March 29, 2019 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Federal: Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible MSN – Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2019 Attorney General William Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving […]
Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible
MSN – Charlie Savage, Mark Mazzetti, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2019
Attorney General William Barr’s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving President Trump illegally obstructed the Russia inquiry was an extraordinary outcome to a narrative that spanned nearly two years. Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to remove the threat of political interference from an investigation involving the president, but he reached no conclusion on the key question of whether Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Barr stepped in to make the determination, bringing the specter of politics back into the case. Senior Justice Department officials defended his decision as prudent and within his purview, but it reignited a debate about the role of American law enforcement in politically charged federal investigations.
‘No PAC Money’ Pledges Leave Corporations in a Partisan Bind
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 3/21/2019
It is not just the number of members of Congress pledging not to accept money from PACs for corporations and trade groups (more than 50 so far) that is a problem, but their party affiliation – almost entirely Democratic. If the trend spreads into the 2020 campaign cycle, it could put companies and associations in a bind. Many of the top PACs connected to businesses and trade associations maintain roughly balanced giving ratios and some of them have enshrined such practices. “Most PACs pride themselves on being bipartisan and supporting candidates who are understanding of their issues, so they can engage in a policy conversation. There’s a real fear of just losing that balanced approach,” said Kristin Brackemyre of the Public Affairs Council.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: A State Lawmaker Borrowed Nearly a Half-Million Dollars to Buy a Home. You Might Have Voted for Her Lender.
CALmatters – Matt Levin | Published: 3/26/2019
To buy a house, a state legislator received a $430,000 personal loan from a former member of Congress from Orange County, an arrangement that some legal experts labeled unusual, but that both politicians said was not improper. State Assemblyperson Sharon Quirk-Silva borrowed the sum from former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, an unsuccessful 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, in the fall of 2017. Quirk-Silva and her husband repaid Sanchez with interest. While California law bans state and local elected officials from borrowing money from each other, nothing appears to prohibit the arrangement Quirk-Silva struck with Sanchez, who did not hold elected office at the time. In late 2018, Sanchez would announce her candidacy for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, going on to lose.
Colorado: Lawmakers Take Aim at Disclosure Loopholes in Colorado Lobbying Laws
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/25/2019
Colorado lawmakers have introduced a measure to eliminate loopholes in lobbying laws and require more disclosure to the public, part of an effort to address long-standing concerns about transparency. House Bill 1248 would require more frequent reporting by lobbyists what bills they were hired to follow, and the position taken by their clients. Lobbyists would need to file any changes in their positions on legislation within 48 hours during the session. Now, those updates are required only once a month. The legislation also aims to close loopholes that some lobbyists appear to use to avoid reporting income from clients.
Connecticut: Jon Lender: Lobbyists pay $13,000 in fines connected to tech schools controversy
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 3/22/2019
The Office of State Ethics collected $13,000 in fines from the lobbying and consulting firm Kozak & Salina and one of its owners. The firm had a contract with the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) from 2014 to 2016 to provide “external relations and strategic consulting services,” and a similar contract for 2015 with the lighting fixture company Penn Globe. Kozak & Salina relayed communications between Penn Globe and CTHSS and charged both for the same services. So, when the lobbying firm submitted invoices to the state to obtain payment, it was getting paid twice, said Carol Carson, executive director of the ethics office. In addition to a $10,000 fine against his firm, David Kozak paid $3,000 for failing to file required registration and disclosure statements about his work for Penn Globe.
District of Columbia: As D.C. Leaders Tout Reforms, Latest Ethics Scandal Evokes City’s History of Corruption
Washington Post – Paul Schwartzman | Published: 3/23/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans admitted he violated the council’s code of conduct when he repeatedly used his government email account to offer potential clients the benefit of his political connections and the influence he amassed as a lawmaker and chairperson of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Civic groups chided the council as being too lenient when it reprimanded Evans rather than strip him of powerful committee posts. Reform activist Bryan Weaver said Evans’ actions, and the council’s response, evoke the worst aspects of the city’s history of official misconduct, one that has triggered periodic crises engulfing mayors, council members, government appointees, and employees.
Florida: ‘As American as Apple Pie’: How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist
Miami Herald – David Smiley and Joey Flechas | Published: 3/26/2019
Some companies have chosen not to hire Barbara Hardemon as a lobbyist due to concerns about the perception of undue influence as she is the aunt of Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon. But in the years since his 2013 election, the commissioner’s aunt has emerged as a closer for some of Miami’s biggest businesses. Barbara Hardemon’s lobbying shop is allowed under state and local laws, which prohibit elected officials and their immediate family from profiting personally off the contracts they oversee but say nothing about their extended family. Her lucrative rise from occasional City Hall lobbyist to 11th-hour power broker has blurred the lines between negotiations and nepotism.
Florida: Ethics Board Aims to Put Teeth in Code, Seeks Greater Oversight of Tallahassee City Hall
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 3/23/2019
The Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board is finalizing proposals that could expand its oversight of City Hall and strengthen an ethics code that has long been seen as weak and toothless. The board currently has jurisdiction over only nine people. But proposed changes would extend its jurisdiction to cover all employees who work in procurement or are required by state law to file financial disclosures. The proposals include giving the board the power to issue subpoenas and take sworn testimony, a ban on all gifts no matter their value, and higher fines for lobbyists who try to influence city officials without registering and disclosing their clients.
Iowa: Iowa Treasurers End Scholarships Amid Ethics Law Inquiries
AP News – Ryan Foley | Published: 3/27/2019
County treasurers in Iowa canceled a scholarship program that benefited their relatives and employees amid criticism the vendor-funded awards were illegal gifts under state ethics law. The program consisted of four, $500 scholarships that were awarded each year to the college-bound children and grandchildren of county treasurers and their staffs. The money came from two companies that do extensive business with treasurers: GovTech Services, which runs the website that 88 counties use to collect property and motor vehicle taxes, and SRI Inc., which operates tax auctions for dozens of counties. Since the program’s inception, critics have worried the scholarships violated the gift law, which bars public employees and their immediate relatives from accepting money from contractors.
Maryland: Maryland House of Delegates Votes Unanimously to Reprimand Jalisi Over ‘Abusive’ Treatment of His Staff
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 3/27/2019
The Maryland House voted unanimously to publicly reprimand Del. Jay Jalisi for “an ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior.” The delegates voted after receiving a report outlining the investigation from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics that alleged Jalisi forced his staff to work overtime without pay, bullied others, got kicked out of a hotel, and made a staffer stand in the delegate’s office and repeat: “I am incompetent. I am incompetent.” This is not the first time Jalisi’s actions have been scrutinized. In 2015, a Baltimore County judge issued a protective order barring Jalisi from contact with his then-teenage daughter.
