News You Can Use Digest - August 23, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

August 23, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 23, 2019


Cherokee Nation Sending First-Ever Delegate to Congress
Newsweek – K Thor Jensen | Published: 8/20/2019

The Cherokee Nation is appointing its first delegate to Congress. Two Native American tribes, the Cherokee and the Choctaw, are both granted the right to send delegates to the House of Representatives. The Choctaw still have not exercised that right, but the Cherokee are in the process of sending their first: Lobbyist Kimberly Teehee, who served as President Obama’s senior policy advisor for Native American affairs. Representation in the federal government is increasingly important for many Native Americans who are worries about the Keystone XL pipeline and other encroachments on tribal lands, as well as enduring poverty, health issues, and infrastructure problems.

Do Trump Officials Plan to Break Centuries of Precedent in Divvying Up Congress?
National Public Radio – Hansi Lo Wang | Published: 8/14/2019

Since the first U.S. census in 1790, the Constitution has called for a head count every 10 years of “persons” living in the U.S. to determine the number of congressional seats each state gets. The counts have always included both citizens and noncitizens, regardless of immigration status, although the history of who was counted and how is complicated. In recent weeks, however, the Census Bureau’s director, Steven Dillingham, has not been able to provide a clear answer as to whether citizenship will be factored into apportionment after the 2020 census. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argue the Census Bureau should exclude unauthorized immigrants from numbers used for apportionment because the framers did not intend for immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization to be included among the “persons” described in the Constitution.

F-bombs Away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever
The Hill – Judy Kurtz | Published: 8/19/2019

Profanity, once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office, is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu. And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before. GovPredict, a government relations software company, found the frequency of lawmakers using four-letter words has increased steadily since 2014. A 2012 Forbes opinion piece asked readers, “When Can a Politician Use Profanity, If Ever?” But these days, look no further than countless congressional social media accounts and political rallies for R-rated language.

FEC Chairwoman: Penalty ‘slashed’ for ex-congressman who used leftover campaign money to lobby
Roll Call – Emily Kopp | Published: 8/19/2019

Former U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, who diverted leftover campaign money towards dinners and dues at a private club outside of the Capitol just as he began to lobby his former congressional colleagues will only have to pay back a fraction of the funds he misused. The FEC stalemated in a vote over whether to issue a more severe fine, one that would hold him personally liable. The outcome comes as the FEC begins cracking down on so-called zombie campaigns, pots of campaign donations that live on long after the candidate has vacated office. But the small fine shows the limitations of the FEC under its current structure, campaign finance experts say.

Industry Flexes Political Muscle in States to Criminalize Aggressive Pipeline Protests
Insurance Journal – Jennifer Dlouhy (Bloomberg) | Published: 8/20/2019

After protesters disrupted construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota by chaining themselves to construction equipment and pitching tents along the route, oil and chemical companies found a way to keep it from happening again – they made it a crime. The companies, including Koch Industries, lobbied state Legislatures to effectively outlaw demonstrations near pipelines, chemical plants, and other infrastructure. Nine states have gone along so far, in some cases classifying the activities as felonies. More are considering legislation. The lobbying campaign has raised concerns about corporate influence muzzling free speech. Industry representatives portray their efforts as a necessary counter to the increasingly aggressive tactics of activists.

Inspector General Finds Politically Motivated Harassment at State Department
Washington Post – Karen DeYoung | Published: 8/15/2019

A report by the State Department’s inspector general concludes that leadership of a leading department bureau mistreated and harassed staffers, accused them of political disloyalty to the Trump administration, and retaliated against them. In response to repeated counseling by more senior State officials that he address staff concerns, the report concluded, Kevin Moley, assistant secretary for international affairs, “did not take significant action.” The report is a sweeping condemnation of Moley and more specifically of his former senior adviser, Mari Stull. A former lobbyist and consultant for international food and agriculture interests, Stull left the department in January following press reports that, among other things, she had compiled a list of staffers deemed insufficiently loyal to the Trump administration.

These Political Super Fans Turn Their Activism into Collector’s Items
CNBC – Yelena Dzhanova | Published: 8/17/2019

Leslie Zukor is such a Bernie Sanders super fan that she has more than 500 pieces of campaign merchandise and memorabilia dedicated to the presidential hopeful. Buttons make up 80% of her collection, but she has plenty of more offbeat items, too – including 10 custom puppets modeled after Sanders. Each cost her between $100 and $500. Zukor says she has spent over $1,000 on Sanders campaign merchandise this year alone. While that may sound like a lot to people who are not politics junkies, it pales in comparison to what some other hardcore collectors spend. These people often have tens of thousands of political items in their collections and belong to national groups such as the American Political Items Collectors.

