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.
February 4, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
Beginning Monday, February 4, through five calendar days following sine die adjournment, several actions regarding campaign contributions by lobbyist principals are prohibited in Oklahoma. A lobbyist or lobbyist principal must not make a campaign contribution to a member of the […]
Beginning Monday, February 4, through five calendar days following sine die adjournment, several actions regarding campaign contributions by lobbyist principals are prohibited in Oklahoma.
A lobbyist or lobbyist principal must not make a campaign contribution to a member of the legislature or a candidate for state legislative office; promise to make a campaign contribution for a member of the legislature or candidate for state legislative office; or solicit a campaign contribution for a member of the legislature or candidate for state legislative office.
A member of the Legislature or a candidate for state legislative office must not intentionally solicit a campaign contribution from a lobbyist or lobbyist principal; or intentionally accept a campaign contribution from a lobbyist or lobbyist principal.
A contribution from a lobbyist or lobbyist principal to a member of the legislature or a candidate for legislative office that has not been deposited before February 4 must be returned to the contributor.
This statutory blackout period does not prevent a limited Political Action Committee (PAC) from making one or more contributions to a candidate committee up to the limits allowed under the ethics rules provided the PAC is not represented by a lobbyist.
July 28, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Lobbyist Gift-Giving at Issue in More States Governing – Scott Rodd (Stateline) | Published: 7/21/2017 The laws that govern gift-giving from lobbyists to public officials vary widely from state to state. In states with relatively lenient laws, watchdogs and […]
Lobbyist Gift-Giving at Issue in More States
Governing – Scott Rodd (Stateline) | Published: 7/21/2017
The laws that govern gift-giving from lobbyists to public officials vary widely from state to state. In states with relatively lenient laws, watchdogs and some elected officials have been working to impose tougher restrictions. They argue gifts from lobbyists may corrupt elected officials’ decision-making and cause them to stray from the best interests of their constituents. But critics have met resistance from lawmakers who say lobbyists offer informed perspectives on key issues, and these exchanges often happen over meals or sporting events that lobbyists pay for. A federal judge recently ruled a Kentucky law banning gifts from lobbyists to legislators violates lobbyists’ First Amendment rights.
Local Governments Keep Using This Software – But It Might Be a Back Door for Russia
Washington Post – Jack Gillum and Aaron Davis | Published: 7/23/2017
Many local and state government agencies say they are using a Russian brand of security software despite the federal government’s instructions to its own agencies not to buy the software over concerns about cyberespionage. The General Services Administration recently removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from its list of approved vendors. In doing so, the agency’s statement suggested a vulnerability exists in Kaspersky that could give the Russian government backdoor access to the systems it protects, though they offered no explanation or evidence of it. Kaspersky has strongly denied coordinating with the Russian government and has offered to cooperate with federal investigators.
New Ethics Chief Has Fought to Roll Back Restrictions
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 7/26/2017
Former colleagues of David Apol, who was named the new director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), praised his intelligence and his experience as a government ethics lawyer at a half-dozen different federal agencies over three decades. But tension has been building during two stints that Apol served at the OGE, his former colleagues said. Former OGE employees said they wondered if at times Apol had gone too far in questioning agency standards. Apol acknowledged he had frequently raised questions about how the OGE interprets ethics laws that govern the activity of 2.7 million federal employees in more than 130 executive agencies, including the White House.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona: Arizona Legislators Attend Conference with Help from Corporations That Lobby Them at Home
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez | Published: 7/23/2017
More than a third of the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature gathered in Denver to absorb conservative ideas and mingle with lobbyists at a conference where corporate donors picked up much of the tab. Arizona is always well-represented at the annual gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization best-known for producing ready-to-introduce legislation crafted with input from corporate America. Helping to foot the bill were some of the very companies and lobbyists who work the halls of the Legislature to advance their own agendas.