Massachusetts: House Proposal for Caucus Funding Left Out of Budget Bill – but Caucuses May Still Fundraise
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 3/25/2019
A controversial Massachusetts House proposal to let caucuses raise private money did not make it into the final version of a budget bill. But House leaders say that under their internal rules, caucuses will still be able to raise private money as long as they comply with ethics rules, which bar lobbyists from giving and require any gift of over $50 to be approved by House counsel to avoid conflicts-of-interest. When the House passed its rules in January, members approved a rule that would let caucuses raise money from public or private sources. But some advocates for open government worried this could create a legislative “slush fund” where special interests with business before the Legislature could donate to lawmakers with no transparency.
New Jersey: Dark Money Disclosure Bill Advanced to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Desk
Burlington County Times – David Levinsky | Published: 3/26/2019
Legislation to require so-called dark money groups operating in New Jersey to reveal their donors was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill has undergone several changes after being approved by the Senate, but it would still mandate the disclosure of donors who give more than $10,000 to nonprofit 501(c)4 groups that are not currently subject to disclosure requirements if they engage in political activities, lobbying, or campaigning. It would also mandate the disclosure of expenses of more than $3,000 and would also boost contribution limits to state and county political committees. Those groups are already subject to strict reporting requirements but have been usurped by “dark-money” groups in recent years.
Pennsylvania: GOP Legislator Prays to Jesus for Forgiveness Before State’s First Muslim Woman Swears In
MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2019
Movita Johnson-Harrell brought 55 guests to her swearing in as the Pennsylvania Legislature’s first Muslim woman. Thirty-two of them were Muslim. She later for the General Assembly to censure State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, who delivered the opening prayer to begin the legislative session day. By the time she said “Amen,” Borowicz had invoked Jesus 13 times. She mentioned “Lord” and “God” another six times each and referenced “The Great I Am” and “the one who’s coming back again, the one who came, died, and rose again on the third day.” As the prayer reached a crescendo, at least one member shouted objections. Afterward, the protests only grew louder.
West Virginia: Governor Signs Bills Raising Campaign Contribution Limits, Cutting Coal Tax
Beckley Register-Herald – Erin Beck | Published: 3/27/2019
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill that increases the limits on campaign contributions by individuals. Senate Bill 622 increases the limits to $2,800 for candidates, $5,000 for PACs, and up to $10,000 per year for party committees. Current limits for each category are set at $1,000. Julie Archer of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group said bill does nothing about “dark money.” She said Democrats attempted to amend the bill at least twice to require disclosures by donors that “funnel” money through groups.
Wisconsin: Judge Bocks GOP Lame-Duck Laws Limiting Tony Evers’ Powers; Evers Seeks to Remove Wisconsin from Obamacare Challenge
madison.com – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 3/21/2019
A judge blocked several actions by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to limit the power of its incoming governor, Democrat Tony Evers, and preserve policies implemented by his predecessor, Scott Walker. The Legislature acted in what is known as an “extraordinary session,” called with little notice. It lasted two days and one night and sparked heated protests. The three bills enacted during the sessions were extraordinary in breadth. One of them gave the Legislature powers usually and exclusively reserved for the attorney general, such as approving legal actions by the state. At the time of the session, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated its purpose plainly: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in,” Vos said.
March 19, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette […]
Canada: “An SNC-Lavalin Lobbyist Attended Liberal Donor Events, Critics Say It Was Cash-for-Access” by Maura Forrest and Jesse Snyder for Cochrane Times
Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Is Fined $11,000 by Ethics Panel” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Illinois: “Debt Collector Indicted on Pay-to-Play Charges Linked to Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown” by Patrick O’Connell and Megan Crepeau for Chicago Tribune
Minnesota: “Lawmakers Look to Close Campaign Finance Loophole Affecting Minneapolis Elections” by Peter Callaghan for MinnPost
National: “Workers on Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Campaign Have Unionized” by Juana Summers for AP News
Kentucky: “Kentucky Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Grimes of Authority Over State Board of Elections” by Jessica Huseman for ProPublica
California: “California Is Awash in Cannabis Cash. Some Is Being Used to Bribe Public Officials” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times
National: “Trump-Connected Lobby Firms Cash in With Foreign Governments” by Theodoric Meyer for Politico
National: “Lobbying Case Against Democrat with Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage” by Kenneth Vogel and Katie Benner for New York Times
March 8, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019 Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make […]
Justice Department Taps Mueller Prosecutor to Enforce Foreign Lobbying Disclosure
Reuters – Karen Freifeld and Suzanne Barlyn | Published: 3/6/2019
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack was chosen to lead a team at the Justice Department that will make sure the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires disclosure of lobbying on behalf of foreign interests, is more aggressively enforced. One focal point may be Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies say waged a disinformation campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. Assistant Attorney General John Demers also warned that law firms should take FARA registration seriously, citing the example of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which agreed to pay $4.6 million and admitted it should have registered for a report aimed at discrediting a former Ukrainian prime minister.
From the States and Municipalities:
Connecticut: Election Officials: State contractor ban on political donations applies to marijuana producers, but not dispensaries
Hartford Courant – Neil Vigdor | Published: 3/7/2019
The State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled that a prohibition on campaign donations from state contractors extends to marijuana producers – but not dispensaries – because the value of licensing agreements they have with the state exceed $50,000. Medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012. In anticipation of the legislative debate over recreational marijuana, the industry asked for guidance from last year about whether political contributions to legislators and statewide office holders comply with Connecticut’s 2005 clean elections law. A ban on state contractor contributions is a hallmark of the program.
District of Columbia: D.C. Council Member Jack Evans’ Use of Government Office for Personal Gain Inappropriate, Chair Says
Washington Post – Steve Thompson and Peter Jamison | Published: 3/4/2019
District of Columbia Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson said council member Jack Evans acted inappropriately when he emailed business proposals to potential employers and offered them his influence and connections as an elected official. Evans faces growing scrutiny after The Washington Post reported he sent solicitations on his government email to law firms that lobby city government, offering his contacts and sway as the council’s longest serving lawmaker and as chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The authority’s board of directors directed its ethics officer to investigate Evans. The Post reported a federal grand jury has also been investigating Evans and issued a subpoena to officials for documents related to legislation that Evans promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital sign company.
Kentucky: Kentucky Secretary of State Staff Searched Voting Records for Investigators and Rivals, Records Show
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 3/6/2019
Kentucky officials released records that show employees in the secretary of state’s office used the voter registration system to look up political rivals, state investigators, and a range of political operatives. It is not clear in many instances why Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office was looking up people and their personal information such as political affiliation, and some Social Security numbers but it has led critics to conclude her office abused its access to the system to gain information about her political opponents and those involved in multiple investigations of her conduct while in office. Grimes had maintained her office had done no inappropriate searches.
