January 29, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News Elections California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle […]
Arkansas: “Panel Affirms Block of Arkansas Campaign-Finance Law” by Joe Harris for Courthouse News Service
Missouri: “Missouri Donation Limits Rise for Legislative Candidates” by Staff for AP News
California: “Shenanigans? Under California’s Primary Rules, Some Campaigns Boggle the Mind” by Ben Christopher for CALmatters
Florida: “New Tallahassee Ethics Officer in Hot Seat After Politically Charged Tweets Surface” by Jeff Burlew for Tallahassee Democrat
Texas: “Ex-San Angelo Police Chief Pleads Not Guilty, Readies for Trial” by Gabriel Monte (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) for San Angelo Morning-Times
Washington DC: “Jack Evans to Run for D.C. Council After Resigning Seat Amid Ethics Scandal” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
North Carolina: “Raleigh Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lobbying-Related Charges After WBTV Investigation” by Nick Ochsner for WBTV
Maryland: “Baltimore Council Bill Would Require Union Agreements Before Contractors Win Major City Projects” by Talia Richmond for Baltimore Sun
January 27, 2020 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill Elections National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison […]
National: “House Candidate Asks FEC to Let Her Use Campaign Funds for Health Insurance” by Rebecca Klar for The Hill
National: “Trumpworld Has Converted the Nation’s Regional Talk Radio Hosts into a Loyal Army” by Sarah Ellison for Washington Post
Arizona: “David Cook Sent Threatening Messages After Being Confronted for ‘Drunkenness,’ Lobbyist Says” by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Andrew Oxford for Arizona Republic
Illinois: “Cook County Ethics Board Approves Reforms as Member Resigns in Protest of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Move to Replace Chair” by Lolly Bowean for Chicago Tribune
Pennsylvania: “Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges, Will Spend at Least 3 Months in Jail” by Julie Shaw for Philadelphia Inquirer
Michigan: “Lobby Firm Tied to Licensing Director Lobbies Her Staff on Marijuana” by Craig Mauger for Detroit News
New York: “Fundraising for Legislators’ Charity Spiked After Hiring Top Lobbyist” by Steve Hughes and Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
California: “L.A. Is Repealing Requirements for Would-Be Contractors to Reveal NRA Ties” by Emily Alpert Reyes for Los Angeles Times
December 16, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Ex-Philly Judge Who Accepted a $90K Payoff from Bob Brady’s Campaign Is Spared Prison Time” by Jeremy Roebuck for Philadelphia Inquirer Tennessee: “Appeals Court Tosses Tennessee Laws That Created a Donation Blackout for Nonpartisan PACs” by Adam […]
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Philly Judge Who Accepted a $90K Payoff from Bob Brady’s Campaign Is Spared Prison Time” by Jeremy Roebuck for Philadelphia Inquirer
Tennessee: “Appeals Court Tosses Tennessee Laws That Created a Donation Blackout for Nonpartisan PACs” by Adam Tamburin for The Tennessean
National: “Trump’s D.C. Hotel Is at the Center of Anti-Corruption, Emoluments Lawsuit” by Jonathan O’Connell and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) for Connecticut Post
National: “Pentagon Inspector General to Review $400 Million Border Wall Contract Given to Firm Trump Favored” by Nick Miroff (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle
National: “Panel Approves Impeachment Articles and Sends Charges for a House Vote” by Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) for MSN
Illinois: “Ex-Top Aide to Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown Given 2 Years in Prison as Judge Notes Brown’s Absence. ‘And She’s Not Here to Help You When You Need Help.’” by Jason Meisner for Chicago Tribune
Maryland: “Baltimore County Names Director to Olszewski’s New Ethics Office: A deputy state prosecutor” by Wilborn Nobles III for Baltimore Sun
Montana: “Lawmaker Retreat Comes Under Question, Faces Delay” by Holly Michels for Helena Independent Record
California: “Judge Blocks LA Law Requiring Contractors to Disclose NRA Ties” by Martin Macias Jr. for Courthouse News Service
November 22, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019 President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to […]
Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
President Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to prosecutors in New York City. The case, the first concerning Trump’s personal conduct and business dealings to reach the court, could yield a major ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from criminal investigations. In their petition urging the high court to hear their appeal, Trump’s lawyers argued he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct.
Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches
Yahoo News – Chris Strohm and Jordan Fabian (Bloomberg) | Published: 11/15/2019
Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated by federal prosecutors for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings, according to three U.S. officials. The probe could also include possible charges on violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy. Giuliani is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, which focuses on an effort led by the former New York City mayor to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate the president’s political rivals. If Giuliani is charged or indicted, he could expose Trump to a new level of legal and political jeopardy, especially if he is accused of committing a crime on the president’s behalf.
Google Announces New Political-Ads Policies That Limit Targeting but Not All Lies
Seattle Times – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Google announced new restrictions on political advertisers around the world, among them rules that bar candidates, including President Trump, from targeting narrow categories of Web users based on their political affiliation. The updates come as Google and its tech industry peers continue to face criticism for allowing politicians to lie in ads, a practice Google did not entirely outlaw as it pledged that “trust in electoral processes” outweighed the “cost or impact to spending” on political ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers now may target their ads in search and on Google-owned YouTube only down to the postal code level. These campaigns may also target people on the basis of gender or age, but they cannot do so based on voters’ political affiliations or public voter records, Google said, breaking with past policies.
How a CIA Analyst, Alarmed by Trump’s Shadow Foreign Policy, Triggered an Impeachment Inquiry
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Paul Sonne (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2019
The outlines of the impeachment case have been established: President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and two diplomats are alleged to have collaborated to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and damage the prospects of Joe Biden. To advance this hidden agenda, Trump and his allies orchestrated the ouster of a U.S. ambassador, the withholding of an Oval Office meeting from Ukraine’s new president, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid. It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the actions of a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and efforts to make his identity public.
Multiple Lawmakers Under Investigation Over Ethical Misconduct
MSN – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
The House ethics committee announced it was investigating whether U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings violated the chamber’s rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff or accepting inappropriate gifts. Hastings has made no secret of his relationship with an employee in his congressional office. The announcement came on the same day the committee disclosed the Justice Department was investigating U.S. Rep. Ross Spano over accusations of campaign finance violations. The ethics panel also said it would continue investigations into allegations against U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Bill Huizenga.
New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility
Idaho Press – Betsy Russell | Published: 11/19/2019
Civility has declined at the Idaho Legislature, but not as much as in other states or in Washington, D.C., according to a new study. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 lobbyists who work in state Legislatures in all 50 states and followed up on a survey three years earlier of lawmakers themselves. The study explored whether the gridlock that is emerged in Congress is beginning to infect state Legislatures. The lobbyists who were surveyed represent a wide array of interests, from contract lobbyists for private business interests to those representing agencies, non-profits, and public interest groups. The survey showed Idaho is not immune to a national trend toward less civility, less compromise, and more polarization in civic discourse, accompanied by declining trust in U.S. government institutions.
‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters worn out by a fog of political news
New York Times – Sabrina Tavernise and Aiden Gardiner | Published: 11/18/2019
In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself. Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake, and fact.
Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss
Connecticut Post – Renae Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 11/20/2019
Mick Mulvaney’s former chief of staff has been a key lobbyist for one of the country’s largest payday lenders, giving the industry access to the White House at a time it is fighting to roll back industry regulations. Al Simpson has met repeatedly with Mulvaney, whom he worked for on Capitol Hill until 2017. They have had dinner several times, and Simpson has been a frequent visitor to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The visits to the OMB overlap with the period Mulvaney was acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has oversight of the payday lending industry. While Mulvaney has served as Office of Management and Budget director, the White House has proposed cutting the bureau’s budget and curbing its enforcement powers.
Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassador Role in Trump Administration Uncovered by CBS News
CBS News – Staff | Published: 11/18/2019
An investigation has uncovered a possible “pay-for-play” scheme involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) and President Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate $500,000 as his confirmation in the U.S. Senate hung in the balance. Manchester contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. A relief trip to the Bahamas by Manchester caught the attention of the president, who tweeted his praise. Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”
RNC to Hold Winter Meetings at Trump Resort That Was Considered for G-7 Summit
MSN – David Fahrenthold and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
The Republican National Committee will hold its winter meetings at President Trump’s Doral golf course in’Florida next year, awarding another of the party’s most lucrative events to the president’s private business. Trump briefly chose Doral to host a much larger event: next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders, effectively awarding a massive federal contract to himself. After bipartisan criticism, Trump canceled the event a few days later. No new site has yet been chosen for the summit. Still, this will be the second time in two years that the GOP will hold a major meeting at the resort, a key property for Trump that has suffered financial decline since he entered politics.
Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague (New York Times) | Published: 11/15/2019
Roger Stone, a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Trump. Stone was charged with lying to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. Stone was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.
SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change
Pensions and Investments – Bloomberg | Published: 11/19/2019
When Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairperson Jay Clayton handed a policy win to corporate executives recently, he pointed to a source of support: a mailbag full of encouragement from ordinary Americans. But a close look at the seven letters that Clayton highlighted, and about two dozen others submitted to the SEC by supposedly regular people, shows they are the product of a misleading, and clumsy, public relations campaign by corporate interests. At issue is the proxy process, the rules for how corporations conduct shareholder votes, such as when directors stand for re-election at annual meetings. Last year, the National Association of Manufacturers helped form the Main Street Investors Coalition to oppose what it calls the “politicization” of the investment process and to argue fund managers and boards should focus on maximizing profits. One of its priorities is changing shareholder voting rules.
Sondland Acknowledges Ukraine Quid Pro Quo, Implicates Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Others
Washington Post – Rachael Bade, Aaron Davis, and Matt Zapotosky | Published: 11/21/2019
An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified he was following President’s Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.” The testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is the most damaging yet for Trump in the intensifying inquiry. Sondland declared the Trump administration would not give Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a chance to visit the White House unless Zelensky agreed to announce investigations that could help the president politically.
Trump Appointee Accused of Inflating Résumé, Faking a Time Cover Pushes Back in Resignation Letter
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 11/18/2019
Mina Chang, the State Department official whose inflated resume and faked Timed magazine cover raised further questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process, has resigned. Chang defended herself and criticized the “toxic environment” at the agency, where she had served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, the erstwhile nominee for director of national intelligence, withdrew from consideration after reporting on his false claims about arresting undocumented immigrants. After Trump announced Ratcliffe would not be his nominee, the president defended the White House’s failure to scrutinize their pick’s background. “I give out a name to the press, and they vet for me,” Trump said. “We save a lot of money that way.”
Twitter Rolls Out Total Ban on Ads from Political Figures
Politico – Nancy Scola | Published: 11/15/2019
Twitter unveiled the details of a previously announced far-reaching global policy that bans campaign advertising as well as ads of any type from political figures and groups, and puts strict limits around other types of paid messaging that have a political dimension. The move comes as social platforms in the U.S. are under scrutiny over their handling of political ads, set against the 2020 presidential contest. Twitter is banning all ads that mention specific candidates, elections, or legislation. The prohibition on any advertising applies to campaigns, government officials, PACs, and 501(c)(4) groups. The total ban on political ads, however, does not extend to so-called issue ads. While those issue ads will be allowed from any advertisers not otherwise prohibited from buying ads, there are significant new restrictions on their messaging and reach.
Uncertain Times Could Bring New Lobbying Strategies
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 11/21/2019
The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. Still, lobbyists say they have no plans to zip up their campaign checkbooks, hide under their desks, or decamp from the capital. Instead, they are brewing alternative strategies, workarounds that include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia, and other institutions that can lend policy gravitas to shape major discussions over health care, immigration, trade, taxes, and other matters that will feature prominently on the campaign trail and beyond.
Canada – Alberta Government Firing Election Commissioner Who Was Investigating Leadership
Global News – Dean Bennett (Canadian Press) | Published: 11/18/2019
Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it is not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000. Finance Minister Travis Toews said the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money. Chief electoral officer Glen Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former New Democratic Party government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. The New Democrats then hired Gibson, whose highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney.
From the States and Municipalities
Connecticut – No Tolls CT: Crucial role or just another anti-tolls force?
Middletown Press – Kaitlyn Krasselt | Published: 11/16/2019
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation infrastructure plan included 14 tolls on highway bridges and interchanges throughout the state, raising $320 million a year. But less than a week after he unveiled the proposal it was effectively dead as Senate Democrats expressed their reluctance to bring it to a vote. The fast result marks a win for the for No Tolls CT. Now, as the state searches for answers on how to fund transportation, the question remains as to how much influence the group ultimately had. Some have begun to question whether No Tolls CT is truly the small grassroots troupe of passionate volunteers they claim to be, or if there are larger, more organized and experienced political powers with deep pockets behind it.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan
The Guardian – Khushbu Shah | Published: 11/20/2019
Georgia’s ethics commission filed a lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign, insisting it had not received all relevant communications requested in April. Abrams’s former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, now the leader of Abrams’ national campaign against voter suppression, called the demand for the documents a “politically motivated investigation.” Months after Abrams lost the race, the commission launched the investigation around “unlawful coordination” between her gubernatorial campaign and several groups. For that reason, the lawsuit alleges, the commission needs to review not only financial records, but communications between the various organizations, including the New Georgia Voter Project and Fair Count, both launched by Abrams.
Illinois – Lawmakers Address Ethics Issues
State Journal-Register – Doug Finke | Published: 11/14/2019
The Illinois Legislature approved what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described as a small step toward fixing the state’s ethics laws amid an ongoing federal public corruption probe that has ensnared politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1693 that would require state lobbyists to disclose more information to the public and create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest. A companion measure, House Joint Resolution 93, that lawmakers also approved would create a 16-member commission to recommend additional changes to ethics laws.
Indiana – A ‘Tradition’ of Public Corruption: Mayors being arrested isn’t unusual for Indiana
Indianapolis Star – Crystal Hill | Published: 11/20/2019
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was arrested after being indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe in exchange for a public contract. History shows Tyler’s arrest is hardly unusual. The allegations against Tyler are tame compared to what some previous Hoosier mayors have been accused, and convicted, of. Throughout the last century, The Indianapolis Star found at least a dozen mayors who were charged and/or convicted in local or federal cases, including now four mayors from Muncie alone. Tyler also is the fourth Indiana mayor arrested in the last five years. While many of the earlier charges point to a specific period in history, the offenses are not dissimilar from public corruption accusations that still make headlines today, according to a historian.
Indiana – McDermott Admits Family Is Repaying $50,000 Campaign Contribution from Wife’s Judicial Fund
Northwest Indiana Times – Dan Carden | Published: 11/16/2019
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and his wife, Lake Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott, are preparing to repay $50,000 in campaign contributions originally paid to her judicial campaign fund from his mayoral account after state officials deemed the amount excessive. There also are no legal limits on campaign donations or loans between a husband and wife in Indiana so long as they are reported. But Mayor McDermott said the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications viewed the loan as a potential violation of code of judicial conduct, which directs judicial candidates “to solicit and accept only such campaign contributions as are reasonable.”
Kansas – Cerner Must Guard Against Conflicts of Interest as Exec Runs for Congress, Experts Say
Kansas City Star – Bryan Lowry and Jason Hancock | Published: 11/17/2019
When Cerner executive Amanda Adkins launched her congressional campaign in September, her website featured a photograph of her standing next to the corporate logo on the company’s Kansas City campus. The photo was cropped to remove the Cerner name shortly after the site went online. The change illustrates the ethical and optical challenges both the company and Adkins face as she seeks the Republican nomination in Kansas’ Third Congressional District, while continuing to work for the health care IT giant that holds billions of dollars in federal contracts. Federal law restricts government contractors from giving money to congressional candidates. Cerner will also have to protect against providing services to Adkins, which could be seen as in-kind contributions under FEC rules, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.
Louisiana – Walter Dumas, Ex-Southern Board Member, Owes $138K for Unpaid Stadium Suite Rental, Appeals Court Says
New Orleans Advocate – Joe Guyan Jr. | Published: 11/18/2019
Former Southern University Board of Supervisors member Walter Dumas and his now-defunct law firm must pay the Louisiana Board of Ethics $138,000 for using an A.W. Mumford Stadium suite for three years without paying the rental fee, an appeals court has ruled for the second time. The latest ruling came when the state First Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Dumas’ argument that the Ethics Adjudicatory Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it ordered Dumas and his firm to pay the money. The sum represents yearly rental payments of $13,800 for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 football seasons, plus a $96,600 donation to the Southern University System Foundation that was payable over three years.
Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector | Published: 11/20/2019
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and tax evasion over lucrative deals for her self-published children’s series of books. Prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career, and illegally fund her campaign for mayor. Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of her books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others, and took some to use for self-promotion. She used the profits to buy a house and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege. At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes.
Michigan – Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/20/2019
Eight former Republican and Democratic lawmakers are suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over Michigan’s shortest-in-the-nation term limits, which they say are an “unconstitutional bar to their ballot access.” State lawmakers are limited to serving a total of 14 years across the two legislative chambers – three, two-year terms in the House and two, four-year terms in the Senate. Five of the lawmakers are now registered lobbyists. The 501(c)4 or social welfare group funding the lawsuit lists Rusty Merchant, a lobbyist, as its resident agent and the press conference announcing the lawsuit was held in a conference room belonging to lobbying firm McAlvey Merchant & Associates.
Montana – Montana Candidates Failed to Properly Disclose Facebook Ad Spending
Montana Public Radio – Corin Cates-Carney | Published: 11/20/2019
Political ads for Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial race have appeared on Facebook at least 760,000 times since the start of the year. Montana Public Radio (MTPR) found nearly all the candidates running for office did not follow state rules for disclosing details about those ads to the public. After MTPR reached out to Jeff Mangan, the commissioner of political practices, about the discrepancy in Facebook ad spending, he sent a memo to all candidates in Montana. Mangan reminded them “they have the responsibility and obligation to understand and comply with all Montana campaign finance laws.” It also requests candidates send amended disclosure forms that include all social media advertising expenditures.
Nevada – Nevada Licensing Boards Sometimes Lobby Against State’s Interests
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 11/15/2019
To the administrative and regulatory maze that is Nevada’s occupational licensing system, add this twist: more than half the state-appointed licensing boards employ lawyers or lobbyists at state expense, and occasionally they work against the state’s interests. For 2017 through 2021, the state is footing more than $2.6 million in legal and lobbying expenses for 21 licensing boards, according to a review requested by the state Board of Examiners. The board meets monthly to review and approve state spending. The boards are technically funded by fees from professional licensing, not from the state’s general fund. But the boards are state-created entities, their members are appointed by the governor, and their contractual expenses still come before the Board of Examiners for approval.
New York – De Blasio Donor Sues JCOPE, Arguing Inquiries Are Illegal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/17/2019
While the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has reached a series of settlements with donors to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lobbying charity, a target of the inquiry is fighting back, arguing the investigations are based on an illegal premise. Under state law, public officials are not allowed to accept gifts of more than “nominal” value from lobbyists or their clients. The types of gifts targeted by regulators have included items such as free plane trips for elected officials or tickets to sporting events. JCOPE in 2014 passed a regulation that also barred a lobbyist or their client from donating to a “charitable organization, on behalf of or at the direction of, a public official.” The lawsuit filed by Broadway Stages argues the regulation is illegal, since state lawmakers never passed a law empowering JCOPE to expand the definition of “gift.”