Illinois: Ex-Ald. Singer Among 6 Fined for Illegally Lobbying Emanuel Via Email
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 7/21/2017
A former city council member and an Internet pioneer turned venture capitalist were penalized for illegally lobbying Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel through his personal email account. The Board of Ethics levied a fine of $25,000 on former Ald. William Singer. The panel imposed a $2,000 fine on Marc Andreesen, the inventor of the Netscape Internet browser. Those were among the latest group of individuals the ethics panel said had violated city law and been fined for attempting to influence Emanuel or other officials through emailed contacts. The new sanctions raise the total to eight of those fined for improper lobbying in connection with the emails.
Kentucky: Complaints Over Gov. Matt Bevin’s Anchorage Mansion Unanimously Dismissed by Ethics Panel
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 7/21/2017
A state ethics panel said even if Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin got a $1 million discount on a mansion bought from a political donor and appointee, he did not violate the law. The ruling comes after two complaints were filed against Bevin over his purchase of a house and 10 acres of land from Neil Ramsey, who Bevin appointed to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees. The complaints alleged Bevin accepted what amounted to an improper gift in buying the mansion in March.
Nevada: 20 Years of Term Limits: How the faces of Nevada’s Legislature have changed
Las Vegas Sun – Yvonne Gonzalez | Published: 7/20/2017
Term limits have helped make the Nevada Legislature more diverse in the almost 20 years since they were implemented, though the higher turnover has come with some costs. Experts say term limits have brought in new faces but reduced institutional knowledge as veteran lawmakers are pushed out. They say lobbyists have more power and the Legislative Counsel Bureau is even more vital both in educating new lawmakers and keeping the legislative process moving.
New Mexico: Secretary of State Unveils Changes to Proposed Disclosure Rules
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 7/25/2017
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver released revisions to proposed rules aimed at so-called dark money groups that can spend unlimited amounts to influence elections and ballot measures when acting independently. Several conservative groups with a statewide and national presence say Toulouse Oliver is overstepping her authority by requiring that independent expenditure groups disclose their contributors. Toulouse Oliver says New Mexicans have a right to know who is paying for ads that attempt to influence their vote. The revisions would raise the spending threshold to $2,500 before independent expenditure groups must reveal their donors.
New York: De Blasio Ally Didn’t Register as Lobbyist Despite Big Push for a Donor
New York Times – William Neuman | Published: 7/24/2017
Neal Kwatra, a political consultant and lobbyist with ties to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, ended up working so closely with top City Hall officials on behalf of a restaurant owner, Harendra Singh, that a city commissioner complained officials were giving Kwatra confidential information during delicate negotiations to settle a lawsuit with Singh. Yet none of Kwatra’s efforts on behalf of Singh in 2015 were registered as lobbying work, even though Kwatra and his company, Metropolitan Public Strategies, have registered as lobbyists for other clients, including United for Affordable NYC, a short-lived nonprofit group created by de Blasio to support his housing policies.
New York: Watchdogs Say Cuomo Is Skirting Campaign Finance Rules
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal | Published: 7/26/2017
Watchdogs say New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again skirting campaign finance rules by using a secretive nonprofit to advance his agenda. The rules limit donations to political campaigns and require disclosure, and politicians are not supposed to get around them by using organizations that can accept unlimited secret contributions. But New Yorkers United Together is the third nonprofit formed by allies of Cuomo’s to emerge and support his policies.
North Carolina: NC Elections and Ethics Oversight Is Frozen Between Old and New, with Local Votes Approaching
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 7/21/2017
The North Carolina Supreme Court said a revamped state elections board that also oversees ethics and lobbying controversies can stay in limbo for now, a holding pattern that could last months. The justices said Gov. Roy Cooper is not required to appoint members of the new state elections and ethics enforcement board created by Republican legislators. That means the board would be unable to make decisions or settle disputes until after the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case on August 28.
Pennsylvania: Aide Pleads Guilty, Says Brady Campaign Paid Primary Challenger to Quit
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan | Published: 7/25/2017
A former aide to a political challenger of U.S. Rep. Robert Brady admitted she helped funnel the Brady’s cash to her former boss in exchange for his withdrawal from an election. Carolyn Cavaness, a pastor who was an aide to Philadelphia Judge Jimmie Moore during his 2012 candidacy in the Democratic primary, told officials she set up at Moore’s direction a shell company that would be used to accept $90,000 from Brady. In turn, she said, Moore would drop out of the race and use the cash to pay off his campaign debt. The money was routed through two political consultants who falsified invoices intended to justify the payments, officials said. Cavaness pleaded guilty to filing false statements to hide the transactions.