Louisiana: Entergy Fined $5M, Can Move Forward with New Power Plant
Louisiana Weekly – Michael Issac Stein (The Lens) | Published: 3/4/2019
The New Orleans City Council approved a new Entergy power plant in city limits while imposing a $5 million fine against the company for using paid actors to influence its decision during the approval process. The council concluded Entergy “knew or should have known” that one if its subcontractors was paying people to fill seats and speak in favor of the project at public hearings. Entergy agreeing to the fine was contingent on the council not revoking its prior approval of the plant. Critics of the vote noted most council members have either worked for Entergy or received campaign donations from their PAC. Councilperson Cyndi Nguyen’s non-profit received at least $27,625 from Entergy. Councilperson Jay Banks revealed he once worked for the company as a government relations consultant.
Maryland: Maryland Delegate Says She Won’t Resign after House Censures Her for ‘Racist and Hateful Slur’
MSN – Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 2/28/2019
The House of Delegates censured Del. Mary Ann Lisanti for her use of a racial slur, which members said, “brought dishonor to the entire General Assembly of Maryland.” After the vote, Lisanti said she would not resign, despite calls for her to do so. She also said she did not believe she had used an offensive term to describe African-Americans, although she acknowledged earlier in the week that she had done so. Lisanti came under fire after it was reported she used the racial slur during an after-hours gathering in January at an Annapolis bar. Lisanti told a fellow lawmaker that when he helped a candidate in Prince George’s County, he was knocking on doors in a “n—– district,” according to the report.
Nevada: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson Resigns
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer | Published: 3/5/2019
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned after admitting to using campaign funds for personal use and said he will plead guilty to federal charges. Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro was elected by Senate Democrats as the new leader of the majority. Cannizzaro becomes the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader in the state’s history. Details of the investigation, including how much money was misappropriated and what exactly Atkinson used the money for, remain unclear. Atkinson’s resignation marks the first time a lawmaker has left mid-session since 2013. But it is far from the first time a state lawmaker has recently found themselves on the wrong side of campaign finance laws.
New Hampshire: GOP Lawmakers in N.H. Wore Pearls While Gun Violence Victims Testified. Activists Were Outraged.
Boston Globe – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/5/2019
Republican members of the New Hampshire House are drawing scrutiny for wearing pearl necklaces while activists with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America shared their experiences with gun violence at a recent hearing on a bill that would make it easier to take weapons away from potentially dangerous people. Critics who posted the images on social media said the implication was clear: the politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage – and, specifically, female outrage. Some pro-gun advocates argued the legislators’ intent was to represent opposition to the bill. Kimberly Morin, president of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, said opponents of gun control measures have been wearing pearls at gun-related hearings since 2016.
New Mexico: Former Public Servants Lobby Ex-Colleagues
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 2/28/2019
Former Rep. Debbie Rodella Rodella is one of a few former officials who were public servants during the last legislative session and lobbyists this year, including Keith Gardner, the chief of staff under then-Gov. Susana Martinez. Also making the immediate transition are former Reps. Bealquin Gomez and Jim Smith. New Mexico law does not prohibit ex-lawmakers from lobbying once their terms end. Some legislators have tried repeatedly to change that, with proposals to impose a one- or two-year waiting period. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said a “cooling-off” period would be appropriate. “It just doesn’t feel right to immediately be in a position where you’re coming back to your colleagues, who you were an equal with, and the next day you’re lobbying them on behalf of a client,” said Wirth.
North Carolina: Why a Judge Ruled That the Entire North Carolina Legislature Is Illegitimate
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 2/27/2019
Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins struck down two constitutional amendments that had been approved by North Carolina voters in November. One regarded voter ID requirements and the other a cap on state income taxes. The amendments had been placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Collins ruled the lawmakers had no standing to approve constitutional amendments because they were elected using maps that federal courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. “An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” Collins wrote.
Oregon: Lawmakers Come and Go, but the Lobby Remains a Powerful Constant in Oregon Legislature
Portland Tribune – Claire Withycombe, Aubrey Wieber, and Paris Achen | Published: 3/1/2019
Interest groups in Oregon spent $12 million more on lobbying in 2017 than they did a decade earlier. That spending is only part of the cost of doing business in Salem. Donating to campaigns and other political operations is routine – interest groups sank $25 million into last year’s state elections. Now that the legislative session is underway, the focus is on trying to shape the laws and spending that will affect every Oregonian. The lobbyists return year after year, some decade after decade. In contrast, some legislators last only one term. “In a Legislature that has extremely high turnover, there are different institutional forces that have impact on the outcomes of legislation … but the one constant in Salem is gonna be the lobby,” said state Rep. Dan Rayfield.
Oregon: Oregon Legislature Reaches $1.3M Settlement Over Sexual Harassment
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/5/2019
Oregon legislative leaders announced they have signed a $1.3 million settlement with state labor regulators and nine women who experienced sexual harassment at the Capitol. The women will receive $1.1 million and the Legislature will pay the Bureau of Labor and Industries $200,000 to cover the agency’s legal costs. As part of the deal, the women agreed not to pursue legal action against the Legislature and other named defendants. For its part, the Legislature agreed to implement a list of reforms to make the Capitol a safer place to work, including adopting a definition of harassment with specific examples and using an independent lawyer to handle any discrimination and harassment complaints until it creates a new Equity Office.
South Carolina: SC Politicians, Lobbyists and More 0we $2.4M in Ethics Fines, But Many Will Never Pay
The State – Lucas Deprile | Published: 3/6/2019
There are 337 candidates, political parties, and lobbyists who owe the South Carolina Ethics Commission a total of $2.4 million in fines, many of which will likely never be collected. More than half of those who owed fines eight years ago still have not paid them, even though many large penalties have been reduced. The law says those who fail to file the appropriate forms must pay $10 per report every day after they are notified that they owe money. But after 10 days, that increases to $100 per missing report per day. The maximum fine is capped at $5,000, but until 2011, there was no ceiling to how much someone would owe.
West Virginia: Poster Linking Rep. Ilhan Omar to 9/11 Sparks Outrage at West Virginia Capitol
Los Angeles Times – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/2/2019
The chairperson of the West Virginia Republican Party said the GOP does not condone an anti-Muslim poster displayed at the Capitol during a Republican event that linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The poster featured a picture of planes flying into the World Trade Center with the phrase “never forget, you said” and then under it, a picture of Omar with the words “I am proof you have forgotten.” Del. Michael Angelucci said he heard Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman, the chamber’s principal law enforcement official, call all Muslims terrorists. Lieberman disputed that accusation yet submitted a resignation letter. Del. Mike Caputo admitted to kicking open the chamber doors out of anger, an act that reportedly injured a doorkeeper.
