April 27, 2018 •
News You Can Use Digest – April 27th, 2018
For Politicians Scraping Bottom, a Scarce Resource: Impeachment Lawyers
New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 4/22/2018
There are only a handful of lawyers who have helped shepherd governors and lawmakers through the trauma of a possible impeachment. Despite the high stake, the nation’s statehouse impeachment bar is made of up just a few battle-tested lawyers who have improvised legal strategies largely on history and hunches. An impeachment, lawyers who have worked on such proceedings around the country agree, is a political process imbued with law, where electoral rivalries and ambitions uncomfortably share the stage with talk of traditions and procedures. Ross Garber, after representing besieged governors in Alabama, Connecticut, and South Carolina, has arguably become the nation’s leading practitioner of a subspecialty whose relevance can be a barometer of political rancor.
Lobbyist Whose Wife Rented to Pruitt Lobbied EPA Despite Denials
Politico – Theodoric Meyer and Eliana Johnson | Published: 4/20/2018
The lobbyist whose wife rented Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt a room in a Capitol Hill condominium for $50 a night helped arrange a meeting at the agency related to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Dennis Treacy, a former Smithfield Foods executive who now sits on the board of the Smithfield Foundation, first reached out to an official in EPA’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations to arrange the session as part of his role as the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s citizen representative. Subsequently, Williams & Jensen Chairperson J. Steven Hart – whose wife was then renting a room to Pruitt – called the administrator’s aides to encourage them to take the meeting. Hart has said he is resigning from the firm over the matter.
Mulvaney Backlash May Drive Political Money Changes
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 4/26/2018
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking executives that as a member of Congress he always met with constituents, but never out-of-town lobbyists unless they gave him campaign money – part of an exhortation to the bankers to push their agenda on Capitol Hill. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you; if you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you,” Mulvaney said at an American Bankers Association conference. Campaign finance watchdogs and their allied lawmakers are seizing on the dustup to advance both long-shot legislative changes as well as voluntary ones, such as lawmakers refusing donations from PACs or registered lobbyists.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: O.C. Anti-Corruption Task Force Collapsed Amid Infighting Between Federal and Local Investigators
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek and Richard Winton | Published: 4/17/2018
In the wake of a grand jury report declaring that misconduct was “actively festering” in local government, Orange County created a corruption task force. But nearly four years after it began, the operation quietly fell apart last year amid conflicts between local and federal investigators who had little to show for their work together, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. Sources said federal agents harbored suspicions about supervisors in the district attorney’s office seeking information about separate FBI corruption probes. And officials clashed over separate inquiries into the mayor of Santa Ana. The end of the task force marks the latest setback in a county where attempts to target corruption have often run into apathy or outright resistance from political leaders.
Colorado: U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn Should Be Kept Off the 2018 Ballot, Colorado Supreme Court Rules
Denver Post – Jesse Paul, Mark Matthews, and John Frank | Published: 4/23/2018
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn cannot appear on the ballot in the 2018 Republican primary. The justices said Ryan Tipple, one of the petitioners Lamborn hired to collect the required signatures to qualify, was not a bona fide resident of Colorado, which is required by election law, making the signatures invalid. “We recognize the gravity of this conclusion, but Colorado law does not permit us to conclude otherwise,” the court said. Lamborn’s campaign indicated he would challenge the ruling in federal court.
Maryland: Baltimore City Council Bill Would Tighten Restrictions on Lobbyists, Require Forms Go Online
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 4/23/2018
Baltimore City Councilperson Zeke Cohen introduced a bill that would tighten restrictions on lobbyists. The Transparency in Lobbying Act would require lobbyists to identify who they are to city government officials and file quarterly disclosure reports. It also would require the ethics board to post the disclosure reports online within 30 days of their filing and consider a three-year ban for lobbyists who violate the law. Cohen said he has experienced frustration trying to figure out whom the lobbyists approaching him represent.
Michigan: Trash Titan Chuck Rizzo Gets 5½ Years: ‘I’ve let many people down’
Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas | Published: 4/23/2018
Fallen trash mogul Chuck Rizzo will spend 66 months in prison for bribing politicians and stealing money from the garbage-hauling firm he built into a regional powerhouse. Rizzo is one of the central figures in a widespread corruption scandal that ensnared Macomb County politicians, fellow businessperson Gasper Fiore, and Detroit police officers. Prosecutors said Rizzo bribed public officials in at least four communities to win lucrative contracts and embezzled $900,000 from his company and investors to line his own pockets.
