantes
MSN – Joshua Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2020
As protesters march against racism and police violence in cities and towns across the nation, they are being confronted by groups of armed civilians who claim to be assisting and showing support for police battered and overwhelmed by the protests. The confrontations have left at least three people dead in recent days. The incidents have drawn complaints that local authorities abetted the violence by tolerating the presence of these self-appointed enforcers with no uniforms, varied training, and limited accountability. The stated motives of these vigilante actors, who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once massed on the streets, range from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering White supremacy and fomenting civil war.
As Trump Appointees Flout the Hatch Act, Civil Servants Who Get Caught Get Punished
MSN – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2020
The Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939, applies on paper at least to civil servants and political appointees alike. But the top Trump administration officials showcased in prime-time appearances and speaking slots at the Republican National Convention serve as a reminder that when it comes to flouting the separation between governing and politicking, there appears to be a two-tiered system of consequences. Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who was appointed by President Trump, cited at least nine high-level Trump appointees for abusing their government roles to further the president’s reelection or disparage his rivals. They have largely thumbed their noses at the law. Career employees, meanwhile, have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government.
Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett | Published: 9/1/2020
Attorney General William Barr imposed new rules tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers, a move likely to cheer conservatives who have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said before the FBI and Justice Department seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor the communications of an elected official, a declared political candidate, or any of their staff and advisers, officials must first consider warning that person foreign governments may be targeting them, and if they choose not to give such a warning, the FBI director must spell out in writing the reasons for not doing so.
D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/31/2020
A divided federal appeals court panel dealt a blow to the U.S. House’s investigative power, ruling the House cannot go to court to enforce subpoenas because there is no statute giving that chamber the authority to do so. The ruling marked the second time a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals panel essentially voided a subpoena the House issued last year to Donald McGahn demanding the former White House counsel testify about his dealings with President Trump related to the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the decision stands, it could cripple the House’s ability to demand information from sources unwilling to give it up readily.
Election Security Officials See No Sign of Foreign Threat to Mail-In Voting
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/26/2020
Foreign governments such as Russia and China continue to try to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election, but officials have seen no evidence of countries trying to manipulate or manufacture mail-in ballots, officials said. Federal authorities are ramping up their efforts to keep state and local election systems secure, particularly in light of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which led to criticism the government had been slow and soft in its response. Those assurances are in contrast to statements by President Trump, who has repeatedly argued mail-in voting is so ripe for abuse that he would block additional funds for the U.S. Postal Service to handle a surge in mail ballots this year.
Facebook Will Block New Political Advertising the Week Before Election Day
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg | Published: 9/3/2020
Facebook announced it would ban new political advertisements from its platform in the week leading up to the November election. The move to limit ads, part of a spate of election-related announcements, is an attempt to reduce misinformation that is expected to flood social networks as Election Day draws near. The company also said it would label posts by any candidate or campaign that tries to declare victory before the results are in, directing people to the official results from Reuters. It will do the same for any posts that try to delegitimize the outcome of the election. It has also started to limit users’ ability to forward articles on its Messenger platform to large groups of people.
Homeland Security Blocked Warnings of Russian Campaign Against Biden
New York Times – Zolan Kanno-Youngs | Published: 9/2/2020
The Department of Homeland Security declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joe Biden’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department. Before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson asked the inspector general for the department to review the matter. The department’s leaders and its intelligence office have already attracted criticism for appearing to shape decisions around the political whims of the White House, such as actions at the U.S.-Mexican border and the deployment of tactical teams to Portland and Washington, D.C., against the wishes of local governments.
How Trump’s Company Charged the U.S. Government More Than $900,000
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2020
Donald Trump has now visited his own properties 270 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally. Through these trips, he has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups. Federal spending records show taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. New documents give more detail about how the Trump Organization charged the Secret Service – a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.
Inside Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Federal Scientists Over a Covid-19 Treatment
MSN – Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2020
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a series of missteps recently, following flip-flops earlier this year on authorizing and then revoking clearance for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its initial decision not to regulate Covid-19 antibody tests. It also feeds a long-running narrative of a White House repeatedly undermining its health and science experts, not just at the FDA but also at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “I’ve been following health regulatory decisions for decades and have never seen this amount of White House arm twisting to force agencies … to make decisions based on political pressure, rather than the best science,” said Jerome Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Justice Department Zeroing in On Longtime GOP Fundraiser Elliott Broidy
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 9/1/2020
Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy is under scrutiny for his alleged role in a campaign to persuade high-level Trump administration officials to drop an investigation of Malaysian government corruption, as well as for his attempt to push for the extradition of a Chinese dissident back to his home country. He has been in discussions with the Justice Department and could ultimately reach a plea deal in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. After the 2016 election, Broidy served as a national deputy finance chairperson for the Republican National Committee. He resigned in the wake of a report he had paid a woman $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged.
Michael Flynn Case Does Not Have to Be Immediately Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu | Published: 8/31/2020
A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, allowing the legal saga to continue. The decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gives U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the go-ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017. The decision by the full court reverses a ruling by a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to close the case. Judge Thomas Griffith said it would be premature for the appeals court to intervene and force Sullivan’s hand before he had rendered a decision.
Postal Chief DeJoy Has Long Leveraged Connections, Dollars
Associated Press News – Matthew Daly, Brian Slodysko, and Anthony Izaguirre | Published: 8/30/2020
How Louis DeJoy was hired as postmaster general is among the questions Congress is trying to unravel as lawmakers scrutinize a series of operational changes at the Postal Service that have resulted in widespread mail delays and fears the agency will not be able to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration denies any impropriety in the selection of DeJoy, a former supply chain chief executive who is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades not to be a career postal employee. DeJoy’s prolific giving to organizations and Republican candidates, including $1.2 million to President Trump, has also drawn a spotlight to the transactional appearance of some of his contributions.
PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 8/28/2020
The Paycheck Protection Program is not accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in. The law firm where U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works – and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million – received a loan between $5-$10 million. Conflict-of-interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion CARES Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck – Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.
Top Lobbying, Public Affairs Firms Join to Form Holding Company
Bloomberg Law – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/28/2020
Five lobbying and public affairs firms have set up their own holding company, an unconventional partnership in the influence industry that allows them to expand their businesses while remaining independent. The Public Policy Holding Company will specialize in advocacy and is owned by the participating firms, a contrast to the more common practice of massive multinationals gobbling up K Street firms. The benefits for the firms include being able to offer clients a suite of lobbying, public affairs, and state-level advocacy without sacrificing their individual brands or businesses.
Canada – Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 9/1/2020
For the first time in four years, the federal government added a new company to its blacklist of suppliers. Les Industries Garanties Limitée is banned from bidding on federal contracts for a decade after an employee admitting bid-rigging in 2017. The company, which bills itself as “Montreal’s largest and most innovative leader in air conditioning services for commercial, industrial, residential and institutional sectors,” is only the fourth company to be deemed ineligible for federal contracts or real property agreements under the Integrity Regime. The regime aims to weed out and sanction any potential federal supplier who has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery, bid-rigging, or illegal lobbying.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison
Associated Press News – Kim Chandler | Published: 8/31/2020
The Alabama Supreme Court refused to reverse its decision upholding much of the 2016 ethics conviction of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and the state attorney general said it is time for the once-powerful Republican to report to prison. The court this spring overturned five of the counts in Hubbard’s ethics convictions while upholding six others. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of leveraging his powerful public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. His defense lawyers maintained the transactions were all aboveboard.
Arizona – Charity Founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb Has $18,000 in Unaccounted Spending
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 8/31/2020
A charity founded by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reported raising more than $50,000 during its first year in operation but has not reported how it spent a single penny during that time. Instead, tax filings by the American Sheriff Foundation are largely blank, leave at least $18,000 unaccounted for, and do not disclose business relationships between board members that must be reported to the IRS. While the organization touts itself as building bridges between community and law enforcement, records obtained by The Arizona Republic leave unclear how much money the foundation is spending on charity and where the rest of its funds are going.
Arkansas – 2 Measures Kicked Off State Ballot
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – John Moritz | Published: 8/28/2020
The Arkansas Supreme Court removed a pair of proposed changes to the state constitution from the November ballot, halting attempts to enact ranked-choice voting and a new method for drawing legislative and congressional districts. The court disqualified both measures on technical grounds, finding fault with the wording the groups behind the measures used to certify their paid canvassers met all the requirements to collect signatures. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas wrote in submissions they “acquired ” criminal background checks for each of their canvassers. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, however, said the groups needed to certify that the canvassers “passed” the background checks.
California – Biden-Linked Firm Won California Voter Outreach Contract
Associated Press News – Kathleen Ronayne and Chris Blood | Published: 8/27/2020
The California agency that oversees elections has signed a $35 million contract with a firm linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to produce advertising to encourage voters to participate in the November election. Under the contract, SKD Knickerbocker, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, will help run the “Vote Safe California” campaign, which will urge people to vote during the pandemic. Anita Dunn, the firm’s managing director, is a senior strategist for Biden’s presidential campaign. The firm’s work for Biden is highlighted on its website, with a headline saying the company is “proud to be a part of Team Biden.”
California – He Paved the Way for Big Electronic Billboards. Then $75,000 Poured in for His Reelection
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/30/2020
When a real estate developer proposed a $1.2-billion skyscraper near downtown Los Angeles, city council member Curren Price stepped forward to champion the project, despite warnings it would accelerate gentrification in the area. Price urged his colleagues to approve the development in 2016, saying it would create hundreds of jobs. He also ensured that developer Ara Tavitian received permission to install three digital billboards on a 12-story building already located on the site, over objections from city planning commissioners. Months later, three of Tavitian’s real estate companies poured $75,000 into a PAC working to reelect Price.
Connecticut – Connecticut Judge: Public campaign grants can pay for child care
Connecticut Post – Emilie Munson | Published: 8/28/2020
A Connecticut judge ruled candidates for elected office can use public campaign funding to pay for childcare while they are campaigning, clearing the way for more parents to run for office in the state. The plaintiff, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira ran for state representative in 2018. The state agency that oversees campaign finance laws rebuked her attempt to use public election grants to cover childcare. The grants can be used to pay for travel and other expenses produced by a campaign.
Georgia – State Ethics Commission Says Atlanta Mayor Not Cooperating with Election Investigation
WSB – Richard Belcher | Published: 9/2/2020
The fallout from a long and expensive 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is still being felt some three years later as ethics investigations dog the participants. In August, the Georgia’s ethics commission fined the losing candidate, Mary Norwood, $27,000 which she immediately paid off. But the commission said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is not cooperating with its investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspected illegal campaign contributions. The commission notified Bottoms this past December they found evidence of nearly $400,000 of financial irregularities within the campaign.
Illinois – Former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski Admits to Bribery and Extortion
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 9/1/2020
Jeff Tobolski, a former Cook County commissioner and mayor, admitted he took “multiple extortion and bribe payments” worth a total of more than $250,000. He admitted conspiring with an unnamed McCook police officer to get cash payments from a restaurant owner in exchange for giving permission to the business to sell liquor. Media reports said a factory owner in Tobolski’s county board district felt pressured to give a campaign contribution to the commission while the businessperson’s application for a county property-tax break was pending. In one email, Tobolski said the tool-and-die business should contribute campaign cash annually and budget for the expense as if it were a “fixed cost” of doing business in his district.
Illinois – Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/31/2020
Federal prosecutors charged a central figure in their ongoing corruption probe in Chicago involving red-light camera company SafeSpeed. The one-count criminal information alleges Omar Maani, who was co-owner of the company, conspired with Patrick Doherty, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, and another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of red-light cameras there. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager. Maani’s cooperation with federal authorities already has led to charges against a number of politicians and power players, including then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Illinois – Naperville Council Member Proposes Ethics Policy to Limit Influence of Campaign Donations on City Business
Chicago Tribune – Erin Hegarty (Naperville Sun) | Published: 9/2/2020
Naperville City Councilperson Theresa Sullivan requested the city look into whether it could enforce stricter ethics policies to keep campaign donations from influencing city council votes. Sullivan proposed city staff research amending Naperville’s ethics code to require council members and the mayor to recuse themselves from voting on an agenda item if the petitioner, or a representative of the petitioner, donated more than $500 to the mayor or council member’s most recent campaign.
Indiana – Whiting Mayor, Wife Pulled $255K from Campaign to Fuel Gambling Habit, Pay Credit Card Debt, Feds Say
Northwest Indiana Times – Lauren Cross | Published: 8/27/2020
Longtime Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura illegally spent $255,000 in campaign money to fuel his and his wife’s gambling habits, pay down debts, and support his adult daughter, federal prosecutors said in announcing felony charges against him. Diane Stahura transferred money from the campaign committee’s bank account to the Stahuras’ personal bank account, authorities said. Prosecutors said Joe Stahura filed a false tax return in 2019, falsely listing his gross income and not accounting for $51,480 stolen from the campaign account in 2018. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the loan repayment amount to his campaign by approximately $40,000, prosecutors said.
Iowa – Judge Voids 50,000 Absentee Ballot Requests in Iowa County
Associated Press News – Ryan Foley | Published: 8/28/2020
A judge ordered an Iowa county to invalidate 50,000 requests for absentee ballots, agreeing with President Trump’s campaign that its elections commissioner overstepped his authority by pre-filling them with voters’ personal information. Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction ordering Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to notify voters in writing the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed. Instead, they will have to either fill out new requests for absentee ballots or vote on Election Day. Republicans said the ruling would hold a “rogue auditor” accountable and enhance voting security, while Democrats called it an act of voter suppression.
Kentucky – Kentucky’s New Election Finance Reporting System Plagued with More Delays
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/28/2020
When it passed a law in 2019 requiring candidates and committees to file their campaign finance reports electronically, the Kentucky General Assembly was aiming for increased transparency. The new system would let taxpayers know as soon as possible who was contributing to whom. The law went into effect this year, but so far has fallen short of that aim. The system delays run counter to the essential mission of the agency, providing timely transparency on who is bankrolling political campaigns. It makes any major financial push by special interest groups difficult to detect.
Missouri – Judges Redo Voter Summary of Missouri Redistricting Measure
Associated Press News – Summer Ballentine | Published: 8/31/2020
A Missouri appeals court panel rewrote a summary for voters describing a November ballot measure that would revamp the state’s model for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. The Legislature’s combined the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved,” according to the ruling written by Judge Alok Ahuja.
Montana – COPP Dismisses Complaints Against Bullock, Warns of Fees for Future Faulty Claims
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 8/28/2020
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices dismissed two complaints filed by the state Republican Party against Gov. Steve Bullock, saying they did not meet ethics code violations. In one case, Commissioner Jeff Mangan warned that ethics complaints, with and without basis in law and fact, are on a “steep rise” and he will begin charging complaints when cases fail to meet legal standards. He said conclusory statements, assumptions, or opinions are not enough to support a proceeding under the ethics code.
Montana – Judge Upholds Montana Political Spending Disclosure Rule
Associated Press News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 8/31/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell upheld Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order that requires companies to report political spending if they want to bid on large state contracts. Lovell ruled the Illinois Opportunity Project does not have the legal standing to challenge the order, which requires reporting of contributions even to “dark money” groups. Under Bullock’s order, companies submitting bids for contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods must disclose two years’ worth of political spending if it exceeds $2,500.
New York – Court Shields Trump Tax Returns, Likely Until After Election
ABC News – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2020
A federal appeals court granted President Trump a temporary reprieve in the fight over his tax returns, barring Manhattan’s top prosecutor from getting the records while Trump’s lawyers embark on another bid to overturn the subpoena seeking them. With a temporary stay in place and Trump expecting a return to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely the case will be resolved or any tax returns will be turned over before the November election. A lawyer for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office argued further delays to the enforcement of a subpoena issued nearly a year ago would only hamper their investigation, which he said covers a wide range of business dealings connected to the Trump Organization.
Ohio – FirstEnergy, Caught Up in FBI Investigation, Used Its ‘Political Might’ to Pressure the Ohio Statehouse
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/27/2020
Interviews and a review of hundreds of pages of court documents and campaign finance reports, show FirstEnergy and its affiliates have used an army of lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants, as well as political contributions, to pressure Ohio lawmakers to get what they want when they want it. The companies have used a rough-and-tumble political style to gain legislators’ support through fear or favor, according to interviews and court records. The tactics have sought to mold even the most independent lawmakers into compliant followers. The strategy became clear when the racketeering indictment of Former Speaker Larry Householder and four associates linked to House Bill 6 underscored the political influence of FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission Fines Anti-Nuclear Bailout Campaign Group for Not Disclosing Donors
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
The Ohio Elections Commission fined the group behind the failed 2019 campaign to repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law, for failing to disclose who funded their efforts. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a fine of at least $5,225, or $25 for each day that has passed since a January 31 campaign finance deadline. Commission members approved the fine recommended by staff after the group failed to file a routine report detailing donors and campaign expenses. Particularly since House Bill 6 was implicated in a federal corruption investigation, advocates and state lawmakers have cited the fight over the bill in calls for reforms to increase transparency in Ohio’s campaign finance system.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Consider 162 Campaign Finance Complaints Related to Larry Householder’s Campaign for Speaker
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 8/27/2020
Larry Householder and his allies committed dozens of violations of state campaign finance law, including bribery, while helping Householder become and retain his power as speaker of the House, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said. LaRose referred 162 elections complaints to the Elections Commission against Householder and four other men: his former top political aide Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Neil Clark. The alleged violations parallel a federal investigation, which has charged Householder and the others of accepting more than $60 million in bribes, funneled through a network of political groups, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to help Householder get elected as speaker in 2019.
