August 21, 2020 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 21, 2020
Biden Aides Headline DNC Fundraisers with Lobbyists
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 8/13/2020
When Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he barred the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from accepting contributions from lobbyists in an attempt to purge their influence from his future administration. Joe Biden does not appear to have the same concerns. The DNC started accepting checks from lobbyists again in 2016 and has continued to do so as Biden accepted the Democratic nomination. While the Biden campaign has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, it has dispatched top staffers to headline at least four Zoom fundraisers benefiting the DNC and hosted by prominent Democratic lobbyists.
‘Climate Donors’ Flock to Biden to Counter Trump’s Fossil Fuel Money
New York Times – Lisa Friedman | Published: 8/18/2020
The changing climate is now a core campaign issue and a focus for fundraising. Joe Biden has raised more than $15 million in contributions from hundreds of new donors who specifically identify with climate change as a cause. That climate-specific fundraising may make up about five percent of the total he has raised so far. It is dwarfed by fossil fuel donations to President Trump, who took in $10 million from a single fundraiser held by oil billionaire Kelcy Warren. It is not known how much unregulated money is going to super PACs aligned with Democrats from other self-identified climate donors. But the hard money climate donations represent a growing counterweight to oil, gas, and coal money that has long warped the energy conversation in Washington. D.C.
Coronavirus Sidelines Lobbyists at the Influence Industry’s Super Bowl
NBC News – Ginger Gibson | Published: 8/17/2020
The absence of in-person nominating conventions this year means lobbyists have been effectively sidelined. Washington, D.C. lobbying has been turned upside because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventions are no exception, leaving the influence industry to assess how it will operate when life returns to normal. Much of the work of lobbying generally involves making the trek up Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to explain a client’s point of view. But with the halls of Congress closed, meetings have shifted to Zoom calls. So, with this year’s conventions, lobbyists will be grappling not only with the inability to secure face time with decision makers but also with corporate clients trying to survive the pandemic-induced recession.
Democrats, Election Watchdogs See ‘Glaring Hole’ in Postal Service Pledge to Roll Back Recent Changes
Washington Post – Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, and Jacob Bogage | Published: 8/19/2020
The U.S. Postal Service will pause its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election. The about-face announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halted a series of cost-cutting measures, including the removal of machines that sort mail and the public boxes that collect it. But confusion persisted after the move. It is unclear whether Americans would receive their ballots on time, or if they would be able to return them easily. Nor was it clear whether DeJoy would promptly restore the sorting machines he had ordered removed from some postal facilities, or if the changes he has made across the agency under the watch of President Trump would introduce delays into one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history.
Ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged in Border Wall Scheme
Associated Press News – Larry Neumeister, Colleen Long, and Jill Colvin | Published: 8/20/2020
Federal prosecutors arrested Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and three other men they alleged defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors using a crowdfunding campaign that was advertised as raising money to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. But according to the criminal charges, very little of the wall was constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.
FBI Arrests Puerto Rico Lawmaker, Family in Corruption Probe
Associated Press News – Danica Coto | Published: 8/17/2020
FBI agents arrested Puerto Rico Rep. María Milagros Charbonier after the legislator who once presided over the island’s House Ethics Committee was charged in a public corruption case that officials say also involved her son, husband, and an assistant. U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said it was a simple scheme in which Charbonier allegedly received some $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks after increasing the pay of her assistant, Frances Acevedo, from $800 every two weeks to nearly $3,000, and then received between $1,000 to $1,500 in return for every paycheck.
Financial Disclosures Reveal Postmaster General’s Business Entanglements and Likely Conflicts of Interest, Experts Say
CNN – Marshall Cohen | Published: 8/12/2020
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a U.S. Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict-of-interest. Outside experts were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings. DeJoy and USPS have said he fully complied with the regulations. Raising further alarms, on the same day in June that DeJoy divested large amounts of Amazon shares, he purchased stock options giving him the right to buy new shares of Amazon at a price much lower than their current market price. This could lead to a separate conflict, given President Donald Trump’s disdain for Amazon.
GAO Finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli Are Ineligible to Serve in Their Top DHS Roles
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 8/14/2020
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were invalidly appointed to their positions and are ineligible to serve, a congressional watchdog determined. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, an improper succession occurred, with Kevin McAleenan taking on the position. McAleenan then altered the order of succession for other officials to succeed him after his departure. The GAO referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security for further review and potential action. The office also urged the inspector general to consider the consequences of actions taken by invalidly appointed officials.