New York – Heastie’s Counsel Contacted Ethics Commissioner After Percoco Vote
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 11/20/2019
Howard Vargas, the executive counsel to New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is the person who contacted a commissioner with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in January and allegedly pressed her about a meeting earlier that day in which the panel voted whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The unusual call by Vargas took place not long after Cuomo had spoken with Heastie at the Capitol, and allegedly expressed concerns about the voting that day by the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE. The closed-door deliberations of the commission are not public, and any disclosure of that information may violate state law.
North Carolina – Cooper ‘Improperly’ Used Influence on Pipeline, Investigation Started by GOP Concludes
Raleigh News and Observer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan and Dan Kane | Published: 11/20/2019
An independent investigation started by Republican legislative leaders into North Carolina’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a “pay-to-play” or “pay-for-permit” after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.
North Carolina – North Carolina Lawmakers OK New 2020 Congressional Maps. Now It’s Up to the Courts
Raleigh News and Observer – Brian Murphy | Published: 11/15/2019
The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature approved a new congressional district map to be used in 2020 that is likely to shrink the GOP’s edge in the state’s congressional delegation. But Democrats plan to challenge the map in court again. Lawmakers drew the new map after a three-judge panel indicated it was likely to toss the previous map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. If a new map is not in place by December 2, the congressional primaries scheduled for March could be postponed. The maps will only be used in 2020 as they will have to be redrawn for the 2022 election using new Census data. That process should start in March 2021.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 11/19/2019
At a meeting of the Oregon Senate Campaign Finance Committee he chairs, Sen. Jeff Golden unveiled a proposal for new campaign finance regulations that contains elements he believes are “ideal.” Those elements could become a key starting point as the Legislature prepares to grapple with the issue early next year. Golden’s proposal would place ceilings on the amount of money individuals and various types of political committees could give to candidates, campaigns, and one another. Oregon is currently one of a handful of states with no limits on campaign contributions.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Jeff Mapes | Published: 11/15/2019
The Oregon Supreme Court held a hearing to determine whether it will overturn one of its more notable rulings, the two-decade-old decision that struck down the state’s voter-approved campaign finance limits. After 90 minutes of spirited debate with the attorneys in the case, it seems clear the justices were animated by the issue of whether they should do exactly that. The court is considering the constitutionality of an ordinance passed by Multnomah County voters that places a $500-per-person limit on campaign donations. But the stakes are larger than that. If the justices revisit their 1997 ruling, it could also open the door to the imposition of strict limits at the state level.
Pennsylvania – Bill Limiting Gifts to Public Officials Moves in Pa. Legislature
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/19/2019
The House State Government Committee vote to advance new limits on gifts to Pennsylvania public officials, including an outright prohibition on taking cash, although the proposal includes numerous exceptions. The vote came after Republicans pushed through a party-line vote to add an exception to let lobbyists give birthday or wedding presents. Gifts generally would not be allowed if they total more than $50 from one person in a calendar year, or hospitality, transportation, or lodging worth $500 a year. Lobbyist gifts would not be covered if the lobbyist and public official have “a personal romantic relationship.”
Texas – The Inauguration of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick Cost Millions. But Much of It Went to Fundraising and Staff.
Texas Tribune – Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root | Published: 11/18/2019
The inauguration of the Texas governor and lieutenant governor – traditionally two days of parties, picnics, and parades – has been transformed into a giant payday for campaign staff and fundraisers. The money spent on personnel, including payroll and fundraising, has skyrocketed during Gov. Greg Abbott’s two swearing-in celebrations, dwarfing spending in those categories during the Rick Perry era, which spanned more than a decade. Gubernatorial spokesperson John Wittman has said no state dollars were spent on the festivities and that none of the $800,000 donated by the inaugural committee to charities, which he would not name which, benefited entities tied to Abbott or the government.
Virginia – Salacious Facebook Posts About a Former Virginia Beach City Council Candidate Lead to Defamation Lawsuit
The Viginian-Pilot – Jane Harper | Published: 11/14/2019
Dee Oliver was a favorite to win an at-large seat on the Virginia Beach City Council in the November election. But days before voters headed to the polls, a post published on a Facebook discussion group with thousands of members portrayed the candidate as a “woman of ill repute,” according to a lawsuit Oliver filed. The post suggested she had sex with a physical fitness trainer in a hospital bathroom while the man was there for heart surgery, the complaint says, and while his family was in the next room. Oliver ended up losing the election by just 347 votes after a recount. The case highlights the potential legal danger of posting on social media, especially if the information is false or is published with reckless disregard for the truth.
Washington – In Olympia, an Idea to Help Voters Easily Track Campaign Ad Money and Zero in on Who’s Being Targeted
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 11/20/2019
Election spending in Washington continues to break records. Meanwhile, micro-targeted online advertising, such as through Facebook and Google, has made it possible for campaigns to reach small slices of voters without the broader public being aware. So, state campaign finance officials discussed the idea of giving Washington’s disclosure system a boost: building a searchable digital archive that collects campaign ads and information related to them. Officials for the Public Disclosure Commission said a digital archive could shine sunlight on political ads bought through social-media companies. A searchable database could also help voters make sense of a dizzying amount of election messaging and the sources behind it.
Washington DC – D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/19/2019
A group of District of Columbia Council members introduced a bill designed to improve compliance with a law that requires companies with large public contracts to subcontract some work to small local businesses. The subcontracting law has been revised in prior years as lawmakers attempted to stop contractors from abusing it. The bill would prohibit contractors from subcontracting work to companies in which they have an ownership stake to fulfill the law’s requirements. It would also require more evidence from businesses that they are local, create a tip line for reporting violations, and increase the frequency of site inspections.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Sought Stock in Sign Company After Acknowledging Potential Conflict of Interest, Report Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 11/14/2019
The investigation into ethics allegations against District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans provided fresh details about his dealings with a digital sign company at the heart of several probes into whether Evans used his office to benefit his private clients and employers. Digi Outdoor Media and Evans negotiated a private consulting contract in 2016 while the sign company was clashing with the city over its regulation of outdoor advertising. Investigators hired by the city council concluded Evans and his staff took official actions to benefit the company against a “backdrop of benefits and intermittent financial entanglements.”
Wisconsin – ‘Much Too Divided’: Lobbyists, Capitol observers adjust to slower pace under split government
Madison.com – Briana Reilly | Published: 11/18/2019
Nearly a year into divided government in Wisconsin, many lobbyists and Capitol observers say they have adjusted to the new reality: things are moving slower and less is getting done. After a decade of one-party control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, a new Democratic face in the East Wing, coupled with Republicans holding onto their legislative majorities, has brought a change of pace to the legislative process. As Republicans and Democrats work to navigate the situation, lobbyists are also learning what they can expect to accomplish under the new order, which some described as a balancing act between the Republican Assembly speaker, GOP Senate majority leader, and Democratic governor.
November 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan” by Khushbu Shah for The Guardian Maryland: “Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal” by Luke Broadwater […]
Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Campaign Says Georgia Ethics Watchdog’s Lawsuit Is Partisan” by Khushbu Shah for The Guardian
Maryland: “Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh Charged with 11 Counts of Fraud, Tax Evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ Book Scandal” by Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector for Baltimore Sun
Oregon: “Oregon Lawmakers Hear New Proposal for Capping Campaign Contributions” by Dirk VanderHart for Oregon Public Broadcasting
National: “Sondland Acknowledges There Was a ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Involving Ukraine” by Aaron Davis and Racael Bade for Washington Post
Michigan: “Former Lawmakers Sue to Undo Michigan’s Term Limits” by Beth LeBlanc for Detroit News
National: “New Study Shows Decline in Legislative Civility” by Betsy Russell for Idaho Press
National: “SEC Chairman Cites Fishy Letters to Support Policy Change” by Bloomberg for Pensions and Investments
National: “Once Mulvaney’s Chief of Staff, Payday Lobbyist Enjoys Frequent Access to His Old Boss” by Renae Marks for Washington Post
Washington DC: “D.C. Council Members Aim to Tighten Loopholes in Subcontracting Law” by Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post
November 15, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Court Rejects Trump’s Appeal in His Fight to Keep Financial Records from Congress Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 11/13/2019 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia let stand an earlier ruling […]
A Court Rejects Trump’s Appeal in His Fight to Keep Financial Records from Congress
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 11/13/2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia let stand an earlier ruling that President Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his financial records to Congress, bringing the case to the threshold of a likely U.S. Supreme Court battle. Lawyers representing Trump argued Congress had no legitimate legislative authority to seek his business records because the panel seeking them, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was primarily trying to determine whether he broke existing laws, not weighing whether to enact a new one. Lawyers for House Democrats maintained it was within Congress’s constitutional authority to seek the records, both as a matter of oversight and as it considered whether new presidential ethics and financial disclosure laws are necessary.
After Push from Perry, Backers Got Huge Gas Deal in Ukraine
AP News – Desmond Butler, Michael Biesecker, Stephen Braun, and Richard Lardner | Published: 11/11/2019
Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country’s new president. Perry’s efforts to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the U.S. to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden. Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers.
Ban Political Ads on Facebook? Upstart, Anti-Trump Candidates Object.
San Francisco Chronicle – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2019
When Twitter announced a ban on political ads, some top Democrats urged Facebook to follow, saying the site’s promotion tools benefit President Trump by allowing him and his allies to spread falsehoods that reach millions. But if Facebook were to cut off political ads, it could end up undercutting the first-time candidates inspired to enter politics by Trump’s election, including some of the Democrats who helped the party retake the House in 2018. “Online advertising lowers the cost and the barriers to entry,” said Erika Franklin Fowler of Wesleyan University, in part because advertisers can pay for specific impressions rather than having to display ads to an entire local television audience, which may exceed a particular electoral district, creating unnecessary costs.
Deval Patrick Joins the 2020 Race: ‘This won’t be easy, and it shouldn’t be’
MSN – Matt Stevens and Jonathan Martin (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2019
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick officially entered the presidential race, adding an 18th candidate and a late twist to a turbulent Democratic primary with less than three months to go before the Iowa caucuses. Patrick sought to immediately draw a contrast with some of the leading candidates, indirectly taking aim at former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by echoing critiques of their approaches that other candidates have been voicing for weeks, if not months. Patrick’s entry into the contest reflects unease among some Democrats around the current state of the race and underscore the fact that no candidate has yet emerged as a dominant force.
Founder’s Presidential Bid Puts Bloomberg News in Spotlight
The Hill – Joe Concha | Published: 11/12/2019
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s potential presidential bid could raise serious questions for the news organization that bears his name. While it is more famous for its coverage of the economy and global markets, Bloomberg News has a robust news operation that covers the White House, presidential campaigns, and Congress. Bloomberg’s entry into the crowded Democratic primary would leave the reporters and editors covering their company’s namesake as he battles more than a dozen others for the party’s presidential nomination.
Impeachment Hearings Open with Revelation on Trump’s Ukraine Pressure
MSN – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Shear (New York Times) | Published: 11/13/2019
William Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, revealed new evidence of President Trump’s personal efforts to press Ukraine to investigate political rivals as House investigators launched public impeachment hearings. Taylor said his staff recently told him they overheard Trump’s phone call with Ambassador Gordon Sondland at a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with the new leader of Ukraine that sparked the impeachment investigation. The staffer explained that Sondland had called the president and Trump could be heard asking about “the investigations.” Sondland told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.
Lobbyist Says He Wasn’t Lobbying When He Tried to Oust Ukrainian Ambassador. Experts Disagree.
USA Today – Kevin McCoy | Published: 11/8/2019
An allegation that lobbyist Bob Livingston sought to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine raises questions about whether he violated a federal law that requires lobbyists to disclose their work for foreign clients. Livingston, a former high-ranking House member who heads an influential K Street lobbying firm, repeatedly called Foreign Service Officer Catherine Croft and pressed for the ouster of the ambassador, Marie Yovanovich, Croft told impeachment investigators. Livingston probably should have disclosed whether he was paid by two Ukraine-linked clients or any other foreigner to seek Yovanovitch’s removal, two legal experts on the Foreign Agents Registration Acts aid. But Livingston said he made the calls as a “concerned American citizen,” not as a lobbyist.
Redistricting Activists Brace for Wall of Inaction as Battle Moves to States
San Antonio Express-News – Amy Gardner, Ted Mellnik, and Adrian Blanco (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2019
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that partisan gerrymanders are beyond the reach of federal courts has opened the door to a patchwork of outcomes in different states that will hinge on the partisan tilt of their judiciaries and the fine print of their constitutions. That ruling also negated decisions in lower federal courts that threw out maps in key swing states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, meaning those districts will remain in place for next year’s elections. Activists fighting what they view as unfair drawing of district lines said they now must intensify their strategy of backing like-minded candidates for state Legislatures, governors, and even judicial seats to lay the groundwork for future court challenges they think might not succeed today.
Report: Election vendors are ‘prime targets,’ need oversight
AP News – Christina Cassidy | Published: 11/12/2019
The private companies that make voting equipment and build and maintain voter registration databases lack any meaningful federal oversight despite the crucial role they play in U.S. elections, leaving the nation’s electoral process vulnerable to attack, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. The report calls on Congress to establish a framework for federal certification of election vendors. The authors say this could be established as a voluntary program, similar to how voting machines are certified, with incentives for state and local election officials to use vendors that have completed the process. It would include the establishment of federal standards and the ability for federal officials to monitor compliance and address any violations.
She Inflated Her Resume and Peddled a Fake Time Cover. Trump Appointed Her to the State Department.
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2019
A fabricated Time cover is just one of Mina Chang’s listed accomplishments and résumé line items that has come into question after a media investigation found the Trump administration appointee embellished her work history and made misleading claims about her professional background. Chang in April joined the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations as a deputy assistant secretary. At one point, she was up for a more senior post at the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Asia, but in September, her nomination was withdrawn without explanation. It has been a persistent problem for President Trump’s administration: an apparent failure to recognize red flags when vetting potential hires and appointees.
Trump Allies Received Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Under Federal Health Contract
Politico – Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn | Published: 11/12/2019
At least eight former White House, presidential transition, and campaign officials for President Donald Trump were hired as outside contractors to the Department of Health and Human Services at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. They charged up to $380 per hour for work traditionally handled by dozens of career civil servants in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ communications department. The arrangement allowed the Trump allies to cycle through the federal government’s opaque contracting system, charging hefty fees with little public oversight or accountability.
Why Did Google Take Action Against Some Pro-Trump Ads? It’s One of the Many Mysteries of Its Political Ad Rules.
Washington Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker | Published: 11/8/2019
Google took action against seven ads purchased by President Trump’s 2020 campaign recently, claiming they violated the company’s rules even though they had been viewed at least 24 million times. But Google said little else: It didn’t share a copy of the ads in question or disclose what standards they had violated. To experts, those unknowns are just two of many mysteries that demonstrate the company’s continued struggles to spot and shield users from potentially problematic political content with the 2020 presidential election a year away. Critics contend Google suffers from its own blind spots around paid political speech, which has generated nearly $124 million for the company since it began releasing its data in May 2018.
Canada – How Corporations Still Get Away with Secret Lobbying in B.C.
The Narwhal – Christopher Pollon | Published: 11/12/2019
British Columbia’s New Democratic Party has promised to clean up politics, eliminate big money campaign donations, and ferret out corporate influence – which includes Bill 54, the province’s lobbying amendment act introduced last October. But in spite of much talk and limited action, the secret lobbying of elected officials remains a common practice in British Columbia today, according to Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch. Conacher said all of the recently announced changes, including a strengthened two-year ban on lobbying for politicians or high-level bureaucrats after leaving office, only apply to those who officially register with the Office of the Register of Lobbyists. But if someone is not being expressly paid to lobby or do less than 50 hours of in-house lobbying a year, registration is not required.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Campaign Finance and Lobbyist Registration Rules Get First Nod in Newport Beach
Los Angeles Times – Hillary Davis | Published: 11/8/2019
Newport Beach City Council candidates who knowingly accept campaign donations over the limit may be subject to removal from office under local election reforms that advanced at a recent meeting. The council gave initial approval to two ordinances – one adding a grace period for fixing violations of municipal political contribution limits, plus penalties for scofflaws, and another to establish local lobbyist registration. The lobbyist rule would require an advocate who receives at least $500 a month or works under a contingency contract to register.
California – PG&E Helped Fund the Careers of Calif. Governor and His wife. Now He Accuses the Utility of ‘Corporate Greed.’
San Francisco Chronicle – Douglas MacMillan and Neena Satija (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2019
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly called out Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for “corporate greed” in light of its role in the wave of wildfires in his state, but Newsom and his wife have accepted more than $700,000 from the utility, its foundation, and employees as PG&E has supported his campaigns, ballot initiatives, inauguration festivities, and Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s foundation. The payments are not unusual for PG&E, one of the most politically active companies in California state and local politics and a prolific donor to Bay Area charities. When a federal judge asked PG&E in July to explain why its political spending was “more important than replacing or repairing the aging transmission lines,” the utility said it needs to make the concerns of its employees, customers, and shareholders known to policymakers.
Colorado – Ethics Report on John Hickenlooper’s Private Jet Travel Is Released
Denver Post – Justin Wingerter | Published: 11/7/2019
Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission released a report into former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel, including interview notes that show a private jet trip to Connecticut last year was paid for by a billionaire friend’s company. The report, which drew no conclusions, will be used by the ethics commission as it conducts a hearing into Hickenlooper’s travel and whether that travel violated the Colorado Constitution. The report is primarily made up of interview summations, along with documentation such as checks and travel itineraries.
Florida – Scandalous Details to Emerge in Ex-Mayor Joy Cooper’s Corruption Trial
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Susannah Bryan | Published: 11/14/2019
The high-profile trial of Joy Cooper, the former mayor of Hallandale Beach arrested on corruption charges, has a slew of scandalous details. And the jurors chosen to serve in Cooper’s trial are likely to hear most of them. Most of those details are related to former lobbyist Alan Koslow, a star witness for the state. A flashy character who at one time boasted he was “Mr. Hollywood,” Koslow became an FBI informant tapped by the agency to ferret out public corruption in Broward County. But before all that, Koslow fell for a ruse set up by two undercover agents who went by the names Jack and Joey. They posed as out-of-town developers who wanted his help getting a high-rise project approved in Hallandale Beach. Koslow told the men he had influence with the Hallandale Beach commission and “had the vote of the mayor,” court records say.
Idaho – Whodunit in the Library: Someone keeps hiding the anti-Trump books
MSN – Mike Baker (New York Times) | Published: 11/10/2019
Someone has been hiding books in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, those that explore politics through a progressive lens, or criticize President Trump. They wind up misfiled in out-of-the-way corners where readers will be sure not to find them. “I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds,” the mystery book relocator wrote in a note left for Bette Ammon, the library director. The incidents over this past year were not the first-time books have mysteriously disappeared. For decades, Coeur d’Alene has navigated a delicate political landscape in northern Idaho, a conservative corner of the country where some have sought refuge from political and social changes elsewhere.