Ohio – Ohio House Poised to Remove Householder from Legislative Ethics Panel Following Corruption Arrest
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 9/1/2020
The Ohio House is moving to remove state Rep. Larry Householder from his seat on a legislative ethics board, six weeks after Householder was arrested in a federal corruption probe. Republicans added language to an unrelated bill to make it possible to remove Householder from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), which oversees lobbying and ethics rules for the Legislature. Householder had gotten an automatic seat on the JLEC board when he was speaker, and state law otherwise was designed to prevent removing a lawmaker once they are on.
Oregon – Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 8/30/2020
As the first state in the nation to adopt vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration, Oregon has built a reputation for high voter turnout. But while Oregon voters have their say at the ballot box, corporations have their say more frequently in the Legislature, by keeping the state’s politicians awash in campaign cash. Oregon is one of five states that lack any limits on campaign contributions made by corporations, and one of eleven that lack any limit on individual donations to a candidate. The result is the state is number one in per capita corporate political donations and sixth overall in total corporate political donations. Heading into the November election, a coalition of state groups is putting the issue of unlimited corporate money in state politics before voters in a ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution.
Virginia – Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 9/1/2020
For vision-impaired voters in Virginia, there was no easy way to vote. They would either have to risk their health during a pandemic to vote in person or forgo voter privacy by asking someone to fill in the blanks on their mail-in ballot forms. Now, after the center and several other groups advocating for the blind filed a federal lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Elections has agreed to offer a new option. A consent decree will allow vision-impaired individuals to electronically receive mail-in ballots compatible with screen-reader assistive technology. The agreement applies only to the November 3 election.
Washington – Washington One of the Few States Without a ‘Cooling Off’ Period for Public Servants Turned Lobbyists
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Connell and Patrick Malone | Published: 9/2/2020
Nearly one in five of Washington’s roughly 800 registered lobbyists previously worked in state government or elected office. That includes about 60 lobbyists who came from high-ranking public positions. They include former chiefs of staff of governors, Cabinet secretaries, and deputy directors for state agencies. Several are former state lawmakers or attorneys for the Legislature. Government-reform advocates say the “revolving door” creates the potential for powerful interests to influence public servants who could be in line to land a job outside government. Then, as lobbyists, former officials can use their extensive knowledge and contacts to potentially exercise outsized influence on policy and legislation.
West Virginia – Lawsuit Reveals Lobbyist Drama
Wheeling News-Register – Steven Allen Adams | Published: 8/30/2020
Depositions filed in federal court revealed the internal drama behind the selection of standardized tests and the rivalry between the former state superintendent of schools and a lobbyist. It was a rivalry that spilled into social media with attacks on the West Virginia Department of Education, state education officials allegedly threatening one major testing supplier and even pressuring another testing supplier to hire their own lobbyist to “combat” and “neutralize” the other lobbyist. The lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb against Steve Paine, former state superintendent of schools, and Jan Barth, assistant superintendent for the Division of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, showcases the fight between two companies to become the state’s new standardized test.
September 2, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge Elections Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post Ethics National: “PPP […]
Oregon: “Oregon Voters to Decide on Limitless Corporate Political Donations” by David Moore for Sludge
Virginia: “Virginia Agrees to Make Mail-In Voting Accessible to Blind Voters Who Sued” by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post
National: “PPP Loans Helped Out Congressional Spouses’ Workplaces” by Chris Marquette for Roll Call
National: “D.C. Circuit Panel Guts House Subpoena Power” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Barr Tightens Rules on Surveillance of Political Candidates and Advisers” by Devlin Barrett for Washington Post
Alabama: “AG: Time for former Alabama speaker to go to prison” by Kim Chandler for Associated Press News
National: “Guilty Plea in Hawaii Woman’s Lobbying of Trump Officials” by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Former SafeSpeed Executive Who Wore FBI Wire Charged with Bribery Conspiracy Involving Oak Lawn Red-Light Camera Scheme” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Canada: “Montreal-Based Ventilation Company Becomes Fourth Company Banned from Federal Contracts for 10 Years” by Christopher Nardi for National Post
July 24, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020 President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified […]
As Trump Slumps, Republican Donors Look to Save the Senate
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 7/20/2020
President Trump’s weak poll numbers and a surge of Democratic cash flooding key Senate races have jolted top Republicans and intensified talk among party donors and strategists about redirecting money to protect their narrow Senate Republican majority amid growing fear of complete Democratic control of Washington in 2021. Almost no one is talking openly about abandoning Trump at this point. A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder. Right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds but also in deep red states.
Dan Sullivan, Marco Rubio Pay Tribute to John Lewis Using the Photo of a Different Black Congressman
Anchorage Daily News – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2020
Like many of their colleagues, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan posted tributes to U.S. Rep. John Lewis and aimed to include photos of themselves with the civil rights icon who died on July 17. Rubio even made the image his Twitter profile picture. There was just one problem. The photos they each posted were of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died in October.
Ethics Committee Clears Rep. Trahan in Campaign Finance Case
AP News – Steve LeBlanc | Published: 7/17/2020
The House Committee on Ethics cleared U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan following an investigation into allegations she accepted excessive campaign contributions and reported them as personal loans even though they may not have been sourced from her personal funds. The investigation focused on allegations that Trahan’s husband, David Trahan, deposited funds into a joint checking account she then used to make $300,000 in loans to her campaign during the 2018 election. Lawyers for Rep, Trahan argued the funds were her personal funds because the couple signed a premarital agreement under which she and her husband have equal rights to the management of all marital property.
Financially Strapped Trucking Firm Tripled Lobbying Days Before Winning Coronavirus Relief Loan
Roll Call – Jessica Wehrman | Published: 7/21/2020
The trucking company that received a $700 million coronavirus relief loan spent $210,000 on lobbyists in the days before it reached an agreement with the Treasury Department on that loan. The money YRC Worldwide spent on lobbying during the second quarter of 2020 alone was more than three times what it spent on lobbying in 2019 and more than the $140,000 the company spent in 2018 and 2019 combined. Now, a bipartisan congressional panel is criticizing the loan the company received, saying “it is far from clear” that YRC Worldwide is eligible for a lending mechanism originally designed for companies critical to national security, such as Boeing.
GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform
The Hill – James Bikales | Published: 7/16/2020
A former House Democratic aide who was fired after two criminal convictions gained unauthorized access to a virtual Homeland Security subcommittee hearing recently, according to a Republican lawmaker. Isaac Lanier Avant, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson who is now a lobbyist, was on the WebEx platform designated for lawmakers and witnesses for an hour during the hearing, Homeland Security ranking member Mike Rogers said. Avant is a registered lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, whose chief executive officer George Zoley was testifying at the hearing.
House Lawmakers Agree That Secure Remote Voting Is Possible, but Implementation Still Divides
Roll Call – Katherine Tully-McManus | Published: 7/17/2020
House lawmakers agreed that the chamber could implement a comprehensive and secure electronic remote voting system, but divisions remain over whether such a move, even in the midst of a global health crisis, is prudent. The House Administration Committee heard from the House clerk, a pioneering former speaker, and a roster of academics and business leaders on the technological feasibility of electronic remote voting and keeping it safe from hackers and other bad actors aiming to sow distrust in government. In a historic move, the House made a temporary change to the chamber’s rules to allow for a proxy voting period. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still participate in floor votes and committee meetings.
‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them
Washington Post – Katie Shepherd | Published: 7/17/2020
Several men in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone during a protest in Portland, Oregon. He was detained and searched. They drove him to the federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Two officers read his Miranda rights and asked if Pettibone would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not. Almost as suddenly as they had grabbed him off the street, the men let him go. Pettibone said he still does not know who arrested him or whether what happened to him legally qualifies as an arrest. His detention and videos of similar actions by federal officials driving around Portland in unmarked cars have raised alarm bells for many. Legal scholars questioned whether the detentions pass constitutional muster.
Lobbyists Bundle Donations to Senate Democrats, Trump Victory
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/20/2020
Lobbyist bundlers rounded up $250,000 for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm during the second quarter of this year, even as many of the party’s candidates run against the corporate interests those K Street denizens represent. It highlights how even in a pandemic, advocates trying to influence federal policy are working in support of candidates who may someday vote on it, even though the candidates are keeping their distance from corporate PAC money. Campaigns are only required to disclose bundlers who are registered federal lobbyists, so it is not possible to track the ebb and flow of other people who gather contributions from groups of donors and pool them together, unless campaigns and committees release them voluntarily.
Matt Gaetz Appears to Run Afoul of House Ethics Rules
Politico – Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan | Published: 7/22/2020
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has privately engaged in several spending practices that appear to conflict with House ethics rules. He improperly sent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a limited liability company linked to a speech-writing consultant, in direct conflict with the chamber’s rules. A private company installed a television studio in his father’s home, which Gaetz uses when he appears on television. Taxpayers foot the bill to rent the television camera, and the private company that built the studio takes a fee each time he appears on air. It is unclear how much it cost the private company to construct the studio. This may run afoul of the House gift rule, which prohibits a lawmaker from accepting gifts worth more than $50. The official definition of a gift is broad and covers virtually any good or service with monetary value.
Michael Cohen to Be Released from Prison After Judge Sides with Claims of Retaliation
Washington Post – Shayna Jacobs | Published: 7/23/2020
A judge ordered the release from prison of President Trump’s former personal lawyer, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election. Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled. “I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” Hellerstein said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”
Pandemic Lobbying Tops K Street Agenda, but Spending Dips
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 7/21/2020
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a whirl of K Street activity during the first half of the year, but nine of the top 10 biggest spenders reported a decrease in their lobbying tabs during the second quarter, indicating a turbulent business environment in the months ahead. The pandemic has disrupted the K Street economy, as it has the rest of the nation’s businesses, thrusting most lobbyists into an all-virtual workspace and creating volatility as the November elections draw closer.
Senators Request Ethics Probe After Ivanka Trump’s Goya Endorsement
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 7/21/2020
Days after Ivanka Trump created an uproar for endorsing Goya Foods after its chief executive officer praised her father, a pair of U.S. senators want an investigation into whether she violated federal ethics rules. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics inquiring about possible disciplinary action for Ivanka Trump, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House. “The timing of her remarks creates the appearance, at least, that praise for Trump Administration officials may elicit later endorsements from these same officials,” according to the senators’ letter.
Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?
MSN – Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 7/16/2020
As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the U.S. House and Senate. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems, and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which President Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.”
Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts
MSN – Katie Rogers and Peter Baker (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
President Trump directed the federal government not to count undocumented immigrants when allocating U.S. House districts, a move that critics called a transparent political ploy to help Republicans in violation of the Constitution. The president’s directive would exclude millions of people when determining how many House seats each state should have based on the once-a-decade census, reversing the longstanding policy of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status. The effect would likely shift several seats from Democratic states to Republican states.
Trump’s Request of an Ambassador: Get the British Open for me
MSN – Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
In 2018, President Trump allegedly pressured the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson, to ask the United Kingdom government to relocate the lucrative British Open golf tournament to the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. While the ambassador’s deputy warned Johnson such a request would be an ethical violation, Johnson reportedly felt pressured to go forward with it. As president, Trump is immune from a federal statute making conflicts-of-interest involving “government matters that will affect your own personal financial interest” a crime. He is beholden to the emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibiting federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments. As recently as 2017, Turnberry posted a seven-figure loss.
Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts
Hartford Courant – Kate Conger (New York Times) | Published: 7/21/2020
Twitter said it had removed thousands of accounts that spread messages about the conspiracy theories known as QAnon, saying their messages could lead to harm and violated company policy. Twitter said it would also block trends related to the loose network of QAnon conspiracy theories from appearing in its trending topics and search and would not allow users to post links affiliated with the theories on its platform. The QAnon theories stem from an anonymous person or group of people who use the name “Q” and claim to have access to government secrets that reveal a plot against President Trump and his supporters. That supposedly classified information was initially posted on message boards before spreading to mainstream internet platforms and has led to significant online harassment as well as physical violence.
Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management
AP News – Richard Lardner | Published: 7/16/2020
Seema Verma, the head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, failed to properly manage more than $6 million in communications and outreach contracts, giving broad authority over federal employees to a Republican media strategist she worked with before joining the Trump administration, a government watchdog said. The contracts were for strategic communications services, such as public engagement and interacting with the media. But the inspector general said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services used them as personal services contracts and exerted a level of control over the contractors’ work that exceeded what is allowed under that type of a federal award.
Canada – How Washington Works: Inside an annual field trip for Canada’s senior bureaucrats
Maclean’s – Nick Taylor-Vaisey | Published: 7/21/2020
“How Washington Works” is a course offered by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS), a training ground for that country’s federal employees that aims to “provide a broad range of learning opportunities and to establish a culture of learning.” The CSPS has for years sent senior executives south of the border. Until a few years ago, the course was conducted mostly within the confines of the Canadian embassy. But that all changed in 2015, when Maryscott Greenwood, a frequent guest speaker at the event took on a new role as facilitator. Greenwood heads up the Canadian American Business Council, an influential lobby group backed by some of the biggest corporations with cross-border business.
Canada – WE Organization Under Scrutiny for Not Registering as Lobbyist Before Pitching Proposals to Trudeau Liberals
National Post – Christopher Nardi | Published: 7/17/2020
The WE organization is coming under new scrutiny over questions as to whether it should have officially registered to lobby the federal government before it pitched two separate programs to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government last April. WE is not listed in the federal lobbying registry. Conservative members of Parliament wrote the federal commissioner of lobbying, Nancy Bélanger, asking her to investigate if WE had possibly broken the Lobbying Act.
From the States and Municipalities
California – George Esparza, Ex-Aide to LA Councilman Jose Huizar, Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Los Angeles Daily News – City News Service | Published: 7/22/2020
A former aide to now-suspended Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge arising from a purported City Hall corruption scheme in which real estate developers paid bribes to ensure building projects received favored treatment. From 2013 to 2018, Esparza worked as a special assistant to Huizar, who chaired the Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Prosecutors say Esparza and Huizar took bribes from the head of a major Chinese real estate company, who paid more than $1 million in exchange for Huizar’s support for a 77-story skyscraper the company wanted to build.
Colorado – Hickenlooper’s Ethics Defense Costs Taxpayers More Than $133,000
Denver Post – Jason Wingerter | Published: 7/18/2020
Taxpayers spent $133,438 covering the cost of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s defense attorney in the 18 months before he was found to have violated the state’s ban on gifts to public officials. The legal costs have raised eyebrows because they were paid with leftover money from a 2003 federal fund. The fund was supposed to be for essential government services and federal mandates, but Hickenlooper and his predecessor used the money for a wide range of discretionary spending.
Florida – Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey’s Business Paid Thousands by County Contractor
Orlando Sentinel – Jason Garcia | Published: 7/22/2020
Since 2016, a business owned by Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey has been paid as much as $88,000 by an engineering firm that contracts with the county. But VanderLey did not disclose that until recently, after The Orlando Sentinel sent her questions about her income from the company and the accuracy of her public financial disclosures. VanderLey acknowledged she had made mistakes on her state- and county-mandated financial disclosure forms, which are meant to help voters understand their elected officials’ potential conflicts-of-interest. VanderLey called it a “clerical error.” County commissioners and other public officers are generally barred by state law from voting on any matter that would uniquely benefit them financially.
Florida – Priorities USA and Others Agree to Drop Voting Lawsuit Against Florida
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 7/18/2020
A Democratic super PAC and other groups agreed to drop their voting lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party on the eve of a federal trial. The groups pushed to change Florida voting laws due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there were signs the lawsuit was in trouble. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in June refused to order changes right away, including a request that taxpayers cover postage costs for mail-in ballots. The decision to end most or all of the legal battle is another win for Republicans in a key battleground state that could make or break President Trump’s reelection effort.