October 8, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Guidance to Limit Impact of Dark Money Court Ruling” by Brian Slodysko for Associated Press National: “Wall Street Pumping Cash Through Loophole in Anti-Corruption Rule” by David Sirota and Chase Woodruff for Capital & Main Elections […]
National: “FEC Guidance to Limit Impact of Dark Money Court Ruling” by Brian Slodysko for Associated Press
National: “Wall Street Pumping Cash Through Loophole in Anti-Corruption Rule” by David Sirota and Chase Woodruff for Capital & Main
North Carolina: “Is Elections Board Amendment a Victory for Bipartisanship? Or a Recipe for Chaos?” by Jim Morrill for Charlotte Observer
Alabama: “Alabama Ethics Commission Drops Case Against ‘Beach House Sheriff’” by Connor Sheets for AL.com
Colorado: “Moonlighting Criticism in Colorado Secretary of State Race Raises New Questions About an Old Practice” by Lars Gesing for Colorado Independent
Delaware: “New Wilmington Ethics Code Strengthens Financial Disclosures, Reduces Penalties” by Christina Jedra for Wilmington News Journal
Hawaii: “Should Public Have More Input on Legislature’s Sexual Harassment Policies?” by Anita Hofschneider for Honolulu Civil Beat
New York: “New York Regulators Examine the Trump Family’s Tax Schemes” by Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and David Barstow for New York Times
September 14, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states Washington Post – Tim Craig | Published: 9/9/2018 Democrats are becoming concerned as moderate Republican candidates are proving to be resilient in unexpected places, even as much […]
Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states
Washington Post – Tim Craig | Published: 9/9/2018
Democrats are becoming concerned as moderate Republican candidates are proving to be resilient in unexpected places, even as much of the GOP shifts to the right. With 36 gubernatorial races on the ballot nationwide, Democrats are still expected to make gains in statehouses this year. But recent polls suggest Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Phil Scot and of Vermont, all up for re-election this fall in states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, remain among the most popular governors in the country and are favored to win re-election. Their success in winning and governing as moderates is serving as a model for GOP candidates elsewhere, including in Rhode Island and Oregon, where officials in both parties say the governor’s race is competitive.
Viral Videos Are Replacing Pricey Political Ads. They’re Cheaper, and They Work.
MSN – Jeremy Peters and Sapna Maheshwari (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018
The wave of female, minority, and outsider candidates that is breaking cultural barriers and toppling incumbents in the Democratic Party is also sweeping aside a longstanding norm in campaigns: that the public image of politicians, especially women, should be upbeat and conventional. For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. Using documentary-style storytelling, candidates have found a successful alternative to the traditional model of raising huge sums of money that get spent on expensive television commercials.
Activists Raised $1 Million to Defeat Susan Collins If She Votes for Kavanaugh. She Says It’s Bribery.
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 9/11/2018
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist Republican, is seen as a swing vote in Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She has said she would not vote to confirm a nominee who was hostile to Roe v. Wade. So, a group of liberal activists in Maine created an unusual crowdfunding campaign to influence Collins: they raised money in the form of pledges they said they would give to whoever decided to challenge her re-election in 2020. Donors’ credit cards will only be charged if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh. At least one ethics expert said it may violate federal bribery statutes, which prohibit giving or offering anything of value to government officials in exchange for any acts or votes.
Campaigns, Parties Can Accept Free Service From Microsoft, FEC Says
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 9/10/2018
The FEC ruled Microsoft may offer special cybersecurity assistance to candidates without violating rules against corporate contributions. One watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws. Federal election law prohibits companies from providing free services to lawmakers. But the FEC would make an exception in this case, it ruled, because Microsoft would be acting out of business interests and not trying to curry favor. The decision also noted Microsoft has promised to offer the services “on a non-partisan basis.” Opponents of the change said the exception was too broad.
In an Increasingly Diverse House, Aides Remain Remarkably White
WRAL – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018
U.S. House aides write federal policy, oversee the administration of government, and shape the public’s view of Congress. But the top staff members of the House are far less racially diverse than the country itself, or even the lawmakers who employ them. Approximately 14 percent of top staff members in the House are people of color. That compares with 38 percent of the country and 23 percent of the House. Of the 40 top Democratic and Republican aides who lead the staffs of committees, only six are nonwhite. “The House of Representatives cannot effectively create public policy that benefits all Americans if the people making policy decisions do not look like all of America,” said Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which released the study.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Banning Man Wins $220,000 from State Political Watchdog Panel
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Craig Schultz | Published: 9/7/2018
Frank Burgess was awarded more than $200,000 in legal fees after a court found the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) violated his Constitutional protections related to a fine levied against him as a member of a nonprofit hospital board. Burgess was fined $5,000 by the FPPC for trying to convince other members of the San Gorgonio Hospital board to continue doing business with his son’s moving and storage company. Burgess argued that as a nonprofit board, members did not fall under the Political Reform Act. A Superior Court judge overturned the fine, agreeing with Burgess’s contention that he had been denied due process because he had no forewarning he was considered a public official.
California: Koch-Backed Charity Must Reveal Donor List to California Officials, Appeals Panel Rules
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2018
A federal appeals court ruled the charity Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, which is linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The foundation had argued the state’s rules requiring filing of the donor list violate the First Amendment by discouraging individuals from giving and by exposing them to threats and harassment. The case could test the ability of state agencies to compel nonprofits to disclose the identities of their donors, particularly ones that are tied to “social welfare” nonprofits, commonly referred to as “dark money” groups. One such group is Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network. AFP Foundation, a sister organization, is a charity that focuses on education and research.
Colorado: Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission on Uncertain Course
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 9/10/2018
Critics say the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s (IEC) structure, staffing, and funding make it impossible for the public to have any confidence that ethics issues – whether it is investigations into potential violations, training for government employees, or guidance – are handled in a logical or even timely manner. The monthly commission meetings focus on complaints and advisory opinions. But most of the meetings are conducted in executive sessions behind closed doors. During those sessions, commissioners decide which complaints are frivolous and then will make public what they have decided. Between 2008 and 2017, the IEC received 196 complaints. All but 20 were dismissed as frivolous, out of the IEC’s jurisdiction, or withdrawn. Whether those complaints were truly frivolous will never be known.
Iowa: Iowa Governor Flew to Game on Vendor’s Plane
Associated Press – Ryan Foley | Published: 9/12/2018
Gov. Kim Reynolds received approval from Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Director Megan Tooker to fly with her family to Iowa State’s bowl game last year free of charge on the jet of a state vendor. Reynolds accepted the trip as a campaign donation from Sedgwick’s chief executive officer, who says he reimbursed his company for the plane’s use. The governor’s office said “bona fide campaign events” would take place during the half-day trip. Tooker said in December the governor could accept the flight, although Tooker now says she was unaware the airplane was owned by Sedgwick. Tooker also says she does not know what campaign activity Reynolds engaged in during the trip, which would be required for the flight to be considered an allowable campaign contribution instead of an illegal gift.