‘Gosh, I Basically Cover the Campaign from My Couch’
Politico – Eli Okun and John Harris | Published: 8/13/2020
Four years ago, after most journalists were caught surprised by Donald Trump’s victory, there was an almost universal critique about how the profession needed to do better next time. Reporters needed to get off Twitter and cable and get into the field. Journalists needed to liberate themselves from conventional wisdom and the distorting effects of their cultural bubbles and learn what is really happening in the country. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, journalists are spending more time in their own homes than ever, a phone in one hand and television remote in the other. The presidential campaign has gone remote in multiple senses of the word, the most dramatic shift in the rhythms and day-to-day logistics of newsgathering that political journalism has seen in decades.
Judge Balks at White House’s Executive Privilege Claim over Ukraine Emails
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/10/2020
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuffed the Trump administration’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to withhold a batch of emails about a hold President Trump put on U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2019. Jackson said the government had failed to make a convincing case showing the messages between White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey were eligible for protection under legal privileges protecting the development of presidential advice or decisions made by other government officials. The messages are considered key evidence about the event that triggered Trump’s impeachment last year: his decision to halt aid to Ukraine in what critics and even some administration officials said was an attempt to pressure that country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden.
Nursing Homes with Safety Problems Deploy Trump-Connected Lobbyists
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse Drucker | Published: 8/16/2020
Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s virus fatalities. Now the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington, D.C. for federal help that could increase its profits. Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies, including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds, have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration. It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.
Senate Report Details Security Risk Posed by 2016 Trump Campaign’s Russia Contacts
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Karoun Demirjian, and Ellen Nakashima | Published: 8/18/2020
An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee portrays Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as posing counterintelligence risks through its contacts with Russia, eager to exploit assistance from the Kremlin and seemingly determined to conceal the extent of its conduct. The report contains new findings that appear to show more direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence, and it pierces the president’s attempts to dismiss the Kremlin’s intervention on his behalf as a hoax. Like the Mueller report, the Senate document does not explicitly accuse the Trump campaign of direct collusion with Russian intelligence. But it carries weight because it is the first major investigation of Russian interference in 2016 to be conducted by a Republican-controlled committee and endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.
Staff Wants More People of Color Named to the FEC
The Fulcrom – Sarah Swann | Published: 8/18/2020
Sixty-six staff members, about one-fifth of the FEC workforce, sent a letter asking President Trump to nominate and the Senate to confirm at least one person of color for the three vacancies on the commission, which has been shut down for the past eight weeks for lack of a quorum. In its 45-year history, the FEC has had 31 commissioners – all but one of them white. The complaint from the nonpartisan civil servants suggests how beleaguered the agency is these days, and how the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism this year has taken root in most every corner of society. The letter was an outgrowth of a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion the agency staff held this summer.
Swag, but No Luxury Suites: Big donors endure a party-less party convention
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 8/18/2020
Democrats’ biggest donors are used to being feted at the party’s national convention, breezing through a maze of tiered luxury suites and V.I.P. rooms with free-flowing appetizers, access, and alcohol. This year, though, even those who have given $500,000 and up were stuck watching the virtual event from home. Ahead of the virtual gathering, the party and the Biden campaign mailed along a care package to tide over any forlorn financiers: notebooks embossed with the number 46 (as in the potential for Biden to be the 46th president), hats, buttons, posters, and a bag of “Cup of Joe” coffee. Like nearly everything else in American life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the already cloistered world of political fundraising, as campaigns and contributors alike figure out how to raise tens of millions of dollars.
They Started in a D.C. Living Room. Now Money from This Grass-Roots Group Is Ending Up in Alaskan Villages.
Washington Post – Amy Gardner | Published: 8/14/2020
A grassroots fundraising group known as 31st Street Swing Left, a chapter of the national organization Swing Left, is focused on flipping red seats blue. It is one of countless such fundraising groups pouring cash and energy into potential swing races across the country this election cycle. But the group also stands out for its evolution, growing from a Washington, D.C.-area assemblage of 30 political novices knocking on doors to support Democratic candidates in Virginia into a fundraising army of nearly 1,200 members in three years.