Florida – Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/16/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on Florida’s fight over felon voting, choosing not to overturn a lower court’s decision to keep hundreds of thousands of poor felons from joining the voter rolls ahead of this year’s elections. The decision, which was not accompanied by a written ruling, means felons who cannot afford to pay off all court fines, fees, and restitution to victims are still unable to register to vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the fight against allowing poor felons to vote, after nearly 65 percent of Floridians approved Amendment 4 in 2018. The amendment overturned Florida’s Jim Crow-era law meant to keep Blacks from voting.
Illinois – Federal Investigation Draws Closer to Madigan as ComEd Will Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme; Pritzker Says Speaker Must Resign If Allegations True
Chicago Tribune – Dan Hinkel, Rick Pierson, Alice Yin, Megan Crepeau, and Annie Sweeney | Published: 7/18/2020
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) settled a federal criminal investigation into a years-long bribery scheme in Illinois. According to the deferred prosecution, the company is charged with one count of bribery. As long as it pays a $200 million fine and complies with regulations for three years, that charge will be dropped. ComEd admits it arranged jobs, subcontracts, and pay-offs for associates of “a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois.” Prosecutors in a criminal filing say that elected official is House Speaker Michael Madigan. Prosecutors put a value of $150 million on the legislative benefits ComEd received.
Iowa – Iowa GOP Congressional Candidate Apologizes for Plagiarism, Cuts Ties with Consulting Firm
MSN – Stephen Gruber-Miller (Des Moines Register) | Published: 7/22/2020
Iowa congressional candidate Ashley Hinson apologized for plagiarism her opinion pieces and website and cut ties with a consulting firm she said was responsible. The New York Times reported Hinson, a former television news reporter and state representative, plagiarized passages from news outlets including The Times. Hinson repeated the passages word for word in op-eds and on her campaign site without giving credit to the original sources. She also used near-identical language as her opponent, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, used in her platform on veterans issues.
Kentucky – Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign
Louisville Courier-Journal – Deborah Yetter | Published: 7/16/2020
Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chairperson and the father of former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for campaign finance violations related to his daughter’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Lundergan was convicted last year with Dale Emmons for being part of a scheme to funnel more than $200,000 in illegal campaign donations to the campaign in which Grimes ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Kentucky – Well-Connected Unemployment Director Quietly Fired Amid Crisis
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Eleanor Klibanoff and Jared Bennett | Published: 7/20/2020
Muncie McNamara, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance, was quietly fired on May 5 amid an unprecedented number of jobless claims, a race to overhaul an archaic computer system, and a belatedly reported data breach. McNamara had been on the job only four months. The lawyer had no experience with unemployment systems or state government before taking the job. But what he did have was connections. He volunteered for and donated to Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign. His wife, a recent chairperson of the Nelson County Democratic Party, considers Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman “a good friend.” Coleman called McNamara to offer him the job personally, he said. McNamara was paid $15,000 more than his predecessor, a career official who the cabinet kept on staff as a special assistant.
Maryland – Political Operative Used Maryland’s DC Lobbyist in Seeking $12.5M Coronavirus Supplies Contract That Went Sour
Baltimore Sun – Pamela Wood | Published: 7/16/2020
A company that failed to deliver millions of dollars’ worth of masks and ventilators to Maryland landed the contested deal with the help of a political connection, documents indicate. An adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan helped Blue Flame Medical get its foot in the door with state purchasing agents. The company was founded in March by two Republican political operatives with no medical experience as the coronavirus swept across the country. Tiffany Waddell, Hogan’s director of federal relations, sent an email introducing Blue Flame Medical co-founder Mike Gula to Ellington Churchill, the state’s secretary of the Department of General Services.
Michigan – Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland Charged with Misconduct in Office, a Felony
Detroit Free Press – M.L. Elrick | Published: 7/17/2020
The Monroe County prosecutor charged Detroit City Councilperson Gabe Leland with misconduct in office. The felony charge comes a month before Leland was scheduled to go to trial in federal court on three counts of bribery for allegedly demanding $15,000 from Bob Carmack to help the businessperson in a dispute with the city. The misconduct in office charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000, indicates Leland’s fate will be decided in state court rather than U.S. District Court. There are several reasons Leland may prefer to resolve the case in state court.
Montana – GOP Candidate for Montana Auditor Could Face Campaign Fines
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 7/21/2020
A primary election contest led to potential fines for the state auditor candidate who won and another Republican candidate. Montana Commissioner of Political Practice Jeff Mangan said the winning candidate, Troy Downing, had seven violations while another candidate who lost, Scott Tuxbury, had one violation. Downing failed to provide opposing candidates with copies of a campaign direct mail promotion and a television advertisement that mentioned them and were used within 10 days of the primary election. Mangan said Tuxbury failed to disclose details of a $79,000 in-kind contribution to his campaign.
New Mexico – Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work
New Mexico Political Report – Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 7/17/2020
As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District heated up in May, two mysterious groups began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive advertisements about Leger Fernandez but did not disclose who paid for them. Other candidates condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads. But a review of FEC filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race, Valerie Plame, the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign. It is not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups do not disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.
New York – NY Heavyweights Control Campaign Funds Even After Leaving Office
Adirondack Daily Enterprise – Joe Maloney (CNHI News Service) | Published: 7/22/2020
A month after resigning as New York Senate Republican leader, John Flanagan is holding on to his campaign fund, which contains $376,018. Flanagan’s campaign account, though substantial, is dwarfed by the $1.3 million held former state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who retired from the Legislature at the end of 2018. While neither Flanagan or DeFrancisco has plans to seek office again, state allows former office holders to keep their campaign funds active, though good government groups have pushed for years for a requirement that they be dissolved anywhere from six to 18 months after they leave office. The law only requires the fund be dissolved when the person who held or is holding office dies, said John Conklin of the state Board of Elections.
New York – Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 7/16/2020
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is accusing President Trump’s lawyers of deliberately stalling a legal battle over a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax records. During a court hearing held one week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s most sweeping arguments against the grand jury subpoena, an attorney from District Attorney Cy Vance’s office said it was evident Trump’s legal team was playing for time. The president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, did not respond directly to that claim but said there were strong indications that Vance’s investigation was a political errand on behalf of Democratic lawmakers in Washington seeking the same set of records.
North Dakota – ND GOP Fined $8,000 for Campaign Finance Violation
Grand Forks Herald – Barry Amundson | Published: 7/18/2020
The North Dakota Republican Party was fined $8,000 by the FEC for failing to report a major campaign contribution within the required timeframe during the 2016 election. Nick Hacker, who was treasurer of the party in October 2016 when the reporting violation was made, said a staff member for the party did not make the corrected report within the 30 days required. Instead, he said, it was corrected within 45 days.
Ohio – Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 4 Others Charged in $60M Bribery Case Tied to Bailout of Akron’s Energy Harbor
Akron Beacon Journal – USA Today Network Ohio | Published: 7/21/2020
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were arrested in a federal corruption investigation connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of the state’s two nuclear power plants. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme that had “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” Householder, chief political aide Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyists Matt Borges, Neil Clark, and Juan Cespedes used the bribe money to expand the speaker’s political power and enrich themselves by millions of dollars through “dark-money” groups and bank accounts.
Texas – If Texas Capitol Remains Closed, Lobbyists Say Special Interests Will Thrive Away from Public View
KXAN – John Enger | Published: 7/20/2020
Legislation is debated and voted on inside the Texas Capitol in Austin every other year. But it is two blocks down the road where much of the action takes place. At the corner of Ninth Street and Congress Avenue, buildings house dozens of lobbyists who welcome lawmakers to discuss their clients’ policy and financial goals. With the state’s biennial legislative session approaching, and the Capitol still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, some lobbyists say special interests could have an even greater role in the coming year.
Texas – Oil-and-Gas Money Flows to Railroad Commission Nominee Who Pledged to Recuse Himself
Austin American Statesman – Asher Price | Published: 7/16/2020
In March, when James Wright, with little money in his campaign account, remained an obscure Republican primary challenger to a sitting Texas oil-and-gas regulator, he pledged to recuse himself from matters involving campaign donors. But campaign finance reports show that after Wright’s out-of-nowhere upset primary victory, hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests flowed his way. Wright qualified his earlier pledge, saying should he be elected in November to the Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil-and-gas industry, he would recuse himself only on matters that involved donors who give money directly ahead of a commission vote.
Virginia – A Politician’s Return of a $10,000 Donation Was Never Cashed. The Transit Union Says It Lost the Check.
Washington Post – Patricia Sullivan | Published: 7/23/2020
The $10,000 donation that cost former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMTA) board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said. Dorsey, an Arlington County Board member, who served as one of WMTA’s appointed leaders until February, lost that unpaid job over his failure to disclose the union contribution within 10 days, as the board’s ethics policy requires.
Washington DC – Trump Attended a Fundraiser Without a Mask. The City Sent an Investigator to Inspect His Hotel.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Julie Zauzma | Published: 7/22/2020
The president’s recent maskless appearance at his Trump International Hotel, in apparent defiance of District of Columbia coronavirus regulations, caught the attention of local authorities, who inspected the hotel to check for compliance with city rules. The investigator found no violations at the time of the visit, but the agency pledged to continue monitoring the hotel. President Trump did not wear a mask while greeting Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn at his downtown Washington hotel, according to video of their interaction. Nor did multiple guests standing near one another in the lobby, the video shows.
July 20, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign” by Deborah Yetter for Louisville Courier-Journal New Mexico: “Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work” by Bryan Metzger (New Mexico […]
Kentucky: “Jerry Lundergan Gets 21 Months in Prison for Election Finance Violation in Daughter’s Campaign” by Deborah Yetter for Louisville Courier-Journal
New Mexico: “Spending in New Mexico Primary Highlights Dark Money at Work” by Bryan Metzger (New Mexico In Depth) for New Mexico Political Report
National: “Tens of Thousands of Mail Ballots Have Been Tossed Out in This Year’s Primaries. What Will Happen in November?” by Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
Florida: “Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Decision in Fight Over Felon Voting in Florida” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times
National: “‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them” by Katie Shepherd for Washington Post
New York: “Trump Lawyer, Prosecutor Spar Over Future of Tax Returns Subpoena Case” by Josh Gerstein for Politico
National: “GOP Lawmaker Raises Concern Over Lobbyist Gaining Unauthorized Access to Online Hearing Platform” by James Bikales for The Hill
Illinois: “ComEd to Pay $200 Million Fine in Alleged Bribery Scheme as Feds Say Madigan Allies Got Jobs, Contracts” by Dan Hinkel and Rick Pierson for Chicago Tribune
National: “Watchdog Report Faults Medicare Agency’s Contract Management” by Richard Lardner for AP News
July 17, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020 Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking […]
America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them
New York Times – Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker | Published: 7/13/2020
Governors have always been judged on their disaster responses, but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country these days does not recede like floodwaters and cannot be tamed by calling out the National Guard. The states’ chief executives have been tested for the very virus that keeps testing them – politically, personally, and logistically. They have been forced onto the national and global stage in a way few governors have ever endured, an unending and public test on a scientific and ever-shifting subject with the lives of their constituents, the economies of their states, and their political careers at stake. The pandemic has many of America’s governors of both parties under a spotlight for which none of their aides and consultants have a playbook.
Big Donors and PACs Dominate Campaign Funding in Nearly Every State, Report Finds
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 7/9/2020
A recent report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds that, on average, 73 percent of state campaign funding from 2016 through 2019 came from large donors or PACs, while just 12 percent came from small donors contributing $250 or less. if small donors are incentivized to donate state campaigns, the share currently given to politicians by large donors and special-interest PACs could be flipped on its head with nearly three-quarters of campaign funding could come from amplified donations of $250 and under, according to a previous CFI report that examined public financing in New York.
Chief of White House’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Vaccine Effort Can Keep Investing in Pharma Firms, Under IG Ruling
Albany Times Union – Christopher Rowland (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
The co-director of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed can maintain extensive investments in the drug industry and avoid ethics disclosures while he continues to make decisions about government contracts for promising coronavirus vaccines under a decision by the Health and Human Services inspector general. The ruling came in response to a complaint that said the administration has carved out an improper exception to federal conflict-of-interest rules for Moncef Slaoui, a former high-ranking official at GlaxoSmithKline. Slaoui took the helm of the initiative as what the administration described as a volunteer contractor. That allowed him to avoid the requirement for government employees to disclose financial interests and divest in holdings that conflict with their responsibilities.
Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/13/2020
Michael Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers. But he could not overturn a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted to protect American troops overseas. Then Williams joined the Trump administration. As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials, and creating pressure within the State Department. On July 10, the State Department lifted the ban. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new sales for companies Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association. His role follows a pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies.
Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 7/14/2020
CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered U.S. House Democrats at the top of the party’s priority list this November. But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting politicians. This activity – creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom – diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.
Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job
MSN – Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Attorney General William Barr repeatedly pressured then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to resign and take another job, including as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to clear the way for President Trump to install a political ally as the leader of the powerful federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. Berman, who testified privately before the House Judiciary Committee, described in a written statement the unusual sequence of events that led to his departure on June 20. The revelation of Barr’s tactics adds to the picture of what was already known about the extraordinary turn of events that culminated in Berman stepping down amid suspicions he was being ousted for political reason.
‘She Knows Better’: Ex-ethics chief Walter Shaub says Ivanka Trump broke rule by promoting Goya beans
USA Today – William Cummings and David Jackson | Published: 7/15/2020
Ivanka Trump is facing questions of whether she violated ethics rules in a social media post that promoted Goya Foods, whose chief executive officer angered opponents of President Trump by praising the president at an event. Ivanka Trump posted an image of herself on Twitter holding aloft a can of Goya black beans, along with a caption featuring the company’s slogan, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that because Ivanka Trump often uses her Twitter account to conduct official business and includes her job description in her profile, “Ms. Trump’s Goya tweet is clearly a violation of the government’s misuse of position regulation.”
States That Raced to Reopen Let Businesses Write Their Own Rules, Documents Show
Anchorage Daily News – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2020
Business networks and industry organizations helped write the rules of the pandemic response in some of the places that were the last to impose restrictions and the first to ease them. It also sheds light on the thinking of governors who have pledged not to reverse course on reopening, even as coronavirus cases spike in their states. Moves to throw open the doors with the virus still raging help explain recent surges in these states, epidemiologists say. Across the country, moves to reopen the economy before containing the virus offered a lesson in “how the political system accommodates the needs of business,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.
The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force
MSN – Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2020
A “Never Trump” rebellion that began four years ago as a largely ineffective cadre of Republicans has transformed in recent weeks into a potentially disruptive force in this year’s presidential race. Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the president. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, with an emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president.
Trump Commutes Longtime Friend Roger Stone’s Prison Sentence
AP News – Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker | Published: 7/11/2020
President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison term for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the U.S. House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. The move is another intervention by Trump in the nation’s justice system and underscores his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.
Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.
Politico – Tina Nguyen | Published: 7/12/2020
President Trump on July 4 retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by “Q” is leaving online clues about Trump’s secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking. It was not the first time Trump has nodded, accidentally or not, to QAnon followers on Twitter. But his QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. The engagement has continued even as the FBI has labeled the online community a potential source of domestic terrorism after several people radicalized by QAnon have been charged with crimes inspired by the conspiracy theory.
Trump Replaces Campaign Manager as Polls Show Him Trailing Biden in Presidential Race
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
President Trump announced he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as recent polls show him falling further behind Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy. The president said Parscale will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected. Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign, He was formerly a top aide to then-New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie. Stepien was expelled from Christi’s orbit in the aftermath of bridge lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in 2013, an episode known as Bridgegate.
Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?
ProPublica – Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump complained via Twitter that a privately constructed border wall in Texas was a bad idea and poorly done, not mentioning his administration has awarded the builder a $1.7 billion contract to build more walls. With the backing of Trump supporters, Tommy Fisher built a three-mile border fence along the Rio Grande. But just months after completion of his showcase piece directly on the banks of the river, there are signs of erosion along and under the fence that threatens its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed. The administration gave Fisher the billion-dollar contract to build additional stretches of the wall in Arizona, despite a lawsuit around the South Texas project and an ongoing audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general of a previous border wall contract that is looking into possible “inappropriate influence.”
White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami | Published: 7/13/2020
President Trump was granted a second 45-day extension to file his personal financial disclosure forms, which will give the American public its only detailed look at the president’s private business interests. The forms are supposed to detail Trump’s income, debt, stock holdings, and outstanding loans for 2019. Federal law allows only two such extensions. Trump appears to be the only president since 2001 to need an extension for his financial disclosure filing.