Illinois – Chicago Aldermen Propose Their Own Changes to City Lobbying Rules
Crain’s Chicago Business – A.D. Quig | Published: 11/13/2019
As Illinois legislators weigh ethics changes in response to federal investigations into elected officials, businesses, and lobbyists, aldermen in Chicago are lining up behind their own changes to city lobbying rules. Ald. Michele Smith, who chairs the Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, and Ald. Matt O’Shea have introduced a ban on city council members acting as paid lobbyists and on outside elected officials lobbying on Chicago matters. So far, they have convinced a majority of the council to support the change.
Illinois – In Springfield, Family Ties Bind Lobbyists, Lawmakers
Prairie State Wire – W.J. Kennedy | Published: 11/11/2019
When he is not in Springfield, Illinois Rep. Michael J. Zalewski says he is a “health care attorney.” But he really works as a municipal lobbyist, representing client interests before local government village boards and city councils. They include Chicago, where his father, Michael R. Zalewski, served as an alderman for 23 years until he resigned this spring after his home was raided by federal authorities as part of a corruption investigation. Rep. Zalewski, questioned earlier this year about whether his side local lobbying job was appropriate, was incredulous. “I’ve acted with integrity and honor,” Zalewski said. “I’ve complied with all ethical and legal guidelines.” He is not the only one seemingly unconcerned with appearances.
Illinois – Lobbying by Sitting Illinois Lawmakers Under Scrutiny
AP News – John O’Connor | Published: 11/11/2019
A federal bribery charge against Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo has led to questions about whether lawmakers should be allowed to lobby other units of government. Most states allow lawmakers to lobby outside state government, and Illinois is not even the least restrictive. Eighteen states, including California, have no restrictions on such lobbying. House Republicans have produced a package of legislation, including a ban on lobbying by active legislators and a revamp of annually required statements of economic interest.
Iowa – Iowa Ethics Board Looking for Leader to Succeed Megan Tooker
The Gazette – Staff | Published: 11/12/2019
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is looking for a new executive director to replace Megan Tooker. She said she is leaving in mid-December to pursue other career opportunities. Board members likely will establish a committee to screen candidates and bring one or more finalists for the board to consider.
Iowa – Steyer Aide Offered Money for Endorsements
AP News – Alexandra Jaffe | Published: 11/7/2019
A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations. The overtures from Pat Murphy, a former Iowa House speaker, are not illegal, though payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if not disclosed. There is no evidence any Iowans accepted the offer or received contributions from Steyer’s campaign as compensation for their backing. Murphy has resigned from the campaign.
Kentucky – Close Election in Kentucky Was Ripe for Twitter, and an Omen for 2020
MSN – Mathew Rosenberg and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/10/2019
A few hours after polls closed in Kentucky on November 5, a Twitter user writing under the handle @Overlordkraken1 posted a message to his 19 followers saying he had “just shredded a box of Republican mail-in ballots.” It was clear the Kentucky governor’s race was going to be excruciatingly close, and the Republican incumbent, Matt Bevin, could be headed to defeat. For those eager to cry fraud as a reliably red state leaned blue, the fact that @Overlordkraken1 did not appear to be in Kentucky was not going to get in the way of a useful narrative. Kentucky is shaping up to be a case study in the real-word impact of disinformation, and a preview of what election-security officials and experts fear could unfold a year from now if the 2020 presidential election comes down to the wire.
Louisiana – Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III Denies Payoff Allegation from Ex-Hammond Councilman
New Orleans Advocate – John Simerman | Published: 11/3/2019
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III acknowledges he visited a former Hammond city councilperson at his home to question him about his support for Will Crain, an appeals court jurist running for an open seat alongside Hughes on the state’s high court. Hughes also said he told the ex-councilperson, local political operative Johnny Blount, that he might find it more financially rewarding to back Hans Liljeberg, the state appeals court judge facing off against Crain in the November 16 runoff. But Hughes insisted he never offered Blount $5,000 to come out publicly for Liljeberg, an allegation Blount made in an affidavit. Blount’s affidavit prompted Richard Ducote, who lost in the primary for the Supreme Court seat and now backs Crain, to file a complaint against Hughes with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission.
Maryland – Annapolis Ethics Commission Chair Owns a Short-Term Rental Property, Says Not a Conflict of Interest
Capital Gazette – Brooks DuBose | Published: 11/13/2019
Annapolis Ethics Commission Chairperson Jim Dolezal did not disclose he operates a short-term rental property before voting with the commission to deny a request by city Ald. Elly Tierney to reconsider her recusal from a contentious debate on short-term rental legislation. The ethics panel upheld the recusal by citing a potential conflict-of-interest because Tierney owns and operates a bed and breakfast. Dolezal’s property is only available to rent during the annual U.S. Sailboat Show and Naval Academy Commissioning Week, he said. Current and proposed rental legislation specifically exempts rentals from those two events.
Massachusetts – Boston Subpoenaed by Grand Jury in Marijuana Corruption Probe
Boston Globe – Dan Adams | Published: 11/9/2019
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed the City of Boston for records of interactions between local officials and marijuana company representatives. The demand makes the city the most prominent subject yet of a wide-ranging investigation into municipal corruption by the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, though there is no evidence prosecutors are targeting Boston in particular. One main focus of the probe is the “host community agreements” every marijuana firm must sign with the city or town where it hopes to open before it can obtain a state license. Boston so far has signed host community agreements with 14 marijuana operators; no recreational pot shops have opened in the city, though several have applications pending before the state Cannabis Control Commission.
Michigan – News Websites with Political Ties Spread Across Michigan
Governing – Malachi Barrett (MLive.com) | Published: 11/9/2019
A growing number of media organizations with ties to partisan activists are spreading in Michigan in time for the 2020 presidential election. News websites affiliated with Republican and Democratic groups have sprung up in battleground states in the last year. The websites are straightforward about their editorial agenda to varying degrees – some described themselves as watchdogs meant to replace trusted community newspapers while others clearly exhibit a partisan slant and use layouts designed to resemble conventional news organizations. “There’s never been a more difficult time for information consumers than the time we’re in right now,” said Kathleen Bartzen, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin.
New York – Developer Pays $10K to Settle De Blasio Dubious Donation Case
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 11/13/2019
Douglaston Development will pay $10,000 to end an investigation into a contribution by the company to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s now defunct nonprofit, Campaign for One New York. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) previously reached settlements with three other major developers the mayor had solicited for donations. Entities that are lobbying City Hall for favorable treatment are prohibited from giving gifts to public officials or to third parties designated by a public official. JCOPE was looking at the donations to DeBlasio’s nonprofit as illegal gifts.
New York – Inspector General Probed Ethics Panel’s Alleged Leak to Cuomo
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 11/13/2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was allegedly briefed on the details of a closed-door vote by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) last January, around the time the panel voted on whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor. The allegation – that someone in JCOPE may have illegally informed the governor or his staff about the voting breakdown of the panel’s non-public decision – was secretly investigated by the state inspector general’s office between January and October 4, when the inspector general sent a letter to JCOPE stating its investigation had been unable to substantiate the complaint. The apparent breach of JCOPE’s bylaws was revealed when Cuomo allegedly contacted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie almost immediately following the commission’s January meeting and expressed concerns about the votes of the speaker’s appointees to JCOPE.
New York – Under Proposal, Taxpayer Funds Could Match Big Campaign Donations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/13/2019
The plans of a commission charged with rewriting New York’s campaign finance rules quickly drew criticism from advocates who had hoped the panel would reduce the role of big money in state politics. The Public Campaign Finance Commission voted to preliminarily adopt new donation limits for elections for the state Assembly and Senate. While those limits would be about half the current maximum amounts in New York, they would still be quite high by the standards of elections outside the state. “They’re simply reducing the limits from being astronomical to being sky-high,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at the government reform group Reinvent Albany.
Oregon – Oregon to Launch Statewide Procurement Marketplace in 2020
Governing – Andrew Westrope (Government Technology) | Published: 11/9/2019
Oregon has contracted with Periscope Holdings, a developer of e-procurement systems, to create a new statewide procurement platform, OregonBuys, set to launch in 2020. Based on the company’s BuySpeed e-procurement system, OregonBuys will standardize the procurement process across all state agencies, automate some of the associated tasks, and track and manage government purchases of goods and services.
Pennsylvania – FBI Eyes How Pennsylvania Approved Pipeline
AP News – Marc Levy | Published: 11/12/2019
The FBI has begun a corruption investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to issue permits for construction on a multibillion-dollar pipeline project to carry highly volatile natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania. FBI agents have interviewed current or former state employees about the Mariner East project and the construction permits, according to three people who have direct knowledge of the agents’ line of questioning. The focus of the agents’ questions involves the permitting of the pipeline, whether Wolf and his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return, those people say.
Tennessee – State Panel Questions Recent Ruling to Lower Jeremy Durham’s Campaign Finance Penalty, Calls for New Hearing
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 11/13/2019
Campaign finance officials in Tennessee are rejecting an administrative law judge’s ruling to reduce a record-setting fine against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham. The Registry of Election Finance concurred with a recommendation from Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Finance, to hold a hearing to consider Durham’s case again. The issue dates back to a $465,000 fine the registry levied against Durham in 2017, after an audit found he violated state campaign finance law hundreds of times, including by using donors’ money to buy custom suits and sunglasses. Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell said the registry’s initial civil penalty was excessive, noted the broadness of the state’s campaign finance laws, and placed the burden of proof on auditors to determine if Durham’s questionable expenditures were illegal. Darnell said the fine should be reduced to $110,000.
Texas – Campaign Contribution Limits Going Up
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifford | Published: 11/12/2019
Austin voters approved new campaign finance regulations in 1997 that limit the amount an individual can give to each candidate. City Clerk Jannette Goodall announced that the amount has risen from $350 to $400. “The limits are increasing for the first time in a number of years based on the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index,” Goodall said. In addition, candidates will now be allowed to collect $38,000, rather than $37,000, “from sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in a postal ZIP code completely or partially within the (city of Austin) limits.”
Texas – Dallas Mayor Taps Attorney Tim Powers as Ethics Czar, Promises ‘Teeth’ to City Code
Dallas Morning News – Hayat Norimine | Published: 11/8/2019
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson carried out an inaugural promise to pick an ethics czar to rewrite the city’s ethics code. Johnson announced that Tim Powers, a managing partner at the law firm Haynes and Boone LLP who has been chairperson of the Ethics Advisory Commission for a few months, will lead a working group that would scrutinize the ethics code and recommend changes. Johnson said he wants the city council to vote on the recommendations by June.
Texas – Top Texas GOP Donor Resigns from Company After Admitting to Prohibited Contributions
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek | Published: 11/7/2019
James Dannenbaum, a prolific Republican donor and former University of Texas regent, is resigning from his namesake engineering company after admitting to coordinating illegal campaign contributions in 2017. Dannenbaum, the chief executive officer of Dannenbaum Engineering, was charged with recruiting employees to donate over $20,000 to three congressional candidates in February 2017 and then reimbursing them with corporate funds. It is a felony to set up such conduit donations, which typically happen when the offender has already given the maximum amount to campaigns, which was $2,700 per election last cycle.
Virginia – In Virginia, Republicans Confront a Fearful Electoral Future
Houston Chronicle – Gregory Schneider and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2019
The November 5 elections revealed new troubles for the Republican Party in suburbs from Memphis to Philadelphia. Nowhere has the problem been more pronounced than in Virginia, where Republicans have been all but wiped from power in the past decade. Virginia now stands as a fearful avatar for Republicans of what the nation’s unrelenting demographic and cultural changes mean for the party, as the moderate-to-liberal urban and suburban areas grow and more conservative rural areas lose ground. Similar shifts are starting to hit such states as North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, and Texas, as minority populations increase and white college-educated voters continue to turn away from the GOP brand.
Washington – After Massive Spending, Fight Rages on for Bill to Curb Seattle PAC Money
MyNorthwest.com – Nick Bowman | Published: 11/11/2019
On the heels of sizable corporate spending in Seattle’s city council races, Councilperson Lorena Gonzalez is continuing to fight for legislation to curb that spending in future elections. Her bill will look to curb political spending in Seattle elections in three ways: prohibiting donations from foreign-owned companies; limiting contributions from individuals to independent expenditure committees to $5,000 each; and clarifying reporting requirements for commercial advertisers running paid political ads.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Owned Bank Stock While Pushing Bill Favored by Bank
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Steve Thompson | Published: 11/9/2019
When District of Columbia Council member Jack Evans proposed a bill in 2011 that would have shifted more city government deposits into local banks, he told a business journal he got the idea from EagleBank, one of a few institutions that would have benefited. What Evans never made public was that he held stock in EagleBank worth tens of thousands of dollars. Evans’ financial interest in EagleBank was among the revelations in a recent report from an ethics investigation. In the fallout from the report, nearly every other member of the council has publicly or privately urged Evans, the city’s longest serving lawmaker, to resign. Evans’ relationship with EagleBank has also attracted the interest of federal prosecutors.
Wisconsin – Lawsuit Could Deactivate 234,000 Voters in Wisconsin
AP News – Scott Bauer | Published: 11/13/2019
More than 234,000 voters in Wisconsin would be made unable to cast their ballot unless they register again before the next election under a lawsuit that liberals fear could dampen turnout among Democrats in the 2020 presidential race. The lawsuit could affect how many voters are able to cast ballots in both the April presidential primary and November 2020 general election in Wisconsin, a key swing state that both sides are targeting. President Trump narrowly won the state by less than 23,000 votes in 2016.
November 13, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “Ban Political Ads on Facebook? Upstart, Anti-Trump Candidates Object.” by Isaac Stanley-Becker for San Francisco Chronicle California: “PG&E Helped Fund the Careers of Calif. Governor and His wife. Now He Accuses the Utility of ‘Corporate Greed.’” by […]
National: “Ban Political Ads on Facebook? Upstart, Anti-Trump Candidates Object.” by Isaac Stanley-Becker for San Francisco Chronicle
California: “PG&E Helped Fund the Careers of Calif. Governor and His wife. Now He Accuses the Utility of ‘Corporate Greed.’” by Douglas MacMillan and Neena Satija (Washington Post) for San Francisco Chronicle
Texas: “Campaign Contribution Limits Going Up” by Jo Clifford for Austin Monitor
Washington: “After Massive Spending, Fight Rages on for Bill to Curb Seattle PAC Money” by Nick Bowman for MyNorthwest.com
National: “Report: Election vendors are ‘prime targets,’ need oversight” by Christina Cassidy for AP News
Illinois: “In Springfield, Family Ties Bind Lobbyists, Lawmakers” by W.J. Kennedy for Prairie State Wire
National: “Trump Allies Received Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Under Federal Health Contract” by Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn for Politico
National: “Redistricting Activists Brace for Wall of Inaction as Battle Moves to States” by Amy Gardner, Ted Mellnik, and Adrian Blanco for Washington Post
November 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Conspiracy of Hunches: Roger Stone trial set to start this week San Francisco Chronicle – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Manuel Roig-Franzia (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2019 Roger Stone is on trial in federal court, where prosecutors plan to […]
A Conspiracy of Hunches: Roger Stone trial set to start this week
San Francisco Chronicle – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Manuel Roig-Franzia (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2019
Roger Stone is on trial in federal court, where prosecutors plan to dive back into an episode of political chicanery, alleged lies, and conspiratorial texts that parallels the nascent impeachment inquiry into his longtime friend President Trump. Stone has long cultivated a public image as a dirty trickster on the edges of mainstream politics. He has been charged with lying to Congress and trying to tamper with a witness during a congressional investigation into interference in the 2016 election. His trial offers the possibility of fresh insights into the strange quest by some in Trump’s orbit for a kind of political kryptonite to use against Hillary Clinton – secret emails that would, they hoped, destroy her candidacy.
Advocacy Groups Fear Impact of Twitter Political Ad Ban
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 11/1/2019
Advocacy groups and trade associations are worried that Twitter’s decision to ban all political advertisements could hurt their efforts to use digital marketing to promote their issues. One source told The Hill the Twitter announcement sent “shock waves” through public affairs professionals in Washington, D.C. While Twitter is still working to finalize its rules, the changes are likely to force those groups to rework how they speak to elected officials, stakeholders, and the public through social media. There are still many questions about the scope of Twitter’s ban. Some asked how Twitter will deal with companies who are politically active.
As Trump Moves to Bully Witnesses and Derail Impeachment, Democrats See Obstruction
Anchorage Daily News – Phillip Rucker, Rachael Bade, and Roisalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2019
The centerpiece of House Democrats’ eventual impeachment charges is widely expected to be President Trump’s alleged abuse of power over Ukraine. But obstruction of Congress is now all but certain to be introduced as well, just as it was five decades ago when the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon. Democrats argue the Trump administration’s stonewalling –including trying to stop subpoenaed witnesses from testifying and blocking the executive branch from turning over documents – creates a strong case the president has infringed on the separation of powers and undercut lawmakers’ oversight duties as laid out in the Constitution.
Giuliani: I never lobbied or represented foreigners
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/31/2019
Rudolph Giuliani, who spent more than a dozen years with two well-known K Street firms, has deep ties to the influence industry. The former New York mayor logged a decade with the law and lobbying firm then known as Bracewell & Giuliani and a two-year stint after that with Greenberg Traurig. Giuliani never registered to lobby and has never disclosed work as a foreign agent, though it is his international portfolio that has generated attention from federal prosecutors. Though Bracewell appears not to have registered to do foreign influence work, Giuliani’s name appears in Foreign Agent Registration Act filings during his time there.
Higher Earning ‘Elite’ Political Lobbyists Overstate Their Own Achievements, Study Shows
Phys.org – University of Exeter | Published: 11/6/2019
Research from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom shows high-earning lobbyists living in Washington, D.C. with congressional experience, and who engage in a broader range of activities, were more likely than other lobbyists to inflate their success. Lobbyists who have a smaller salary and work in specialist areas or for public interest groups are less overconfident, or even underestimate their success. Researchers said this suggests overconfidence can help lobbyists make connections with important people but does not necessarily lead to them being able to influence policies. The research examined whether a lobbyist’s perception of their own success was accurate, compared to legislative outcomes, and if their measure of their own success was in line with other lobbyists who worked on the same issues.
Inside Adam Schiff’s Impeachment Game Plan
MSN – Adam Zengerle (New York Times) | Published: 11/5/2019
After Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House was moving forward with an “official impeachment inquiry,” she said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff would be leading the investigation. Schiff’s initial reluctance to pursue impeachment, paradoxically, has made him a particularly effective advocate for it in the past month. In his interviews and news conferences, he strikes a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, in keeping with Pelosi’s interest in presenting impeachment as a “prayerful, solemn, difficult” process. Schiff has come to occupy a unique and privileged place in the Democratic firmament. His Ukraine investigation has now been invested with all the hopes and dreams that Democrats once placed in the special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. In Schiff, Democrats believe they have found a more reliable vessel than Mueller and an opportunity for a do-over of sorts.