With Democrats at Home, a Conservative Super PAC Comes Knocking
Washington Post – David Weigel | Published: 8/16/2020
With Democrats wary of traditional door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic, and with the Biden-Harris campaign discouraging it, conservatives have less competition. The Americans for Prosperity’s operation started weeks ago, at an initial cost of nearly $900,000 across the country. Their targets included U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina. and Texas, as well as a few congressional races. Since kicking off, they had contacted 6 million voters, but unlike the GOP, they were not mentioning the president in their messaging or surveys.
Canada – Canadian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Contracting Scandal
Politico – Lauren Gardner | Published: 8/17/2020
Finance Minister Bill Morneau will resign his Cabinet post and his seat in the House of Commons amid an ethics controversy surrounding a charity with ties to his family and that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Morneau’s recent high-profile troubles are centered on his failure to recuse himself from a Cabinet decision awarding a no-bid contract to WE Charity to administer a student grant program as part of the Trudeau government’s Covid-19 response. He admitted to repaying the charity for costs incurred during a 2017 trip to Ecuador with his family just before testifying in front of a parliamentary committee.
Canada – WE Charity Registers as Lobbyist, Lays Off Dozens of Employees
HuffPost Canada – Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright (Canadian Press) | Published: 8/13/2020
WE Charity registered as a lobbyist of the federal government months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program. The controversy has triggered investigations into potential breaches of conflict-of-interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Farmers Pay Arizona City Official with Goat for Outside Job
Associated Press News – Staff | Published: 8/16/2020
An Arizona city official making $107,000 a year resigned after an investigation found he used city workers for an outside job involving an attempt to secure irrigation water for farmers who paid him with a goat. The inquiry found the possibility of cash down the road also was discussed by Frank Stevens, the now-former former water resource portfolio manager for the city of Surprise. One of the farmers told an investigator they gave Stevens the goat because “he liked the animal and [Stevens said] it would keep his kids happy when they came home from school.”
California – California Ethics Agency Opens Investigation into Former CalPERS Investment Chief
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 8/17/2020
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed it is opening an investigation into two complaints regarding former California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng. He resigned abruptly on August 5 after being on the job overseeing the pension fund’s $412 billion investment portfolio for less than two years. Meng’s departure followed an anonymous complaint to the FPPC that Meng had approved a $1 billion deal with Blackstone Group, a financial firm in which Meng was a shareholder.
California – Did L.A. County Wrongly Promote a Tax Hike? It’ll Pay Hefty $1.35 Million to Settle Claims
Sacramento Bee – Kim Bojorquez | Published: 8/19/2020
Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $1.35 million settlement to resolve a complaint charging it misused government funds to promote a 2017 sales tax increase, marking one of the largest-ever financial penalties considered by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The county’s potential penalties are even greater if the FPPC rejects the settlement. It faces up to $2.4 million in penalties stemming from money the county spent promoting Measure H without reporting it as a political contribution.
Colorado – Marlboro’s Owners Negotiated Colorado’s Proposed Tobacco Tax Hike – and It Could Help Them Dominate the Cigarette Market
Colorado Sun – Jesse Paul | Published: 8/12/2020
The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes, a question the company helped write. Altria was part of the negotiations that led to House Bill 1427, which placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years. The question also would require retailers to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. The discount tobacco company Liggett Group is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.
Florida – A Florida GOP Sheriff Allegedly Ordered the Arrest of His Mistress. Now He’s the One Facing Charges.
Washington Post – Teo Armus | Published: 8/14/2020
Darryl Daniels, the sheriff of Clay County, Florida, dialed his deputy while driving with an urgent plea for backup: He was being followed by a stalker in a Jeep and appeared to be in “imminent danger.” But Daniels knew exactly who was behind him on that day in May 2019, prosecutors say: it was Cierra Smith, his former employee and mistress of six years, on her way to meet him at their regular spot. Filming the whole thing was his wife, to whom he had recently confessed the affair. Now, Smith has resigned from her job, Daniels’s wife has filed for divorce, and the sheriff is the one who ended up behind bars. Following a year-long investigation, Florida authorities filed four charges against him and booked him into jail.
