July 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Convention Jitters Grip Democrats Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020 First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events […]

National/Federal

Convention Jitters Grip Democrats
Politico – Holly Otterbein | Published: 7/7/2020

First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders, and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation – regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.

Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Said Its Policy Decisions Are a ‘Tremendous Setback’
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Kat Zakrzewski | Published: 7/8/2020

The civil rights auditors Facebook hired to scrutinize its civil rights record delivered a scathing indictment of the social media giant’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave untouched several posts by President Trump, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech, and incitement of violence. The conclusions by Facebook’s own auditors are likely to bolster criticism the company has too much power and it bends and stretches its rules for powerful people.

GOP Officials Flock to Parler Social Network. So Do Their Trolls and Impostors.
Politico – Christiano Lima | Published: 7/2/2020

Dozens of Republican lawmakers have joined the social media site Parler as GOP tensions with other major platforms mount, but so have hordes of fake accounts claiming to belong to conservative politicians.  Conservative politicians have turned to Parler, which bills itself as an “unbiased” substitute for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as they escalate their feud with Silicon Valley over allegations that social media companies stifle viewpoints on the right. That movement has given Parler’s site a distinctly conservative bent. Many of the fake Parler accounts present themselves like any typical congressional social media page, making them nearly indistinguishable from an official forum. Others are more flagrantly false.

House Bid to Remove Confederate Statues at Capitol Sets Up Fight with Senate
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/8/2020

As demands for racial justice dominate the national consciousness, the U.S. House is moving along a draft legislative branch spending bill that would mandate statues of Confederates and others “with unambiguous records of racial intolerance” be removed from the Capitol. But the top legislative branch appropriator on the Senate panel, Chairperson Cindy Hyde-Smith, is not calling for the removal of Confederate statues, setting up a potential fight on the provision when it reaches the chamber.

How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities
MSN – Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz, and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 7/4/2020

The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a GOP business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases. The host committee in Charlotte has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.

Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help with Epstein Case
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/5/2020

Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington, D.C. lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled.

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s Campaign Has Spent $5,500 on Membership Dues at Private Club in New York
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 7/1/2020

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy has spent more than $55,00 from his campaign fund since 2014 on membership dues to the Penn Club of New York City, an elite private club more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Baton Rouge. Cassidy also disclosed spending $650 in campaign funds on membership fees closer to home at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City in Louisiana, a social club founded by businesspeople in the oil industry. FEC rules say membership dues for country clubs, health clubs, or “other nonpolitical organizations” are considered personal uses that cannot be paid from campaign accounts “unless the payments are made in connection with a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises.”

Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day
Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 7/7/2020

The 78 days between Election Day this fall and Inauguration Day next January could be a greatly unsettled time for American democracy. Unlike most presidential elections, when ballots are tallied and counted in a majority of precincts by midnight on Election Day and news outlets are able to project a winner before you go to bed, this November’s election is likely to be different. Because of a surge in mail-in ballots caused by people’s reluctance to physically go to the polls, results are likely to be delayed. That period could also be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states, and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear.

States Can Punish ‘Faithless’ Electors, Supreme Court Rules
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who do not, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Both sides of the issue insisted a ruling for the other would have unintended consequences. State officials said putting electors beyond the coercive power of state law could effectively immunize the bribery of electors. Advocates for the electors countered that allowing states to regulate the actions of electors could be a back-door way for states to add qualifications for presidential candidates, perhaps by instructing electors to vote for only those who had released tax returns.

Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 7/9/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s assertion he enjoys absolute immunity from investigation while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records. In a separate decision, the court ruled Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information sought. Despite the rulings, it is likely that Trump’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments Over Mueller’s Secret Evidence, a Delay for House Democrats Investigating President Trump
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to House Democrats’ efforts to have access to secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying it would decide next term whether Congress is authorized to see the material. The decision to hear the case next fall means the House Judiciary Committee cannot have access to the material before the election. A lower court ruled the committee was entitled to see the previously withheld material from Mueller’s probe, which also investigated whether President Trump obstructed the special counsel’s work. It is highly unlikely there could be a Supreme Court decision even before the end of the current congressional term in January.

Trump Veterans Flock to K Street Despite ‘Drain the Swamp’ Vow
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Debra Kahn | Published: 7/8/2020

There are at least 82 former Trump administration officials who have registered as lobbyists. Many more former administration officials have gone to work at lobbying firms or in government affairs roles in corporate America but have not registered as lobbyists. The mass migration to K Street highlights how little effect President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” has had on Washington’s “revolving door.” Some former administration officials decamped for K Street so quickly that they have already returned to the government. Trump has also hired a large number of former lobbyists to serve in his administration.

Trump’s Attacks on Mail Voting Are Turning Republicans Off Absentee Ballots
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots – a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. When they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots.

Trump’s Pick for Ambassador Involved in Racist Smear Against Black Politician
MSN – John Hudson (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2020

President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia. According to the filing, Mark Burkhalter helped create a flier that distorted and exaggerated the features of Gordon Joyner, a Fulton County Commission candidate. Joyner was pictured with some features darkened, a large Afro, enlarged eyebrows, and a warped eye. Joyner sued for libel, resulting in an out-of-court settlement, an apology signed by Burkhalter and three other men, and payment of an undisclosed sum. Burkhalter did not disclose his involvement in the controversy to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book
MSN – Shane Harris and Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2020

A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World;s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 7/7/2020

When the Trump administration publicly detailed many of the beneficiaries of the $660 billion forgivable loan program, it showed money going to dozens of the lobbying and law firms, political consulting shops, and advocacy groups that make up the political industrial complex. Advertising and fundraising firms assisting President Trump’s re-election campaign were listed alongside companies doing polling and direct mail for Joe Biden. There is no evidence of string-pulling on behalf of politically connected groups. But the use of taxpayer funds to prop up Washington’s permanent political class seemed discordant to some critics against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shined a light on disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Canada

Canada Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed
MSN – Jordan Press (Canadian Press) | Published: 7/3/2020

The federal ethics watchdog is examining whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the conflict-of-interest law over how he handled a decision to have WE Charity manage a $900-million federal program to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work this summer. The Liberal government announced youth organization would no longer be managing the program, days after the prime minister himself called WE Charity the only option for success. The sole-sourced contract has been criticized because of Trudeau’s close relationship with the group. He, his wife, and his mother have all been involved in WE events and activities.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Curbside Voting in Alabama
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 7/2/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative justices granted Alabama’s request to stay a federal judge’s order that would allow local officials to offer curbside voting in the July runoff and loosen absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s large counties. The order will remain stayed while the high court decides whether to hear Alabama’s appeal.

Arizona Secretary of State: Goldwater Institute attorneys should have registered as lobbyists
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 7/8/2020

The Arizona secretary of state’s office says the Goldwater Institute is lobbying illegally and wants state Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate. A complaint alleges two institute employees, Jonathan Riches and Christina Sandefur, should have to register as authorized lobbyists because they testified in legislative committees in favor of a bill. The think tank has long been an active player at the Capitol. But the organization only has one person registered as a lobbyist, and it contends people like Riches and Sandefur do not need to register because they fall under various exemptions. Sambo Dul, the state elections director, concluded none of the exemptions applied and Riches and Sadefur should register.

California Former L.A. Councilman Mitchell Englander Pleads Guilty in City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/7/2020

Former Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in the ongoing corruption probe of City Hall, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a businessperson. Englander struck a plea deal, acknowledging he accepted cash in envelopes, a hotel stay and other gifts during trips to Las Vegas and the Palm Springs area, and then engaged in an effort to lie to investigators. In some ways, Englander seemed like a politician who had wandered into the middle of someone else’s corruption probe.

California Real Estate Firm Puts Executive on Leave Amid Jose Huizar Pay-to-Play Probe
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 7/1/2020

A real estate firm put one of its executives on leave amid the federal corruption probe that led to the arrest of Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Carmel Partners, the developer of an Arts District project mentioned in the criminal complaint against Huizar, said in a statement that “there are a number of concerning allegations outlined in the complaint that require investigation” and it plans to take “appropriate disciplinary actions as needed” against the executive. Huizar faces a racketeering charge stemming from allegations he ran a “pay-to-play” scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and political donations.

California San Jose City Council Narrowly Approves Ballot Measure to Expand Mayoral Powers, Give Sam Liccardo 2 More Years
San Jose Insider – Grace Hase | Published: 7/1/2020

The San Jose City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that will decide whether Mayor Sam Liccardo should be given more powers and two extra years in office. The measure includes a provision to align San Jose’s mayoral election with the presidential election cycle to increase voter turnout. It would also bar lobbyists from making campaign contributions and restrict gifts to public officials from lobbyists and city contractors.

California Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry
Los Angeles Times – Joe Mozingo | Published: 7/3/2020

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars. The report cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote but trying to “command” them.

Florida Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote
Tampa Bay Times – Lawrence Mower | Published: 7/1/2020

A federal appellate court temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over voting rights, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. He ruled DeSantis and Florida elections officials cannot keep felons from voting if they cannot afford to pay off all court fees, fines, and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Hawaii Giving Honolulu Ethics Commission More Powers Now in Hands of Voters
Honolulu Star Advertiser – Gordon Y.K. Pang | Published: 7/8/2020

The city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that puts a measure on the November ballot to give the Honolulu Ethics Commission the final say over its budget. It has been a thorny issue between mayoral administrations and the commission for years, dating back to when longtime Executive Director Chuck Totto was at the helm and complained about the Department of Corporation Counsel having the final authority over the commission’s staffing and budget.

Illinois Ald. Michele Smith Keeps Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Proposed Change to Lobbying Rules on Indefinite Hold
Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 7/5/2020

Ald. Michele Smith, chairperson of the city council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight, said she has no plans to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lobbying reform ordinance for a vote. The mayor wants to roll back part of a package the council passed in December. If Lightfoot’s plan passed, elected officials from outside Chicago could again lobby city council, the mayor’s office, and other city government offices, as long as the public body they represent does not have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city. Aldermen adopted the stronger regulations last fall as a federal investigation reached into the world of lobbying at the Capitol.

Illinois Aurora Panel Sees No Need for Local Campaign Contribution Limit
Chicago Tribune – Steve Lord (Aurora Beacon-News) | Published: 7/8/2020

An Aurora City Council committee declined to go any further with adding a limit to campaign contributions in the city’s ethics ordinance. A consensus among the five members of the Rules, Administration, and Procedures Committee said they saw no need for the local limit because the state already limits political donations in state election law. The proposal would have limited council members from receiving contributions from people or organizations who have done business with the city.

Louisiana Louisiana’s Cap on Lobbyist Wining and Dining Edges Up a Bit
AP News – Staff | Published: 7/5/2020

Lobbyists in Louisiana can spend a bit more to entertain public officials. The limit on food and drink spending edged up one dollar per person, per occasion. The new limit per person at an event is now $63.

Maine Hemmed in by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine
Boston Globe – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2020

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is facing the toughest re-election race of her career, one that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber in November. After coasting to a fourth term in 2014 with 69 percent of the vote, Collins is now among the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. She is being out-raised by Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House and her likely Democratic opponent, and outside political groups seeking to oust the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress, one of a nearly extinct breed of moderates who once made up a powerful centrist bloc.

Maryland MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine
MSN – Alessia Grunberger (Patch) | Published: 7/6/2020

Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law. The probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018. Shortly before becoming the county’s chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore’s budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Massachusetts Judge Clears Way for Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi to Lobby on Beacon Hill
MassLive.com – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 7/3/2020

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi won a court ruling allowing him to lobby the state Legislature and executive branch despite his prior criminal conviction. A judge found the statute prohibiting people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists did not apply to applicants like DiMasi, who were convicted of federal offenses. Secretary of State William Galvin invoked the law to disqualify DiMasi’s application. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 for using his clout as speaker to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through a law firm. Galvin’s office argued the state’s ethics law should bar DiMasi from lobbying until 10 years after his conviction.

Michigan Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Malachi Barrett | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit backed by Michigan Republicans that attempted to overturn a 2018 ballot measure that changed the process of drawing the state’s political districts. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff’s ruling referenced another recent decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Changes to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters gave a new redistricting commission responsibility for drawing legislative district lines after the 2020 election, shifting that power from the Legislature. A 13-member body comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents will be assembled later this year.

Montana Lieutenant Governor Fined $1K for Violating Ethics Laws
AP News – Amy Beth Hanson | Published: 7/8/2020

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was fined the maximum of $1,000 for violating state ethics laws by participating in a campaign-related video conference call from his state office this spring. Cooney, who is running for governor, has said he participated in a Democratic Governors Association call on his personal laptop in his office at the Capitol because he was on a tight schedule as the state dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign called it an isolated incident. State law bans public employees from using public time, facilities, or equipment for campaign purposes.

New Jersey COVID-19 Has Changed Trenton Lobbying in Many Ways, from Remote Conversations to Clients’ Priorities
roi-nj.com – Brett Johnson | Published: 6/29/2020

Lobbying in New Jersey has changed since March 9, the date Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. David Pascrell, co-chairperson of the government affairs department of law firm Gibbons P.C., said there are a couple of things in the world of lobbying that have made the past few months a “whirlwind” for public affairs professionals. At the same time, public affairs professionals say as a general rule, it has been more difficult to connect with overworked state leaders purely remotely. Sal Anderton, legislative director at Porzio Government Affairs, said the profession has lost one of its most valuable assets – what he calls “shoe-leather lobbying.”

New Jersey NJ Senator Who Was Fired and Investigated by Linden Council Wants to Limit Investigations
Bergen Record – Stacey Barchenger | Published: 7/1/2020

A New Jersey senator fired from his job as a prosecutor in Linden, and who is the focus of an investigation that found he did not show up for work, now wants to limit city council powers to investigate employees. A bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari would preempt municipal governing bodies from investigating their own members or former employees, limiting their probers to current employees of the executive branch. Scutari was a municipal court prosecutor at the time he was fired in January 2019. The city’s investigation of his work performance started a month later.

Ohio Toledo Council President Ends Meeting after Charged Members Refuse to Leave
Toledo Blade – Kate Snyder and Sarah Elms | Published: 7/7/2020

The bribery and extortion scandal that has rocked the Toledo City Council threw the body into further chaos when President Matt Cherry abruptly adjourned a meeting because three out of four charged members refused to leave. Cherry said the rest of council did not feel comfortable meeting with any of those who are facing charges in attendance. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, we understand that,” Cherry said, but he explained that citizens of Toledo did not want to see council members who are accused of federal crimes to conduct business for the city.