Missouri: Greitens Charged with Second Felony After AG Investigation into Veterans Charity
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock, Allison Kite, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 4/20/2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted for illegally obtaining a donor list from a veterans charity he founded and using it to raise money for his 2016 campaign, a new blow to Greitens in a deepening political and sex scandal that has threatened his grip on the governor’s office. He was charged with one felony count of tampering with computer data in connection with the donor list. The charge dates back to actions prosecutors say took place in April 2015, when Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, was running for governor and serving on the board of directors for The Mission Continues. According to the charging document, Greitens directed an employee of the charity to take a list of donors from The Missouri Continues.
New Jersey: Video Shows Port Authority Commissioner Telling Cops: ‘You may shut the f— up!’
Newark Star-Ledger – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/24/2018
A Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioner who abruptly resigned had been caught on camera delivering an expletive-laced tirade to police officers during a traffic stop. The Tenafly Police Department released the video showing Caren Turner attempting to leverage her influence, talking about who she knew, and complaining the police had “ruined” a holiday weekend with the stop of her daughter and three friends. The video also shows her becoming increasingly agitated with the responding officers and shouting an expletive at them. Turner resigned after the authority learned of the incident. She had chaired the agency’s ethics committee.
New York: Former de Blasio Fundraiser Facing Criminal Charges for Straw Donations in 2013 Mayoral Election
New York Daily News – Molly Newman, Shayna Jacobs, and James Fanelli | Published: 4/19/2018
Thirteen suspects and nine companies, including a major donor to New York City Mayor Bill de Blaio, were accused of rigging public works contracts and abusing the campaign finance system. Husam Ahmad, the founder of construction firm HAKS, was one of several figures linked to the company accused of paying off a Department of Environmental Protection employee to gain unfair access to information about city water system projects. Ahmad was a major contributor and fundraiser for de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and was in turn appointed to the board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
New York: JCOPE Passes Sweeping New Lobbying Regulations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/24/2018
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) approved new rules that overhaul the state’s lobbying law. A major provision will create more disclosure around so-called grassroots lobbying in which well-funded interest groups seek to sway public and elected official opinions through campaign-style efforts. The rules also include an explicit requirement that lobbyists disclose the names of the lawmakers they attempt to influence. The regulations, however, face possible legal action. David Grandeau, the state’s former top lobbying official, said the Legislature never passed a law authorizing JCOPE to broadly reinterpret New York’s lobbying rules.
Ohio: How One GOP Heiress Influenced the Ohio House – and Its Leader’s Demise
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert | Published: 4/23/2018
Cliff Rosenberger was just 33 years old in 2014, when he was chosen to replace Ohio Speaker Bill Batchelder. Rosenberger did not have years of policy experience or a political pedigree, but he did have wealthy Republican donor Virginia Ragan’s money and Batchelder’s support. Ragan’s bankroll helped construct the Republican-controlled Ohio House that Rosenberger built. In the end, Ragan’s money also helped to destroy Rosenberger’s political career. The FBI is investigating Rosenberger’s many trips as a lawmaker and his lavish lifestyle generally, including a condominium he rented from Ragan.
Ohio: Questions Raised About Campaign Contributions and Influence at Columbus City
Columbus Dispatch – Doug Caruso and Rick Rouan | Published: 4/22/2018
Real-estate developers, unions, and some wealthy individuals who do business with the city contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of elected officials in Columbus. City officials raised about $8.4 million from nearly 5,000 donors disclosed on reports filed from mid-2014 through 2017, but more than 60 percent of that money came from less than four percent of the contributors, according to an analysis. These large donations have prompted critics to question what influence that money leverages in City Hall. Many of the largest donors lobby for zoning changes and compete for contracts. They negotiate with the city on union deals or seek tax incentives. More than half of the 20 largest contributors are developers or linked to companies with business interests throughout the city.
Washington: Washington’s Lottery Deputy Director Ousted After Ethics Investigation
Seattle Times – Rachel LaCorte (Associated Press) | Published: 4/20/2018
Jim Warick, deputy director of Washington’s Lottery, was fired following an investigation into ethics complaints that found he and other lottery employees accepted drinks and food from a vendor who had a contract with the agency, and several employees likely got free hotel rooms during a work trip that coincided with the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Both state law and the Lottery’s own code of ethics prohibit using their positions to secure special privileges or to accept most gifts. Lottery employees fall under a section of the law that subjects them to greater restrictions than other state employees, and under an ethics advisory opinion, those employees may not accept food when a vendor sponsors a presentation.
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