Pennsylvania: Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski Put City Hall Up for Sale to Highest Bidders, Prosecutor Says
Allentown Morning Call – Emily Opilo, Peter Hall, and Matt Assad | Published: 7/27/2017
The mayor of Allentown and the former mayor of Reading were indicted on federal corruption charges for engaging in an alleged series of “pay-to-play” schemes in which the politicians shook down businesses and individuals for campaign contributions in exchange for political favors. Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski and former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer have been charged with multiple counts of bribery and fraud. In two indictments, federal prosecutors spelled out charges against five people in the parallel corruption cases in Allentown and Reading.
South Carolina: FBI Investigating South Carolina Statehouse Corruption, Could Expand Scope of State Probe
Charleston Post and Courier – Andy Shain, Glenn Smith, and Schuyler Kropf | Published: 7/22/2017
Two former South Carolina Ports Authority officials say they have talked with FBI agents about an ongoing political corruption investigation. Former authority Chairperson Pat McKinney said the agents focused on the work the consulting firm run by Richard Quinn Sr. did for the agency. His son, state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr., was suspended from his seat after being charged with misconduct in office. The probe already has rattled the capital, where the Quinn family has been a force for decades. The addition of the FBI to the case only ratchets up the stakes, putting the federal government’s resources at the disposal of investigators and potentially allowing them to expand the scope of the inquiry to other targets.
Virginia: Transgender Woman Challenges Virginia Bathroom Bill Sponsor
Roanoke Times – 2017 Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 7/25/2017
Democrat Danica Roem is challenging Republican Bob Marshall for his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. With such stark differences between the candidates, the race is expected to draw in big money and is seen by some as a referendum on rights for gay and transgender people. Roem would be the first openly transgender candidate to win and serve in a state Legislature, according to the Victory Fund, a PAC that supports her and calls Marshall “the most anti-LGBTQ member of the Virginia state legislature.” Marshall has sponsored some of the most socially conservative legislation in the past 25 years, including a measure this year that would have restricted the bathrooms that transgender people can use.
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 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 10, 2017 • Written by Kevin Newman, Esq.
After last year’s budget bill temporarily increased the executive agency lobbyist registration fee, lawmakers have made the change permanent. House Bill 80 of the 2016 legislative session increased the fee to $500, effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018, […]
After last year’s budget bill temporarily increased the executive agency lobbyist registration fee, lawmakers have made the change permanent.
House Bill 80 of the 2016 legislative session increased the fee to $500, effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018, despite the state statute only mandating a fee of $125.
House Bill 387, signed during this year’s legislative session, amends the statute to match the budget bill’s increase. This change is effective July 1, 2017.
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 28, 2017 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Can Elections Like Georgia’s Help Predict Future Races? New York Times – Jonah Engel Bromwich | Published: 4/19/2017 The recent congressional election in Georgia was billed as having potential national implications, as an early test of whether anti-President […]
Can Elections Like Georgia’s Help Predict Future Races?
New York Times – Jonah Engel Bromwich | Published: 4/19/2017
The recent congressional election in Georgia was billed as having potential national implications, as an early test of whether anti-President Trump energy could fuel Democratic victory in a traditionally Republican district. It seems likely the same will be said for scattered upcoming special elections in other states. But political scientists and pollsters who analyze races for a living say so-called bellwether races are tricky to evaluate, if they even exist at all.
Some Public Pensions Help Trump, Report Shows
U.S. News & World Report – Julia Harte (Reuters) | Published: 4/26/2017
Public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states have invested millions of dollars in an investment fund that owns a New York hotel and pays one of President Donald Trump’s companies to run it. That arrangement could put Trump at risk of violating an obscure constitutional clause. The Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium is owned by a Los Angeles investment group, the CIM Group, through one of its real estate funds. The possible problem for Trump lies in the fact that state- and city-run pension funds have invested in the CIM fund and pay it a few million dollars in quarterly fees to manage their investments in its portfolio. In return for marketing and managing the hotel-condo, CIM pays Trump International Hotels Management a percentage of the SoHo’s operating revenues. The Constitution bars the president from receiving additional payments beyond his salary from state governments.