Pennsylvania Delco Council Gives Preliminary OK to Gift Ban
Delaware County Times – Kathleen Carey | Published: 7/6/2020

The Delaware County Council took a first step towards formalizing a change to the administrative code that could lead to ethics reform. The proposal would prohibit gifts of more than $250 from any person who sought legislative or administrative action from the county in the last 12 months. It would prohibit cash gifts, as well as the solicitation of gifts. There are also a proposed set of exceptions.

Tennessee Registry of Election Financer Reaffirms Towns’ Settlement Penalty
Daily Memphian – Sam Stockard | Published: 7/8/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance confirmed a $22,000 settlement penalty for campaign reporting violations for state Rep. Joe Towns to sidestep a potential open meetings violation. Registry members also revealed Towns was prepared to file a constitutional challenge questioning whether the group could keep him off the ballot if it did not approve the settlement in a last-minute meeting before the April 2 qualifying deadline at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington Seattle City Council Won’t Fulfill Mayor Durkan’s Request to Investigate Sawant, González Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/1/2020

The Seattle City Council will not fulfill Mayor Jenny Durkan’s request to investigate and potentially expel Councilperson Kshama Sawant for alleged bad behavior. Council President M. Lorena González said she wants the body to concentrate on other work. Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant for taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest march to Durkan’s home and for several other actions. The mayor accused Sawant of leading the march and mentioned graffiti spray painted at her property; organizers said Sawant was an invited speaker. Sawant characterized Durkan’s move as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement.

West Virginia Ethics Commission in Transition as Executive Director, Commissioner Exit
Huntington Herald-Dispatch – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 7/5/2020

The West Virginia Ethics Commission accepted the retirement of Executive Director Rebecca Stepto. She took over as head of the commission in 2014, first on an interim basis, following the panel’s firing of then-Executive Director Joan Parker without explanation. Commission Chairperson Robert Wolfe noted Stepto led the commission through tumultuous times, including budget cuts and implementation of 2014 legislation that completely reorganized the agency.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Reverses Wisconsin Voting Restrictions Rulings
AP News – Todd Richmond | Published: 7/6/2020

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel found the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one.

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July 8, 2020 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Elections National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons […]

Elections

National: “Convention Jitters Grip Democrats” by Holly Otterbein for Politico

National: “Social Media Platforms Gird for 78 Days of Disinformation Chaos after Election Day” by Gopal Ratnam for Roll Call

Florida: “Appeals Court Stops Judge’s Order Granting Florida Felons Right to Vote” by Lawrence Mower for Tampa Bay Times

Ethics

National: “Trump’s Worldview Forged by Neglect and Trauma at Home, His Niece Says in New Book” by Shane Harris and Michael Kranish for Washington Post

National: “When Washington Helped Small Business, Washington Was Helped” by Kenneth Vogel for New York Times

Canada: “Ethics Watchdog to Examine Trudeau Over WE Charity Contract, Since Reversed” by Jordan Press (Canadian Press) for MSN

Maryland: “MoCo Employee Admits to Lapses in Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine” by Alessia Grunberger (Patch) for MSN

Lobbying

California: “Santa Barbara Grand Jury Blasts County Supervisors Over Marijuana Industry” by Joe Mozingo for Los Angeles Times

Redistricting

Michigan: “Federal Judge Throws Out Republican Lawsuit Against Michigan Redistricting Commission” by Malachi Barrett for MLive.com

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June 12, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – June 12, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020 The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to […]

National/Federal

Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election
MSN – David Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Matthew Rosenberg (New York Times) | Published: 6/7/2020

The rush to accommodate remote voting is leading a small number of states to experiment with or expand online voting, an approach the Department of Homeland Security deemed “high risk” in a recent report. It has also put renewed focus on the assortment of online state voter registration systems, which were among the chief targets of Russian hackers in 2016. Their security is central to ensuring that, come November, voters receive their mail-in ballots or can gain access to online voting. While Russian hackers stopped short of manipulating voter data in 2016, American officials determined the effort was likely a dry run for future interference.

Appeals Court Upholds Order to Restore Reporter’s White House Press Pass
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/10/2020

A federal appeals court endorsed a judge’s order restoring a White House press pass to a reporter who wound up in a verbal altercation with one of President Trump’s most loyal and outspoken supporters in the Rose Garden last year. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled the White House violated the constitutional due process rights of Playboy reporter Brian Karem by suspending his pass for 30 days after the heated exchange with talk show host and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka at the end of a social media summit.

‘Bloomberg Loophole’ Paves the Way for Rich Donors to Ignore Contribution Limits
Sludge – David Moore | Published: 6/5/2020

After suspending his presidential bid, Michael Bloomberg transferred $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to back its organizing push in 12 battleground states. The DNC’s windfall far exceeds the $35,500 maximum legal contribution an individual can give to a national party committee in the 2019-2020 election cycle, and watchdogs immediately flagged it as pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law. The legal justification for the transfer comes down to a quirk of FEC reporting practice, said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.

Coronavirus Was Paul Manafort’s Ticket Home. Many Other Old, Ill, Nonviolent Inmates Are Still in Prison.
USA Today – Kristine Phillips | Published: 6/9/2020

Attorneys and advocates say there are many old and nonviolent prisoners who are not a threat to public safety and yet remain behind bars, even as the coronavirus continues to infect hundreds of inmates and staff. The way in which the federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented Attorney General William Barr’s order to expedite moving vulnerable prisoners to home confinement has been inconsistent, confusing, and slow, attorneys and advocates say. The agency has broad discretion in determining who can spend the rest of their sentence at home, but how this gets decided is cloaked in secrecy.

Crapo Staffer Told FBI the Senator Gave Permission for $250K Campaign Investment into Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
The Post Register – Betsy Russell | Published: 6/1/2020

Newly released FBI documents say U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s campaign told the FBI the senator “was aware of and approved” the investment of $250,000 of his campaign donors’ funds into a risky get-rich-quick scheme “at the time of the transaction” in 2008, in which the money disappeared. Crapo, who now chairs the banking committee, has said repeatedly since 2013, when the news broke of the loss of his campaign funds in the scheme, that he knew nothing about it until late 2010, after the money was gone. Documents showed Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, invested the money into the scheme at a time when the campaign was between treasurers.

‘Everything about this is irregular’: Ex-judge tapped to review Flynn case blasts Trump DOJ
Politico – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/10/2020

A former federal judge selected to advise on a path forward in the criminal case against Michael Flynn is accusing the Justice Department of exercising a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” to protect an ally of President Trump, distorting known facts and legal principles to shield former national security adviser from a jail sentence. Former U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson skewered Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the case, describing it as an “irregular” effort that courts would “scoff” at were the subject anyone other than an ally of Trump. The brief featured a reconstruction of the Flynn case and accused the department of contradicting its own arguments and precedents to justify dropping the case against Flynn.

Ex-Sen. Trent Lott: Squire Patton Boggs took ‘low road’ in split
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/9/2020

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says his ex-firm Squire Patton Boggs “took the low road” in reportedly firing him. Lott added that another former senator, John Breaux, was also planning to leave the lobby shop. Coming amid worldwide demonstrations against killings by police against African Americans, Lott’s exit was viewed on K Street as potentially linked to comments he made that drove him from Senate GOP leadership. Speaking at an event for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Lott recalled Mississippi had supported Thurmond’s segregationist run for president in 1948. “And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either,” Lott said in 2002.

Feds Press Criminal Case Against Flynn Partner
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 6/7/2020

The Justice Department is pressing forward with its criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, a onetime business partner of Michael Flynn, despite Attorney General William Barr’s decision to seek to abandon the prosecution of the former national security adviser to President Trump. The filing mentions Flynn’s integral role in the work that led to the two foreign-agent-related felony charges against Rafiekian and maintains the government’s position that Flynn was a co-conspirator in his business partner’s crimes. While the case included an admission by Flynn that he signed off on inaccurate Foreign Agent Registration Act filings about the project that led to Rafiekian’s prosecution: a $600,000 contract Flynn signed for his Flynn Intel Group at the height of the presidential campaign in 2016 to lobby on behalf of a Dutch firm.

GAO Offers Congress Steps to Protect Independence of Federal Watchdogs
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 6/8/2020

Lawmakers could take steps to prevent President Trump or other executive branch leaders from undermining the independence of federal watchdogs, according to a new report from Congress’ internal audit agency. Trump, who has bristled at the independence of inspectors general, has leaned heavily on temporary appointees to fill the powerful posts, leaving them more susceptible to pressure from within the administration. In some cases, he has turned to officials who already serve in senior roles inside the agency. The Government Accountability Office says lawmakers could require those “dual-hatted” employees to recuse themselves when their independence could be called into question and to vow in writing to protect the identity of whistleblowers who normally turn to inspectors general for protection.

How the Black Lives Matter Movement Went Mainstream
MSN – Jose Del Real, Robert Samuels, and Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

The three words were once a controversial rallying cry against racial profiling and police violence. Now, “Black lives matter” is painted in bright yellow letters on the road to the White House. Celebrities and chief executives are embracing it. Even U.S.Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican former presidential candidate, posted the phrase on Twitter. As consensus grows about the existence of systemic racism in American policing and other facets of American life, longtime organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to extend its momentum beyond the popularization of a phrase. Activists sense an opportunity to demand policy changes that once seemed far-fetched.

Joe Biden Let Police Groups Write His Crime Bill. Now, His Agenda Has Changed.
Laredo Morning Times – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 6/8/2020

Joe Biden’s close relationship with police groups while crafting the landmark 1994 crime bill legislation reflected his decades-long partnership with them as he embraced a tough-on-crime persona, one that extended to his work as vice president when he served as a liaison between police and the White House. Now, as Biden runs for president amid a national reckoning over police violence and racial injustice, that long alliance is threatening to undermine a cornerstone of his candidacy. The presumptive Democratic nominee is seeking to channel the anger of African Americans, one of his party’s most important voting blocs, by calling for “real police reform” and promising to combat systemic racism. In doing so, Biden is promising to undo some of the very measures he helped enact.

Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure
CNN – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 6/3/2020

Campaign commercials are running more often on services like Hulu, a sign of streaming’s growing importance in the world of politics as more Americans cut the cord on cable subscriptions and independent groups, candidates, and political parties seek new ways to reach their target audiences. The coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home orders it triggered across the country appear to have accelerated growth for streaming services. But the migration by candidates, super PACs, and parties to streaming services has set off alarms for some campaign finance watchdogs because the advertising is not subject to the same disclosure requirements that have governed traditional media for decades.

Political Donations Dropped Off as Coronavirus Pandemic Peaked
Center for Responsive Politics – Karl Evers-Hillstrom | Published: 6/9/2020

Political fundraising took an intense dip as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation in mid-March and early April, according to an analysis of campaign contributions. The pandemic forced the leading presidential candidates to cancel in-person fundraisers that would have netted their campaigns millions of dollars. High-profile congressional candidates paused their fundraising activities to assist relief efforts. And the virus’ economic damage that forced 40 million to file for unemployment may have prompted potential donors to save their money.

Rep. Steve King Toxic to K Street
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 6/3/2020

U.S. Steve King, a pariah within his own party for racist comments, would be too controversial for lobbying firms, trade associations, and corporations after losing his primary election, say lobbyists and K Street headhunters, even as many former lawmakers decamp for such jobs. Many companies and lobbying groups issued statements offering support for racial justice efforts amid protests over the death of George Floyd that have gripped the nation. King also had lost influence among his colleagues well before he lost the Republican primary in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District.

Tech Group Files First Lawsuit Against Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Social Media
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 6/2/2020

A tech group supported by Facebook, Google, and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump, alleging his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election. The challenge brought by the Center for Democracy and Technology marks the first major legal test of Trump’s directive, which paves the way for federal agencies to investigate and penalize some of Silicon Valley’s most popular platforms over the way they police politically oriented posts, photos, and videos across the Web.

Trump Draws Rebukes for Suggesting 75-Year-Old Protester Pushed to the Ground in Buffalo Was Part of a ‘Set Up’
Laredo Morning Times – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

President Trump put forth an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo who suffered head injuries after he was pushed to the pavement by police. A cellphone video of the encounter has now been seen by millions of people and led to assault charges against two officers. Trump tweeted that the confrontation may have been a “set up” coordinated by anti-fascist demonstrators. Trump drew a rebuke from James Martin, a Jesuit priest. “[Gugino] is a peace activist and volunteer with the Catholic Worker movement,” Martin tweeted. “Why spread rumors about someone who embodies the Beatitudes? … Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ not the rumormongers.”

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Attorney for Arizona Tells Federal Court Legislature Can Remove Members with Two-Thirds Vote
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 6/3/2020

Attorneys for the state and a former Arizona House speaker told a federal court the Legislature is free to remove members for any reason at all, including political affiliation and race, as long as they can muster a two-thirds vote. Steve Tully said there was nothing wrong with the procedures used by J.D. Mesnard, who was speaker in 2018, to investigate then-Rep. Don Shooter and eventually have a vote that resulted in his ouster. The claim drew a skeptical response from Judge Marsha Berzon. She asked whether if the Democrats controlled most of the seats, they could simply decide to remove all Republicans.

California Fundraiser Pleads Guilty in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Joel Ebert | Published: 6/3/2020

A political operative pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he helped a real estate developer pay off a Los Angeles City Council member for help with a major development project. The guilty plea by Justin Jangwoo Kim is the latest turn in an on-going investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office into “pay-to-play” schemes and other corruption in City Hall. Many details included in the court records have identified the council member as Jose Huizar, who served on a council committee that handles real estate projects and whose offices and home were raided by FBI agents in 2018. Huizar has not been charged with a crime in the case.

California L.A. Police Union Spent Big in Local Elections. Some Politicians Now Shun the Money
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 6/10/2020

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, has been a significant force in local elections. In the past decade, the union has given more than $100,000 directly to city candidates. Its independent expenditure committees, which cannot legally be controlled by candidates and do not have the same limits on donations, have spent millions of dollars more. Now, that money is under scrutiny by city residents supporting a national movement against police brutality, and some local politicians say they will not accept it anymore.