Kentucky: What’s Bevin Hiding? Worker Who Got $215K Raise Is His Old Army Buddy
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus and Morgan Watkins | Published: 9/12/2018
When Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wanted a new state chief information officer, he did not do a national search – he hired an old Army buddy and longtime business associate last October at a salary that now leads the nation for similar state. Some state lawmakers were stunned when it was reported Bevin gave Charles Grindle a $215,000 pay raise, an unusual 134 percent increase after less than a year on the job. Neither Bevin nor Grindle have responded to requests for information about their relationship and any role it might have played in Grindle’s hiring and rapid increase in pay. A former official of the Commonwealth Office of Technology said Grindle spoke openly about his long friendship with Bevin and that he had worked for Bevin in an unspecified capacity before going on the state payroll.
Maryland: Baltimore Ethics Board Rejects Mayor Pugh’s Request for Sweeping Exemption from Fundraising Rules
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 9/7/2018
The Baltimore Board of Ethics rejected Mayor Catherine Pugh’s request to be exempted from rules that bar city employees from raising money for charitable causes without prior approval. Pugh was seeking a waiver so she could solicit funds from private donors that would help pay for her administration’s social programs and other community initiatives. The board said it was unwilling to grant a blanket exception to Pugh, who could still seek waivers on a case-by-case basis. Pugh;’s office said she needed the new fundraising powers to bolster the city’s existing budget. Board member Stephan Fogleman said he was concerned the waiver the mayor sought would have made it difficult for the public to know what she was raising money for.
Michigan: Why This U-M Regent Just Returned Thousands in Campaign Donations
Detroit Free Press – Matthew Dolan and David Jesse | Published: 9/13/2018
Wealthy alumni who have sway over the University of Michigan’s $11billion endowment have given thousands in campaign donations to members of the university’s governing board. A review of state records shows two members of the university’s elected Board of Regents accepted in total nearly $30,000 in contributions from donors associated with funds receiving university investments. In addition, a family who helps guide the university’s investment strategy gave more than $29,000 to the board’s longest-serving member. To critics, some of the donations could pose a conflict-of-interest. Regent Andrea Fischer Newman pledged to return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from three wealthy businesspeople who help control millions of dollars in university investments.
Missouri: Court Affirms Major Blow to Missouri Amendment Restricting Campaign Donations
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 9/10/2018
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Missouri’s ban on donations from one PAC to another is unconstitutional. The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the ban on PAC-to-PAC giving violates committees’ right to free speech. The appeals court ruled the Missouri Ethics Commission failed to show PAC-to-PAC contributions would breed corruption because the groups are not controlled by a candidate and operate independently from any party running for political office. The decision permanently stops the commission from enforcing the ban.
Ohio: Ethics Panel Imposes Stricter Rules on Ohio Lawmaker Travel
WOSU – Jo Ingles | Published: 9/11/2018
The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee said lawmakers and their employees cannot accept travel expenses from lobbyists unless those result from participation in a panel, seminar, or speaking engagement or were incurred at a meeting of a national organization of which any state agency is a dues paying member. When it comes to sharing rides with lobbyists for personal travel, starting immediately, lawmakers must reimburse the cost of their travel within a week.
Washington: Washington AG to Press for $18 Million Fine Against Foodmakers
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 9/6/2018
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office will seek to restore an $18 million fine against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which an appeals court overturned recently. The court upheld GMA’s conviction and left in place a $6 million judgment for shielding the names of food and beverage companies that contributed to a campaign against a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013. The court ruled, however, that a lower court judge erred by finding that GMA intentionally broke the law and tripling the penalty. Even at $6 million, the fine would be the largest campaign finance penalty in U.S. history.
August 24, 2018 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Despite Year-of-the-Woman Buzz, Female Candidates Lag Behind Men in Pulling in Campaign Cash The News-Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/16/2018 Even as a record number of women run for office this […]
Despite Year-of-the-Woman Buzz, Female Candidates Lag Behind Men in Pulling in Campaign Cash
The News-Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/16/2018
Even as a record number of women run for office this year, female congressional candidates trail their male counterparts when it comes to fundraising. Of candidates who showed viability by raising at least $50,000, men running for the House had collected almost 17 percent more on average than their female counterparts by the end of June. One key factor is many female candidates lack relationships with longtime donors who work in traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance. That is a particular challenge for women this cycle, because the majority are newcomers to politics and, like any non-incumbent, must build donor networks from scratch. But their task is often more difficult, some female candidates said, because of skepticism about their potential, based on their gender.
Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plans to Root Out Corruption in Washington, Ensure Federal Government Works for Americans
MassLive.com – Shannon Young | Published: 8/21/2018
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which lays out a multi-step approach to ending corruption and increasing public integrity. It calls for permanently banning elected and appointed officials from becoming lobbyists after they leave office, barring presidents and federal lawmakers from owning companies while in office, and ending “legalized lobbyist bribery” by preventing them from writing campaign checks or giving personal gifts to candidates or lawmakers. The bill would also create an independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and requiring elected officials and candidates to disclose more financial and tax information, among other provisions.
Hunter Indictment Could Jeopardize GOP Seat
Politico – John Bresnahan and Rachel Bade | Published: 8/21/2018
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted on allegations of using more than $250,000 of campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, private school tuition for their children, dental work, and an airline ticket for a pet rabbit. The indictment portrays the Hunters as a couple with serious financial problems. They allegedly overdrew their joint checking account more than 1,100 times during a seven-year period, leading to more than $37,000 in overdraft charges. Hunter’s indictment endangers a traditionally conservative southern California seat long held by Republicans. Hunter cannot take his name off the November ballot and California does not allow write-in candidates.
Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction
MSN – William Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and Jim Rutenberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/21/2018
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges, saying Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to fend off damage to his White House bid. Cohen’s admission marks the first time any Trump associate has gone into open court and implicated Trump himself in a crime. Under federal law, expenditures to protect a candidate’s political fortunes can be construed to be campaign contributions, subject to laws that bar donations from corporations and set limits on how much can be given. Trump denied to reporters in April that he knew anything about Cohen’s payments to Daniels.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Developer Whose Wife Sat on Ethics Commission Faces $15,000 Fine Over Political Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 8/20/2018
Six years ago, city council President Herb Wesson drew criticism for putting the wife of a campaign fundraiser on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, a panel that votes on fines for people who violate political contribution rules. Wesson had selected nonprofit executive Erin Pak, who was also the wife of architect and real estate developer Chris Pak, host of fundraising events for Mayor Eric Garcetti and other local politicians. Erin Pak left the commission three years ago. Now, Chris Pak is facing $15,000 in proposed fines from the commission for giving contributions that exceeded the city limit. All but one of the violations took place during the period when Erin Pak was on the commission.