Canada – PM Trudeau’s Mother, Brother and Wife Were Paid to Speak at WE Charity Events
CTV – Rachel Gilmore | Published: 7/9/2020
Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid a total of nearly $300,000 over the last four years to speak at WE Charity events. The charity group is at the center of an ethics investigation into Trudeau. The federal ethics commissioner launched an investigation into Trudeau over his government’s now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program, which is slated to pay students and new graduates for their volunteer work this summer. While the charity has backed out of the management of the program following days of controversy, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said the request for an investigation “satisfies the requirements” laid out in the Conflict of Interest Act.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law
Yellowhammer News – Tim Howe | Published: 7/9/2020
The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute filed briefs urging Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June. Reid ruled BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as landing fees paid by airlines. Alabama law says an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics statutes if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.
Alabama – Jeff Sessions Loses Runoff in Alabama as Trump Helps End Career of Key Supporter
Anchorage Daily News – Paul Kane and Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2020
Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Doug Jones. The result culminated four months of President Trump imploring the state’s voters to reject Sessions, the man who the president once said he leaned on for advice in forming his “America First” agenda. Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville in the race has always seemed to have more to do with Trump’s anger at Sessions over his recusing himself from the Russia investigation while attorney general than with any particular support for the former Auburn University football coach.
Arizona – Arizona House Ethics Chair Drops Probe of Rep. Cook
KJZZ – Associated Press | Published: 7/9/2020
The head of a special Arizona House ethics committee said he was dropping an investigation into the actions of a fellow Republican lawmaker who faced complaints he engaged in an improper relationship with a lobbyist and helped her avoid a tax seizure. Rep. John Allen said in a letter announcing his decision that he did not believe Rep. David Cook’s conduct “unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules” and the state constitution. The unilateral decision brought protest from Democrats on the panel.
Arkansas – State Lawmaker Is Hired to Lead Youth Lockup; Red Flags Raised, Watchdog Say
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ginny Monk | Published: 7/14/2020
Arkansas Rep. Jasen Kelly was hired as director of Rite of Passage, the firm that manages all four of the state’s residential facilities for juvenile offenders for the Division of Youth Services. Kelly said the job does not conflict with his duties as a legislator or pose an ethical issue. He plans to recuse himself from votes or discussions that deal with Rite of Passage. Tom Masseau, executive director of Disability Rights Arkansas, called for Kelly’s resignation from the House, saying it was the only way to resolve a potential conflict-of-interest.
California – California’s Department of Conservation Rolls Out New Ethics Policy After Years of Complaints
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Mark Olalde | Published: 7/15/2020
The California Department of Conservation, which has for years weathered accusations of a cozy relationship with the oil industry, introduced a new ethics policy that has drawn praise from advocates of good governance. The new conflict-of-interest manual, which came into force in March and applies across the department’s five agencies, forbids employees from maintaining financial holdings in businesses they regulate without written approval from the department’s director. Media reports found that leadership in the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources held investments in major oil companies, including Chevron, which has a large footprint in the state.
California – L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/13/2020
Investigators have turned the spotlight in Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar’s corruption case on an unlikely figure in a “pay-to-play” scandal: an elderly woman who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, once worked in a meatpacking plant, and has lived in a modest home in Boyle Heights. Isidra Huizar, the 80-year-old mother of the embattled council member, is one of the unnamed figures mentioned in the sprawling case. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that Isidra Huizar helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Huizar’s mother, identified only as Relative A-2, repeatedly received cash from her son, then used the proceeds to pay his expenses, according to an affidavit.
Colorado – Nonprofit Cash Being Spent in Colorado Campaigns Still Impossible to Trace Despite 2019 Law
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 7/10/2020
Outside groups spent nearly $1.7 million on eight highly contested Colorado legislative primary races in 2020. But it is not always easy to figure out where the money came from, despite a 2019 law touted as bringing more transparency to a system that includes cash from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors. In other instances, discerning where the money came from is possible if you have time to track all the state and federal committees involved until the funder is revealed. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold acknowledged the loophole in the law that some committees use to avoid naming nonprofit donors. She attributed it to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending in political contests as long as committees do not coordinate with candidates or political parties.
Florida – Florida Democrats Return PPP Money Amid Scandal
Politico – Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon | Published: 7/8/2020
The Florida Democratic Party announced it was returning at least $780,000 in small-business loans after its own lawmakers criticized the acceptance of the money as highly questionable if not unethical and illegal. The party immediately applied for the loan after Congress first passed the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, even though there was discussion at the time that the money should go to neither lobbyists nor political causes. The party is currently underwriting the salaries of campaign staff throughout Florida, including those working to elect Joe Biden.
Florida – Florida Lawmaker’s Ties to NFL Robbery Case Sparks Investigation
Tampa Bay Times – Meghan Bobrowsky | Published: 7/14/2020
The Florida Bar opened an investigation into the actions of state Rep. and lawyer Michael Grieco after it was reported his office was the scene of what appeared to be payoffs to victims of an alleged robbery by National Football League players Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker in May. Grieco had previously been representing Dunbar and Baker were accused of stealing money and jewelry from people at gunpoint at a party. It was revealed that police believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash in Grieco’s office. The victims reportedly signed sworn affidavits alleging Dunbar did not have anything to do with the robbery.
Florida – Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus
Florida Politics – Staff | Published: 7/14/2020
A Florida lobbyist who attended a recent Republican fundraiser near Jacksonville has tested positive for COVID-19. Another lobbyist who briefly attended the event and asked to remain anonymous said they left after entering the reception and seeing no one wearing masks. Some attendees also attended an event two days later with Vice President Mike Pence where he thanked members of the Republican National Host Committee for their work on the Jacksonville event.
Florida – NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 7/13/2020
Florida’s top gun lobbyist Marion Hammer faces a probable cause hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding her failure to disclose payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA). State Sen. Perry Thurston filed complaints about Hammer with the Senate and the ethics commission in May 2019. Two weeks before, it was reported the NRA paid Hammer hundreds of thousands of dollars she had not disclosed for a decade on quarterly lobbyist compensations reports required by the Legislature. State law says the fine for late reports is “$50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.” Hammer, however, was not fined or otherwise disciplined.
Florida – RNC Restricts Convention Attendance as Florida Coronavirus Cases Climb
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 7/16/2020
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to sharply limit attendance for its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, shrinking the event celebrating President Trump’s renomination amid concerns about coronavirus. RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, said attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates.
Illinois – Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 7/9/2020
A Florida fuel distributor that lost a recent bid for a $43 million contract to provide diesel to the city of Chicago filed an official protest, saying the process was skewed to take care of an influential local company linked to an ongoing federal corruption probe. The protest filed by World Fuel Services alleged its proposal, which was the lowest of three submitted to the city, was rejected in favor of the second-lowest bidder that used Black Dog Petroleum as its minority-owned subcontractor. Black Dog and its owner, Amit Gauri, were named in search warrants and subpoenas by federal prosecutors in a probe of former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and suburban mayors and industry heavyweights.
Kansas – Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 7/15/2020
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins who had listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form was charged with three felonies, including illegal voting. The charges came three weeks before Kansas’s Republican primary election. The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local city council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing. The most serious criminal charge accuses Watkins of voting in the 2019 local city and school board election in Topeka without being qualified.
Kentucky – Breonna Taylor Protesters Sat on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Lawn. Police Charged 87 with Felonies.
Portland Press Herald – Katie Shepherd (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
Protesters who refused to leave the front lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron were arrested and each one was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. The activists had come to demand Cameron charge the three police officers who fatally shot Breonna Taylor inside her home while executing a no-knock warrant. The felony charge applies to people who use “physical force or a threat” to influence “the testimony, vote, decision, or opinion” of a participant in the legal process, like a victim, a witness, or a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the felony charges filed against the protesters, calling them “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate.”
Missouri – FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) | Published: 7/13/2020
The FBI has once again requested records from Independence City Hall, the latest in a series of inquiries by federal authorities over the last year that appear to be focused on a pair of utilities contracts and medical marijuana regulations. The Independence City Council in 2017 awarded Environmental Operations the contract to tear down a power plant in Missouri City that Independence Power and Light was no longer using. The contract was immediately controversial since Environmental Operations got the job with a $9.75 million bid, more than twice that of the other bidder. Environmental Operations’ owner, Stacy Hastie, is well connected in Missouri politics. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year demanding records on four medical marijuana applicants.
Missouri – St. Louis Prosecutor Receives Death Threats as Trump Defends Couple Who Pointed Guns at Protesters
Stamford Advocate – Meagan Flynn, Tom Jackman, and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 7/15/2020
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the prosecutor investigating the couple who aimed guns at protesters, says she has received racist attacks and death threats that have worsened as President Trump has thrown his support behind the couple. Both the president and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson have offered impassioned defenses of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who went viral after brandishing guns at protesters on the private street outside their mansion. Parson, who said the couple had “every right to protect their property,” said he spoke with Trump recently. He said Trump made it clear he “doesn’t like what he sees and the way these people are being treated,” referencing the McCloskeys.
New Jersey – New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation
ProPublica – Nancy Solomon (WNYC) | Published: 7/13/2020
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put a freeze on the continued disbursement of $578 million worth of tax breaks awarded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie. A task force’s lead investigator said he referred several companies to law enforcement for making potentially fraudulent threats to move out of state to obtain tax breaks. Of the 12 companies whose awards are under review, five are connected to Democratic Party boss George Norcross and represent most of the money – $540 million. Some companies provided the same out-of-state location where they claimed they would move if they did not get a tax break, Blue Hill Plaza in Rockland County, New York. But the applications were approved.
New Mexico – New Mexico Group ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Ordered to Pay Fines, Register as Political Committee
AP News – Russell Contreras | Published: 7/11/2020
The New Mexico group, Cowboys for Trump, must register as a political committee in the state, and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports, an arbitrator ruled. Cowboys for Trump has protested the requirements because it argues campaign finance laws violate free speech, and the group does not meet the definition of a political committee. Cowboys for Trump members say the group is a for-profit organization.
New York – Probe Into De Blasio’s Old Charity Given Green Light by State Judge
New York Post – Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile | Published: 7/15/2020
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) received approval from a judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin ruled JCOPE has the authority to pursue a probe into Broadway Stages’ communications with de Blasio as well as $60,000 in donations. Broadway Stages claimed JCOPE cannot investigate individuals who give “gifts” and is limited to regulating officials who receive those monetary donations. It also denied giving to Campaign for One New York following a request from de Blasio or any another public official.
New York – Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser | Published: 7/15/2020
Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue the district attorney’s subpoena was too broad and politically motivated. The president and the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.
Ohio – Campaign Finance Cover Clouds Bribery Accusations
Toledo Blade – Tom Troy | Published: 7/11/2020
Investigators say Toledo City Council members Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson, all Democrats, engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme that exchanged money for votes. They face federal bribery and extortion charges. More than $34,000 changed hands between business owners and the council members during the investigation. Several local politicians and campaign experts, however, contend the line between what constitutes a campaign contribution and what constitutes a bribe may be fuzzy to some because of a culture in which politicians and businesses, interest groups, and unions symbiotically support each other through political donations and favorable votes on legislation.
Oregon – Oregon AG Appeals Federal Judge’s Order on Redistricting Bid
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 7/15/2020
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced she is fighting a federal judge’s order for Oregon to give more leeway to a group that seeks to change how the state draws its electoral districts. U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown orders prevented People Not Politicians from obtaining the required number of signatures by a July 2 deadline to put the issue on the ballot for the November election. The Legislature is currently responsible for redrawing district lines. People Not Politicians wants an independent citizen redistricting commission to do it instead and seeks to have voters approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow that.
South Carolina – Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove | Published: 7/12/2020
Anonymous donors poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a South Carolina Senate primary for a seat that covers Myrtle Beach, exploiting the state’s weak campaign finance laws and influencing voters in Horry County. The large amount of money spent on the primary runoff between state Sen. Luke Rankin and John Gallman highlights the outsize role that so-called dark money groups can play in state elections in South Carolina. Combined, the organizations were able to spend more than three times what Rankin was able to raise for his own campaign. That is because people who give directly to candidates are subject to contribution limits in South Carolina, whereas these groups are not.
Tennessee – Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 7/9/2020
Campaign finance officials followed through on a plan to levy a $10,500 penalty against former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada after an audit determined he failed to adequately retain receipts for roughly $100,000 in expenditures. Despite Casada being eligible to face more than $2.9 million in fines, the Registry of Election Finance voted in favor of the smaller penalty. Although the audits found a number of issues with Casada’s personal campaign committee and a PAC controlled, the registry only fined him for failing to have receipts for 299 expenditures.
Texas – Ronny Jackson, Ex-White House Doctor, Wins Texas House Runoff
MSN – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 7/14/2020
Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with President Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, left the West Wing in December after becoming Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to withdraw his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct. Jackson made a series of mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. But after Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked two senior members of Trump’s re-election campaign to step in.
July 15, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico Elections Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) […]
National: “Newsroom or PAC? Liberal Group Muddies Online Information Wars” by Alex Thompson for Politico
Florida: “Headed to the Convention? Not I, More Republicans Are Saying” by Reid Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, and Patricia Mazzei (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Ousted U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Says Barr Pushed Him to Resign and Take Another Job” by Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Trump Isn’t Secretly Winking at QAnon. He’s Retweeting Its Followers.” by Tina Nguyen for Politico
California: “L.A.’s Corruption Probe Involves Developers, a Councilman – and His 80-Year-Old Mom” by David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
Missouri: “FBI Continues Scrutiny of Independence, Requests More Records from City Government” by Jason Hancock, Kevin Hardy, and Steve Vockrodt (Kansas City Star) for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New Jersey: “New Jersey Puts $578 Million in Controversial Tax Breaks on Hold After Investigation” by Nancy Solomon (WNYC) for ProPublica
Florida: “Hot Zone? Florida Republicans Told to ‘Get Tested’ After Lobbyist Who Attended Their Fundraiser Now Positive for Coronavirus” by Staff for Florida Politics
National: “Trump Says He ‘Disagreed’ With Privately Funded Border Wall, So Why Did His Administration Award the Builder $1.7 Billion in Contracts to Erect More Walls?” by Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz for ProPublica
July 14, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign […]
South Carolina: “Dark Money Groups Spent at Least $875,000 Trying to Sway Myrtle Beach State Senate Race” by Andrew Brown and Jamie Lovegrove for Charleston Post and Courier
Tennessee: “Former House Speaker Glen Casada Fined $10,500 for Campaign Finance Violations” by Joel Ebert for The Tennessean
National: “The Once-Mocked ‘Never Trump’ Movement Becomes a Sudden Campaign Force” by Ashley Parker and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “America’s Governors Get Tested for a Virus That Is Testing Them” by Manny Fernandez, Rick Rojas, Shawn Huber, and Mike Baker for New York Times
National: “White House Lawyer Gives Trump Extra Time to File His Personal Financial Disclosure Forms, the Second Extension Since May 15” by David Fahrenthold and Anu Narayanswami for Washington Post
Alabama: “Birmingham Airport, State Water Boards Push for Clear Application of Ethics Law” by Tim Howe for Yellowhammer News
National: “Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons” by Michael LaForgia and Kenneth Vogel for New York Times
Florida: “NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer to Face Ethics Commission Hearing” by Dan Christensen for Florida Bulldog
Illinois: “Contractor Claims City Unfairly Awarded Lucrative Fuel Deal to Company Tied to Federal Corruption Investigation” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
July 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020 Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs […]
A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers
MSN – Paul Fahri (Washington Post) | Published: 6/23/2020
Landing a White House job is a highly competitive sport, and who manages to get those jobs has always been a subject of fascination. In the Trump White House, being the relative of someone with a big administration job seems to be one crucial advantage. Family connections, through marriage or direct blood ties, turn up in several places among the people who are in charge of communicating the administration’s agenda or involved in his reelection effort. In a legal opinion written in early 2017, the Justice Department concluded the president has “special hiring authority” and that a decades-old anti-nepotism statute did not apply to the White House.
A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020
A dozen donors gave about $480,000 to cover Vice President Mike Pence’s legal bills in the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Jim Atterholt, Pence’s former gubernatorial chief of staff, started the fund with $25 in December 2018. Since then, donors gave between $5,000 and $100,000, including business executives from Pence’s home state of Indiana and longtime Republican contributors. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials from receiving excessive gifts, and watchdogs have called on clearer guidelines for legal expense funds to prevent the potential for conflicts-of-interest or undue influence.
As Support for Mask-Wearing Grows, So Do Political Risks for Forgoing Them
MSN – Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 6/26/2020
President Trump makes a point of not wearing a mask in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, has gone in the other direction. A mask is part of his 2020 signature look. This divergent accessorizing once highlighted yet another partisan divide. For Trump allies, going barefaced is about individual liberty. For Biden supporters, the mask is a symbol of science and sound policy. But as infections spike in red states, support for masks has grown. Some Republicans have urged the public to cover their faces in public, arguing it is the best way to slow the virus. This shift in rhetoric highlights the potential risks for the president as he continues to ignore the advice of public health experts, who agree masks are crucial to slow the spread of the virus.