Flynn Probably Broke the Law by Failing to Disclose Foreign Payments, House Oversight Leaders Say
Washington Post – Karoun Demirjian | Published: 4/25/2017
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work in the administration, the top oversight lawmakers from both parties in the U.S. House sad. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairperson of the House oversight committee, said Flynn also appeared to have inappropriately accepted the funds without permission. The declaration came after Chaffetz and other members of the committee reviewed classified documents related to Flynn, including the form he filled out in January 2016 to renew his security clearance.
Sessions Vows to Enforce an Anti-Bribery Law Trump Ridiculed
New York Times – Charlie Savage | Published: 4/24/2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions affirmed the U.S. Justice Department’s commitment to prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which bars corporations from bribing foreign officials to gain a business advantage. Paul Pelletier, a former deputy chief of the fraud section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Sessions’ remarks were significant because of speculation about whether the administration would ease enforcement of the act. President Trump once called it a “horrible law.” The act was little invoked or discussed for years. But around 2005, the fraud section began enforcing it much more vigorously. It has rapidly become a major factor in business decisions about overseas operations, generating big fees for law firms and large fines for the government.
Slow Pace of Trump Nominations Leaves Cabinet Agencies ‘Stuck’ in Staffing Limbo
Washington Post – Lisa Rein | Published: 4/25/2017
President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are growing exasperated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill hundreds of top-tier posts, warning the vacancies are hobbling efforts to oversee agency operations and promote the president’s agenda. The Senate has confirmed 26 of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts. But for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring confirmation, the president has advanced just 37 nominees. The nomination process has been slowed by the unusual degree of scrutiny the White House is giving job candidates. Prospective nominees for senior posts and even some of the more junior ones must win approval from competing camps inside the White House.
Trump Inauguration Admits Errors, Vows to Correct Numerous Faulty Donor Records
HuffPost – Christina Wilkie | Published: 4/25/2017
President Trump’s inaugural committee acknowledged it made errors in a list of donors submitted to the FEC. That admission followed an unusual crowdsourced reporting project, in which HuffPost reporter Christina Wilkie asked the public to examine more than 1,500 listings of individual donors and their addresses. That effort, along with others from other news organizations, seemed to turn up more than 300 examples where the data seemed not to match reality. The scores of mistakes contained in the FEC filing can largely be traced to a fundraising and ticketing system the Republican Party introduced this year, which provided special online access codes to Trump supporters.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – U.S. Top Court Preserves Alabama Campaign Finance Curbs
Reuters – Andrew Chung | Published: 4/24/2017
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Alabama’s ban on the transfer of campaign contributions between PACs. The decision left in place an appeals court ruling that the 2010 law does not unconstitutionally restrict political speech. To comply with the law, the Alabama Democratic Conference established separate banks accounts for candidate contributions and its other expenditures. It then proceeded to sue to the state and the Alabama attorney general, arguing in the law violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
California – Blacklist of Border-Wall Contractors Advanced in California Senate
Courthouse News Service – Nick Cahill | Published: 4/25/2017
Contractors would have to choose between building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and doing business with California under a bill that advanced in the Senate. Senate Bill 30 would blacklist companies who help to build the controversial wall that President Trump has promised to construct. In addition, Assembly Bill 946 would force the state to drop its pension investments in any companies involved in the project. Lobbyists for contractors spoke out against the bill at a hearing, saying it would create a slippery slope. “What next unpopular project would we blacklist for contractors”” asked Todd Bloomstine of the Southern California Contractors Association.
Missouri – Fewer Missouri Lawmakers Are Bunking with Lobbyists
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 4/21/2017
Four members of the Missouri Legislature and one former deputy attorney general have rented sleeping space from lobbyists this year, compared with eight last year. Staying in a room in a lobbyist’s home is an alternative to staying in a hotel near the Capitol, where lawmakers typically work from Monday afternoon to Thursday afternoon before heading back to their home districts. Some legislators buy condominiums, homes, or duplexes during their stints in office. Disclosure reports do not offer details on how much lawmakers are paying in rent.