Florida: After a Florida Democrat Said She’d Take Donations from the Marijuana Industry, Wells Fargo Closed Her Bank Account
Washington Post – Christopher Ingraham | Published: 8/20/2018
Nikki Fried, who is running for agriculture commissioner in Florida, said Wells Fargo terminated her campaign’s account because of her links to the medical marijuana businesses. Fried said the action came after the bank questioned her about her campaign platform and donations she had taken, as well as her stance on medical marijuana. Wells Fargo spokesperson Jennifer Dunn said the bank’s policy is to not provide services for businesses related to marijuana businesses. Fried has accepted campaign contributions from lobbyists connected to medical marijuana. If such a policy were applied nationwide it could potentially jeopardize the banking access of dozens of state and national politicians.
Georgia: Georgia Voting Rights Activists Move to Block a Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Polling Places in a Majority Black County
Chicago Tribune – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2018
Randolph County in rural Georgia wants to eliminate all but two of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterm elections because they are not in compliance with disabilities laws. Some residents and progressive groups allege the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections. Activists noted many residents have low incomes and the county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system. All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs.
Kentucky: Loophole Allows Organizations to Pay for Legislators’ Out-of-State Travel Without Disclosing Amounts
Insider Louisville – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/22/2018
Due to a loophole in Kentucky’s ethics law, a large majority of travel expenditures for state lawmakers covered by private organizations are not required to be disclosed by lawmakers to the Legislative Research Commission or the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. John Schaaf, executive director of the ethics panel, said this reporting loophole occurs when those groups pay in advance for legislators’ travel, as “there is no disclosure required of expenses prepaid for transportation, food and lodging.” Events organized by outside groups are sometimes funded by businesses and interests that lobby the Legislature.
Louisiana: Louisiana Senate President Sank Ride-Sharing Bill. His Close Pal Sells Insurance to Cabs.
ProPublica – Rebekah Allen | Published: 8/23/2018
Ride-sharing companies are not coming to many parts of Louisiana anytime soon because the state does not have legislation in place allowing them to operate. It is one of only five states that lacks such a law, instead requiring the companies to go through the costly and time-intensive process of getting approval in each locality. A bill to change that has garnered widespread and bipartisan support among politicians and was favored by many economic development groups. But the legislation has been blocked by Senate President John Alario. Many observers noted Alario’s close personal, professional, and political alliance with former Sen. Francis Heitmeier, who makes a living selling insurance to cab companies and lobbied against the ride-sharing bill. The cab industry was one of the few opponents of the measure.
Mississippi: Inside a Super PAC That Spends on Everything but Winning
Associated Press – Brian Slodysko | Published: 8/16/2018
Two billionaire political donors poured $1.25 million into a super PAC that was supposed to supercharge Chris McDaniel’s insurgent bid to be Mississippi’s next Republican senator. A year later, much of the money from Richard Uihlein and Robert Mercer is gone. Only a fraction was spent reaching voters who could boost the former state lawmaker’s uphill battle against Cindy Hyde-Smith in a November special election that will determine who finishes out Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. What the Remember Mississippi super PAC has provided, however, is a generous payday for at least 18 campaign consultants who received the lion’s share of the money.
Montana: Montana’s Campaign-Contribution Limits Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court
KXLH – Mike Dennison | Published: 8/17/2018
James Bopp Jr. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a 2017 lower-court ruling that upheld Montana’s limits on campaign contributions for state candidates. Bopp has been an attorney in many cases challenging limits on campaign spending and contributions, including Citizens United. His appeal in the Montana case is the latest development in a seven-year-old lawsuit challenging the state’s contribution limits, which were enacted by initiative in 1994.
New York: A Corrupt Lobbyist’s Influence in the Cuomo Administration Is Revealed in Newly Disclosed Emails
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 8/20/2018
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly downplayed his relationship with his former aide Todd Howe, who became key figure in a pair of federal corruption cases after pleading guilty and reaching a deal with prosecutors. Howe’s cooperation in those cases helped convict two other former top aides: Joseph Percoco, once one of Cuomo’s closest friends and trusted advisers, and Alain Kaloyeros, the economic expert who the governor praised as a genius. But in nearly 350 pages of emails, it was clear Howe had entree to the top levels of Cuomo’s administration, a period that included the time leading up to the news of the federal probe.
New York: Cuomo Signs Bill Banning Use of Paid Intermediaries to Win State Pension Fund Business
New York Daily News – Kenneth Lovett | Published: 8/21/2018
New York Gov. Andrew Gov. Cuomo signed legislation that bars firms from using placement agents, paid intermediaries, and registered lobbyists in obtaining investments from the state pension fund. Assembly Bill 3137 puts into law a policy adopted by Controller Thomas DiNapoli nearly a decade ago amid a “pay-to-play” scandal. The probe resulted in eight people being charged criminally, including two, former state Controller Alan Hevesi and his political consultant Hank Morris, who went to prison.
West Virginia: How One West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Gave Natural Gas a Big Victory and Shortchanged Residents
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. | Published: 8/20/2018
The West Virginia House impeached the four sitting justices on the state Supreme Court for extravagant spending, among other charges. Justice Beth Walker was impeached over allegations of irresponsible spending and poorly managing the court’s administrative affairs. Left unmentioned in the debate has been a peculiar vote by Walker that benefited the natural gas industry. She made an unusual decision to reopen a case and then reverse a Supreme Court ruling that would have forced drillers to pay more in profits to residents. Walker made the decision around the time her husband owned stock in a variety of energy companies, including those participating in West Virginia’s growing gas boom.
May 12, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Silicon Valley Tech Lobbyists Swarm Brussels Politico.eu – Harry Cooper and Nicholas Hirst | Published: 5/4/2017 A new report shows spending on European Union lobbying by Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies has increased by up […]
Silicon Valley Tech Lobbyists Swarm Brussels
Politico.eu – Harry Cooper and Nicholas Hirst | Published: 5/4/2017
A new report shows spending on European Union lobbying by Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies has increased by up to 278 percent between 2014 and 2017, and four out of seven lobbyists currently accredited with the European Parliament have been hired directly from the Parliament to lobby their former colleagues. Transparency International says that major Silicon Valley companies have been lobbying in Brussels for years, but the budget for lobbying has increased in recent years, as Brussels tries to tackle tax avoidance schemes, data protection, and privacy issues.
Inside Trump’s Anger and Impatience – and His Sudden Decision to Fire Comey
Washington Post – Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa | Published: 5/10/2017
The stated rationale for President Trump’s firing FBI Director James Comey’s delivered by White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was that Comey had committed “atrocities” in overseeing the agency’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, hurting morale in the bureau and compromising public trust. But the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI, and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans, paint a conflicting narrative centered on the president’s brewing personal animus toward Comey.