K Street’s Newest Star Built Business on Dubious Claims of Trump Ties
Laredo Morning Times – Beth Reinhard and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2019
Since President Trump took office, the lobbyist Michael Esposito has been wildly successful, turning a family business that once focused on municipal transportation issues into one of the fastest-growing lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. Fueling that rise, at least in part, are Esposito’s claims that he is uniquely positioned: a former Capitol Hill staffer who is close to centers of power in the Trump administration. Some of those very people, however, said Esposito’s claims are greatly embellished, or simply not true. Esposito, whose firm says it employs a half-dozen other lobbyists, some of whom have White House and congressional experience, said his clients had scrutinized his record and would have detected any falsehoods.
Lobbyists’ Revolving Door Leads Back to Capitol Hill Jobs
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/5/2019
More than 100 staff members traded in jobs with high-paying K Street firms, corporations, trade associations, or nonprofits for long hours on Capitol Hill beset by partisan brawls and legislative gridlock. Nearly 60 percent of the 110 people who have moved to the Hill from the influence industry since the midterm election went to work for House Democrats, a likely result of the flurry of new jobs available after the party regained control of the chamber. Republican offices in both the House and Senate hired 31 ex-lobbyists, or 28 percent of the total number who moved over. Some say they are doing it out of a desire to be in public service or because they have a longtime loyalty to their congressional bosses. Congress has made no conflict-of-interest rules limiting the interactions of lobbyists returning to Capitol Hill.
Sondland Updates Impeachment Testimony, Describing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 11/5/2019
A critical witness in the impeachment inquiry offered Congress substantial new testimony, revealing he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to investigations President Trump wanted. The disclosure from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in four new pages of sworn testimony, confirmed his involvement in laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that he had previously not acknowledged. The issue is at the heart of the impeachment investigation into Trump, which turns on the allegation the president abused his power to extract political favors from a foreign power. Trump has consistently maintained that he did nothing wrong and that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.
The Hottest Stop for Candidates on the 2020 Campaign Trail? The Picket Line.
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 11/2/2019
The road to the presidential nomination next year is sure to be full of unforeseen twists and potholes as a crowded field of Democratic contenders dukes it out in a volatile political climate. But about a year into their race, one thing is clear: It leads through a thicket of striking workers, in a number of states, whether they are in front of a grocery store, an automotive factory, or an elementary school. This push comes as they try to dislodge some of the support President Trump has found in states that have lost tens of thousands of union jobs in recent years, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Political observers said the rush by 2020 hopefuls to embrace striking workers marks a new chapter, although unions have been nominally aligned with Democratic politicians on and off for years.
The Messy Politics of Voter Purges
Pew Charitable Trusts – Matt Vasilogambros (Stateline) | Published: 10/25/2019
With a year until the 2020 presidential election, many states are still crafting ballot access policies that will shape their electorate. Decisions about voter list maintenance, one of the most essential bureaucratic duties of state election officials, received intense scrutiny in several states this year. While federal law mandates a certain level of voter roll maintenance, states differ on how they manage their registration databases. Most state officials are just trying to keep voter lists clean, said David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. Inevitably, however, dropping voters from the rolls inspires forceful political pushback, as many voting rights activists fear it is a form of voter suppression.
Trump Lures GOP Senators on Impeachment with Cold Cash
Politico – Alex Isenstadt | Published: 10/31/2019
President Trump is rewarding senators who have his back on impeachment and sending a message to those who do not to get on board. Trump is tapping his vast fundraising network for a handful of loyal senators facing tough reelection bids in 2020. Each of them has signed onto a Republican-backed resolution condemning the inquiry as “unprecedented and undemocratic.” Republican senators on the ballot next year are lagging in fundraising, stoking uncertainty about the GOP’s hold on the chamber, and could use the fundraising might of the president. Trump’s political operation has raked in over $300 million this year.
Trump Wanted Barr to Hold News Conference Saying the President Broke No Laws in Call with Ukrainian Leader
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2019
President Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the president had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said. The request from Trump traveled from him to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say. Those close to the administration concede the department has made several recent maneuvers putting it at odds with the White House at a particularly precarious time for Trump.
Canada – Alberta Businessman, Company Fined $25,000 Over Donations to Jeff Callaway Campaign
Globe and Mail – James Keller | Published: 11/4/2019
Alberta’s election commissioner fined a Calgary businessperson and a company he controls over allegations they illegally gave $60,000 to a failed contender for the leadership of the provincial United Conservative Party (UCP), who then used that money to reimburse straw donors to his campaign. Robyn Lore and Agropyron Enterprises were fined a combined total of $25,000 for their involvement in Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign in 2017. The elections commissioner has issued more than $200,000 in fines, including to many of Callaway’s donors and several members of his staff as part of an investigation into how the campaign was financed.
Canada – ‘Deep State’ Lobbying a Growing Tactic of Fossil Fuel Industry, Report Finds
The Narwhal – Sharon Riley | Published: 11/5/2019
Since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s took office in 2015, lobbyists in Ottawa have focused more attention on the nation’s bureaucrats, rather than elected office holders, representing what one researcher is calling a troubling “fusion of private interest and public bodies.” A new report from the Corporate Mapping Project documents the reach of the fossil fuel industry when it comes to lobbying the federal government, raising red flags about what it calls a “troubling shift in lobbying patterns.” The report’s findings suggest industry lobbyists are increasingly focusing on developing closer, long-term relationships with federal bureaucrats rather than elected officials.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Anchorage Judge Orders Alaska Campaign Contribution Limit to Be Reinstated
KTUU – Sean Maguire | Published: 11/6/2019
A Superior Court judge in Anchorage issued a ruling that may hobble the independent expenditure groups that have come to dominate elections in Alaska. Judge William Morse said the Alaska Public Office Commission (APOC) should reinstate the $500 annual per-person contribution limit to PACs that is in state law. APOC stopped enforcing it following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Harrow says APOC went too far in its interpretation.
Arkansas – Indictment Says Couple Bought Legislation Tweaks
Arkansas Democrat Gazette – Eric Besson | Published: 11/7/2019
Former executives of the nonprofit at the heart of a sweeping federal political corruption probe in Arkansas face new wire-fraud charges after a federal grand jury produced a fresh allegation involving former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. He pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection to payments made by a nonprofit run by the married couple, Bontiea and Tom Goss. The new indictment says Hutchinson added language, at Bontiea Goss’ request, to a Senate bill he sponsored. The language, which remained when the bill became law, helped the Gosses’ nonprofit “because it provided an advantage to the charity when competing for valuable [Arkansas] contracts,” the indictment says. The aim was to help the firm win approval to create a “pay-for-success program.”
California – Donations to Anderson’s 2020 County Supervisor Campaign Draw Questions
San Diego Union-Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 11/4/2019
Ten years ago, when he was a California Assembly member, Joel Anderson was the subject of an investigation into questionable campaign contributions that ended with election regulators fining him $20,000 and the legislator admitting he made a mistake. Now running for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Anderson is under a new investigation involving more recent contributions by some of the same donors from a decade ago. Anderson set up two different campaign committees for the 2020 race, the first nearly five years ago and the second in April 2016. Campaign records show the two committees accepted contributions from at least 11 people who, when their donations are combined, exceeded the county limit of $850 per individual contribution for primary and general elections.
California – SF Voters Pass Prop. F, the ‘Sunlight on Dark Money’ Measure
San Francisco Chronicle – Trisha Thandani | Published: 11/5/2019
A San Francisco ballot measure intended to increase the transparency of who pays for campaign ads won easily on November 5. The passage of Proposition F, called “Sunlight on Dark Money,” means campaigns will be forced to more prominently disclose who donates money to a cause. Proposition F is targeted at independent PACs, which can raise an unlimited amount of money from corporations, unions, and individuals. Those committees can then donate to individual candidate committees, which makes it less obvious who is behind the contributions.
California – Travel, Furniture, ‘Lavish’ Meals: Nonprofit head misspent $1.7 million, filing alleges
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 11/6/2019
The former head of the Los Angeles-based anti-poverty nonprofit Youth Policy Institute improperly used the organization’s funds to pay the property taxes on his house, buy furniture for his home office, and make national political donations, the group alleged in court documents. Dixon Slingerland, who was fired as the group’s chief executive in September, spent the nonprofit’s money on an array of unauthorized and personal expenses, including private tutoring for his children, contributions to his wife’s pension, and “lavish” dining, travel, and entertainment, according to a bankruptcy filing lodged by the nonprofit.
Florida – A Library Wanted a New York Times Subscription. Officials Refused, Citing Trump and ‘Fake News.’
MSN – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 11/5/2019
The board of commissioners in Citrus County, Florida, said it will no longer pay for the county library’s digital subscription to The New York Times, with one commissioner citing President Trump’s claim that the newspaper’s reporting was “fake news” as justifying the decision. On the same day the commissioners met, the White House said it was planning to order that federal agencies end their subscriptions to The Times and the Washington Post, two news outlets often criticized by Trump. “Someone’s personal political view does not have a place in deciding what library resources are available for the entire county,” said Sandy Price, chairperson of the library’s board. “Libraries have to ensure all points of view are represented.”
Georgia – DeKalb County Voters Reject Ballot Referendum to Restructure Ethics Board
Emory Wheel – Ninad Kulkarni | Published: 11/6/2019
A ballot referendum to restructure the DeKalb County Ethics Board failed to pass. The referendum proposed the establishment of a new ethics board for the county and replaced the position of ethics officer with an “ethics administrator.” DeKalb County legislators can vote on a new bill in the 2020 legislative session to address the ethics board. County residents in 2015 voted to make the ethics board more independent and to allow outside groups to appoint a majority of the board members, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The ethics board had not been functional since a 2018 Georgia Supreme Court ruling mandated that a majority of the members must be appointed by public officials.
Illinois – Pritzker Promises Lobbying Reforms as ‘Small Start’ to End Corrupt ‘Old Way of Doing Politics’
Chicago Sun-Times – Staff | Published: 11/6/2019
Vowing to help lift the cloud of “pay-to-play” politics over Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Cook County Democrats he plans to help craft legislation that would shed more light on lobbyists as the first in “a series of ethics reforms that are frankly long overdue.” Expressing his anger over corruption has become a recurring theme for the governor as a sprawling federal investigation ensnares state legislators, Chicago aldermen, and county officials. After general vows to help “root” out illegal activity, Pritzker pledged to take the first step in the upcoming fall veto session.
Illinois – Rep. Luis Arroyo Resigns After Being Charged with Bribery
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks | Published: 11/1/2019
State Rep. Luis Arroyo resigned from the Illinois House, one week after being arrested on a federal bribery charge. His resignation came hours before a legislative committee was set to meet to consider his ouster. Arroyo is accused of paying a bribe to a state senator in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefited a lobbying client of Arroyo’s. His arrest followed a federal raid on the Capitol office of Sen. Martin Sandoval in September and the indictment of Sen. Thomas Cullerton in August on embezzlement charges in connection with an alleged union ghost payrolling scheme.
Kansas – Fight Over $70M Kansas Prison Health Care Contract Turns Bitter Amid Ethics Concerns
Wichita Eagle – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 11/5/2019
The Tennessee company criticized for providing substandard medical care to Kansas’s 10,000 prison inmates now finds itself at the center of fresh controversy over the future of its $70 million-plus annual contract. Corizon Health alleges the Kansas Department of Corrections put the massive prison health care contract up for bid in a way that eases the path for a competitor who employs the former head of the corrections system. At the same time, a top official in Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration said a Corizon executive made political threats against the current leader of the Department of Corrections over the contract.
Kentucky – Kentucky Outcome Embarrasses Trump and Worries Many Republicans Ahead of 2020
MSN – Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2019
Democrats’ claim of victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia Legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president. Many allies of President Trump rushed to explain away the poor performance of incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin as an anomaly, while other GOP veterans expressed alarm about the party’s failure in a state where Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016. Bevin’s attempt to nationalize his cause by stoking conservative grievances about the impeachment process was not enough to overcome his problems nor was Trump’s raucous rally for the governor, raising questions about Trump’s political strength as he faces a barrage of challenges and a difficult path to reelection.
Maine – Vacancy on State Ethics Panel Poses Election-Year Risks
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 11/3/2019
Leaders of the Maine Legislature have yet to fill a seat that opened on the state ethics board 19 months ago, leaving the public’s only watchdog for campaign finance accountability in a weakened state as candidates begin collecting cash for the next election. Only five people serve on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and by law no more than two members can belong to the same political party. As a result, one of the seats is usually held by an independent. The last independent commissioner stepped down in March 2018, leaving decisions in the hands of four commissioners who must set aside party loyalties – and who face no prohibition on making political donations themselves.
Missouri – Federal Appeals Court Says Missouri Lobbying Rules Don’t Apply to Activist
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Erin Heffernan | Published: 11/3/2019
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that requiring Ron Calzone to sign up as a lobbyist in Missouri unjustly limits his First Amendment rights because he is not paid to press his views with members of the state Legislature and offers them nothing of value. The ruling overturned a decision by a three-judge panel of the same court. That panel had declared the Missouri Ethics Commission could require Calzone to register in the name of transparency and preventing corruption. Calzone, the president and sole officer of the nonprofit Missouri First organization, frequently speaks to lawmakers at the Capitol, often at public hearings. But he says he does not buy food or gifts for legislators.
Nevada – Group Seeks to End Gerrymandering with Independent Commission
Las Vega Review-Journal – Colton Lochhead | Published: 11/4/2019
A group looking to end partisan gerrymandering in Nevada is taking the issue to the voters in hopes of creating a bipartisan independent commission to draw political boundaries in the state instead of lawmakers. The League of Women Voters Nevada is expected to file a constitutional amendment with the secretary of state that, if approved by voters in 2020 and again in 2022, would create a commission that would have the sole authority to draw state legislative and congressional boundaries. According to the description of the proposal, the commission would ensure that districts have roughly equal populations, are “geographically compact and contiguous,” provide equal opportunities for minorities to participate in the process, and do not give an unwarranted advantage to one political party.
New York – Council Approves Fine, Suspension and Monitor for Andy King
Politico – Joe Anuta | Published: 10/28/2019
The New York City Council voted to level the most severe punishment in the panel’s history against Andy King, who was found by investigators to have misused council resources and then retaliated against staff members who he thought were cooperating with the ensuing probe. King’s colleagues voted to suspend him for 30 days, install a monitor for the remainder of his term, fine him $15,000, and strip him of his committee assignments. In addition, staffers who were pressured by King to leave would be allowed to return to work, employees would not be required to chauffeur King around in their personal vehicles without compensation, and King’s wife, an employee of the Service Employees International Union, would be prohibited from conducting council business.
New York – Trump Taxes: Appeals court rules president must turn over 8 years of tax returns
MSN – Benjamin Weiser (New York Times) | Published: 11/4/2019
A federal appeals court ruled President Trump cannot block the Manhattan district attorney’s office from subpoenaing his accounting firm for tax returns and financial records, delivering a blow to the president’s claim that he is immune to criminal investigations. But the court noted they were not ruling on all of the sweeping assertions of immunity the president’s lawyers have claimed. During a hearing before the panel, Trump’s personal lawyer had argued that a sitting president enjoys blanket immunity from criminal prosecution and even investigations while in office. The president’s legal team has already made clear that they intend to bring their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
North Carolina – Is Dan Forest Owed $80,000 in Damages Over a 2012 Political Ad?
Raleigh News and Observer – Will Doran | Published: 11/4/2019
A group that lobbies for state employees could have to pay North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest nearly $80,000 because of a campaign finance violation from 2012. The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides of that debate recently, years after Forest’s political committee first sued the political arm of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is known as EMPAC, The dispute involves political ads and a since-repealed state law that said political ads had to include a large photograph of either the treasurer or chief executive of the group paying for it. Forest claims he is owed $78,000 in damages, even though he won the 2012 election and went on to serve two terms as lieutenant governor. EMPAC says even if there were technical violations in the ads, it should not have to pay Forest any money because he cannot prove he was harmed.
North Carolina – Senate Leader Using Campaign Cash to Buy Raleigh Home
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 11/6/2019
Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger’s campaign is buying him a home in Raleigh, and the State Board of Elections told him that is allowed under North Carolina’s campaign finance law. Berger’s campaign has paid at least $55,000 to a company he created called YPD Properties LLC. YPD is a property management company, and it appears to be a pass-through entity for campaign rent payments that ultimately pay the mortgage for a townhome that Berger and his wife bought in May of 2016. Watchdog Bob Hall filed a formal complaint with the elections board, which enforces campaign finance rules. While others use campaign money to rent apartments or pay hotel bills, Hall said this is different because Berger’s buying an appreciating asset.
Tennessee – Judge Orders State Officials to Reduce Jeremy Durham’s Record-Setting Campaign Finance Penalty to $110,000
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 11/4/2019
Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell said former state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s fine of $465,000 for violating Tennessee’s campaign finance law should be reduced to $110,000. The initial fine was the single-largest civil penalty ever assessed by the Registry of Election Finance. Darnell wrote that the Legislature did not “give the registry an unbridled right to dole out civil penalties.” The judge pointed to legal precedent while saying prohibitions on excess civil penalties are covered by the U.S. Constitution. The ruling could further undermine the statute, giving lawmakers, many of whom spend donors’ money in in questionable ways, even more latitude.
Tennessee – State Sen. Brian Kelsey Faces Federal Probe Over Complicated Trail of Campaign Donations, Current and Former Lawmakers Say
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert and Adam Tamburin | Published: 11/5/2019
Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey is the subject of a grand jury probe into a complicated money trail related to his failed congressional bid in 2016. The investigation comes more than two years after The Tennessean reported unusual interactions between Kelsey’s state campaign account, a private Nashville club with a PAC, a federal advocacy organization, and the senator’s congressional bid. In a Campaign Legal Center complaint, the group accused Kelsey of violating straw donor prohibitions by purportedly orchestrating the money trail from his state campaign account to the American Conservative Union. He may have also violated straw donor laws when he gave campaign contributions to lawmakers who provided donations to his federal campaign.
Texas – Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Won’t Face Criminal Prosecution, Brazoria County DA Says
Texas Tribune – Cassandra Pollock | Published: 10/24/2019
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will not be criminally prosecuted for the things he said during a secretly recorded meeting with a hardline conservative activist, the district attorney in his hometown announced. Bonnen has said he will not seek reelection after activist Michael Quinn Sullivan secretly recorded a meeting with Bonnen in June. In the meeting, Bonnen and a top lieutenant asked Sullivan’s group, Empower Texans, to target a list of 10 House Republicans in the upcoming primary elections, and said he could get Empower Texans media access to the House floor. Bonnen also made a handful of disparaging comments about House Democrats and local leaders.