California ‘This Is Money Laundering 101’; More People Charged in Widening SF Public Corruption Probe
KPIX – Staff | Published: 6/8/2020

Three defendants in San Francisco’s public corruption scandal – Sandra Zuniga, Balmore Hernandez, and Florence Kong – were charged with a variety of federal crimes including money laundering, bribery, and making false statements to investigators stemming from a probe of Mohammed Nuru, the former San Francisco Public Works Chief. Nuru was charged for an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport commissioner. The complaint against Nuru also alleged he engaged in several additional schemes, including obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home while those contractors were also engaging in business with the city.

Colorado Ethics Commission Concludes Hickenlooper Violated Colorado’s Gift Ban for Public Officials
Colorado Public Radio – Andrew Kennedy | Published: 6/5/2020

The Independent Ethics Commission ruled U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper violated Colorado ethics law as governor by accepting a private jet flight to an official event and by receiving benefits he did not pay for at a meeting of government, business, and financial leaders in Italy. The commission dismissed four other complaints against Hickenlooper that were filed by a conservative group led by a former Colorado House speaker. It scheduled a June 12 hearing to discuss possible fines for the violations as well as for a contempt order it issued when Hickenlooper ignored a subpoena to appear at its hearing.

Florida GOP Expects to Move Its Convention to Jacksonville After Dispute with North Carolina Over Pandemic Safeguards
MSN – Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2020

Seeking a city willing to allow a large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Florida, as the new destination for the premier festivities of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in August. The details of the arrangement are still in flux and RNC aides are scrambling to determine whether the city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate the quadrennial event, which typically kicks off the final stretch of the presidential campaign. The highly unusual decision to seek an alternative location for the convention’s marquee events stems from President Trump’s desire to accept his party’s nomination before an enormous crowd.

Georgia Georgia’s Election Mess: Many problems, plenty of blame, few solutions for November
New York Times – Richard Fausset and Reid Epstein | Published: 6/10/2020

As multiple investigations begin into what went wrong during with the Georgia primary elections, and as Democrats accuse the state’s Republicans of voter suppression, a picture emerged of a systematic breakdown that both revealed general incompetence and highlighted some of the thorny and specific challenges the coronavirus pandemic may pose to elections officials nationwide. As it seeks answers, Georgia is being roiled by a politically volatile debate over whether the problems were the result of mere bungling, or an intentional effort by Republican officials to inhibit voting. Georgia is expected to be a presidential battleground in November, as well as the site of two contested Senate races that could determine control of the chamber.

Hawaii How A Major Campaign Donor Got A Million-Dollar Cleaning Contract in Honolulu
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 6/8/2020

The city and county of Honolulu in March gave a $1.4 million contract to a local industrial cleaning company to clean Oahu’s buses every night so the fleet could operate through the coronavirus pandemic. But H2O Process Systems got the contract without having to go through the usual competitive bidding process because the law governing purchases for government agencies was suspended as part of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation. H2O Process System’s owner, Milton Choy, has been a prolific political donor to Hawaii’s mayors, governors, and lawmakers.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs ‘Compromise’ Felon Voting Restriction Bill into Law
KGAN – Caroline Cummings | Published: 6/4/2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that will establish some restrictions if voters ratify a constitutional amendment automatically restoring felons’ voting rights at the completion of their sentence. Current law, the strictest in the nation, bans people with felony records from voting for life unless they successfully petition the governor to get those rights restored. The policy is enshrined in the state constitution and the governor has advocated for the last two years to pass an amendment to change that.

Maryland Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Expected to Plead Guilty to Perjury in State Case
Baltimore Sun – Tim Prudente | Published: 6/9/2020

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of perjury in state court, Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said, before she departs for federal prison in Alabama. Prosecutors charged her with perjury for willfully omitting her lucrative “Healthy Holly” children’s book business from the financial disclosure forms she filed as a state senator. The perjury charge carries a maximum of 10 years in state prison. Pugh’s federal prison term has been postponed pending the resolution of the state case.

Missouri Democratic Club in North St. Louis County Fined $2,500 for Cash Withdrawal, Reporting Failures
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 6/4/2020

A St. Louis County Democratic club faces a $2,500 fine after the Missouri Ethics Commission found the group made cash payments to 13 campaign workers and did not properly document the spending in disclosure reports. The Norwood Township Democratic Club’s will have to pay the state $1,600 if it pays within 45 days. The group will have to pay the full fine if it commits any more violations within two years.

Nevada Judge Extends Signature-Gathering Deadline for Proposed Redistricting Commission Ballot Question
Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder | Published: 5/29/2020

An effort to place a ballot question creating an independent redistricting commission on the 2020 ballot will have a second chance at life after a federal judge agreed to extend a June deadline to turn in signatures for the petition under “unique factual circumstances” brought by the COVID-19 pandemic U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du partially granted the request of Fair Maps Nevada to extend the deadline to collect signatures for the petition, which needs to garner 97,598 signatures by June 24 to make it on to the ballot. Attorneys for the group had said it collected around 10,000 signatures before Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered nonessential business shutdowns and other social distancing directives in mid-March.

New Jersey N.J. Legislative Aide Accused of Rape Resigns Though Investigation Found No Proof of Wrongdoing, Sources Say
Newark Star Ledger – Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/4/2020

A staff member in the New Jersey Assembly accused of raping a female lobbyist is stepping down from his job after an internal investigation. No charges are expected to be filed against the man, however, after an internal investigation initiated by the state Legislature did not find enough evidence to prove the sexual assault claim. The alleged victim in the case has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing.

New York State Ethics Panel Split Over Charges of Cuomo Influence
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/10/2020

Six members of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) have called on the panel’s chairperson, Michael Rozen, to conduct a search for an “independent” executive director amid longstanding criticism that JCOPE’s leadership and operations have been too closely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. JCOPE’s top staff position has been vacant since the departure a year ago of former Cuomo counsel Seth Agata, whose resignation left the embattled commission in search of its fourth executive director in eight years.

Ohio Councilman Matt Zone, Chair of Police Oversight Committee, Acknowledges Son Is a Cleveland Officer
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Robert Higgs | Published: 6/9/2020

Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone publicly acknowledged for the first time his son is serving as an officer with the city police department that Zone oversees as chair of council’s Public Safety Committee. Zone said he checked with the Ohio Ethics Commission when his son joined the police force in December 2015 and was assured that retaining his leadership position on the committee would not pose a problem. Zone also said he chose not to make a public disclosure at the time so as not to cause a distraction for his son as he started his new job. Zone’s disclosure comes as police leaders face criticism from some members of the public about whether the department was adequately prepared for demonstrations on May 30 that evolved into looting in downtown Cleveland.

Oregon Oregon Redistricting Campaign Hopes Huge Mailing Will Help Initiative Qualify for November Ballot
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 6/10/2020

Oregon voters by the hundreds of thousands are receiving letters asking them to help get an independent redistricting proposal on the November ballot, as coronavirus social distancing guidelines largely rule out traditional signature gathering strategies. Initiative Petition 57 would transfer the job of redrawing Oregon’s legislative and congressional district lines from the state Legislature to a new 12-member commission. Supporters must gather 149,360 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Oregon The Oregonian/OregonLive’s ‘Polluted by Money’ Wins Inaugural Collier Prize
Portland Oregonian – Staff | Published: 6/10/2020

“Polluted by Money,” a four-part series by Portland Oregonian reporter Rob Davis, won the inaugural Collier Prize for State Government Accountability. The prize is administered by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The series exposed how Oregon’s lack of campaign finance limits led to an easy tolerance of polluters by state lawmakers who benefited from campaign contributions. After the series ran, lawmakers referred a long-stalled constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot, which will allow Oregonians to decide whether they want to make political contributions limits legal.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Revolts Over Sidelining of 2 Black Colleagues
New York Times – Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy | Published: 6/10/2020

Two prominent black staff members, a reporter, and a photojournalist at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said newsroom leaders had unfairly kept them from covering the protests against racism and police violence. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents the paper’s staff members, called on readers to send letters demanding that reporter Alexis Johnson and photojournalist Michael Santiago be allowed to cover the protests. More than 80 Post-Gazette staff members have taken the side of their sidelined colleagues in social media posts, the guild said.

South Carolina Judge Throws Out Upstate Lawmaker’s Suit Against SC GOP, Primary Challenger
The State – Maayan Schechter | Published: 6/5/2020

A South Carolina judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a lawmaker who sued the state Republican Party and its primary backed challenger, Vaughn Parfitt, over allegations the GOP spent beyond the legal expenditure limits. State Rep. Jonathon Hill alleged the party violated ethics laws by spending more than $5,000 on Hill’s primary challenger by way of campaign mailers on multiple dates. Hill’s complaint said the GOP is limited to spending no more than $1,000 per election cycle in support of any campaign.

Tennessee Campaign Finance Officials Uphold $465,000 Fine Against Ex-Lawmaker Jeremy Durham
MSN – Joel Ebert (The Tennessean) | Published: 6/10/2020

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance rejected an administrative law judge’s decision regarding a $465,000 fine levied against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham. The registry unanimously voted in favor of rejecting an opinion from Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell, who said the panel excessively fined Durham while saying auditors failed to prove his expenditures were illegal. Darnell’s decision came after Durham, who was ousted from the Legislature after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, appealed the registry’s massive fine against him for violating campaign finance law hundreds of times.

Tennessee Judge: Tennessee must allow postal voting for all amid virus
Politico – Associated Press | Published: 6/4/2020

Tennessee must give all its 4.1 million registered voters the option to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled. Lyle said the state’s limits on absentee voting during the pandemic constitute “an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.” The decision upends a determination by Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office that fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus at the polls would not qualify someone to vote by mail. The state argued such an expansion would not be feasible for the 2020 elections, claiming lack of money, personnel, and equipment for increased voting by mail, among other concerns.

Texas Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas
Texas Tribune – Alexa Ura | Published: 6/4/2020

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended its order blocking a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. With early voting for the primary runoff elections starting later in June, and the state Supreme Court also blocking expanded voting by mail is a separate case, the ruling effectively eliminates the possibility that Texas voters will be able to legally request mail-in ballots solely because they fear a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus will put them at risk if they vote in person. The issue is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas Furor in Texas GOP After Leaders Post Racist Memes That Suggest Floyd’s Death Is a Hoax
Washington Post – Ted Armus, Meryl Kornfield, and Annie Gowan | Published: 6/6/2020

One Facebook post falsely claimed that the killing of George Floyd in police custody last month was a “staged event,” meant to rile up opposition to President Trump. Another showed a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. next to a banana, an established racist trope. A third claimed that George Soros, the liberal billionaire, paid “white cops to murder black people” and “black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.” All these posts were shared in recent days by Republican county leaders in Texas, some of whom are now facing calls to resign from top officials within their own party. The posts have unleashed controversy in the state where Republicans are struggling to beat back Democratic advances in the diversifying electorate.

Washington Judge Orders Freedom Foundation to Pay $80,000 in Attorney General’s Campaign Finance Case
Access Washington – Washington Attorney General’s Office | Published: 6/8/2020

A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Freedom Foundation to pay $80,000 for violating Washington’s campaign finance law. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit asserted the organization failed to properly and timely file independent expenditure reports disclosing the value of the legal services it provided to support ballot propositions in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton, as required. In January of this year, a judge found the Freedom Foundation violated the law.

Washington DC Trump-Connected Lobbyist Ends Coronavirus Contract with D.C. Amid Bowser, White House Feud
Washington Post – Josh Dawsey and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 6/5/2020

A lobbyist with ties to President Trump, ended his relationship with the District of Columbia as tensions grew between the president and Mayor Muriel Bowser. Brian Ballard was hired by the city to secure coronavirus funding. “We can’t be effective under the current situation,” Ballard said, about an hour after Trump lambasted Bowser on Twitter as part of a days-long feud over protests in the nation’s capital. Ballard has become one of the most profitable lobbyists in Washington during the Trump administration and he fundraises for the president’s campaign.

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June 8, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure” by Fredreka Schouten for CNN Elections Texas: “Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas” by Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune Ethics National: “Tech […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Political Advertising Grows on Streaming Services, Along with Questions About Disclosure” by Fredreka Schouten for CNN

Elections

Texas: “Federal Appeals Court Extends Block on Voting-by-Mail Expansion in Texas” by Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune

Ethics

National: “Tech Group Files First Lawsuit Against Trump Over Executive Order Targeting Social Media” by Tony Romm for Washington Post

California: “Fundraiser Pleads Guilty in L.A. City Hall Corruption Case” by Joel Ebert for Los Angeles Times

New Jersey: “N.J. Legislative Aide Accused of Rape Resigns Though Investigation Found No Proof of Wrongdoing, Sources Say” by Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) and Kelly Heyboer (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger

Legislative Issues

Arizona: “Attorney for Arizona Tells Federal Court Legislature Can Remove Members with Two-Thirds Vote” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for KAWC

Lobbying

National: “Rep. Steve King Toxic to K Street” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Redistricting

Nevada: “Judge Extends Signature-Gathering Deadline for Proposed Redistricting Commission Ballot Question” by Riley Snyder for Nevada Independent

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April 17, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 17, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020 Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped […]

National/Federal

Bloomberg Campaign Transfer of $18 Million to DNC Sparks Complaints to Federal Regulators
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020

Citizens United, the group known for its 2010 namesake landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that helped pave the way for super PACs, filed a petition with the FEC asking regulators to create new rules to limit the amount of leftover money that a self-funded federal candidate can transfer to the national party once the candidate has dropped out of the race. The request followed two FEC complaints filed by other groups that alleged Michael Bloomberg made an improper transfer of $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. Bloomberg was the biggest self-funded candidate in U.S. history.

‘Choosing Winners and Losers’: Behind the battle to be deemed essential
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Anna Gronwold | Published: 4/10/2020

As states and cities have forced what they consider “nonessential businesses” to close to slow the spread of coronavirus, lobbyists for industries have been hustling to make the case that they are too important to be shut down, a designation that could mean millions of dollars for companies and the employees who keep them running. Companies and trade groups seeking to shape the rules are lobbying governors, most of whom have issued executive orders detailing which businesses can remain open and which must close. They have also appealed to the Trump administration, which has put out recommendations outlining which industries it considers essential, although states and cities are not bound by the recommendations.