North Carolina – Tar Heel Republicans Override Gov. Cooper Veto in Latest Partisan Clash
Raleigh News & Observer; Associated Press – | Published: 4/25/2017
The Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of plans to combine elections and ethics oversight under one state board. Under Senate Bill 68, the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission would be merged into an eight-person board evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. County elections boards also would be split evenly, going against the tradition of giving a one-person majority on the state and county boards to the party of the governor. Lawmakers voted in a December special session to combine the two state boards, but a three-judge panel declared that legislation unconstitutional, ruling lawmakers had overstepped their authority. Lawmakers tweaked Senate Bill 68 to address those concerns.
Pennsylvania – Phila. Board of Ethics Fines Teamsters Local 830
Philadelphia Tribune – Layla Jones | Published: 4/22/2017
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics cited Teamsters union Local 830 for failing to follow the city’s lobbying disclosure law. During the battle in city council over Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed sweetened-beverage tax, the Teamsters paid Frank Keel to write opinion pieces opposing the levy. The ethics board said that amounts to lobbying. The law requires lobbyists to register and their clients to file reports disclosing what they have spent to influence city policy if it is more than $2,500 in one quarter. The board says the union paid Keel $5,000 for his services. The union will pay a $2,000 penalty. Keel, who was told to register as a lobbyist, was spared a fine.
Rhode Island – Panel: Probable cause that R.I. Supreme Court justice Flaherty violated ethics code
Providence Journal – Katie Mulvaney | Published: 4/25/2017
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission voted to find probable cause that state Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty violated the ethics code by failing to report his service on the board of a Catholic lawyers’ group. Helen Hyde filed a complaint faulting Flaherty for not indicating on his financial disclosure statements from 2010 to 2015 that he served as president of the St. Thomas More Society of Rhode Island. Hyde alleges Flaherty held that role while presiding over her appeal before the state Supreme Court. She alleged that a Roman Catholic priest sexually abused her more than four decades ago and sought to recover damages from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence. Flaherty wrote the decision denying Hyde and Jeffrey Thomas damages.
Virginia – Virginia Makes Key Adjustments to Law Governing Gifts to Officials, Adds New Lobbyist Gift Notification
National Law Review – Andrew Garrahan | Published: 4/26/2017
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1854, which makes changes to the state’s lobbyist and gift laws. It eliminates a controversial exception to the $100 limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators and officials, adds a key new exception to that law, and includes an additional gift notification requirement for lobbyists, among other provisions.
Washington – ‘What’s Upstream?’ Ad Campaign Funded by EPA Did Not Break Federal Lobbying Rules, Investigation Finds
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 4/24/2017
A controversial clean-water campaign funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not violate federal lobbying rules, an audit by the agency’s inspector general determined. The What’s Upstream? campaign included billboards and ads to raise awareness of water issues surrounding agricultural pollution in the Puget Sound region. Some Republican lawmakers accused What’s Upstream?, which included a form letter on its website for people to contact their legislators, of being an “anti-farmer campaign.” A letter signed by 145 members of Congress cited federal law that prohibits the EPA from using money for propaganda or advocacy without congressional approval.
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.
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 26, 2017 • Written by Alexandra Vernis, J.D.
Effective June 1, 2017, Ordinance No. 20160922-005 repealing and replacing Chapter 4-8 of the Austin City Code relating to lobbying will go into effect. Among other things, the ordinance establishes new registration requirements, changes the method of reporting, and requires […]
Effective June 1, 2017, Ordinance No. 20160922-005 repealing and replacing Chapter 4-8 of the Austin City Code relating to lobbying will go into effect. Among other things, the ordinance establishes new registration requirements, changes the method of reporting, and requires lobbyist compensation to be reported.
Additionally, the registration threshold will no longer hinge solely on an expenditure or compensation amount, but will also include time compensated for lobbying as a registration trigger. In a memorandum released this week, the City Clerk announced the office will create new lobbyist registration and reporting forms to be available on the its website by June 1. Existing and outdated forms will not be accepted moving forward.
Photo of the Austin skyline by Argash on Wikimedia Commons.