Congressional Black Caucus Seizes on Push for Racial Justice to Wield Greater Influence
MSN – Rachel Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2020
The Congressional Black Caucus is seizing the national moment of reckoning over systemic inequality and racial injustice to wield its greatest level of influence inside the Capitol and in national politics. The caucus took the lead in crafting policing legislation the House passed, an expansive measure to stop police brutality after the death of George Floyd. Three caucus members – Sen. Kamala Harris and Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass – are on the shortlist of potential running mates for Joe Biden. And with black candidates around the nation channeling the public clamor for equality into likely primary upsets recently, the group is poised to expand its ranks next year when it marks its 50th anniversary.
Democrats Confirm Plans for Nearly All-Virtual Convention
AP News – Bill Barrow | Published: 6/24/2020
Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual presidential nominating convention August 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming. Joe Biden plans to accept the nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience there to see it. The Democratic National Committee said in a statement that official business, including the votes to nominate Biden and his yet-to-be-named running mate, will take place virtually, with delegates being asked not to travel to Milwaukee.
Devin Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over Statements by Fake Cow, Judge Rules
McClatchy DC – Kate Irby | Published: 6/24/2020
A judge ruled U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother, and a Republican strategist. Judge John Marshall said Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms. Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes, and strategist Liz Mair. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged defamation.
DOJ Files Charges Against Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 6/25/2020
Jack Abramoff is set to return to prison after agreeing to plead guilty to violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). He is the first person charged with violating the LDA, which was amended in 2007 after his earlier scheme was uncovered. It was one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent history, resulting in 20 convictions or guilty pleas. Prosecutors said that in 2017, Abramoff agreed to seek changes in federal law and met with members of Congress on behalf of the marijuana industry without registering as a lobbyist. He was also charged with marketing a cryptocurrency to potential investors with a series of false claims. Abramoff made a public showing of rehabilitating himself after he was released from prison in 2010.
For Months, Trump Allies Hunted for Tapes of Biden in Ukraine. Now They’re Turning Up.
Washington Post – Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and David Stern | Published: 6/30/2020
President Trump’s allies were in pursuit last year of tape recordings of Joe Biden speaking to Ukrainian officials while he was vice president, conversations they believed could help them damage Biden’s current bid for the White House. Now, with just months to go before Election Day, that material is surfacing in Ukraine and being touted by some of the president’s backers in the U.S. Recordings show Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general. The tapes do not provide evidence to back Rudolph Giuliani’s accusation that Biden sought to have him fired to block an investigation of a gas company that had hired his son Hunter. The authenticity of the audio files, which appear heavily edited, could not be verified.
GOP Appointee Resigns from Federal Election Commission, Once Again Leaving It Without a Quorum
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 6/26/2020
Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on FEC, announced he is stepping down on July 3, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions. Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the confirmation of Republican James Trainor. The White House announced its plans to nominate campaign finance lawyer Allen Dickerson to replace Hunter. Dickerson is the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit that opposes limits on political speech and advertising. The FEC, which is ideologically split by design, is now left with one Republican, one Democrat, and an independent who often caucuses with Democrats.
Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary
Politico – James Arkin and Ally Mutnick | Published: 6/30/2020
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado and will face U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this fall. It was just one of several major races across the country. Hickenlooper was the prohibitive favorite for months, leaning on his successes in his two terms as governor and his universal name recognition and positive image among voters. But he stumbled in the closing stretch of the race, apologizing for racially insensitive comments, and being held in contempt by the Independent Ethics Commission, which ruled he twice violated state ethics laws as governor.
House Republican Leaders Support GOP Nominee Open to QAnon Conspiracy Theory
Washington Post – Paul Kane and Colby Itkowitz | Published: 7/1/2020
Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive U.S. House seat despite her openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott Tipton. Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.
Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America
Politico – Nahal Toosi | Published: 7/1/2020
International activists, groups, and institutions are increasingly focusing on the United States as a villain, not a hero, on human rights. While the country has never fully escaped such scrutiny, former officials and activists say that under President Trump, American domestic strife is raising an unusual level of alarm alongside U.S. actions on the global stage. Some groups also flag what they say is an erosion of democracy in a country that has long styled itself as a beacon of freedom.
Judge Sets July 14 Surrender Date, Immediate Home Confinement for Roger Stone
Politico – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/26/2020
A federal judge ordered longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone to prison on July 14 and into home confinement until then, citing Stone’s own evidence of medical issues that he cited to request a delay of his June 30 surrender date to begin a 40-month jail term. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until September 3. Jackson sentenced Stone to his 40-month jail term in February following his conviction on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
New York Court Sides with Publisher of Explosive Book by President Trump’s Niece
Seattle Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020
A court lifted a temporary restraining order against the publication of a book by President Trump’s niece, enabling publisher Simon & Schuster to continue printing and distributing the insider account by Mary Trump. A New York Supreme Court judge agreed to impose the restraining order to allow the parties to present their arguments, raising doubts about whether it would be published. But the Supreme Court’s appellate division lifted the restraining order that had been imposed on Simon & Schuster, while leaving in place the one regarding Mary Trump. That effectively enables the publisher to continue distributing copies of the book in preparation for the planned July 28 publication, even as the overall merits of the case are argued.
Reddit Closes Long-Running Forum Supporting President Trump After Years of Policy Violations
MSN – Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin (WashingtonPost) | Published: 6/29/2020
Reddit shut down its popular but controversial forum devoted to supporting President Trump, following years in which the social media company tried but often failed to control the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, glorification of violence, and conspiracy theories that flourished there. The move by Reddit comes amid a broader crackdown by technology companies to try to rein in hateful, deceptive. and other problematic content on their platforms, typically after high-profile scandals prompted action. Reddit also implemented its first policy banning hate speech and closed about 2,000 individual forums, what the company calls “subreddits.” The company already had a policy against “divisive language” in advertising.
SBA Exempted Lawmakers, Federal Officials from Ethics Rules in $660 Billion Loan Program
Washington Post – Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg | Published: 6/26/2020
A brief and barely noticed “blanket approval” issued by the Trump administration allows lawmakers, Small Business Administration (SBA) staff, other federal officials and their families to bypass long-standing rules on conflicts-of-interest to seek funds for themselves, adding to concerns that coronavirus aid programs could be subject to fraud and abuse. Policy experts and watchdogs said the blanket waiver could allow officials to write the rules to benefit themselves. Josh Gotbaum, a Brookings Institution scholar who has worked in economic policy under Democratic and Republican administrations, said he was “appalled” by the waiver.
The Lincoln Project Is Trolling Trump. But Can It Sway Voters?
Politico – Tina Nguyen and Elena Schneider | Published: 6/29/2020
In the past few months, the Lincoln Project, an anti-President Trump PAC run by Republicans, has successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events, and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it is the District of Columbia. market or his golf courses across the country. And every time Trump responds, the Lincoln Project scores an incalculable amount of earned media, and millions of views online. But though the PAC has successfully caught the president’s attention, Trump’s critics worry the ads may not work to “prosecute the case” against his reelection, as the group vowed to do in December.
Zuckerberg Once Wanted to Sanction Trump. Then Facebook Wrote Rules That Accommodated Him.
MSN – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2020
Facebook constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy allowing politicians to lie, and altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims it was biased against conservatives, according to documents and employees. A document shows it began in 2015 when as a candidate, Donald Trump posted a video calling for a ban of Muslims entering the U.S. Facebook executives declined to remove it, setting in motion an exception for political discourse. Concessions to Trump paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to push out misinformation and incendiary political language. It has complicated the understanding of major events and contributed to polarization. Fear of Trump’s wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network.
Canada – Alberta Local Elections Bill Gets Mixed Reaction from Experts, Former Candidates
CBC – Madeleine Cummings and Michelle Bellfontaine | Published: 6/28/2020
Policy experts and former candidates are giving a mixed reaction to amendments to Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Amendment Act. Among the changes proposed are removing the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to Election Day, removing limits on spending by third-party advertisers outside the local election campaign period, and allowing individuals to donate up to $5,000 to as many candidates as they want during an election.
Canada – Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government
Canada.com – Christopher Nardi | Published: 6/29/2020
WE Charity, which has close ties to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, and which will get millions of dollars to administer a federal student volunteer grant program. has received a series of exclusively sole-source contracts from the federal government over the last three years. Sole-source contracts are government contracts that are handed directly to a chosen supplier, without the opportunity for others to provide competing bids for the business. The contracts were for vague services such as “Management consulting,” “Public relations services,” and, in three cases, “Other professional services not otherwise specified,” according to records.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling
Roll Call – Todd Ruger | Published: 6/29/2020
Alabama officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct elections in the midst of a national health crisis in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed an application to the high court to overturn a lower court’s injunction that found the requirements could violate the constitutional right to vote for some elderly and disabled voters during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue in Alabama are two requirements state officials say combat voter fraud. Voters must submit a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot application, and absentee ballots must contain a voter affidavit that is either notarized or signed by two witnesses.
Arizona – Witness in Rep. David Cook Investigation Says Lawmaker Sent Threatening Message
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 6/29/2020
The day before a legislative ethics committee released a critical report on Arizona Rep. David Cook, the lawmaker got a copy for himself and a few hours later sent a message to one of the witnesses that the witness took as a threat. Patrick Bray was interviewed by investigators looking into claims that Cook had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist at the same time he was supporting her legislation. The investigation also looked into allegations Cook intervened to stop a local sheriff from seizing property belonging to the lobbyist’s family.
California – Feds Say Tower Project Shows Toll of Bribery in Huizar Case: Less affordable housing
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 6/26/2020
In 2018, a real estate developer received the blessing of the Los Angeles City Council for a new high-rise in the Arts District. The real estate executive said the council had approved the tallest building yet in the Arts District, and with “minimal” requirements for affordable housing, according to federal prosecutors. Now l investigators are describing the Arts District project as one of the real estate developments entangled in an alleged criminal scheme headed by Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna cited it as an example of “the harm that comes with bribery.”
California – Huizar, Facing Felony Charge, Will No Longer Receive L.A. Council Salary, Official Says
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 6/29/2020
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin moved to have the city stop paying Councilperson Jose Huizar his salary, saying it would be “unacceptable” for Huizar to continue receiving taxpayer funds while facing a felony charge in a federal corruption case. Huizar had been earning nearly $214,000 per year. Galperin said Huizar’s last day receiving a city salary was June 23, the day he was charged with racketeering in a case in which he is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes and other improper financial benefits. A Galperin spokesperson said the City Charter allows the controller to stop salary payments when a council member is not “devoting his time to duties related to his office.”
California – Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption
San Francisco Examiner – Joshua Sabatini | Published: 6/29/2020
The alleged public corruption engaged in by former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru was able to go on unchecked for years due to gaps in city contracting and gift rules he exploited, according to a new report. The city controller’s investigation of the Public Works department resulted in eight recommendations to reform its operations to prevent the sort of behavior for which Nuru is accused. Federal prosecutors have accused Nuru of trading favors for city contractors and developers in exchange for gifts. Nuru also created a culture conducive to public corruption, the report said.
California – Permit Expediter Accused of Fraud to Cooperate in FBI City Hall Corruption Probe
San Francisco Examiner – Michael Barber and Joseph Sabatini | Published: 6/25/2020
A San Francisco permit expediter is facing criminal charges for allegedly engaging in “pay-to-play” schemes with public officials including former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru for more than a decade. Prosecutors charged Walter Wong with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI investigation into public corruption at City Hall. Wong has helped developers navigate San Francisco’s complicated permitting process for more than a decade and is also a building contractor. He is the seventh person to be charged as a result of the expanding FBI corruption probe.
Florida – A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now
Miami Herald – Alex Daugherty | Published: 6/25/2020
A typographical error led to a two-month legal fight between Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and firefighter Omar Blanco, and the dispute that began with a misspelled check now has Blanco accusing Gimenez of using illegal funds to qualify for the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The back-and-forth will continue, at least for now, after a judge denied Gimenez’s motion to dismiss Blanco’s lawsuit. An attorney for Blanco said Gimenez’s candidacy is illegal if his $10,400 check, written in April to qualify for the primary ballot, was paid for with funds from a PAC instead of Gimenez’s campaign account. The bank that issued Gimenez’s check said it did not have any records of a campaign account bearing Gimenez’s name, or the misspelled version – “Giminez” – that appeared on his qualifying check.
Florida – Conflict-of-Interest Issues Spark Conflict Among Tourism Development Council Members
Florida Today – Dave Berman | Published: 6/25/2020
A behind-the-scenes dispute involving members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council over perceived conflicts-of-interest has become public, as Giles Malone and Bob Baugher repeatedly sniped at one another during a recent meeting. Their debate focused on Malone’s role in helping bring the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games to Brevard County and his involvement in linking athletes with hotels. The debate could lead to a larger examination of how the council handles business dealings involving its members and their companies. That includes when members must abstain from voting on certain matters and when they must formally declare they have a conflict of interest. County officials plan to ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to help sort things out.
Georgia – Georgia Lawmakers Pass New DeKalb Ethics Bill
The Champion – Asia Ashley | Published: 6/28/2020
On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed a new proposal to the DeKalb County ethics laws. The county’s ethics board has been dormant and unable to make recommendations on complaints received since August 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled the board was unconstitutional due to its members being appointed by non-elected entities. If House Bill 1243 is approved by voters in November, the new ethics board would begin their roles on January 1, 2020.
Maryland – Baltimore Comptroller Pratt Responds to Report Alleging She Approved Contracts for Groups on Abstention List
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 6/24/2020
Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt asked the city inspector general to correct a report on her voting history, saying it may have left a misleading impression that she approved contracts in which she had a conflict-of-interest. In her response to the report, Pratt said she maintains a long “abstentions list” – organizations that she has worked with, belonged to, or filed tax returns for as a private accountant – in an effort to be transparent as a member of the city’s powerful Board of Estimates. Inspector General Isabel Cumming said she stood by the report.
Mississippi – Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Changing State’s Flag, Abandoning Confederate Symbol
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Berman and Ben Guarino (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2020
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that retires the only state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. The new flag’s design will be determined later, but lawmakers have barred it from including the most recognizable icon of the Confederacy, which many people associate with racism, slavery, and oppression. Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But a growing number of cities and all the state’s public universities have abandoned it. The issue was still broadly considered too volatile for legislators to touch until the death of George Floyd set off protests against racial injustice, followed by calls to take down Confederate symbols.
Montana – Official Finds Montana GOP Violated Campaign Finance Laws
AP News – Mary Beth Hanson | Published: 6/26/2020
The Montana Republican Party and two minor party qualification committees violated state campaign finance laws in a successful effort to qualify the Green Party of Montana for the primary ballot without the Green Party’s knowledge. The Montana GOP has acknowledged paying Advanced Micro Targeting $100,000 to gather signatures to certify the Green Party for the ballot. The money was also listed as an in-kind contribution to a group called Montanans for Conservation, which did not register as a minor party qualifying committee until after the Green Party was certified for the ballot on March 6. The Legislature passed a law in 2019 requiring groups to report any spending for paid signature gatherers to qualify issues or parties for the ballot to ensure transparency.
New Jersey – Buried in N.J.’s Budget Cuts: A break for a billionaire
New York Times – Tracey Tully | Published: 7/2/2020
New Jersey lawmakers passed a stopgap three-month budget that included $4 billion in cuts. It was fast-tracked to meet the July 1 deadline, leaving watchdogs and advocacy organizations largely in the dark about key details during a time when most traditional lobbying and legislative activities have been sidelined by the virus. Somewhere along the way a one-paragraph clause was quietly inserted. The wording could clear the way for private development in Liberty State Park, which has been eyed for decades by developers. Liberty National, an exclusive private golf club, has been pressing for years to expand into a nearby section of the park. Key lawmakers said they were blindsided by the maneuver that would likely reward the wealthy at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the nation’s economic and racial divide.
New York – NYC Board of Elections Director Fined for Violating Ethics Law
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin (WNYC) | Published: 6/25/2020
New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan was fined $2,500 for violating the city’s ethics law. In 2016, Ryan served as an unpaid member of an advisory board for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), a vendor the board purchases its election machines and other supplies from. In 2018, it was revealed Ryan took nine trips paid for by ES&S. Ryan sought guidance from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board who advised him ES&S could pay for his travel expenses to attend board meetings as needed for him to fulfill his city duties. But Ryan committed an ethics violation while attending a meeting in Manhattan in 2016.