Democrats Scramble to Close YouTube Deficit Amid Quarantine Campaign
Politico – Alex Thompson | Published: 4/13/2020

Joe Biden is not much of a YouTuber. But his campaign and Democrats are hastily trying to address a longstanding weakness and reach the millions of Americans who are. The 2020 presidential campaign’s transition to a mostly digital experience, with the nation on lockdown, has spotlighted a long-term progressive deficit on YouTube that some concerned Democrats compare to the right’s command of talk radio. The country’s leading video platform is also one of its largest search engines and a key battlefield in campaigns’ fight to reach new voters and earn free media attention. While Democratic campaigns and groups spend heavily on advertising on YouTube, they lag in organic content, with dozens of conservative and right-wing figures cultivating enormous followings not yet matched by equivalents on the left.

GOP Pushes Voting by Mail – with Restrictions – While Trump Attacks It as ‘Corrupt’
MSN – Amy Gardenr and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 4/12/2020

Despite President Trump saying that voting by mail is “corrupt,” state GOP leaders across the country are aggressively urging their voters to cast ballots by mail. In addition, Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that do not have all-mail elections are encouraging people to vote absentee during the coronavirus pandemic. Their moves come after decades in which Republicans have encouraged their voters to take advantage of absentee ballot rules, running sophisticated mail programs that targeted GOP supporters most likely to vote from home. The apparent conflict between Trump’s attacks and his party’s long embrace of the tactic comes as the health crisis has spurred Democrats and civil rights groups to push to loosen restrictions on mail voting in many jurisdictions.

Lobbyists, Political Consultants Sue U.S. for Coronavirus Bailout
Washington Post – Robert Burnson (Bloomberg) | Published: 4/14/2020

A group representing political consultants, pollsters, and lobbyists sued the U.S. government for a slice of the $2.2 trillion Covid-19 bailout pie. The American Association of Political Consultants says it is unconstitutional for its members to be excluded from the small business loans provided by the CARE Act, which Congress passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The group says its members should be granted access to $349 billion in “forgivable loans” provided under the Paycheck Protection Program. The program excludes various businesses including nonprofits, strip clubs, and those “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.”

Pentagon Looks to Undo Parts of McCain Anti-Lobbying Law
Roll Call – John Donnelly | Published: 4/14/2020

The Pentagon asked Congress to reverse key parts of a recent law that tightened the rules governing retired Defense Department officials influencing their former government colleagues on behalf of defense contractors. The new rules were authored by the late U.S, Sen. John McCain. They lengthened from one year to two years the period during which the most senior Pentagon officials were banned, upon leaving office, from lobbying their former colleagues. The McCain provisions added new limits on whom in the Defense Department former officials could lobby and how. A coalition of groups that monitor government spending urged congressional committee leaders to not only keep McCain’s provisions but to strengthen them.

Senator Richard Burr Sold D.C. Townhouse to Donor at a Rich Price
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi | Published: 4/14/2020

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold his Washington, D.C. townhouse for what, by some estimates, was for an above market price of $900,000 to a team led by lobbyist John Green. That is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value by tax assessors, a real estate website, and a local real estate agent. Green is a longtime donor to Burr’s political campaigns and has co-hosted at least one fundraiser for him. In 2017, the year of the sale, Green lobbied on behalf of a stream of clients with business before Burr’s committees. If the home was purchased for more than the fair market value, it would be considered a gift. Senate ethics rules generally ban gifts of significant value from lobbyists, and those that are not are typically required to be publicly disclosed.

Sexual Assault Allegation by Former Biden Senate Aide Emerges in Campaign, Draws Denial
MSN – Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, Matt Viser, and Alice Crites (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

A woman who last year said Joe Biden touched her neck and shoulders when she worked in his Senate office in 1993 is now accusing him of sexually assaulting her that year in a semiprivate area of the Capitol complex, an allegation the Biden campaign strongly denies. At the time, Tara Reade was a  staff assistant. The Washington Post has interviewed Reade on multiple occasions as well as people she says she told of the assault claim and more than a half-dozen former staffers of Biden’s Senate office. Reade filed a complaint recently with District of Columbia police. She said she did so because she is being harassed online and wanted law enforcement to be aware of her claim. A public record of the complaint does not name Biden but says Reade “disclosed that she believes she was the victim of a sexual assault” in 1993.

Sidelined by Coronavirus Pandemic, Congress Cedes Stage and Authority to Trump
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 4/11/2020

Congress has responded to the incessant spread of the coronavirus and its devastating impact on the economy by passing, so far, three progressively larger relief bills, culminating in the $2 trillion Cares Act. While President Trump has commanded the stage at White House briefings, Democratic Party leaders have conducted frequent media interviews, committee chairpersons have sent flurries of letters, and individual members have scrambled to help their districts. But with lawmakers dispersed across the country, and with rules frequently out of step with modern telecommunications, the House and Senate are only starting to come to terms with how to conduct many of their most essential functions amid an extended national emergency.

Supreme Court for First Time to Hold Arguments Via Teleconference Next Month
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/12/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hold oral arguments via teleconference for the first time in its history in May, on a set of cases that had been postponed in March and April, including President Trump’s legal battle to prevent congressional committees and a New York prosecutor from obtaining his financial records. The justices will hear another time-sensitive case involving whether presidential electors can be required to honor their state’s instructions to vote for the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.

Treasury’s Mnuchin ‘Properly’ Followed Guidance in Refusing to Give Trump’s Tax Returns to Congress, Inspector General Finds
MSN – Jeff Stein, Erica Werner, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 4/10/2020

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin followed internal protocols when he refused to give President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, Richard Delmar, deputy inspector general of the Department of Treasury, found in a report. Lawyers for the legal counsel’s office wrote in a 2019 opinion that House Democrats’ demands for Trump’s return should be denied because they did not serve a legitimate “legislative purpose.” Delmar’s opinion is a setback for congressional Democrats who have for years said the administration broke a 1924 law that appears to explicitly give congressional tax writing committees the authority to obtain the president’s returns.

Who’s Getting These Hundreds of Billions in the Government Aid? For Now, the Public May Be in the Dark.
Beaumont Enterprise – Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

The Cares Act requires that the names of recipients of some forms of federal aid be published, but those requirements do not extend to significant portions of the relief. Though most of the $2.2 trillion in spending has yet to begin, disputes already have arisen about who will be responsible for making sure it is done ethically. The law requires several layers of oversight. It calls for a special inspector general, a congressional review commission, and a group that will be composed of inspectors general armed with enhanced powers to subpoena documents and testimony. But President Trump already has taken steps that undermine these reviewers. Regardless of what happens to the oversight panels, the public disclosure of who receives the trillions in emergency money could play a critical role in the public debate over the programs.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Alabama Supreme Court Upholds 6 Counts Against Mike Hubbard, Reverses 5
Montgomery Advertiser – Melissa Brown | Published: 4/10/2020

The Alabama Supreme Court overturned five of the ethics convictions that ended the political career of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, while upholding six others. Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 but has remained free on appeal. Prosecutors accused him of monetizing his public office to obtain clients and investments for his businesses. \The overturned counts dealt largely with several $150,000 investments in Hubbard’s troubled printing company. The court upheld other ethics counts involving Hubbard’s side work as a consultant, rejecting defense claims that those contracts were unrelated to his position as House speaker.

Arizona November Ballot Measures Threatened by Lack of Public Gatherings, Backers Warn. Judge Weighs Online Petitions
Arizona Republic – Andrew Oxford | Published: 4/14/2020

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented ballot initiative campaigns from gathering signatures outside libraries, on college campuses, and at other places people used to congregate. But does that mean they should be allowed to collect signatures online as an alternative? That is the question in front of a federal judge, who heard arguments from campaigns backing ballot proposals and lawyers from the Arizona attorney general’s office, which opposes the idea. The campaigns say social distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 have squelched their usual methods for gathering the more than 200,000 signatures they need to qualify for spots on the general election ballot in November.

California Federal Investigation into L.A. City Hall Corruption Involves Downtown Project
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 4/15/2020

When federal prosecutors filed their latest corruption case involving Los Angeles City Hall, they filled their court filings with lurid details: a paper bag filled with cash for a council member, a bathroom meeting to discuss the alleged bribe, and insistent texts from that council member angling for the money. What investigators did not say was who allegedly provided a $500,000 bribe meant for a sitting council member in order to smooth the way for a new project. In court filings, prosecutors identified that figure only as “Developer C.” But numerous details in the case point to the project at the heart of the matter: a 20-story residential tower planned at the corner of Hill Street and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.

California FPPC Offers Guidance on Lobbying Filing Deadlines in Wake of COVID-19
Vallejo Times-Herald – Staff | Published: 4/13/2020

In light of the statewide shelter-in-place order, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is encouraging individuals subject to lobbying registration and reporting requirements to continue to make the best efforts to timely file all legally required reports and statements. If circumstances caused by COVID-19 inhibit the filing of a lobbying report or statement, the filer should communicate these issues to the secretary of state’s office and document all attempts to file and the issues faced. While quarterly lobbying reports are filed electronically, the law requires certain other statements be filed on paper with an original signature.

Florida Florida Ethics Panel Rejects COVID-19 Announcements Plan, Upholds Ban on Free Publicity or Exposure
Orlando Weekly – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 4/10/2020

The Florida Commission on Ethics blocked a request from Charter Communications to put public officials in coronavirus-related public service announcements. The use of public officials in such ads is a violation of the state’s gift ban, which prohibits elected officials and top appointees from taking anything of value from lobbyists or entities that employ them. Charter did not argue that point, but asked commissioners to make an exception because of the dire nature of the pandemic.

Florida Herald Drafted a Suit Seeking ALF Records. DeSantis Aide Pressured Law Firm Not To
Miami Herald – Daniel Chang | Published: 4/11/2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ general counsel called a representative of The Miami Herald’s law firm seeking to quash a public records lawsuit that would force the state to divulge the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a positive test for the coronavirus. The back-door pressure, through an attorney who had no involvement in the case, paid off. The law firm, Holland & Knight, told Sanford Bohrer, a senior partner with decades of representing The Herald, to stand down and abandon the lawsuit. The suit will still be filed, but by another law firm, said Miami Herald publisher Aminda Marqués González.

Georgia Ethics Commission Accuses Fulton DA of Disclosure Violations
AP News – Staff | Published: 4/16/2020

Georgia’s ethics commission filed a complaint against an Atlanta-area district attorney and accused him of violating public disclosure laws, including by not listing his supplemental salary funded by a nonprofit. It was reported that discrepancies were found between Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s personal financial disclosures and tax filings submitted to the IRS by a nonprofit Howard runs. The complaint said Howard committed several violations on five years of disclosure forms.

Georgia Ga. Lawmakers in COVID-19 Campaign Fundraising Limbo
Rome News-Tribune – Beau Evans (Capitol Beat News Service) | Published: 4/15/2020

A divided state ethics commission upheld a longstanding ban on campaign fundraising when Georgia lawmakers are still in session, even if the legislative session has been indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 30-year-old ban was designed to curb the influence of money on lawmakers, but in the age of COVID-19, it has creating anxiety among incumbents who face opposition in the June 9 primary. They must continue to idle their fundraising while their challengers can raise money. The governor’s public health emergency declaration now runs through May 13 and there is no assurance the order will expire at that point.

Georgia Georgia Further Delays Primary Election to June
The Hill – Max Greenwood | Published: 4/9/2020

Georgia delayed its primary elections again, this time to June 9, amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak may continue to pose a high risk to public health through most of May. Georgia was originally supposed to hold its primaries on March 24. But state officials postponed the contests until May 19 as the pandemic worsened and health officials urged the public to avoid large crowds and gatherings.

Kentucky Kentucky Legislature Overrides Veto of GOP Voter ID Measure
Washington Post – Elise Viebeck | Published: 4/15/2020

Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode a veto of a new voter ID law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, setting the stage for the requirement to be enacted for the November general election. The move by lawmakers prompted an outcry from Democrats and voting-rights groups. They said the measure would suppress the vote and accused Republicans of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to impose restrictions, even as other states seek to make voting easier. GOP legislators argued the requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot would prevent voter fraud.

Michigan Chanting ‘Lock Her Up,’ Michigan Protesters Waving Trump Flags Mass Against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Coronavirus Restrictions
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 4/16/2020

If all roads in Michigan lead to the Capitol, conservative protesters made sure they were closed. For miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work. They drowned downtown Lansing in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows: President Trump flags, American flags, and the occasional Confederate flag. But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order, which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority, the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the Capitol, with some chanting, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!”

Michigan Michigan Republican Party Loses Appeal in Attempt to Stop Redistricting Commission
MLive.com – Ryan Boldrey | Published: 4/15/2020

The Michigan Republican Party was again denied in an attempt to overturn the result of a November 2018 ballot proposal that changed how the state’s political districts are drawn. A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision deeming the new law constitutional. Proposal 2 shifted the responsibility of drawing Michigan’s state and federal districts every 10 years to a new commission. Redistricting was previously handled by the Michigan Legislature and approved by the governor, something Proposal 2 supporters equated to politicians picking their own district lines.

Missouri Amid COVID-19 Funding Scramble, Missouri Senate Gets Ethics Panel Back on Track
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 4/9/2020

After three weeks in limbo, the commission that regulates Missouri’s campaign finance laws will be able to meet again following a rushed effort to appoint a new member. Maneuvering by Gov. Mike Parson and the state Senate resulted in the Legislature’s upper chamber confirming the appointment of Robert Cook to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The commission had been unable to meet after the terms of three of its six members expired on March 15.

New Hampshire New Hampshire Governor to Allow Absentee Voting in November Because of Coronavirus Outbreak
MSN – Amy Gardner and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 4/9/2020

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced the state will allow voters to cast mail-in ballots in the November general election if the coronavirus is still a factor this fall. The decision is a significant departure from Sununu’s past stance against widespread absentee voting and stands in contrast to the rhetoric coming from some Republicans, including President Trump. Sununu said the state is considering other voting alternatives, too, including “drive-up voting,” in which a voter would not have to leave his or her vehicle.