Virginia – Democrats Flip Virginia Senate and House, Taking Control of State Government for the First Time in a Generation
Washington Post – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella | Published: 11/6/2019
Democrats gained control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, tapping strength in the suburbs to consolidate power for the first time in a generation and deliver a rebuke to President Trump. Officials reported unusually high turnout in an election that served as an opening salvo in next year’s presidential showdown, a test of Democratic defiance and Republican resolve in the era of Trump. The sweep completed a dramatic political conversion, from red to blue, of a Southern state on Washington, D.C.’s doorstep.
Virginia – Virginia Cyclist Who Flipped Off Trump Wins Loudoun County Seat Representing His Golf Club
Danbury News Times – Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/5/2019
Juli Briskman, the cyclist who was photographed giving President Donald Trump the finger two years ago and found herself without a job and at the center of a national uproar, got a new job on November 5, winning a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, ousting a Republican in the process. Briskman raised her middle finger as she rode a bicycle alongside the presidential motorcade as Trump departed his golf club in Sterling, Virginia. Briskman said she was intent on basing her campaign on issues and not the incident involving her finger. But she acknowledged her notoriety helped her raise $150,000 for the race.
Washington – Washington High Court Probes Food Industry’s Speech Rights
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 10/22/2019
A Washington Supreme Court hearing on a record $18 million fine against the food industry touched on boycotts, death threats, and whether companies have the same free-speech protection as civil rights workers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) faces the penalty for failing to timely report the names of the companies that contributed $11 million in 2013 to defeat a GMO-labeling initiative. An appeals court upheld the conviction, but found the violations were not intentional and slashed the penalty to $6 million, still by far the largest fine ever in the U.S. for a campaign violation. At the heart of GMA’s case to overturn the fine is whether companies and executives faced retaliation by engaging in political speech. After a tough initiative battle in California in 2012, the GMA set up a separate account to take in money from members. The group then contributed $11 million under its name to the “no” campaign.
Washington DC – D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Used Office to Benefit Private Clients, Probe Finds
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 11/4/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans repeatedly used his office on behalf of private clients who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars, failing to recognize the conflicts and never properly disclosing the payments, according to an investigation by a law firm hired by the council. The confidential report identified 11 instances since 2014 in which Evans violated the council’s rules governing ethics. It marks the first time the council has detailed ethical lapses by Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker. His business interests and his public actions have been the target of a federal investigation, as well as a probe by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
November 7, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Alaska: “Group Wins Landmark Case Against Super PACs in Alaska” by Jacob Walinsky for ValueWalk California: “SF Voters Pass Prop. F, the ‘Sunlight on Dark Money’ Measure” by Trisha Thandani for San Francisco Chronicle North Carolina: “Senate Leader […]
Alaska: “Group Wins Landmark Case Against Super PACs in Alaska” by Jacob Walinsky for ValueWalk
California: “SF Voters Pass Prop. F, the ‘Sunlight on Dark Money’ Measure” by Trisha Thandani for San Francisco Chronicle
North Carolina: “Senate Leader Using Campaign Cash to Buy Raleigh Home” by Travis Fain for WRAL
Kentucky: “Kentucky Outcome Embarrasses Trump and Worries Many Republicans Ahead of 2020” by Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
Virginia: “Democrats Flip Virginia Senate and House, Taking Control of State Government for the First Time in a Generation” by Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella for Washington Post
Virginia: “Virginia Cyclist Who Flipped Off Trump Wins Loudoun County Seat Representing His Golf Club” by Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) for Danbury News Times
National: “Higher Earning ‘Elite’ Political Lobbyists Overstate Their Own Achievements, Study Shows” by University of Exeter for Phys.org
Illinois: “Pritzker Promises Lobbying Reforms as ‘Small Start’ to End Corrupt ‘Old Way of Doing Politics’” by Staff for Chicago Sun-Times
Kansas: “Fight Over $70M Kansas Prison Health Care Contract Turns Bitter Amid Ethics Concerns” by Jonathan Shorman for Wichita Eagle
October 18, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019 FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may […]
After Arrest of Giuliani Associates, FEC Chair Says Commission Struggling to Enforce Rules
The Hill – Justin Wise | Published: 10/14/2019
FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub lamented the agency’s inability to enforce campaign finance law, saying in an interview there “may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about.” Her remarks came in the wake of the campaign finance violation charges leveled against two associates of Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. Florida businesspeople Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested and accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme that funneled money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution to a pro-Trump super PAC.
Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Over His Financial Data
Anchorage Daily News – Ann Marimow, Spencer Hsu, and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2019
Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s business records from his accounting firm, a federal appeals court ruled in one of several legal battles over access to the president’s financial data. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld Congress’s broad investigative powers and rejected the president’s bid to block lawmakers from subpoenaing the documents. The case is one of several clashes between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican president over Trump’s data that is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, the judges ruled Trump’s arguments, that the subpoenas were invalid because Congress lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoenas, were incorrect.
Biden’s New Ethics Plan Includes Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Elections
NBC News – Mike Mernoli | Published: 10/14/2019
Seeking to turn the page from what he called the most corrupt administration in American history, former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out a new comprehensive ethics plan that includes a constitutional amendment to publicly finance elections. It also calls for a ban on lobbying by foreign governments and stricter protocols to ensure a firewall between the White House and prosecutorial decisions at the Justice Department. The proposal comes as Biden is under assault from President Trump and his allies over unsubstantiated allegations that he acted as vice president to shield his son from an investigation of a Ukrainian energy company whose board he served on.
Democratic Lobbyists Bristle at Party’s Attack on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 10/16/2019
With presidential candidates like U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for tougher rules on how the lobbying world works, Democratic lobbyists find themselves walking a difficult tightrope. The lobbying industry has pushed back on those proposals as unconstitutional, arguing they would be a restriction on First Amendment rights. Democratic lobbyists said while those proposals may be intended to target K Street'[s biggest spenders, they could also silence voices for progressive causes. A persistent argument against tougher restrictions on lobbying is they would lead to more so-called shadow lobbyists, those who do lobbying work but do not register.
Department of Justice’s Lobbyist Registry Available, but with Technical Issues
The Weekly – Giovanna Garofalo | Published: 10/16/2019
Puerto Rico’s lobbyist registry is now available for the general public to use. The registry is essentially a table that will list lobbyists under their name, number of registrations, clients who they represent, and authorized staff. When visitors access the page now, they will realize that it does not feature a single lobbyist. The Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service are still ironing out technical issues with the registry.
FEC Chairwoman Says She ‘Will Not Be Silenced’ after Republican Lawmaker Requests Ethics Investigation
CNN – Kaatina Iyer | Published: 10/10/2019
FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said she “will not be silenced” after a Republican member of Congress requested that she be investigated for ethics violations for her public statements. Rep. Rodney Davis, who was named an honorary state chairperson for President Trump’s reelection campaign, sent a letter to FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner, asking him to investigate Weintraub’s “refusal … to recuse herself” from any matters involving the president. He argued that Weintraub’s public statements regarding Trump on Twitter undermines her nonpartisan position.
Fourth Defendant in Giuliani Associates’ Case Arrested at New York Airport
Stamford Advocate – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/16/2019
David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, was arrested at a New York City airport. Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators. The third defendant in the case, a California man named Andrey Kukushkin, was arrested recently, according to authorities.
Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth Vogel, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019
An investigation by federal prosecutors into President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is tied to the case against two of Giuliani’s associates who were arrested recently on campaign finance related charges. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a member of Congress whose help they sought in removing the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Yovanovitch. Federal law requires American citizens to disclose any contacts with the government or media in the U.S. at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials.
Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting
MSN – Jo Becker, Maggie Haberman, and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019
During an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. Giuliani’s request provoked an immediate objection from Tillerson, who argued it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case. In the end, no such prisoner swap took place. But the episode has opened a new chapter in Giuliani’s efforts to interject himself into the Trump administration’s diplomacy while at times representing clients with a direct interest in the outcome.
House Readies Bill Aimed at Stopping Foreign Election Interference
Courthouse News Service – Brandi Buchman | Published: 10/16/2019
House lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a third bill to protect the integrity of U.S. elections, with the latest piece of legislation aimed at closing loopholes that allow foreign nationals to spend money on American campaigns. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act proposes increasing transparency for campaigns, parties, and PACs by requiring them to report any attempt by a foreign government or individual to influence an election to the FEC and the FBI. The bill also requires U.S. campaigns to establish standards for compliance.
How Amazon.com Moved into the Business of U.S. Elections
Reuters – Nandita Bose | Published: 10/15/2019
The expansion by Amazon Web Services (AWS) into state and local elections has gathered steam since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offering. So do the two main political parties, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the FEC. While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS, along with a network of partners, now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel, and helps provide live election-night results. The company’s efforts are welcomed by election administrators, who in interviews said they often struggle with keeping outdated systems up to date at the local level.
Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies
ProPublica – Heather Vogell | Published: 10/16/2019
Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender, and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.” Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic Leader and Regular Trump Target, Dies at 68
MSN – Jenna Portnoy and Antonia Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/17/2019
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died on October 17. He was 68 years old. Cummings served as chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus and then ranking member chair of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. Cummings spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too
ENM News – Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2019
For the children of the politically powerful, personal business and public dealings can often be indistinguishable, especially when private projects depend on foreign governments that are looking to bolster ties with Washington. As the president has become embroiled in a scandal involving his interactions with Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have taken to attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, for his business dealings in Ukraine and China. The brothers have accused him of leveraging his family name for personal gain while his father served in the Obama administration. But the high-profile attack roles being played by President Trump’s eldest sons have now thrust their own business dealings into the spotlight too. Both sons have operated and promoted the Trump family business overseas during their father’s presidency, even as he retains ownership.
Trump Emoluments Case Over His D.C. Hotel Gets Second Chance in Legal Challenge
Connecticut Post – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2019
A federal appeals court order revived a lawsuit claiming President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his hotel in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed to rehear the lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, which was dismissed over the summer by a three-judge panel of the court. The brief order set oral arguments before a full panel of judges for December 12 and essentially gives the novel lawsuit, which tests the anti-corruption emoluments provisions of the Constitution, a second chance.
Trump Has Awarded Next Year’s G-7 Summit of World Leaders to His Miami-Area Resort, the White House Said
Washington Post – Toluse Olorunnipa, David Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O’Connell | Published: 10/17/2019
Next year’s G-7 gathering of the leaders of the world’s biggest economies will take place at President Trump’s Doral golf resort outside of Miami. The decision is without precedent in modern American history – the president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself. Doral provides more revenue to Trump than any other hotel or golf club. But, in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into steep decline, with profits falling 69 percent in three years. Trump is already facing lawsuits for allegedly violating the Constitution’s ban on receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments. By doing this, he could be inviting a huge increase in the very line of business that these lawsuits are scrutinizing.
Ukraine Scandal Snags Pete Sessions’s Congressional Comeback Bid
MSN – Catie Edmondson (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2019
Former U.S. Pete Sessions, who is seeking a return to Congress, was caught in the fallout of the Ukraine scandal when he was referred to in the indictment of two presidential allies accused of campaign finance allegations. Sessions is described as “Congressman-1” in the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were charged with illegally funneling foreign money to American candidates and campaigns. “Congressman-1” is described as having received large campaign contributions from Parnas and Fruman, and whom Parnas asked for help in removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
Violent Spoof Video of Trump Killing His Critics Shows How Memes Have Reshaped Politics
Denver Post – Drew Harwell and Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2019
A meme video, a spoof derived from a bloody action film, shown at President Trump’s Miami-area golf resort drew outrage from some for its depiction of Trump shooting journalists and attacking political figures who have been critical of him, both Democrats and Republicans. Some warned the clip and others like it could incite real-world violence. But that outrage also helped ensure the video would be circulated more widely. Becca Lewis, who researches online subcultures and media manipulation for Stanford University, said the video’s sharing showed how such memes have become a potent force for political expression and propaganda. The meme creators, she said, routinely sought mainstream attention for the memes in a way that would make the shocking content seem more and more acceptable.
Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad
ENM News – Cecilia Kang and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is playing a game of dare with Facebook. The Democratic presidential candidate bought an ad on the social network that purposefully includes false claims about Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Trump to goad the social network to remove misinformation in political ads ahead of the 2020 presidential election. “We decided to see just how far it goes,” Warren wrote, calling Facebook a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” Warren’s actions follow a brouhaha over Facebook and political ads in recent weeks. Mr. Trump’s campaign recently bought ads across social media that falsely said Joe Biden offered $1 billion to Ukrainian officials to remove a prosecutor who was overseeing an investigation of a company associated with Biden’s son Hunter.
Warren Targets ‘Big Money’ in Campaigns, Rules Out Donations from Tech and Bank Executives
The Hill – Tal Axelrod | Published: 10/15/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren White House unveiled a sweeping new proposal to eliminate “big money” in politics, taking aim at donations from PACs and urging her fellow presidential contenders to be transparent in their fundraising. Warren said her plan would end the practice of federal candidates taking corporate PAC money and ban foreign corporate influence in American elections. She would also seek to require presidential campaigns to disclose their major donors, bundlers, and finance events and update campaign finance laws to address online political advertising.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Group Trying to Escape Fine for Violating Arizona Campaign Finance Laws
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 10/16/2019
A group that spent $260,000 attacking a 2014 foe of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his first gubernatorial race is trying again to escape paying a fine for violating state campaign finance laws. Attorneys for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund contend the Citizens Clean Elections Commission lacked the power to impose a $96,000 fine for the commercials targeting former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. They say there was no proof the ad was done to advance the political fortunes of anyone else in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Beyond that, the lawyers contend the commission lacks the authority to enforce the campaign finance laws.
Arkansas – Speaking as Taxpayer in TV Ad, Griffin Says; His Appearance Raises Campaign Questions
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Alyson Hoge | Published: 10/6/2019
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin appears in a television advertisement financed by a nonprofit issue advocacy group called Arkansas Competes. The ad will air about two months after Griffin said he will be a candidate for governor in the 2022 election to succeed Asa Hutchinson. Griffin said he is appearing in the ad “as an Arkansas taxpayer deeply concerned about issues facing our state.” Arkansas Competes Director Carl Vogelpohl said the ad would not run afoul of state law. He noted a state Ethics Commission advisory opinion that said if a non-candidate committee organized as a 501 (c) (4) runs issue ads in Arkansas not asking for votes for or against a specific candidate, the committee’s activity would not constitute a contribution or non-monetary contribution under state law.
California – FBI Investigating Whether Sacramento Pot Businesses Paid Bribes to Public Officials
Sacramento Bee – Sam Stanton and Ryan Sabalow | Published: 10/14/2019
The FBI has been investigating whether Sacramento-area marijuana businesses have made payoffs to public officials in the region in exchange for favorable treatment and license approvals. The investigation comes two months after the FBI announced in a podcast that it was “seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry” and asked for any tips involving public corruption and the industry, which generates millions of dollars in revenue and involves licenses that can go for as much as $500,000.
Connecticut – Government for Sale? Lobbyists Spent $32M This Year to Influence Legislative Session
Manchester Journal Inquirer – Eric Bedner and Will Healy | Published: 10/12/2019
More than $32.3 million was spent this year by nearly 1,000 lobbying organizations to push their agendas and try to persuade Connecticut lawmakers into siding with them on key pieces of legislation. Most of that money was spent during the legislative session that ran from January to June. During the 2019 session, the two most lobbied areas of policy involved health care and hospitals and general government, which includes taxes and contracts Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the “overwhelming majority” of lobbyists comply with the regulations as the business is mostly “reputation-based.”
Florida – $500 Ethics Fine Against Dennis McDonald Now Upped to $10,000, with Governor’s Reprimand and Censure
FlaglerLive.com; Staff – | Published: 10/10/2019
A three-year-old ethics case against former Flagler County Commission candidate Dennis McDonald could have ended last June with a $500 fine to which he had agreed. Instead, and for lack of answering a few questions and correcting the record, McDonald now faces a $10,000 fine and a public censure and reprimand by the governor. The Florida Ethics Commission meets on October 25 to vote on the case. The commission voted unanimously at its June meeting to reject a settlement with McDonald because he had not corrected the mistakes on his financial disclosure forms, however minor, that had led to the case against him.
Illinois – Caught on Tape: Ex-Ald. Danny Solis sought money from Jerry Reinsdorf group
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak | Published: 10/11/2019
With FBI agents secretly listening in, then-Chicago Ald. Danny Solis was caught on a wiretap four years ago discussing plans to solicit campaign money from a development group whose owners include sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, chairperson of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, that needed his help at City Hall. Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group needed Solis’ approval for a $40 million apartment complex they later built in his ward. During a call, Solis explained, over the worries of an unidentified aide that the developers were still awaiting the alderman’s approval for the project, how he planned to solicit Reinsdorf’s business partner Thomas Meador, for campaign money. Solis wore a wire for nearly two years, secretly recording conversations at City Hall.
Maryland – ‘Maryland Is Very Corrupt’: Charges against former Del. Tawanna Gaines add to state’s corruption history
Baltimore Sun – Elliott Davis (Capital News Service) | Published: 10/17/2019
Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines is scheduled to be arraigned on a federal wire fraud charge. She is charged with using an undisclosed PayPal account to accept donations to her campaign finance committee. Gaines is not alone. The arraignment adds her to the growing list of politicians in the state who have either committed crimes or ethical violations. Gaines is the third Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County alone to be charged or convicted since 2018.
Michigan – Lights Turn Green for Traffic Signal Company That Hired MDOT Director
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 10/14/2019
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) made a major shift in who supplies its traffic signal control equipment, just as its former director has taken an executive position with the company that benefits from the change. MDOT used to buy all its traffic signal control equipment and software from Siemens Mobility. But that changed last October, the same month Kirk Steudle, who, for the previous 12 years headed up the department, was named senior vice president of Econolite Systems, a Siemens competitor based in California. In October 2018, the state agency changed its specifications to allow the purchase of traffic signal controllers supplied by Econolite in addition to those made by Siemens.
New York – Big Questions Remain for NY’s Public Campaign Finance Plan
AP News – Marina Villeneuve | Published: 10/14/2019
A New York commission began crafting a small-donor public campaign financing system but has yet to tackle big issues such as when the program would launch and how it would be implemented. The system will provide up to $100 million in public financing to candidates for offices such as governor and Legislature who get enough small private donations. The Public Campaign Financing Commission has until December 1 to announce rules that will become law unless lawmakers hold a rare end-of-year special session to reject them.
New York – Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits
New York Daily News – Anna Sanders | Published: 10/14/2019
Contributions from people doing business with New York City were restricted in 2007 and a database was created to ensure candidates and donors complied with the law. Lobbyists pushing city policies and seeking municipal contracts for their clients are included. So are top executives and owners of companies who already have contracts and those lobbying the city. But the law allows them to act as bundlers for other donors without the same contribution limits. Critics say the arrangement leaves the door wide open for powerful and well-connected New Yorkers to influence elections and sway politicians in their favor.
New York – New York Can Now Bring Charges Against Presidential Pardon Recipients
Politico – Bill Mahoney | Published: 10/16/2019
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will let New York prosecutors bring charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons for related crimes. The bill was explicitly written to address fears that President Trump might use his pardon power to interfere with criminal investigations. The U.S. Supreme Court has found the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy does not apply to the states. It does not bar state prosecutors from bringing charges against individuals who have already been tried on similar federal crimes. But New York’s existing law included additional safeguards that prohibited these second trials.