Trump Wields Power Against Political Enemies
Beaumont Enterprise – Toluse Olorunnipa (Washington Post) | Published: 8/15/2019

By pressuring the Israeli government to bar entry by two members of Congress, President Trump once again used the power and platform of his office to punish his political rivals. It is a pattern that has intensified during the first two and a half years of Trump’s presidency, as he has increasingly governed to the tune of his grievances. Taken as a whole, Trump’s use of political power to pursue personal vendettas is unprecedented in modern history, said Matthew Dallek, a political historian who teaches at George Washington University.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to Announce Run for 3rd Term
AP News – Rachel LaCorte | Published: 8/22/2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has ended his climate change-focused 2020 presidential bid, is set to announce he will seek a third term as governor. He is the third Democrat to end his presidential bid after U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper withdrew. While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages: the third debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee’s key issue. He had recently hit one of the markers of 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Orthodontist Accused of Bribing Former Arkansas Lawmaker
Courthouse News Service – Erik De La Garza | Published: 8/19/2019

A Florida-based orthodontist who operates several clinics in Arkansas was charged in a bribery and fraud scheme involving disgraced former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty in June for his role in the conspiracy. The 15-count indictment accuses Benjamin Burris with paying approximately $157,500 in kickbacks in part for Hutchinson to take official action as a state legislator to benefit the orthodontist and his companies. Prosecutors say the payments were disguised as retainer payments and funneled through Hutchinson’s law firm. Burris also allegedly gave Hutchinson gifts, including free orthodontic services for his family and the use of a private plane to travel to a college football game.

Arkansas Panel Cautions Firms Over Lobbying Arkansas Sheriffs
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Hunter Field | Published: 8/17/2019

The Arkansas Ethics Commission issued public letters of caution to four jail services companies for failing to properly report contributions to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association. The companies settled with the commission, agreeing they violated state laws by failing to register as lobbyists and failing to report lobbying expenses. But several said they disagree with the commission’s conclusions. They also questioned whether the commission’s findings would have a negative impact on corporate sponsorships of all type of government-related trade associations. The companies sponsored meals and a fishing tournament for the association that were attended by “sheriffs and other public servants,” according to the Ethics Commission.

California Anaheim Mayor Sidhu Pays Off 2016 Assembly Debt by Fundraising While Mayor
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 8/20/2019

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu paid off 2016 California Assembly campaign debts and put a dent in his 2018 mayoral campaign debt after fundraising since December in both campaign committees. It is a move some experts said is an example of loopholes in campaign finance regulations. Fair Political Practices Commission spokesperson Jay Wierenga, speaking generally and not specifically about Sidhu’s campaign finances, said double fundraising is not illegal. “… Generally speaking, it is permissible to have multiple committees open at once, but each committee must be used only for expenses associated for that election,” Wierenga wrote in an email.

California Cal Channel to End Broadcasting After Three Decades
Capitol Weekly – Jessica Hice | Published: 8/15/2019

The California Channel, a decades-old public broadcaster that has historically provided on-demand video access to the Legislature, the state Supreme Court, and the Capitol community, will cease operations in October. Supported by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association since 1993, it is one of the few services that offer one-on-one interviews with all candidates for the state’s elected offices. The Cal Channel has long been viewed as the state’s version of C-SPAN. Cal Channel President John Hancock says the decision to end broadcasting was due in part to the passage of Proposition 54, which requires the Legislature to make audio and visual recordings of its legislative proceedings public within 72 hours. The Legislature has its own television and radio services that cover politicians and send stories to their districts.

California Oakland Coliseum Authority CEO Sought $50,000 Payment from RingCentral for Naming Rights Deal
San Jose Mercury News – David Debolt | Published: 8/21/2019

Scott McKibben, the former chief executive officer of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, sought a $50,000 fee from RingCentral for helping the company negotiate a stadium naming rights deal with the public agency he oversees, a possible violation of state conflict-of-interest law. Invoices show McKibben billed the company for the consultant fee as part of the three-year deal worth $3 million to rename the stadium where the Oakland A’s and Raiders play. McKibben resigned while still under contract to the authority a day after the board held a closed-door meeting to discuss the matter.