New Jersey NJ Lawyer-Lobbyists Saw Big Payday in 2019, See Uncertainty For 2020
Law.com – Suzette Parmley | Published: 4/10/2020

Being heard has never been more expensive in Trenton, or lucrative for lobbyists. Last year’s booming economy, an activist governor, one-party rule, and more than 11,000 bills in the New Jersey Legislature generated a windfall of clients, and made 2019 a banner year for lobbying in the state, with expenditures by clients topping $100 million for the first time ever. And law firms with lobbying arms staffed by lawyers, typically those with extensive experience in dealing with or working in government, or lobbying firms made up of lawyers by trade, made out quite well, according to data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

New York New York’s Smaller Political Parties Must Quickly Meet New Ballot Thresholds
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/13/2020

Included in the bills to approve a state budget in New York was the creation of a new campaign finance system with a public-matching program, lower individual contribution limits, and various other changes to campaign finance law. But the controversial inclusion of changes to ballot thresholds could prove to be a poison pill, not for the law but for the several minor political parties that operate in New York’s electoral system. The new thresholds to secure an automatic ballot line will be daunting for most, if not all, minor parties in the state, considering their showing in recent elections for governor and president. Only the Conservative Party has been able to consistently garner the number of votes the new thresholds would require for a party to easily nominate candidates for offices across the board for years at a time.

South Carolina SC Ethics Commission Launches Investigation into Horry County Chairman Over Campaign Loan
Raleigh News and Observer – Tyler Fleming | Published: 4/9/2020

The South Carolina Ethics Commission is investigating Horry County Council Chairperson Johnny Gardner for a loan and filings from his election campaign. A complaint claims Gardner, among other allegations, repaid too much money from a personal campaign loan. It also says the money used for the loan could not have belonged to Gardner and may count as an illegal campaign donation.

South Dakota South Dakota’s Governor Resisted Ordering People to Stay Home. Now It Has One of the Nation’s Largest Coronavirus Hot Spots.
MSN – Griff Witte (Washington Post) | Published: 4/13/2020

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem dismissed calls to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. She said it was up to individuals, not government, to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play – or to even stay at home.” Now, South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the U.S., with more than 300 workers at a giant ¬pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility, threatening the American food supply.

Utah Utah Lawmakers Tackling Coronavirus impact in First Online Session
Deseret News – Lisa Riley Roche | Published: 4/15/2020

Utah lawmakers are meeting online only for the first time after calling themselves into an emergency special session focused on dealing with the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. Only Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson are expected to be in the legislative chambers in the closed Capitol, facing new giant screens rather than lawmakers themselves, for the session, which can continue for up to 10 days. Because of technology constraints, work on the more than 20 items on the agenda will be tackled in one chamber at a time, starting in the House, Thomas said. Also, bills will not receive committee hearings, which are optional in a special session.

Washington Bankruptcy Judge Orders Tim Eyman to Pay $270,000 in State Court Contempt Fines by April 19
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 4/9/2020

Tim Eyman, the longtime anti-tax activist and initiative promoter, has until April 19 to pay $270,000 in fines and attorneys’ fees accrued for refusing to follow court orders in a Washington state campaign finance case. The payment will be due as part of a new plan approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge. Eyman owes more than $340,000 in contempt sanctions and related costs and has paid about $60,000. Sanctions continue to accrue. The new bankruptcy plan also will require Eyman to pay $10,000 a month starting in May and $13,500 a month starting in January 2022, until his debts have been satisfied.

Washington Washington AG Ferguson Sues Facebook Again, Saying It’s Still Selling Political Ads Without Adequate Disclosures
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 4/14/2020

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a second lawsuit against Facebook over political ads, saying the company once again failed to make disclosures required under the state’s campaign finance laws. Facebook already paid $238,000 in 2018 to resolve a previous dispute over political advertising. Facebook announced later that year it would stop accepting political ads related to state or local initiatives in Washington, although it still permitted advertisements around “issues of national importance” targeting people in the state. Ferguson said Facebook had continued selling hundreds of ads to at least 171 state political committees since 2018, in violation of its own policy.

Wisconsin ‘Not as Wisconsin Nice as We Used to Be’: The divisions in Dairyland
MSN – Dionne Searcey (New York Times) | Published: 4/11/2020

The political war being waged in Wisconsin shows how partisanship pushed to its most strategic outer limits can ensnare not only primary election voters but also cow manure, a Christmas tree, a tourism agency, and in particular, farmers who need help. The battle became particularly heated during the tenure of Gov. Scott Walker, who outraged Democrats by taking on a key liberal tenet: organized labor. After he lost the statehouse in 2018, Wisconsin Republicans, who now control both chambers, pushed through measures to strip the powers of newly elected Democrats. In November, Republicans opened a special session the current governor had called to take up gun control measures, and then pounded the gavel to close the session after only a few seconds.

Wisconsin Upset Victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Gives Democrats a Lift
MSN – Reid Epsein (New York Times) | Published: 4/13/2020

Democrats scored a significant victory in Wisconsin when a liberal challenger upset a Trump-backed incumbent to win a state Supreme Court seat, a down-ballot race that illustrated strong turnout and vote-by-mail efforts in a presidential battleground state. The large margin of victory came as a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike in Wisconsin, where contests for president, governor, and the state’s high court in the last four years have all been decided by about 30,000 votes or less. It followed weeks of Democratic anger over Republicans’ insistence on holding elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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January 10, 2020 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 10, 2020

News You Can Use

National/Federal 6 Million Democratic Donors Gave $1 Billion in 2019 Through ActBlue, Officials Say Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/9/2020 Democratic small-dollar donors gave $1 billion through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2019, highlighting the explosion […]

National/Federal

6 Million Democratic Donors Gave $1 Billion in 2019 Through ActBlue, Officials Say
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 1/9/2020

Democratic small-dollar donors gave $1 billion through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2019, highlighting the explosion of online giving on the left heading into the presidential election year. Of the 6 million donors who gave to Democratic candidates and organizations in 2019, half were first-time donors, pointing to the growing base of contributors who are giving online. Forty percent of the new donors gave multiple times, according to ActBlue, in a sign of the new donors’ sustained political interest and engagement. Donors contributing in low increments online gave $343 million in the final three months of 2019.

Bipartisan Group of Campaign Finance Lawyers Urge Leaders to ‘Immediately’ Restore Quorum at Federal Election Commission
MSN – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

A bipartisan group of campaign finance lawyers urged the White House and congressional leaders to “work together and immediately” to restore a voting quorum on the FEC, which cannot monitor compliance with election laws even as presidential primaries begin in February. The agency tasked with regulating federal campaign finance laws has long faced ideological divisions and polarization. But it lost its ability to do its official job after the August 2019 resignation of a commissioner left it to operate for the first time in 11 years without its necessary four-person quorum. While routine administrative work continues, the agency cannot enforce the law, vote on investigations, provide guidance, or conduct audits – activities that are especially crucial and timely for a presidential election.

Bolton Is Willing to Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial, Raising Pressure for Witnesses
MSN – Nicholas Fandos and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/6/2020

John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial, putting new pressure on Republicans to call witnesses and raising the possibility of revelations as the Senate weighs Trump’s removal. Bolton’s surprise declaration was a dramatic turn that could alter the political dynamic of the impeachment process in the Senate and raise the risks for Trump of Republican defections. The former national security adviser is a potentially vital witness, with direct knowledge of presidential actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

Duncan Hunter Resigns from Congress
Roll Call – Chris Marquette | Published: 1/7/2020

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter submitted his resignation from Congress, marking the end of an 11-year stint in the House marred by his misuse of campaign funds for a variety of endeavors, including spending money on Lego sets, movie tickets, a $14,000 family vacation to Italy, and flights for his family’s pet rabbit. Hunter said his resignation would be effective January 13. He pleaded guilty to using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for his own enrichment. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who also pleaded guilty, illegally converted over $150,000 in campaign funds from 2010 through 2016 to buy goods and services for their own interests, according to the plea agreement. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 17.

Ex-Tea Party Lawmakers Turn Heads on K Street
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/8/2020

A number of prominent former lawmakers associated with the Tea Party Caucus have joined the ranks of K Street in the last year, bringing their small government agendas to the lobbying world. K Street has always been a favored perch for ex-lawmakers, but the recent moves from conservatives are attracting controversy. Tea Party groups and Trump have long run on reining in the influence of special interests and Tea Party lawmakers often clashed with the influence world and a number of prominent industries in high-profile fights. In the Trump era, though, K Street has seen business grow as the Republican president’s agenda has sparked major battles over trade, health care, and taxes. Despite Trump’s vows to challenge Washington, the “revolving door” between K Street and his administration has been busy. For critics, that is a sign that it is business as usual in the nation’s capital.

Facebook Bans Deepfakes, but New Policy May Not Cover Controversial Pelosi Video
MSN – Tony Romm, Drew Harwell, and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2020

Facebook banned users from posting computer-generated, highly manipulated videos, known as deepfakes, seeking to stop the spread of a novel form of misinformation months before the 2020 presidential election. But the policy does not prohibit all doctored videos: Facebook’s new guidelines do not appear to address a deceptively edited clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral on the social network last year. Monika Bickert, the company’s vice president for global policy management, will testify at a congressional hearing on “manipulation and deception in the digital age.” The inquiry marks the latest effort by House lawmakers to probe Facebook’s digital defenses after Russian agents weaponized the site to stoke social unrest during the 2016 race.

Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down from Allowing Lies in Political Ads
Seattle Times – Tony Romm, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Craig Timberg (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2020

Facebook decided not to limit how political ads can be targeted to specific groups of people, as Google did to fight misinformation. Neither will it ban political ads outright, as Twitter did. And Facebook still will not fact check them, as it has faced pressure to do. Instead, Facebook announced much more limited “transparency features” that aim to give users slightly more control over how many political ads they see and to make its online library of political ads easier to use. These steps appear unlikely to assuage critics who say Facebook has too much power and not enough limits when it comes to its effects on elections and democracy itself.

FBI Raids Home, Office of Lobbyist Michael Esposito
Connecticut Post – Devlin Barrett, Jonathan O’Connell, and Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 1/3/2020

FBI agents investigating a lobbyist who has claimed to have close ties to President Trump and his family searched the man’s home and K Street office for evidence of possible fraud, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Esposito’s business has boomed in the Trump era, but Trump, White House officials, and senior Republicans have said he greatly exaggerated his claims of access to the president and his inner circle. Following a story on Esposito’s business, the FBI is investigating to determine whether he may have defrauded his clients or engaged in any other type of financial fraud, the people said.

Judges Struggle Over Trump Bid to Block McGahn Congressional Testimony
Reuters – Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley | Published: 1/3/2020

Appeals court judges appeared skeptical about broad legal arguments by President Trump’s administration seeking to block a former White House lawyer from testifying to Congress as part of the impeachment effort against Trump, but also seemed wary about stepping into the heated political fight. Judge Thomas Griffith asked tough questions of the Justice Department lawyer who argued on the administration’s behalf and the lawyer for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn and could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case. A second case involved the administration’s appeal of a judge’s October ruling that grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe should be provided to lawmakers.

Mnuchin Seeks Delay of Proposed Disclosure of Secret Service Spending on Presidential Travel Until After Election
MSN – Carol Leonnig and David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel until after the 2020 election. The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home. Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed.

Shadow Group Provides Sanders Super PAC Support He Scorns
AP News – Bruian Slodysko | Published: 1/8/2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he does not want a super PAC. Instead, he has Our Revolution, a nonprofit political organization he founded that functions much the same as one. Like a super PAC, Our Revolution can raise unlimited sums from wealthy patrons that dwarf the limits faced by candidates and conventional PACs. Unlike a super PAC, however, the group does not have to disclose its donors, a stream of revenue commonly referred to as “dark money.” Our Revolution appears to be skirting campaign finance law, which forbids groups founded by federal candidates and officeholders from using large donations to finance federal election activity, including Sanders’ presidential bid.

The Surreal Lives of 2020 Campaign Spouses: What happens when your loved one wants to be president
Greenwich Time – Jada Yuan (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2020

A modern presidential candidate’s significant other has the dual jobs of being an uncomplaining source of support for their partner, making sure he or she is getting fed and sleeping and has someone to vent to, plus often being the mouthpiece for your partner and attending events he or she cannot get to. Some, such as Jill Biden and Jane Sanders, have done this before, but no one could have prepared for this historically large and diverse field, with so many potential first gentlemen campaigning, or a primary season that is coinciding with the third presidential impeachment in the nation’s history.

Trump Donor Charged with Obstructing Inauguration Inquiry
AP News – Jim Mustian and Alan Suderman | Published: 1/7/2020

Federal prosecutors charged a major donor to President Trump’s inaugural committee with obstructing a federal investigation into whether foreign nationals unlawfully contributed to the inaugural celebrations. The donor, Imaad Zuberi, recently pleaded guilty in a separate case in Los Angeles to campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and failing to register as a foreign agent. A criminal information accuses Zuberi, a venture capitalist, of taking “numerous steps” to interfere with the investigation into where the inaugural committee received its funding. Prosecutors say Zuberi backdated a $50,000 check and deleted emails.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Sponsor Says Alaska Elections Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Be Placed on Ballot
Alaska Public Media – Andrew Kitchenman | Published: 1/3/2020

Sponsors of an initiative to overhaul Alaska’s election laws said they have enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot in November. The initiative is among several issues that are expected to be the focus of state government ahead of the start of the legislative session on January 21. The Better Elections Initiative would create an open primary that would send the top four vote-getters to the general election. Then voters would be able to rank their choices in the general election. The initiative also would increase campaign finance disclosures.

California L.A. to Curb Developer Donations, but Some Fear Corporate Contributions Could Mask Source of Giving
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 1/5/2020

A new campaign finance ordinance in Los Angeles prohibits real estate developers from contributing to city council members that vet their projects. Critics say an additional provision is needed – barring donors from giving through limited liability companies and other business entities that can make it difficult to tell who is donating. Los Angeles allows political donors to give not only as individuals, but also through companies and other groups. But some corporate entities do not have to publicly reveal who owns them, leaving it unclear to the public who is giving the money. In some cases, donors have funneled money through such companies to evade restrictions on campaign contributions.

Florida JEA Paid $25,000 to Lobbyist with Business Ties to Then-CEO Aaron Zahn Through JaxChamber
Florida Times-Union – Christopher Hong | Published: 1/8/2020

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Daniel Davis confirmed a JEA official instructed one of his staffers to hire Deno Hicks, a local lobbyist who at the time had an undisclosed business partnership with then-CEO Aaron Zahn, to raise money for an innovation conference that JEA and the chamber organized in 2018. JEA, a community owned electric, water, and sewer utility, paid the chamber $25,000. Davis said he approved the request to hire Hicks’ firm, the Southern Strategy Group. He said hiring someone to raise money for an event was not unusual, although he did not know Zahn and Hicks co-owned a piece of undeveloped property in the city, which they have tried to sell for nearly $2 million.