North Carolina – Solar Group Solicits Campaign Cash for Top Lawmaker, Tied Directly to Legislative Action
WBTV – Nick Ochsner | Published: 10/16/2019
A solar industry group solicited campaign contributions for a North Carolina legislator in an email to its members and tied the request for funds directly to action he had taken days earlier on a bill opposed by the group. The request came from the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance on behalf of state Rep. John Szoka, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy and Public Utilities. Chris Carmody, the executive director of alliance, asked the organization’s members to donate to Szoka up to $5,200, the maximum contribution allowed under the law. The email noted Szoka and a second lawmaker for their opposition to Senate Bill 559, which would authorize Duke Energy to set energy rates for a multi-year period with relaxed oversight from state regulators.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Commission Receives First Complaint
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 10/10/2019
North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission has received its first complaint, but its details are not immediately available. The commission, which has met only twice, does not yet have investigative procedures for handling complaints. The panel’s next meeting agenda includes items such as establishing a website and office space and writing job descriptions for hiring staff. The commission may write and adopt rules related to transparency, elections, lobbying, and corruption, but it has yet to begin or even broach a rule-making process.
Ohio – The Right Way for a State to Purge Voters Might Be to Show How Wrong It Is
ENM News – Nicholas Casey (New York Times) | Published: 10/14/2019
Ohio is a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive. That has led critics to contend parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who do not learn they cannot vote until Election Day. Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the state released the full list and gave it to advocacy groups to check. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors. Around 40,000 people should not have been on it, the state determined. One of the names to be purged as an inactive voter was Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.
Rhode Island – Facing Penalties, IGT Discloses $776K More Was Spent in Push for New Contract
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 10/16/2019
Facing potential penalties of up to $5,000 and revocation of its right to lobby in Rhode Island, lottery giant IGT and an affiliate have now publicly disclosed a total of $1.2 million in spending in July, August, and September on the company’s campaign for a no-bid, 20-year contract extension to provide the technology and machines for the Rhode Island Lottery, a state-run entity that produced $397 million in revenue last year. While the company disclosed the $129,000 it paid a dozen lobbyists between July 1 and September 30, it had not disclosed how much it paid its public-relations consultants, advertisers, and affiliates to try to win public and legislative support for the contract extension.
South Carolina – SC Supreme Court Justices Grill Special Prosecutor in Quinn Public Corruption Case
The State – John Monk | Published: 10/15/2019
South Carolina’s five Supreme Court justices fired question after question at special prosecutor David Pascoe about why he wanted to undo the conviction and no-prison sentence of ex-state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. in a high-profile public corruption case. At the heart of Pascoe’s argument was his claim that the judge who sentenced Quinn erred in allowing Quinn to plead guilty to what Pascoe asserted was a non-crime. The Supreme Court overturning the conviction could allow either a new trial or a guilty plea to a lawful charge, Pascoe has said in briefs on the case.
Texas – Dallas Council Member Violated City Code with VisitDallas Tickets, Ethics Commission Says
Dallas News – Hayat Norimine | Published: 10/15/2019
Dallas City Councilperson Casey Thomas violated the ethics code by failing to disclose over $1,600 worth of event tickets he received from VisitDallas, the city Ethics Advisory Commission said. Ahead of the commission’s vote, Thomas promised to recuse himself from any votes related to VisitDallas, the city’s tourism bureau, for the remainder of his term. He also said he fixed procedures with his staff to ensure the mistake would not happen again. The code of ethics on gifts states that city officials should not accept an item that “is intended to influence or reward” decisions and must file financial disclosure forms for any gift that exceeds $250 within a month of accepting it.
Texas – Texas GOP Speaker Tape: Lawmaker ‘vile,’ Trump ‘killing us’
AP News – Paul Weber and Clarice Silber | Published: 10/15/2019
A secretly recorded audio tape of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen seeking help to oust members of his own Republican Party and profanely disparaging a Democratic House member, along with and other political scheming, has thrown the GOP-controlled Legislature into disarray at a fragile moment when their majority is at stake. The tape has uncorked the biggest political scandal in the state in years. Democrats filed a lawsuit accusing Bonnen of breaking campaign finance laws during the meeting with the head of a conservative group called Empower Texans, which has spent lavishly in pursuit of pulling the Legislature far to the right on issues such as abortion and guns. State investigators responsible for looking into allegations of corruption by public officials have also opened a case.
Virginia – A Virginia Beach Republican Says Democrats Gave His Campaign $44,000. Here’s What’s Going On.
The Virginian-Pilot – Marie Albiges | Published: 10/16/2019
A Republican delegate trying to hold onto his Virginia House seat says his Democratic opponent’s attack mailers have actually benefited his campaign, so much so that he is reporting them as a $44,000 in-kind contribution in official records submitted to the state. Davis said he feels a “legal obligation” to report the donation. The stunt in reality is a creative way to frame what is shaping up to be a close race as Democrats try to flip enough seats to seize control of the General Assembly, said Robin Cooperman, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s political theater, to be sure,” Cooperman said.
Wyoming – Wyoming Utility Regulator Copied, Sent Coal Lobby Letter
WyoFile.com – Andrew Graham | Published: 10/15/2019
The Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC), in concert with five equivalent bodies from other states, recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate an inquiry that could subsidize coal plants in the name of electrical grid reliability. The letter of request appears to have been drafted, in part, by a coal industry lobbying group and passed through by the PSC. Emails obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute through a public records request show three paragraphs of PSC Chairperson Karen Forstrom’s letter match a model letter a representative of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity provided to West Virginia public service commissioners on July 30.
October 15, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance New York: “Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits” by Anna Sanders for New York Daily News Elections National: “Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad” by Cecilia Kang and […]
New York: “Loophole Allows People with City Business to Shower Thousands on Candidates Despite Contribution Limits” by Anna Sanders for New York Daily News
National: “Warren Dares Facebook With Intentionally False Political Ad” by Cecilia Kang and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times) for ENM News
National: “Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too” by Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess (New York Times) for ENM News
National: “Violent Spoof Video of Trump Killing His Critics Shows How Memes Have Reshaped Politics” by Drew Harwell and Tony Romm for Washington Post
National: “Biden’s New Ethics Plan Includes Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Elections” by Mike Mernoli for NBC News
National: “Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work” by Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth Vogel, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) for MSN
Connecticut: “Government for Sale? Lobbyists Spent $32M This Year to Influence Legislative Session” by Eric Bedner and Will Healy for Manchester Journal Inquirer
Michigan: “Lights Turn Green for Traffic Signal Company That Hired MDOT Director” by Paul Egan for Detroit Free Press
October 4, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Trump Hotel Mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 10/2/2019 House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups, including at least one foreign government, tried to ingratiate themselves to President Trump by […]
A Trump Hotel Mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 10/2/2019
House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups, including at least one foreign government, tried to ingratiate themselves to President Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them. It is a previously unreported part of a broader examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties. The so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution forbids Trump from profiting from foreign governments, or from receiving any money from the U.S. government aside from his annual salary.
Barr Personally Asked Foreign Officials to Aid Inquiry into CIA, FBI Activities in 2016
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris, and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/30/2019
Attorney General William Barr held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct.
Chris Collins Enters Guilty Plea in Insider Trading Case
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 10/1/2019
Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins pleaded guilty to insider trading charges, ending a congressional career that pushed the House to craft rules prohibiting members from serving on public company boards. Collins pleaded guilty to two of eight counts he was charged with: conspiracy to commit securities fraud and false statements to the FBI. Collins sat on the board of directors for biotechnology company Innate Immunotherapuetics and was also one of its largest shareholders. Collins did not trade himself and his Innate stock declined by millions of dollars when the company’s failed drug trial results were publicly revealed. But he provided the insider trading information to his son, who then relayed it to others.
Dems Seek Lobbyist Cash to Fund Milwaukee Convention
Politico – Maggie Severns and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 9/29/2019
Two top operatives planning the Democratic Party’s 2020 convention in Milwaukee went to K Street to pitch lobbyists on their plans for the $70 million event. Against the backdrop of the Democratic primary, it was an awkward pairing – representatives for special interests meeting with top Democrats while the party’s leading presidential candidates reject corporate PAC and lobbyist money. But Democratic National Committee officials explained during the meeting how corporations can help foot the bill for the convention, regardless of who the nominee is, addressing some lobbyists’ worries that a crusading left-wing nominee like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could try to reject corporate money, embarrassing convention sponsors.
Elections Chief Says a GOP Colleague Blocked Wide Release of Her Foreign Activity
MSN – Alex Horton (Washington Post) | Published: 9/28/2019
The FEC posts the latest in election regulatory activity in a weekly digest. That was until the last week, after what FEC Chairperson Ellen Weintraub said was Republican Commissioner Caroline Hunter’s effort to block a draft memo on prohibited foreign national electoral activity from being included in the digest, which led to the digest being withheld from the public. But Weintraub found a way to get the information out. She published the digest piecemeal, with 57 tweets in all, including the foreign national prohibitions memo – all while calling out the commissioner who Weintraub said sought to block it from being widely publicized online. Hunter said she merely asked Weintraub for time to evaluate the document before it was included in the digest.
Ericsson Sets Aside $1 Billion to Pay for Ethics Breaches in Six Countries
Dallas News – Dave McCombs and Niklas Magnusson (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/26/2019
Swedish telecommunications equipment giant Ericsson said it expects to pay more than $1 billion to resolve investigations by U.S. authorities into business ethics breaches in six countries in one of the costliest corruption cases on record. Ericsson has said the probe related to a payment system used to win contracts in the 1990s. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits American companies and overseas firms with stocks trading on U.S. exchanges from paying bribes to foreign officials.
Impeachment Inquiry Puts New Focus on Giuliani’s Work for Prominent Figures in Ukraine
Laredo Morning Times – Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019
The hunt by President Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani for material in Ukraine damaging to Democrats has put a spotlight on business ties he has had in the former Soviet republic for at least a decade, work that has introduced him to high-level Ukrainian financial and political circles. Giuliani has said he has been working for free solely to benefit his client, Trump, as he has sought information from Ukrainian officials. House investigators are now seeking records about Giuliani’s past clientele in Ukraine, including Pavel Fuks, a wealthy developer who financed consulting work Giuliani did for the city of Kharkiv. House committees have also requested documents from two of Giuliani’s current clients, Florida-based businesspeople who have been pursuing opportunities in Ukraine for a new liquefied natural gas venture.
Millions on Lobbying Will Cost Policy Influencers Under Warren
Courthouse News Service – Amanda Ottaway | Published: 10/2/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced a plan to “end lobbying as we know it” with a proposed tax on any corporation or organization that spends more than $500,000 annually in lobbying the federal government. Her plan calls for a 35 percent tax rate on corporations and trade organizations spending between $500,000 and $1 million on lobbying, 60 percent for those spending between $1 million and $5 million, and 75 percent on all spending over $5 million. “Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors,” Warren wrote in announcing the proposal.
Odd Markings, Ellipses Fuel Doubts About the ‘Rough Transcript’ of Trump’s Ukraine Call
MSN – Carol Leonnig, Craig Timberg, and Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019
President Trump said his controversial July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was transcribed “word-for-word, comma-for-comma,” an assertion that fueled growing questions about the nature and completeness of an official memorandum about the call released by the White House. Administration officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary that closely tracked the words Trump used in his July 25 call with Zelensky. The whistleblower complaint that spurred an impeachment investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call, words closely matching the ones used by Trump recently, creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released previously and what may have been left out.
Pompeo Acknowledges He Listened in On Trump’s Ukraine Call
AP News – Matthew Lee | Published: 10/2/2019
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly acknowledged for the first time he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate political rival Joe Biden. The disclosure puts a spotlight on his previous attempts to distance himself from the call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which the State Department prominently figures. In a September 22 interview with ABC News, Pompeo deflected questions about his involvement. Asked then “what do you know” about the conversations between Trump and the president of Ukraine, Pompeo said he had not seen the whistleblower complaint and went on to talk about how the U.S. has provided military support to the government of Ukraine in its fight with Russia-backed separatists.
RNC Solicited Money for Trump’s Reelection with Forms That Look a Lot Like the Official Census
MSN – Kim Bellware and Brittany Shammas (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2019
Officials in Montana are warning residents for the second time this year about surveys sent by the Republican National Committee that mimic the look of federal census forms, with the goal of soliciting money for President Trump’s reelection campaign. The mailers are labeled “2019 Congressional District Census” and inform recipients they have been “selected to represent Voters” in Bozeman, Montana. The accompanying literature makes repeated requests for donations, urging recipients to send at least $15 to “help pay for the costs of processing [the] Census Document” if they are unable to afford an amount in the requested range of $25 to $1,000. The potentially misleading mailings come as the U.S. Census Bureau is preparing for what is expected to be one of the most challenging federal counts in decades.
The Catholic Church and Boy Scouts Are Lobbying Against Child Abuse Statutes. This Is Their Playbook
USA Today – Marisa Kwiatkowski and John Kelley | Published: 10/2/2019
Since 2009, state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have tried at least 200 times to extend the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. The bills have borrowed from and built on each other, sharing common phrases and ideas. Many special interests, including the insurance industry, oppose efforts to give survivors more time to sue. But two organizations are uniquely positioned to wield influence because of their deep ties to local communities: The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America. Where legislation has been introduced, equally coordinated opposition has followed from the groups that stand to lose the most.
The Interior Secretary Wants to Enlarge a Dam. An Old Lobbying Client Would Benefit.
MSN – Coral Davenport (New York Times) | Published: 9/28/2019
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise the height of its Shasta Dam in Northern California. The department’s scientists and researchers concluded that doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area and devastate the West Coast’s salmon industry downstream. But the project is going forward now, in a win for a powerful consortium of California farmers, the Westlands Water District, that stands to profit by gaining access to more irrigation water from a higher dam and has been trying to get the project approved for more than a decade. For much of that time, the chief lobbyist for Westlands was David Bernhardt. Today, Bernhardt is the Interior secretary. The department said Bernhardt’s ethics pledge when he joined the Trump administration did not prohibit him from decisions about the dam in most instances.
Trump Involved Pence in Efforts to Pressure Ukraine’s Leader, Though Officials Say Vice President Was Unaware of Allegations in Whistleblower Complaint
MSN – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Ashley Parker (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2019
President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information he hoped would be damaging to Joe Biden, current and former U.S. officials said. Officials close to Pence insist he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an obscure Ukrainian gas company, when his father was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine. Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests, even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play.
Watchdog Allowed to Sue on Donor Disclosure After FEC Won’t Act
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 10/1/2019
A judge eased the way for watchdog groups to bypass the gridlocked FEC in a decision allowing a lawsuit seeking to unmask secret donors to a major Republican campaign spending organization. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) can pursue an unusual “citizen suit” against the American Action Network (AAN). The AAN has spent tens of millions of dollars aiding Republican congressional candidates but never has revealed any of its donors. The Federal Election Campaign Act allows court challenges when the evenly divided FEC splits along party lines and dismisses an enforcement complaint. This can be an effective way to enforce the law if the FEC will not act, the judge said, denying a motion to dismiss CREW’s lawsuit.
Whistleblower Painstakingly Gathered Material and Almost Single-Handedly Set Impeachment in Motion
Anchorage Daily News – Greg Miller (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2019
From the moment he learned about President Trump’s attempts to extract political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from the newly elected leader of Ukraine on July 25, the CIA officer behind the whistleblower report moved swiftly behind the scenes to assemble material from at least a half-dozen highly placed, and equally dismayed, U.S. officials. He wove their accounts with other material on everything from the intervention of Rudolph Giuliani in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship to alleged efforts by attorneys in the Office of the White House Counsel to contain or suppress the accruing damage. The document he delivered to the intelligence community’s inspector general is so concerning and factually sound that it has almost single-handedly set in motion the gears of impeachment.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Arkansas Asks Panel to Toss Challenge to Campaign-Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 9/26/2019
An attorney for the state of Arkansas argued before an appeals court that a woman challenging the constitutionality of a state campaign donation law lacks standing to do so because her preferred candidate has not made an official campaign announcement. Peggy Jones filed a federal lawsuit over the law prohibiting campaign donations for statewide offices more than two years before the election. Jones claims the law infringes on her First Amendment rights by preventing her to donate now to politicians she wants to support in the 2022 election cycle. In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law until its constitutionality could be decided.
California – L.A. Gave Him a $54,750 Consulting Gig. But Did He Do Any Work?
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 10/1/2019
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his office approved a consulting contract in 2016 for Michael LoGrande, the departing head of the city planning department, so LoGrande could finish up work before a new planning director arrived. But when asked by reporters for evidence of the work performed by LoGrande, officials in mayor’s office and the planning department said they had nothing to turn over. LoGrande agreed in July to pay a penalty of more than $281,000 for illegally lobbying the city just months after he left his position. Three of the four violations occurred while he was being paid by the city as a consultant. One City Hall critic said it sounded as though LoGrande had secured a “no show, no work” contract, one that essentially functioned as a severance package.
California – Monterey Slaps Limits on Escalating Campaign Contributions
Monterey Herald – Dennis Taylor | Published: 10/2/2019
The Monterey City Council advanced an ordinance limiting campaign contributions by any person to $500. It defines a “person” as any individual and any number of organizations, such as companies, corporations, committees, and labor unions. The ordinance will come back in two weeks for a second reading and if passed again would become law four weeks after that, said Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar.
California – These California Politicians Once Helped Regulate Legal Marijuana. Now They’re Working for the Industry
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 9/30/2019
A growing number of former government leaders, bureaucrats, and regulators have joined or established financial ties with the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry in the last few years. More than two dozen government officials have made the leap. Most jumped in after voters in 2016 approved Proposition 64, which legalized growing, distributing, and selling cannabis for recreational use. Cannabis firms that need help navigating bureaucracy stand to gain valuable knowledge from enlisting government veterans, said former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who is a founder of C4 Distro, a state-licensed distribution firm.
Colorado – Recall Polis Group Gives $11,000 in Gifts to Staffers
Denver Post – Anna Staver | Published: 9/26/2019
The Official Recall of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis group, which did not participate in the recent failed recall attempt by two other group has given $11,000 of the money it raised for the effort as gifts to staffers. According to disclosre records, Shane Donnelley got $5,000 as a “thank you for caring about Colorado” gift, and Lisa Pascoe and Rene McGill both received $3,000. It’s not the first time the group has come under scrutiny for its spending. The group’s chairperson, Juli-Andra Fuentes, was questioned about a nearly $30,000 donation to an independent expenditure committee she founded called Colorado for Trump. The Trump campaign said Fuentes’ group was not affiliated with the campaign, and it might take action over the misleading name.