North Carolina – NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus
Raleigh News and Observer – Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan | Published: 7/1/2020
A lobbyist who met with as many as five members of the North Carolina General Assembly tested positive for COVID-19. “I am told no legislators who met with the lobbyists have symptoms or have tested positive,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a text message. Moore said the lobbyist went to meetings and did not linger in the building. This is the second time a person who was in the Legislative Building has been reported as testing positive for COVID-19. In March, a cafeteria staff member tested positive one day after working in the building.
Ohio – Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe
Toledo Blade – Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms | Published: 6/30/2020
Four Toledo City Council members and a private attorney were arrested on charges of accepting cash and other things of value from business owners in exchange for favorable votes on issues before the council, federal prosecutors said. Council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes, and Garrick Johnson, along with Keith Mitchell, an attorney who Harper allegedly used to solicit and funnel bribe payments, all face bribery and extortion charges. Details in the complaint suggest up to $34,260 changed hands between business owners, the council members, and Mitchell during the two-year investigation.
Ohio – ‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha | Published: 6/28/2020
Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Tamaya Dennard pleaded guilty to accepting $15,000 as part of a scheme to exchange her votes for money. According to court documents, on two separate days in September 2019, Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney to pay for her personal expenses. In exchange for the money, documents say, “Dennard promised and did provide favorable official action on behalf of” the lawyer’s unnamed client. After receiving the $15,000, Dennard continued to solicit additional money from the attorney.
Texas – U.S. Supreme Court Declines Texas Democrats’ Request to Allow All Texans to Vote by Mail
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/26/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an initial bid by state Democrats to expand voting by mail to all Texas voters during the coronavirus pandemic. The high court denied the Texas Democratic Party’s request to let U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order to expand mail-in voting take effect while the case is on appeal. Biery ruled in May that Texas must allow all voters fearful of becoming infected at polling places to vote by mail even if they would not ordinarily qualify for mail-in ballots under state election law. The decision means the state’s strict rules to qualify for ballots that can be filled out at home will remain in place for the July 14 primary runoff election. Under current law, mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail.
Utah – Lobbyists and a Utah Senate Leader Create What Critics Call a ‘Fake PAC’ to Help Friends
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 6/27/2020
Lobbyist Spencer Stokes and Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert were upset when the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Term Limits attacked two state Senate candidates they like, including the cousin of Hemmert’s wife. So, they helped form a new local PAC, called Utah Term Limits, to send competing mailers. They created it one day after deadlines that would have required disclosing its donors and expenses before the June 30 primary election. So, the source of the money remains hidden. Senate candidate and former Utah Rep. Rich Cunningham said it appears to have little if any membership beyond lobbyists who use dark money and late ads to muddy up who in his race really favors limiting the terms of politicians.
Washington DC – Milestone House Vote on DC Statehood Is Where It Likely Ends … For Now
Roll Call – Chris Cioffi | Published: 6/26/2020
A U.S. House approved a bill to admit the District of Columbia as the 51st state, the first time a such legislation passed either chamber of Congress. It is also expected to be the bill’s last stop, at least until next year. The bill has little chance of making it to the floor in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote does mark a milestone for many who have spent years fighting for statehood, and if Democrats keep their focus, it might one day become reality if the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.
July 2, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Elections National: “Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary” by James Arkin and Ally Mutnick for Politico Florida: “A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald […]
National: “Hickenlooper Rolls to Victory in Colorado Senate Primary” by James Arkin and Ally Mutnick for Politico
Florida: “A Lawsuit to Kick Carlos Gimenez Off the Ballot for Congress Continues – For Now” by Alex Daugherty for Miami Herald
National: “A Common Thread Among Many Trump Press Staffers: They’re related to other Trump staffers” by Paul Fahri (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “A Dozen Donors Paid Nearly $480,000 in Legal Fees for Pence in Mueller Inquiry, New Filing Shows” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Human Rights Groups Turn Their Sights on Trump’s America” by Nahal Toosi for Politico
Ohio: “Federal Agents Charge Four Toledo City Council Members in Bribery Probe” by Allison Dunn and Sarah Elms for Toledo Blade
Ohio: “‘The World Will Never Break Me.’ Tamaya Dennard Pleads Guilty; Sentencing Coming Later.” by Sharon Coolidge and Kevin Grasha for Cincinnati Enquirer
North Carolina: “NC Legislators Notified After a Lobbyist Tests Positive for Coronavirus” by Lucille Sherman, Danielle Battaglia, and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan for Raleigh News and Observer
Canada: “Records Show Charity Closely Linked to Trudeau Has Received Multiple Sole-Source Contracts from Liberal Government” by Christopher Nardi for Canada.com
California: “Nuru Scandal Prompts New Rules for Public Works to Prevent Corruption” by Joshua Sabatini for San Francisco Examiner
June 12, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020 The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to […]
Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election
MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020
The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to experiment with or expand online voting, an approach the Department of Homeland Security deemed “high risk” in a recent report. It has also put renewed focus on the assortment of online state voter registration systems, which were among the chief targets of Russian hackers in 2016. Their security is central to ensuring that, come November, voters receive their mail-in ballots or can gain access to online voting. While Russian hackers stopped short of manipulating voter data in 2016, American officials determined the effort was likely a dry run for future interference.
Appeals Court Upholds Order to Restore Reporter’s White House Press Pass
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/10/2020
A federal appeals court endorsed a judge’s order restoring a White House press pass to a reporter who wound up in a verbal altercation with one of President Trump’s most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Rose Garden last year. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled the White House violated the constitutional due process rights of Playboy reporter Brian Karem by suspending his pass for 30 days after the heated exchange with talk show host and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka at the end of a social media summit.
‘Bloomberg Loophole’ Paves the Way for Rich Donors to Ignore Contribution Limits
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 6/5/2020
After suspending his presidential bid, Michael Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to back its organizing push in 12 battleground states. The DNC’s windfall far exceeds the $35,500 maximum legal contribution an individual can give to a national party committee in the 2019-2020 election cycle, and watchdogs immediately flagged it as pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law. The legal justification for the transfer comes down to a quirk of FEC reporting practice, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.
Coronavirus Was Paul Manafort’s Ticket Home. Many Other Old, Ill, Nonviolent Inmates Are Still in Prison.
USA Today – Kristine Phillips | Published: 6/9/2020
Attorneys and advocates say there are many old and nonviolent prisoners who are not a threat to public safety and yet remain behind bars, even as the coronavirus continues to infect hundreds of inmates and staff. The way in which the federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented Attorney General William Barr’s order to expedite moving vulnerable prisoners to home confinement has been inconsistent, confusing, and slow, attorneys and advocates say. The agency has broad discretion in determining who can spend the rest of their sentence at home, but how this gets decided is cloaked in secrecy.
Crapo Staffer Told FBI the Senator Gave Permission for $250K Campaign Investment into Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
The Post Register – Betsy Russell | Published: 6/1/2020
Newly released FBI documents say U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s campaign told the FBI the senator “was aware of and approved” the investment of $250,000 of his campaign donors’ funds into a risky get-rich-quick scheme “at the time of the transaction” in 2008, in which the money disappeared. Crapo, who now chairs the banking committee, has said repeatedly since 2013, when the news broke of the loss of his campaign funds in the scheme, that he knew nothing about it until late 2010, after the money was gone. Documents showed Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, invested the money into the scheme at a time when the campaign was between treasurers.
‘Everything about this is irregular’: Ex-judge tapped to review Flynn case blasts Trump DOJ
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/10/2020
A former federal judge selected to advise on a path forward in the criminal case against Michael Flynn is accusing the Justice Department of exercising a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” to protect an ally of President Trump, distorting known facts and legal principles to shield former national security adviser from a jail sentence. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson skewered Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the case, describing it as an “irregular” effort that courts would “scoff” at were the subject anyone other than an ally of Trump. The brief featured a reconstruction of the Flynn case and accused the department of contradicting its own arguments and precedents to justify dropping the case against Flynn.
Ex-Sen. Trent Lott: Squire Patton Boggs took ‘low road’ in split
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/9/2020
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says his ex-firm Squire Patton Boggs “took the low road” in reportedly firing him. Lott added that another former senator, John Breaux, was also planning to leave the lobby shop. Coming amid worldwide demonstrations against killings by police against African Americans, Lott’s exit was viewed on K Street as potentially linked to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership. Speaking at an event for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Lott recalled Mississippi had supported Thurmond’s segregationist run for president in 1948. “And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either,” Lott said in 2002.
Feds Press Criminal Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/7/2020
The Justice Department is pressing forward with its criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, a onetime business partner of Michael Flynn, despite Attorney General William Barr’s decision to seek to abandon the prosecution of the former national security adviser to President Trump. The filing mentions Flynn’s integral role in the work that led to the two foreign-agent-related felony charges against Rafiekian and maintains the government’s position that Flynn was a co-conspirator in his business partner’s crimes. While the case included an admission by Flynn that he signed off on inaccurate Foreign Agent Registration Act filings about the project that led to Rafiekian’s prosecution: a $600,000 contract Flynn signed for his Flynn Intel Group at the height of the presidential campaign in 2016 to lobby on behalf of a Dutch firm.
GAO Offers Congress Steps to Protect Independence of Federal Watchdogs
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/8/2020
Lawmakers could take steps to prevent President Trump or other executive branch leaders from undermining the independence of federal watchdogs, according to a new report from Congress’ internal audit agency. Trump, who has bristled at the independence of inspectors general, has leaned heavily on temporary appointees to fill the powerful posts, leaving them more susceptible to pressure from within the administration. In some cases, he has turned to officials who already serve in senior roles inside the agency. The Government Accountability Office says lawmakers could require those “dual-hatted” employees to recuse themselves when their independence could be called into question and to vow in writing to protect the identity of whistleblowers who normally turn to inspectors general for protection.
How the Black Lives Matter Movement Went Mainstream
MSN – Jose Del Real, Robert Samuels, and Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
The three words were once a controversial rallying cry against racial profiling and police violence. Now, “Black lives matter” is painted in bright yellow letters on the road to the White House. Celebrities and chief executives are embracing it. Even U.S.Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican former presidential candidate, posted the phrase on Twitter. As consensus grows about the existence of systemic racism in American policing and other facets of American life, longtime organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to extend its momentum beyond the popularization of a phrase. Activists sense an opportunity to demand policy changes that once seemed far-fetched.
Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.
Laredo Morning Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 6/8/2020
Joe Biden’s close relationship with police groups while crafting the landmark 1994 crime bill legislation reflected his decades-long partnership with them as he embraced a tough-on-crime persona, one that extended to his work as vice president when he served as a liaison between police and the White House. Now, as Biden runs for president amid a national reckoning over police violence and racial injustice, that long alliance is threatening to undermine a cornerstone of his candidacy. The presumptive Democratic nominee is seeking to channel the anger of African Americans, one of his party’s most important voting blocs, by calling for “real police reform” and promising to combat systemic racism. In doing so, Biden is promising to undo some of the very measures he helped enact.
Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure
CNN – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 6/3/2020
Campaign commercials are running more often on services like Hulu, a sign of streaming’s growing importance in the world of politics as more Americans cut the cord on cable subscriptions and independent groups, candidates, and political parties seek new ways to reach their target audiences. The coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders it triggered across the country appear to have accelerated growth for streaming services. But the migration by candidates, super PACs, and parties to streaming services has set off alarms for some campaign finance watchdogs because the advertising is not subject to the same disclosure requirements that have governed traditional media for decades.
Political Donations Dropped Off as Coronavirus Pandemic Peaked
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/9/2020
Political fundraising took an intense dip as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation in mid-March and early April, according to an analysis of campaign contributions. The pandemic forced the leading presidential candidates to cancel in-person fundraisers that would have netted their campaigns millions of dollars. High-profile congressional candidates paused their fundraising activities to assist relief efforts. And the virus’ economic damage that forced 40 million to file for unemployment may have prompted potential donors to save their money.
Rep. Steve King Toxic to K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2020
U.S. Steve King, a pariah within his own party for racist comments, would be too controversial for lobbying firms, trade associations, and corporations after losing his primary election, say lobbyists and K Street headhunters, even as many former lawmakers decamp for such jobs. Many companies and lobbying groups issued statements offering support for racial justice efforts amid protests over the death of George Floyd that have gripped the nation. King also had lost influence among his colleagues well before he lost the Republican primary in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District.
Tech Group Files First Lawsuit Against Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Social Media
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 6/2/2020
A tech group supported by Facebook, Google, and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump, alleging his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election. The challenge brought by the Center for Democracy and Technology marks the first major legal test of Trump’s directive, which paves the way for federal agencies to investigate and penalize some of Silicon Valley’s most popular platforms over the way they police politically oriented posts, photos, and videos across the Web.
Trump Draws Rebukes for Suggesting 75-Year-Old Protester Pushed to the Ground in Buffalo Was Part of a ‘Set Up’
Laredo Morning Times – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
President Trump put forth an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo who suffered head injuries after he was pushed to the pavement by police. A cellphone video of the encounter has now been seen by millions of people and led to assault charges against two officers. Trump tweeted that the confrontation may have been a “set up” coordinated by anti-fascist demonstrators. Trump drew a rebuke from James Martin, a Jesuit priest. “[Gugino] is a peace activist and volunteer with the Catholic Worker movement,” Martin tweeted. “Why spread rumors about someone who embodies the Beatitudes? … Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ not the rumormongers.”
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Attorney for Arizona Tells Federal Court Legislature Can Remove Members with Two-Thirds Vote
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/3/2020
Attorneys for the state and a former Arizona House speaker told a federal court the Legislature is free to remove members for any reason at all, including political affiliation and race, as long as they can muster a two-thirds vote. Steve Tully said there was nothing wrong with the procedures used by J.D. Mesnard, who was speaker in 2018, to investigate then-Rep. Don Shooter and eventually have a vote that resulted in his ouster. The claim drew a skeptical response from Judge Marsha Berzon. She asked whether if the Democrats controlled most of the seats, they could simply decide to remove all Republicans.
California – Fundraiser Pleads Guilty in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020
A political operative pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he helped a real estate developer pay off a Los Angeles City Council member for help with a major development project. The guilty plea by Justin Jangwoo Kim is the latest turn in an on-going investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office into “pay-to-play” schemes and other corruption in City Hall. Many details included in the court records have identified the council member as Jose Huizar, who served on a council committee that handles real estate projects and whose offices and home were raided by FBI agents in 2018. Huizar has not been charged with a crime in the case.
California – L.A. Police Union Spent Big in Local Elections. Some Politicians Now Shun the Money
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 6/10/2020
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, has been a significant force in local elections. In the past decade, the union has given more than $100,000 directly to city candidates. Its independent expenditure committees, which cannot legally be controlled by candidates and do not have the same limits on donations, have spent millions of dollars more. Now, that money is under scrutiny by city residents supporting a national movement against police brutality, and some local politicians say they will not accept it anymore.
California – ‘This Is Money Laundering 101’; More People Charged in Widening SF Public Corruption Probe
KPIX – Staff | Published: 6/8/2020
Three defendants in San Francisco’s public corruption scandal – Sandra Zuniga, Balmore Hernandez, and Florence Kong – were charged with a variety of federal crimes including money laundering, bribery, and making false statements to investigators stemming from a probe of Mohammed Nuru, the former San Francisco Public Works Chief. Nuru was charged for an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport commissioner. The complaint against Nuru also alleged he engaged in several additional schemes, including obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home while those contractors were also engaging in business with the city.
Colorado – Ethics Commission Concludes Hickenlooper Violated Colorado’s Gift Ban for Public Officials
Colorado Public Radio – Andrew Kennedy | Published: 6/5/2020
The Independent Ethics Commission ruled U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper violated Colorado ethics law as governor by accepting a private jet flight to an official event and by receiving benefits he did not pay for at a meeting of government, business, and financial leaders in Italy. The commission dismissed four other complaints against Hickenlooper that were filed by a conservative group led by a former Colorado House speaker. It scheduled a June 12 hearing to discuss possible fines for the violations as well as for a contempt order it issued when Hickenlooper ignored a subpoena to appear at its hearing.
Florida – GOP Expects to Move Its Convention to Jacksonville After Dispute with North Carolina Over Pandemic Safeguards
MSN – Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020
Seeking a city willing to allow a large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Florida, as the new destination for the premier festivities of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in August. The details of the arrangement are still in flux and RNC aides are scrambling to determine whether the city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate the quadrennial event, which typically kicks off the final stretch of the presidential campaign. The highly unusual decision to seek an alternative location for the convention’s marquee events stems from President Trump’s desire to accept his party’s nomination before an enormous crowd.