Florida Nonprofit Group Criticizes Lawmakers’ Move Toward Limiting Local Power
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Jim Turner (News Service of Florida) | Published: 1/7/2020

A research group wants Florida lawmakers to temper a trend of tying the hands of city and county officials by “preempting” local regulations. Integrity Florida issued a report raising concerns that lawmakers, with the backing of powerful lobbying groups, are strategically attacking home-rule authority on issues ranging from sunscreen bans to regulating businesses. Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, said a trend of preemption measures is growing, with 119 bills filed during the past three legislative sessions that included some form of preemption and nearly 20 filed for the 2020 session.

Georgia Ex-Atlanta Official Gets 2-Year Sentence in Corruption Probe
AP News – Kate Brumbeck | Published: 1/7/2020

A man who was tasked with ensuring equal opportunities for those seeking contracts with the city of Atlanta was given a two-year prison sentence for failing to disclose outside consulting work and not reporting some income to tax authorities. Larry Scott was director of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance and resigned shortly before he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Scott was also ordered to pay about $124,000 in restitution. He was the sixth person to plead guilty in a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed.

Illinois Vendor Bribed CPS Employee with Vacation Home Stay During Bid for $30M Contract, Inspector General Says
Chicago Sun-Times – Nader Issa | Published: 1/6/2020

A vendor looking to win a $30 million nursing services contract with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) tried to sway the bidding by letting a district employee stay at her vacation home. Although CPS ended up not awarding the contract to the vendor, she eventually was given a different, much smaller contract for the nursing services just a few years later and still has that work with the school district. Those were the key findings of an investigation by CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office, which released its 2019 year-end report detailing the office’s most significant cases of the past year.

Indiana Former Indiana State Lawmaker Won’t Face Felony Charges Related to Violating Lobbying Laws
Indianapolis Star – Chris Sikich and Tony Cook | Published: 1/3/2020

Former state Sen. Allen Paul will not face felony charges related to violating Indiana’s lobbying laws. An Indianapolis Star investigation  revealed a secretive employment deal with a temp agency, in which Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to push the agenda of the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) among legislators. He did so without registering as a lobbyist or tracking his hours, as required by his contract. Both the temp agency, KHI Solutions, and the IDVA were sanctioned for failing to register their lobbying efforts. The state ethics commission also told Paul to register, but he refused.

Kansas Group Resists Naming Donors After Pro-Kobach Ads in Kansas
AP News – John Hanna | Published: 1/2/2020

A group that sponsored ads promoting Republican Kris Kobach during his failed 2018 run for Kansas governor is arguing it is not legally required to disclose its donors. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has given Per Aspera Policy until January 15 to file public reports on its activities during the last governor’s race. The commission warned the group it could face a potential fine of up to $300 for each missing report and intentionally failing to disclose the information is a misdemeanor. But an attorney representing the group told the commission it is not required to disclose any information under Kansas law because its ads did not “expressly advocate”{ for Kobach’s election.

Maryland Former Maryland Delegate Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds
AP News – Michael Kunzelman | Published: 1/3/2020

Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two months of home detention for misusing campaign funds for her personal benefit. Gaines also must pay $22,565 in restitution. Gaines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. She faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom has said Gaines spent campaign money on personal expenses including fast food, hair styling, dental work, a cover for her swimming pool, and an Amazon Prime membership.

Maryland Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Announces Ethics Reform Legislation, Fends Off Questions About His Firm
Baltimore Sun – Luke Braodwater and Pamela Wood | Published: 1/7/2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he will introduce legislation to punish corrupt state lawmakers after a recent spate of convictions. At the same time, Hogan brushed off questions from reporters and some Democratic lawmakers about his transparency and ethics as he continues to make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from real estate deals managed by a trust, approved by the State Ethics Commission, and run by his associates. Hogan’s Ethics and Accountability in Government Act would increase state penalties for bribery of public officials to a maximum of $100,000 and authorize the ethics panel to impose civil penalties against state employees and public officials without first going to court, among other proposals.

Minnesota Legislator’s Work as St. Paul Mayor’s Aide Raises Red Flag
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Jim Walsh | Published: 1/6/2020

Kaohly Vang Her, policy director for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and a state representative, so liked the mayor’s idea to give every capital city newborn $50 for a college savings plan that Her authored a bill to help pay for it. That is a potential problem, say authorities on government ethics. Because Carter is Her’s boss, he could show her favor, or withhold it, based on what she might accomplish as a legislator, said Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. Her defended the advocacy for the savings plan as good for St. Paul children. It is no different, she said, than other legislators – farmers, teachers, doctors, and businesspeople – promoting their professional interests at the Capitol.

Minnesota Proposed Changes to Campaign Spending, Lobbying Laws Put on Ice
Minnesota Public Radio – Brian Bakst | Published: 1/3/2020

Sensing resistance, Minnesota’s campaign and lobbying regulatory board intends to hold back on sweeping legislative recommendations that would redefine advocacy rules and expand a program aimed at encouraging small-dollar campaign contributions. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board decided instead to write a letter to the Legislature to encourage a debate over a campaign and lobbying structure that has not changed much in recent years. Board members said they and board staffers would work to refine their suggestions in the meantime. Board Chairperson Robert Moilanen said the letter would stress to legislators that current laws are outdated but acknowledge there is “not a consensus on the solution.”

Missouri Clean Missouri Redistricting Changes to Be Discussed by Legislators
Columbia Missourian – Lillie Hegeman | Published: 1/6/2020

From its early days of gathering signatures in the beginning of 2018 to the final week of the 2019 legislative session, Clean Missouri has been at the center of public, legislative, and judicial debate. And that is not going to change as lawmakers begin the 2020 legislative session. The ballot initiative limits lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to five dollars or less, tighten limits on campaign contributions that legislators can accept, and changed the process and criteria for drawing state legislative districts and create a “nonpartisan state demographer” position to carry out the task. When the amendment passed, however, legislators were not done with the debate. Some lawmakers in 2019 proposed resolutions to alter or repeal the portion that most troubles some of them: the redistricting changes. The issue will continue to be a focus of the 2020 session.

Missouri Town and Country Mayor, Who Is a Registered Lobbyist, Tripped Up by Recent Ethics Law Change
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/7/2020

Jon Dalton, a registered lobbyist and the mayor of Town and Country, must shut down his campaign committee in response to a 2016 state law, the Missouri Ethics Commission said. In a consent order Dalton signed, the commission cited the relatively new requirement that “any person who registers as a lobbyist shall dissolve his or her campaign committee.” Dalton, who has lobbied since 1994 and was first elected mayor in 2005, said he was caught between two different statutes when the Legislature approved the ethics bill: one requires lobbyists to register with the state and the other requires candidates to form campaign committees.

Montana Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Bullock
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 1/2/2020

A federal judge ruled a group suing to overturn a Montana executive order requiring disclosure of contributions to dark money groups has to fix their lawsuit or it will be permanently dismissed. Gov. Steve Bullock’s order requires any company wanting to bid on state contracts in Montana worth more than $25,000 for services or $50,000 for goods to disclose donations of $2,500 or more to political groups including organizations that are not required to disclose donors. Illinois Opportunity Project sued, arguing it wanted to spend in Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial election, but it faced difficulty finding corporate donors due to the governor’s order.

Nevada Nevada Redistricting Group Files Amended Petition
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bill Dentzer | Published: 1/7/2020

A group seeking to change how Nevada redraws state legislative and congressional districts has resubmitted a proposed state constitutional amendment after a judicial order that found the original petition misleading. Fair Maps Nevada, a local group involved in a national effort to counter state-based gerrymandering, filed in November to put a petition on this year’s ballot establishing a commission to redraw districts based on the decennial census. Under current state law, reapportionment is done by the Legislature subject to the governor’s signoff. The change would establish a seven-member commission to handle the task. Anyone who had worked during the preceding four years in certain state jobs; as a lobbyist, campaign consultant, or party official; or had run for or held elected office, and their close relatives, would be ineligible to serve on the commission.

New Jersey Fix the ‘Toxic Culture’ in N.J. Politics, Top Senator Demands after NJ.com Report on Sexual Harassment
Newark Star Ledger – Kelly Heyboer and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/30/2019

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said she is forming an ad hoc committee to look for ways to change the “toxic culture that women face in New Jersey politics.”  The committee, which will include several top female lobbyists and political operatives, will be created in response to an NJ Advance Media report detailing the sexual harassment, groping, and sexual of women working in state and local politics. The ad hoc panel will look for solutions to the climate of misogyny, harassment, and sexual assault that pervades New Jersey politics, said Weinberg.

New Jersey N.J. Won’t Dismiss Ethics Complaint in $40M School Named After the Lt. Gov.
Newark Star Ledger – Adam Clark (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 1/3/2020

Voting to name a $40 million school after your boss might be unethical, even if your boss is New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, according to the School Ethics Commission, which found probable cause to sustain two of the eight ethics charges levied against Terry Swanson-Tucker, president of the East Orange School Board and chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. The case now moves to an investigation and hearing by the Office of Administrative Law. It will determine if Swanson-Tucker violated state ethics law when she voted in December 2018 to suspend a district naming policy and rename the George Washington Carver Institute the Sheila Y. Oliver Academy.

New Mexico New State Watchdog Ready to Investigate Ethics Complaints
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 1/3/2020

Decades in the making, New Mexico’s ethics panel is now ready to accept and investigate complaints. The agency has appointed two hearing officers, established a website, and may issue its first advisory opinion in February. It is the result of a 40-year push to establish an independent watchdog with jurisdiction over allegations against legislators, candidates, lobbyists, and others. Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment establishing the State Ethics Commission in 2018, after several ethics scandals, including the corruption conviction of a former state senator.

North Carolina NC Voter ID Law Written with ‘Discriminatory Intent,’ Says Judge Who Just Blocked It
Raleigh News and Observer – Wil Doran | Published: 12/31/2019

Racial discrimination was at least part of the motivation for a new voter ID law in North Carolina, a federal judge wrote, striking the law down for now. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs’ ruling means that although voters statewide approved a voter ID mandate as an amendment to the state constitution in the 2018 elections, people most likely will be able to vote without showing ID in at least the March primary election. The last time North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly passed a voter ID law, in 2013, it was also struck down for racial discrimination. But GOP leaders have said they believed this newer version of the law, which was passed a year ago, avoided the racial issues the previous law ran into.

Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Campaign Rules Curb Contributions, but Punish Some Candidates
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Rich Lord | Published: 1/5/2020

Pittsburgh’s decade-long effort to limit the influence of money in city politics now faces both a court challenge and complaints from some candidates that it threatens to stifle democracy. The city first put limits on contributions to campaigns for mayor, controller, and council in 2009, and revised the rules in 2015. Now, outgoing Councilperson Darlene Harris is challenging the constitutionality of the limits in a lawsuit. And as the city’s Ethics Hearing Board pursues enforcement actions, candidates facing fines are speaking out.

Texas Jerry-Rigged? Second Garcia Withdraws from Harris County Constable’s Race but Remains on Ballot
Houston Chronicle – Zach Despart | Published: 1/8/2020

One of the two candidates named Jerry Garcia who filed to run for Houston’s Precinct 2 constable – the one who did not appear to be actively campaigning – has withdrawn from the race. His short, strange trip as a candidate is not over yet, however. He will remain on the ballot for the March 3 Democratic Party primary, though votes for him will not count. Garcia, who is a cousin of Democratic incumbent Constable Chris Diaz’s wife, was one two men who had filed for the seat bearing the same name as the late Grateful Dead guitarist. The other Jerry Garcia said the turn of events is further evidence the former candidate never intended to mount a serious campaign. That Garcia, a lieutenant in a neighboring constable precinct, alleges the incumbent Diaz pushed his wife’s cousin to run solely to confuse voters, ensuring his re-election.

Vermont Some Legislators’ Financial Disclosures Were Late, Report Says
Seven Days – Colin Flanders | Published: 1/7/2020

The 2018 election was the first for which Vermont lawmakers were required to disclose their financial interests when filing to run for office, allowing voters to see potential conflicts-of-interest before casting their ballots. But according to the House Ethics Panel, disclosure forms for “multiple” legislators were not publicized by the last election. Multiple as in about 30, or a fifth of the House members, according to panel Chairperson John Gannon. State law says House candidates must file financial disclosure forms with their town clerks when submitting petitions to run for office. The documents detail sources of income for candidates and their spouses or partners greater than $5,000, including investments. They must also disclose whether they own 10 percent of any companies, and whether such companies do business with the state.

Vermont VPIRG Head Calls for End to ‘Worthless’ Ethics Commission
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 1/8/2020

The head of the organization that pushed hardest for a state Ethics Commission in Vermont says it should be disbanded. Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the commission was “worthless” and provided lawmakers “a fig leaf of protection” that they were addressing ethics concerns. Vermont was one of the last states to establish an ethics commission in 2017. That came after years of discussion and receiving a grade of “F” from the Center for Public Integrity on ethics enforcement. The panel and part-time executive director have no powers to investigate or levy punishment. It essentially operates as a referral agency, taking in complaints about state officials and sending them to another agency. Burns said the Legislature established the commission simply to “get off the list of states without one.”

Washington Seattle Council Advances Ban on Most Political Spending By ‘Foreign-Influenced’ Companies
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 1/7/2020

Seattle moved closer to banning most political spending by “foreign-influenced” corporations, as a city council committee advanced legislation that Council President M. Lorena González said could companies from using money to shape elections. But González postponed a committee vote on other legislation that would limit all contributions to the PACs that businesses, labor unions, and other interests used to bundle and spend a record $4 million in last year’s elections. She said the council needs to further vet the nationally watched proposal, which would likely be challenged in court, though she and her colleagues did narrow a loophole that could have advantaged unions and grassroots groups.

Washington DC D.C. Council Member Jack Evans to Resign Over Ethics Violations; Was City’s Longest-Serving Lawmaker
Stamford Advocate – Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans announced he will resign on January 17. The council took a preliminary vote to expel Evans and had scheduled a hearing to summarize the case against him and offer him an opportunity to speak before a final expulsion vote. Evans’s close ties to business eventually proved to be his undoing, as his outside employment with law firms and as a consultant to prominent companies with interests before city government came under scrutiny. He stepped down from the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after an investigation there found ethics violations. Federal prosecutors are investigating Evans and FBI agents searched his home, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Washington DC Top D.C. Ethics Investigator Resigns Amid Scrutiny of His Office
Laredo Morning Times – Fenit Nirappil (Washington Post) | Published: 1/7/2020

The District of Columbia’s top ethics investigator has resigned amid criticism of the agency’s failure to promptly investigate complaints. Brent Wolfingbarger resigned as the director of government ethics at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability effective December 31, agency officials said. Wolfingbarger’s two-year tenure at the helm of the city’s internal watchdog had come under scrutiny by lawmakers and watchdogs. Several city council members had criticized the ethics board for staying on the sidelines of an ongoing ethics issue involving another member, Jack Evans. The board was formed in 2013 after several scandals involving council members.