California While He Was Illegally Lobbying, Former L.A. Official Was Also Getting Paid by City Hall
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/20/2019

Michael LoGrande, the former head of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, admitted he violated the city’s “revolving door” law, which prohibits high-level officials from lobbying elected officials, managers, and other decision-makers during their first 12 months after leaving city employment. LoGrande left his government job in January 2016 after spending more than five years running the department, which reviews real estate development projects. Within a few months, he was lobbying planning department officials on behalf of the clients he had picked up while operating his new land-use consulting business. The Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted to fine LoGrande $281,250, the largest penalty levied against a current or former city employee.

Colorado Aurora City Council Approves New Ethics Law, Opposes Lobbying Registration
Colorado Sentinel – Kara Mason | Published: 8/20/2019

Despite taking other legislative steps toward greater transparency, a majority of Aurora City Council members decided against an ordinance mandating lobbyists register if working in the city. Several city council members cited concerns of who would qualify as a lobbyist and whether non-profit organizations attempting to seek influence on the city council would be required to register under the proposed rules. The council approved a new ethics code, which tasks an independent panel of judges with investigating complaints, prohibits the mayor and city council members from accepting gifts valued more than $300, and prevents council members from engaging in conflicts-of-interest.

Colorado Gravel Pit Permit Must Be Reheard Because of Contributions to Larimer County Commissioner’s Campaign Before Vote
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 8/22/2019

Advocates for limiting contributions to political campaigns often cite the potential for large sums of money to influence decisions by public officials. But rarely do allegations of conflicts-of-interest related to campaign cash result in action against elected officials and their donors. That changed in Colorado when a judge ruled Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly should have recused himself from voting on a controversial plan to mine gravel near a residential development in 2018 because he received $10,000 in campaign money from the owners of the mining company two years before. Observers as well as lawyers on both sides of the case say such a decision is unusual.

Connecticut Ernie Newton Pleads Guilty to Three Campaign Finance Charges, Avoids Jail; Six-Year Prosecution Ends
Hartford Courant – David Owens | Published: 8/21/2019

Ernie Newton, the former state senator and now a Bridgeport City Council member, pleaded guilty to three felony campaign finance violations, but avoided prison. The guilty pleas and an 18-month suspended jail sentence close a nearly seven years of litigation over allegations that Newton received illegal contributions in order to qualify for more than $80,000 in public financing for a 2012 state senate run he ultimately lost. He initially faced campaign finance violations and two counts of first-degree larceny as a result of an investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission. A jury convicted Newton of three campaign finance violations but could not reach verdicts on the other charges.

Connecticut Hartford Athletic Soccer CEO Bruce Mandell Pays $45,000 Fine for Illegal Campaign Contributions
Hartford Courant – John Lender | Published: 8/21/2019

Hartford Athletic Chief Executive Officer Bruce Mandell paid a $45,000 fine to the State Elections Enforcement Commission for making illegal campaign contributions in 2018, many of them in the names of his wife and their college-age daughter, to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, the state GOP, and others. The violations included exceeding the limit for an individual contribution to a candidate or committee; making “straw donations” in the name of another person; using “business assets” to make contributions; and making a contribution as a “prospective state contractor,” a practice that is banned under state clean-election laws.

Florida This Secretive Group Is Trying to Create Barriers to Amending Florida’s Constitution
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 8/19/2019

A secretive organization with the goal of thwarting amendments approved by voters after the 2020 election cycle has spent more than $800,000 on paid petition gatherers in the last four months, using funds from undisclosed sources and raising the specter of another high stakes fight over the future of energy regulation in Florida. The group calls itself Keep Our Constitution Clean and says its purpose is to keep the state’s premier legal document uncluttered by special interest measures. But activists involved in other petition drives say they believe the group is linked to the utility industry, which is opposing a proposed amendment that would deregulate the state’s monopoly utilities.

Hawaii Critics Question Former Council Chair’s Ties to North Shore Project
Honolulu Civil Beat – Cristina Jedra | Published: 8/20/2019

One of the last actions Ernie Martin took as Honolulu City Council chairperson last year was to recommend approval for a development that had been plagued by permit violations and community complaints. By the time the permit was reviewed and approved in November, Martin had accepted $9,450 in congressional campaign contributions from developers associated with the Hanapohaku LLC project and their family members. Immediately upon leaving office, he got a job at the law firm that represents Hanapohaku. Opponents of the development are crying foul over what they believe to be a conflict-of-interest.