Kushner Family Stands to Gain from Visa Rules in Trump’s First Major Law
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker | Published: 5/8/2017
A bill President Trump signed into law renews a program offering permanent residence in the U.S. to affluent foreigners investing money in real estate projects in the country. Just hours after the measure was signed, the company run until January by Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, was urging wealthy Chinese in Beijing to consider investing $500,000 each in a pair of Jersey City luxury apartment towers the family-owned Kushner Companies plans to build. Kushner was even cited at a marketing presentation by his sister Nicole Meyer. The sequence of events offers one of the most explicit examples of the peril of the Trump and Kushner families maintaining close ties to their business interests and creates an impression they stand to profit off Trump’s presence in the White House.
Why the IRS Puts White-Nationalist Groups in the Same Category as Orchestras, Planetariums and Zoos
Washington Post – Max Ehrenfreund | Published: 5/10/2017
Four organizations associated with white nationalism – the National Policy Institute, the New Century Foundation, the Charles Martel Society and VDare Foundation – have raised $7.8 million in tax-free donations over the last decade. White nationalist groups qualify for tax-exempt status because they have successfully argued they have an “educational” mission. A proposal would force them to start paying taxes by removing the provision they rely on for their tax exemption, a broad rule that benefits organizations that sponsor lectures, conferences, and public discussions. But even groups that condemn white nationalists’ messages are hesitant about plans to take away their tax-exempt status.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Months After It Was Exposed, Phoenix Hasn’t Fixed Toothless Lobbying Law
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardiner and Rob O’Dell | Published: 5/8/2017
More than three months after Phoenix realized it could not enforce its regulations for lobbyists seeking to influence decisions at City Hall, the problem has yet to be fixed. The rules could get some bite under a set of proposals the city council will debate, but one option under consideration would weaken them even further. Lobbyists who do not register or report meals, gifts, or other expenses made on behalf of elected officials currently face no penalties for breaking the lobbying law by not disclosing their activity. Some city leaders and a watchdog say the delay in making the rules enforceable erodes public confidence.
California – California Politicians Stole Their Money. Will That Make Them Care About Democracy?
Sacramento Bee – Alex Koseff | Published: 5/7/2017
Political scandals are almost dishearteningly pervasive in southeast Los Angeles County. Too many officials have violated the public trust in the area’s small- and medium-sized cities, which are working class and heavily immigrant. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, whose district is at the heart of the most recent troubles, dubs it the “corridor of corruption,” as five cities have sent more than a dozen city officials to jail or prison in the last 11 years. Tired of a reputation shaped by shortcomings, Rendon is one of a new group of representatives forged by the scandals who hope to shed the negative image that has plagued the area.
California – Foes into Friends: Lobbyists make amends to lawmakers with ‘make-up money’
CALmatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 5/10/2017
In California, “make-up money” refers to the contributions that flow to newly-elected officials from interest groups that backed a losing candidate during the campaign. There is nothing illegal about giving these donations to a politician, said Jessica Levinson, president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Political contributions break the law only when they involve a direct exchange of money for governmental action. But giving money to the winner of an election after backing an opponent shows that donors are looking to curry favor with whomever has the power to make decisions, Levinson said.
Florida – When That Feisty Neighbor Becomes the President
New York Times – Michael LaForgia and Steve Eder | Published: 5/6/2017
For local officials in Palm Beach County, it was one thing to spar with Donald Trump, the developer, over issues with his private club, Mar-a-Lago. But dealing with President Trump is another matter entirely. Since he was elected, local officials have quickly granted Trump’s club permission to build a concrete helipad, allowed it to host a charity event for the Navy SEAL Foundation featuring a staged shootout between some commandos and pretend terrorists, and agreed to assume the costs, for now at least, of closing roads and providing additional security. Behind every decision was a balancing act between a desire to best serve constituents and a political instinct not to anger the nation’s chief executive.
Illinois – Ethics Board Rejects Watchdog Recommendation That City Officials Report Lobbying
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 5/9/2017
Chicago’s reinvigorated Board of Ethics has been flexing its muscle against lobbyists who emailed Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the mayor’s private accounts and failed either to register or report their lobbying activities. But the hefty fines are apparently not enough to satisfy city Inspector General Joe Ferguson. The law puts the onus on lobbyists, not city officials, to report contact. Last year, the inspector general’s office recommended making changes to improve compliance with the law, including the possibility of having city officials report lobbying interactions. The inspector general’s office released a follow-up report recently in which it said the ethics board rejected that recommendation.
Missouri – Judge Strikes Parts of Missouri Campaign Finance Law
Courthouse News Service – Dionne Cordell-Whitney | Published: 5/10/2017
Parts of Missouri’s new campaign finance law are unconstitutional, but the $2,600 individual donor limit will stay, U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie Smith ruled. But in striking down a provision in the law that banned committee-to-committee transfers, it has opened up the ability to raise an unlimited amount of money through a local PAC and transfer that cash to a different PAC. Critics say that will make campaign money harder to track and makes it easier for candidates to get around the individual donor limit.
New Hampshire – Lawmaker Behind Misogynistic Forum: ‘I’ve never hated women’
U.S. News & World Report – Kathleen Ronayne (Associated Press) | Published: 5/9/2017
About a dozen state representatives and voters urged lawmakers to take action against New Hampshire Rep. Robert Fisher, warning that his involvement in a misogynistic online forum feeds into a derogatory culture toward women and may promote abuse. Fisher has been under fire since it was reported he was behind a men’s rights forum known for its comments degrading women, questioning female intelligence, and denying rape. Fisher said he does not “hate women” and denied a new report that he still oversees the Reddit forum, known as “The Red Pill.”
New York – Murky Definitions for Government Entities Undermines Transparency
Gotham Gazette – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 5/3/2017
There is a multitude of quasi-governmental entities that exist in grey area of New York law, and how to classify these entities has been the subject of some debate. A rudimentary search pulled up at least a dozen different definitions for “state agency” and “local agency” in state law. While some rely to some degree on government funding, have board members appointed by city or state officials, and may serve a public function, as independent 501(c)(3) nonprofits, one could argue these entities do not qualify as a public authority or public benefit corporation. But like more typical government agencies, they are subject to Freedom of Information Laws. Government reformers say this ever-morphing patchwork of definitions only serves to confuse the public and obscure conflicts of interests, rather than increase transparency.
Ohio – Nelson Mullins Partner Settles with SEC in Pay-to-Play Suit
American Lawyer – Scott Flaherty | Published: 5/3/2017
Robert Crowe agreed to settle civil allegations brought by federal regulators in a “pay-to-play” scheme involving State Street Bank. Crowe was a lobbyist for Boston-based State Street when he became embroiled in the scheme of a former State Street employee to raise campaign contributions for a deputy treasurer in Ohio. The former employee had made a deal to provide campaign funding in exchange for business contracts for State Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleged. Crowe allegedly filtered $16,000 through his personal bank account to reimburse others for making contributions to the deputy treasurer. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Crowe agreed to a federal judge’s order to pay nearly $95,000 in penalties.