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January 6, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Maryland: “Former Maryland Delegate Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds” by Michael Kunzelman for AP News Montana: “Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Bullock” by Holly Michels for Helena Independent Record Ethics National: “Judges Struggle Over […]

Campaign Finance

Maryland: “Former Maryland Delegate Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Misusing Campaign Funds” by Michael Kunzelman for AP News

Montana: “Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Bullock” by Holly Michels for Helena Independent Record

Ethics

National: “Judges Struggle Over Trump Bid to Block McGahn Congressional Testimony” by Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley for Reuters

Minnesota: “Proposed Changes to Campaign Spending, Lobbying Laws Put on Ice” by Brian Bakst for Minnesota Public Radio

New Mexico: “New State Watchdog Ready to Investigate Ethics Complaints” by Dan McKay for Albuquerque Journal

Lobbying

National: “FBI Raids Home, Office of Lobbyist Michael Esposito” by Devlin Barrett, Jonathan O’Connell, and Beth Reinhard for Washington Post

Indiana: “Former Indiana State Lawmaker Won’t Face Felony Charges Related to Violating Lobbying Laws” by Chris Sikich and Tony Cook for Indianapolis Star

Redistricting

North Carolina: “NC Voter ID Law Written with ‘Discriminatory Intent,’ Says Judge Who Just Blocked It” by Wil Doran for Raleigh News and Observer

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December 6, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 6, 2019

News You Can Use

National/Federal A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019 In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in […]

National/Federal

A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine
MSN – Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019

In the two days before President Trump forced out the American ambassador to Ukraine in April, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani was on the phone with the White House more than a dozen times. Phone records cited in the impeachment report released by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate the sprawling reach of Giuliani’s campaign first to remove the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, then to force Ukraine’s new government to announce criminal investigations for Trump’s political gain. He reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the national security adviser at the time, John Bolton; U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee; Fox News host Sean Hannity; a conservative columnist; and the owner of a mysterious number, “-1.”

Appeals Court Refuses to Block House Subpoena for Trump’s Financial Records
MSN – Ann Marimow and Renae Merle (Washington Post) | Published: 12/3/2019

House Democrats can access President Trump’s private financial records from two banks, a federal appeals court ruled, finding a “public interest” in refusing to block congressional subpoenas. The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit came in the ongoing legal battle Trump has waged to shield his private business records from disclosure, including in two cases that have already reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information.

Democrats Take in Lobbying Industry Cash Despite Pledges
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 12/1/2019

The lobbying industry has contributed $545,173 to 2020 presidential campaigns with nearly 80 percent going to Democratic candidates, even as many of those hopefuls vow not to take donations from lobbyists. The numbers paint a complicated picture. Democratic candidates and their progressive allies in the current cycle have put new scrutiny on lobbyists as well as on taking money from other special interest or corporate groups. But that has not completely stopped the flow of money to candidates and campaigns. K Street’s top ranks are filled with former Democrats, many with ties to the candidates. And watchdog groups say that while the focus is on federally registered lobbyists, donations from others tied to the industry, such as state- and local-level lobbyists, often trickle through.

Facebook Has Floated Limiting Political Ads and Labeling That They Aren’t Fact-Checked, Riling 2020 Campaigns
Connecticut Post – Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019

Facebook has weighed whether to label political ads to indicate they have not been fact-checked, rather than vetting what candidates say, one of a series of proposals the company has floated to Democratic and Republican operatives as it seeks to head off controversies in the 2020 election campaign. Some of the ideas have left campaign strategists in both parties uneasy, fearful that Facebook’s reforms might hamstring their ability to persuade and mobilize voters in a year when the White House is at stake. For Democrats, the possible changes also have done little to assuage concerns about ads they say contain falsehoods. Facebook has maintained it should not serve as the arbiter of truth, determining what elected officials can say to potential voters.

Ilhan Omar’s Opponent Barred by Twitter After Suggesting Congresswoman Should Be Hanged
Seattle Times – Marissa lati (Washington Post) | Published: 11/30/2019

Twitter shut down the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, after Stella twice tweeted about hanging Omar. The campaign account for Stella, a candidate in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, posted “If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.” The account later tweeted a link to a blog post about her comment and added an image of a stick-figure being hanged. The suspensions come as Twitter and other social media platform fight back against criticism that they have been too lackadaisical in policing themselves for hate speech, violence, extremism, and abuse on their platforms.

Impeachment Report Alleges Trump Solicited Foreign Election Interference
MSN – Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 12/3/2019

House Democrats asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing an impeachment report that found the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.” The report by the Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding he sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security, then worked to conceal his actions from Congress. Democrats left it to the Judiciary Committee to decide whether to recommend Trump’s impeachment, but their report presented what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House votes to formally charge him.

Judge Denies DOJ Request for Stay on Don McGahn Testimony
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein | Published: 12/2/2019

House Democrats notched another legal victory in their pursuit of critical testimony tied to their impeachment efforts, though the ruling may be short-lived because the case is already on temporary hold while it works its way toward an appeal. U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s request to put a long-term stay on her earlier opinion requiring Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, to appear before the Judiciary Committee. Jackson also decided to lift an earlier administrative stay she had issued that had put her decision briefly on ice while the case moved up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election
Philadelphia Inquirer – Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 12/4/2019

A key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was indicted with seven others on charges of conspiring to funnel more than $3 million in illegal campaign contributions. George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who acted as an intermediary for members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seeking to forge contacts in the Middle East, was charged with conspiring to make conduit campaign contributions and related offenses. Prosecutors also charged Ahmad Khawaja, a Lebanese American businessperson, with 35 counts related to allegations he conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions directed to political committees associated with presidential candidates.

‘One of the Hardest Decisions of My Life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign
Politico – Christopher Cadelago and Caitlin Oprysko | Published: 12/3/2019

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is ending her presidential campaign after months of failing to lift her candidacy from the bottom of the field, a premature departure for someone once heralded as a top-tier contender for the nomination. While Harris had qualified for the December debate, she was running dangerously low on cash – lacking the resources to air television ads in Iowa – and her staff was gripped by long-running internal turmoil. Voters complained they were unable to pin Harris down on a host of issues. What could have been one of her greatest strengths, her time spent as the top prosecutor in California, became a liability with a Democratic base that has turned left on issues of criminal justice.

Rep. Hunter Enters Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Case, Telling Judge, ‘Guilty’
San Diego Union-Tribune – Morgan Cook, Kristina Davis, and Jeff McDonald | Published: 12/3/2019

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a charge of misusing campaign money. Hunter and his wife were charged with 60 counts related to their use of $200,000 in contributions for family expenses. Margaret Hunter has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. The couple relied for years on campaign donations to pay for things like dental bills, private school tuition, and plane tickets for Margaret Hunter’s mother to travel to and from Poland. Their joint bank account was overdrawn more than 1,100 times over six years and they incurred about $36,000 in penalties – fees they paid using campaign contributions. As the case progressed, it became clear that Duncan Hunter had extramarital affairs with five different women and used campaign money to facilitate meetings.

Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock
The Fulcrum – Sarah Swann | Published: 12/2/2019

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate focused mainly on achieving a top goal of democracy reformers, ended his campaign. When Bullock entered the already crowded field in May, he vowed to make his bid for the White House about ending the influence of big money in politics as a prerequisite for addressing the nation’s other big problems, from health care coverage to climate change. Six months later, his fundraising and statistically insignificant standing in the polls remained lackluster enough that he had only been invited to one debate and had little prospect of being asked to another.

State Lawmakers Acknowledge Lobbyists Helped Craft Their Op-Eds Attacking Medicare-for-All
MSN – Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 12/2/2019

Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that warned against the dangers of Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care. Montana Rep. Kathy Kelker and Sen. Jen Gross acknowledged editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant. Gross said MacDonald contacted her on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a group funded by hospitals, private insurers, drug companies, and other private health-care firms. An aide to Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman confirmed the lawmaker’s op-ed criticizing Medicare-for-all was written with the help of Kathleen DeLand, an Ohio-based lobbyist. None of the lawmakers’ columns disclose that they were written with the help of a lobbyist.

Trump Campaign Denies Press Credentials to Bloomberg News, Claiming ‘Bias’ Against the President
San Francisco Chronicle – Kayla Epstein (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2019

The Trump campaign said it would no longer credential journalists with Bloomberg News for campaign events, accusing the news organization of “bias” against the president. Bloomberg News faced a journalistic quandary when its owner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, decided to jump into the 2020 Democratic primary. In a widely criticized decision, editor-and-chief John Micklethwait announced the newsroom would continue its tradition of not investigating the personal life and finances of Bloomberg and would extend the same policy to his Democratic opponents. But Micklethwait noted Bloomberg News would continue to investigate the Trump administration. The news outlet’s decision was intended to avoid conflicts-of-interest in the Democratic primary.

Canada

Canada Sask. Changing Lobbyist, Conflict of Interest Rules
CBC – Staff | Published: 11/25/2019

The Saskatchewan government introduced legislation to “promote transparency and enhance accountability among provincially-elected officials,” via amendments to the Lobbyists Act and the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act. The Lobbyists Act changes include a new provision prohibiting in-house lobbyists or consultant lobbyists from providing gifts, favors, or other benefits to public office holders, and reducing the threshold for registration as an in-house lobbyist from 100 hours to 30 hours per year. The Members Conflict of Interest Act changes include adding a definition of “gift or personal benefit.”

From the States and Municipalities

California California Campaign Watchdog Suspends Donation Rules After a Member Gives to Sanders
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 12/4/2019

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) suspended a longstanding policy banning its members from contributing to federal candidates after one commissioner donated to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. The decision by the FPPC, which is responsible for policing campaign finance in California, is drawing criticism from some reform advocates and former state officials who say the policy was put in place to avoid an appearance of bias in favor of candidates whose campaigns are scrutinized by the state agency. The FPPC also asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the legality and scope of the rules, which some members say violates their First Amendment rights.

California DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict
San Francisco Chronicle – Sarah Ravani | Published: 12/3/2019

The Alameda County district attorney filed criminal charges against the former head of the special agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum complex for allegedly violating state conflict-of-interest laws while negotiating the naming rights of the stadium. Scott McKibben was charged with a felony and misdemeanor count of violating conflict-of-interest laws by seeking a $50,000 payment for helping negotiate a settlement for the Coliseum naming rights with RingCentral, according to charging documents.

California L.A. Limits Campaign Donations from Real Estate Developers. Critics Say It Falls Short
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 12/4/2019

The Los Angeles City Council voted to prevent developers who have project applications pending at City Hall from making campaign donations to elected officials or candidates for municipal office, although some members expressed concern over the effectiveness of the ordinance. The idea, first proposed nearly three years ago, had languished until an FBI raid at City Hall cast a fresh spotlight on concerns about developer contributions. The law does not prohibit developers from hosting fundraisers or raising money from other donors and it does not apply to major subcontractors on a development project. The law will not take effect for more than two years, a delay officials said was needed to first set up a database tracking who is prohibited from contributing.

California New LADWP Commissioner Works for a Company That Markets Water and Power
Los Angeles Times – Sammy Roth and Dakota Smith | Published: 11/27/2019

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) board of commissioners is a top executive at a company that markets water and power and has a history of trying to make deals with government agencies in Southern California, including LADWP. Nicole Neeman Brady serves as chief operating officer at Renewable Resources Group, which develops solar energy facilities and has bought and sold lands with valuable water rights. The board of commissioners oversees the country’s largest municipal utility, helping guide purchases of energy and water for Los Angeles. Renewable Resources Group is in the business of developing energy and water projects, raising the potential for conflicts-of-interest if the company seeks to do business with LADWP while Neeman Brady serves on the board.

Connecticut Jon Lender: It’s audit time after $33M in influence efforts so far in 2019 by lobbyists who cram Capitol, form ‘gauntlet’ by restrooms
Hartford Courant – Jon Lester | Published: 12/2/2019

The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board randomly drew the names of 10 companies and groups that have used lobbyists to audit during the coming year for compliance with state law. Those chosen ranged from corporate giants such as Apple to an individually owned insurance consulting outfit in Branford. These examinations will determine if Capitol lobbyists, and the interest groups that hire them, are obeying state restrictions and filing financial disclosure reports aimed at combating the potential corrupting power of tens of millions of dollars spent each year on influencing state government.

Florida Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper Cleared of Corruption Charges
Miami Herald – Aaron Leibowitz | Published: 11/26/2019

A jury acquitted former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper on all six counts related to allegations she took part in an illegal scheme to accept campaign money in excess of the legal limit from a lobbyist and undercover FBI agents posing as developers. During closing arguments, Catherine Maus, the state’s lead prosecutor on the case, leaned on a series of audio and video recordings taken by the undercover agents to support the argument that Cooper knew exactly how the scheme would play out in 2012. But Cooper’s attorney, Larry Davis, said Maus was jumping to conclusions that the evidence did not support.

Georgia Georgia Campaign Ethics Panel Fines Lawmakers, Investigates Abrams
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 12/5/2019

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission handed out fines to state legislators, made public an investigation into the finances for the 2017 campaign for Atlanta mayor, and advanced an investigation into a voting rights nonprofit connected to former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Commission Executive Secretary David Emadi told commissioners of new allegations that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood accepted excessive contributions during their 2017 campaigns. The ethics panel is continuing an investigation into a voting rights group and a political committee connected to Abrams, who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

Georgia Georgia Gov. Kemp Taps Business Executive Kelly Loeffler for Senate Seat, with An Emphasis on Boosting Trump
Washington Post – Robert Costa and Max Blau | Published: 12/4/2019

Republican business executive Kelly Loeffler was named to a soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat in Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp following days of debate among some leading conservatives about the political novice’s expected selection, her values, and her loyalty to President Trump. In a nod toward those concerns, both Kemp and Loeffler sought to underscore her support for Trump, illustrating how most Republicans remain wary of upsetting the president or his core voters even as Trump faces a House impeachment inquiry and a possible Senate trial. She will replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year for health reasons.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Signs Law Requiring Additional Disclosure from Lobbyists
Chicago Tribune – Dan Petrella | Published: 12/4/2019

Lobbyists will have to disclose additional information to the public under a measure Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. When the General Assembly approved the measure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described it as a small step toward fixing state government ethics laws amid an ongoing federal corruption probe that has ensnared Democratic politicians from Chicago City Hall to the Capitol in Springfield. The law, effective immediately, also requires the secretary of state to create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and public officials’ annual statements of economic interest.