Illinois Report Finds Sexual Harassment, Inappropriate Behavior and Bullying Widespread in Springfield; House Speaker Michael Madigan Takes Responsibility ‘for Not Doing Enough’
Chicago Tribune – Dan Patrella and Ray Long | Published: 8/20/2019

An outside investigation into sexual harassment and bullying within Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office and his Democratic caucus found people across the Capitol repeatedly have been subjected to sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. The report found Madigan’s former chief of staff, Tim Mapes, made inappropriate comments to a staffer but uncovered insufficient evidence to conclude that state Rep. Lou Lang, a former top Madigan lieutenant, sexually harassed a lobbyist. The report notes that allegations of harassment and other bad behavior are not limited to the speaker’s office or the House Democratic caucus.

Indiana Rep. Dan Forestal Threatened Cops’ Jobs, Impersonated Police and Tried to Buy Cocaine, Police Say
Indianapolis Star – Ryan Martin and Chris Sikich | Published: 8/14/2019

Indiana Rep. Dan Forestal threatened to use his power to punish police officers who pulled him over, according to a police report, which also accused the lawmaker of trying to buy cocaine, impersonating law enforcement, struggling with officers, and drunken driving. A wife and husband told police they were outside their home when Forestal drove up in his car. According to the police report, Forestal told them: “I’m a legit officer doing a drug bust and today is the last day before the feds descend and start kicking in doors.” It is not clear from the report why Forestal approached this particular home.

Maryland Baltimore City Council Passes New, Tighter Ethics Rules after Pugh Scandal
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater and Ian Duncan | Published: 8/19/2019

The Baltimore City Council passed new, tighter ethics regulations in the aftermath of the self-dealing scandal and resignation of former Mayor Catherine Pugh. The bill requires people filing financial disclosure forms to list all directorships they hold, not just those at entities that do business with the city. Pugh resigned after collecting some $800,000 to produce her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books. The University of Maryland Medical System, which she helped oversee as a board member, paid her $500,000. Pugh also accepted payments from other entities that she approved to do business with the city. The bill is the first piece of ethics reform legislation to pass the council since the scandal.

Massachusetts Feds Say Former Mass. State Police Union Head Dana Pullman Used Union as His ‘Personal Piggy Bank,’ to Fund Trips, Meals and Romantic Affair
MassLive – Michelle Williams | Published: 8/21/2019

Dana Pullman, former president of the Massachusetts State Police union, and the group’s former lobbyist, Anne Lynch, were arrested for what prosecutors say was a scheme to garner kickbacks and misappropriate union funds. Prosecutors said Pullman tapped union funds for personal expenses including gifts for someone he was having a romantic relationship with and collected kickbacks from Lynch for steering business to her firm. In one instance, Pullman allegedly got his union treasurer to issue a $250,000 check to Lynch’s firm for work it did in negotiating a settlement with the state to compensate troopers who had worked on days off. After the firm was paid, Lynch allegedly wrote herself a $50,000 check from the company’s account, then made a check out to Pullman’s spouse for $20,000, which was falsely classified as a payment for consulting work.

Michigan Michigan Panel Puts Brakes on $1.1M Trucking Grant after Free Press Report
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan | Published: 8/13/2019

The Michigan State Administrative Board put the brakes on a $1.1-million safety education grant to an arm of the Michigan Trucking Association, the lobbyist for the trucking industry. The board, which is normally a rubber stamp for state contracts and grants that are already in the pipeline, took the unusual action after The Detroit Free Press reported the Michigan Center for Truck Safety, a nonprofit agency housed inside the offices of the trucking association, has received about $8 million in such grants since 2012, funded by truck registration fees. The Free Press reported the center uses some of the grant money to pay the trucking association tens of thousands of dollars in rent and other expenses, and a monitoring report found the center had received reimbursement from the state for close to $300,000 in impermissible expenses.

Mississippi Four Louisiana Men to Plead Guilty in Mississippi Bribe Scheme
AP News – Jeff Amy | Published: 8/18/2019

Four Louisiana men say they will plead guilty to charges they tried to bribe a Mississippi sheriff with $2,000 in casino chips, seeking lucrative jail contracts. Michael LeBlanc Sr., Michael LeBlanc Jr., Tawasky Ventroy, and Jacque Jones have filed notices in federal court saying they will change their previous not guilty pleas. All are accused of scheming to win contracts to sell inmates phone service and commissary goods at a jail in Mississippi’s Kemper County. They are also accused of paying former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps $2,000 and promising him future bribes to secure his help in influencing sheriffs. Epps was convicted of taking more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence.