Delaware – Former Wilmington City Council President Indicted
Wilmington News Journal – Jeanne Kuang and Esteban Parra | Published: 9/30/2019
Former Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory was indicted on charges of profiteering and official misconduct. The Delaware Department of Justice said Gregory used his position on the council to secure a city grant that would enrich both himself and a nonprofit he founded. In April, Gregory settled a case with the Wilmington Ethics Commission, admitting his actions violated one section of the city code, which prohibits elected officials from using their position for personal monetary gain or to influence others’ behavior. He received a public reprimand. The commission agreed to drop a charge alleging he violated a different part of code, which prohibits officials from using “public office to secure unwarranted privileges, private advancement or gain.”
Florida – After Five Years and an ‘Ugly’ Process, Miami-Dade Is Still Trying to Buy Helicopters
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 10/3/2019
Miami-Dade County has been trying to buy new rescue helicopters for five years, and the purchasing process may be the messiest ever for a county famous for extended procurement fights. It sparked a brief criminal investigation, though no charges were filed. Ethics investigators were far more productive, issuing reports accusing bidder Agusta and administrators in the county’s fire department of flouting rules governing how local governments are supposed to select vendors. The report detailed an “alarming” amount of texts and phone calls between an Agusta sales executive and administrators at the county’s fire department at a time when purchasing rules barred private communication. The report also said it “strains credibility” to believe the communications had nothing to do with Agusta’s bid.
Florida – Mayor Dailey Tears into Independent Ethics Board, Balks at Proposed Ethics Code Overhaul
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 9/26/2019
A proposal by the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board to strengthen a voter-approved ethics code long seen as ineffectual came under fire at City Hall, with Mayor John Dailey blasting both the recommended ordinance and the board itself. Dailey grilled Independent Ethics Officer, Julie Meadows-Keefe, and the ethics board chairperson, Richard Herring, over their practices and procedures since the panel’s creation nearly five years ago. Treating them at times almost like hostile witnesses, he asked leading questions, answered his own queries, and apologized several times after cutting the speaker off. Dailey tore away at some of the most significant revisions to the ethics code, a document a year in the making that has sat on the shelf since the board delivered it to commissioners in April.
Iowa – Judge Upholds Voter ID, Strikes Parts of 2017 Voting Law
AP News – David Pitt | Published: 10/1/2019
A judge upheld voter ID as allowable under the Iowa Constitution but struck down as unconstitutional portions of a 2017 voting reform law challenged by a Hispanic civil rights group and an Iowa State University student. The law signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad requires voters to show certain forms of identification when voting at the polls, provide an identification number on absentee ballot applications, and allows county auditors to reject ballots if they believe signatures do not appear to match a voter signature on record.
Kentucky – Hospital Group Cancels Beshear Fundraiser After Saying Donation Would ‘Assure Access’
Lexington Herald-Leader – Daniel Desrochers | Published: 10/1/2019
The Kentucky Hospital Association canceled a fundraiser for the gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Andy Beshear a day after it was reported the association was urging members to donate in an effort to “assure access” to whoever wins the race for governor in November. “We cannot predict the outcome of the election but we can assure access to the winner with a strong show of support for each candidate,” Bud Warman, the group’s vice president in charge of member engagement, wrote in an email to members.
Montana – ‘Excessive Lobbying’ by Nonprofit Federal Land Critic Prompts Complaint to IRS
Missoulia Current – Laura Lindquist | Published: 9/30/2019
A Montana nonprofit led by a federal land critic should give up its tax-exempt status because of lobbying activities, according to watchdog groups. The Campaign for Accountability sent a complaint to the IRS claiming Citizens for Balanced Use has repeatedly violated laws that limit the amount of lobbying that tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are allowed to carry out. The IRS does allow lobbying, as long as it is not a “substantial part” of a nonprofit’s activities. But the agency has not defined what qualifies as “substantial.”
Nebraska – Nebraska Lags Behind Neighbors in Campaign Finance Regulation
Hastings Tribune – Tony Herrman | Published: 9/27/2019
Kate High, treasurer of the Nebraska League of Women Voters, delineated how Nebraska lags behind neighboring states in regulating campaign finance. High said she began researching campaign finance rules in her retirement. She said most states as well as the federal government have criminalized what Nebraska has legalized and normalized. High offered a 10-part plan to make elections about voters, not big money interests.
New Jersey – Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam Took $87K from Basketball Club, Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
Newark Star Ledger – Joe Atmonavage (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/3/2019
A year after an FBI raid on his home, Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Gilliam defrauded a basketball club of more than $87,000, prosecutors said. More than $41,000 was recovered when his house was raided in December 2018. Gilliam said he created AC Starz Basketball Club and opened a bank account for the club. From 2013 to 2018, he admitted soliciting $87,215 in donations on behalf of the club and using them for his personal expenses.
New Jersey – Judge Blocks Implementation of New ‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Law
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 10/2/2019
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti granted a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of New Jersey’s new disclosure law requiring so-called dark money groups and other nonprofits that engage in political activities and lobbying to reveal their donors. A lawsuit by Americans for Prosperity challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing its requirement that 501(c)4 groups must reveal contributors who give more than $10,000 if the group engages in any political activities, lobbying, or campaigning infringes on First Amendment rights and could have a chilling effect on its ability to raise funds. In addition to the donor disclosure, the law also mandates the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and boosted the contribution limits to state and county political committees, which are already subject to strict reporting requirements.
New York – Assemblyman Introduced Bill Pushed by Firm That Paid Him
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/29/2019
In the month prior to the introduction of state Assemblyperson Michael Blake’s bill that would have benefitted Airbnb, the short-term rental platform paid $189,000 to a prominent political consulting firm, Hilltop Public Solutions, to assist in its lobbying in New York. Hilltop’s efforts included helping organize grassroots support for the legislation Blake introduced. Publicly unknown at the time was that Blake was being paid by Hilltop as a political consultant. In other words: In 2015, Blake was being paid by Hilltop; Airbnb was paying Hilltop; and Blake introduced legislation Airbnb had been pushing. Blake’s financial disclosure form for 2015 reveals that Hilltop paid Blake between $5,000 and $20,000 to work for “out of state” clients. But Blake insists he never worked for Airbnb.
New York – Cuomo-Backed Lobbying Disclosure Law Struck Down
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/1/2019
A New York law that compels tax-exempt organizations involved in issue advocacy campaigns to disclose their financial supporters was struck down by a federal judge. The law required 501(c)(3) charities to disclose all their donors of more than $2,500 over six months if they gave more than $2,500 to substantial lobbying campaigns run out of issue-oriented nonprofits. Another provision required a 501(c)(4) to disclose donors who contribute $1,000 or more when the organization spends more than $10,000 in a calendar year on communications made to at least 500 members of the public concerning political or legislative issues.
North Carolina – Former NC GOP Chairman Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI
WRAL – Adam Owens | Published: 10/2/2019
Former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation of bribery allegations into a major political donor. As part of the plea deal, conspiracy and bribery charges and two other counts of lying to authorities were dismissed. Hayes, businessperson Greg Lindberg, and two Lindberg associates, John Gray and John Palermo, were accused of trying to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with up to $2 million in promised campaign donations if Causey would hire Palermo to regulate Lindberg’s insurance businesses. The department was asking a series of financial questions about Lindberg’s insurance businesses at the time. Prosecutors allege some money was funneled through the North Carolina Republican Party to get around state campaign finance laws.
Ohio – Ohio Purge Ends with Most Culled Because They Haven’t Voted
The Fulcrom; Staff – | Published: 10/2/2019
The controversial culling of Ohio’s voter rolls ended after the deletion of another 182,000 registrations, or two percent of the statewide total, in one of the nation’s biggest electoral bellwethers. Most were purged only because they have not voted in six years. Under a state law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, non-voter purges are automatic unless individuals ask to stay on the rolls when the state informs them that they are about to be dropped.
Oregon – Oregon Campaign Finance Watchdog Will Seek to Beef Up Enforcement
Portland Oregonian – Mike Rogoway and Rob Davis | Published: 9/24/2019
The secretary of state’s office said it will seek to beef up enforcement of Oregon’s campaign finance laws after a report by The Portland Oregonian that showed minimal investigation into alleged violations. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Vial said the office has settled on a series of steps to review the elections division’s practices and step up enforcement, there was no immediate decision on whether to apply the new practices to past cases. Vial also said there are practical considerations that may continue to limit future investigations.
Oregon – Oregon Legislature Will Consider Bill to Make Public Records Advocate Independent in 2020
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 10/1/2019
Oregon’s public records advocate would no longer be appointed by the governor and would have his or her independence clearly spelled out in state law under a proposal that legislators will take up next year. The plan by the Public Records Advisory Council is a response to news in that Gov. Kate Brown’s top lawyer, Misha Isaak, told Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall that she reported to him and should vet any public records legislation, policy proposal, and report with the governor’s office before releasing them. McCall resigned in September. She cited irreconcilable differences with the governor’s staff over role of the public records advocate, including that she felt pressured by the governor’s administration to advance Brown’s public records policy goals without disclosing who was directing that work.
Rhode Island – R.I. Ethics Commission Head Suggests Lightening Rules for Public Officials
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 9/26/2019
Rhode Island Ethics Commission Executive Director Jason Gramitt has suggested reforming the state’s financial disclosure law for public officials, such as a less punitive procedure for dealing with public officials who fail to disclose all of their family’s sources of income, financial holdings, expense-paid trips, and executive positions on boards. “We agree with the Ethics Commission that the current mix of statute and regulations has created a somewhat confusing situation,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “… [But] any changes to financial disclosure should start with the principle of first doing no harm. The public should not lose any information that it already has access to under the current law.”
Washington – Firm Ordered to Pay More Than $1 Million After Illegally Funneling Money to Initiative Activist Tim Eyman
Seattle Times – Christine Clarridge | Published: 10/1/2019
A judge ordered a signature-gathering firm and its principal to pay $1 million for funneling campaign donations to anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed against Eyman, Citizen Solutions LLC, and one of its owners, William Agazarm, accusing the firm and Agazarm of unlawfully concealing a $308,185 payment to Eyman. The attorney general’s office said Eyman created “gift schemes” for Citizen Solutions and its owners to “funnel money” to him. Records also document several $13,000 payments to Eyman and his family members from the owners of Citizen Solutions Inc., a predecessor to the limited liability company.
Washington DC – Metro Board Adopts Revised Ethics Policy in Wake of Evans Scandal
Washington Post – Justin George | Published: 9/26/2019
The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) adopted a revised ethics policy that will make alleged violations and future internal investigations of board members public. The move comes after the panel was widely criticized for its handling of the probe into the conduct of former Metro Chairperson Jack Evans. The new policy removes much of the secrecy that surrounded the Evans investigation and its outcome. An investigation by the board’s ethics committee found Evans had failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest arising from his private consulting work for Colonial Parking, which was paying Evans’ consulting firm $50,000 a year.
Washington DC – There Goes the Neighborhood … to Lobbyists and Fundraisers
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 10/2/2019
As more K Street shops and political operations buy real estate on Capitol Hill for the proximity to lawmakers, residents say they fear their neighborhoods are morphing into a commercial district, in some cases in violation of zoning regulations and allowing the lobbyist homeowners possibly to pay less in taxes than the business rate. Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, and his neighbors, some of whom are also professional lobbyists themselves, have raised their concerns with local officials, who are urging the District of Columbia to investigate potential zoning violations and to clarify the rules. “Every residential house that gets turned into a lobbying headquarters or a fundraising house, it’s one less house that a family can live in,” said city council member Charles Allen.
September 27, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal Convictions Tossed Out Against Ex-Flynn Business Partner AP News – Michael Barakat | Published: 9/24/2019 A federal judge tossed out convictions against a one-time business partner of former national security adviser Michael Flynn who was accused of acting as a […]
Convictions Tossed Out Against Ex-Flynn Business Partner
AP News – Michael Barakat | Published: 9/24/2019
A federal judge tossed out convictions against a one-time business partner of former national security adviser Michael Flynn who was accused of acting as a Turkish foreign agent. U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ruled the evidence against Bijan Kian was insufficient to sustain a conviction even though a jury convicted him at a trial earlier this year. Trenga had expressed doubts about the government’s case throughout the trial. Trenga also ordered that Kian should be granted a new trial if an appeals court reverses his decision to grant acquittals. Kian was convicted on a conspiracy count and a count of acting as an unregistered agent of Turkey. At trial, Kian also presented evidence that he had intended to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act until a lawyer advised him it was unnecessary in his case.
DNC Raises Threshold to Make November Debate Stage
Politico – Zach Montellaro | Published: 9/23/2019
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has slightly raised the bar to qualify for the November primary debate. The new thresholds represent the DNC’s latest attempt to balance its mandate to cull the field while also facing complaints about excluding candidates with impressive resumes, including sitting senators and governors, who could not meet the previous, lower polling and donor marks. Even some of the major candidates who have appeared in each of the first three debates have been forced to adjust their strategies to boost their poll numbers or trawl for small-dollar donors on Facebook, often spending multiples more to advertise than the money they received in return.
Here’s a Business Plan: Wooing millennials to the polls with prizes, not guilt
The Fulcrom – Bill Theobald | Published: 9/25/2019
Traditionally, voter registration and turnout drives go right for the moral argument. Registering to vote and going to the polls is your obligation in a democracy, the organizers say. But the relatively poor turnout through the years argues for a different approach. Armed with their millennials’ native knowledge of social media, an understanding of behavioral economics from their graduate work as well as their own research, graduate school classmates Jess Riegel and Rachel Konowitz put together a business plan particularly focused on getting younger people to vote.
Justice Department Drops Probe of Mueller-Referred Lobbyists, They Say
San Francisco Chronicle – Tom Hamburger and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2019
A long-running U.S. Justice Department investigation of two of Washington, D.C.’s best-known lobbyists was closed, the latest sign of the challenges facing prosecutors attempting to more aggressively pursue possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Tony Podesta and Vin Weber said they were notified that federal prosecutors in Manhattan had closed the inquiry into work they did that benefited Ukrainian interests. As the investigation proceeded, Podesta closed his iconic lobbying firm, the Podesta Group. Weber left Mercury, a firm he had helped lead since 2011.
Koch-Linked Nonprofit Must Disclose Donors, Settlement Mandates
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 9/19/2019
In a settlement with the FEC, the now-defunct Americans for Job Security (AJS) said it should have registered as a regulated PAC beginning in 2010 because it spent most of its money to influence elections. Such PACs must disclose their donors, unlike nonprofits that say they are mainly interested in policy issues rather than campaigns. While AJS acknowledged it had violated campaign finance law, the FEC said it would not seek an immediate fine because of the group’s defunct status and the long period of time since the spending occurred. The FEC approved the settlement before the departure of Commissioner Matthew Petersen, which left the agency without a four-member quorum to approve enforcement actions.
Pelosi Announces Impeachment Inquiry, Says Trump’s Courting of Foreign Political Help Is a ‘Betrayal of National Security’
MSN – Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the extraordinary step of initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump, accusing him of violating the Constitution in seeking help from a foreign leader to damage a political opponent. Pelosi’s move came after Trump acknowledged he urged the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination who holds a wide lead over Trump, polls show, in a potential general election matchup. The revelation prompted a rush of moderate House Democrats to call for an impeachment inquiry into Trump, a step they had resisted for months. The confrontation between the Democratic-led House and Trump is likely to further divide a polarized nation ahead of the 2020 election while carrying implications for both parties.
Politicians and Pundits Used to Refrain from Publicly Attacking Kids. Not Anymore.
Stamford Advocate – Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2019
Greta Thunberg is “mentally ill.” Emma González is a “skinhead lesbian.” David Hogg is “a special kind of stupid.” These may sound like playground taunts, but they are not: All are epithets applied by politicians, pundits, or political elites (adults) to the young leaders of global movements against climate change and gun violence. Thunberg is 16, and González and Hogg are in their late teens. This kind of rhetoric, experts say, is the hallmark of a new era of American political discourse: one that allows, even encourages, vitriolic verbal abuse of children and teenagers.
Trump’s Other Ukraine Problem: New concern about his business
Washington Post – Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold | Published: 9/26/2019
Buried in the controversy over President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was an effort by the Ukrainian leader at currying favor with Trump through his business. “Actually, last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower,” Zelensky told Trump, according to a rough transcript of the July 25 call. Zelensky’s comments mark the first known example of an interaction Democrats and ethics experts warned about when Trump took office: that foreign leaders would try to influence Trump by spending money at his properties and telling him about it.
Whistleblower Claimed Trump Abused His Office and That White House Officials Tried to Cover It Up
Portland Press Herald – Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2019
An intelligence community whistleblower raised alarms that President Trump used his office to pressure a foreign government to influence the 2020 U.S. election and his staff orchestrated a cover-up to keep details of a telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky off normal channels. In the call, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. Trump offered to enlist U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s help in that effort. While the whistleblower’s primary concern is the president’s phone call with Zelensky, it is clear from the document that its author also was troubled by what appeared then to be a four-month pattern of election season misconduct involving the president, his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and White House aides who sought to keep the whole thing quiet.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Ben Stevens Once Left the Alaska Senate in Disgrace. Now He’s Gov. Dunleavy’s Top Deputy.
Alaska Public Media – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 9/25/2019
Former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens has been out of the public eye for a decade after he decided against running for re-election amid an ethics controversy that grew into bribery allegations against him. He was investigated by four federal agencies but was never charged with a crime. In December, Stevens was hired as a policy advisor to Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Then, in July, Dunleavy made Stevens his chief of staff, making him one of the most powerful unelected officials in the state. Stevens’ rise to an influential, public role revives some of the questions raised by Legislature’s 2006 corruption scandal, like the allegations by two former oil industry executives who said their company paid him bribes when he was a senator.
Arizona – Federal Judge Hears Arguments in Challenge to Initiative Law
Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 9/25/2019
An attorney for the state asked a federal judge to uphold a law that challengers say is designed to make it more difficult for people to propose their own laws. Arizona Assistant Attorney General Joseph La Rue acknowledged the measure requires a judge to throw out all the signatures of paid or out-of-state circulators of initiative petitions if that person does not respond to a subpoena, regardless of whether the signatures gathered are actually valid. La Rue argued, however, that restriction is necessary to protect the integrity of the election process. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton questioned why, if such automatic disqualification is necessary, that same provision does not apply when initiative signatures are collected by volunteers who are Arizona residents.
Arkansas – Lobbyist Fined $50 Over Late Reports
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Staff – | Published: 9/24/2019
Lobbyist Keith Emis was fined $50 and issued a public letter of caution by the Arkansas Ethics Commission in a settlement of a complaint filed against him. February is the only month in this three-month period in which Emis reported lobbyist expenses on his reports. Emis said he contracts with another accounting firm to file his reports with the state and there was some type of communication problem between the firm and the secretary of state’s website.
California – Commissioner Enjoyed Fine Dining, ‘Relationship Building’ with Insurance Executives Before Donations, Action in Their Favor
San Diego Union Tribune – Jeff McDonald | Published: 9/19/2019
Following Ricardo Lara’s swearing in as California insurance commissioner, Eric Serna, a New Mexico lobbyist who more than a decade ago resigned in disgrace as that state’s most senior insurance regulator, began turning up at meetings between the new insurance chief and industry executives. The second meeting between Lara and Serna included the proposed buyer and seller of Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation insurer that has been the subject of dozens of complaints. The pending sale requires the approval of the California insurance commissioner. The meetings raise questions about Lara’s statements in July, when he said he was unaware that donors with ties to Applied Underwriters had contributed some $54,000 to his campaign. After The San Diego Union-Tribune disclosed the donations, Lara issued a statement apologizing for what he called an oversight and pledged to return the contributions.