Illinois Plan to Bar Chicago Alderman from Lobbying, Other New Limits Advances in City Council
Chicago Tribune – John Bryne | Published: 12/4/2019

With federal investigators probing lobbying activities at the state level, the Chicago City Council moved a step closer to banning aldermen from acting as lobbyists and stopping other elected officials from lobbying them. Under the proposed rules, aldermen would not be allowed to lobby the city council, the county, the state, or any other local government unit, nor would any other elected officials in the state be able to lobby the council or other units of city government. A handful of aldermen voiced concerns about the ordinance, citing examples of registered lobbyists who might serve on low-paid suburban bodies like library boards and would need to give up those posts to keep lobbying Chicago government.

Iowa Former Iowa Senate Secretary Named Ethics Board Executive
AP News – Staff | Published: 11/26/2019

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board named Mike Marshall as its new executive director. The board said Marshall will provide leadership and serve as legal counsel succeeding Megan Tooker, who is leaving the job after nine years. Marshal previously served as secretary of the state Senate.

Louisiana Ex-Louisiana Racing Commissioner Fined $50,000 for Ethical Conflict from Bobby Jindal Era
New Orleans Advocate – John Simerman | Published: 11/29/2019

A state administrative court leveled $50,000 in penalties against a Louisiana horseman who served for nearly three years on the State Racing Commission at the same time he was leasing stall space to racehorse owners and trainers regulated by the commission. The fines against Neal Cormier and his NBC Stables came more than 11 years after former Gov. Bobby Jindal named Cormier among a new crop of appointees to the commission.  Jindal’s appointments to the Racing Commission included Cormier and two other men who would later be called out for possible conflicts in a May 2011 report from state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office. The state Board of Ethics followed with charges against all three men in 2012.

Maryland ‘Healthy Holly’ Fallout: City Council president seeks review of Baltimore contracts with financier J.P. Grant
Baltimore Sun – Kevin Rector and Luke Broadwater | Published: 12/4/2019

City Council President Brandon Scott asked Baltimore’s inspector general to review the last five years of city contracts with financier and “Healthy Holly” book purchaser J.P. Grant. The request comes in response to federal prosecutors’ contention that Grant knew he was improperly funding former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s political campaign by writing checks for her self-published children’s books. Pugh pleaded guilty to corruption charges related to a scheme in which she sold her “Healthy Holly” books to organizations and individuals with business before the state and the city when she was, respectively, state senator and then mayor.

Massachusetts State, House, Mayoral Candidates Will Switch to New Campaign Finance System
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 11/27/2019

House, Senate, and mayoral candidates will transition to a more accurate method of tracking their campaign finances under a law signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The new law will require all state and mayoral candidates to use the “depository system” for banking their campaign accounts. Under this system, banks automatically submit reports to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) each month itemizing all expenditures from a campaign account and summarizing all receipts. OCPF then reconciles the reports and posts the data online. If there are discrepancies between the information filed by the bank and the candidate, OCPF auditors can quickly identify them and work with the candidate to fix the problem.

Michigan Quid Pro Quo? Larry Inman Trial to Test Limits of Campaign Cash Solicitations
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/2/2019

Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is set to stand trial on federal corruption charges for doing what many incumbent lawmakers do: asking a special-interest group to donate for re-election. But federal prosecutors contend Inman broke the law with his solicitations to union officials by offering to sell his vote on a controversial measure to oppose the state’s prevailing wage repeal law for construction workers. For jurors, the case could come down to a question that has become familiar in politics: was there a quid pro quo? Courts have spent decades wrestling over how to distinguish illegal bribes from legal campaign contributions by groups seeking to influence political decisions.

New Jersey Sue Altman, George Norcross, and the ‘Whodunit’ Roiling New Jersey Politics
Phialdelphia Inquirer – Pranshu Verma | Published: 12/5/2019

Progressive activist Sue Altman was forcibly ejected from a Capitol hearing room for an unknown reason. The incident started when George Norcross III, an influential New Jersey powerbroker, testified about a controversial tax incentive program he has been accused of manipulating. After the hearing started, a chorus of boos rang out, and the committee chairperson ordered state police to “clear the back row.” They instead went straight to Altman, who was standing in a different part of the room. Altman said she was not making noise before she was dragged out. The confrontation quickly hit social media, with many calling it an abuse of power. It also became a defining moment for Altman and her campaign to remake state politics. Activists have used the images to bolster their position that unelected people like Norcross, an insurance executive, hold outsized control in the state.

New Jersey Top Democrat Wants to Unmask Who Is Being Paid to Sway Lawmakers
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson and Matt Arco (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 12/5/2019

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeny is set to introduce a proposal to publicly reveal politically connected consultants that lobbyists hire to help sway legislators and top officials who craft laws and decide how to spend taxpayer money. Sweeny’s bill takes aim at “shadow lobbying,” a controversial but common practice in politics across the country in which consultants are paid to help influence policy but are not required by law to be identified. State law requires lobbyists to register, obtain a license, and disclose how much they spend, who they are lobbying, and what subject they are lobbying. But lobbyists and government-regulated entities do not have to reveal if they hire outside consultants that help them with advising, legal work, public relations, advertising, research, and more.

New Mexico Regulators Late on Campaign Finance Checks
Albuquerque Journal – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 11/26/2019

New Mexico election regulators have not completed required spot checks for campaign finance compliance amid escalating private spending on political campaigns and a shifting enforcement landscape. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attributed some of the delay to scarce resources at the agency she oversees. Discrepancies or apparent violations that cannot be resolved readily are eventually forwarded to the state attorney general for possible investigation. Starting in 2020, some referrals will be made to the newly created state Ethics Commission. State Elections Director Mandy Vigil said Toulouse Oliver’s office is trying to hire additional staff to assist with the reviews.

New York Advocates Concerned as State Board of Elections Gains New Oversight Powers
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/2/2019

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption slammed the state Board of Elections for its allegedly non-existent enforcement of election laws. The commission’s preliminary report resulted in the creation of a new, independent election law enforcement office that since its creation has been overseen by attorney Risa Sugarman. Over the past five years, Sugarman’s office has seemed to change the board’s formerly lackluster dynamic by pursuing high-profile cases. But as a result of a report issued by a newer commission to implement a publicly funded campaign system in New York, a significant amount of the enforcement work appears headed away from the independent enforcement counsel’s office and back to the state Board of Elections. That has some government reform advocates concerned.

New York Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/4/2019

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) dropped its investigation of a rape survivor who advocated for a law protecting victims of child sex abuse. Kat Sullivan spent a portion of a settlement to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act. That effort included posting advertisements – on billboards and a banner towed behind a small plane that flew over the Capitol – that urged lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the legislation. In a letter to Sullivan laying out what the agency says is substantial evidence that Sullivan exceeded the $5,000 spending threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist in New York, JCOPE General Counsel Monica Stamm wrote that the panel would not take further action.

New York Heastie Contacted JCOPE Commissioner Following January Meeting
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 12/4/2019

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie contacted Jim Yeats, a member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), last January after the speaker had a heated conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that included discussion of the ethics panel. Both the governor and Heastie have declined to say what they talked about. Heastie’s response to questions about his contact with Yates came after he confirmed he had asked the Assembly majority counsel’s office to “review” why his own executive counsel, Howard Vargas, had called JCOPE Commissioner Julie Garcia that same afternoon. Vargas allegedly told her the governor had told Heastie he was upset with how some of the commissioners had voted on a matter that day. State laws make it a crime to leak details of JCOPE’s closed-door deliberations, including whether a vote was taken.

New York L+M to Pay $25,000 Penalty for Unregistered Lobbying
The Real Deal – Georgia Kromrei | Published: 12/4/2019

L+M Development Partners settled with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which had accused the housing developer of unregistered lobbying. L+M agreed to pay $25,000 as punishment for meeting with elected officials to influence government decisions on real estate and land use matters, activity that was not reported as required. According to JCOPE, L+M sought to procure amendments to zoning laws and tax credits as well as government actions on other land-use matters. L+M will file retroactive disclosure reports for 2018 as part of the settlement.

North Carolina Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020
AP News – Gary Robertson | Published: 12/2/2019

North Carolina judges ordered a new U.S. House district map that Republican state legislators drew in November be used in the 2020 elections, deciding there was not time to scrutinize the boundaries further for any left-over extreme partisan bias. The three-judge panel agreed it was too late in the election cycle to receive evidence and testimony that would be necessary to consider detailed redistricting arguments from the lawmakers and from Democratic and independent voters who challenged the latest congressional maps. While 10 of the 13 current U.S. House members are Republicans in a state considered a presidential battleground, the new map would appear to give Democrats a good chance of picking up two more seats in 2020.

Pennsylvania A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns
MSN – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 11/30/2019

It was a few minutes after the polls closed in Easton, Pennsylvania on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Democrat Abe Kassis, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137. The snafu did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations, and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest.

Pennsylvania Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says
Philadelphia Inquirer – Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/4/2019

Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was charged with perjury, theft, tampering with public records, and related crimes. Johnson-Harrell used her nonprofit to enrich herself, stealing more than $500,000 from the organization to spend on real estate, vacations, luxury clothing, and her bid for the Legislature, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, adding that Johnson-Harrell agreed to resign her seat and plead guilty. Prosecutors say Johnson-Harrell used Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, which she established more than a decade ago to assist poor people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness, for extravagant spending and personal gain. Over several years, she tried to cover up her crimes through an elaborate scheme involving several properties and false financial statements.

Washington Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 12/3/2019

The city council should update Seattle’s lobbying laws to better spotlight how special interests try to exert influence at City Hall, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has recommended. The commission voted to send the council a set of proposed changes, including a new requirement that lobbyists report their work for political campaigns. Commissioners stopped short of suggesting Seattle ban lobbying by campaign consultants and chose not to extend the city’s definition of lobbying from communications about legislation to advocacy on regulations. But the commissioners did recommend a new law requiring registration and reporting by “grassroots lobbying campaigns.” In addition, lobbyists would for the first time be required to disclose the names of the people they lobby and the dates of their lobbying.

Washington DC D.C. Council Votes to Recommend Expelling Jack Evans Over Ethics Violations
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil | Published: 12/3/2019

The District of Columbia Council unanimously voted to recommend Jack Evans be expelled for ethical violations. It the first time that lawmakers ever moved to eject one of their own. The vote was the first step in a lengthy process for expulsion. Officials say the council needs to meet twice more and hold a hearing before casting a formal vote to remove Evans, which could stretch out the timeline until January. The Washington Post reported Evans repeatedly used his government email to solicit business from law firms that had lobbied city government, offering to use the influence and connections he amassed as the city’s longest-serving council member and as chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to help their clients.

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December 5, 2019 •

Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrum National: “Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Staking a Presidential Bid on Battling Big Money in Politics Fails for Bullock” by Sarah Swann for The Fulcrum

National: “Mueller Witness and Donor to Clinton and Trump Are Charged with Funneling $3.5 Million in Illegal Contributions in 2016 Election” by Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for Philadelphia Inquirer

California: “L.A. Is Planning to Limit Campaign Money from Developers. But First, More Fundraising” by David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times

Ethics

National: “A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine” by Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes (New York Times) for MSN

California: “DA Files Criminal Charges Against Former Oakland Coliseum Authority Chief in Naming Rights Conflict” by Sarah Ravani for San Francisco Chronicle

Pennsylvania: “Pa. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell Charged with Stealing More Than $500,000 from Her Own Charity and Will Resign, AG Says” by Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis for Philadelphia Inquirer

Lobbying

New York: “Ethics Agency Drops Case Against Kat Sullivan” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union

Washington: “Seattle Lobbyists Should Disclose Their Work for Political Campaigns, Ethics Commission Says” by Daniel Beekman for Seattle Times

Redistricting

North Carolina: “Judges: New North Carolina Congress map will be used in 2020” by Gary Robertson for AP News

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November 22, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 22, 2019

News You Can Use

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 […]

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 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

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.

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November 18, 2019 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling” by Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting Ethics National: “Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns” by Adam Liptak (New York Times) for MSN National: […]

Campaign Finance

Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Considers Whether to Overturn Landmark Campaign Finance Ruling” by Jeff Mapes for Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ethics

National: “Court to Bar Release of His Tax Returns” by Adam Liptak (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Multiple Lawmakers Under Investigation Over Ethical Misconduct” by Emily Cochrane (New York Times) for MSN

National: “Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga” by Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague (New York Times) for MSN

Virginia: “Salacious Facebook Posts About a Former Virginia Beach City Council Candidate Lead to Defamation Lawsuit” by Jane Harper for The Viginian-Pilot

Washington DC: “D.C. Lawmaker Jack Evans Sought Stock in Sign Company After Acknowledging Potential Conflict of Interest, Report Says” by Steve Thompson for Washington Post

Lobbying

Illinois: “Lawmakers Address Ethics Issues” by Doug Finke for State Journal-Register

Redistricting

North Carolina: “Two N.C. Republicans Could Lose Their Districts Under New GOP-Drawn Congressional Map” by Amy Gardner and Ted Mellnik for Washington Post

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November 15, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 15, 2019

News You Can Use

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 […]

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 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

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.

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November 13, 2019 •

Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

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 […]

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 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

Elections

National: “Report: Election vendors are ‘prime targets,’ need oversight” by Christina Cassidy for AP News

Lobbying

Illinois: “In Springfield, Family Ties Bind Lobbyists, Lawmakers” by W.J. Kennedy for Prairie State Wire

Procurement

National: “Trump Allies Received Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Under Federal Health Contract” by Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn for Politico

Redistricting

National: “Redistricting Activists Brace for Wall of Inaction as Battle Moves to States” by Amy Gardner, Ted Mellnik, and Adrian Blanco for Washington Post

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November 8, 2019 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 8, 2019

News You Can Use

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 […]

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 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

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.

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