Mississippi ‘She Was in Fear of Him,’ Judge Says Before Finding Miss. Lawmaker Not Guilty of Domestic Violence
Biloxi Sun Herald – Margaret Baker and Justin Mitchell | Published: 8/20/2019

Mississippi Rep. Douglas McLeod was found not guilty of domestic violence after his wife unexpectedly took the stand and testified on his behalf.  Michele McLeod said on the evening of May 18, her husband had drunk less than two tumblers full of wine and mixed them with prescription-strength ibuprofen. She said he was “in a state of delirium” when one of his limbs, “probably his arm,” hit her face. George County Justice Court Judge Mike Bullock said, before making his verdict, that he could understand how the hit could have happened accidentally after her testimony. Body-camera footage from a responding George County sheriff’s deputy showed Michele McLeod minutes after 911 was called. There was blood down her nose, around her mouth, and covering her hands.

Missouri Former Economic Development CEO Gets 3 Years’ Probation, $20K Fine for Stenger Scheme
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippman | Published: 8/16/2019

Sheila Sweeney, the former chief executive of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $20,000 for her role in a corruption scheme orchestrated by then-St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. Sweeney admitted she knew Stenger was trying to steer county contracts to a campaign donor and did nothing to stop it. Sweeney helped that donor, John Rallo, get a $130,000 marketing contract, even though he had no relevant experience. She also maneuvered to make sure Rallo’s real estate company was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy.

Oregon Sheriff in Conservative County Defends Free Press
AP News – Andrew Selsky | Published: 8/21/2019

Malheur County officials asked Sheriff Brian Wolfe to assess whether the Malheur Enterprise, a small newspaper in Oregon, has engaged in criminal conduct in its reporting. The newspaper has been investigating state Rep. Greg Smith’s business deals and contract work in the county. The officials asked whether reporters’ persistent attempts to contact officials, sometimes after business hours or using their personal email accounts, amounted to harassment. Wolfe said an inquiry determined no laws had been broken. “As an elected sheriff, we will always respect the constitutional rights of … everybody. We do believe in freedom of the press and free speech that we believe are our rights given by the Constitution …,” Wolfe said.

Pennsylvania ‘It’s Disappointing’ Elections Board Reaffirms $29M Voting Machine Contract Over Objections, Violations
Philadelphia Tribune – Michael D’Onofrio | Published: 8/15/2019

Philadelphia’s acting board of elections voted to keep its current contract for new voting machines, days after the city’s legal department notified elections officials the vendor, Election System & Software (ES&S), failed to disclose its lobbying activities. ES&S will pay a $2.9 million fine over the violations, or 10% percent of the contract. An investigation showed ES&S used a lobbyist and engaged in lobbying activities in 2017 and 2018. The lobbying activities included direct communication with then-city Commissioner Alan Schmidt. ES&S also failed to disclose campaign contributions by consultants to Schmidt and then-city Commissioner Lisa Deeley.

Rhode Island RI’s Board of Elections Remains an Underfunded Campaign Finance Watchdog
The Public’s Radio – Ian Donnis | Published: 8/21/2019

Former Providence City Council President Luis Aponte was indicted in 2017 after the Rhode Island Board of Elections exposed how he had used more than $13,000 in campaign funds for personal use. Aponte pleaded no contest and resigned from his council seat. The case shows how the Board of Elections is playing a stepped-up role in policing the state’s campaign finance laws. Things have gotten better since the agency’s leadership changed in 2016. And the Elections Board’s top campaign finance investigator, Ric Thornton, is well respected for his work. But Sen. Sam Bell and others say that despite improvements, the board needs more funding to oversee the campaign money that flows through Rhode Island politics.

South Carolina Columbia Airport Road May Be Renamed After Namesake Arrested for Soliciting a Prostitute
Charleston Post and Courier – Seanna Adcox | Published: 8/12/2019

State transportation commissioners will consider removing John Hardee’s name from the Columbia airport connector following their former colleague’s guilty plea on an obstruction charge and subsequent arrest on a prostitute solicitation charge. The John N. Hardee Expressway to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport was named in 1999 and opened in 2004, during Hardee’s first of two stints as a South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner. It is among more than 1,000 bridges, interchanges, and stretches of highway statewide that bear the names of local VIPs.  Such road naming is done either at legislators’ request or directly by the DOT board.