Washington – Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Won’t Seek Second Term: ‘It tears me to pieces to step away’
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 5/9/2017
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he will not run for re-election, as he fights claims he sexually abused teenage boys in the 1980s. Murray, who was expected to win the upcoming mayoral race, dropped out days before the official filing deadline. In April, a man filed a lawsuit accusing Murray of sexually abusing him in 1986, when he was a homeless 15-year-old boy. Three other men have since come forward to accuse Murray of abuse, including paying for sex with them while they were minors. Murray said the allegations against him “are not true. The scandal surrounding them hurts me and this city.”
West Virginia – W. Va. Reporter Arrested for ‘Yelling Questions’ at HHS Secretary
USA Today – Doug Stanglin | Published: 5/9/2017
Tom Price during his visit to West Virginia. The exchange came as Price and senior white House aide KellyAnne Conway visited the Capitol to learn about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation’s highest overdose death rate. A criminal complaint says Daniel Heyman was yelling questions at the two. It says he tried to breach Secret Service security and had to be removed from a hallway at the Capitol. He was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes. Heyman, who works for Public News Service, said he was arrested after asking repeatedly whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the proposed health care overhaul. He said he believed he was doing nothing wrong.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
May 1, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
Lobbying “Lewandowski’s Firm Appears to Offer Trump Meetings” by Kenneth Vogel and Josh Dawsey for Politico Campaign Finance California: “Rep. Rohrabacher’s Ex-Campaign Treasurer Sentenced to Year in Jail for Embezzlement” by Hannah Fry for Los Angeles Times Colorado: “Judge Says […]
“Lewandowski’s Firm Appears to Offer Trump Meetings” by Kenneth Vogel and Josh Dawsey for Politico
California: “Rep. Rohrabacher’s Ex-Campaign Treasurer Sentenced to Year in Jail for Embezzlement” by Hannah Fry for Los Angeles Times
Colorado: “Judge Says Ex-Congressman Bob Beauprez’s Group Must Pay $17,000 in Campaign Finance Fines” by Corey Hutchins for Colorado Independent
Colorado: “Campaign Finance Reform Measures Die in Colorado Legislature” by Peter Marcus for ColoradoPolitics.com
Maine: “New Info About Maine Casino Campaign’s Financing Triggers Ethics Concerns” by Mitchell Shepherd for Bangor Daily News
New Mexico: “City Contractors Give to ABQ Mayoral Candidates” by Sandra Fish for New Mexico In Depth
New York: “Proposal Would Boost Public Campaign Matching Funds” by Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette
Oklahoma: “Oklahoma State Sen. Kyle Loveless Resigns Amid Criminal Investigation” by Nolan Clay and Dale Denwalt for The Oklahoman
“Bribe Cases, a Secret Jared Kushner Partner and Potential Conflicts” by Jesse Drucker for New York Times
“Pentagon Inquiry Seeks to Learn if Flynn Hid Foreign Payment” by Emmarie Huetteman and Matthew Rosenberg for New York Times
Rhode Island: “Restaurant Owner to Serve Year in Prison for Bribing Former R.I. House Speaker” by Katie Mulvaney for Providence Journal
South Dakota: “South Dakota Ethics Bill Lost Teeth on Its Way to Becoming Law” by Dana Ferguson for Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Texas: “How the Federal Case Against John Wiley Price Fell Apart” by Jennifer Emily, Gromer Jeffers Jr., and Kevin Krause for Dallas News
April 27, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
Lobbying “Spending on Lobbying Approached $1 Billion in First Quarter, Highest in 5 Years” by Kimberly Kindy for Washington Post New York: “NYCLU’s Request for Donor Exemption Is Denied” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Oregon: “Ethics Commission: Gov. […]
“Spending on Lobbying Approached $1 Billion in First Quarter, Highest in 5 Years” by Kimberly Kindy for Washington Post
New York: “NYCLU’s Request for Donor Exemption Is Denied” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Oregon: “Ethics Commission: Gov. Brown’s budget adviser may lobby on her behalf” by Anna Marum for Portland Oregonian
“Trump Inauguration Admits Errors, Vows to Correct Numerous Faulty Donor Records” by Christina Wilkie for HuffPost
Montana: “State Campaign Finance Reform Bill Hits Snag in Senate” by Corin Cates-Carney for Montana Public Radio
“Some Public Pensions Help Trump, Report Shows” by Julia Harte (Reuters) for U.S. News & World Report
Rhode Island: “Panel: Probable cause that R.I. Supreme Court justice Flaherty violated ethics code” by Katie Mulvaney for Providence Journal
Vermont: “Ethics Commission Bill Gains Steam in House” by Mark Johnson for VTDigger.org
“Slow Pace of Trump Nominations Leaves Cabinet Agencies ‘Stuck’ in Staffing Limbo” by Lisa Rein for Washington Post
Alabama: “House Judiciary Committee Releases Final Report on Bentley Impeachment” by Mike Cason for AL.com
California: “Blacklist of Border-Wall Contractors Advanced in California Senate” by Nick Cahill for Courthouse News Service
April 19, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
Lobbying “Corporate Lobbyists Funnel Cash to House Democrats Amid Push to Pass Trump’s Business Initiatives” by Andrew Perez (MapLight) and David Sirota for International Business Times Campaign Finance “The $1 Million Upside for an RNC Digital Guru” by Shane Goldmacher […]
“Corporate Lobbyists Funnel Cash to House Democrats Amid Push to Pass Trump’s Business Initiatives” by Andrew Perez (MapLight) and David Sirota for International Business Times
“The $1 Million Upside for an RNC Digital Guru” by Shane Goldmacher for Politico
Alabama: “Donors to Former Gov. Bentley’s ‘Dark Money’ Group Still a Mystery” by Kent Faulk for AL.com
“Watchdog Group Expands Lawsuit Against Trump” by Sharon LaFraniere for New York Times
Florida: “Florida House Speaker: Push for tougher ethics laws dead” by Gary Fineout (Associated Press) for San Louis Obispo Tribune
Michigan: “Macomb Co. Clerk Has Aide Call 911: Reporters harassing me” by Christina Hall for Detroit Free Press
New York: “Cuomo Promotes Chief of Staff, Melissa DeRosa, to Be His Secretary” by Lisa Foderaro for New York Times
Alaska: “Here’s Why Alaska Legislators, Staffers and Lobbyists Are Listening to Wu-Tang Clan” by Nathaniel Herz for Alaska Dispatch News
California: “Costs Soar After Huntington Park Picks Politically Connected Firm to Provide Bus Service” by Adam Elmahrek for Los Angeles Times