Georgia – Georgia’s Election Mess: Many problems, plenty of blame, few solutions for November
New York Times – Richard Fausset and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/10/2020
As multiple investigations begin into what went wrong during with the Georgia primary elections, and as Democrats accuse the state’s Republicans of voter suppression, a picture emerged of a systematic breakdown that both revealed general incompetence and highlighted some of the thorny and specific challenges the coronavirus pandemic may pose to elections officials nationwide. As it seeks answers, Georgia is being roiled by a politically volatile debate over whether the problems were the result of mere bungling, or an intentional effort by Republican officials to inhibit voting. Georgia is expected to be a presidential battleground in November, as well as the site of two contested Senate races that could determine control of the chamber.
Hawaii – How A Major Campaign Donor Got A Million-Dollar Cleaning Contract in Honolulu
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 6/8/2020
The city and county of Honolulu in March gave a $1.4 million contract to a local industrial cleaning company to clean Oahu’s buses every night so the fleet could operate through the coronavirus pandemic. But H2O Process Systems got the contract without having to go through the usual competitive bidding process because the law governing purchases for government agencies was suspended as part of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation. H2O Process System’s owner, Milton Choy, has been a prolific political donor to Hawaii’s mayors, governors, and lawmakers.
Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs ‘Compromise’ Felon Voting Restriction Bill into Law
KGAN – Caroline Cummings | Published: 6/4/2020
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that will establish some restrictions if voters ratify a constitutional amendment automatically restoring felons’ voting rights at the completion of their sentence. Current law, the strictest in the nation, bans people with felony records from voting for life unless they successfully petition the governor to get those rights restored. The policy is enshrined in the state constitution and the governor has advocated for the last two years to pass an amendment to change that.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Expected to Plead Guilty to Perjury in State Case
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/9/2020
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of perjury in state court, Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said, before she departs for federal prison in Alabama. Prosecutors charged her with perjury for willfully omitting her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business from the financial disclosure forms she filed as a state senator. The perjury charge carries a maximum of 10 years in state prison. Pugh’s federal prison term has been postponed pending the resolution of the state case.
Missouri – Democratic Club in North St. Louis County Fined $2,500 for Cash Withdrawal, Reporting Failures
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/4/2020
A St. Louis County Democratic club faces a $2,500 fine after the Missouri Ethics Commission found the group made cash payments to 13 campaign workers and did not properly document the spending in disclosure reports. The Norwood Township Democratic Club’s will have to pay the state $1,600 if it pays within 45 days. The group will have to pay the full fine if it commits any more violations within two years.
Nevada – Judge Extends Signature-Gathering Deadline for Proposed Redistricting Commission Ballot Question
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder | Published: 5/29/2020
An effort to place a ballot question creating an independent redistricting commission on the 2020 ballot will have a second chance at life after a federal judge agreed to extend a June deadline to turn in signatures for the petition under “unique factual circumstances” brought by the COVID-19 pandemic U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du partially granted the request of Fair Maps Nevada to extend the deadline to collect signatures for the petition, which needs to garner 97,598 signatures by June 24 to make it on to the ballot. Attorneys for the group had said it collected around 10,000 signatures before Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered nonessential business shutdowns and other social distancing directives in mid-March.
New Jersey – N.J. Legislative Aide Accused of Rape Resigns Though Investigation Found No Proof of Wrongdoing, Sources Say
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/4/2020
A staff member in the New Jersey Assembly accused of raping a female lobbyist is stepping down from his job after an internal investigation. No charges are expected to be filed against the man, however, after an internal investigation initiated by the state Legislature did not find enough evidence to prove the sexual assault claim. The alleged victim in the case has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing.
New York – State Ethics Panel Split Over Charges of Cuomo Influence
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/10/2020
Six members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) have called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism that JCOPE’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. JCOPE’s top staff position has been vacant since the departure a year ago of former Cuomo counsel Seth Agata, whose resignation left the embattled commission in search of its fourth executive director in eight years.
Ohio – Councilman Matt Zone, Chair of Police Oversight Committee, Acknowledges Son Is a Cleveland Officer
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Robert Higgs | Published: 6/9/2020
Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone publicly acknowledged for the first time his son is serving as an officer with the city police department that Zone oversees as chair of council’s Public Safety Committee. Zone said he checked with the Ohio Ethics Commission when his son joined the police force in December 2015 and was assured that retaining his leadership position on the committee would not pose a problem. Zone also said he chose not to make a public disclosure at the time so as not to cause a distraction for his son as he started his new job. Zone’s disclosure comes as police leaders face criticism from some members of the public about whether the department was adequately prepared for demonstrations on May 30 that evolved into looting in downtown Cleveland.
Oregon – Oregon Redistricting Campaign Hopes Huge Mailing Will Help Initiative Qualify for November Ballot
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 6/10/2020
Oregon voters by the hundreds of thousands are receiving letters asking them to help get an independent redistricting proposal on the November ballot, as coronavirus social distancing guidelines largely rule out traditional signature gathering strategies. Initiative Petition 57 would transfer the job of redrawing Oregon’s legislative and congressional district lines from the state Legislature to a new 12-member commission. Supporters must gather 149,360 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Oregon – The Oregonian/OregonLive’s ‘Polluted by Money’ Wins Inaugural Collier Prize
Portland Oregonian – Staff | Published: 6/10/2020
“Polluted by Money,” a four-part series by Portland Oregonian reporter Rob Davis, won the inaugural Collier Prize for State Government Accountability. The prize is administered by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The series exposed how Oregon’s lack of campaign finance limits led to an easy tolerance of polluters by state lawmakers who benefited from campaign contributions. After the series ran, lawmakers referred a long-stalled constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot, which will allow Oregonians to decide whether they want to make political contributions limits legal.
Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Revolts Over Sidelining of 2 Black Colleagues
New York Times – Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy | Published: 6/10/2020
Two prominent black staff members, a reporter, and a photojournalist at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said newsroom leaders had unfairly kept them from covering the protests against racism and police violence. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents the paper’s staff members, called on readers to send letters demanding that reporter Alexis Johnson and photojournalist Michael Santiago be allowed to cover the protests. More than 80 Post-Gazette staff members have taken the side of their sidelined colleagues in social media posts, the guild said.
South Carolina – Judge Throws Out Upstate Lawmaker’s Suit Against SC GOP, Primary Challenger
The State – Maayan Schechter | Published: 6/5/2020
A South Carolina judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a lawmaker who sued the state Republican Party and its primary backed challenger, Vaughn Parfitt, over allegations the GOP spent beyond the legal expenditure limits. State Rep. Jonathon Hill alleged the party violated ethics laws by spending more than $5,000 on Hill’s primary challenger by way of campaign mailers on multiple dates. Hill’s complaint said the GOP is limited to spending no more than $1,000 per election cycle in support of any campaign.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Officials Uphold $465,000 Fine Against Ex-Lawmaker Jeremy Durham
MSN – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 6/10/2020
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance rejected an administrative law judge’s decision regarding a $465,000 fine levied against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham. The registry unanimously voted in favor of rejecting an opinion from Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell, who said the panel excessively fined Durham while saying auditors failed to prove his expenditures were illegal. Darnell’s decision came after Durham, who was ousted from the Legislature after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, appealed the registry’s massive fine against him for violating campaign finance law hundreds of times.
Tennessee – Judge: Tennessee must allow postal voting for all amid virus
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/4/2020
Tennessee must give all its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled. Lyle said the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The decision upends a determination by Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls would not qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion would not be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel, and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns.
Texas – Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/4/2020
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended its order blocking a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. With early voting for the primary runoff elections starting later in June, and the state Supreme Court also blocking expanded voting by mail is a separate case, the ruling effectively eliminates the possibility that Texas voters will be able to legally request mail-in ballots solely because they fear a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus will put them at risk if they vote in person. The issue is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas – Furor in Texas GOP After Leaders Post Racist Memes That Suggest Floyd’s Death Is a Hoax
Washington Post – Ted Armus, Meryl Kornfield, and Annie Gowan | Published: 6/6/2020
One Facebook post falsely claimed that the killing of George Floyd in police custody last month was a “staged event,” meant to rile up opposition to President Trump. Another showed a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. next to a banana, an established racist trope. A third claimed that George Soros, the liberal billionaire, paid “white cops to murder black people” and “black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.” All these posts were shared in recent days by Republican county leaders in Texas, some of whom are now facing calls to resign from top officials within their own party. The posts have unleashed controversy in the state where Republicans are struggling to beat back Democratic advances in the diversifying electorate.
Washington – Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case
Access Washington – Washington Attorney General’s Office | Published: 6/8/2020
A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Freedom Foundation to pay $80,000 for violating Washington’s campaign finance law. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted the organization failed to properly and timely file independent expenditure reports disclosing the value of the legal services it provided to support ballot propositions in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton, as required. In January of this year, a judge found the Freedom Foundation violated the law.
Washington DC – Trump-Connected Lobbyist Ends Coronavirus Contract with D.C. Amid Bowser, White House Feud
Washington Post – Josh Dawsey and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/5/2020
A lobbyist with ties to President Trump, ended his relationship with the District of Columbia as tensions grew between the president and Mayor Muriel Bowser. Brian Ballard was hired by the city to secure coronavirus funding. “We can’t be effective under the current situation,” Ballard said, about an hour after Trump lambasted Bowser on Twitter as part of a days-long feud over protests in the nation’s capital. Ballard has become one of the most profitable lobbyists in Washington during the Trump administration and he fundraises for the president’s campaign.
June 10, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Washington: “Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case” by Washington Attorney General’s Office for Access Washington Ethics National: “Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.” […]
Washington: “Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case” by Washington Attorney General’s Office for Access Washington
National: “Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.” by Michael Kranish (Washington Post) for Laredo Morning Times
National: “GAO Offers Congress Steps to Protect Independence of Federal Watchdogs” by Kyle Cheney for Politico
National: “Trump Draws Rebukes for Suggesting 75-Year-Old Protester Pushed to the Ground in Buffalo Was Part of a ‘Set Up’” by John Wagner (Washington Post) for Laredo Morning Times
California: “‘This Is Money Laundering 101’; More People Charged in Widening SF Public Corruption Probe” by Staff for KPIX
Florida: “Jacksonville City Council Panel Investigating JEA Seeks Interviews with Curry Aides” by Christopher Hong for Florida Times Union
Mississippi: “Bill That Could End Practice of Public Officials Appearing in Public Service Announcements During Election Years Faces Critical Deadline” by Steve Wilson for Northside Sun
Hawaii: “How A Major Campaign Donor Got A Million-Dollar Cleaning Contract in Honolulu” by Blaze Lovell for Honolulu Civil Beat
June 5, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020 President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort […]
As Trump Attacks Voting by Mail, GOP Builds 2020 Strategy Around Limiting Its Expansion
MSN – Amy Gardner, Shawn Boberg, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2020
President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort by conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls. The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome of the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 6/1/2020
In Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, and many states settled on a system in which the judge appoints the defendant’s attorney. That system has long been criticized for promoting cronyism and dampening the zeal of lawyers who want to stay in the good graces of judges. A new study documents a more troubling objection. Elected judges, the study found, tend to appoint lawyers who contribute to their campaigns. “Campaign finance is perverting the criminal justice system,” said Neel Sukhatme, a professor at Georgetown Law and an author of the study.
Houston Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Bestselling New Book Got Boost from Purchases by House GOP Campaign Arm
Dallas Morning News – Tom Benning | Published: 5/28/2020
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s bestselling new book, Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage, has been boosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) making a large bulk-order purchase. The House GOP’s campaign arm recently spent nearly $400,000 to buy more than 25,000 copies of the freshman Republican’s tome. The purchases were then used in a fundraising appeal that allowed donors to the NRCC to obtain a signed copy of the book. A Crenshaw aide would not answer if the lawmaker received royalties from the NRCC purchase. But the aide said the House ethics committee, signed off on Crenshaw’s book deal when he took office last year.
How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park
MSN – Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Katie Rogers, Zona Kanno-Youngs, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2020
After a day in which President Trump berated “weak” governors and lectured them to “dominate” demonstrators that were protesting the death of George Floyd, the president emerged from the White House and made his way to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed stern-faced, holding up a Bible. The resulting photographs of Trump striding purposefully across Lafayette Square satisfied his desire to project strength. The scene of mayhem that preceded the walk evoked images more commonly associated with authoritarian countries. Trump and his inner circle considered it a triumph that would resonate with many Americans turned off by scenes of urban riots and looting that have accompanied nonviolent protests. But critics were aghast at the use of force against Americans who posed no visible threat at the time.
Interior Watchdog: Agency official pressed EPA to hire relative
Politico – Ben Lefebvre | Published: 5/29/2020
The Interior Department’s internal watchdog said a senior appointed official violated federal laws by using his official email to push the Environmental Protection Agency to hire his son-in-law. The report General is the second time in six months the inspector general has found that Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas Doug Domenech broke federal ethics statutes. Domenech was earlier found to have met in 2017 with attorneys for his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, while the conservative think tank and the Interior Department were battling over a lawsuit, creating the appearance of a conflict-of-interest.
Judge Asks Court Not to ‘Short Circuit’ His Review of Flynn Case
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 6/1/2020
The Justice Department’s conduct in abruptly deciding to end the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was so unusual it raised a “plausible question” about the legitimacy of the move, a lawyer for the trial judge overseeing that case told a federal appeals court. In a court filing, the lawyer for U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan asked a three-judge panel not to cut short his review of the factual and legal issues surrounding the case. A defense lawyer for Flynn had asked the appellate panel to issue a so-called writ of mandamus ordering the judge to immediately dismiss it without letting him complete an assessment.
Lawmakers Have Been Sleeping in Their Capitol Offices for Years, Coronavirus Is Reviving a Push to End It
USA Today – Cristal Hayes | Published: 5/28/2020
Dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made their offices a second home, sleeping on couches, makeshift mattresses, or fold-out beds at night and getting ready for work before their staffs arrive the next morning. An estimated 100 lawmakers sleep in their offices, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But the coronavirus outbreak has reignited a years-old fight to stop what has become known as the “couch caucus,” with some lawmakers arguing that their colleagues sleeping in their offices is not only improper, it also increases the chances of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and staff at the Capitol.
Pence Chief of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict with Coronavirus Response
National Public Radio – Tim Mak | Published: 5/28/2020
Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, owns between $506,043 and $1.64 million worth of individual stocks in companies doing work related to the Trump administration’s pandemic response, holdings that could run afoul of conflict-of-interest laws. Many of the medical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing companies in which Short and his wife hold stock have been directly affected by or involved in the work of the Coronavirus Task Force, chaired by Pence. Other companies have been publicly touted by the White House for their work with the federal government on the coronavirus response.
Steve King Ousted on Historic Primary Night
Politico – Allie Mutnick, James Arkin, and Zach Montellaro | Published: 6/2/2020
Rep. Steve King will leave Congress after this year, ending a nearly two-decade-long career that included numerous inflammatory comments on race and immigration. The Iowa Republican lost his bid for a 10th term when GOP voters in his Iowa district awarded state Sen. Randy Feenstra with the nomination after a fierce primary battle. Feenstra’s decisive victory is a boon to leaders in both parties, including Republican leaders who stripped King of his committee assignments last year and had long felt his offensive and racist rhetoric cast a shadow on the party.
This Treasury Official Is Running the Bailout. It’s Been Great for His Family.
ProPublica – Justin Elliott, Lydia DePillis, and Robert Faturechi | Published: 6/2/2020
Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have become the public faces of the $3 trillion federal coronavirus bailout. Behind the scenes, however, the Treasury’s responsibilities have fallen largely to the deputy secretary, Justin Muzinich. A major beneficiary of that bailout so far: Muzinich & Co., the asset manager founded by his father where Justin served as president before joining the administration. He reported owning a stake worth at least $60 million when he entered government in 2017.
Trump Signs Order That Could Punish Social Media Companies for How They Police Content, Drawing Criticism and Doubts of Legality
Seattle Times – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2020
President Trump signed an executive order aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms. The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most content shared by users on their sites. Trump has argued these protections allow Facebook, Google, and Twitter to censor conservatives. The order seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which the White House asked to probe whether the companies’ content-moderation policies adhere to their pledges of neutrality. It also created a council in cooperation with state attorneys general to probe allegations of censorship based on political views.
Veteran Lobbyists Flex Muscles in K Street’s New Normal
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/28/2020
K Street lobbyists are trying to deliver coronavirus relief funds for their clients while also learning to navigate the new digitally focused landscape, a change from their routine of attending fundraisers and meeting with lawmakers and their staffs in person on Capitol Hill. The difficulty in establishing new connections means many are relying on existing ties, making it harder for newcomers and those who desperately need to expand their networks. “The Zoom lobbying period had made it particularly difficult for starting a relationship with a member or staff and building the level of trust necessary to do our job,” said Ivan Zapien, a partner at Hogan Lovells. That has also put veteran lobbyists at an advantage.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Corruption Probe Takes Down Another at LA City Hall
Courthouse News Service – Nathan Solis | Published: 5/27/2020
George Esparza, a former aide to Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar, agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall, becoming the closest associate of the councilperson so far to be snared in the federal “pay-to-play” probe. Esparza’s indictment details bribes paid to an unnamed councilperson to move ahead development projects in their district, to help a relative’s political aspirations, and settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The corruption probe has resulted in multiple arrests All previous indictments corroborate evidence that the unnamed council member in the money-making scheme is Huizar and Esparza’s cooperation and indictment furthers that theory.