South Dakota Audit Finds South Dakota Democratic Party Failed to Report $2.5M in Disbursements to National Committee
Jamestown Sun – Seth Tupper (Rapid City Journal) | Published: 8/21/2019

An audit for the years 2015 and 2016 showed the South Dakota Democratic Party understated disbursements by $2.5 million, received $67,182 worth of contributions from unregistered organizations, and failed to disclose $46,097 worth of debts and obligations. The state Democratic Party ended up serving as a pass-through for money from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). But, according to the audit, the state party did not initially disclose the disbursements it made to the Democratic National Committee. The disbursements were disclosed in later, amended reports to the FEC.

Tennessee State Officials Launch Probe of Former House Speaker Glen Casada’s Campaign Finances
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 8/14/2019

State officials initiated a probe of embattled former House Speaker Glen Casada’s campaign finances. The move by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance will force Casada to explain and defend how he received and spent campaign money for the first time in his nearly 20-year legislative career. Hank Fincher, a registry member, said the audit was necessary, given news reports about Casada’s spending. He noted how Casada used the state plane on the same day he attended a political event.

Texas Committee Asks Texas Rangers to Investigate House Speaker’s Meeting with Empower Texans
Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 8/12/2019

The House General Investigating Committee unanimously voted to request the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit conduct an investigation into allegations of a quid pro quo offer made by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. The allegations surrounding Bonnen were raised recently by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the chief executive of the conservative political advocacy group Empower Texans. They revolve around a June meeting between Sullivan, Bonnen, and GOP Caucus Chairperson Dustin Burrows. Sullivan claims that during the meeting, Bonnen offered long sought-after press credentials for the organization’s news site in exchange for Empower Texans’ clout to go against 10 Republican incumbents during their re-election campaigns. Sullivan later revealed he secretly recorded the meeting, and those who have listened to it have said it largely supported Sullivan’s accusations.

Utah A Draper Council Candidate Was Booted from the Race After Missing a Filing Deadline by One Minute. Now He Says the City’s Clock Was Wrong – and an Official Misstated the Deadline.
Salt Lake Tribune – Erin Alberti | Published: 8/19/2019

Hubert Huh was booted from the recent primary election for Draper City Council after officials said he was one minute late to make a campaign filing. Now, Huh is suing the city, saying the clock in their administrative office was more than two minutes fast, and the city recorder provided the wrong date in a notification of the campaign finance disclosure deadline.

Washington More from the Matt Shea Files: GPS trackers, a ‘provisional government’ and a hunt for moles
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Chad Sokol | Published: 8/19/2019

Washington Rep. Matt Shea used the phrase “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God” repeatedly in emails to his associates on the far right, including militia members who took part in the armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge. Critics fear that Shea, an Army combat veteran, is justifying violence. In addition to running “background checks” on liberal activists and supporting military-style training for boys and young men, Shea has in recent years sought to purchase GPS tracking devices, compiled dossiers on local progressive leaders, and kept a blacklist of suspected informants in his network. Shea also distributed a list that purported to include the names and phone numbers of every law enforcement officer working in Washington state, saying it would help to “confirm or deny legitimacy” of investigators who made contact.

Washington DC ‘It’s Disgraceful’: Pressure grows on Metro board member over role in Evans probe
Washington Post – Peter Jamison, Robert McCartney, and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 8/21/2019

Pressure is mounting on Corbett Price, the District of Columbia’s second voting board representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, to resign after allegations he leaned on the agency’s staff and took other steps to conceal an ethics violation by council member and former board member Jack Evans. An agency investigation found Evans failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest arising from his private consulting work for the city’s largest parking company. Records of the probe state both Evans and Price, in addition to falsely stating that Evans was cleared of wrongdoing, badgered the authority’s general counsel and maneuvered in other ways to prevent the findings from becoming public. Those allegations may have been a tipping point for some council members who did not support an earlier effort to remove Price from the board.

West Virginia Lawmakers Call for Ethics Reform to Deal with Billionaire Resort-Owning Governor
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | Published: 8/21/2019

West Virginia lawmakers are calling for a thorough reexamination of the state’s ethics rules following a media investigation of the conflicts-of-interest created by Gov. Jim Justice’s ownership of The Greenbrier resort. The Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica found that, despite what the Justice administration called a “moratorium” on state spending at The Greenbrier, government agencies paid for more than $106,000 in meals and lodging at the luxury resort since Justice became governor. “He appears to be using public office for private gain,” said Sen. William Ihlenfeld. “I think the law can be beefed up to prevent this kind of thing.”

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