California – Judge Blocks California Law Requiring Trump Tax Returns
Courthouse News Service – Nick Cahill | Published: 9/19/2019
Delivering a legal win for President Trump, a federal judge temporarily barred California from enforcing a law enacted to force the president to release his tax returns in order to appear on the state’s upcoming primary ballot. U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. said he is concerned the statute could overstep federal ethics laws regarding candidates’ financial disclosures and granted Trump and the Republican National Committee’s motion for preliminary injunction. The sides are fighting over first-of-its-kind legislation that requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release at least five years of recent tax returns in order to land on the state’s primary ballot. State Democrats want to force Trump’s hand and give California voters access to his tax returns before the February primary.
Florida – Orlando Airport Board, Facing Criticism, Reverses Course on No-Bid Lawyer Contracts
Orlando Sentinel – Beth Kassab and Jason Garcia | Published: 9/18/2019
The board that controls Orlando International Airport backed down from a plan to give no-bid contracts to new lawyers. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority scrapped a controversial proposal to name a pair of law firms to serve as co-general counsel for the next six months. Instead, they agreed to solicit proposals from any law firms interested in the temporary job, with plans to pick the new lawyers in November. “I do believe the process was flawed,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
Florida – Sen. Farmer Says There Is No Conflict of Interest Over His Relationship with Lobbyist
Orlando Sentinel – Gary Roher | Published: 9/19/2019
Florida Sen. Gary Farmer, slated to be Democratic leader after the 2020 elections, said he has not broken any laws or Senate rules by engaging in a relationship with a lobbyist and dismissed any notion of a conflict-of-interest. “Look at my voting record and compare it to her clients before you do any kind of story,” Farmer said in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. Farmer told some colleagues he has begun a relationship with Andreina Figueroa, a lobbyist for several clients, including the Florida Justice Association, a trial lawyer group Farmer used to lead. Figueroa also has ties to the Miami-Dade GOP, and Farmer is in charge of Senate Democratic campaign efforts for the 2020 election.
Florida – Shiver’s Checkered Past Includes Role as FBI Informant in Opa-locka Corruption Case
Miami Herald – Jay Weaver | Published: 9/24/2019
Homestead mayoral candidate Steve Shiver’s résumé has had many highs (past commissioner of Homestead, Miami-Dade County manager) and many lows (personal and business bankruptcies, unproven allegations of drug use). But there is one thing no one would have seen until now: “FBI confidential informant.” The FBI tapped him for that part when he was hired as city manager by Opa-locka, a notoriously corrupt city, in 2015. As an FBI source, Shiver had to keep quit when he was publicly accused by a local contractor of soliciting a $150,000 bribe. The contractor’s allegation against Shiver turned out to be false, part of an FBI sting operation. Shiver is hoping the revelation of his role as a confidential source will help his bid for Homestead mayor.
Illinois – Federal Agents Raid Springfield, Cicero Offices of Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, Says Source
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner, Jaime Muncks, and Ray Long | Published: 9/24/2019
Federal agents raided the Springfield and Cicero offices of Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, according to a source. The exact nature of the investigation was not disclosed. The raids on Sandoval’s offices come amid ongoing corruption probes at Chicago City Hall. Several allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan have also come under scrutiny in recent months. Sandoval, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, has worked with Madigan over the years on a variety of legislative issues.
Maryland – Hogan Raising ‘Dark’ Money to Boost His Agenda, Stop Costly Education Plan
Connecticut Post – Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2019
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is launching a campaign to oppose Democratic policy initiatives in the state. Hogan asked supporters to donate to his new super PAC to fund the lobbying and public relations efforts. Campaign finance watchdogs said the governor’s solicitation illustrates a troubling trend that has escalated over the past decade, as public officeholders find methods to raise unlimited money – some from undisclosed donors – in ways often prohibited for traditional candidate committees. Entities similar to Hogan’s caused political trouble for District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2015 and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this year, after transparency advocates said the fundraising activity can blur ethical boundaries.
Massachusetts – House Approves Campaign Finance Reporting, OCPF Changes
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/25/2019
A bill overhauling campaign finance rules for legislative candidates passed the Massachusetts House. While many Republicans cheered the proposed switch to a reporting system that would require more frequent disclosures of campaign fundraising and spending, GOP leaders objected to changes in the way the director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is chosen. House Bill 4087 would create a new commission in charge of hiring the director of OCPF that would no longer include the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties. OCPF Director Michael Sullivan was reappointed to new six-year term last November, but there is speculation that he may soon retire. “This is an obvious power play to eliminate any say that the minority party has when it comes to selecting the next OCPF director,” said state GOP Chairperson Jim Lyons.
Massachusetts – Sen. Jo Comerford Bill Would Ban Use of Public or Campaign Funds for Sexual Harassment Payouts
MassLive.com – Katie Lannan (State House News Service) | Published: 9/18/2019
A bill sponsored by Massachusetts Sen. Jo Comerford would prohibit elected officials in the state from using public or campaign funds to pay settlements or fines in sexual assault or harassment cases. In cases where an official is unable to pay with private funds, a public entity could use its money to cover the claim or settlement. The official would need to reimburse the entity, potentially by having portions of their salary withheld. Comerford was elected last year after a successful write-in campaign for the seat last held by former Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who resigned after an Ethics Committee report criticized his conduct in connection with sexual assault and harassment allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner.
Michigan – Ex-Detroit Official Sent to Prison in Demolition Scandal
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 9/23/2019
A city official who received as much as $26,500 in bribes from a contractor while rigging bids to tear down homes in Detroit’s federally funded demolition program was sentenced to one year in federal prison. The sentence for Aradondo Haskins represents the latest fallout from a corruption scandal clouding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s program to rehabilitate the post-bankrupt city. Haskins is one of two people convicted of a pattern of corruption involving demolition contractors and dozens of secret payoffs. The corruption undermined the integrity of an unprecedented plan to remove thousands of dangerous, blighted structures in a city decimated by the Great Recession, prosecutors said.
Michigan – Lobbyists Spend Big on Food and Drink for State Lawmakers in 2019
MLive.com – Alyssa Burr | Published: 9/26/2019
Michigan lawmakers have consumed $540,637 worth of lobbyist-funded food and drink in the first seven months of 2019, a new report says. Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network who put out the report, said lobbyists’ main strategy is to build relationships with lawmakers. “A lot of these meals take place like that. … It’s about talking about policies that are maybe before these lawmakers,” said Mauger. The lobbying law does not require lobbyists to tie all of their food and drink purchases directly to specific officeholders. Lobbyists only have to disclose which lawmakers they buy food for if they spend more than $62 in a month on an individual officeholder or more than $375 in a year on an individual officeholder.
Missouri – Ferguson Mayor Candidate Nabbed – Again – for Spending Campaign Cash on Himself
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 9/24/2019
Former Missouri Rep. Courtney Curtis, who is running to be mayor of Ferguson, used his campaign account like a personal piggy bank, spending money on visits to spas, hotels, and concert events, state ethics regulators said. Curtis, who has had multiple run-ins with the state Ethics Commission over his campaign accounts, was fined more than $77,000 by the panel for a variety of alleged transgressions, including spending money from his account on gas and hotels while also receiving daily expense reimbursements from the state during his time as a House member. Curtis’ fine could be waived if he pays $7,750 and stays in compliance with state law for two years, the commission said.
Montana – Campaign Contribution Limits Go Up in Montana
The Missoulian – Holly Michels | Published: 9/23/2019
Campaign contribution limits are going up in Montana following an adjustment to match inflation required under state law. The new caps took effect September 21. Contributions made before that were subject to the older limits, but those who have already given money can donate again up to the new limit. The increases are slight: the amount an individual person can give to a campaign for governor rose from $710 to $680 per election, for example.
Nebraska – Prosecutors Drop 1 Charge Against UNL Researcher Accused of Defacing Republicans’ Signs, Office Door
Omaha World-Herald – Rick Ruggles | Published: 9/24/2019
Prosecutors have dropped one of two vandalism charges against a researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln accused of defacing U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s campaign. Patricia Wonch Hill was accused of putting “googly eyes” on some campaign signs that promoted Fortenberry. At least one of the signs had been altered so it read “Fartenberry.” The charge associated with the Fortenberry allegation was dropped. The remaining charge against Wonch Hill is an allegation she put stickers on state Sen. Deb Fischer’s office door in Lincoln. Wonch Hill has denied that.
New York – De Blasio to Developers: Donate to my nonprofit. $125,000 came
ENM News – Jeffrey Mayes (New York Times) | Published: 9/20/2019
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) announced it reached settlements with three developers to pay a combined $65,000 for potential violations of New York’s lobbying law. The regulations preclude lobbyists and their clients from “giving gifts to a public official or to third parties on behalf of or at the designation or recommendation of a public official,” according to JCOPE. All three companies had hired lobbyists to influence New York City at the same time they donated money to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political nonprofit group, the Campaign for One New York. The organization was used to support de Blasio’s political agenda. According to a report from the New York City Department of Investigation, the mayor and his intermediaries solicited donations from individuals and companies with business before the city.
New York – Trump Lawyers Argue He Cannot Be Criminally Investigated
MSN – Michael Gold (New York Times) | Published: 9/18/2019
Lawyers for President Trump argued he cannot be criminally investigated while in office as they sought to block a subpoena from state prosecutors in Manhattan demanding eight years of his tax returns. Taking a broad position that the lawyers acknowledged had not been tested, the president’s legal team argued in the complaint that the Constitution effectively makes sitting presidents immune from all criminal inquiries until they leave the White House. The lawsuit was filed in response to a subpoena issued to Trump’s accounting firm. The subpoena sought eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax returns as the office investigates the role Trump and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
North Carolina – Duke Energy PAC Donations, Refunds Spark Complaint
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 9/18/2019
A campaign finance watchdog filed a complaint against Duke Energy’s PAC, arguing more than $40,000 in now-refunded campaign donations to key North Carolina legislators were illegal contributions. The donations caught Bob Hall’s eye because the checks were logged just before the start of this year’s legislative session, then refunded in the following weeks and months. Most of the campaign involved said Duke’s PAC asked for the refunds. In some cases, they said, they were not entirely sure why. A company spokesperson said it was a timing issue: The checks were printed in December but given out in January because the PAC had already hit campaign contribution limits for the 2018 election cycle. Hall accused the company of making excess donations in 2018, then hiding it.
North Dakota – Extent of North Dakota Ethics Commission’s Authority Already Questioned
Grand Forks Herald – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 9/22/2019
Without any rules or even office space yet, North Dakota’s new Ethics Commission is already facing questions of how far its authority might extend, including a query about oilfield spills. The panel has not yet begun crafting rules related to transparency, corruption, elections, and lobbying. Commissioners say such rules will help guide their actions and decision-making as to investigations of complaints. For now, the board is working to address office and staffing details. One major item for its next agenda likely will be to outline apparent conflicts in constitutional and statutory language related to the board’s duties and definitions, such as confidentiality of complaints permitted by the constitution but not allowed by state law. The board might eventually request an attorney general opinion.
Oklahoma – Oklahoma Legislator Rents Apartment from Energy Lobbyist
The Oklahoman – Carmen Forman | Published: 9/23/2019
Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Wallace, chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee, rented an apartment from lobbyist OGE Energy lobbyist Ken Miller during the legislative session and in other months when Wallace had to be at or near the Capitol for meetings and other events. The arrangement between Wallace and Miller is not illegal, nor does it violate state ethics rules. But it gives the appearance that a special interest group may have outsized influence over legislative actions, said Beth Rotman of Common Cause. “When you have powerful policymakers literally sharing living space with people whose paid role it is to influence policy, things look way too cozy,” said Rotman.
Oregon – Case Closed: In Oregon campaign investigations, ‘I did not’ is all it takes
Portland Oregonian – Rob Davis | Published: 9/17/2019
When Oregon’s election watchdogs investigate potential violations of campaign laws, critics say they take a lackadaisical approach to ferreting out wrongdoing. The state’s weak enforcement gives powerful politicians and their financial supporters an easy out, even when they admit to behavior that may have violated state law. Steve Trout, the Oregon elections director, defended the state’s oversight of campaign finance laws. “Is it 100 percent rock solid? No,” Trout said. “Is it close? Yeah. We have to make decisions based on resources and priorities on how close to 100 percent we get.”
Pennsylvania – Philly Voting Machine Vendor Engaged in Years-Long Effort to Win Contract, City Watchdog’s Investigation Finds
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Lai | Published: 9/25/2019
Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the vendor that won a $29 million contract to supply Philadelphia with new voting machines, engaged in a years-long effort to lobby elections officials, who then rushed an opaque process that was biased toward that company, City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said. ES&S spent more than $428,000 since January 2014 in lobbying efforts, the investigation found. Rhynhart said the findings raise questions about the process and whether election commissioners acted ethically when they chose ES&S’ touchscreen ExpressVote XL machines to be used beginning this November.
Rhode Island – Former Providence City Councilman Released from Court After Ethics Fine Paid
Providence Journal – Madeline List | Published: 9/25/2019
Constables with the Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs brought former Providence City Councilperson Luis Aponte into court after he was found in contempt for failure to appear to pay a debt owed to the state Ethics Commission. Aponte was released after “a woman showed up with cash” and paid the $1,623 fine, said Paul Grimaldi, spokesperson for the Department of Revenue. Aponte resigned from the council this summer after pleading no contest to embezzling $13,942 from his campaign account.
Tennessee – Former Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young Selected to Oversee Watchdog Agencies
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 9/24/2019
Former Nashville Chancellor Bill Young was selected to serve as the next director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. Young, who twice served in the state attorney general’s office, was chosen to succeed Drew Rawlins, who retired earlier this year, by members of the state Ethics Commission and the Registry of Election Finance. Janet Williams has served in an interim role since Rawlins’ retirement. Several of the candidates for the job talked in their interviews about the need for the watchdog groups to revamp their website, continue collecting civil penalties assessed against candidates and public officials, and the importance of having the registry begin holding its meetings throughout the state.
Virginia – Millions of Dollars Are Missing. The Sheriff Is Dead. A Small Virginia Town Wants Answers.
MSN – Antonio Olivo (Washington Post) | Published: 9/24/2019
A corruption probe involving current and former public officials resulted in 14 indictments in Warren County, Virginia – including all five county supervisors. The charges resulted from an investigation into the financial dealings of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority. It has been alleged that at least $21 million has been embezzled in Warren County. The money was discovered missing last March and led to the authority suing its former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, and former Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, who resigned and then committed suicide after McDonald’s arrest. Critics say the scandal reflects the perils of weak oversight in quasi-public economic development agencies.
Virginia – Virginia Senator Says She Never OK’d Ad Vowing to ‘Shoot Down’ Anti-Gun
Connecticut Post – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2019
Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase blamed her digital advertising firm, the Prosper Group, for a political ad that shows her vowing to “shoot down” anti-gun activists, releasing a recorded phone conversation she said backs up her claim. A gun rights champion who caused a stir this year by wearing a gun on her hip on the Senate floor, Chase is running for a second term in November. In a recent Facebook ad, she is pictured pointing a gun. “I’m not afraid to shoot down gun groups,” it reads. “SIGN my petition to help end the assault on our liberties.” The backlash was swift, with local and national gun-control groups accusing her of threatening violence against them. The Prosper Group said the campaign had signed off on “shoot down” language for the “website landing page” that accompanies the ad, where supporters can sign a petition.
Washington – Food-Makers Fight Record Fine in Washington GMO Case
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 9/23/2019
The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) violated state election law by not naming the companies that spent $11 million to defeat a genetically modified-labeling initiative in 2013. The court also will decide whether to uphold the largest-ever fine levied in the U.S. for a campaign finance violation: $6 million. The GMA argues lower courts were insensitive to internet-fueled reprisals that businesses face. By funneling campaign contributions through an umbrella organization, food-makers preserved their right to band together and take political stands, according to the GMA. The association collected the money and reported itself as the donor.
Washington DC – Why a D.C. Lawmaker Under Investigation Votes on His Own Probe and Discipline
Washington Post – Fernit Nirappil | Published: 9/18/2019
The District of Columbia Council, frustrated by roadblocks in its investigation of possible ethics violations by member Jack Evans, voted to allow city officials to ask a court to compel the lawmaker’s private clients to cooperate. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Evans. It was one of several votes taken by Evans that have pertained to investigations of his conduct in office. The idea of recusal was never broached by Evans or his colleagues on the council during the recent vote. Council rules give lawmakers discretion to decide when to sit out votes. But critics say Evans had an obvious conflict.
Wyoming – Wyoming Is Looking to Close a Campaign Finance Loophole. But It May Not Matter.
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 9/21/2019
Wyoming lawmakers are patching the loopholes that were revealed during the 2018 mid-term election, assembling a reform package ahead of the upcoming legislative session. Among the proposed reforms is a bill intended to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance law which, previously, allowed corporations and nonprofits to contribute funds or services to campaign committees or PACs who “directly coordinate with a candidate or a candidate’s campaign committee.” This suggestion would knock down a piece of low-hanging fruit that should, if passed into law, create an explicit barrier between politicians and the private sector. But campaign finance experts say the law, while well-intended, does little to obstruct the use of special interest funding to influence the outcome of state elections. Not because the statute itself is a bad law, but because of the lack of any means to enforce it independently.
September 24, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance North Carolina: “Duke Energy PAC Donations, Refunds Spark Complaint” by Travis Fain for WRAL Oregon: “Case Closed: In Oregon campaign investigations, ‘I did not’ is all it takes” by Rob Davis for Portland Oregonian Wyoming: “Wyoming Is Looking […]
North Carolina: “Duke Energy PAC Donations, Refunds Spark Complaint” by Travis Fain for WRAL
Oregon: “Case Closed: In Oregon campaign investigations, ‘I did not’ is all it takes” by Rob Davis for Portland Oregonian
Wyoming: “Wyoming Is Looking to Close a Campaign Finance Loophole. But It May Not Matter.” by Nick Reynolds for Casper Star Tribune
California: “Judge Blocks California Law Requiring Trump Tax Returns” by Nick Cahill for Courthouse News Service
National: “How Trump and Giuliani Pressured Ukraine to Investigate the President’s Rivals” by Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne, Michael Kranish, and David Stern (Washington Post) for MSN
North Dakota: “Extent of North Dakota Ethics Commission’s Authority Already Questioned” by Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) for Grand Forks Herald
Oklahoma: “Oklahoma Legislator Rents Apartment from Energy Lobbyist” by Carmen Forman for The Oklahoman
Florida: “Orlando Airport Board, Facing Criticism, Reverses Course on No-Bid Lawyer Contracts” by Beth Kassab and Jason Garcia for Orlando Sentinel