Florida – Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether to Uphold Florida Felon Voting Law
Politico – Gary Fineout | Published: 8/18/2020
A federal appeals court spent more than two hours weighing whether to overturn a contentious Florida law restricting felon voting rights, with one judge suggesting doing so would paradoxically require the court to strike down a public referendum that eliminated the state’s ban on felon voting. The judges, sitting the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered lawyers with questions about whether the state law constitutes an illegal poll tax because it requires people who have served time for a felony to pay off any court debts before they can register to vote. It remains unclear if the court will make a decision before the November election.
Illinois – Cook County Board of Ethics Members Ousted by Toni Preckwinkle Are Frustrated with Shakeups, Pace of Proposed Reforms
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 8/14/2020
Proposed revisions to Cook County’s ethics ordinance, which the ethics board voted to recommend in January, include forbidding both nepotism in county hiring and county commissioners from taking certain outside jobs. They also would mandate lobbyists disclose if they have relatives who work for the county, introduce new rules to clamp down on sexual harassment, prohibit the state’s attorney from settling ethics lawsuits without the ethics board’s approval, and increase fines for certain violations. Now, three of the board members who crafted the reforms are gone, and their recommendations have not moved forward.
Illinois – Democratic State Lawmakers Propose Series of Ethics Changes
Chicago Tribune – Jamie Munks | Published: 8/13/2020
A group of Democratic state lawmakers in Illinois issued a series of ethics proposals ahead of the fall veto session, including term limits for legislative leaders and a process for temporarily removing members from leadership posts if they are caught up in a criminal investigation. The Democrats also want to prohibit lawmakers from lobbying at other levels of government and an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist :revolving door”; a requirement for more comprehensive disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income; and a more robust Legislative Inspector General’s office. They also noted the ongoing federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several legislators makes this an opportune time to pass a large-scale ethics package.
Illinois – State Sen. Terry Link Charged with Federal Income Tax Evasion
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner | Published: 8/13/2020
Illinois Sen. Terry Link was charged with a federal count of income tax evasion, the third Democratic state senator to face felony charges in a little more than a year. The criminal information accused Link of failing to report income on his 2016 tax return to the IRS. Defendants are typically charged via an information if they intend to eventually plead guilty. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Link wore a wire for the FBI in a bribery investigation of then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Federal prosecutors alleged Arroyo had sought an unnamed state senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
Missouri – Missouri Judge Finds GOP Redistricting Measure Misleading
Associated Press News – David Lieb | Published: 8/17/2020
A judge rewrote the summary for a legislative redistricting measure that will appear on the November ballot, ruling Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature tried to misleadingly entice voters into repealing an anti-gerrymandering reform that voters approved two years ago. The decision by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the Legislature’s ballot summary for Amendment 3 as insufficient, unfair, and partly false. She replaced it with a ballot summary suggested by a group that sponsored the successful 2018 measure and is opposed to this year’s revision. Like the 2018 measure, the Legislature’s revision combines the redistricting changes with popular measures to lower campaign contribution limits and restrict lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.
Nevada – Ex-LVCVA Boss to Pay Thousands in Ethics Fines Over Gift Card Scandal
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German | Published: 8/18/2020
Former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter agreed to pay $24,406 in ethics fines for violating state laws prohibiting him from using his longtime public position to enrich himself. The fines stem from Ralenkotter’s use of LVCVA-bought airline gift cards on personal travel and his negotiation of a consulting contract with the tax-funded agency before he retired, according to a proposed agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
New Jersey – Five North Jersey Residents Charged in Alleged Scheme to Hide $239,000 in Campaign Cash
Bergen Record – Steve Janoski | Published: 8/14/2020
Five more people have been charged in a years-long corruption investigation that already ensnared a former state Assembly member and a Jersey City school board president. The new defendants allegedly gave a total of $239,000 to political parties and candidates before being secretly reimbursed by a law firm, the attorney general’s office said. The firm then claimed it had made no reportable contributions in towns where it sought lucrative contracts. New Jersey law prohibits political donations on behalf of others.
New Jersey – Trump Campaign Sues New Jersey Over Mail-In Voting
The Hill – Morgan Gstalter | Published: 8/19/2020
President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit against New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued an executive order requiring every voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot, in addition to being allowed to vote in-person if desired, as a safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign claims Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey Legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.
New York – Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum | Published: 8/20/2020
A federal judge rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, dismissing Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith. The ruling marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has been seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.