California – DAs Demand Ban on Endorsements and Donations to Prosecutors by Police
Courthouse News Service – Maria Dinzeo | Published: 6/1/2020
A coalition of current and former district attorneys called on the American Bar Association and the California State Bar to pass an ethics rule prohibiting prosecutors from accepting political donations and endorsements from law enforcement agencies and police unions. The request follows a weekend of mass demonstrations against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder. The district attorneys, who review use of force incidents and make charging decisions against police officers, said they must cut money and politics out of the equation to help build the public’s trust in the judicial system.
California – Lawyer at Center of Tax-Sharing Deals Being Probed on Ethics Law
Bloomberg Tax – Laura Mahoney | Published: 5/28/2020
Robert Cendejas, a lawyer who has brokered sales-tax incentive deals between cities and major e-commerce companies that included multimillion-dollar payouts for himself, is being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for possible conflict-of-interest violations. In the case of the city of Ontario, Cendejas has represented or consulted for the city on tax policy. He has also represented a number of California cities in tax disputes with the state’s Board of Equalization. The deals typically last for decades and, in deals he helped negotiate, Cendejas has reached separate agreements to get a percentage of the additional tax collections for himself.
California – Legislative Inquiry Finds Assemblyman Committed Sexual Harassment
Politico – Carla Marinucci | Published: 5/27/2020
A Legislative Counsel investigation determined California Assemblyperson Bill Brough engaged in sexual misconduct on multiple occasions, including an offer of political help in exchange for going to his apartment. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon removed him from all of his committee assignments and suggested Brough would face additional punishment. In the meantime, Brough is required to take “additional harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention training.”
California – More Costly Campaigns During COVID? Councilwoman Asks About Raising Contribution Limits
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 5/27/2020
A changing election landscape and a global pandemic has some Long Beach politicians asking how the city can raise its cap on political contributions to help fuel campaigns through a longer election cycle and, presently, one where volunteers may be hesitant about knocking on doors. Councilperson Mary Zendejas, who chairs the Elections Oversight Committee, asked the city attorney’s office to start looking at the issue. Zendejas said the city should look at increasing the $400 limit from individual donors to help those campaigning through the pandemic and beyond.
Colorado – John Hickenlooper Must Testify in Ethics Complaint, Denver Judge Rules Hours Before Hearing
Colorado Sun – John Frank | Published: 6/3/2020
John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who is running for the U.S. Senate, must testify at a hearing about whether his travel on private planes amounts to a violation of the state’s gift ban. Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann issued a ruling that declined Hickenlooper’s request to block a subpoena and delay the remote hearing before the Independent Ethics Commission. The judge dismissed Hickenlooper’s concerns about the format of the hearing and questioned the last-minute lawsuit given the remote hearing was initially scheduled in early May.
Connecticut – Jon Lender: Despite COVID-19, legislators and PACs still put the touch on lobbyists, others for contributions; but now the touch is virtual
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 5/29/2020
While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down nations and states, it cannot stop the machinery of campaign fundraising whether in the presidential campaign or down at the level of Connecticut General Assembly candidates. And, just as experts now say that viruses adapt during a pandemic, so do political fundraising methods. Under the subject “Virtual Fundraiser” from Connecticut Deputy House Majority Leader Jeff Currey, read: “CURREY PAC was hoping to host a summer fundraiser, but in light of our social distancing efforts, I’d like to offer some 1-on-1 time, via Zoom. To donate, click the link below. If you would also like to schedule a 1:1 virtual chat, please reply to this email with the preferred time ….” The email recipients included past donors and lobbyists.
Florida – Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 5/28/2020
The Florida Department of Financial Services has requested 100,000 private companies registered as vendors authorized to bid on state contracts to verify within 30 days whether they are “majority-owned by United States interests.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said the goal of the query is to “better identify businesses that are majority Communist Party of China-owned that do business with the state of Florida.”
Idaho – Ada Co. GOP Chair Used Party Funds on Private Expense, Allowed Questionable Audit
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 5/27/2020
Ryan Davidson, chairperson of the Ada County Republican Central Committee, used his own party’s money to pay for advice related to his private lobbying business in 2018. A review of the organization’s finances under Davidson’s watch has also been conducted by an insider who pleaded guilty to misusing public money in the past. Facebook messages show Davidson admitting he “inadvertently’ paid $100 from county GOP funds to Holly Cook, a public relations professional and political consultant.
Kansas – Kansas Agencies Say Senate Candidate’s Raffle of Signed Chiefs Jersey Violates Law
McClatchy DC – Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/27/2020
Dave Lindstrom’s campaign for the U.S. Senate may be violating Kansas law by raffling a Kansas City Chiefs jersey signed by Patrick Mahomes, according to two state agencies. Lindstrom, a former Chiefs player, is running the Republican nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. The campaign began selling $20 tickets recently for a June 23 raffle of the Super Bowl MVP’s jersey. Kansas law only permits charities to conduct raffles. All other entities are restricted, including political campaigns, according to Zach Fletcher, spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue.
Kentucky – Beshear Makes Appointments to Executive Ethics Commission
AP News – Staff | Published: 5/28/2020
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is reorganizing a state commission that promotes ethical conduct by elected officials in the executive branch. The governor said he wanted to “restore the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to what it should be.” Beshear, a Democrat, made three appointments to the five-member board and said he would take recommendations from the state attorney general and state auditor for two more positions. Both the attorney general and the auditor are Republicans.
Michigan – Bucci Pleads Guilty in Macomb Extortion Scandal
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 5/28/2020
Former Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci pleaded guilty to embezzling money, extorting contractors, and serving as the bagman for ex-county public works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco during a decades-long extortion conspiracy. The allegations were outlined in a new criminal case that accused Bucci of stealing public tax dollars and extorting businesspeople during a crime spree that spanned his tenure as a Republican politician and his county job working for Marrocco. The criminal case was filed hours after Marrocco was indicted and accused of orchestrating a conspiracy that extorted money from country contractors that prosecutors say was spent on personal luxuries.
Michigan – Gov. Whitmer: I didn’t OK Dem firm for coronavirus project, despite emails
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/28/2020
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disputed a health official’s characterization that her office gave a “green light” for the state to hire a Democratic campaign consultant’s firm to lead a volunteer COVID-19 contact tracing program. Whitmer said she did not personally learn about the contract until after it was signed on April 20, despite an email that showed her communications director discussing the “arrangement” days before the $194,250 deal was finalized. Her denial follows a news report about emails that appear to show Michigan officials tried to avoid controversy over the contact tracing contract by shifting planned work to apolitical subsidiaries of firms with known partisan leanings.
Mississippi – Lt. Governor Withdraws Request for Ethics Decision Over Small Business Grants for Lawmakers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth | Published: 5/27/2020
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann withdrew a request to the Mississippi Ethics Commission asking whether lawmakers could apply for coronavirus small business relief funding the Legislature approved. The panel discussed the issue at a special meeting and was expected to make a decision soon. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said no explanation was given for why the request was withdrawn. Sente Bill 2772 specified that lobbyists, businesses that hired a lobbyist, or ones involved in partisan political activities could not receive the grants. But the bill did not say anything about the people who passed the bill.
Montana – U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Montana Campaign Finance Law
Bozeman Daily Chronicle – Holly Michels | Published: 6/1/2020
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that challenged Montana’s law on disclosing the spending for political ads within 60 days of an election. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state law that nonprofit groups running ads that mention candidates, political parties, or ballot issues in the 60-day window before an election have to report any spending of $250 or more and say who funded their efforts.
Nevada – Nev. Elections Office Reviewing MedMen Donation Allegations
AP News – Michelle Price | Published: 5/27/2020
The Nevada secretary of state’s office is reviewing allegations made by a former executive of the cannabis company MedMen Enterprises that the company’s co-founders made illegal campaign donations to Gov. Steve Sioslak. In a lawsuit, MedMen Chief Financial Officer James Parker alleged board member Adam Bierman, the company’s co-founder, gave the maximum $10,000 campaign donation allowed by law to a Nevada politician. The lawsuit alleges Bierman illegally forced Parker to make a similar contribution and company funds were illegally used to buy furniture for co-founder and executive Andrew Modlin in order to reimburse Modlin for a similar campaign donation made in his name.
New Mexico – Mixed Ruling on State’s Ethics Law
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 6/2/2020
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that part, but not all, of New Mexico’s anti-corruption law is too vague to be enforced. In a complex ruling, the court ordered the reinstatement of at least one ethics charge against three defendants: former Doña Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez, Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez, and former San Juan County Magistrate Judge Connie Lee Johnston. The judges did not rule on the defendants’ guilt or innocence, just that charges could proceed. By contrast, the court dismissed a series of other charges against them and against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.
New York – New Round of Subpoenas Issued in Investigation into Mayor Warren Campaign Funds
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Craig | Published: 5/29/2020
The investigation into whether there were irregularities with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s 2017 re-election campaign is not over. The Monroe County district attorney’s office subpoenaed businesses and other entities that assisted the campaign. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in December 2018 that vendors who were contracted by the Warren campaign or political committees had been subpoenaed for campaign-related records. But, afterward, there was no public word on how the investigation was progressing, or whether it had or had not unearthed evidence of campaign financing fraud. However, the investigation was a joint probe with the state Board of Elections, which last year was locked in an internal struggle over whether it was sluggish or unwilling to aggressively pursue political investigations.
North Carolina – A Confrontation Between NC Senators, a Police Report, and a Secretive Ethics Process
MSN – Jessica Huseman (ProPublica) and Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/27/2020
North Carolina Sen. Erica Smith filed a complaint accusing other state lawmakers of bullying and making sexual comments and verbal insults to her and asked for expulsion from the Senate for two of them. The Legislative Ethics Assembly recently dismissed parts of her complaint. Documents show a conclusion by police that state Sen. Paul Lowe assaulted Smith during an altercation at a Democratic caucus meeting last September 11. He has not been charged. The records also reveal infighting between Senate Democrats and allegations against multiple senators that include sexually harassing comments.
North Carolina – Raleigh Mayor Now Working for Company That Got $6M City Contract. No Conflict, She Says.
Raleigh News and Observer – Anna Johnson | Published: 5/28/2020
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin began interviewing for her new job with a construction company nine days after the company received a $6.3 million city contract. The job and its timing have some of the mayor’s frequent critics calling it a conflict-of-interest. Baldwin says she was not yet in touch with the company when the Raleigh City Council unanimously voted on the contract. A former five-term council member who was elected mayor in 2019, Baldwin is now director of Business Development for Barnhill Contracting’s Triangle and Streamline Divisions. She was formerly vice president at Holt Brothers Construction and executive director of the Holt Brothers Foundation, which supports children who have a parent with cancer.
North Carolina – Republicans Will Move Trump Convention Speech Out of Charlotte
New York Times – Annie Karni | Published: 6/2/2020
Republicans said they were moving President Trump’s convention speech out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and to another city, after coming to a stalemate with Democratic officials in the state about safety and crowd size restrictions because of the coronavirus. But Republican officials also said they could still hold other convention business in Charlotte, so as not to break a formal contract they signed with the city more than two years ago. Party officials are planning a visit to Nashville to assess its suitability for the convention. Other cities under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando, and Jacksonville, as well as sites in Georgia.
Pennsylvania – A Congressman Caught in the 1970s Abscam Sting Is Now at the Heart of a Philly Election Fraud Probe, Sources Say
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck, Chris Brennan, and Andrew Seidman | Published: 5/27/2020
A central question lingered after federal recently disclosed a Philadelphia poll worker had admitted taking bribes to stuff ballot boxes in local elections: who was the unnamed “Campaign Consultant #1” described in court filings as the man who paid Domenick DeMuro to inflate vote totals on behalf of favored candidates between 2014 and 2016? Prosecutors have declined to say. But two sources briefed on the matter and an analysis of campaign finance data and court filings in DeMuro’s case point to one man: former U.S. Rep. Michael Myers, who was a key figure in the Abscam scandal of the 1970s.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Can’t Ban Everyone Involved in the Gaming Industry from Donating to Political Campaigns: U.S. court
PennLive.com – Matt Miller | Published: 6/1/2020
A federal appeals court agreed that a provision of Pennsylvania law barring campaign contributions from individuals holding ownership stakes in businesses with gaming licenses ran violated constitutional free speech protections. That is so even though the prohibition included in the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act adopted in 2004 is aimed at preventing corruption in state politics, Judge Richard Nygaard wrote in the opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Pennsylvania officials have not proven their total ban is justified when those other states impose lesser restrictions that do not severely infringe free speech rights, Nygaard wrote.
Pennsylvania – Pa. House Democrats Say They Were in the Dark for a Week About Republican’s Positive Coronavirus
Spotlight PA – Julia Terruso (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/28/2020
Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus in May, leading at least one of his Pennsylvania House colleagues, Russ Diamond, to self-quarantine. Diamond has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal opponents of mask-wearing, boasting on social media that he goes shopping without one. The admission immediately ignited outrage among Democrats in the chamber who said they were recklessly left in the dark for nearly a week about Lewis’s condition.
Rhode Island – Ethics Commission Rejects Staff Advice: Opens door for Sen. Lynch Prata to potentially get Supreme Court seat
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 6/2/2020
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission ignored its own staff advice and opened the door for Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to seek a seat on the state Supreme Court. The “revolving door” ban requires a year out of office before a legislator can take a state job, including a judgeship. A 1991 Providence Journal investigation found 49 of the 311 people who had served in the General Assembly the previous decade had gotten state jobs, many of which had never been advertised, while in office or within a year of leaving.
South Carolina – SC Republican House Member Sues His Own Party, Claiming It Helped Primary Opponent
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 6/3/2020
A Republican member of the South Carolina House is suing his own party after it allegedly paid for campaign ads assisting his political opponent in the leadup to the state’s primary election. Rep. Jonathon Hill filed the lawsuit, arguing the state GOP should not be allowed to contribute more than $5,000 to assist his primary opponent’s campaign. Hill has often clashed with the House’s Republican leadership. That animosity grew to the point that other members of the Legislature voted last year to kick him out of the Republican Caucus. Hill believes the spending shows the GOP is illegally influencing the election.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Approves Measure Reducing Campaign Finance Disclosures in Election Years
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020
The Tennessee House approved a measure that would claw back campaign finance disclosures during election years. This year, like other election years, lawmakers are required to file five disclosures outlining how they raised and spend campaign money. An additional disclosure is required early next year outlining activity in the final months of 2020.In non-election years, lawmakers are required to file two disclosures. The bill would remove the requirement to file disclosures before the primary and general elections. Those reports currently must be filed no later than seven days before the elections.
Washington DC – Brandon Todd Loses His D.C. Council Seat, and Voters Soundly Reject Jack Evans
Washington Post – Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/3/2020
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, who was trying to reclaim the seat he relinquished in January while facing expulsion for ethics violations, finished near the bottom of a crowded field in the Democratic primary, with about 300 votes of nearly 8,000 ballots cast. Evans had asked voters to forgive his transgressions and return him to the office he held for nearly three decades. But two years of scandal, including an FBI search of his home and investigations finding he violated ethics rules at the council and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority where he served as board chairperson, proved too much to overcome.
West Virginia – This Billionaire Governor’s Been Sued Over Unpaid Bills. A Judge Just Ordered Him to Pay More.
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/28/2020
The billionaire governor of West Virginia, whose business empire has amassed more than $128 million in judgments and settlements against it for unpaid bills, lost another court case recently that adds millions more to that tally. Gov. Jim Justice’s Bluestone Resources was ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million to a financing company after it stopped making payments on a lease for a bulldozer used in coal mining. The ruling comes as Justice campaigns for a second term as governor, touting his experience as a longtime businessperson. But in advance of the state’s June 9 primary, opponents in both political parties are branding the Republican incumbent as a billionaire scofflaw.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Voter Purge Case
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 6/2/2020
The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a case seeking to purge about 129,000 voter registrations from the rolls ahead of the November presidential election after previously deadlocking on whether to get involved. Democrats oppose the voter purge, arguing it is intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Conservatives who brought the lawsuit argue the integrity of the vote is at stake, saying when records indicate voters may have moved, their registrations should be deactivated.
June 3, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
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 […]
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
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
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
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
Florida: “Florida Demands State Vendors Identify Links with China” by John Haughey for The Center Square
May 15, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
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 […]
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 – 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.