North Dakota – North Dakota to Vote in November on Top-Four Open Primaries, Ranked-Choice Voting, State Legislative Redistricting, and Other Election Changes
Ballotpedia – Jackie Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020
North Dakota voters will decide on three constitutional amendments in November. One would amend the state constitution to make multiple changes to election and redistricting procedures. The measure would establish top-four open primaries for all statewide, legislative, and congressional races. The measure would also make the state’s ethics commission, which was created by voters through a 2018 citizen initiative, responsible for state legislative redistricting. Another provision would require a paper record for all ballots and audits of each election within 120 days by the secretary of state.
Ohio – Indicted Former Ohio House Speaker Will Remain on Ethics Panel
Dayton Daily News – Laura Bischoff | Published: 8/13/2020
Although indicted in a criminal case and removed as House speaker, state Rep. Larry Householder is still a member of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), the body that investigates and rules on ethics and lobbying matters for the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp removed Householder as vice chairperson of JLEC, but state law prohibits removal of a member from the ethics panel. Householder was arrested in July by FBI agents and charged with racketeering.
Ohio – Ohio House Won’t Cough Up Some HB 6 Documents Under Federal Subpoena
MSN – Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 8/14/2020
The Ohio House turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena but withheld 30 documents, claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege. The House released some of the records in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many involve routine constituent correspondence, various versions of the nuclear power-plant bailout bill, and proposed amendments to the measure at the heart of a $60 million public corruption scandal. Federal authorities have charged former Speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering in a scheme to pass and protect House Bill 6 from repeal and advance his political power.
Rhode Island – Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Make Voting by Mail Easier Amid Pandemic
National Public Radio – Laura Wamsley | Published: 8/13/2020
An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it. The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2. The court said in this case, state officials were defending what is already the status quo from the last election, “and many Rhode Island voters may well hold that belief.”
South Dakota – Ethics Board: Third party-paid travel a ‘common practice’ by Sioux Falls city officials, despite rules
Sioux Faslls Argus Leader – Trevor Mitchell | Published: 8/14/2020
The Sioux Falls Board of Ethics recommended the city council review and update their policies after an investigation found third parties are paying for councilors’ travel expenses and it was an “apparent common practice.” In their investigation of a councilperson, the board said the accused council member “acknowledges attendance at a seminar for which travel and other expenses were paid by third parties,” noting it was hosted by “a group with an acknowledged political agenda” and there were “multiple settings for attendees to be potentially influenced by commercial or political interests.”
Tennessee – Tennessee Governor to Sign Tougher Penalties for Some Protests
Memphis Commercial Appeal – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 8/14/2020
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will sign a bill that toughens penalties on some protests in response to continued demonstrations in the state and nationwide over racial injustice. Lee also said he would have crafted some components differently than the Legislature, including the increased penalty on those who illegally camp on state property to a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee additionally result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote. The governor said the requirement that law enforcement offer an initial warning on camping violations strengthened the bill. He also cited the discretion of district attorneys and judges.
Virginia – Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas Served with Arrest Warrant over Confederate Statue Protest as Some Decry Charges
Washington Post – Emily Davies, Laura Vozzella, and Gregory Schneider | Published: 8/18/2020
Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was charged with damaging a Confederate monument during protests in Portsmouth. She faces two felonies: conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument causing more than $1,000 in damage. Lucas, who is the first African American president pro tempore in the Virginia Senate, is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. Legal experts say the way the Portsmouth police went about pursuing felony charges against Lucas and others is highly unusual given the political nature of the incident.
Washington DC – Bowser Seeks Ethics Review of Aide Who Discussed Job at Howard After Negotiating Tax Break for University
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler | Published: 8/15/2020
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university. Rashad Young abruptly left his position as city administrator after running day-to-day government operations since the mayor took office in 2015. He told on July 31 that he was in talks for a job at Howard University and sought ethics guidance. The mayor wrote that she directed her general counsel to review the circumstances of the job offer and the city ethics board’s opinion on the matter.
Washington DC – Jack Evans Is a Week Late and $20,000 Short
Patch – Mitch Ryals (Washington City Paper) | Published: 8/17/2020
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side job. The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long hearing process. The agreement also states if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the city ethics board could seek maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000.
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